There’s more to Dubai than just visiting tall skyscrapers and shopping.
One of them is visiting the heritage areas and shops at the banks of Dubai Creek, where you’ll find some of the best Muslim-friendly things to do in Old Dubai.
From experiencing Emirati traditions to buying spices at souks (markets) in Deira and going on a traditional Abra boat ride, these are just a couple that you can expect!
Why You Should Check Out Old Dubai
Old Dubai was where the economy of the emirate thrived up until the 1970s. Before the Emirate is known as the global hub as it is today, it was once a pearling trade harbor based at Dubai Creek.
The Creek is located in between former residential areas for the fishermen, souk, and pearling merchants. This means Al Shindaga, Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, and bustling traditional souqs (markets) of Deira.
Today, Old Dubai is a preserved heritage site that gives visitors an idea of how the city was like in the Olden Days.
It is a great place to be for one to learn about the original history and tradition of Dubai, and the traditional way of life in the Emirate!
- Old Dubai is basically the heritage area of the city that is located surrounding Dubai Creek.
- Situated in Deira (where traditional souqs are) and Bur Dubai (Al Seef, Al Fahidi and Al Shindagha). Here, you can see original Emirati architecture of mud coral houses and wind towers. The old town of Dubai gives you a glimpse into what life was like in Dubai up until the 1970s.
- New Dubai is the metropolitan area of the city. These areas are located in Downtown Dubai, Marina Dubai and pretty much the rest of Dubai. It’s where the tall buildings like Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab and glittering skyline are.
Without further ado, here are some ideas on what to do at Old Dubai!
One of the must things to do in Old Dubai is to walk along the narrow alleys of Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood.
Once the former residential areas of Old Dubai communities, the area is preserved to showcase an authentic reflection of the Emirate up until the 1970s.
Also known as Al Bastakiya, these narrow alleys are covered in coral stone and mud structures, topped with the Barjeel (Emirati Wind Tower).
Did you know: The Barjeel is an ancient Dubai air-conditioning technology?
A walk past here brings one back to the mid-19th century Dubai. Ancient architecture here is just too beautiful!
Looking for an exclusive cultural experience?
Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) within Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood is the place to go.
I personally took the Cultural Lunch so that was a fun cultural crash course on Emirati tradition!
- Address: Within SMCCU of the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood
- Cultural Lunch: 130 AED/person
- Heritage Tour (includes Dagger Museum and Mosque Visit): 100 AED/person
- Duration: 90 minutes
Book prior in advance on their website.
If you’re into unique art souvenirs, consider buying Leather Painting!
Here, you can find portraits of the UAE rulers, Quranic verses and UAE skyline painted on leather!
They are priced on the costlier side, but if you love unique art pieces as memorabilia, this would be one worth bringing home with.
Al Fahidi is HUGE because there are mini museums in it!
A museum that you should check out while in Al Fahidi is the Dagger Museum.
Also known as Bayt Al Khanyar is an interesting place to stop by. Simply because the khanjar dagger is an important part of the Emirati traditions.
Here, you get to learn about the khanjar dagger and see historic photographs of the dagger with UAE rulers.
- Entrance fee: AED 5/person.
- Address: Villa 42 Al Fahidi St – Al Fahidi – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Coffee aficionados must try out the Sand Coffee sold in the quiet corners of Al Fahidi.
What’s unique about this coffee is that it is prepared over a bed of hot sand with an ancient bronze coffee pot.
You can also get the sand coffee at a cafe in Dubai Coffee Museum.
Coffee lovers must visit this museum!
The museum is dedicated to all things coffee culture in the Middle East, with exhibits showcasing the wide range of coffee-making equipments, recipes, roast history and so much more!
Dubai Coffee Museum
- Address: Villa 44 of Al Fahidi Heritage Museum
- Entrance fee:
Are you a foodie?
If you are, then you must include this in your Things To Do in Old Dubai Itinerary.
The Arabian Tea House is no ordinary restaurant.
Known for its authentic Emirati cuisine situated in a traditional Emirati residential quarter, the experience here is like unlike any other!
The historic atmosphere, fantastic food flavors gives you a delightful Emirati local food experience.
Order the Foala Platter and Karak Chai if you want the best of everything.
Pro-tip: Come early before the peak meal timings so you wouldn’t bump into long queues. Or make prior reservations. And don’t forget to order luqaimat for dessert!
- Address: Bastakiya Opposite Musalla Post Office – Al Fahidi St – Bur Dubai – Al Fahidi – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
- Phone: +971 4 353 5071
- Operating hours: 7:30 am – 11:00 pm daily
Like any other great cities in the world, there’s usually an area designated as a fort to keep the city’s intruders out.
The Wall of Old Dubai is exactly that.
Like any other Old Dubai architecture, this Wall is made of coral stones.
And to date, it is the oldest remaining piece of Old Dubai that remains as a significant historical landmark to the Emirate
Address: 63 Al Faheide – Al Fahidi – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Al Fahidi has several art galleries, which sometimes hold out seasonal art exhibitions.
These art galleries showcase the work of local artists, and people of special needs (also known as people of determination).
If you’re lucky, you can meet the artist in person and have a chat with them over coffee!
Some galleries you can check out are:
- XVA Gallery
- Opening hours: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm daily
- Phone: +9714 3535383
- Mawaheb From Beautiful People
- An art studio and cafe just for people of determination.
