I have a friend who is always travelling and sharing her experiences with me. The other day she brought up the word ‘couchsurfing‘. “What is that?”, I immediately asked. She went on to tell me all about couchsurfing and how it is the best way to travel to new places and get a taste of the local flavour. So I signed up on couchsurfing.org and began to look for travellers who needed a host in Dubai. Much to my delight, hardly half an hour later, I found the perfect pair to host, a Chinese student and his aunt. Twenty four hours later, Xiong and his aunt arrived at my doorstep. The first thing that struck me was that his aunt was a very brave and adventurous person. At the age of fifty, she was trying couchsurfing for the first time! She did not speak a single word of English but still managed to communicate through her eyes and a few hand gestures! Once they’d freshened up, we all head out. Our first stop was Dubai’s world renowned Spice Souk.
Despite the blazing summer heat, we took the metro to Al Ras station, and headed towards the Spice Souk on foot. Most tourists come to Dubai to troll the malls and find the best deals, but this was a different experience altogether! We absorbed the sights and sounds around us, like thirsty adventurers finding an oasis in the middle of a barren desert, after days of travelling on foot. The explosion of colours and aromas flooded our senses!
Being from India, I have seen my fair share of eye-popping colours and textures but nothing prepared me for this experience. The first thing that caught my attention was a tub of bright red beans, that reminded me of the ladybirds that fascinated us as children. My little sister and I used to let them crawl on our arms, until they finally flew away.
From lavender to cinnamon sticks the size of small tree trunks, from fresh henna to colour your hair red to the old fashioned surma that is used to darken the rims of your eyes, from rose water to freshen your face after a long day at the office to tubs overflowing with a ton of different spices, the Spice Souk had something to fascinate everyone! I gifted my Chinese guests a bottle of Rose Water and they loved it!
Once we were done feasting our eyes and noses on the pleasures that the Spice Souk had to offer, we headed to the Gold Souk which is just a few minutes away from the Spice Souk. We gaped with open mouths at the jewellery on display that ranged from pearls, to gold, to silver, to precious stones I have only read about but never seen! This area is always packed with people, due to the high quality of Dubai gold and the comparatively lower Dubai gold rate.
When we were done meandering through the Gold Souk, we discovered Irani Faloodas (a delicious, chilled dessert) that completely recharged us. We then got into an Abra (traditional boat) for a ride across the Dubai Creek. It was a welcome treat to feel the cool breeze on our faces and take in the beauty of the colorful waterfront at night.
Later the same night, we headed to the Jumeirah Open Beach to cool off. It was here that Xiong revealed his philosophical side: “Try this. Just float on your back and watch the stars. The sea will drown out all other sounds and you will enjoy being in a world of your own.” Living in a fast-paced city like Dubai, this was precious advice and even better when put into practice!
Although it was my first experience hosting couchsurfers, I truly believe couchsurfing is a great way to connect, make new friends and travel. You should try it too, sometime! Just visit couchsurfing.org to sign up!