While driving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai on the highway, for 45 minutes, you are surrounded by the calm desert landscape … until you blink and realise there are giant skyscrapers approaching you. This upcoming dynamic scenery can be a little bit intimidating in the beginning, however after a few moments you acclimatize to this roaring metropolis. Dubai is one of the world’s most famous glittery cities, boasting a majority of the world’s greatest architectural marvels. You cannot miss a visit to the tallest building in the world, located next to the largest mall in the world, which puts on the world’s largest fountain show in the world, and make sure to stay in the world’s tallest hotel, while you are visiting.
Beyond the glittery skyscrapers, fast cars and flooded malls, lies a magical part of the city known as Old Dubai, which a lot of people miss out on exploring. To me, this is one of the most charming parts of the city and I love getting lost in the sights and sounds Old Dubai offers. Most of the sights are located within walking distance from each other, which is the best way to explore this part of town. This weekend I went back in time and re-lived my adventures by taking a walking tour of the area, starting with the Gold, Spice and Perfume Souq in Deira, and ending in Al Fahidi District in Bur Dubai, across the Creek. The entire trip took approximately 4 hours, including a coffee break and some shopping 🙂
Let’s check out the highlights:
Surrounded by a maze of covered walkways, the Gold Souk, located in Deira, is home to over 300 jewelry shops, showcasing fine craftsmanship, precious stones, and is home to the queen of rings, Najmat Taiba – Star of Taiba, the world’s heaviest gold ring weighting almost 64kg. It offers limitless options at the cheapest rate, with lots of opportunities for bargaining (if you know all the tricks ;)).
You will know exactly when you arrive to the Spice Market as the aroma of Arabian spices fills the air. Located right next to the the Gold Souk, this is one of Dubai’s most charming landmarks, offering countless varieties of sensational spices, fragrances, and herbs from around the region such as dried lemon, lavender, saffron, cumin and so much more! You will be greeted by vivacious shopkeepers offering you to try just about everything they sell, but be careful do not buy anything at the offered initial price 😉
Just a few steps away, yet another form of aroma entices visitors, this time an elegant one leading to the Perfume Souk within the Grand Souq complex. Fragrance has always been an important part of Arabian culture, and the Perfume Souk offers countless options of fragrant oils and perfumes depending on the intensity you prefer, and in some shops, you can even make your own. From world renowned brands, to traditional scents such as oud and frankincense, this is a sensational stop you cannot miss.
Once you have completed your initial shopping, walk across the street towards the famous Deira Creek. This unmissable sight holds great importance in Dubai’s history, which once served as a fishing, pearling and trading site before the discovery of oil. Today, the port is still used for the exchange of trade where ships dock, bringing products from around the world. It is also used for transportation either by water taxis or the traditional abra (wooden boat). For only AED 1, visitors can enjoy a boat ride to the other side of the creek (Bur Dubai), which is in my opinion the best way to really appreciate the picturesque historical district of Dubai.
Following your short scenic ride across the Creek, you will arrive to the Textile Souk, where you will immediately catch of glimpse of colourful shoes, beautiful pashminas, and countless fabrics. The air is filled with an invigorating aroma of strong Arabic coffee, surrounded by the sounds of bargains among the shopkeepers and tourists. The Bayt Al Wakeel restaurant is a great place to take a break from your heavy shopping, where you might enjoy a refreshing Moroccan tea, and admire the beautiful Creek side views.
A short walk towards the left from the Textile Souq, will take you to Dubai Museum, located on the grounds of Al Fahidi Fort – Dubai’s oldest building, constructed in 1787. The entrance fee of only AED 3 for adults, offers a glimpse into Bedouin life. Outside displays showcase traditional houses called Al Khaimah – a primitive house built of palm tree branches which stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter; and Al Arish – a summer house with an impressive wind tower used to generate breeze. The museum also has a very impressive interactive gallery with digital installations portraying life in Dubai in the 1950’s. Visitors can learn all about different industries from trade and fishing, to pottery and dressmaking. The gallery also showcases life in the desert and explains how the Bedouin survived, hunted and learned to tell time and direction using the stars.
AL-FAHIDI HISTORICAL NEIGHBOURHOOD (AL BASTAKIYA)
A beautiful historical neighborhood, Al Fahidi, is located only 2 minutes walking from Dubai museum, and offers visitors a glimpse of the past. The complex showcases life from the mid 19th century until the 1970’s and the architecture is inspired by traditional materials such as palm wood, stone, gypsum. The little neighborhood is filled with scenic paths, courtyards and alleys which lead to museums such as the unmissable coffee and coin museums, as well as, art galleries and restaurants. Make sure you enjoy an authentic camel burger at the Local House restaurant, and indulge in a relaxing ambiance while sipping on tea at Arabian Tea House.
All of these places are within walking distance from one another, and I highly recommend you visit them on foot during the cooler months, as you not only get a great stretch, but also experience the real spirit of Old Dubai.
Dubai is a booming megalopolis, with plenty of things to experience, no matter your preference or interest. Check out Visit Dubai to learn more about the fascinating Emirate and start planning your itineraries! 🙂
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Disclaimer: All views are my own and all photographs are © My Pink Diary.