A slightly different side of Dubai

At the weekends in Dubai, it’s very easy to spend your time moving from one shopping mall to another, from one cafe to the next, from a designer clothes shop to a frozen yoghurt parlour. This kind of thing happens even more in summer, when it’s not really possible to go outside.

So last weekend, making the most of the what feels like the last of the cooler weather, we spent a fantastic day exploring “Old Dubai”. Long before the days of Dubai Marina, The Palm and the worlds tallest building, Dubai was known in the region for being the center of fishing, pearling and sea trade, located at the mouth of the Creek that separates Bur Dubai and Deira.

Starting at Deira Metro Station we began walking up the Eastern side of the Creek. You can still see a lot of trade activity here today, with large dhows loading or unloading their cargo. Everything you can imagine seemed to be coming or going here, from washing machines, to bikes, to 22 piece kitchen sets!

Walking in the early afternoon sun was hot work, so we stopped at The Chelsea Arms, famously known as the oldest pub in Dubai! It’s at least 35! Continuing along the Creek, past the dhows renovated for Creek dining cruises, you eventually reach the famous Dubai Souqs – most famously markets for Gold and Spices. The Souqs are fascinating, packed full of people trying to get the best deal for whatever they’re buying. Walking through the Gold Souq, it wasn’t long before an Afghani trader was following us, trying to sell us watches.

You smell the transition into the Spice Souq before you see anything, a rich aroma of cinnamon, cumin and other spices wafting all around. However, it feels like there are more tourists looking around than people actually buying stuff. I assume the weekday trade is different.


Highlight of the day for me was jumping on an Abra, a small wooden boat that, for just 1 Dirham (0.30c), will ferry you from one side of the Creek to the other.  They don’t feel at all safe, they don’t even have sides to them and fumes belch out over all the passengers, yet they provide great views of the Creek waterways, are an amazing experience of the Dubai of old and if you want to cross the Creek in 5 minutes, kind of essential.


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