Dh1 abra ride in Dubai: These residents commute to work daily on a boat

For tourists and residents, a ride on the abra across Dubai Creek is a must-do activity. However, for many residents of the area, the Dh1 ride is their daily commute to work

Multimedia: Shihab
Multimedia: Shihab

SM Ayaz Zakir

Published: Sat 5 Nov 2022, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 18 Jan 2023, 2:57 PM

Bur Dubai resident Aneesh M. Shylaja starts his day at 8 am. Walking close to 800 metres from his residence near Bank of Baroda to Dubai’s Old Souk abra station, he takes the water taxi to work. “From hopping onto the boat and disembarking, it takes about four minutes. Once I disembark, it takes 4-5 minutes to walk to my workplace in Gold Souk,” he says

On a regular weekday, Aneesh ends up taking an abra four times a day since he also heads home in the afternoon for his lunch break and returns to work; the fare per commute is Dh1. No wonder then he finds this mode of transportation “a lot economical and time-saving”.

What about the days when taking an abra is simply not an option? “It would surely cost an arm and a leg,” jokes Aneesh, who is a sales executive at Mega Star Jewellers LLC. To give a perspective, he says his monthly commute costs him Dh100 at the moment, and if he were to take a taxi instead, it would cost him Dh750.

The traditional abra, which draws its name from the Arabic word abara (meaning crossing), has transformed the commuting experience for hundreds of tourists and residents helping commuters travel to Deira from Bur Dubai and vice versa. For the former, in fact, a ride in the abra itself is billed as an attraction.

Typically characterised as water taxis with open sides and a roof, abras have been around since 19th century. Back in those days, they also attracted the attention of several merchants as they facilitated the movement of goods and people from one side of the creek to another. There are currently 150 traditional wooden boats ferrying people from either side of Dubai Creek, which has a spectacular 14 km stretch dividing the old suburb of Deira and Bur Dubai, with a ticket that’s priced at Dh1.

More than a mode of transportation

Residents commuting by abra consider it highly productive as they do not only spend very little on the commute but their journey ordinarily takes 10-15 minutes. Traders and sales executives at the Deira and Bur Dubai markets are seen taking abra rides to reach their workplace on either side of the creek.

Like Aneesh, Syed Abid Ali has been taking an abra to reach his workplace for nearly 15 years. Khan works at Mahallati Jewellery, which is located at the Gold Souk in Deira and says this 10-minute ride serves another purpose too. “Taking this mode of transportation not only saves time and money, it also helps me connect with nature and gives me peace right before starting my daily routine,” he says.

As he leaves his workplace in the evening, the sound and ripples in the waters remind him of Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad.

For cloth merchant Raj Mehra, abra has been the only mode of public transportation he has taken ever since he landed in Dubai in 1986. “In the early 1990s, I was residing in Bur Dubai near my establishment. I shifted to Deira in 1995 as my workplace was easily accessible because of the abra,” he recalls.

Photo: Shihab
Photo: Shihab

A proud owner of Mercedes Benz Maybach and Jaguar, Raj considers abra the best mode of transportation to reach his office. “It does not only provide me with a sense of calm, it also keeps me grounded,” he says.

Over the years, the traditional abra has seen motorized, petrol, and electric versions, all managed by the emirate’s Road and Transport Authority. From a medieval mode of transportation to a tourist attraction and now the residents’ preferred public transportation, the abra has surely come a long way.

Graphic: Raja Choudhury
Graphic: Raja Choudhury


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