Dubai is well known for its magnificent and luxurious high-rise buildings and its state of the art malls, but to discover the real Dubai, and to understand why it has prospered, go to Old Dubai.
Historically, Dubai Creek divided the city into two main sections – Deira and Bur Dubai. Bur Dubai, the historic district, is located on the western side of the Dubai Creek and Diera. Top
9 things to do in Old Dubai
Often referred to as the heart and soul of Dubai, these are the Top 9 Things to do in Old Dubai, Bur Dubai, and Deira.
Visiting these areas will show you a lot more about the Dubai, one of the major cities in the United Arab Emirates, but not the capital city. This honour goes to Abu Dhabi.
1. Gold Souk
The Gold Souk is a labyrinth of covered walkways. This traditional Arabian marketplace has over 300 jewellery shops.
This is where you can buy jewellery at the cheapest rate and still haggle for a much better price.
The current price of gold is advertised all over the souk. Whether you are buying or not, this is a must see Souk in Old Dubai.
2. Grand Souk Deira
Once known as Al Souk al-Kabeer, “The Big Souk” this is once the largest and most important markets in Deira. Many do claim that it’s cleaned up appearance has taken away from its charm, but it is still an amazing place to wander to see and smell all of the Herbs and Spices, and to admire the amazing textile market.
3. Dubai Creek
Dubai Creek is a saltwater creek that was so important in Dubai’s history. The creek served as a fishing area, a pearling site and a gateway for traders before oil was discovered. Now, Dubai Creek is a top tourist attraction in Old Dubai. You must take an abra, the old wooden boat at Deira Old Souk Station. The short boat ride will transport you to the other side of the Creek to Bur Dubai. It is a unique experience.
You should also take a dhow boat ride on Deira Creek and see the Old Dubai at night time while dining on traditional Emirati fare.
4. Dubai Heritage Village
Located in the Al Shindagha district is the well-preserved traditional Arabian village. The Dubai Heritage and Diving Village will show you the history of Dubai as a fishing and pearling nation.
5. Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum’s House
This is the residence of Sheikh Saeed, the grandfather of current Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, from 1912 until his death in 1958. It is now a museum where important documents and photographs are displayed.
6. Dubai Old Souk
This souq is another fabulous and frenetic Arabian marketplace. The traditionally covered souk houses hundreds of retail shops selling Arabian textile, footwear, trinkets and food. It is fun, touristy, and novel. Haggle because the Emirati enjoy it.
7. Dubai Museum
The Dubai Museum is situated in Al Fahidi Fort, the oldest building in Dubai. This is another opportunity to see Dubai’s rich history and all its antiquities.
8. Bastakiya Quarter
The Bastakiya Quarter is a historical neighbourhood that lies along the bank of the Dubai Creek, and a favourite place to visit.. This is where the rich merchants lived, and beautifully preserved traditional Arabian homes with barjeels or wind catchers, are well worth seeing. There are a maze of the narrow alleys in Bastakiya district but a lot of great finds, like unique shops, cafes and art galleries.
The best place to stay in Old Dubai
There’s another side to high-rise digital Dubai. Stay at Al Seef Hotel by Jumeirah, in the heritage area, and learn how the Emirati are rediscovering their precious identity.
Somebody’s turned off the 21st century. There’s a black phone with a rotary dial, a toilet with a chain and a wireless from around the 1950s. Sheer nostalgia.
Voluminous curtains have gone missing – replaced by wooden shutters.
There are two heavy dark-wood doors leading into the bathroom with a rough-hewn 18-inch wooden bolt that would have withstood a Crusaders’ siege for months.
Outside there are rough plaster walls, timbered cooling wind towers and acacia trees searching through the sand for a few drops of water.
There are neither adverts nor company logos. You could film an authentic nativity scene here with Al Seef’s medieval colour palette of sand, beige and desert distressed paintwork.
This is a pedestrianised Creek-side Dubai that’s reclaiming its national heritage.
With 11 million people and over 200 nationalities outnumbering the mere 1.7% of the population who are Emirati – this is Dubai screaming, “Stop the world. I want to get off.”
The Al Seef by Jumeirah has a restaurant that stands up for Arabic traditions. Families share a banquet, a traditional Arabic meze of countless dishes of hummus, tabbouleh, olives, lamb soup, lentil soup, lamb pasty, grilled fish or lamb and then finally a selection of favourite deserts that includes Umm Ali, fresh fruit and cinnamon ice-cream too.
Couples in traditional Arabic dress bring their children to understand their past before those traditions are lost.
Dubai’s first-found wealth was the pearls dived for in the Creek. At Suwaidi Pearls you learn how divers still source pearls at Ras al Khamiya and you view the beautiful jewellery produced. Al Seef is where Dubai celebrates its heritage.
Women flock to Abaya Couture, not just for the mint tea welcome, but to select an abaya, sometimes off the peg, sometimes made to measure.
Al Seef’s traditional buildings run for over a mile alongside the south side of Dubai Creek. Ultimately over 400 cafes, shops and restaurants will celebrate Dubai’s trading history. For centuries merchants have imported intricately designed Kashmiri rugs.
Then there are the hessian sacks filled with spices from Africa, Asia and India. Today the heavily laden dhows still ply their trades across the Indian Ocean and down the African coast.
Increasingly, Al Seef is becoming a popular destination for both Dubai residents and travellers from overseas. Musicians play ouds, Arabia’s take on the guitar, and sing. Later dancers whirl feverishly as they entertain the crowds.
Al Seef has location on its side. For just a single Dirham, around 20 pence, an abra will take you north across the creek to haggle for a bargain in the Gold Souk. Competition is so intense, that there are real bargains to be had for earrings, necklaces, rings and watches.
At the west end of the Al Seef village is the Sheikh Zayed Centre for Cultural Understanding. Enjoy an Emirati meal with a guide who is an infinite font of knowledge on Emirati life.
He produces a barrage of information: elderly Emirati remain flexible as they have been kneeling five times a day to pray throughout their lives … the Emirati sat on the floor to eat as there were no trees in the dessert to make chairs and tables… women dipped their husband’s tie in their perfume to remind their husband of his wife’s love…and more practically to mask the stench of camels.
Back to the Al Seef Hotel by Jumeriah, behind the rustic dark wood you will find those essential luxuries. There’s a mini-bar, a Nespresso coffee-machine and a rain-water shower. Also, if you are in need of more contemporary comforts there’s a shuttle bus that takes just five minutes to the Zabeel House by Jumeirah, the sister hotel. Enjoy a seventh-floor swimming pool overlooking the Creek, a gym and a spa.
Shrewd travel experts may well be recommending Al Seef, Dubai as one of the top destinations for 2019.
9. What to eat in Old Dubai
• Eat Shawarma – the most eaten food across this country, must be tried with Hummus.
• Try a Camel Burger • Have a pot of tea at Arabian Tea
• Taste Al Harees – a famous dish of UAE with highly exotic taste. It is made up of meat and wheat.
• Al Machboos – a traditional dish of UAE. The main ingredients are rice, meat, onion and dried lemon.
Old Dubai, Bur Dubai, and Deira are a fantastic juxtaposition to the luxury of the most modern Dubai. The fact that they sit comfortably with each other will keep you scratching your head. These Top 9 Things to do in Old Dubai will be a perfect way to get your head around this city.
(Article source: Various)