Dubai ~ A Visit in Contrasts

Our plan for Dubai was to go to the Souks (gold, fabric, and spice markets) to test our negotiating skills and pick up some bargains.  Because we would be on our feet all day, we donned walking boots and jeans, grabbed our cameras, and were off.  I had planned to meet a colleague and former student, Marilyn Davis, formerly of the University of New Mexico for lunch.  She is now on the faculty at Zayed University in Dubai.

As Mary Jane, the BB’s, and I were taking a taxi to town, rather than a shuttle bus, we left the ship earlier than most passengers.  I was straggling behind just looking around when I heard Mary Jane joyfully exclaiming loudly (the term “screaming” just wouldn’t have captured it!!!).  I looked in her direction to see her hugging someone!!  Who was it but my friend, Marilyn, who, from her apartment window, had seen the ship sailing into the harbor, and just couldn’t stand not being there when I got off the ship.  Marilyn had walked up to Mary Jane and said, “I believe I have been following you on your blog”. . . that, of course, was the tip off to MJ as to who she was; and thus, all of the commotion!  We learned later that MJ could have been arrested for her outburst because public display of affection is outlawed in Dubai, even if you don’t know the person, probably particularly if you don’t know the person!!!!!!

Marilyn and Carolyn in Dubai

Marilyn and I got into her car and were off to the University for just a few minutes to meet with her students who were planning for a presentation the following week in Atlanta, USA.  Wow!  What an experience that was!!!!!  All of the students were women dressed in floor length black burkas: most with their faces uncovered, displaying sparkling eyes and wide smiles; some, whose faces were mostly covered, allowing only their eyes to be seen; and a few with their faces completely hidden under black cloth.   The most unique feature of the campus was a giant, covered, air-conditioned atrium (about the size of a football field) furnished with stuffed couches and chairs with an occasional pool of water around which people could sit.  I so wanted to take a picture, but I had to respect the custom of not doing so.  The most unique photo I missed was of young women engrossed in her Blackberry, sitting on a couch in such a way that jeans were visible under the black burka!!   Of course, her jeans were covered for all practical purposes, whereas mine + trail boots, and camera were not. I have to admit that I did not feel that my attire made the most positive impression of a retired professor from the United States, but it didn’t seem to matter to any of the faculty or students I met!!!!

Our few minutes on campus literally turned into about five hours.  Marilyn was so apologetic that we had not seen all the sights there are to experience in Dubai as we rushed through the bottom level of a large mall and broke every speed limit to get back to the ship by 4:00 (we made it by 3:59!!).  I assured her that the day couldn’t have been better as I am much more of a people person than one interested in buildings, structures, and very much shopping.  I honestly don’t believe I could have planned a more enjoyable day.  Thanks to you, Marilyn!



Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) in the background at her new home in Dubai. Barb Cook in the foreground.

With Carolyn on her way to Zayed University, Mary Jane, Barb, and Barbara hailed a taxi and headed to the souks.  As we exited the cab, we saw a large textile store on the corner, so we made a beeline towards it.  Once inside, it was overwhelming to see so many gorgeous fabrics.  It had been a long time (30+ years) since Mary Jane owned her fabric store, but all those memories came rushing back.

However, the fabrics in Dubai are of a different character because the mode of dress here in the Middle East is very different from Europe and the States. Mary Jane asked the owner to please educated us about his different fabrics.  We all wanted something new to spice up our formal attire for the ship:  maybe a beaded top or some special accessory.

In the end, all three of us bought fabric for our own sari.  The owner told us to return at 2 PM and he would have the saris ready for a fitting.  The tailor came to take our measurements and off we went to visit more of the textile souk.  We filled our backpacks with scarves, carpet mouse pads, coasters, shawls, beaded accessories to wear on formal nights, etc.



A very different style of dress.

Next we wanted to visit the spice souk, but it was across the “creek,” so we went to the boat landing and boarded an abra for the ride across.

An abra that is used to cross the Dubai Creek.

As soon as we entered the spice souk, our senses were literally assaulted by all the fragrances and aromas.  It was heavenly!  Saffron, frankincense, myrrh, dried limes, and so many items I had never experienced.  We said later we wished we had been better prepared for that part of the visit because it was overwhelming, but we all came away with some purchase to remember the time spent there.


We made a quick visit to the gold souk to see the razzle dazzle of all the display windows.  Barbara made a lovely gift purchase for her family members.  The workmanship was quite unique and intricate.  She bargained well.

Back across the creek to catch a cab to take us down the island to see the world’s largest fountain.  It is like the fountain at Bellagio’s in Las Vegas, just bigger and more complicated.  Unfortunately, the repairmen were there in their wetsuits making some adjustments, so we missed the show.  And the next show was at 6 PM, which was after our All Aboard time on the ship.  You definitely need more than a day in Dubai to see everything, so we shall make certain to schedule a return visit some time soon.


Caught another cab (all the cab drivers are Pakistani and want to come to America) to go back to the tailors to pick up our saris.  Tried our garments on and had them make adjustments on the spot, and then scurried back to the ship.

Barbara and Mary Jane wore their saris on the next formal night.  Barb will wow us with hers later in the trip.


Mary Jane and Barbara

Barbara Dempsey in her sari.


Mary Jane


5 Responses to “Dubai ~ A Visit in Contrasts”

  1. I sent your comment onto my sister Carolyn so she will forward it to Marilyn. I did not have Marilyn’s email address with me on this computer. Thanks for liking the blog. When my sister visited with Marilyn in 2011, she was very impress with Zayed University. MJ

  2. Marilyn used to be one of my teachers at Zayed University/Dubai ..
    she will be missed! ~ Please say Hi to her, She is an amazing teacher, hope she is doing well

  3. Cindi Cannizzaro April 13, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    I love the saris! Still waiting to see Barb’s.

  4. Beautiful Saris. What a fun thing to do. Can’t wait to see them when you return. We are missing you.

  5. CJ,
    You ladies are really having a time of your lives! AND Linda and I appreciate your sharing with us – Wow , what a trip. I was surprised and pleased to see Marolyn Davis. As you may recall we were also good friends when she was my admin. assistant on the projects. We stayed in touch for a while when we moved to Ruidoso, but then I lost contact with her. Please send her email and I will reconnect. Keep us posted of your travels.

    We are headed for the Florida Keys for a couple weeks in May – rented a house on the beach and son and daughter-in-law coming down. Then in June we do a 2 week cruise in the Baltic. Be good & enjoy. F

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