Have you heard about Al Rigga? Let me give you a clue– It’s a place. Do you have any idea where this place is? If you are an ex-pat living in the UAE, you probably know what I’m talking about. Otherwise, Al Rigga, sometimes spelled as Al Riqqa, is part of the old Deira district in Dubai UAE and home to the futuristic 1963 Deira Clocktower.
First and foremost, I feel like reminiscing! So, I will share my ups and downs Al Rigga experiences with you. And hopefully will stir your interest in visiting this eerie yet exquisite place in the old Deira district.
My Confessions About Al Rigga
I recall the first time I walked into the old building where my partner and his older cousin lived for over a year. It was pretty dark with warm lighting, and the structure appears to be a century! My partner pressed the first-floor button as we rode the lift. I’m both excited and nervous! It was my first visit to Dubai, and I had no idea what to expect!
My first two weeks were a disaster, believe it or not! Perhaps because that’s the first significant adjustment I made in my entire life. Here’s why:
- After our civil marriage in the Philippines, I will be living with my partner for the first time as a married couple. And, yes, we will live with our loving ‘kuya,’ his older cousin who helped him get to Dubai.
- It’s my first time living in cramped quarters. Room dimensions are approximately 1.5 meters long by 0.91 meters wide.
- In our four-bedroom apartment, about nine families are renting, including us. Most OFWs are doing this to save money. Instead of spending half of their earnings to rent the entire apartment, they chose to pay for a small partitioned room.
- It’s my first time blending in a multi-national community. There are Indians, Pakistanis, Chinese, Vietnamese, Nepalis, Egyptians, Lebanese, other Arabic, and a few Westerners and Blacks from Nigeria, Kenya, and other African countries. The diversity of the people and culture becomes overwhelming!
- Some non-Filipino men stare at me as if they intend to devour my soul! On my third day, I went shopping for food. A guy followed me up to our apartment door and insisted on getting my phone number! After that, I didn’t go out alone for more than a week. It was a terrifying experience!
- Because of bed bugs, my body went into overdrive!
Today, I’m grateful for everything I’ve gone through because I’ve learned so much. So, let me share with you some:
- Our kuya helped and taught us about life as an OFW in Dubai.
- My partner and I learned how to live life to the fullest away from home and our families.
- We became more independent!
- Living in cramped quarters is challenging but can also be fun and adventurous! My partner and I have so many funny moments in D111 and D611.
- In our apartment, I’ve learned how to get along with a variety of personalities. I learned the value of personal space likewise the power of silence.
- When I’m alone walking around, I’ve learned to change my facial and body gestures to avoid unwanted attraction from others.
- I learned how to blend in with a multi-national community.
- I grew more tolerant, particularly in terms of beliefs, cultures, identity, religion, and so on.
Helpful Reads: 15 Must-Know Words When in the Middle East, Deira Once My Second Home, Spices Everywhere at Old Souk, 25 Ultimate Free Things to Do when in Dubai
What’s in Al Rigga?
In general, you will fall in love with Al Rigga. Al Rigga Street never sleeps! It’s busy from sunrise to sunset. Al Rigga has numerous shops and restaurants open until 4 a.m. or 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And it has night markets, ukay-ukay (thrift stores), food stands, and has many hotels around the area. Al Rigga is also the home of UAE’s first-ever shopping mall– Al Ghurair Centre, built in 1981.
People get along well despite their differences. I seldomly experience ‘homesickness’ because many Filipinos live in Al Rigga. Many stores offer Philippine products, especially for cooking. Filipinos are foodies, so when we miss home, we usually cook and eat it out.
If you are a tourist who prefers to travel on a budget, Al Rigga is the place for you! You will find the best cheap accommodation, food, and so on here yet with high standards.
And for you to know the authentic Dubai, I highly recommend visiting Al Rigga and the Deira district. Al Rigga Metro Station and Union Metro Station are the two main Metro Stations where you can get off.
Most people are friendly and respectful. They will surely help you in case of trouble, like directing you where to go or what to ride to reach your destination when you are lost. Furthermore, they will draw your attention if you unintentionally violate any mandates to avoid fines. Let me share some quick stories:
My Al Rigga Cigarette Butts Experience
My brother-in-law, best friend Sam– not her real name and I went for a walk around the neighborhood. Sam is a smoker! She enjoys smoking after eating when she is anxious or to pass the time when she is waiting. So, while we’re walking and chatting, she puffs on a cigarette.
She threw her cigarette butt in the street where we are standing for some reason. Then an abaya-clad woman called her attention. I’ll never forget what she’d said to Sam. With her mellow voice, she said– Hi dear, you are beautiful, but what you did is not beautiful.
Lighting struck us! Sam snatched the cigarette butt and tossed it in a nearby bin. She admitted her mistakes and apologized. So many lessons in that single situation, don’t you agree?
Women and Children’s Cabin Only
Again, my brother-in-law and Sam went out and took the metro station. Unfortunately, they didn’t realize that both of them are in the women’s and children’s cabin. A concerned local called their attention so my brother-in-law could go to the regular train cabin. Sam said they totally forgot, but it was good to remind them that if the RTA caught them off guard, my brother-in-law would get fine.
Frankly, I like such a culture. It’s not about reprimanding someone, but it’s about caring and supporting each other. What do you think?
12 Fun Things To Do in Al Rigga
- Roam around and shop at Al Ghuair Centre.
- You can do food tripping at small local restaurants. Sandwich Club Restaurant & Cafeteria, and Landmark Restaurant are two of my favorite eateries in Al Rigga.
- Shop golds– I recommend Malabar Gold & Diamonds shop
- Shop souvenirs, perfumes, clothes, and so on.
- Have a beauty makeover. There are many ladies and even men’s salons in the area that offer great deals.
- Chill and have some Karak tea and shawarma or samosa
- Buy some gadgets or accessories
- Visit Juice World and drink some freshly squeezed fruits
- Shop at Day to Day and or Delta Center. You will find some cheap items that are super usable.
- Have some staycation in any of the hotels around the area.
- You can walk around the area for sightseeing and picture taking.
- You can rent an electric scooter to use to roam around.
Is Al Rigga Safe for Tourists?
Al Rigga is absolutely safe for everyone. Although there are isolated fighting incidents, people are generally friendly, respectful, approachable, and civil. The area is densely packed with CCTV cameras that are used to monitor public safety. Police visibility is also consistent; they may be patrolling by car, bike, foot, or horseback!
How to get to Al Rigga?
The quickest way to get to Al Rigga is to take the Dubai Metro Station. You can get off at either Al Rigga or Union Station metro stations. While some buses, such as the C29 and 27, run along Al Rigga Road.
Overall, Al Rigga is a beautiful place to visit and explore. What I love most is its super affordable yummy foods of many types of cuisines. I also enjoy the vibes of people who are happy and relaxed. Despite their differences, they get along very well.
Al Rigga also reflects the foundation and history of Dubai how it all began. It is also the second home of the majority of migrant hardworking people from all over the world. It was also my second home!
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