Oil is what pummeled Dubai into the shimmering jewel of a destination it is today. There is so much variety in the old and new parts of Dubai that one can’t even think of fitting it all in on one short getaway. 

One has to essentially live in Dubai and still there won’t be enough time to see and do all you want. 

It is mind-boggling when you realize that the opulent and glitzy emirate state with its soaring skyscrapers, its water parks and gigantic shopping malls was once just a small dusty fishing settlement, but that is part of its charm – it’s rags to riches story. 

Discover the Top Things to Do in Old Dubai

The city’s creek gets a makeover

In 1959 Dubai started becoming a major trading hub, with millions of dollars being lent to the Sheik Rashid to renovate the city’s creek so it could accommodate large ships. Also, with the discovery of oil in the Gulf the economy picked up and brought plenty of development. Dubai became a tax-free hotspot tourist destination. As already mentioned, Dubai was only a fisherman’s village at first, and for many they have nostalgic memories of it in those days. Many people, both locals and visitors, particularly look for the top things to do in Old Dubai to get an idea of what life was like before the rapid growth of the city began.

Ride an Abra at the Dubai Creek 

The busy creek has always been used to taxi people around, but today the bustling Dubai Creek is a top tourist attraction.For a reasonable price you can board one of the traditional abras. The wooden boats known as abras are also known as water taxis and you can board one every few minutes from any one of the 4 stations along the creek. One of the busier routes for instance, goes from Al Sabkha Abra Station to Dubai Old Souk Abra Station. Each abra holds about 20 passengers and each journey only takes about 5 minutes.  You can also hire your own abra and explore elsewhere along the river where you can get views of some traditional Dubai houses. 

Visit the Dubai Museum

Anybody who loves to delve into the history of the United Arab Emirates will have to take some time to visit the Dubai Museum. You’ll find it near the Bastakiya Quarter, occupying the Al Fahidi Fort, the oldest building in Dubai.There is everything you want at the museum to take you back in time. You’ll find plenty to amuse and delight in the different wings of the museum. You can literally take a journey back in time from seeing models of boats to how goods were sold long ago and so much more. 

As a new visitor to the city, a trip to the museum can be insightful indeed, and as you travel around Dubai, what you saw in the museum can help you understand the way the city has developed. The doors of the interesting museum open at 8.30 in the morning. 

Try Camel Milk Ice-Cream 

You may be surprised to know that camel milk is a growing agricultural industry in Australia, and in fact there is a growing demand for camel milk in other parts of the world too. The UAE’s dairies have extended their camel’s milk products so that you can take your pick from flavored milks and ice cream. Just like cows, camels are gentle and loving, and eating a camel milk ice-cream seems the ideal delicious treat on a hot summery day. Enjoy lots of enticing flavors with your ice-cream made from milk that is richer in vitamins than cow’s milk and also somewhat saltier.

Savor local cuisine at Arabian Tea House

Anybody who is truly honest will tell you that food when you’re on holiday is a top priority. When you’re in a foreign city, one of the top things to do in Old Dubai is to try all their mouth-watering and eye-catching treats and be utterly wowed. It’s exactly what the wonderful Arabian Tea House can do for you in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. This is a place where the time-honored custom of welcoming visitors as old friends make places like this the finest. You may hear it also being called the Al Bastakiya. 

As you step into the Tea House the old-time atmosphere is what makes it so darn popular. It’s full of paintings by local artists and you’ll feel as though you’re on a magic carpet ride as you enjoy a cuppa gahwa outdoors. This is traditional Arabic coffee. The owner, Ali Al Rais, has a passion for tea, developed from a stay in Sri Lanka and Yorkshire.  He started this wonderful tea house with the idea for people to come and enjoy the delicious tea time treats and to simply enjoy some catchup time with family and friends. 

Explore the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood

The Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood is fabulous if you want to see how life used to be lived in Dubai. Visiting the neighborhood is one of the top things to do in Old Dubai. You’ll still see the traditional homes and narrow streets, but parts have been renovated so that tourists in wheelchairs can also get about. Found along the Dubai Creek, tourists are delighted to see that this old area has preserved much of its original infrastructure and that life is similar to what it was like back then. There are even the old stone wind towers. Wandering through the narrow alleys and streets, you’ll come across art galleries, museums and old houses to explore. 

The neighborhood always has some or other exciting events taking place as well and the Sikka Art Fair is one. It’s an annual art- and cultural festival in Dubai and it has lots of exhibitions, live music, storytelling, workshops and activities for the whole family. 

Buy spices at the Spice Souk

You don’t even have to be a cook to know that spices hold many of the secrets of great cooking – offering a subtle taste and aroma to all kinds of dishes. When in Dubai you’ll have to make time to visit the spice souk where you will find in the region of 150 small retailers displaying a huge variety of spices in burlap sacks, on racks and in baskets. 

