Old Dubai Walking Tour (Self Guided), Dubai

Dubai's Old Quarter is one of the oldest residential areas in the city, with a predominantly South Asian population, restaurants and shops. Commonly referred to as Meena Bazaar by the local Pakistani and Indian community, the locality also encompasses the Al Bastakiya district which dates back to the 1800s. On this self-guided walking tour you will journey into Dubai's past, visiting the historic sights in this part of the city.
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Old Dubai Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Old Dubai Walking Tour
Guide Location: United Arab Emirates » Dubai (See other walking tours in Dubai)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles
Author: alice
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort
  • Grand Mosque
  • Dubai Textile Souk (Dubai Textile Market)
  • Al Shindagha Watchtower
  • Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum's House
  • Sheikh Obaid bin Thani House
  • Heritage Village Dubai
  • Diving Village Dubai
1
Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort

1) Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort (must see)

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

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. It has 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 creek side 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:
Saturday-Thursday: 8:30-18:30; Friday: closed
2
Grand Mosque

2) Grand Mosque (must see)

Grand Bur Dubai Mosque, although constructed in 1998, has been designed as a replica of a mosque from 1900. The mosque's Anatolian-style minaret stands 70 meters tall, giving the mosque a distinct profile in the city skyline, making the architecture stand out. One of the most unusual things about the architecture is the minaret's resemblance to a lighthouse, as well as the collection of domes that make up the roof.

Although of recent construction, the current building stands on the same site where its predecessor stood. The original mosque had also been the site of a school where children attended to study the Quran. This school's presence in the original building helped make the mosque an essential part of the cultural landscape.

Stone walls that are mostly unadorned make up the main structure of the building. The entrance facade has five columns, featuring a Quranic inscription above these columns. The mosque's roof consists of 45 small and nine large domes.

The mosque is open for public tours from 9:30 am to 11:30 pm on Sundays through Thursdays. This building is a focal part of religious and cultural life, easily accommodating 1,200 worshipers during regular services. Visitors are sure to appreciate this mosque's size, as well as the unique style.

Why You Should Visit

Enjoy the unique architectural style of one of Dubai's most important religious and cultural landmarks.
Learn more about the crucial role that mosques play in the life of this majority-Muslim city.

Tips

Dress conservatively when entering the mosque, as it is an active house of worship.
3
Dubai Textile Souk (Dubai Textile Market)

3) Dubai Textile Souk (Dubai Textile Market)

The Dubai Textile Souk (also known as the Old Souk, or Bur Dubai Souk) is a traditional souq (market) of textile products located along the Dubai Creek. Opposite to the textile souk on the other side of the Dubai Creek lie the Dubai Spice Souk and Dubai Gold Souk in Deira, accessible via the creek by special abra boats. It is open 10am to 10pm Saturday to Thursday with some vendors taking a lunch break from 1-4pm and Friday is 4pm to 10pm only. The souks of Dubai have a rich history of trade within the Persian Gulf region and have developed over time as Dubai urbanised rapidly.

Traditionally, the Dubai Textile Souk was a commercial hub of the exchange in textiles, for functional use of making clothes or for special occasions. Over the years and through Dubai’s rapid globalisation, its commercial importance has since faded and has become a more tourist-focused.

The history of the Bur Dubai and Dubai Creek region which is where the Dubai Textile Market is located, has led to a large Indian and Pakistani influence due to the large number of Indian and Pakistani traders having settled in the region. This has formed what is now known as ‘Hindi Lane’ which consists of little Indian shops selling arrays of bindis, bangles, flowers, saris and other religious items. Indian influence has also formed other main sections of the textile souk such as Al Fahidi Street where vendors mainly sell Indian clothes, shoes and jewelry.

Similarly, the Pakistani influence is seen in the selling of pashminas traditionally from Pakistan and salwar kameez, the traditional outfit of Pakistan.