- Opening hours:
- 9:00 am – 6:00 pm (Monday – Friday)
- 10:00 am – 6:00 pm (Saturday)
- Phone: +971 4 234 7792
Old Dubai’s Al Seef is the newest part of the creek. It is full of classic-yet-modern pop up shops and restaurants!
The best time to shop at Al Seef is during the Dubai Shopping Festival month (mid-Dec until end of January),.
During this time, the whole city, including Al Seef, is filled with exciting offers and deals.
While you’re in Al Seef: Take a photo with the Dubai Shopping Festival neon decor for the ‘Gram!
This museum is located within Al Shindagha Historical District, on the banks of Dubai Creek.
Al Shindagha museum consists of mini-museums (houses) that give you an overview of Dubai’s history since its initial days of a fishing village and the emirate’s heritage.
These museums are:
- Dubai Creek: Birth of a city – early history of the Emirate
- Perfume House – Emirati family perfuming traditions
- Emerging City
- People and Faith
The museum trip here is also so fun as they also provide interactive games on pearl trading, and multi traditional perfume-making experience.
Pro-tip: When in Dubai Creek: Birth of a City museum, sit at the most back, in the centre for the best 3D theater experience.
- Ticket price: 15 AED/person (for all the 4 mini museums*)
- Opening hours: 10:00 am – 8:00 pm (Wednesdays – Monday)
- Address: 288 – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Besides being mini-museums, what’s interesting about Al Shindagha is the fact that it was the traditional home of Dubai’s Ruling family, the Al Maktoums.
At Al Shindagha, in between the wind towers and mosques is the home of Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum (grandfather of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid), Dubai’s Ruler between 1912-1958.
Address: 779R+72F – Al Fahidi – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
As one of the most beautiful mosques in Dubai, visiting the Grand Bur Dubai Mosque should be on your Things To Do In Old Dubai!
This white mosque has the tallest minaret in Dubai. At 70m high, the minaret resembles a lighthouse.
- FREE mosque tour experience available.
- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings. Book here
- Address: Opposite Dubai Museum, Near Rulers Court Office – Ali Bin Abi Taleb St – Al Fahidi – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Abra is a half-boat, half-raft transport. It gives you a sense of what life in Old Dubai was like.
The best part? Seeing stone buildings in the background with pigeons flying across the Creek.
The abra crosses Dubai Creek between Bur Dubai and Deira for about 5 minute only so savor in as much as you can!
Pro-tip: There is women-only abra ride. Check with the RTA counter for more details
Route: Bur Dubai Abra Station to Deira Old Souk Abra Station (vice versa)
The Grand Souq is called the Grand Souq for a reason!
It has everything!
From piles of high-quality spices and fresh herbs, typical souvenirs like magnets, camel-milk soap, and Emirati Kandura, this is the best place to be for authentic Souq shopping.
You can also find rare spices and minerals you’ve never even heard of!
Pro-tip: Don’t forget to bargain!
Address: 34 23c Street – Deira – Al Ras – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
The best place for you to get dates is none other than from the Old Dubai markets in Deira.
Here, the dates come in various forms, Madjool, Sokari or Khidri, to name a few.
You can get your dates fresh and plain, premium or gourmet varieties.
You can also get them wrapped as delicacies like chocolates and almond bars.
Date price range:
- Dates per kilo: AED 35-250
- Delicacy bars: From AED 7
- Date chocolates: From AED 3
Checking out for gold is high up on the list of Things to do in Old Dubai.
The Gold Souq here has all types of golds and stone jewelry you can possibly imagine! Bangles, necklaces, ornate wedding jewelry, and bespoke gold pieces.
What’s interesting here is there are all sorts of things covered in full gold such as iPhone, a football shoe, and a designer purse!
Pro-tip: Don’t forget to check out the World’s Largest Gold Ring right at the entry of the Gold Souq.
Address: Gold Corner Building, 3rd Floor – Gold Souq – Deira – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
You can’t leave Old Dubai without buying a personalized oud perfume!
Whether you like musky, floral or oriental scents, the perfume souqs in Dubai have them.
You can mix and match the different types of ouds, into different oil perfume bottles!
Address: Sikkat al Khali – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
The perfume souq is a bazaar of only perfume shops.
Where else can you find Camel Milk Gelato Ice Cream if not in the Middle East?
After all, that time spent exploring Deira, wrap up your day with a good ol’ Camel Milk Gelato.
My favorite is the Saffron and Camel Milk Gelato!
Location: Geewin Cafe (Right at the entry of Deira Old Souk abra station
Honestly, one day is not enough for one to truly experience Old Dubai if you factor in museum visits. The place is huge!
But it is possible.
To make the most out of your time at Old Dubai, where you can discover both sides of the creek, Al Fahidi, Al Shindaga and Deira, you need about 1 and a half day.
If you’re pressed for time, opt for an Old Dubai Walking Tour instead.
There are a couple of ways to get to Old Dubai.
- E-hailing app such as Careem
- Metro – Look for Al Ghubaiba Station (nearby Al Shindagha Museum), or Al Ras Metro (nearby Dubai Gold Souk)
- Car rental – I like this car rental service as it gives you competitive pricing in between differ car rental service providers.
And that’s about it! I hope this Best Muslim-friendly Things To Do in Old Dubai was useful.
Do share this with other travelers out there!