Things to do in Old Dubai

For me discovering the best things to do in Old Dubai was a priority on our 2 day visit. I love feeling immersed in other cultures and areas of Bur Dubai offered this in spades. When sightseeing historic Dubai the ancient way of life comes to life. Visiting the souks selling spices, fabrics and gold where haggling is considered a sport. Crossing the salt water Creek in a traditional wooden boat. Gazing at the ancient and crumbling fort and drinking iced tea in a traditional Arabian Tea House. These things and more are more exciting to me than New Dubai’s resorts and beaches.

So, if, like me, you want to discover the best things to do in Old Dubai read on…

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai.

 

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For me discovering the best things to do in Old Dubai was a priority on our 2 day visit. I love feeling immersed in other cultures and areas of Bur Dubai offered this in spades. When sightseeing historic Dubai the ancient way of life comes to life. Visiting the souks selling spices, fabrics and gold where haggling is considered a sport. Crossing the salt water Creek in a traditional wooden boat. Gazing at the ancient and crumbling fort and drinking iced tea in a traditional Arabian Tea House. These things and more are more exciting to me than New Dubai's resorts and beaches.

Boat rides on Dubai Creek

 

Dubai Creek is a saltwater Creek. As so it was a majorly important area in history. Fishing took place, it was a pearling site and also it was the gateway for traders before oil was discovered. As so, old markets are strewn along this area.

It’s a lively area still today with traditional wooden abra ferrying locals across the busy water way.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Abra - Wooden Boats.

Locals catch the abra to cross the Creek.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Men Taking The Wooden Boats.

 

The area and these boats rides are now a tourist attraction but you can still expect to sit among locals, who take it in their stride as other boats collide like bumper cars!

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Wooden Boats.

Boats that go bump…

Pick the boat up at the Deira Old Souk Station. It only takes a few minutes a cross but it is a unique experience and the best way to cross to the other side. You’ll need cash and you pay on the boat. It doesn’t go directly across so you get to see a little more.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. The Creek.

 

If you want a longer experience, you can book a traditional Dhow tourist boat. It lasts a couple of hours or so and includes a buffet dinner.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Dhow Boat.

Tourist Dhow boat.

Personally we wanted to hop across to explore more Souks, the fort, the Arabian Tea Room and more.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Bur Dubai.

Bur Dubai.

Note the two storey traditional commercial buildings. They were built in 1934 and are really pretty.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. River Side Bayt Al-Wakeel.

Bayt Al-Wakeel.

 

Souks are fun, exciting market places where you can take part in haggling (they expect it). It’s a must-do when you visit Old Dubai.

 

Deira Old Souk

 

When we turned up there was the haunting call to prayer along with the aroma of spices and the bustle of robed men carting their produce. It was a pretty heady experience.

The narrow lanes are crammed with herbs and spices of all colours, shapes and sizes. It’s irresistible for any real foodie or culture lover.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Dubai Old Souk.

Herbs Market.

It can feel a little intimidating, especially as a Western woman. However, I was dressed appropriately and I was with my husband, so I put my best foot forward and dove in.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Arabian Marketplace.

Narrow lanes of the Spice market.

It can feel a bit of a challenge getting through from one end to the other, with traders seemingly desperate to sell you their goods. My advice is to understand it as normal here and enjoy it. Keep smiling, be firm but polite and haggle – they seem to enjoy it!

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Spice Market.

Can feel a little intimidating…

There are an incredible amount of herbs and spices to discover…

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Spices.

Spices.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Dubai Spice Market.

 

I was most excited about finding Frankincense and Myrrh (I’m not sure the trader understood my excitement).

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Buy Spices.

 

The Frankincense smelt gorgeous – the myrrh not so much!

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Frankincense And Myrrh.

Frankincense and Myrrh.

Take cash with you, it’s the normal way to pay.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Exploring The Spice Market.

Finding new delicacies.

Look out for cinnamon the size of bambo! Some stalls have UK sized pieces but others sell cinnamon like bundles of sticks.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Buying Spices At The Souk.

Dried Lemons…I think!

In other lanes, there are rows of large wooden shutters with uninspiring fabric shops within.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Cloth Souk.

Shops selling fabrics.

However, around every corner there is a sight to inspire.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Meeting The Locals.

‘Mingling’ with the locals.

We have visited at the very beginning of their busy tourist season. So, the temperatures were only just starting to drop. Therefore, finding a peaceful spot and not being approached gave me a wonderful moment just to breath it in.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Sightseeing The Spice Market.

Enjoying a quiet area.

 

Bur Dubai Souk

 

This Souk is a little neater and wider, but no less challenging as a browser.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. The Cloth Market.

