The Dubai Most People Don’t Know Of
I hover at the edge of a flat expanse of what could be misconstrued as a rubble filled building site. Everything about the place looks sad. Dead palm trees stoop like old men, while strands of plastic bags desperately cling to dry scrubs. In the distance, restored low walls, signal the remains of a handful of old buildings, and are the only indication that it is not a shunned modern-day building site. What I am looking at instead, are the remains of a small settlement that thrived here between 800 and 1000 AD, 200 years after the advent of Islam. It was a place that welcomed weary travelers tramping along old caravan routes stretching from Mesopotamia to Ras-al-Khaimah, and across the desert to Oman. Even though it wasn’t much bigger than a small huddle of buildings, it included a caravanserai and a mosque that enticed man and beast to enjoy a respite from their weary travels along this flat, bleak stretch of coastline.
In essence it was a place not much different from modern-day Dubai, where trade still plays an important role in its existence, and globe-trotting airline passengers are encouraged to take a break in their travels along the modern caravan routes criss-crossing the skies. People do not come to Dubai for its forgotten history, though, but the sparkling dreams architects, visionaries, and trendsetters tirelessly reinvent for a fickle, hedonistic tribe of residents and visitors to indulge in. And so the smell of money still mingles with the humidity and salty air across a time-divide in which the human longing for profit and comfort has not changed much, despite the fact that the slow gait of the camel has been replaced by the roar of super-cars and 4x4s.
The long ago bustle of life may have fallen silent over the settlement that is now simply known as the Jumeirah Archaeological Site, but not all is entirely forgotten, as the authorities are currently in the process of building a small visitor’s centre, and are replacing the sagging green wire fence with what looks like the beginnings of a concrete wall. Soon it should reclaim some of its former lustre, to sit proudly against the dramatic skyline of Dubai. Silent perhaps, but not forgotten.
GPS co-ordinates: N 25° 11′ 54.98″ E 55° 14′ 29.04″
Visited: October 2015