What comes to your mind when you think of Dubai? Probably Burj Khalifa, skyscrapers, luxurious malls, super expensive hotels, vast desert and camels? However this city is way beyond those standard 3N/4D itineraries that people usually follow.
Dubai, like any other city, is full of great history and culture. Every corner of this city reflects hopes, dreams, aspirations and belief. This new city walks together respecting each other with more of expat population than local. When my chance came to visit Dubai, I wanted to look beyond the usual pictures I've seen all across the web. That's when I searched for standard itinerary, to make sure not to follow it!
Being first time in Dubai, my trip included many hyped touristy things and yet I managed to include lesser known things that I found interesting and convenient in my time frame. This and coming few posts will be about how I explored this Arab city in my 6 days excursion.
Day 1: Old Dubai - Dhow Cruise Dinner
For me, visiting any city without knowing it's history is like watching only the climax of a movie. If you think alike, you need to make time for Old Dubai in your Dubai trip!
Built inside Al Fahidi Fort, this museum gives you an idea how Arabs used to live before Dubai turned into tourist destination. The fun part was the tunnel-like exhibits taking you through the lanes of Old Dubai, telling you folklore of their culture through statues, pictures, well embedded videos and sounds in background to stimulate a real life experience. The courtyard just after the exit is also worth spending a bit of time with benches and a big dhow as a photo point.
Nearest Metro Station: Al Fahidi Metro Station
Cost: AED 3 entry fee per person
Time required to visit: 1-2 hours
Just a minute walk from the museum is Al Fahidi District (Bastakiya) where you will actually get to see the old architecture of Dubai. Even in the afternoon heat, narrow lanes offer plenty of shade as you explore pretty cafes, handicraft stores, coin museum, coffee museum and also old wall of Dubai if you can find it through the maze. The whole area is pretty huge and I couldn't really figure out from where we entered and from where we exited, but when we did, we luckily landed just near the souks.
Souks are traditional markets in UAE where you can get good deals only if you are great at bargain! Sellers literally call you to their stores, hand you shawls or even throw them around your neck sometimes, so be ready to say no rather than wasting your time! I made a mistake of buying a sand art for AED 50 here. Initial quote was AED 100, so bargain felt like a winner only till I later got to know '1 to 10 Dhiram shop' sold it for AED 20! More tips on saving money later, but yes, do visit the souks for how beautiful everything looks, and maybe even find a rare item.
Both sides of the creek have abundant shops, however Diera souk area is much bigger. The best way to cross the creek is with an Abra, the cheapest transport just for AED 1! The short race with birds felt rejuvenating after so much of walking. You can shop handicrafts, shawls, spices, perfumes, dates, even gold, first copy and even exported branded stuff, traditional cloths, clutches and all other touristy stuff.
Dhow Cruise Dinner
I had heard mixed reviews about this touristy thing to do in Dubai, so I did my research well. Dhows are basically traditional vessels, and this tour takes you through the canals of Dubai with buffet dinner and some entertainment on board. They usually operate on two routes:
1. Creek/ Old Dubai side: These are cheapest ones, but would not give you view of high rises, obviously due to the location.
2. Dubai Marina: Surrounded with high rises, these are more luxurious and costlier, and would take you in and around Marina.
I chucked both the routes as I found a unique one offered by Amazon Tours, and I'm so glad I did it!
Our starting point was festival city waterfront with stunning fountain show. We were welcomed with tea and dates. Tables marked with each guests name felt very courteous! The 2 hour cruise route covered almost everything from Ras Al Khor Sanctuary (I was lucky enough to spot some birds from distance) to Business Bay which houses the main attraction of the city- Burj Khalifa. Other spectacular landmarks were some Yacht or Dhow Yard, Design District and super-spectacular Dubai Water Canal Bridge, where water flows like a waterfall from the top of the bridge into the canal. The moment when the flow stopped to let our Dhow pass felt supremely royal and amazing to the child inside me! Decent variety of food and lots of dessert options took care of the hunger as we enjoyed two light show acts, second one being the best!
Overall I would definitely suggest this tour over both Creek/ Marina dinner as it covers really unique places which otherwise you might not visit. I did not come across any other operator operating in this route, so if you know any do comment down below!
Cost: AED 150 per person (We booked through Groupon, so got a good deal. Direct booking was AED 180)
Do check video from their website for better idea, all mentioned things were 100% accurate and true.
(Note: This is a honest review, not affiliated or paid one.)
Our first day turned out to be just how this city is- contrasting, as we covered a bit of old as well as new Dubai. It was the perfect start to help us understand and experience rapid growth this city has gone through.
How was your experience in this part of the city? Do comment down below places I might have missed, so I can cover them in next trip!
This blog was originally posted at https://explorewithneha.wordpress.com/2018/12/23/dubai-beyond-the-concrete-jungle/
Read next blog: Dubai: All things Touristy!
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