Invitations were flying through the proverbial letter box, at a rate of knots, how we ever had time to go to work, I really don’t know! Now then, if I should be asked to give just one piece of advice to any prospective new arrival, I would most definitely say pack your dancing shoes and hit the ground running.
On a cautionary note though, if you don’t have leanings towards being a party animal then, possibly, the Dubai we found ourselves in will not be the place for you.
How was one to know though, as it was not so long ago when we felt sure that the only happening in this place, with absolute certainty, was that the Creek was continually ebbing and flowing and that the Dhows’ were coming and going.
There seemed to be only one course of action open to us which was to climb aboard, adjust our water wings, and go with the flow. Ours was a different sort of flow though and the flotsam and jetsam that was being washed up in our wake was the debris we had created after yet another night on the town!
To this day I am totally astonished that a small Kingdom such as Dubai could have been so frenetic, although initially it was not apparent, obviously a closely guarded secret. One had to be taken by the hand and led gently along for all to be revealed.
The starting point for all of us was obviously the Airport, and I’m sure I would be correct in saying that there would have been many a reluctant debutant being led towards the parking area quaking in their boots, wondering just what lay before them and thinking would they be able to cope.
There were no surprises on the road leading away from the Airport towards the town, actually, the road was quite ordinary, a modest two lane highway, boarded by oleanders which had been planted, I think, to cunningly mask the encroaching desert. This straight stretch of road was broken up by a couple of roundabouts with one road leading off to Sharjah on the Right but if you were happy to turn left you would pass over the Al Maktoum Bridge, and be on your way to Jumeirah, that exulted suburb by the Sea.
Come to think of it not too sure why it wasn’t referred too as Jumeriah-on-Sea, rather like some of the seaside towns in the UK, such as, Littlehampton-on-Sea, that would have given the place a little panaze surely more fitting to the status it aspired too as the Riviera of Dubai, which even in those days was such a sort after address!
Then, Jumeirah was really a cluster of villas huddling between two quasi main roads which ran horizontal to the sea; one was the beach road, where Spinneys the Supermarket was located, and the other we called the Iranian Hospital Road. Obviously, there were numerous interconnecting roads but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt there was an awful lot of sand around and about!
Hard to imagine I know, but parking up outside Spinneys could have been akin to driving up to a supermarket in the Wild West. One drove off the tarmac road onto sand screeched to a halt in front of the main entrance and sauntered in, no by your leave or how’s your Father here!
No designated parking in those days, just sand, sand and more glorious sand. There was also another supermarket opposite, called Gulf Trading, I think. There you have it no fancy shopping; it was taking it or leave it! Normally, one had to take it because there was truly no alternative.
A little further down from Spinney’s was a Zoo, to this day I have no idea why Jumeriah were lucky enough to have a Zoo in it’s mist, on reflection that’s Dubai for you, full of surprises! Who ever the mystery benefactor was, he or she certainly gave a lot of pleasure to many, many people…
Reflecting on events maybe the Zoo was the first glimmer that not too far buried beneath all that sand lay some enterprising minds and as we now know, ideas soon began to flourish and blossom rather rapidly, with quite spectacular results.
Then in the early 1970,s the Beach Road, Jumeirah ended just past, Spinney’s with the tarmac finishing abruptly giving way to desert and that was that, the same applied to the Iranian Hospital Road, as it was known to us, which was the only other main tarmac road, leading towards Abu Dhabi.
No surprises here, it fell far short of it’s destination as this too was only about 2 kilometers long then morphing into desert. Camels still had the best deal in this neck of the woods. Surely making short work of getting to Abu Dhabi.
The Iranian Hospital was a complete enigma, to most of us, possibly expect for the locals and those of Iranian Origin, of which there were many living in Dubai. It’s side entrance was on the road to Satwa a charming little ‘village’ in English parlance, which nestled between two main roads.
Even in those days it was a well-established trading post, inhabited mostly by Indian and Pakistanis, all shopkeepers, selling anything and everything, a veritable Aladdin’s Cave.
