Vertiginous skyscrapers, glossy malls and shimmering urban complexes; Dubai is renowned for its modern masterpieces. But behind the city’s polished exterior, Dubai’s Old Town is bursting with heritage and history. Arranged around the curve of Dubai Creek, this antiquated area features early settlements and wonderfully preserved historical sites. Join us as we visit old-world Arabia on a tour of Dubai’s Old Town.
Seek out the souks
The Al Ras peninsula is home to a large cluster of colourful, lively souks where you can shop for all manner of trinkets and souvenirs while practicing your bartering skills. For fine jewellery and glittering gold, head to the legendary Gold Souk—the selection of necklaces, earrings, rings and bangles on offer will make you feel as though you’ve stepped straight into Aladdin’s Cave. Next door, amble through the heady aromas of the Spice Souk as piles of cinnamon, turmeric and chili waft in the warm air. Keep your olfactory senses tingling at the Perfume Souk, where you can buy fragrant Arabian scents like oud and frankincense, and for richly coloured cashmeres, locally woven rugs and the softest of silks, pay a visit to the Textile Souk.
Visit Dubai Creek
When Dubai was still a sleepy settlement, Dubai Creek was its main artery. The gateway of its import-export industry, a fishing area and a pearling site, the Creek was central to local life. Flanked by historical forts and heritage buildings, one of the best ways to tour Old Town Dubai is by hopping aboard a traditional wooden abra boat and taking a cruise on the waters.
Explore the history of Dubai Creek and admire the architecture – a tour of the area offers a glimpse into a bygone era. Look out for the traditional wind towers, bustling courtyards and maze of winding alleyways. The buildings are constructed with natural materials such as mud, gypsum and palm wood. You can also tread in the footsteps of local weavers, pearl divers and fishermen who were once the backbone of the economy. Get further historical insight at the cluster of museums that dot Dubai Creek’s banks like Dubai Museum, Coffee Museum and Coin Museum Bur Dubai.
Explore Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House
Located in the Al Shindagha district, Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House was the home of its namesake, and generations of his family, until 1958. Today, the striking building has been reinvented as a museum, its wind towers a perfect time capsule of centuries-old life in Dubai. Uncover historic photographs, old documents, coins and fascinating artefacts. Rewind to a world before oil and witness Dubai’s journey from Gulf town to global metropolis.
Wander around Al Bastakiya Quarter
Perched on Dubai Creek’s south bank, Al Bastakiya Quarter is one of the city’s best preserved and restored destinations. Built in the 19th century by wealthy merchants, it’s a winding maze of pretty coral-hued buildings with latticed doors. Meander through Bastakiya’s alleyways and you’ll stumble upon one of Dubai’s best art galleries: Majlis Gallery. Pause for a Moroccan Ice Tea at the Arabian Tea Café and continue your cultural explorations at Dubai Museum.
Savour a refreshing sunset at Sol Sky Bar
Wrap up your tour of Dubai Old Town with a refreshing sunset drink at Sol Sky Bar. Located on the Dubai Creek waterfront and part of the cool, contemporary Zabeel House Al Seef by Jumeirah. Sol Sky Bar is a cool rooftop spot with a hipster vibe, and made-for-Instagram views to match. Savour a handcrafted drink and unwind by the sublime infinity pool as the sun dips down.