Old Dubai Do-It-Yourself Walking Tour | Lady & her Sweet Escapes

Apr 7, 2014

Old Dubai Do-It-Yourself Walking Tour

A lavish urban getaway or a rich cultural experience? You can have the best of both worlds in Dubai! Apart from the awe-inspiring megastructures, Dubai is also known for its well-preserved historical sites. The city's culture and traditions can be strongly felt in its HEART; right in the bank of the saltwater creek where all the success stories started.

Old Dubai DIY Tour

Whenever Ed and I have guests, we follow a do-it-yourself cultural walking tour which starts at the Gold Souk in Deira and ends in Bastakiya in Bur Dubai. It can also be done the other way around. It is a very simple route that any traveler can do without a tour guide. I am happy to share this easy to follow walking tour to everyone who wants to catch a glimpse of "the other side" of Dubai.

Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House in Old Dubai

Here's how you can explore Old Dubai at your own pace:

Do-it-yourself Walking Tour Map of Old Dubai
Old Dubai DIY walking tour map
Image Map Gold Souq Deira Grand Souk Abra Ride Heritage Village Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoums House Old Souq Dubai Museum Bastakiya

1. Gold Souk
Travel to Gold Souk in Deira by bus, taxi or train. Taking the cab is time efficient and the most comfortable way, yet most expensive. If you have all the time in your hands, take a bus with route to Gold Souk. The bus station is located adjacent to the souk itself. Another option is to ride the Green Line metro. Hop off the train at Al Ras station, head to Exit 2 and take a 10-minute stroll to Gold Souk. The Gold Souk is a traditional Arabian market place with over 300 jewelry shops. This is where you can buy jewelries at the cheapest rate and still haggle for a much better price. 

Dubai Gold Souk
Dubai Gold Souk 
jewelry shop at Dubai Gold Souk
Haggle til the price drop! :)
heaviest gold ring at Dubai Gold Souk
Najmat Taiba (Star of Taiba): Guinness World Record's heaviest gold ring

2. Deira Grand Souk: Herbs, Spices and Textile market
After walking through the pavements of the Gold Souk, walk to the Exit near the jewelry store with the Guinness World Record's heaviest gold ring display and turn left at the narrow pavement. A 5-minute or less walk will lead you to Deira Grand Souk. You'll know you're in the right way when you start breathing in air with a distinct Arabian aroma. Deira Grand Souk is also known as the Spice Souk; a vibrant bazaar where you can purchase spices, herbs and fragrances. There are also shops that sell textile, kitchenware and kitchy souvenirs. 

Deira Grand Souk in Dubai
Deira Grand Souk
Dubai Spice Souk
spices, herbs and fragrances
textile at Deira Grand Souk in Dubai
a textile shop at the Grand Souk 

3. Dubai Creek 
Adjacent to Deira Grand Souk is Dubai Creek; a saltwater creek that holds a great portion of Dubai's history. The creek served as a fishing area, a pearling site and a gateway for traders before oil was discovered. Now, Dubai Creek is a top tourist attraction in Old Dubai. Despite the modern transportation system in the city, well-kept traditional wooden boats still dominate the waterway. For only a dirham, ride an Abra (wooden boat) at Deira Old Souk Station. The short boat ride will take you to the other side of the creek; Bur Dubai.       

Deira Old Souk Abra Station in Dubai
Deira Old Souk Abra Station
abra ride in Dubai Creek
cross the creek onboard a traditional wooden boat or the abra

4. Dubai Heritage Village
From Bur Dubai abra station, turn right and walk towards Al Shindagha district. You'll never get lost if you walk along the bank of the creek. :) After a short leisure stroll, you'll reach a well-preserved traditional Arabian village. Dubai Heritage and Diving village showcases the city's culture and tradition. Here's you can have a glimpse of Dubai's humble past as a fishing and pearling nation. Don't forget to take a quick stop at a barasti stall to have a taste of traditional Emirati food.

Dubai Heritage Village
Dubai Heritage Village
Dubai Heritage and Diving Viilage
a wooden boat used for pearling and fishing
Traditional Emirati Food
traditional Emirati food: Al Raqaq and Luqaimat

5. Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum's House
From the Heritage Village, make a u-turn and head to Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum's House. The residence of the visionary ruler of Dubai from 1912 to 1958 is now a museum where important documents and photographs are displayed. Entrance fee: 3 AED

Sheikh Saeed's House in Al Shindagha Dubai
official residence of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum (Ruler of Dubai from 1912 to 1958)
photographs at Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum's House
historic photographs at the courtyard 
Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum's House
Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum's House at dusk

6. Dubai Old Souk
After a journey to the past, walk towards Bur Dubai abra station and you'll find another charming Arabian marketplace. The traditional covered souk houses hundreds of retail shops selling Arabian textile, footwear, trinkets and food! Just like all the other souks, Dubai Old Souk is a tourist trap, hence don't forget to haggle!

Dubai Old Souk
traditional and modern clothing on display at one of the shops at Dubai Old Souk 
fancy Arabian lamps at Dubai Old Souk
fancy Arabian lamps
Dubai Souvenirs at Dubai Old Souk
Arabian textile and tacky souvenirs
7. Dubai Museum
Once you got all your souvenir shopping sorted, take a short walk from Dubai Old Souk to Dubai Museum. This portal to the past is situated in Al Fahidi Fort, the oldest building in Dubai. Be prepared to be amaze with Dubai's rich history and all its antiquities. Entrance fee: 3 AED

Dubai Museum at night
Dubai Museum at night
a replica of the Grand Souk inside Dubai Museum
a replica of the Grand Souk inside Dubai Museum
artifacts at Dubai Museum
antiques and artifacts from excavated sites in Dubai

8. Bastakiya Quarter
Near Dubai Museum is Bastakiya; a historical neighborhood that lies along the bank of the Dubai Creek. This district used to be a residential area for rich merchants. Here, you can find perfectly preserved traditional Arabian homes with wind catchers. In this modern day, the narrow alleys in Bastakiya district will lead you to museums, art galleries, hotels and restaurants. To cap off your Old Dubai Do-It-Yourself walking tour, have a taste of Dubai's exotic Camel Burger at Local House restaurant, followed by a pot of tea at Arabian Tea House.

Philately House in Bastakiya Dubai
Philately House: one of the many museums in Bastakiya 
Bastakiya Quarter in Dubai
a dimly lit alley in Bastakiya at night (TIP: visit before sunset) 
Local House restaurant in Bastakiya Dubai
Local House: a traditional Arabic restaurant in Bastakiya

Travel Tip: If visiting on a Friday, please note that it is a weekend in the UAE, hence most museums and retail shops at the Historical District are closed in the morning and open late in the afternoon. Opening hours also change during Islamic holidays and on the Holy Month of Ramadan.

Old Dubai DIY walking tour takes 4 to 6 hours, depending on the time spent in each attraction.
Al Fahidi Metro Station is 10 to 15 minutes walk from Bastakiya Quarter.

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