A lot of people have made comments to us about how fake Dubai is and that Dubai lacks culture – however our response to this is always ‘Dubai is whatever you make it’. I couldn’t think of something more truer than this statement. Dubai offers so many things that you literally can make it what you want it to be. If you’re a tourist who is into the beach life, you can stay in plenty of beach hotels, or someone who wants more of a nightlife – there are numerous events and parties etc that you can go to. However, the part that many people don’t realise is that there is a much more traditional side to Dubai that you can see, if you choose to seek it out!
There are a number of authentic traditional souks (markets) in Old Dubai (Deira side) where you can buy some of the most beautiful traditional handmade shoes, clothes and house items. The souks include a perfume souk, spice souk, textile souk and gold souk. As with any traditional souks you can haggle the prices and get really good bargains! Even if you’re not looking to buy anything, it is still so worth getting lost in a souk and just absorbing the buzzing atmosphere! You will get people trying to sell you things but if you’re really not interested don’t be shy to say a firm no and they will leave you alone! To get to the souks just ask a taxi driver to drop you to the souk of your choice!
Abra’s are old school water taxi’s that take you from Deira to Bur Dubai and back. There are souks on both sides of the Dubai Creek and you can take an Abra from one souk to another. It is a cheap way to travel as it is only 1 dirham (around 20p) per journey! It’s so nice to jump on one (bare in mind it can fit upto like 20 people) but it really is an experience to travel across Dubai Creek in an Abra – you get to see a totally different side of Dubai! Boat rides are under 10 mins so perfect for those who aren’t sure about going on the water lol! Also you get to meet so many different people ranging from local Emirati’s to other tourists! Click here for stations/times etc.
Dubai Museum – Al Fahidi Fort
This museum was one of the first places we visited as expats and I have to say it was definitely something we were glad we looked into. Dubai Museum is in Al Fahidi Fort which has been used for a number of things over the years – including military defence, holding fort for military weapons, a prison and now a museum. This museum captures you from the minute you walk in – you get to freely walk around mock set ups of what a traditional bedouin house would look like, summer houses, different types of boats that Arabs used, what old school shops looked like etc. There is also displays of the whole history of Dubai through the decades, allowing you to understand how Dubai transformed from a desert to the place it is today. As this is close to the souks it is definitely something I would do on the same day!
Majlis Ghorfat Umm Al Sheif
A majlis is a traditional element for an Emirati household – it is a comfortable room set up for meetings etc. Til this day some Emirati families choose to include a majlis in their homes. The Majlis Ghorfat Umm Al Sheif is a beautiful quaint little place that used to house Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum’s meetings with his council. Here you can get first hand experience of an Emirati Majlis, with the traditional furniture, utensils etc. Just being in this building and realising what kind of important discussions must have taken place in that majlis is just amazing!
Now this is not about those touristy desert BBQs that are advertised everywhere – I mean a traditional Emirati BBQ with an Emirati family. This has to be one of the best experiences I have ever had. It’s not hard to make friends with Emirati people – they are some of the most welcoming and heartwarming people and really easy to talk to! They are always extending dinner and BBQ invites so make sure to accept! Read more about our Emirati BBQ experience here.
Hopefully this helps you to look into what alternative experiences you can have in Dubai. I’m sure we’ve missed a few out but we hope this has given you enough of a push into doing research into the traditional side to Dubai. Let us know if you find any hidden gems!