What to do in Dubai? Well take a break from the glitz and glamour and come see what Old Dubai has to offer. Yes Dubai is known for its tall buildings, fancy attractions, hotels, brunches and all that. If the city turns you off or you simply want to take a break from walking in malls, well you have to see the real Dubai, the old Dubai when it used to be a fisherman’s spot.
Until the 1960s, Dubai was a small fishing village and luckily for you, it kept its heritage! Let us show this part of Dubai that you shall not skip for your next visit or if you live here, you shall send your friends and family for a day stroll on their own while you have to be at the office!
Situated along the bank of the Dubai Creek, Al Bastakiya is our favourite place to bring visitors very early in the morning when nobody is around. This place is known as the place where rich merchants use to live. You will have fun to get lost in the narrow alleys and discovering many coffee shops and art galleries. You can find a few beautiful wall arts as well. Don’t forget to have a tea or breakfast at the beautiful Arabian Tea House. Start the day here before moving to the next attraction of the area, the Dubai Museum!
Opening Hours: The neighbourhood has no opening hours, but get there at 8 AM to make sure coffee shops are open
How to get there: Recommended to take a cab and if you drive to be with your family, the earlier the better to catch parking.
Dubai Museum & Al Fahidi Fort
After your coffee, walk 5 minutes and you will see this big traditionnal boat, that’s the Al Fahidi Fort that now is the Dubai Museum. Home to Sheikh Maktoum bin Hasher al Maktoum in the late 19th century, it is the oldest building in Dubai, dating back to 1799 and reflects the archaeology and history of Dubai. The Museum visit is quite short costs only 3 AED (less than a dollar can you imagine?). Again, we recommend to go early as during the day it gets quite packed.
Opening Hours : 8:30 AM to 7:30 PM Saturday to Thursday | 1:30 PM to 7:30 PM Friday | Opening hours are different during Ramadan, make sure to call and verify at +971-4-393-7151/353-1862
How to get there: No need to take a cab, just walk! From Al Bastakiya, it will take you no longer than 5 minutes!
The Dubai Creek is where exactly the fishing area used to be. It is now home of many nice hotels and has an easy access to the old part of town. Once at the Dubai Creek, you must take the old wooden boat called an abra, at Deira Old Souk Station. It is a short boat ride that will bring you to the other side of the Creek called Bur Dubai. Note that you can also book a dhow boat ride at the Deira Creek and see the Old Dubai at night time while dining on traditional Emirati cuisine!
Take an ‘Abra’ water taxi from Bur Dubai to Deira (or the other way around) for 1 AED each way
Gold Souk, Spice Souk, Grand Souk
To manage your expectations, the Gold Souk isn’t as glamorous as it can sound like. It is simply many shops stacked one after the other selling gold that doesn’t look that exciting than bangles and designs you wouldn’t necessarily wear. Sometimes we wonder who would actually buy anything from there! Won’t take you long to walk through the Gold Souk, you will fall into the fabric and souvenir shops quite fast. The Spice Souk in another hand can be a bit more exciting to you eyes and camera with huge open bags of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, pepper, etc.
Opening Hours: 10 AM to 10 PM Saturday to Thursday | 4 PM to 10 PM Friday
How to get there: You get get to the Souk by bus, taxi or train. We recommend you to take the cab as it is time efficient (beware of traffic before and after work hours).
Deira Fish Market
Once you are done with the souks, walk a bit to get to the Deira Fish Market from some photography opportunities at the fish market. It’s usually busy with men preparing the fish, chatting, bartering and selling. If you want real action, go very early! The people there are usually friendly, smiling and open to pose for photographs.
Within minutes away you can get to the fresh meat section where huge carcasses hang from large hooks. Find all kinds of meat, including camel meat which is a national speciality. You can continue your way to the fruit and vegetable market if you are keen for some colourful shots!