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Archive by category "Africa"


  • 18/Apr/2019 at 10:00

Dubai is a city of the United Arab Emirates, that has become one of the main Economic centres in the World, and the leader in Middle East. This has a lot to do with the oil present in the Persian Gulf area, but also to its long tradition as traders in the region, which still is their main contributor to the GDP. The city has around 2 million inhabitants, and just 10% of them are locals. The rest have come from all countries in the world, mainly India, attracted for its extremely low unemployment rate and the many opportunities it offers.

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I had already visited the city in a 24-hour stopover coming from back from Asia, and I already found few things to highlight. This time, the stay took longer, although the visiting part was close to one day as well. The main difference was the weather, as the previous time, the wind direction brought fog and haze, which was less present this time.

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Something I have confirmed again this time is that the city is not designed for pedestrians. Distances are too long to be walked and many areas do not even have sidewalks, and their public transportation network is quite limited: two lines of metro, and an insufficient bus network. Taxis are quite affordable, on the other hand. Climate might be playing a role here, as my two visits have been in winter, which is the only bearable time of the year to be outside, but in summer people do not want to be waiting for the bus outside…

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The city is spread along the Persian Gulf coastline and consists mainly of skyscrapers, which is quite surprising taking into account they do have plenty of space as it is in the middle of the desert. These skyscrapers become the main attraction of the city, where the wealth is reflected in the size and design of the buildings.

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The best example of this is the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world with 828 metres, which has become an attraction itself: not only as a viewpoint, but also with some light, sound and water spectacles that take place every evening with the building as the main character. Burj Al Arab is another famous building, due to its shape emulating a sail, and because it hosts the only 7-star hotel in the world. Sunsets are wonderful from the beach next to it.

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Dubai architecture is more than skyscrapers, though. There are several unique constructions, like the Palm Jumairah, a housing development with the shape of a palm, which is home for some of the most wealthy citizens of the world. Those that are not in “The World”, another development with the shape of the World, which is not connected to mainland, and therefore even more exclusive.

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Dubai does have an old part, which lies around the Creek, and where you can find several souks, being the Gold and the Spices ones the best known ones. Even the souks look nice, clean, and new. They have been restored, but keep the essence of a number of stalls mostly specialised in one type of goods. The gold one is quite unique, as it hosts plenty hundreds of stalls where jewels are sold.

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From here, we took the opportunity to do a boat tour around the creek, where we could see the intense traffic of boats acting as water buses, allowing people to cross from one bank to the other, yachts of locals enjoying their time, and a huge fleet of old and small cargo ships, that mainly bring goods from Iran (just a couple of hours transit from Dubai) and some small fishing ones. Aiming to revitalise this part of the city, some buildings with a resemblance to an old eastern town have been built, and are house now of many restaurants, shops and bars, where to enjoy a nice meal.

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After this second visit, I still think Dubai is not worth to visit, according to my taste. Nevertheless, numbers do not say so. During New Year’s Eve, there were 1.8 million visitors in Dubai (almost doubling their population), and during the whole year, up 18 million people visit the city. The city was full of tourists, and I still do not know what they do in a stay of, let’s say, 4 days… You’d better check it out yourself…

Desert in Morocco

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I knew I would be back to Morocco sooner or later, and that it would not be just a city. As I said when I went to Marrakech a couple of years ago, it should be more nature-related, and that was the main excuse for this trip: the desert. Flying to the same city where I had a couple of “issues” in 2010, Marrakech, but soon taking an organized trip to the East to experience the roads and towns of the rural Morocco.

Morocco Trip

Leaving Marrakech to the East, our bus has to go through the Atlas (G), near to the Toubkal, the highest mountain in the country, normally covered by snow (yes, Morocco does have snow too). Being lucky enough to get the front seats on the minibus, you get to see a lot of things that call your attention on a daily basis.

Donkeys widely used to transport people and other goods. Hitchhikers looking for a ride to the next town. Very frequent police controls (although we did not stop in any of them thanks to the early notice that other drivers made to our driver).

People walking in the middle of desertic roads, many kilometres away from any town. People sitting at sunny side of the road. Shepherds asking the drivers to throw them some water. Children always accompanying their mothers. Men always accompanied by other men. Women carrying herbs, wood, or clothes. Women washing their clothes in the river. Poverty. Too many children not going to the school, and working, or begging the tourists for some money.

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The desertic roads we used crossed many huge ravines, dry today, but that clearly show that heavy rains take place there with certain frequency. Looking at the (main) roads that cross them without any bridge, and the fields being grown on their beds, the effect of a flood there must be huge.

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Going back to the touristic route, we did our first stop at Ait Ben Haddou (B). First Moroccan trick: “the entry to the town costs 25 dirham, you can come with me, or just stay here and wait for the group to come back”. It is less than 3 Euro, and we all agreed to proceed with the visit, but we soon realized the guide (whose time was included in the package) had found an additional source of income. There was not such a thing like a ticket in this UNESCO Heritage Kasr (group of kasbahs/Berber houses), that has survived for many centuries, in spite of being constructed with adobe (great material for dry and hot weather, but not very resistant to the rains). It has been used as a scenario for many movies, like Game of Thrones, Gladiator or Lawrence de Arabia.

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On our way to the desert, we stopped at the Gorge of Dades (C), and at the Todhra Valley (D). Both of them being impressive natural scenarios, and great examples of how powerful the water is in that environment.

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And we finally made it to the desert. Our choice had been the desert (E) close to Merzouga and the border with Argelia. Not the biggest Erg in Morocco, but big enough and most accessible from civilisation. We rode our dromedaries (not camels) through the desert in a caravan while the sun was setting, and the sand colours were changing every minute. I had done this trip for those minutes, and it was worth it… in spite of the inconvenience of riding a dromedary for that long (I will not go into details, but the guides -with better knowledge than us- walked all the way to the camp instead of riding those monsters).

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When we arrived to the camp, we were soon called to dinner, and then shared some Berber music around the fire, and under millions of stars not seen from the city.

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Sleeping in the desert is a cold experience. Riding our dromedaries back before sunrise is even colder. If you ever plan to do this, make sure you bring the following items (especially in winter): gloves, hat, thermal clothes, sleeping bag (you do not want to touch the blankets that they provide you), a backpack, a scarf, a lantern…

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After the desert, we had a nice track of 10 hours to go back to Marrakech, crossing some more rocky deserts, lucky riverside valleys, and the snowed Atlas. Once in Marrakech, we had a couple of days to wander around the zouqs, and visit some of the great monuments this imperial city offers: the always busy Jemaa Al-Fna square, the Bahia Palace, the Ben Youssef Madrassa, or the Majorelle Gardens.

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The time in Marrakesh was much more relaxed than when I was here in 2010, and I managed to find the way through the erratic streets. I even enjoyed some occasional bargaining in the souq, and had the opportunity to recognize once more the importance for the Spanish image of our football: many people wearing clothing of Real Madrid or Barcelona, graffitis with their logos, people in the zouq watching a Real Madrid match on tiny TVs, or a number of people watching Atletico-Barcelona in Café de Paris.

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