What to do in Old Dubai, one day exploring the historical neighborhood
The Old Dubai is located along the Dubai Creek and home to some of the city’s finest cultural gems. Long before Dubai transformed into an urban metropolis, this area was the site of the city’s original settlement. The district, known as Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood has over 50 places to explore, including museums, art galleries, stores and restaurants, all places with much of the original infrastructure preserved and intact. Here are the places you can not miss in the Old Dubai:
Ride across the Dubai Creek
One of the most affordable yet authentic experiences in Dubai is to hop aboard one of many traditional ferry boats, known as abras, to cross the creek to visit the souks. Visitors and residents can cross the Dubai Creek paying only one dirham (USD 0.27) in a shared abra, a traditional boat that operates as a water taxi.
From the fishermen to the merchants, Dubai Creek is where life in the city started and this canal is a vital piece of Dubai’s history. When you cross back, make sure to explore Dubai Creek, which separates the city into two towns, with Deira to the north and Bur Dubai to the south. The two distinct districts are along a near-2km boardwalk full of restaurants and shops. One side represents New Dubai, with stylish modern exteriors, while the other represents historical Dubai, with rustic look. Small villages grew up alongside the creek as far back as 4,000 years ago. The Bur Dubai side of the creek, it’s a great place for a stroll with excellent water views.
Bargain in the Dubai Souks
The souks are places where traders from dozens of nationalities sell their bargains, as your senses are attacked from every direction. Jewelry, fabrics, spices, perfumes and souvenirs – the souks are close to each other and you’ll find it all! In addition to see the diverse of products, be prepared to bargain. There are so many interesting products around that it’s hard to leave that place without some bags!
As you may know, negotiating in one of the oldest and most fascinating traditional markets in the emirate. Unlike stores in malls, shopping at this traditional market gives visitors the opportunity to haggle and get the best possible price.
This is a must‑go experience and we recommend to check here the ultimate guide to the souks from Visit Dubai before your visit.
Walk through History in Al Fahidi neighborhood
The Al Fahidi Quarter was built in the late 19th century to accommodate Persian merchants due to the tax-free trading and access to Dubai Creek. The distinct Arabian architecture, originally built with materials such as coral, mud or gypsum has narrow lanes and wind-towers. The interesting towers was an early form of air conditioning and have been excellently preserved.
If you like to see what the emirate was like before the oil boom which resulted in unprecedented wealth for the region, you need to visit the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. Inside the district, which is also known as Al Bastakiya, you’ll find traditional retailers, museums, restaurants, and art galleries in the traditional buildings.
Lunch and learn at Sheikh Mohammed Centre
With the motto ‘Open Doors, Open Minds’, the SMCCU is that place where visitors can get a better understanding of the culture and customs of the UAE ‑ United Arab Emirates. Something we learned right away about the Arabic culture was about how to use your hands. While the right hand is reserved for eating meals and greeting people, the left had is widely considered to be “the dirty hand” in the Muslim countries. During the lunch visitors are welcome to ask any question no matter how sensitive they are while sitted on Bedouin‑style carpets, enjoying traditional dishes.
The local hosts shared a lot about diverse topics from lifestyle to politics, education to travel, religion to relationships. In a country with so many particularities, learning from locals should be mandatory. Visitors can book a lunch or a tour here.
Tip: Valet parking is included and free.
Explore the Coffee Museum
Are you a coffee lover? If yes, visit the coffee museum in Dubai is a unique experience. The ground floor offers an exposition with roasting and brewing styles from various countries, including the well‑known Ethiopian, Egyptian and Arabyan coffees. You can taste all of them and check all the antique barista equipment and coffee makers! The first floor has a wide selection of coffee books, documentaries and visitors can enjoy their favorite cup of coffee while surrounded by history in a cozy lodge. So proud to see our delicious Brazilian coffee everywhere over there!
If you are more a tea person, the Arabian Tea House, is the best place to get a taste of Dubai in one of its most historic sights. This place has an outdoor terrace where you can enjoy regional dishes including the traditional teas.
Visit the Dubai Museum
Dubai Museum was built inside the historic Al Fahidi Fort which is an attraction in itself and plays a massive part in Dubai’s history. This place dates back to 1787 having originally been the residence of a monarch and and a prison. Notable exhibits include those which depict pearl diving, which was an important part of the old economy before the discovery of fossil fuel.
The museum provides an immersive experience where visitors can understand what Dubai was like in the past and how the city has become what it is today.
In addition, visitors can check the Coins Museum, which features two floors and displays around 470 coins from different eras.
For a nice pause between the attractions in this area, stop by XVA Art Hotel for a lemonade and a light snack. The hotel is beautiful and has a nice restaurant.
Let us know what is your favorite activity and please, don’t miss the charming Old Dubai when visiting the city.