You’ll find black pepper to cinnamon, cloves, curry powder to paprika, vanilla, turmeric, ginger, mustard and much more. It’s not all though, because you’ll find other items that you want but which you never dreamed you’d find. Dried cucumbers, sumac, ras el hanout, saffron, preserved lemons, teas, henna kits, basmati rice, dried fruit and more, all there to give you a taste of the good life. 

All the Gold you can buy at the Gold Souk 

Dubai is no doubt an exotic word and the very essence of it is perfectly captured at the Gold Souk, found in Deira. Visiting the souks is surely one of the top things to do in Old Dubai. These souks are the most fascinating places that just have to be on any visitor’s itinerary, and it is open 7 days a week. 

The souk is made up of different covered alleys, and even though gold ornaments and accessories are what everyone wants to see, there are other fashionable items too. You can also buy trendy sunglasses, belts, scarves and other items that tourists love.

The gold souk is a huge, sprawling bazaar full of gold- and other traders dealing in diamonds and other precious gems. The market has expanded dramatically over the years but it still maintains it’s typical ‘old-feel’ market atmosphere and charm. At the gold souk, gold can be purchased at much lower prices if you know how to negotiate with the sellers. 

Exotic scents of the Perfume Souk 

The fragrances we love are a personal affair and they certainly evoke memories. Perfumes smell differently on different people and some perfume experts tell us that the best time to shop for fragrance is in the morning when your sense of smell is strongest. That’s just as well because the Perfume Souk opens in the morning and you’ll find an exotic array of fragrances that are hot and sensual.Take your pick from the many on display and shake up your fragrance collection a bit by selecting something from the hundreds of stalls. You can even buy some incense or request that a personalized aroma be created just for you. Apart from the traditional perfumes soles, there are also the branded fragrances that you may already be familiar with. 

Whether you’re looking for warm, spicy perfumes or lighter, fresher fragrances, whatever you choose, the tantalizing aromas are going to elevate your mood.

Dubai Heritage Village

People from all walks of life love taking a trip down memory lane because it speaks of a more romantic, simple, enchanting way of life. The Dubai Heritage Village in Al Shindagha Historical Neighborhood, close to the Diving Village, offers just that. It gives you a glimpse into the traditional way of life complete with old houses and buildings. 

You may hear the village also being referred to as Hatta Village, but the traditional Dubai lifestyle depicted here will intrigue you as it’s all about traditional mud houses and ancient mosques.

Al Seef

This historical area used to be Dubai’s trading hub during the romantic period of pearl diving. The area along Dubai Creek has undergone tremendous change and Al Seef today is an extraordinary place to wander and take in the huge variety of shops and restaurants complete with outdoor spaces for music and cultural attractions. It is a sheer leisure area, while being relaxed and laid back, the kind of place where you can come with family and friends.

The Al Seef Marina allows you to enjoy modern and old together and enjoy an evening meal while you watch dhows glide along the unique waterway. The warm and friendly atmosphere is guaranteed to entertain locals and holidaymakers alike. 


Quench your thirst with Coconut Water 

Coconut water is tasty, it’s good for you and it will quench your thirst. As the coconut matures and ripens into solid white flesh, coconut water forms naturally in the fruit. You’ll find fresh coconut water in most of the cafes and grocery stores in Dubai, although so many people prefer to drink coconut water straight from the coconut. Hower you prefer your coconut water in Dubai, it’s low in carbohydrates and sodium compared to your regular sodas.

Summing Up:

There are loads of attractions in Dubai – it’s why it is so impressive. Some might say it’s because of the sheer opulence but there are also top things to do in Old Dubai that delighted tourists have discovered. Old Dubai’s amazing history is well documented through its numerous hotels, parks and attractions and places of cultural interest. It offers so much to the tourist looking for a fun-filled time. 

Not so long ago, Dubai was a quiet port and fishing town, but today it is very glitzy and glamorous. If you want to  try a scintillating trip in the old or new parts of Dubai, the city has a bewildering array of offerings. 

The city already has the magic within it, and its for you to find out how to go about finding that magic. 

Join our dedicated DUBAI TRAVEL PLANNING Group on Facebook – where you can ask questions about your upcoming trip to Dubai and find inspiration about traveling to Dubai.  Please join us to prepare yourself for you trip in the near future.


Check out our Dubai itineraries

The Ultimate Itinerary to 7 Days in Dubai

The Ultimate Itinerary to 5 Days in Dubai

The Ultimate Itinerary to 3 Days in Dubai




Elena Sergeeva has an accomplished career in tourism marketing and has worked for top Greek and international tourism brands. Elena has worked with luxury hotel brands managing business development and foreign market opportunities in lucrative markets including Russia. Elena is the founder of several professional blogs including Passion for Greece, Passion for Hospitality and Passion for Dubai. Her website development and blogging work has been featured in travel industry and Greek major media outlets.

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