Alcohol is not forbidden in Dubai, as long as it is confined within an area like a hotel, which the government loosely defines as any development that includes a hotel on the property, opening the door for a complex to include restaurants and bars that serve drinks.
Shopping malls have Starbucks AND Prayer Rooms, also an interesting sort of ATM-in-reverse scheme that allows shoppers to donate to charities by choosing a cause and paying for a donation with a debit or credit card.
For anyone planning to visit Dubai, I'd recommend spending a couple of days in the new city and and a couple in Bur Dubai (Old Dubai) and Deira, two historic and traditional neighborhoods populated now mainly by foreign workers. We booked a room in the Orient Guesthouse in the Al Fahidi Historic district, built by Iranians in the 1800s on the banks of the Dubai Creek, a saltwater inlet flowing into the Persian Gulf. Little boats charge passengers 27 cents to cross from Bur Dubai to Deira, famous for its gold and spice souks and a hub for many lively Middle-Eastern restaurants with sidewalk tables. A little company called Frying Pan Adventures, run by two sisters who grew up in Dubai, put on an excellent four-hour "Middle East Food Pilgramage" walking tour in Deira including a lesson on how to eat with our hands! Not the most attractive pose, but, hey, I was learning.
The Al Fahidi district includes 50 or so restored buildings housing cafes, art galleries, two hotels, mosques, a coffee museum and the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding. The center offers breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings to tourists interested in learning more about Emirati life and the Muslim religion. The experience was perfect for my Virtuoso story which will focus on taking visitors on a tasting tour of the Middle East by finding ways to explore traditional Arab cuisine.
Our host was native Emirati Waleed Nabil, 31. First came the traditional coffee and dates, followed by platters of various rice, lamb, vegetable and chicken stews and an Emirati favorite called luqaimat, little dough balls similar to donut holes, soaked in date syrup. He encouraged us to ask questions about anything. Soon the discussion drifted from food to the Emirati law that allows men to take up to four wives (Waleed has just one), to the ins and outs of traditional dress and what men wear under their robes (a sarong).
One of the best reasons to stay in Bur Dubai is to wake up and walk around the corner for breakfast at the Arabian Tea house and Cafe in the former home of a wealthy pearl merchant. The cafe serves a full menu of traditional Arabic dishes including several different breakfast trays. One of our favorite treats was chebab, little yellow pancakes, colored with saffron and served with cheese and honey. When I asked about the big piece of bread flapping over the basket, the waiter invited us to the kitchen to photograph the oven-to-table baking process.
Onward to Myanmar. I'll contine Facebook posts from there as WI-FI allows. For more photos of our trip so far, see our