When we think about Dubai, what comes to mind are luxury hotels and restaurants, skyscrapers, huge shopping centres etc. and we neglect the old part of this extraordinary city.
You need to spend a day in Old Dubai to discover the real roots of the city. You can easily arrive there by Metro and get off at Ghubaiba or Fahidi stations.
Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, called also Bastakya, is a historic district in Dubai. The area was built in the early twentieth century by merchants from the Persian town of Bastak, who settled in Dubai to take advantage of tax breaks.
Here, the narrow and quiet walking lanes are flanked by the traditional sand-coloured houses topped with wind towers, which provide natural air-conditioning. When walking in these narrow streets you can discover cafes, restaurants, little art galleries.
This small neighbourhood, even if it may look quiet at first sight, has an intense life thanks to the photographic exhibitions, the shops, the boutique with original fashion creations and the different school activities and specific programs for the university.
You shouldn’t miss visiting the Old city when you visit Dubai. Here, you will be taken to the past and you will better understand the cultural heritage of this city and its old culture.
Al Fahidi Fort, built in 1787, is the oldest existing building in Dubai. It is square-shaped with three towers. Over the centuries it has been the residence of the Sheikh, a military barracks and also a prison and in 1971 it became the main museum of the city.
Here you can see a collection of archaeological findings, an exhibition of aerial photos that document the country’s development since the fifties, with sections dedicated to life, to the traditional culture of Dubai and to the ancient economy based on fishing and pearl harvesting.
There is also a new Museum which was opened in 2014. The building is an Arabian architectural masterpiece in its own right dating to the 19th century and is part of Bur Dubai’s Shindagha Heritage village area.
The Museum has developed into a village area and includes The Crossroads of Civilization Museum (CCM), Rare Books Manuscripts & Prints Museum, and The Armory Museum. Together, they reflect the best of each civilization that has passed through the region.
Once you complete the visit in the museum, you need to go to the Old Souk, which is a traditional market with a lot of small stores, selling different clothes, fabrics, oriental souvenirs. It is a nice walk where you can really enjoy the atmosphere of an oriental traditional city and have also the opportunity to buy some nice souvenirs.
To enjoy the charm of old Dubai and feel the city’s heritage you need to take the traditional abra, a motorised water shared taxi, and cross Dubai Creek, a natural river that passes through the land for about 10 kilometres which divides the city into two main sections – Deira and Bur Dubai, located on the western side.
Once you arrive in Deira, you have just to walk a little to find the Spice Souk. Here you will see a huge assortment of spices such as cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, nigella, cardamom, saffron displayed outside each shop. You can smell the rich aromas of the spices while walking in the narrow lanes of the market. Around this area you will discover many shops selling various merchandise. At a reasonable price you can buy gem stones, oriental perfumes and items.
Close to the Spice Souk you will find the Gold Souk, the largest gold market in the Middle East where you will see elegant oriental gold jewellery. At the end of the day you will feel a bit tired, but happy to have spent great time in this traditional dynamic part of Dubai.