Old Dubai: Al Fahidi, Dubai Creek & the souks in Deira
March 20, 2020
When you hear the name Dubai, the first thing that comes to mind is the luxurious malls and skyscrapers.
However, today we are going to dive into a different part of Dubai and that is Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, Dubai Creek and the souks in Deira.
We are going to leave the malls and skyscrapers behind and explore the historical side of Dubai.
Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood
It is located along Dubai Creek and it is a famous heritage site. It is also referred to as Bastakiya.
It depicts what traditional life used to look like back in the day (mid-19th century).
You can also see some of the original infrastructure in the area – low-rise buildings built with traditional materials such as stone, sandalwood, palm wood, etc.
Back in the day, it was a busy commercial center, especially for pearl and textile businesses.
Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood
There is no admission fee. It is really fun to explore all the little alleys, squares, and narrow trails.
Along the winding streets of Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, you can find plenty of little museums and galleries as well as cute little shops where you can find souvenirs, scarves, spices, etc.
Not to mention you can find plenty of restaurants that serve traditional food.
Many traditional food restaurants are in the area
The place that we had lunch at was called Al Mallah and we really enjoyed the local food.
If you want to know more about what kind of food to try while in Dubai, take a look at this post.
The restaurant is also located right beside the water which makes it a perfect place to grab a bite and cool down after walking around.
This is what our lunch looked like
We also had some Jelly Belly ice cream which I highly recommend.
Walking around the whole Historical Neighborhood will take you at least a couple of hours (it is pretty big).
Especially, if you want to shop or have lunch/dinner you will need at least 2 to 3 hours.
When we were there, it was very quiet and peaceful and we browsed around and of course, took some pictures.
There is no dress code, but like everywhere in the UAE remember to dress modestly.
Dubai Creek is actually a man-made saltwater creek that divides the city into two halves – Deira (where the souks are – North) and Bur Dubai (where Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood is – South).
What that means is that if you want to get to the souks, you need to cross Dubai Creek.
And what a better way to do that than with a traditional boat called Abra? An Abra is a small, motorized, wooden boat.
You must experience an Abra ride while in Dubai. This is the cheapest place to do so by far!! It costs like 1-2 AED for one way!!
Here is what the one-way ticket looks like, the price and the names of the stations we used
There are two routes and a few different stops on both sides of the creek. We walked around the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood and then boarded an Abra and crossed to Deira.
The Abra stop is right outside the entrance to Al Fahidi!! There are no Abra stops within Al Fahidi!!
The boat ride is very short, not more than seven to eight minutes.
Check out this video from our Abra overlooking Al Fahidi.
And this video with a view of Deira.
View towards Deira and Dubai Creek. You can also see some Abras in the distance.
Here is a link where you can find more information on crossing Dubai Creek via Abra boat (there is also a helpful map on the site where you can see the exact routes and stop locations).
The boats are fast, frequent and super cheap so I highly recommend them.
You can buy the ticket from a ticket booth or directly from the driver. I would bring change to make it easier to pay.
Once you get to Deira, you will need to walk a little bit to get to the souks area.
Like I said earlier, Old Dubai is very different from the fancy downtown area. The souks literally transport you into the past with all the wonderful smells and products to buy.
Some of the main souks are Gold, Spices, Perfumes, etc. The Textile Souk is actually located back in Bur Dubai.
So many cool and pretty things to see and buy at the souks
Now you need to be prepared for this!!
As you walk around, the merchants will see that you are a tourist and they’re constantly going to offer you their products (it is their culture to do that, it is not done in a mean way).
My friend and I were both dressed pretty conservatively in long pants and sleeves and we were still constantly being approached and offered something.
So just be ready to have to say no because the merchants are very persuasive and they would literally take your hand and drag you to their store.
Eventually, it became too much and we decided to leave.
But like I said I don’t know if it’s because we were two, younger women (no man with us) or because we were tourists but it was just too much attention.
If you go with a bigger group or with a male it might be different.
Having said that, it was definitely worth visiting for the many products, smells and foods we got to see and try.
I believe that the Gold Souk is the most popular one and rightfully so. If you’re looking to buy gold, this will be a good place for that because you can barter with the merchants.
Also, they have very interesting jewelry items that you cannot find anywhere else. You can also find silver and gemstone pieces of jewelry.
The Gold Souk is also home of the biggest gold ring in the world (64 kg.) which is located in a store right at the entrance to the souk on the right-hand side.
It’s fun to check it out and see all the gold and stones but we didn’t end up purchasing anything.
Biggest gold ring in the world – bottom right is the Guinness plaque
I have never seen so many different spices in my entire life. Great place to purchase cheap spices to take home.
It is located a little bit south of the Gold Souk but all of the souks are in the same area and it is very easy to walk around them.
The most popular spice is saffron. If you don’t buy any to take home, make sure you try a meal or a drink that has saffron.
Spices, spices and more spices
Other famous spices are cinnamon, turmeric and my personal favorite – za’atar.
We bought some loose leaf tea, some chocolate covered dates, dried fruits, and nuts.
You must try the dates, either chocolate covered or plain.
There were so many different kinds of dates. I ate a whole bunch!!
Dry fruits are very popular
Just a little bit east of the Gold Souk is the Perfumes Souk. That area of the world is famous for its very strong spices and perfumes.
Personally, I do find their perfumes a little bit too heavy for me but it’s definitely interesting to sniff smells that you cannot find anywhere else.
My friend loves heavier perfumes so she got a bunch. The bottles that the perfumes come in are super cute and pretty too.
Arabic perfumes in pretty glass bottles
There are places where you can make your own perfume based on your skin type, preferences, and personality.
If you know someone who loves heavier perfumes, this will be a perfect gift for them.
Most popular smells are Oudh and Bakhoor. They offer essential oils, incense sticks, pure perfumes in all shapes and forms.
It is on the other side of Dubai Creek (back where Al Fahidi is).
You can walk from Al Fahidi to it and then take the Abra across to the rest of the souks in Deira.
Again, here is the link to plan your trip better and see the map of the area.
In the Textile Souk, you can find many hand-made textile goods – clothing, carpets, scarves, souvenirs.
Cashmere scarves are very popular
Fabrics to look for are cashmere (a big one), silk, cotton, etc. You can also find all sorts of buttons, stones, sequins and so on.
Again those make great gifts for you and your family. They have very original products!! The colors and designs are truly unique.
There you have it Old Dubai: Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, Dubai Creek and the souks in Deira!!
I hope you enjoyed this blog post and got inspired to check out Old Dubai in the near future.