Cargo ships at dhow wharfage on Dubai Creek.

Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

Stroll down the Creek for photogenic close-ups of dozens of brightly coloured dhows docked next to the Deira souqs that load and unload everything from air-conditioners and chewing gum to car tyres. This type of long flat wooden cargo boat has done trade across the Gulf and Indian Ocean for centuries, trading with such countries as Iran, Iraq, India, Somalia and Oman.

Most of the wares are re-exported after arriving by air or container ship from countries like China, South Korea and Singapore. In the morning and afternoon, you can watch the sailors and deckhands loading and off-loading the wares. During the midday break, it's sometimes possible to chat to some of them if you find one with whom you share a language. You then might learn that it takes a day to get to Iran by sea and seven days to Somalia, or what deckhands earn compared to the dhow captains. If your sailor friend is in a chatty mood, he may even regale you with real-life pirate stories. The pirates that work the waters off Yemen and Somalia sometimes make life very tough for Dubai’s hard-working dhow sailors.

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