While people visit Europe for its rich history and architecture, tourists swarm to Dubai to experience the sheer newness, to awe at the brazen show of wealth, to be inspired by new milestones being set, and of course to gape at the Burj Khalifa! Since Dubai is comparatively a new city, exploring its history is not high on many tour plans.
Although it is now famous for its high-rise buildings and swanky infrastructure, few people know where the Emirates’ wealth came from. Dubai was born at the creek from fishing, pearl and sea trading, contrary to common misconception that the riches came from oil (Oil was discovered much later in 1966).
These early trades flourished in old Dubai i.e. Deira and Bur Dubai areas. Even today, these areas preserve some of the old charms with their old docks and markets. To see some bits of this older, less glamorous Dubai, one can set off towards Al Shindaga or Heritage Village in Bur Dubai. These areas are easily accessible by Dubai Metro, Buses and Taxis. Although the Heritage Village is only a re-creation of the nomadic life in Dubai before development, it gives a glimpse of the hard times and helps to appreciate the progress made.
From the Heritage Village one can walk along the Dubai creek-side which is basically a sea water inlet and divides Bur Dubai from Deira. Small traditional wooden boats called ‘Abras‘ ply to and fro between the two parts of Dubai and are one of oldest, fastest and cheapest modes of travel. Both sides of the creek are lined with ‘Souks‘, traditional gold, spice, and cloth markets. One can spend hours strolling around assessing the colorful and extravagant display, haggling with the predominantly Indian, Pakistani and Afghani vendors and buying ‘I love Dubai’ souvenirs. The little restaurants along the creek-side and in the Bastakiya, serving traditional Arabic food with Shisha and Arabic Tea are an ideal way to unwind after a day steeped in history.
Key Historical sites to visit around old Dubai
Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum’s House – Located on the Creek next to Heritage Village, this completely restored and renovated house of the previous ruler is now a museum
Al Fahidi Fort and Dubai Museum – This is the primary attraction in this area and attracts many guided tours. Located in the Al Bastakiya which is one of the oldest residential areas in Dubai, the fort was built in the late 18th century. It is now completely restored and also houses the Museum which is the home to many archaeological finds and ancient artifacts.
Best way to get there
Metro – Travel on the Green line towards “Creek”. Your destination is Al Ghubaiba metro station which leads directly to the Heritage Village.
Public bus – The Al Ghubaiba bus terminal is located in Bur Dubai and is a short walk away from the Heritage Village.