In the days before electricity and air conditioning, Dubai Creek used to be lined by a mass of wind towers that kept the local houses cool.
The Bastakiya district is a step back in time, laden as it is with traditional courtyard houses, bedecked with these wind towers. The Bastakiya area is currently undergoing renovation, with improved visitor facilities planned for its transformation into a ‘tourist village’.
East of Dubai Souk on Al-Fahidi Street
Transport: Bus 19 or abra to Bur Dubai.
These three islands, said to be visible from the moon, form the largest manmade islands in the world. The PalmJumeirah will feature a number of hotels as well as private residences when it opens in 2006. The Palm Jebel Ali is slated to have more leisure facilities, including an aquatic theme park, when it opens in 2008. The third of the islands, Palm Deira, will be more geared towards residential use with over 7,000 villas, and will be the largest of the trio when it opens in 2009. New bridges will connect the islands to the mainland in one of the largest construction projects ever undertaken by man.
The three islands are going to be accompanied by ‘The World’, all very Dubai, an ambitious attempt to recreate the shape of the world on 300 offshore islands, slated to open in 2008.
Watching these outlandish projects take shape has become one of Dubai’s main attractions, with the view perhaps best from the BurjalArab hotel.
Tel: (04) 390 3333. Fax: (04) 390 3314.
Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum’s House
Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum’s House is one of the oldest houses in the city, as well as one of the best examples of traditional architecture.
Built from sandstone, in 1896, the house offers sweeping views out towards the sea – although the view has been slightly obscured by more modern development. The one-time ruler of Dubai used the house to monitor trade in and out of the country. The house was reopened as a museum in 1986; it also contains an exhibition illuminating Dubai’s development from the 1940s to the late 1960s.
Near Al-Shindagha Tunnel, Al-Shindagha Road
Tel: (04) 393 7139.
Transport: Bus 8, 16, 19 or 20.
Opening hours: Sat-Thurs 08:00-2030 and Fri 15:30-21:30.
The Jumeirah Mosque is the most photographed building in the city and an impressive example of modern Islamic architecture. Built along medieval Fatimid lines, entirely of stone, the mosque and its two minarets are unmistakable. It is particularly attractive at night, when subtle lighting increases its dramatic effect. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter mosques in Dubai, although they can enter this one if on an organised tour.
Visitors should call the tourist office to check if these are available.
Transport: Bus 8 or 20.
Opening hours: Daily 24 hours; access to non-Muslims through organised tours only.
The GrandMosque was only rebuilt in 1998 and boasts the city’s tallest minaret, at 70m (231ft). Located on the Bur Dubai side of the creek, near the Ruler’s Court, the Grand Mosque consists of nine large domes and 45 smaller ones. This huge religious edifice can house up to 1,200 worshippers.
Ali ibin Ali Talib Street
Transport: Bus 19.
Opening hours: Daily 24 hours; entrance to non-Muslims is forbidden.
The souks, or traditional markets, are one of Dubai’s greatest attractions. They are located on both sides of the creek, with the most impressive on the Deira side. The highlight is the colourful SpiceMarket, which abounds with exotic aromas and bustles with locals seeking bargains. Wandering around the atmospheric souks is a good way for visitors to get in touch with how life was in Dubai, before oil was discovered.
Deira Covered Souk, Al-Sabkha Road
Deira Old Souk or Spice Souk, 67 Street
Deira Gold Souk, Sikkat al-Khali Street
Perfume Souk, Sikkat al-Khali Street
Electronics Souk, Al-Sabkha Road and Al-Maktoum Hospital Road
Dubai Souk, Bur Dubai
Transport: Bus 5, 16, 19 or 20 all drop off at souks in both Bur Dubai and Deira.
Opening hours: Daily 07:00-12:00 and 17:00-19:00; Fri 17:00-19:00.
Opened in 2002, at Dubai Creekside Park, Children’s City is proving a big hit with both local and international youngsters. The 7,700 sq-m (82,882 sq-ft) development takes young minds on a journey through the human body, science and space, with the help of different ‘zones’. With plenty of hands-on action to keep even the most demanding children occupied, this is no dull old museum. All exhibits are in English as well as Arabic.
Tel: (04) 334 0808.
Transport: Bus 19.
Opening hours: Sat-Thurs 09:00-22:00, Fri 16:00-22:00.
Admission: Dh15; Dh10 (children under 16); family concessions available.
The building that houses the Dubai Museum, Al-Fahidi Fort, is an attraction in itself. The historic fort, dating back as far as 1799, was converted into a museum, in 1970. The exhibits range from old weapons and pearl-diving outfits to an impressive range of military artefacts. Some of the most fascinating exhibits are those recovered from the 3000 to 4000-year-old graves at Al-Ghusais.
Tel: (04) 373 7151.
Transport: Bus 19.
Opening hours: Sat-Thurs 08:00-22:00, Fri 08:00-11:00 and 16:00-22:00.
Majlis Ghorfat Um-Al-Sheef
At the MajlisGhorfatUm-Al-Sheef, it is possible to delve into the opulent world of the moneyed men of Dubai. The late ruler of Dubai, Ghorfat Um-Al-Sheef, used this building as his ‘home from home’ but it is now open to the public. The building dates back to 1955 and its most impressive feature are the majlis gardens, which include a reproduction of a traditional Arab irrigation system.
17 Street, off Al-Jumeirah Road
Tel: (04) 394 6343.
Transport: Bus 8.
Opening hours: Daily 07:30-14:30 and 16:30-21:00.
The HeritageVillage is an attempt to weave in some local colour among Dubai’s rapidly developing 21st-century skyline. The emphasis is on recreating the Bedouin way of life, with locals dressed in traditional garb, displays of traditional handicrafts, song and dance. Local handicrafts are also available for purchase.
There is also a small section for children, with a smattering of things to keep young visitor’s occupied.
Near Shindagha Tunnel, Al-Shindagha Road
Tel: (04) 393 7151.
Transport: Bus 8, 16, 19 or 20.
Opening hours: Sat-Thurs 08:00-22:00, Fri 08:00-11:00 and 16:00-22:00. Admission: Free.
Sightseeing Tours & Safaris
Dubai has a number of highly professional inbound tour operators offering a range of services for both individual tourists and the travel trade.
The major operators are well-equipped to provide a full destination management service covering hotel bookings, airport transfers, ground transport and a daily programme of tours and activities with multilingual guides.
“Shell” programmes are also available with as much or as little unallocated time as required. These are becoming increasingly popular as Dubai makes its mark as a conference and incentive travel destination.
All the leading inbound tour operators, offer tours, ranging from a couple of hours to several days, devoted to special interest activities, sightseeing or exploring neighbouring emirates.