Some great places to visit away from the normal glitz and glamour of DubaiFor a glimpse into Dubai’s past, try exploring the city’s oldest quarters: Shindagha, Deira and Bur Dubai. With gorgeous old buildings, wind-towers galore and everything connected by insanely cheap and fun water taxis (Dhs1 per adult and kids go free) it’s not only fun and educational but you really will be walking in the footsteps of sheikhs, merchants and maybe the odd pirate or two!
Explore the past for unique photo opportunities and a whole boatload of Creekside family fun.
Heritage and Diving VillageThis modern, purpose-built complex in Al Shindagha is a realistic replica of how downtown Dubai life used to be. Meander around the area and see the blacksmith creating plates and knives, and discover the ritual of traditional Bedouin coffee. There’s also a whole host of camels, traditional tents, shops brimming with Arabian brick-a-brac and the odd live performance of traditional music and dance, if you’re lucky. Open Sat-Thu, 8.30am-10.30pm, Fri 8am-10.30pm. www.dubaitourism.ae T: 04 393 7151.
Bastakiya DistrictWander through one of the oldest original trading districts in Dubai. Check out the houses made from hand-chiselled coral and marvel at their ingenious wind-towers. The maze of narrow streets can’t help but evoke an age gone by when throngs of traders and their laden animals poured through these alleyways buying, selling and catching up on all the local gossip. Today, although quieter, you can still visit a myriad of spice and craft shops, art galleries and pretty little cafes
Take an Abra boat tripSurely Dubai’s cheapest (and certainly its most fun) form of transport is the locally- built abra. Watch as they shuttle people across the Creek, deftly (and sometimes terrifyingly) avoiding larger craft and each other in the busy waterways. For Dhs1 for adults and entirely free for children, you can jump aboard these water taxis and become part of the Creeky-chaos. See Iranian cargo ships, illuminated restaurant boats and watch as your pilot deftly dodges everyone. Too much fun? Then jump on and come back again! There are water-taxi stops all along the Creek.
Dubai’s many SouksDubai has some really memorable souk experiences, whether you want to ogle some bling at the gold souk (near Sikkat Al-Khail Road, Deira, open Sat-Thu, 10am-10pm, Fri 4pm-10pm), or, take a walk through the past in Deira’s restored historical market, which is Dubai’s oldest, with its traditional roofs and old-style wooden doors (find it adjacent to the Deira abra station). The fish market is a wealth of marine information, from the spitting bowls of clams to the glassy-eyed catches so fresh they are still flipping. Find it in Deira (go through Al Shindagha Tunnel and it’s opposite the gold souks). Whichever souk you choose, it’s a colourful, noisy and an entirely free day out, although we just can’t guarantee you won’t buy something!
What better way to evoke the essence of all things Arabian than a day at the camel races?. This sport, like nothing else, epitomizes the UAE by marrying the ancient art of camel racing with the modern robotic jockeys perched upon their humps. Al Marmoom Camel Racetrack is located past the Sevens Rugby ground on the Dubai-Al Ain E66 Road, on the right. Reach the Al Lisali exit and take the first right off the highway. There is no signage from here, so take the first right again after the exit. Drive down the road until you see what looks like an official building (the first grandstand). Take a right, then a left and follow the road around to your left until you reach the second grandstand. Races take place between December and March. Call ahead to check race timings (04 832 6526).