Moving and ‘Sheikhing’!

RESPONSE to my first two travel articles on the many and varied attractions of Dubai was immense and positive with at least 30 requests for further and better particulars about hotels and accommodation and perhaps twice that number asking for details about the one-stop shopping venue of Carrefour I recommended.

Travel with Dusty Miller

Carrefour is a French-based mega supermarket chain which is dominant in the Persian Gulf.

It’s a 10-minute taxi ride from Dubai International Airport and anything I’ve ever wanted to buy on my travels through Dubai has proved cheaper there than at the much-vaunted, but truly jaw-dropping airport duty free complex.

Goods at duty free are certainly attractively priced and it’s the case with many international connections that you have minutes or an hour or two at the most between flights…so by all means do your shopping there!

I’ve cruised in at out of Dubai twice and my recent flight from Harare to Adelaide, Australia, on Emirates would normally have called for a 19 hour 10 minute stopover (I stayed a couple of nights), so I’ve had lots of time to leisurely gawp at the fascinating sites and sights.

(Passengers to Dublin, Ireland from Harare have 23 hours 50 minutes in transit! But if you’re in no real hurry, bite the bullet, accept Emirates’ offer of free accommodation in Dubai if you’re stuck for more than eight hours and free transfers…and enjoy yourselves.)
No time to shop in Dubai CBD or the duty free? Well Emirates planes carry a wide and tempting range of duty free goods lavishly illustrated in a dedicated on-board magazine, but beware: for some odd reason they don’t accept debit cards: it’s credit cards or King Cash only!

Fascinating history
Apart from shopping, Dubai has a fascinating history. Dating back to 630AD when messengers from the Prophet Muhammad arrived, ushering in widespread conversion to Islam.

In 1507, the Portuguese Captain Alfonso de Albuquerque sailed a small fleet into the Gulf of Oman and the Straits of Hormuz seeking a way of by-passing Arab traders and taking control of the Indian Ocean and Spice Islands to increase the amount of wealth flowing into the Portuguese monarchy’s coffers.

Eight years later he had conquered most of the Persian Gulf region and it remained under Lusitanian control for the next 150 years.

By the early 1650s, the Turkish Ottoman Empire had driven the Portuguese from the Persian Gulf and the coast of what is now the United Arab Emirates was infested with pirates and smugglers.

The British finally gained control of the region in 1766. In the 1830s Sheikh Maktoum bin Asher moved into Bur Dubai, founding the Al-Maktoum Dynasty which still rules today.

The Sheik Maktoum in charge in 1892 signed a landmark agreement with the British and two years later he established tax exemption for foreign merchants. In 1903, Dubai became the main port-of-call for British steamships in the Gulf.

Pearl industry
Its status as a duty-free port saved the city when its natural pearl diving industry crashed in the 1930s with the Japanese invention of artificial pearls.

Sheik Rashid bin Saeed bin Al-Maktoum developed the warehousing, docks and other facilities along the Dubai Creek to strengthen the duty-free port’s “re-export trade” of cheaply imported goods as well as its market for gold.

The area really took off in 1966 with the discovery of oil by contractors drilling to find fresh water in the parched desert! Later immense deposits of natural gas were also discovered.

Two years later, the British withdrew their forces from the Gulf, allowing the local leaders (The Emirs) to establish their own government. This resulted, in 1971, with the formation of the United Arab Emirates and Dubai became the free trade centre of the union in subsequent years.

Sheikh Rashid oversaw the transformation of Dubai’s economy until his death in 1990 and his son, Sheikh Maktoum Al-Maktoum continued his father’s legacy until his own death on a visit to Australia in 2006, after which his brother, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, took over the reins of the fastest growing city in the world.

Bloodstock owner
He loves and writes Arabic poetry, is involved in developing less fortunate countries and is a sports fanatic devoted to camel racing and thoroughbred horse racing. (He owns blue-chip stables and bloodstock in England, Ireland and the USA) and falconry.

I can’t think of many sports which don’t flourish in Dubai, which is home to the world’s richest horse race, soccer, cricket, rugby, athletics, tennis, hockey, sky-diving, speed-boat racing, angling, swimming and diving, shooting: even skiing, skating and other artificial snow sports in temperatures sometimes nudging 60⁰C! Oh there’s no hunting in the UAE, other than with falcons, the country being big into conservation.

The Sheikh’s family wealth is quoted as being $44 billion and he has 23 acknowledged children: nine sons and 14 daughters of whom four are married into Middle Eastern royal families.

He is Prime Minister and Vice-President of the UAE, constitutional monarch of Dubai and seems (to this notorious cynic) hugely popular with Emiratis, ex-pats and regular visitors to the region.

(Dusty Miller flew from Harare to Adelaide, Australia, via Dubai, with Emirates, at his own expense, but was upgraded.)

dustym@zimind/co.zw

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