In this post I will tell you everything you need to know about this area of Dubai, unknown for many: the old Dubai.
We all know that Dubai is a futuristic city in the middle of the desert but not many know that Dubai also has its past, of which it feels proud and tries to preserve it more and more every day. Proof of this is Bur Dubai and Deira, the two neighborhoods separated by the Creek, the Dubai estuary.
Most tourists who come to Dubai are looking for a few days of relaxation in a resort with a private beach, where they spend most of their time. They only leave, if so, to do some shopping in the Dubai Mall where the Burj Khalifa is located or in the Mall of the Emirates.
Other tourists do some day trip in the desert, like the one in the hot aire balloon watching the sunrise over the desert.
However, there are only a few who knows about the Old Dubai. In my opinion, one of the best places in the city.
This neighborhood is located in the south of the Creek. I have to say that it is my favorite area of Dubai. It is formed by two areas: Al Bastakiya also known as Al Fahidi and Al Seef .
Al Bastakiya or Al Fahidi
This area is a World Heritage Site. It is the oldest area in Dubai, from the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century and it was where merchants from Bastak, Iran, were established for the first time, which has given name to the neighborhood.
I recommend you to get lost in its streets and golden buildings. Here we find the most traditional Emirati architecture, houses made of coral and plaster with the characteristic wind towers, something that all houses have in Old Dubai.
These wind towers, of Persian origin, were used to circulate the air and not to feel the heat in the city. You must keep in mind that in summer, the temperatures here rises up to 50 degrees Celsius.
For the sites to visit and what to do here you should check:
- Al Fahidi Fort, which is currently the Dubai Museum. Here you will see how Dubai, a fishing village became what it is today.
- the Iranian Mosque of Ali Bin Abi Talib that stands out for its facade of blue and gold tiles.
- the House of Sheik Saeed Al Maktoum, former emir of Dubai. It is currently the best example of 19th-century Arab architecture with vaulted ceilings, horseshoe doors and a courtyard inside.
- The SMCCU Center – Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding – which organizes programs, visits and events and is the best way to learn about the heritage and the Emirati tradition.
- In these streets you will find a multitude of galleries, XVA Gallery, among them the which is also a boutique hotel and a café, still one of the hidden places in old Dubai.
- Arabian Tea House. It is a good place to rest for a while, in its large patio in the shade of its awnings, while tasting traditional Emirati food with a cup of tea to choose from more than 150 different varieties. It is an authentic oasis in the middle of the ancient city. The restaurant attracts attention for several things, including for its decoration since it is located in one of the traditional houses and because its food that is delicious and not expensive, hence there are many tourists and locals queuing to enter. The good news is that the site is quite big with many tables so the waiting time is usually short.
- The Souk. In this area of Bur Dubai there is also a souk, similar to the gold and spice souk although even less touristy but also with unique pieces of jewellery and accessories as well as bags, clothes or trinkets.
- The Heritage House, a traditional house of the late twentieth century that reflects the past of Dubai. It belonged to the most famous pearl merchant in the region.
- Coffee Museum. It is located in the so-called Villa 44. On the outside it is a traditional house so you do not expect that once you go through its door you will smell the amazing aroma of the Arabic coffee. Here you will see many coffee artefacts and several exhibits about the origin of the coffee. There is coffee from Ethiopia where we also see several clay coffee makers that come from that country and they are called “jebena”. There is even a small coffee place where you can seat and try a cup of Ethiopian coffee or Arab coffee called qahwa.
- Dinner aboard a dhow. You can navigate the creek while dining in one of the traditional wooden boats.
Most of the wooden doors you will see in this neighborhood will lead you to hidden cafes and restaurants. You will also find little shops like the one of the Iranian man who sells homemade Iranian decoration.
This neighborhood has a special charm. The way to get here is by subway, the Al Fahidi stop or in Uber, for me, the best way to get around in Dubai.
Inside Old Dubai, we find Al Seef which is a fusion between tradition and modernity. It is the new project of Dubai that is responsible for reforming this area, located in the South of the Creek, and creating a beautiful promenade, full of traditional Emirati houses that now have become cafes, restaurants, boutiques or galleries .
Phase one has already been built and phase two of this project is in construction. In total, they will be almost 2 kilometres of renovated old architecture, three new hotels, a marina, a 50s-style souk and a total of 500 shops and restaurants.
In short, an area that you can not miss, since it is full of charm and is like traveling back in time.
Dubai Creek and its wooden boats
After walking around Al Seef and Al Bastakiya, I recommend you to go to the Dhows dock that are wooden sailboats that formerly sailed to Yemen or Somalia bordering the Arabian peninsula or to Iran through the Persian Gulf. These trips continue nowadays but with other kind of ships.
Here at the Creek, you can take one of the famous wooden boats to cross the river for only 1AED per person. It takes only 5 minutes to cross the estuary surrounded by seagulls. I totally recommend you to do this tour because the view is so beautiful and because of the experience itself.
I recommend you watching the sunset from the other shore with the sun and the river in front and hundreds of seagulls flying around. One of those magical moments that will be forever in my memory.
The Deira is the district of Dubai that is located in the North of the Creek and still preserves the typical houses, before with the wealth of oil, Dubai began to build skyscrapers and becoming a futuristic city in the middle of the desert.
Historically, this neighborhood has always been the center of the Comercial trade in Dubai, although it has been losing importance in recent years, due to the development of Sheik Zayed Street, which is the big road that crosses Dubai from North to South.
Souks: gold and spices.
One of the things to do in the Deira neighborhood is to get lost in its souks. It is definitely like traveling back in time and return to the 19th century Dubai.
The spice souk and the gold souk are amazing. I have to say that the spice souk is my favorite, a mixture of alleys with cinnamon, sandalwood and incense scents.
The gold souk has around three hundred jewelery stores, full of the sparkling jewels and precious stones, pearls, sapphires, emeralds or diamonds. I recommend visiting both souks in the afternoon because it is when there is more atmosphere. In addition to gold, jewelry and spices I assure you that you will find absolutely everything here.
Hotel: Zabeel House by Jumeirah
We stayed at this hotel and thanks to that, I was able to visit this part of Dubai.
This hotel has recently opened and it is full of design like all Jumeirah Hotels but is is affordable.
A four-star hotel in what will be the new hot spot in Dubai in a few months. It has 200 rooms that are different sizes, all comfortable and beautiful with a very good design. I loved the old telephone in our room, the smeg fridge and the vinyl on the ceiling, where you could read “Time to sleep”, as well as the vinyl of the Dubai skyline in one of the walls.
I also liked the decoration in black and white tones.
The hotel has a rooftop with a restaurant and a pool with a very nice view.
The breakfast is also very complete and with high quality products. I will definitely come back to this hotel my next time in Dubai.
If you have any questions or questions, you can send me an email or write it in comments.
Thank you so much for reading me.
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