The Spice Souk in Deira, Dubai

Twenty-four hours in Dubai and I hadn’t even seen the Burj Khalifa.

I have memories of it, of course, from the last time. The silver needle stretching up impossibly high, the bright sunlight reflecting from its mirrored surface so I couldn’t stare at it for long.

We had walked through Dubai Mall to reach the building, an endless stream of women draped in beautiful black abayas passing through bright, white boutiques layered like a tiered cake. We wound our way through the maze of high-end shops and odd entertainments – an ice rink here, an aquarium there – until we were out in the dusty heat again, with fountains bouncing high. Across the road and down in the souk were more shops filled with silken Persian rugs and heady perfumes which added to my dreamlike, jet-lagged state.

 Burj Khalifa skyscraper, Souk al Bahar and Dubai Mall in a sunny day
The stores of Bur Dubai Grand Souq in Al Fahidi, Dubai

The next day we had stayed clear of malls, walking the roads and making our way to the Dubai Museum in the Al Fahidi Fort. A fleeting overview of Dubai’s history followed – pearls, nomad tribes, small icons of mother goddesses and the dhow (old boat) in the courtyard all stick in my mind. Leaving the Fort we found the Old Souk in Ber Dubai, famous for textiles. We left without any purchases, taking an abra (water taxi) to Deira, feeling far removed from the excesses of the day before.

This time is different, a short unexpected stop due to flight delays. Necessity draws us to the Wafi Mall (there was a suspiciously convenient shuttle bus from our hotel) where we see the reconstructed pyramids in their empty, isolated splendor. Below the few, scant shops is a souq, its floors inlaid with marbles and gems. Covering three floors, it's dark and mercifully cool inside, filled first with furniture and carpets, then clothes, perfume and jewellery – the treasures of Dubai – many exorbitantly priced.

The exterior of Wafi Mall, which looks like an Egyptian tool with a pyramid and statues
The interior of Wafi Mall, with a stained glass ceiling
The Khan Murjan souq at Wafi Mall

Back outside the heat is stifling; inside the hotel, the air-conditioning is so cold I shiver constantly.

As the sun begins to disappear, shade finally makes its way to the hotel pool. The water is gently heated, and in the twilight the outside temperature is slowly cooling, hovering just under forty degrees. Shifting between the warm air and barely cool water, I find a wonderful equilibrium as I'm softly kissed by the desert breeze.

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Roxanne de Bruyn

Author - Roxanne de Bruyn

Roxanne is the founder and editor of Faraway Worlds. She is a freelance writer and guidebook author and has written for several travel publications, including Lonely Planet and The Culture Trip. With a background in communications, she has studied ancient history, comparative religion and international development, and has a particular interest in sustainable tourism.

Originally from South Africa, Roxanne has travelled widely and loves learning the stories of the places she visits. She enjoys cooking, dance and yoga, and usually travels with her husband and young son. She is based in New Zealand.

Last Updated 9 May 2022

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