The Cloth Market.

The colours are wonderful and the quality of many items was good. The problem I had was having sellers placing items on my shoulders and walking away so I had to follow them back to their stalls.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Souk Selling Cloth.

Colours of the rainbow.

Fun at first, but in the end it was a little frazzling. I obviously look too interested in everything and need to learn to avoid eye contact.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Buying Cloth In Dubai Markets.

 

Despite that, it was an unforgettable experience and one I really enjoyed.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Lanterns.

Lanterns.

You’ll not find lots of cafés here, but drinks are available from fresh fruit neatly stacked up.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Refreshments.

Refreshments.

We run out of time and regretfully missed the gold souks. Something to come back for.

 

Al Fahidi Fort – museum

 

The Al Fahidi Fort was originally built (about 200 years ago) as a fort and residence for the Monarch. Later it was turned into an arsenal for artillery and weapons. It was also a prison for outlaws.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Al Fahidi Fort.

Al Fahidi Fort

It is the oldest building in Dubai and has been transformed into a museum. If you want to visit here make sure you are dressed appropriately as it is a cultural space. It displays the history of Dubai and its original heritage.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Traditional Dhow Boat.

Dhow traditional boat.

However, if you don’t want to enter inside you can still wander round the fort and the Dhow boat.

Canons still poke out the tiny windows of the crumbling tower. It’s really exotic and something I’ve only imagined from novels before.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Old Fort.

Crumbling Fort.

 

The Heritage Village

 

Sadly for us the Heritage village was being refurbished. It is where you can experience different styles of the traditional local life ranging from coastal, desert to country and mountain life.

It really would be one of the main things to do in Old Dubai but currently is closed until further notice.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Sightseeing.

My tour guide (hubby).

 

Somewhere historic to eat

 

Luckily for us it was time for lunch anyway and nearby was a traditional Arabian Tea House.

If you struggle to find it, head to the Court House (not exactly a thing to do in Old Dubai – but interesting to see) – it’s next door!

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Law Courts.

Law courts.

 

Arabian Tea House

 

You enter the Tea House past an old and deep well filled with coins thrown in by tourists.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Arabian Tea House.

Arabian Tea House.

The restaurant is extremely welcoming and filled up with other tourists wanting an authentic experience while in the Bastakiya area.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Inside The Arabian Tea House.

Inside.

It may be a touch touristy, but the hummus was the best we have ever eaten anywhere. It was served with hot giant flat bread.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Hummus.

Hummus.

They also have an incredible amount of refreshing tea and cold drinks available.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Ice Cold Tea.

Ice cold tea.

We would recommend these crunchy little samosas, stuffed full of juicy meat.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Eat At A Tea Room.

Meat Samosas.

The biryani was good not great, but it came with a refreshing salsa and yogurt. It was mildly spiced and fairly sweet.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Eat Spicy Food.

Prawn Biryani.

My husbands curry was delicious, however. Full of juicy chunks of meat and chickpeas.

 

Things To Do In Old Dubai. Eat In A Tea House.

Curry.

 

Arabian Tea House

Al Fahidi Street, Bur Dubai

(not sponsored, just sharing the love!)

 

So, what would be on your list of things to do in Old Dubai ? I would love to know!

 

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For me discovering the best things to do in Old Dubai was a priority on our 2 day visit. I love feeling immersed in other cultures and areas of Bur Dubai offered this in spades. When sightseeing historic Dubai the ancient way of life comes to life. Visiting the souks selling spices, fabrics and gold where haggling is considered a sport. Crossing the salt water Creek in a traditional wooden boat. Gazing at the ancient and crumbling fort and drinking iced tea in a traditional Arabian Tea House...

 

For advice, tips and recommendations on how to dress in Old Dubai as a Western women (a bit of a minefield!) check this post out: A Suitable Dress For Old Dubai

Find out what else there is to discover in New Dubai: Things to do in New Dubai outside your hotel

 


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50 Comments

  1. November 16, 2017 / 8:23 am

    The one thing that bothers me about shopping in these kinda of markets is that I too look too interested in everything and then get bombarded by the merchants who really want me to buy something. It’s not like I can buy everything haha #FarawayFiles

    • Maria Kelly
      November 16, 2017 / 1:40 pm

      Yes and they are very insistent. I wish they understood I would have bought more if they chilled out a little… It was fine as my husband was with me, but I would have felt overwhelmed on my own x

  2. November 16, 2017 / 10:05 am

    Wow this is fabulous. I haven’t been to Dubai as yet, but earlier in the year I spent two days in Abu Dhabi. There are many similarities between these two Middle Eastern cities. I agree that the old parts of cities are generally much more interesting than the new parts. #TeamLovinLife

    • Maria Kelly
      November 16, 2017 / 1:44 pm

      I think Dubai is a quite a bit more Westernised than Abu Dhabi – so a good introduction to the Middle East. I would love to go to Abu Dhabi now x

  3. November 16, 2017 / 10:29 am

    What a wonderful time you had in Old Dubai. I loved your photos. I’ve visited Dubai on a stopover flying Emirates and once on a cruise when we stopped there for 2 days. We visited Old Dubai on a tour and it was fascinating, so your photos brought back lots of good memories. The second day was sooooo hot, and we didn’t get off the ship – naughty!

