Al Souq Al Kabeer Art and Culture Tour (Self Guided), Dubai

Dubai has a history of over 5000 years. The old and the modern are well-juxtaposed within the city. Dubai’s museums, galleries and other art centers offer the most interesting and exciting things to explore. Take the tour below to see some of Dubai's amazing culture.
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Al Souq Al Kabeer Art and Culture Tour Map

Guide Name: Al Souq Al Kabeer Art and Culture Tour
Guide Location: United Arab Emirates » Dubai (See other walking tours in Dubai)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
Author: alice
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum's House
  • Ali Bin Abi Taleb Mosque
  • Grand Mosque
  • Narish Khyma Museum
  • Dubai Museum
  • Xva Gallery
  • Al Bastakiya
1
Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum's House

1) Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum's House (must see)

Located on the Bur side of Dubai Creek, you shouldn’t miss visiting the home of one of Dubai’s most loved and respected rulers.

The building was constructed in 1894 and is a marvel of Islamic architecture with its high vaulted ceilings, teak doors, architraves, lattice screens and its 4 wind towers. Built around a central courtyard, this lovely coral and plaster house has a large meeting room on the ground floor, flanked by living rooms, storerooms and kitchen. On the upper floor, the numerous bedrooms have balconies with a commanding view out over the creek and the sea.

Today the building is a museum where you will find photos and lithographs detailing life along the Creek between 1940 and 1960, featuring the various souks and several photos of the Sheik and his family. There is a very good coin collection and a wonderful exhibition about pearl-diving.

During Sheik Saeed’s rule the pearl trade was the mainstay of the economy, but during the 1930s two world factors combined to its decline: firstly the Depression in the United States followed by a general slump in the world market and secondly, Japan started exporting cultured pearls, which were of high quality and cheaper than natural pearls.

This might have led to an economic crisis in Dubai, but the sheik was a far-thinking man and he had the small port at the mouth of Dubai Creek enlarged and renovated and invited trade from India and Iran, setting up various souks along the Creek and thus making Dubai an important trading centre in the Middle East.

Tip:
Don't miss the room that has photos of al-Maktoum's House prior to the restoration efforts. It is amazing to see how much work went into the reconstruction.

Opening Hours:
Sat-Thu: 8am-8:30pm; Fri: 3-8:30pm
2
Ali Bin Abi Taleb Mosque

2) Ali Bin Abi Taleb Mosque

Ali Bin Abi Taleb Mosque is a striking structure. The Mosque is located near the Bur Dubai Souq. Besides being a religious sight, it is also an amazing architectural monument, with fascinating domes and minarets. It is the place definitely worth visiting while in Dubai.
3
Grand Mosque

3) Grand Mosque (must see)

Even if you are not a Muslim, you really should go and see the Grand Mosque on the Bur side of Dubai Creek. Out of respect for the Islamic religion, non-Muslims cannot visit the interior, but it is such a beautiful building that it would be a pity not to add it to your photo album.

The mosque was built in 1900 and renovated in 1998. It holds up to 1200 worshippers and is the largest in the UAE. Its architecture is traditional Persian and comprises 9 large domes and 45 smaller ones, all with beautiful stained glass panels. The walls of the mosque are built of coral and plaster and are sand-coloured. The minaret at 70 metres high is the tallest in Dubai. The mosque is lit up at night.

Opening Hours:
Sat-Thu: 9am-10pm
The mosque is closed to tourists (but open to worshippers) on Friday mornings. It reopens for tourists after 4:30pm.
Note that during the month of Ramadan visiting hours are 9am-2pm with the mosque closed all day Friday.
4
Narish Khyma Museum

4) Narish Khyma Museum

Narish Khyma Museum is a very interesting place located not far from the Dubai Museum. It has a great and very interesting collection of local boats. A lot of them are still working and transport people across the Creek. Here also can be seen the traditional Abra boats with canvas roof. It is an interesting place to see some more of Arabic traditional life.
5
Dubai Museum

5) Dubai Museum (must see)

The best way to find out about traditional culture and everyday life before the discovery of oil is to visit the Dubai Museum in Bur Dubai.

The museum is located in the oldest stronghold in Dubai, the Al Fahidi Fort, built in 1787. The fort is square with towers on three corners overlooking a central courtyard. At its east entrance are two cannons and the flags of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. In the central court, there is a bronze cannon and balls and a summer house called an Arish, built of woven palm fronds. Inside the Arish here is a sitting area with divans, a sleeping area, and a kitchen.

The museum is housed in the halls that line three of the fort’s walls and in the galleries under the courtyard. In the first hall, you will find the ticket office. The others have an impressive display of arms and weapons used over the centuries. There is a model of the city in 1820 and traditional musical instruments, accompanied by a video of folk music.

One of the galleries contains old maps of Dubai and a video room showing short documentaries about life in Dubai from before the discovery of oil to the present day. Another gallery houses a dhow (a traditional boat) and a life-size model of a creekside souk, complete with stalls, figures of merchants, craftsmen and pearl traders.

You will also find a model of a mosque, a typical family house, and a Bedouin tent with details about life in the desert, with date farms and camels. Another gallery deals with star-maps and how the night sky was used to determine various important events in Arabian life. You will also see dioramas about marine life and how to build a dhow. The visit ends with dioramas showing the Al Qusais architectural site, with tombs and skeletons.

The whole museum uses excellent sound effects to accompany each different section of the gallery to make you feel that you really are back in “Old Dubai”. There is also a very good gift shop.

Tip:
Make sure you walk around the museum and go to the old town called Al Fahidi – it is peaceful and quiet, with beautiful Arabic architecture, and open to visitors.

Opening Hours:
Sat-Thu: 8:30am-8:30pm; Fri: 2:30pm-8:30pm
6
Xva Gallery

6) Xva Gallery

Xva Gallery is a very interesting place where you can enjoy Middle Eastern art. It is located within the famous Bastakiya. The gallery has temporary exhibitions of the most beautiful art like paintings, sculptures and other art works. Some very famous Middle Eastern artists have their work on display here. The gallery also has a good gift shop.
7
Al Bastakiya

7) Al Bastakiya

If you would like to get in touch with the past and see how Dubai was before the skyscrapers dominated the Emirate, go to Al Bastakiya along Dubai Creek.

This is an historic district and the oldest residential area in Dubai. It was built in the eighteen nineties with 60 houses, narrow lanes and marvelous wind towers. The unique thing about the area is that the people living there judged the wealth of their neighbors by the number of wind towers they possessed. It was once a residential area for rich merchants until the discovery of oil. The rich merchants moved away and the houses were taken over by expatriate workers.

In the nineteen seventies, half of the buildings were demolished to make room for an office complex and the rest became dilapidated, except for the Majlis Arts and Crafts Centre. The wind towers were used as warehouses. In 1989 the rest of the buildings were going to be demolished, but the timely intervention of Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, saved them.

He asked for them to be preserved, pointing out that they would be a powerful tourist attraction. Restoration work was carried out by the Dubai Municipality, ending in 2005. Nowadays the buildings house art galleries of local and Persian art and cafés.

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