Beyond the tallest building in the world, the seven-star hotel, and the world’s largest mall, there is what’s commonly known as Old Dubai.
Representing the city’s roots around the salt-water creek, Old Dubai is one of my favourite places in the city. Amongst all the shiny-new and man-made wonders of the city, Old Dubai feels real.
While there is too much to do in just one day, and still so much I have yet to discover, here’s an example of what I consider to be a perfect day trip to Old Dubai.
Buy Your Ferry Ticket
Located adjacent to Dubai Marina Mall, begin your day at the Dubai Marina Ferry Station.
Purchase a silver ticket (50 dirhams) for the 11:00am ferry headed to Al Ghubaiba station, which will bring you on a scenic boat ride straight to the heart of Old Dubai. It’s important to get to the station to buy your ticket at least a half hour early, as it can get quite busy!
Ferry departs for Al Ghubaiba Station, Old Dubai
While you have to remain inside and seated as the ferry departs from the station, a few minutes in the staff will open the doors and you’ll have the opportunity to step outside onto the back end of the boat. From here, you’ll get a great view of all the sights along the way, including an incredible view of the yachts docked in the marina, the Burj Al Arab, and of the iconic Dubai skyline. Remember to bring your camera!
Arrive in Old Dubai
You’ll arrive beside the Bastakiya Quarter, a small historic heritage site in Dubai. Walk around and explore – or if you’re like me, you might be hungry and ready for lunch! Walk past the Bur Dubai abra station through to the Dubai Old Souk, a touristy but interesting market, to Bayt Al Wakeel restaurant.
Lunch at Bayt Al Wakeel
With a wooden dining deck right on the creek and picturesque views, Bayt Al Wakeel is popular with tourists. However, while it may be busy, the views are wonderful and it’s the perfect way to start your afternoon with a full belly. The menu offers many options including Arabic mezze, grilled meats, seafood – I enjoyed the labneh with garlic, tabouleh, and shish tawouk.
And apparently, the restaurant occupies one of Dubai’s oldest buildings!
Abra Ride to Deira
After lunch, walk the few minutes back to the Bur Dubai abra station.
For one dirham, you can take the five-minute wooden boat ride with tourists and commuters alike to the opposite side of the creek.
Deira Grand Souk & Dubai Gold Souk
Upon disembarking from the abra, cross the street and head to the Deira Grand Souk. Be prepared for lots of solicitations for pashminas, spices, souvenirs, and fake watches and bags – it’s all part of the fun though.
Head back up the main street through to Dubai’s Gold Souk – a collection of hundreds of jewelry stores. Even just window-shopping is fun here, to see all the extravagant gold jewelry.
Head to Meena Bazaar
Take the abra back again to Bur Dubai and walk eight minutes to reach Meena Bazaar.
Boasting textile shops with beautifully adorned mannequins, endless options for sarees and kurtis, and delicious and affordable South Asian restaurants, Meena Bazaar gets its name for its resemblance to Delhi, India’s Meena Bazaar shopping district.
Afternoon Snack at Veg World
Now I know lunch was not too long ago, but in my opinion no trip to Meena Bazaar is complete without a visit to Veg World restaurant.
May I recommend the onion kulcha, aloo paratha, and samosas – to share, of course! For dessert, enjoy a kulfi (frozen dairy dessert) and chai.
Continue Shopping or Head Home
Depending on your mood, continue browsing around Meena Bazaar, or head home via taxi (easiest option) or walk a few minutes to the metro station.
Hope you enjoyed this sampler of what Old Dubai has to offer!
This list is far from comprehensive and I know there’s a lot more I can’t wait to discover. You can see more tips here at 34 things to do in Old Dubai or check out this Old Dubai Do-It-Yourself Walking Tour.