    • Maria Kelly
      November 16, 2017 / 1:45 pm

      The temperature can really sore can’t it!? We arrived just as is started dropping for the busy season – it was just about bearable! x

  4. November 16, 2017 / 10:53 am

    I know exactly what you mean about the souks being a little intimidating – I visited Dubai on my own as a stopover from UK to NZ and really loved exploring this part of the city but did get a couple of looks as a solo female traveller. That said, I never felt unsafe and everyone was very friendly, especially when I got lost a few times! #FarawayFiles

    • Maria Kelly
      November 16, 2017 / 1:48 pm

      It is so easy to get lost there! That was so brave of you, I think. Yes they were generally friendly but insistent – I wonder if their selling technique is fun, as bartering is. They certainly had a few jokes on me haha! x

  5. November 16, 2017 / 12:06 pm

    Friends who visited recently gave mixed reviews on wandering around old Dubai and said they enjoyed staying in the resort more. It looks like there are a lot of interesting things to see though! #FarawayFiles

    • Maria Kelly
      November 16, 2017 / 1:49 pm

      They are renovating a huge area which will be great, I think, once it’s completed. I’ve never experienced anything like it before, so I loved it. x

  6. November 16, 2017 / 12:28 pm

    How interesting to see such a different side to Dubai! #FarawayFiles

    • Maria Kelly
      November 16, 2017 / 1:50 pm

      Yes, the tall buildings were impressive – but discovering a bit of the old culture was a more meaningful experience x

  7. November 16, 2017 / 2:51 pm

    This is exactly the part of Dubai I’d be most interested in exploring too, Maria. This is a great reminder of the culture that’s still to be found there. #FarawayFiles

    • Maria Kelly
      November 17, 2017 / 7:23 am

      Yes, as far as I could see there wasn’t any real culture within the hotel complexes, so it made our trip to discover this area x

  8. Andy
    November 16, 2017 / 4:06 pm

    The boat trip was spectacular! But your dress wins the prize 😍 Love travelling with you! More to come 😉 xxx

    • Maria Kelly
      November 17, 2017 / 7:25 am

      That sounds like a promise..!! xxx

  9. November 16, 2017 / 6:50 pm

    The hummus looks amazing, It reminds me that I need to find a local place to get some here in LA. I’ve not heard much about Old Dubai, looks fascinating, but I’m not sure how I would do with the haggling. Seems a bit stressful. I do like the photos of all the spices, so pretty. #farawayfiles

    • Maria Kelly
      November 17, 2017 / 7:28 am

      It was fascinating Hilary. My husband is the least likely person to haggle but because we were being ridiculously overcharged he jumped in – he brought up his new found skills for the rest of the day – so funny!! x

  10. November 16, 2017 / 8:40 pm

    I’ve never been to Dubai, but I have to admit that this isn’t the image I have of it at all, I thought it was all shopping and skyscrapers! The markets look wonderful, I can just imagine how fragrant they would have been, and the tea house looks great. I love hummous and that bowl looks so tempting! I can imagine that there is a fair amount of awkwardness as a western woman, but it sounds like it was a wonderful experience. Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    • Maria Kelly
      November 17, 2017 / 7:31 am

      Hi katy! New Dubai is just that – all skyscrapers and malls. But there is a little area where you can still see more cultural things. The are renovating a huge area there – but some say that part may be a little ‘disney’.