These little ‘holes in the Wall, Dukas, shops to you and me, were a delight and one never ceased to be amazed at the variety of goods on offer, from gigantic cooking pots, big enough for a goat to happily rest, before meeting its fate. Also perfumes of dubious origin, with one whiff guaranteed to knock you for six straight out of the door maybe headlong into a passing camel!! Oh my, surely a shopping experience with a difference.
One could never go far on a little sortie into Satwa without relishing the aromas wafting along the street from the various eating establishments, of which, there were many. The most famous of them all was Ravi’s a wonderful Curry House, loved by locals and Ex-Pats alike, and I am delighted to report that to this day it is still going strong. Bravo!
If you were not a curry lover, then it had to be one of the many little places offering, Arabic delights such as Hummus, Fatoush, and Baba Ganoush and, of course, kebabs all washed down with a glass of fresh orange, oh the magic.
I would say though not so magical for the poor cooks who worked in appalling conditions, which were as hot as hell, how they ever produced such tasty treats, with a smile on their faces, I will never know! But they did, and I have no doubt still do, to the delight of all their customers, both past and present, many now scattered all over the Globe.
Before we leave this little corner I must mention the other people that made up this hard-working community, people that no fashion conscious Memsahib could have coped without, and they were the Tailors. They naturally walked hand in hand with the numerous material shops selling amazing silks, satins, sari material, bolts of fine black and white cotton from which Dish Dash’s and Abays are fashioned, in fact, something for everyone, even little old me!
To get this particular show on the road one had to have a Tailor, naturally guarding his name closely, thus keeping the Memsahib’s guessing and hopefully giving the, sometimes very misleading impression, that you had stumbled across Satwa’s answer to Christian Dior or that your latest little number just might have been purchased in Paris!
Thus prompting your ‘chums, to exclaim, my dear, it couldn’t possibly have been fashioned in that sandy enclave called Satwa or could it? How on earth can we find out? Yes, on occasions women can be devious little devils!
First things first, having netted your Tailor it was time to set up a meeting to discuss requirements, take measurements, haggle prices and determine finishing date.
Armed with every conceivable detail it was time for the off which would entail visiting almost every material shop in the whole of Satwa scurrying around here, there and everywhere to try and bag the latest offerings. This surely wasn’t an exercise in keeping up with the Joneses it was about keeping one step ahead, a very serious task indeed!
Naturally, we took all this for granted never giving a thought as to how amazing it was to be able to walk away from this little sandy street clutching your latest, must have. This could easily have been a copy of a little Dior number that you had seen in a magazine or maybe a copy of a very expensive outfit which you had acquired in London whilst on leave.
Our whims and wishes were normally accommodated with great patience, as I’m sure on occasions we acted liked spoilt little brats, never realizing just how fortunate we were to have this expertise on our doorstep.
On reflection, these chaps were surely amazing, where they learned their trade, has to be a mystery. The conditions under which they worked left a lot to be desired too, many of them stitching away whilst sitting crossed legged on the floor, day in and day out.
The collective tailoring talent that had found its way to this little corner of Dubai was surely extraordinary, with most of these chaps emanating from little villages in India or Pakistan. Yes, they too were far from home and indeed surely out of their comfort zone.
They had to be applauded for their desire to slowly climb the greasy poll of life, which for them possibly had started here, in downtown Satwa, such a long, long way from that place they called home.
I hope you have enjoyed this little potter around and about bringing back memories for many of you. As we so frequently say those were the days! Sincerely, would love to hear from you. Jan x
Please may I thank you all for being such amazing ‘camp followers, ‘ your encouragement has spurred me on – I am now busy putting the finishing touches to my book, The Adventures of a Girl Wearing pearls, which I hope will explode onto the scene in early 2016.
I have one last thing to share with you all and that is by the end of December my Blog will have received one million Hits this year alone, what an amazement!
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year before I saddle up my camels and plod off – See you in the New Year.