When most people think of Dubai, they envision futuristic skyscrapers towering over designer shopping malls and luxury hotels. The glitz and glamour of Dubai is one of the reasons why millions of tourists from across the globe flock here to experience one of the most exciting cities in the world.
But Dubai is not all glitzy bars and sky-high observatory decks – the city itself has its roots in traditional Arabian culture and architecture, with historic landmarks, ancient temples and fascinating museums dotted around Old Dubai.
There’s so much to see and do here in this ancient part of town, so we’ve teamed up with Travelbag to bring you the top four things to see in Old Dubai.
Image credit: Get Your Guide
This saltwater creek played an important part in the history of the city. Prior to the discovery of oil in the 1990s, Dubai Creek served as a major fishing area and pearling site, the latter of which was the main sector of the city’s economy at the time. The creek served as a port for dhows sailing in from faraway lands such as East Africa and India, so it was an important part of the city’s contact with the rest of the world.
Nowadays, Dubai Creek is a popular tourist attraction, and visitors can take a traditional wooden boat, called an abra, across the creek to Old Dubai from downtown. This is a truly unique and humbling experience, where you can see the stunning skyscrapers across the water as you make your way back in time to the emirate’s earlier years.
Image credit: Dubai Attractions
Visit the Bastakia Quarter and see where some of the richest merchants lived in times past. These are beautifully preserved ancient Arabian buildings, and walking along here will transport you back to a time well before the Burj Khalifa stood over the city.
Within the sandy narrow alleys, you’ll be able to discover some unique shops and quaint cafes, which can serve as welcome breaks from the desert sun for a while.
Image credit: Guide 2 Dubai
To learn more about this fascinating city, and the culture behind it, a visit to the Dubai Museum is a must. The museum is housed inside Al Fahidi Fort, which was built in 1787 – making it the oldest existing building in Dubai.
Here you’ll be able to learn all about everyday life in the city, prior to the discovery of oil, and visit the pearl diving exhibit. Visitors here can also view ancient artifacts, some of which date back to around 3,000 BC, as well as learning all about mosques, souks and desert life.
Saeed Al Maktoum House
Image credit: Michael Creasy
This former residential building is one of the most famous in Old Dubai. Located by the creek, the house was built in 1894, as a house for the Al Maktoum family, the ruling royal family of Dubai.
It’s no longer used as a residential property, but the family have kept it open as a museum, where visitors can see exclusive artifacts and images of the royal family’s past, and Dubai prior to the discovery of oil.
Tips for exploring Old Dubai
- Keep covered – use a light sarong or shawl to keep your shoulders covered. Avoid wearing shorts and opt for cotton trousers or a long skirt instead, as these will keep you cool without causing offense.
- Remember that Friday is the weekend in Dubai, so if you’re visiting on this day expect the museums and cafes to open later and close earlier.
- If you’re visiting during Ramadan, don’t eat or drink in public.
Old Dubai is a wonderful place to visit during your stay in the city. The way that these ancient buildings sit side-by-side with some of the most postmodern architecture in the world is truly mesmerising, and makes for some fabulous Instagram photos – no filter required!