12.19.13: Souk It Up

Today, we leave the sanitized wonderland of Downtown for Deira and Bar Dubai, the older parts of the city that hug the banks of Dubai Creek. The place is bustling. Decorated trucks unload boxes and bags. Ancient old ships painted baby blue and pink are piled high with all kinds of goods just in from Iran. Abras ferry locals and tourists alike back and forth across the water for the small sum of 1 dirham (25 cents). We’ve come to see the souks.  The souks of Dubai are traditional Arabian marketplaces that date back centuries, long before the formation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971, when pearls and spices were much more valuable than oil. There is still a spice souk here, along with the famous gold souk and the textile souk (pashmina, pashmina, pashmina, anyone???). The Al Fahidi Historical District with its wind tower and narrow alleys has become an art souk of sorts with secret courtyards containing cafes (roasted eggplant with feta, couscous with mint and pomegranate seeds) and work by local artists and artisans. Even in Al Bastakyia, one of the oldest residential areas in the city, everything is spotless, there are no signs of dogs, traffic follows all signals impeccably and no one eats in the street. The only truly desolate area we discover is the Al Hamriya cemetery where the graves are slowly giving way to sand and a thousand black crows whirl overhead…


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Paolo Davanzo and Lisa Marr travel the world, sharing movies and music with the masses. At home in Los Angeles, they facilitate community screenings and workshops at the Echo Park Film Center, a non-profit media arts organization.

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