Bur Dubai and Deira – often referred to as ‘Old Dubai’ – is viewed as Dubai’s heart and soul and is a delightful mix of traditional cuisine and souks
Home to traditional markets, relaxing cruises and authentic meals, Dubai’s Old Town is considered to be ‘Old Arabia’, where you can walk among the wind towers and fort in the historical neighbourhood of Al Fahidi, haggle in the Gold Souk or smell the aromas of the hustling spice market.
Old Dubai is a great way to see what life was like before the city underwent its massive growth and provides a contrast between the emirate’s traditional high air towers to the now-famed modern, towering glass skyscrapers and state-of-the-art malls.
Walk around Al Fahidi
This historical neighbourhood is situated at Dubai Creek (Khor Dubai) and is still the district adjacent to His Highness Monarch of Dubai’s divan (grand hall).
The district’s high air towers (Barajeel) were built with traditional building materials such as stone, gypsum, teak, sandal wood, fronds and palm wood and are separated by alleys and public squares.
This old neighbourhood, with it’s lack of front windows and twisting alleyways, provides a stark contrast
to modern Dubai, with its glass skyscrapers and wide roads.
Opening times: Saturday – Thursday, 8:00am – 19:30pm. Fridays, 14:30pm – 19:30pm.
Entry fee: Free
TIP: For a taste of Emirati cuisine, visit the Arabian Teahouse to try a cup of gahwa (traditional Arabic coffee) and enjoy the authentic decor with turquoise benches, white rattan chairs and lace curtains. Why not try the scrummy breakfast, which includes balaleet (vermicelli cooked with cardamom, cinnamon, saffron topped with omelette), dates molasses and bajella that comes with traditional bread.
TIP: Don’t forget to see Heritage House, located in one of the oldest urban sites, that was built in 1890 and is an excellent example of local traditional housing.
See Al Fahidi Fort
Dubai’s Fort is situated at the south of Dubai Creek, at the Al Souk Al Kabir area. Built around 200 years ago for the monarch and defence purposes, it sat on the border of urban Dubai.
The fort later turned into an arsenal for artillery and weapons and was additionally used as a prison.
The fort was later renovated during the reign of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum.
Opening times: Saturday – Thursday, 8:30am – 20:30pm. Fridays, 14:30pm – 20:30pm.
Entry fee: AED 3 for adults.
TIP: You can reach the fort via the Ghubaiba or Fahidi Metro Stations nearby.
Explore the souks
Dubai’s most famous and visited market, the Gold Souk is a labyrinth of covered walkways and home to vendors selling everything from gold, silver, stones and decorative plates.
Equally, a trip to the Spice Market should also be on your itinerary. Aromatic and colourful, see the mounds of herbs and spices on tables outside of shops. There’s also a great selection of oils and nuts to choose from. If buying in bulk, sellers will expect you to haggle.
TIP: Remember to purchase a packet of zaatar. This thyme-based herb mix is popular in the region and is used to flavor meats and bread.
TIP: The local souks are commonly shut for a long-time during lunch (1pm-4pm), so it’s best to visit during late afternoon or early evening. The souks are open 7 days a week: Saturday – Thursday, 10.00am – 10.00pm. Fridays, 4.00pm – 10.00pm.
See the city’s original trading hub
Dubai Creek is a wide sea water inlet that runs between Deira and Bur Dubai.
The creek’s significance can be traced back to 1902, when HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Hasher –
Dubai’s previous ruler – abolished all customs duties on imports, essentially creating a free trade zone.
The creek also provided a strategical selling point and attracted traders from Europe, China,
India and the Arabian Peninsula, with the most common goods traded being herbs, spices and grains.
Cross the creek
Once the gateway to the Gulf’s pearl-diving port, the creek separates Bur Dubai from Deira, Dubai’s city centre.
To this day, fisherman zigzag across the waters and merchants use the creek for trade cargo in traditional dhows. However, tourists can hop onto a traditional abra (water taxi) that go along the creek.
Journey along the 3.2km long waterway that flows through to Business Bay.
The abras run every few minutes throughout the entire day across four stations along the creek. The first route goes from Deira Old Souk Abra Station (near the Spice Souk) to Bur Dubai Abra Station (west of the Old Souk). The second, much busier route runs continuously from Al Sabkha Abra Station (just southwest of Baniyas Square) to Dubai Old Souk Abra Station.
Each abra holds about 20 passengers, with 150 working the two routes between Deira and Bur Dubai. Each trip takes about five minutes.
TIP: Take a traditional abra for a single journey to cross the creek for (AED1 per person).
Visit Al Seef
Take a trip to Dubai Creek’s new hub for Bedouin traditions and culture. The development stretches along 1.8kms of the creek’s shoreline and includes a fully-operational marina, souk-inspired shopping and a boulevard with local restaurants.
TIP: If getting to Al Seef from Dubai using the metro, take the Red Line and get off at stop – Burjuman. If travelling by taxi, you can choose your route from Al Maktoum Bridge, Al Garhoud Bridge, Business Bay Bridge, Floating Bridge, Shaikh Zayed Road or the Shindaga Tunnel.
Cruise down the creek to Dubai Marina
The Dubai Ferry currently runs from three ferry terminals: Dubai Marina, Al Ghubaiba and Dubai Canal Station.
The Al Ghubaiba terminal is close to the Al Ghubaiba Metro station, near the creek abra stations, while the Marina terminal is a short walk (about 500 yards to the left) from outside the Marina Mall.
Circular tourist trips run for approximately 1 hour from each terminal and there are trips that run from one terminal to the other, (taking around 1h 40m minutes for the trips between the Marina and Al Ghubaiba).
The tourist route runs at 5pm, taking in views of the skyline and Palm Jumeirah.
There is also a route running from Dubai Marina out to the Burj al Arab for 60-90 minutes at 3pm.
TIP: There are two types of tickets available on the Dubai Ferry depending on which class you choose to travel in – silver or gold class. Click here for prices.
Checking out C & J.