Dubai is often associated with glitz and glamour surrounded with high rise buildings and sports cars, but it is also rich in history and heritage. Old Dubai is teeming with culture and sights, with plenty to see, do, and eat. If you’re looking for something different to do this weekend or have visitors in town, we highly recommend taking a trip downtown to see a different side of Dubai.
Here are the top 7 things to do in Old Dubai.
Spend lovely morning at XVA Gallery, Hotel & Café
This arty boutique hotel in the Al Fahidi neighbourhood includes a café and an art gallery. This historical mazelike area, hidden in the heart of Al Fahidi, formerly known as Al Bastakiya, is one of Dubai’s oldest communities. The XVA Hotel has 15 distinct suites and rooms, as well as three tranquil courtyards and wind towers. Their café is a haven for vegetarians and vegans, serving fresh and vibrant dishes that fuse global flavours. In addition, visitors can marvel at the art on display at the XVA Gallery, which hosts a variety of exhibitions.
Sip a cup of Chai or Karak
With numerous cafes and spots dedicated to these popular drinks, chai and karak truly keep the city going. If you prefer something lighter, try a cup of chai, with karak chai having a much stronger richer flavour and odes of caramel colours. If you enjoy spices and sweetness, these drinks with vibrant flavours of ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves will be right up your alley. There are numerous establishments serving these drinks at reasonable prices, including Cha Cha Chai, Disco Chai, Zafran Karak Tea, Chai Sutta Cafe, and many more.
Take a ride on an abra across the Creek
These 20-person wooden boats have served as water taxis across the Creek for centuries. For a single dirham, take the eight-minute trip and see Dubai as it once was. It’s an excellent way to see both sides of Dubai’s historic old town, from Deira to Bur Dubai. Many locals use the boats to avoid traffic, but it is also a charming experience, especially if you go around sunset.
Explore the Souks
You won’t be short on sights and smells with the Spice and Gold Souks to explore. You can find almost anything here, including pashminas, gold jewellery, sandals, perfumes, an array of spices, and much more. Shopkeepers are tough negotiators, so come prepared to haggle for your purchases. To visit this local wonder, take the Dhs1 abra, taxi, car, or metro – the nearest stations are Al Fahidi and Al Ghubaiba Station.
On both sides of the Creek, Old Dubai is teeming with must-eat Middle Eastern experiences. If you have a craving for Arabic Coffee, go to the Coffee Museum and try gahwa (Arabic Coffee) before stopping at the Arabian Tea House for a traditional Emirati lunch. Bayt Al Wakeel, one of Dubai’s oldest buildings on the Creek, specialises in camel meat and other authentic Emirati cuisine. If you’re in Bur Dubai or Deira, don’t miss Khayma Heritage Restaurant, which is listed in the Michelin guide. Farm-fresh ingredients are used to create a variety of Emirati dishes at the restaurant.
Visit the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Cultural Understanding Centre
Since 1998, this non-profit organisation has worked to promote Emirati culture, customs, traditions, and religious awareness through the vision of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Located in a restored wind tower house in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, the centre offers a range of activities from traditional cultural meals hosted by local Emiratis, as well as guided walking tours. Make a reservation ahead of time as they can fill up quickly.
Wander around Al Seef
Al Seef, located on Dubai Creek, is a blend of modern and traditional design that showcases the city’s proud heritage. Al Seef, which opened in 2017, commemorates Dubai Creek’s humble beginnings as a pearl diving base, but it is now a charming revamped neighbourhood with many shops, cafes, and restaurants. The 1.8km pedestrianised walkway runs along The Creek shoreline, where you and your loved ones can spend the afternoon. Starbucks, in addition to many local and delicious restaurants, is a popular hotspot where many people flock due to its picturesque interiors and exterior terrace. Visitors can also watch abras cross the Creek and shop for beautiful trinkets in souk-style shops.Al Seef, located on Dubai Creek, is a blend of modern and traditional design that showcases the city’s proud heritage. Al Seef, which opened in 2017, commemorates Dubai Creek’s humble beginnings as a pearl diving base, but it is now a charming revamped neighbourhood with many shops, cafes, and restaurants. The 1.8km pedestrianised walkway runs along The Creek shoreline, where you and your loved ones can spend the afternoon. Starbucks, in addition to many local and delicious restaurants, is a popular hotspot where many people flock due to its picturesque interiors and exterior terrace. Visitors can also watch abras cross the Creek and shop for beautiful trinkets in souk-style shops.
Experience Pakistani cuisine at Ravi’s
There are a number of must-visit restaurants in Dubai, but if you want something simple, go to the popular dining and cultural experience Ravi Restaurant. It is located in the bustling Satwa neighbourhood of Old Dubai and serves traditional Pakistani and Indian cuisine at a reasonable price. You can also visit the Satwa Grand Mosque while you’re here.