Start: Herib Bin Harib Mosque
Finish: Perfume Souk
Time: 4 hours
Best time: Early morning or early evening
Worst time: In the heat of the middle of the day
The best way to visit the historic areas of Bur Dubai and Deira is to walk. Each neighborhood can be visited in half a day, and especially in hot weather, the most sensible approach is to visit one side in the early morning and the other in the evening. During this daylong walking tour, you'll discover the city's old quarters, survey the traditional architecture of Emirati homes and mosques, visit cultural centers, ride a water taxi across the creek, and interact with local merchants in the souks. There's no better way to get to know the original heart and soul of Dubai. Stop by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding for information about guided walks through Bastakiya, the historic old town.
1. Herib Bin Harib Mosque
Begin your tour in Bur Dubai at the Herib Bin Harib Mosque, near the mouth of the creek just before the Al-Shindagha Tunnel. The construction of this and five other mosques in the neighborhood dates back to the early 1900s, and all of them were restored in the past decade. These simple structures were crucial in helping develop the Islamic consciousness of the early Bedouin community.
Facing the creek from the mosque, turn right and walk a short distance to the:
2. Heritage & Diving Village
Located side by side, these showcase Dubai's culture and heritage, as well as its maritime and pearl-diving traditions. In addition to photographs and exhibits focused on Dubai's maritime past, there are potters and weavers selling Arabian handicrafts, local women serving traditional Emirati food, and vendors offering afternoon camel rides.
Continuing along the edge of the creek, you will next come to the:
3. House of Sheikh Obaid bin Thani
This is one of the first residential buildings in Dubai. Next to it stands the historically important House of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum. This carefully restored courtyard, home of Dubai's former ruler, is a good example of the 19th-century architectural style of the Gulf coast, and includes an excellent collection of photographs from Dubai's pre-oil days.
Walking a bit farther along the creek pathway, you'll find the Bin Zayed Mosque. Adjacent to it is the:
4. House of Sheikh Joma'a Al Maktoum
This home is characteristic of the traditional architecture of the Al-Shindagha area, where the ruling family lived. Facing inland lie two more houses of worship, the Al-Mulla Mosque and the Al-Otaibat Mosque.
Continuing along the creek path, you'll pass an example of a watchtower used for defense of the early city, the:
5. Al Shindagha Square Fort
Keep walking past it along the water's edge until you reach the Wakeel House, a two-story structure overlooking the creek that was the first administrative building in Dubai.
From there, the Grand Souk Bur Dubai stretches out before you and blends in with the broader textiles souk, which some people refer to as "Little India." An incredible selection of fabrics from South Asia is sold here. Just in front along the water's edge is Dubai's Creek Frontage, where water taxis (abras) make their way back and forth across the channel from the Dubai Old Souk Abra Station.
At this point, turn right (away from the creek) and walk past the Grand Mosque to the:
6. Al Fahidi Fort (Dubai Museum)
This key cultural museum can be visited in just a couple of hours and offers the emirate's best opportunity for discovering the history, culture, and traditions of Dubai.
Just east of the Dubai Museum is the pristinely restored Bastakiya area. Wander the old quarter's meandering pathways surrounded by wind towers and traditional Arabian homes. Check in at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding to gather information about Emirati culture (the Centre also arranges walking tours of the old quarter). You can visit the Majlis Gallery, which was Dubai's first art gallery, check out the XVA Hotel and Art Gallery, stop for a coffee at the Basta Art Café, or try a camel burger or other camel meat dishes at the kitschy Local House restaurant next to it. Within this historic quarter, pedestrian paths also lead to a preserved fragment of the Dubai Wall, which was built in the early 19th century to protect the old city from outside attack. The original wall extended 840m (2,756 ft.) and was 2.5m (8 1/4 ft.) high.
Exit Bastakiya on the creek side and take a 10-minute abra ride across to Deira. The short water taxi ride across the creek will drop you off in the dhow wharfage area of Deira, just in front of Baniyas Road. Here you can watch the colorful dhows as they make their way back and forth along the creek to the Arabian Gulf. Take the pedestrian underpass to the left that will take you to the:
7. Grand Souk Deira
This is Dubai's oldest and busiest bazaar, where merchants have been selling their wares for centuries. Just behind the Grand Souk lies the Spice Souk, where the fragrant smells of Arabian spices and seasonings beckon.
From the Grand Souk, make your way toward Al-Ahmadiya Street in the heart of Al Ras, where you'll find the square with the:
8. Heritage House
The fully restored Heritage House is an excellent example of late-19th-century Arabian architecture and furnishings. Next door is the Al-Ahmadiya School, which sheds light on the history of education in Dubai. You will also see the Bin Lootah Mosque, dating from 1910, in front of the Al-Ahmadiya School.
Heading back on Sikkat Al-Khail Road and crossing over Old Baladiya Street, you will see, on the left, the glittering:
9. Gold Souk
The best time to visit is after 4pm, since most shops close during the heat of the afternoon. Nighttime is especially busy. Spend as much time here as your wallet can afford, but be sure you're ready to haggle if you're going to buy. Just beyond the Gold Souk lies the fragrant Perfume Souk, which sells Arabian attars (perfume oils) and oud (stringed instrument).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.