After al the skyscrapers and architecture in Dubai city, I was in need of some culture and nature. Luckily as Dubai is a real city of contrasts, you can find this in the north part of the city and of course the desert, which is only a 1 hour drive away.
An easy way to learn more about Dubai’s history and culture is to visit Deira, the area around the creek where Dubai started. This a real authentic place where you can soak up the real Dubai and its origin. Dubai creek is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site.
As I don’t really like luxury shopping, and am more in for authentic experiences, we took the abra (small wooden boat) to Bur Dubai and Deira to do some vintage-style shopping at the many souks for souvenirs, accessories, spices and food.
Make sure to bargain and negotiate, as these are typical marketplaces for the best deals, so the first price should usually be half price:) Also a good tip is to buy more at the same time at the same stall to get more discount.
Dubai is also called “the City of Gold” as you can find 250 gold shops in the Gold Souk in Deira! For gold, silver, precious stones and jewelry you should visit this specific Souk. Beware of the vendors talking you up though, but a unique experience and you’ll surely find the jewelry you’re looking for.
The biggest bargains you can find in the oldest parts of Bur Dubai and Deira, around the Creek at the Karama and Satwa market.
During my travels I always like to keep the balance between authenticity and luxury, while exploring the country I am visiting. After visiting Dubai’s modern sights, we visited some of the historic places in the Deira area:
Mosques of Dubai,
Sheikh Mohammed Centre with insights into Islam and Emirati culture,
Bastakia Quarter which brings you a step back into Dubai’s past,
Dubai Museum with several dioramas shows which shows you the city’s history. This museum has served as a palace, garrison and prison in the old days,
Al Fahidi Fort: the last wind tower quarter in the Arab world. This fort is Dubai’s oldest building, dating back to 1787, wind towers provided natural air conditioning inside the fort.
Of course there are many authentic restaurants in the Deira area where you can eat real Arabian food. But to do this in an original way, while watching the buildings and area around the creek float by, is to book a traditional dhow cruise dinner.
What I loved most about Dubai, as a nature lover, was seeing the desert for the first time! Because we were only there for a short while, we booked a desert safari in advance to make to most out of the short visit.
At Viator and Visitacity you can book different excursions and day trips, and we chose the combined discount package for 2 different half day trips, which we found very good value for money. For only €100 p.p. you can both visit the old and historic sights of Dubai on 1 day, as visit the desert on the other day. We really loved both trips, but especially the desert safari.
This day includes a desert drive by 4×4, with a maximum of 6 people in a jeep you head out into the desert. An awesome experience as the terrain is rough and the sand dunes are high! The jeep driver makes a real show of the dune drive, which makes it very exciting!
The tour starts at the end of the afternoon which gives the desert a nice temperature, nice soft sunlight, with a view of wide landscapes with endless sand dunes.
It also includes sand boarding, a camel farm visit and you can get a henna tattoo.
Ending the tour with an evening spent in the Arabian camp in traditional style, with water pipes, an Arabian bbq dinner, live music and belly dancing entertainment.