  11. November 16, 2017 / 9:34 pm

    This looks so cool, like a mix between Marrakech and Istanbul!! I love these kinds of old cities!!
    #FarawayFiles

    • Maria Kelly
      November 17, 2017 / 7:34 am

      Does it?! We were wondering about that, Esther. Two places we would like to visit! x

  12. November 17, 2017 / 3:25 am

    Knowing myself, this is the part of town I would like to spend a lot of time. A lot of attention is paid to the modern part of Dubai so, I am glad this area has been conserved. I love the souk. I will go on a photo frenzy in there. #FarawayFiles

    • Maria Kelly
      November 17, 2017 / 7:37 am

      Yes, the souk and crossing the Creek were highlights of our trip – it was hard not to go crazy with the camera haha! x

  13. November 17, 2017 / 7:37 am

    It looks like you had a fabulous time and what a lovely collection of photos. Beautiful #thatfridaylinky x

    • Maria Kelly
      November 17, 2017 / 8:06 am

      Yes, it was a great trip, thanks Lisa x

  14. November 17, 2017 / 2:35 pm

    I would love to visit Dubai some day. I’ve never been to this part of the world and can imagine it’s a totally different experience from anything else. Plus the hummus and samosas look incredible – my favorite food. #farawayfiles

    • Maria Kelly
      November 17, 2017 / 4:45 pm

      My husbands favourite type of food too! The hummus was incredibly smooth and delicious. I mainly travel to Western cities, so it was really exciting to experience something so different! x

  15. November 17, 2017 / 7:09 pm

    I’ve never been to Dubai, but it looks lovely. Thanks for linking up to #ThatFridayLinky

    • Maria Kelly
      November 18, 2017 / 7:12 am

      It was my first visit too Emily and we liked it so much more than we expected to x

  16. November 17, 2017 / 8:50 pm

    This place looks amazing, the history and the food! I love the little market too, all of those colours! Thanks so much for sharing with #Blogstravaganza xx

    • Maria Kelly
      November 18, 2017 / 7:15 am

      It was a wonderful experience exploring the Souks. Crossing the Creek was probably our highlight – magical! xx

  17. November 18, 2017 / 8:07 pm

    Maria, Old Dubai looks stunning. I love the markets you have been to. You always just see the malls and the sky scrapers when you look at Dubai, I was pleasantly surprised to see another side of Dubai x

    • Maria Kelly
      November 18, 2017 / 9:37 pm

      I’m so chuffed you’ve enjoyed this post Vicky. I only got to visit Dubai because I met my husband who was working there. We’ve never considered holidaying there and was delighted to discover this other historic side x

  18. November 19, 2017 / 3:02 am

    I’ve not been to Dubai and didn’t even know there was an old Dubai, but it certainly looks beautiful and very very different to so many of the other pictures I see of the place!

    I love the look of the markets and it all has quite a quaint feel to it!

    #teamlovinlife

    • Maria Kelly
      November 19, 2017 / 7:58 am

      It’s incredible to google what Dubai looked like in 1990 – a few high rises in the desert! x

  19. November 19, 2017 / 1:07 pm

    I have never been looks a fab place to visit great photos Thank you for linking to #Thatfridaylinky please come back next week

    • Maria Kelly
      November 19, 2017 / 2:40 pm

      Thank you Nige – perhaps you’ll be more likely to visit there yourself now…? x

  20. November 20, 2017 / 8:35 am

    Old Dubai looks like such a beautiful place and it looks and sounds like you had a great time. I can’t believe how many spices there were! Your photos are stunning! #Honeybeelinky

    • Maria Kelly
      November 20, 2017 / 6:20 pm

      Thank you Amy! Some of the spices are really hard to get over here – it was tempting to go a bit crazy haha! x

  21. November 20, 2017 / 8:39 pm

    Thanks for linking up with #blogstravaganza
    I will probably never visit here due to my fear of flying but it reminds me a lot of Turkey which I went to 15 years ago

    • Maria Kelly
      November 21, 2017 / 12:37 pm

      I’ve never been to Turkey so that’s interesting x

  22. November 21, 2017 / 1:44 pm

    Wow1 It’s so wonderful to see this other side of Dubai not just the luxurious one, Maria. I must admit that I prefer this historical one and I’d love to explore it when in Dubai!

    • Maria Kelly
      November 21, 2017 / 4:27 pm

      Me too – it was a whole new world to me! I can’t wait for the heritage village to reopen. I’d love to go back and see that! x

  23. November 27, 2017 / 6:34 am

    Oh wow! Look at all those amazing spices?! I would have been there for hours looking at everything! The food looks amazing too. xxx

    • Maria Kelly
      November 27, 2017 / 7:24 am

      We were sitting with my son – we had bought him some spices – and trying to work out what on earth some of them were haha! He was recognising the smells from certain dishes he’s had in London restaurants. He’s excited about using them now! x

  24. November 29, 2017 / 10:12 pm

    I appreciate seeing that a modern city like Dubai strikes a balance between old and new. I would love exploring and tasting and smelling all those spices! Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles

    • Maria Kelly
      November 30, 2017 / 2:41 pm

      Yes, some parts are truly old, but they are redeveloping much of it. It may become a little ‘disney’ in future…? There is something about spices isn’t there! x