The traditional architecture of the Dubai Textile Souk is relatively well preserved, despite a few modern touch ups. The general architecture of the souk consists of covered allies lined with small vendors displaying their products. The allies, which are traditionally known as sikkas are covered by very tall wooden arches that are designed to allow for air ventilation to keep cool in the heat. The arches are in sections with gaps in between each section and have traditional Arabic lamps within each arch section.

Opening Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 9:00-14:00 and 16:00-20:30; Saturday: 9:00-14:00; Friday: closed
4
Al Shindagha Watchtower

4) Al Shindagha Watchtower

The Al Shindagha Watchtower is in one of Dubai's oldest residential neighborhoods. In addition to being one of the most recognizable sights in the district, this watchtower is one of the oldest buildings in the area that served an essential functional purpose. The tower dates back to 1939 and was restored in 1994.

This tower was one of three that were used to help guard the city. This neighborhood features some of the most well-constructed architecture in the area, having been a neighborhood where Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum resided.

The watchtower features stone construction that is consistent with the stonework of this neighborhood. A plaque in front of the building helps provide further information about the tower and its role in safeguarding the city. One of the things that visitors will enjoy the most about seeing the watchtower is taking advantage of its unique photo opportunities, including taking selfies.
5
Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum's House

5) Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum's House

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 caused its decline. First, the Great Depression in the United States followed by a general slump in the world market and second, Japan started exporting cultured pearls, which were of higher 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 center 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: Saturday-Thursday: 8:00-20:30; Friday: 15:00-20:30
6
Sheikh Obaid bin Thani House

6) Sheikh Obaid bin Thani House

The Sheikh Obaid bin Thani House is one of the oldest homes in the Al Shindagha area, dating back to 1916. A restoration in 1998 helped to preserve the home's unique character. One of the things that stands out about this property is a permanent exhibit of Arabic calligraphy. The presentation covers the history of Arabic calligraphy, as well as its current use. Workshops and lectures take place here regularly.

This home has two stories, with 20 rooms altogether. The house is an excellent example of a building that reflects the local heritage and traditional building styles that have become somewhat rare in this modern city. Palm and sandalwood, as well as palm fronds, are examples of local wood material in use. Gypsum and stone have also been used in this house.

One of the most exciting things about visiting this house is that the collections and displays have a bit of something to offer for everyone.
7
Heritage Village Dubai

7) Heritage Village Dubai

Heritage Village Dubai became a popular attraction in 1997. This heritage area is designed to showcase what life used to be like in Dubai and host regular heritage events. The Dubai Culture & Arts Authority owns the village, allowing visitors to see what the old homes looked like and what types of goods residents produced. Visitors can also learn more about local wildlife and marine life.

The Heritage Village is a living museum, with local artisans at hand who can demonstrate their crafts and answer questions that visitors might have about what they see. Potters are some of the most popular crafters, creating pottery using methods that are hundreds of years old. Weavers are also well-represented, producing items such as rugs and tapestries. All of the crafters in this area create items using methods hundreds or even thousands of years old and still very much in demand today.

Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 8:00- 22:00, Friday and Saturday from 15:00 to 22:00.
8
Diving Village Dubai

8) Diving Village Dubai

Diving Village Dubai, adjacent to Heritage Village Dubai, gives visitors an in-depth look at the pearling industry that has played a role in Dubai's growth. In addition to pearling, fishing has also played a vital role in Dubai's economy, making this area worth visiting. One of the things that visitors enjoy having an opportunity to see is pearl diving, offering an exciting glimpse into how pearlers harvest this sea treasure.

Boatbuilding has been a feature of this area because of the fishing and pearling industries' influence. There are old boats on display that provide a deeper appreciation for what many see as a lost art. There are also fishing nets and other artifacts on display that highlight the methods used for hundreds of years.

Boat races are something that you might easily see when visiting the Diving Village. Racing boats was a popular pastime in an era where the marine industry made up most of the city's life.

Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 8:00- 22:00, Friday and Saturday from 15:00 to 22:00.

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