Beginning in early July, the Dubai Road and Transport Authority (RTA) began running ads in the local newspapers about a mysterious 'cool spot' in the Dubai Creek.
Dubai initially settled on both sides of a small inlet of the Persian Gulf, and as far back as anyone has written about Dubai, people who needed to cross the inlet ('creek' in British, 'khor
' in Arabic) could always find a small water taxi (abra
in Arabic) to take them across the inlet.
The only change over the last few centuries is that the abras
, once rowed across the creek, are now motorized. (Calling them abras
is the usual English rapacious stealing of a word, then Anglicizing it; Arabic does not have a simple plural like English, and certainly does not form plurals by adding an 's'.)
For the last decade or so, the price for crossing the creek in an abra has been fixed at 13 1/2¢. Riding across the creek on an abra
has been one of the small pleasures provided by Dubai. The ride is pleasant, even in summer, being much cooler than the rest of Dubai because of the breeze from the creek as the abra
plies its way across.
The mysterious 'cool spot' was supposed to be a fleet of new, modern, air-conditioned water buses that would convey passengers across the creek for $1.08 (or $0.98 with a discount for purchasing a pre-paid card) beginning July 15.
For the labourers who must cross the creek, the old price of 13 1/2¢ was about all they could afford, and the RTA announcement didn't say what was going to happen to the old abras
So today I went to the old abra
stand to find out what was happening.
I found huge marquees announcing the new water buses.
I did not, however, find any of the new, air conditioned water buses.
I asked an employee of the RTA, who gave me a blank stare.
I led him to the stand announcing that the new water buses would be running from 6 am until 11 pm.
He said, 'This say you must come at 6 am or 11 pm for water bus. Now no have.'
So I rode across the creek on one of the old abras
, formerly 13 1/2¢, but now 27¢. I wasn't going to miss a chance to ride on an abra