Day 12: MSC Lirica Arabian Cruise


It was an easy disembarkation this morning, slightly marred by having to deal with a greedy taxi driver.  He wouldn’t put on the meter, trying to bargain on an inflated flat rate to my hotel.  I knew it was illegal for him to do this so I argued behind, even at one point getting out and dragged luggage from trunk and marching back to the taxi line. The organizer guy yelled at my driver and told me to get back in, he’d use meter.  I made a big show of photographing his license and the Transit Authority’s phone number.  Then we argued over route, my phone said 13 minutes to the hotel, his 23 minutes.  Eventually he gave up, turned his phone off and made me give him directions.  In the end it cost 47 dirhams, not the 80d he initially tried to charge.  Not a huge amount when converted to dollars but it was the principal of not gouging tourists I was standing up for.

Whew.  I checked into my hotel and almost had to drag myself to go out sightseeing again.  I got a suite, as big as an apartment with 2 bathrooms!  I won’t have time to even use the living room.

I hadn’t seen Old Dubai yet so I wandered down to the waterfront and took the water-bus along the creek to Bur Dubai.  The creek was alive with little ferries crisscrossing the water and big wooden dinner boats lining each side.  The water-bus dropped me off right at the Textile Souq so I wandered through that, not daring to stop to look at anything lest I get mobbed by pushy salesmen.  One blocked my path and attempted to wrap a pashmina around my neck, boy did he get a talking to!  My interest in exploring the Old Town dwindled after that so I hopped on to an abra to cross the creek to the other side.  An abra is a smaller, open-sided ferry, with 2 long benches to sit on and costs the princely sum of ~36 cents.  On the other side were the Spice & Gold Souqs.  There were similar annoying salesmen but none too out-of-line.  After a while a souq is a souq so I didn’t stay too long and made my way back to my suite for a little rest.

My afternoon treat was a Middle-Eastern food walking tour with Fryingpan Adventures.  Obviously I had not considered I’d be just finishing up 2 weeks of buffet meals when I booked this tour, eating was the last thing I wanted to do!  However, it was bought and paid for so at 4:30p I met up with the group just a block from my hotel.  Freyda, our guide, is a lovely engaging Indian  lady who had lived in that very neighborhood, actually in the very building behind us, most of her life so she knew all the best restaurants, all the shopkeepers by name, and all the history and cultures of all the local inhabitants.

We started off with the best tiny delicate falafel balls any of had ever tasted from a corner Palestinian takeaway place.  We all crowded into the shop while Freyda explained what all the different sauces were and how the cook was preparing our next falafel surprise.

We then moved 2 stores down to sit at the takeaway’s restaurant, to make our own mega-falafel sandwich in a pita, with several sauces and dips, sautéed eggplant & cauliflower, hummus and more.

After we went inside the store to watch how the sweet kunafa was made.  It’s a dessert/snack consisting of the unusual ingredients of noodles, cheese, ghee and sugar syrup.  Sounds weird but when served hot from the pan it was nothing but gooey, sweet, crunchy goodness!  Onwards.

A ten minute walk brought us to a Lebanese sweet shop, really a baklava shop.  Over a thimble full of Gahwa (Arabic coffee with cardamom) Freyda gave us a little history lesson of baklava, explaining the different theories of who and how it was invented, named all the different kinds in the shop, then we were free to sample anything in store.  Getting a little full now.

Next it was turn to try Egyptian food, can’t remember the name but basically a middle eastern version of a calzone (later learned it was a “feteer”).  We watched the cook toss the dough in the air like a whirling dervish to get it paper-thin, then add sauces and fillings and push it into a hot wood-burning oven.  The meat had an odd taste that I didn’t care for but the others really seemed to enjoy it.

Our main course was next(!) – an Iraqi Masgouf, fire-roasted fish, served table-side.  It was topped with a pomegranate sumac syrup and served with big flats of flat bread.  Traditionally one eats with their fingers so you break off a piece of bread and using it as a scoop, take up some parsley, some mango juice marinated tomatoes, then a bit of fish and pop all that deliciousness into your mouth!

Lastly we waddled to an Iranian sweet shop for some rose water saffron ice cream to finished off the evening.  Freyda talked about the cultivation of saffron, how to detect the good stuff from the imitation, and talked about different ways to use it.  We received little goodie bags as a farewell gift, for our midnight sweet tooth attacks, she said, and we said good night after 4 1/2 hours of fantastic tour!

What a way to cap off my 6 week adventure!  I’m starting my long journey home in the morning and I don’t think I’ll eat for a week!!














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