Dubai is an incredible city, known for its record-breaking high-rise buildings, spectacular attractions and oversized shopping malls. But it is also a city with much more traditional and historic neighborhoods – traces of a time not so long ago when Dubai was far from being a major tourist-oriented metropolis.
Located on the west bank facing Deira, Bur Dubai is one of the oldest districts of the city, and a must-see if you don't know what to do in Dubai yet. In this post, I'll give you an overview of the most beautiful things you can discover in this traditional district during your trip to Dubai!
The Souk of Bur Dubai
In the 19th century, Dubai's souks made the city famous. Today, while the city has expanded greatly and is home to business districts and large tourist complexes, the Souk of Bur Dubai remains one of the most authentic places in the emirate.
Located along the creek in the northern part of Bur Dubai, this souk used to be a market for fabrics only (silks, sari fabrics, exotic fabrics...) but nowadays it also sells clothes, handicrafts and souvenirs.
You can also find fashion designers as well as many tailors who will be able to make you tailor-made clothes. Dubai’s Textile Souk is open every day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Al Fahidi Fort and the Dubai Museum
Just behind the Textile Souk in Bur Dubai is one of the oldest buildings in the city – the Al Fahidi Fort. This rectangular fortress built at the end of the 18th century was for a time used to defend the city. It is one of the buildings you’ve got to discover without fail during a stay in Dubai! Built in coral rock and mortar, towers stand at the corners of three of its facades, and you will also discover the remains of the city's ramparts right next to it. On its eastern side, two cannons are posted on either side of the entrance gate, while others still are installed in the fort’s courtyard.
Since 1971, the Al Fahidi Fort has been home to the Dubai Museum, making it a must-see cultural visit in Dubai. This museum tells the story of the people of the region in different eras. In the various exhibits of the Dubai Museum, you will see traditional boats as well as collections of weapons, armor and musical instruments. It is possible to visit the Al Fahidi Fort during a guided walking tour of Bur Dubai.
In 1994, the fort was restored and the museum was extended – it now occupies part of the fort’s underground passages. This section of the museum is dedicated to the history of the city: you can see life-size reconstructions (fisherman's village, Bedouin camp...) and learn a lot about how Dubai has completely transformed itself in the last few decades.
The Dubai Museum is open every day of the week from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., except on Fridays when it opens only from 2:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
On the bank of the Dubai Creek in Bur Dubai is one of the most important green spaces in the entire city of Dubai – Creekside Park. This large park of almost 250 acres is home to a beautiful variety of flowers, plants and trees, as well as large expanses of lawn and playgrounds for children.
Creekside Park is the perfect place to take a pleasant stroll and relax in a natural setting in the heart of Dubai. It can be visited easily on foot or by bike, and it is possible to practice many activities there (go-karting, mini-golf...). This park is also home to the Dubai Dolphinarium, where you can watch dolphin and sea lion shows – and even swim with the dolphins and feed the animals.
The house of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum
This is another of the buildings that are part of the great attractions of the historic center of Dubai. The Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House was built in 1896 to serve as a secure residence area for the ruler of Dubai. Between 1912 and 1958, it was home to Sheik Saeed Al Maktoum (the grandfather of the current ruler of Dubai). It is the finest example of traditional late 19th and early 20th century architecture you will find in the city.
Today, it is no longer used as a residence for the rulers of the emirate and has been since converted into a museum. It is possible to admire beautiful collections of coins, stamps, jewelry, photographs and historical documents.
The house of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum can be visited every day of the week. It is open from Saturday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and on Friday from 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
The Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding
The Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) is located on the south bank of Bur Dubai, in the historic district of Al Fahidi (also called Al Bastakiya). Housed in an old wind tower that was restored to accommodate it, this cultural center was established to teach and share the traditions and customs of Dubai.
If you feel like discovering the treasures of Dubai's historic center with a guide, you can do so during a pleasant walking tour of the area. During the 2-hour tour, you'll see Dubai's old houses, the Al Fahidi Fort, the souk and many other sites – you can even hop aboard an abra for a little cruise in the Dubai Creek!
You can book your ticket for this tour of historic Dubai by clicking on the button below.
This is the perfect place to learn more about the city's heritage and the culture of its people. You will be able to take guided walking tours of the district, discovering the cobblestone streets, mosques, wind towers (Barjeel) and old traditional houses of the historic center. The center also offers interactive experiences and authentic meals of meat, vegetables and typical desserts. You can reserve your place for one of these meals by clicking on the button below:
Museums and other attractions in Dubai
In the historic center of Dubai, you can also discover some other sites of interest:
- The Coin Museum, a free-entry museum that displays several hundred very rare coins;
- The XVA Gallery, which is a hotel, café, restaurant and art gallery all in one;
- The Majlis Gallery, where many works of art are exhibited, including a beautiful collection of ceramics;
- The Coffee Museum, which traces the history of coffee and offers traditional tastings...
And that’s it for this article. I hope you enjoyed it and that it made you want to discover this very historical and much less modern district of Dubai. By the way, if you are currently planning your stay in Dubai, don’t hesitate to read my articles Where to sleep in Dubai and How to prepare your trip to Dubai! In them, I give several tips that you might find quite useful 😉