It is likely that the Dubai of our imagination comprises skyscrapers soaring towards a cloudless blue sky, mega malls sitting in the once arid and empty landscape, rows of sports cars gleaming in the untiring sunshine, residents and tourists frolicking in designer swimwear on white sand beaches, and, perhaps, the odd camel. That vision is accurate, but it doesn’t offer a complete picture of the city that has deservedly garnered a reputation of its own in the global map.
Dubai existed long before the Burj Khalifa, and if you want to experience something of the emirate pre-tourist boom, you will have to visit the old neighbourhoods of Deira and Bur Dubai, where members of the Bani Yas tribe first made their home beside the creek, and where the Al Maktoum family later began to build what has become one of the most talked about cities in the world.
We would definitely suggest you to keep a day aside in your itinerary for Old Dubai.
Our plan was to cover the Souqs, explore the Al Fahidi Historical District, squeeze in an Abra ride somewhere and ofcourse eat some authentic Emirati cuisine in those neighbourhoods.
Sharing with you a rough sketch for the Souk’ful day!!
✓Jump in a taxi and ask for the Gold Souq on the Deira side of Dubai Creek. When you arrive, gwak at the window displays of bling and confidently stride past the hawkers trying to sell you jewellery and “designer” watches, until you reach the Spice Souq. Inhale the pungent aromas, feel the beans and seeds and fill your tote bag with spices, before making your way down to the water’s edge, where you can gaze across the creek.
°We suggest you to consider a cup of Karak Tea (1/2 Dirhams) from any random shop at this point.
✓Hop aboard an abra (one of the traditional wooden craft – now motorised – that function as water taxis), pay your AED1 fare to the driver and take a seat on the wooden bench alongside your fellow passengers – a mix of residents of Old Dubai and tourists. As you take the short five-minute journey cross the river, you will be able to fully appreciate the unique view of both sides of the creek.
°If you want to hit it right in the sweet spot try timing your Abra ride at around sunset.
✓You will disembark close to the Textile Souq. is packed full of vendors selling an impressive variety of brightly coloured textiles, as well as memorable souvenirs and Arabian trinkets.
°We recommend sharpening your haggling skills before you shell out for the brightest and prettiest scarves, stoles and cushion covers!
✓ Shopping bags and your heart brimming with joy, walk a little by the Creek to reach the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood also known as Al Bastakiya. Admire the traditional Barajeel ( high air towers), bougainville shaded alleys and courtyards, expect to stumble upon arty exhibits here and there or wander into a quaint cafe. Ofcourse don’t forget to take ample Insta’ worthy pictures all along!
No admission fee is required.
Now that the hunger pangs are getting lousier head towards Arabian Tea House near the entrance of the Al Bastakiya. Find yourself amongst a secret garden with turquoise benches, white rattan chairs, lace curtains and beautiful flowers. Savour a cup of Gahwa or Tea. We recommend ordering traditional Emirati dishes like Mutabal ( Roasted Eggplant marinated in yoghurt and tahina), Balaleet (Vermicelli pasta done Emirati way seasoned with cardamom, cinnamon, saffron), Kebab Laham (Lamb Barbecue), Hummus and Kibbeh. Their breakfast options are great too.
With that your stomach, heart and memory cards are full, you can call it a day!
Let us know if this post was helpful. Or if you have some suggestions of what else you did.