Sunday, 24 August 2008

The abras of Dubai Creek, United Arab Emirates

The cheapest form of travel in Dubai is also the most fun. The abras – miniature wooden ferries on the Dubai Creek – are a holiday experience in themselves.

A trading hub
Dubai Creek is positively chaotic. The city grew up as a trading hub – surprisingly little of Dubai’s modern-day prosperity is due to oil revenue - and it was this waterway where the merchant ships came in. This is not the case today – huge port facilities have been built to take the big ships – but you wouldn’t know it at first glance.

Dhow Wharfage
The Dhow Wharfage, on the Deira side of the Creek near the Souks, is where the defiantly old-school shipping happens. Lined up the water’s edge is box after box of goodies, be they spices or production-line vacuum cleaners.
All are waiting to be loaded onto the dhows, then taken elsewhere in the Gulf. Quite how they’ll get there is another matter – these big wooden boats look one extra dose of rot away from an ignominious end on the seabed.

The abra ride – one dirham per person
Weaving around the dhows, crunching into the jetties and shunting each other unceremoniously are the abras.
There are seemingly hundreds of these miniature ferries darting across the Creek at any one time, and how there’s not a serious accident every ten minutes is difficult to fathom.
Each one departs when it has enough passengers, taking a dodgem approach until it gets to open water.
The driver collects the one dirham (approx AU$0.30) fare then smashes into the wharf on the other side a few minutes later.

Getting off the ferry
Passengers have to leap off while the abra is vaguely close to the decking, hoping it’s not going to bounce away again before they get the chance. You don’t get that sort of thrill ride in a taxi, that’s for sure.

Getting to Dubai Creek, United Arab Emirates

Nearest international airport:

Using public transport: It all depends where you’re staying. If in Deira or Bur Dubai, it’s easily walkable, but buses or taxis are needed from other locations. A taxi is the only viable option from the airport.

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