Dubai was really two towns merged into one and divided by Dubai
Creek (Khor Dubai), an inlet of the Gulf. Deira lies to the north and Bur Dubai to the south.
Both districts are home to traditional architecture and bustling souqs, but the old city
centre is in Deira. Glittering new office buildings along Sheikh Zayed Rd have moved the
centre of Dubai further towards Abu Dhabi, while Jumeirah has stretched close to Jebel Ali, an
area many are calling the 'new Dubai'. The focal point of Deira's hustle and bustle is on
Baniyas Rd, which runs along Dubai Creek; Baniyas Square, also known as Al-Nasr Sq, which is
at the heart of this commercial centre; Al-Maktoum Rd and Al-Maktoum Hospital Rd; and Naif Rd.
On the Bur Dubai side, the old souq area runs from Al-Ghubaiba Rd to the Diwan (Ruler's
Office) and inland as far as Khalid bin al-Waleed Rd.
Street addresses aren't used in Dubai. People refer to the main roads by name, but the
smaller, numbered streets remain largely anonymous. If someone offers you directions like
'It's in the white villa, next to the big tree, across from the Avari Hotel,' don't fret. Your
taxi driver will probably know the way.
There are two sides of Dubai to explore - the flashy world of
breathtaking hotels, gourmet treats and luxury shopping; and the earthier old Dubai of wind
towers, mosques, shwarma and souqs.
Tel: 04 296 6201 (info)
Tranquil Al-Mamzar Park, with its white sand beach, has splendid views across the still water
to Sharjah. On a small headland on the outskirts of Dubai, this is a hidden gem. There's a
swimming pool as well as changing rooms, barbecues, and chalets for rent. Women and children
Tel: 04 332 5523 (info)
This contemporary gallery dedicated to promoting national and international work and nurturing
the local scene has exhibited pop art by Emirati Mohamed Kanoo and powerful work by Iranian
female artists, such as Shadafarin Ghadarian. There are new exhibitions each month.
Tel: 04 340 3965 (info)
Palestinian artist Jeffar Khaldi shows his own vibrant art, as well as rotating exhibitions of
locally produced and regional work, such as Shadi Ghadirian's thought-provoking portraits.
Worth checking out if you're in this developing arts neighbourhood, but if you're not, call
first, as they could be in the middle of hanging an exhibition.
With its labyrinthine lanes lined with traditional wind-tower architecture, the old Bastakiya
quarter on the waterfront east of Bur Dubai Souq is a magical place to explore.
Bur Dubai Souq
Under wooden arcades and wind-towers, you'll discover scores of shops selling textiles,
clothes and mosque alarm clocks, along with a few Arabian 'antique' stores. In the surrounding
streets you can buy a sari, have a suit made, bargain for electronics, and pick up some
This oasis of palm-shaded green stretches from Al-Garhoud Bridge towards Al-Maktoum Bridge,
making for a heavenly escape from the heat and humidity of Dubai's streets. There are
children's playgrounds - as well as the outstanding Children's City - kiosks, eateries, a
cable car, an amphitheatre and beaches (though swimming in the Creek is not recommended).
Deira Gold Souq - Sikkat al-Khail St
Deira's celebrated Gold Souq attracts buyers from all over the world. Pass through its wooden
lattice archways to discover great dazzling heaps of gold - chains, rings, earrings, bracelets
and every other kind of jewellery. Most impressive are the ornate Indian and Arabian designs,
intended for a bride's dowry - by the look of them they're too heavy to wear!
Deira Spice Souq - Al Abra St
This small but atmospheric souq was the largest in the region at the start of the 20th
century. Take in the wonderfully restored wind-tower architecture and pungent aromas from jute
sacks brimming with frankincense and oud, herbs and spices. It's fun to chat to the
shopkeepers and guess the things you don't recognise.
Diera Covered Souq - Naif Rd
Deceptively large and disorienting, this warren of narrow lanes is lined with small shops
selling everything from lurid textiles to plastic coffeepots - but if you get worn out by the
shopping, just take in the captivating surroundings.
Dubai Camel Racecourse
Tel: 04 338 2324 (info)
Camel racing is a major spectator sport in the UAE. If you miss the races, snap the more
photogenic camel walks from their farms across to the track to train. Best time is around
Tel: 04 353 1862 (info)
The Dubai Museum is housed inside the Al-Fahidi Fort, which was built in the late 1790s, and
is believed to be the city's oldest building. The museum has collections of everything from
Arabian sailing boats to the curved daggers known as khanjars. There are multimedia and
interactive displays, and all the exhibits have captions in Arabic and English.
This multidomed mosque at Bur Dubai, Ali bin Abi Talib St, boasts the city's tallest minaret.
The mosque might appear to be a beautiful example of restoration work, but it was in fact
built in the 1990s. As well as being the centre of Dubai's religious and cultural life, the
original mosque was also home to the town's kuttab (Quranic school) where children learnt to
recite the Quran.
Heritage & Diving Villages
Tel: 04 393 7151 (info)
The delightful Heritage and Diving Villages provide a great introduction to traditional
Bedouin coastal village life. The cooler winter evenings see more locals than tourists passing
through for the traditional performances and activities, such as rifle-throwing competitions
broadcast on local TV.
Tel: 04 226 0286 (info)
Get a glimpse inside a wealthy pearl merchant's former residence and enjoy the kitsch dioramas
at this elegant courtyard house. Built in 1890 it belonged to Sheikh Ahmed bin Dalmouk, whose
son established Al-Ahmadiya School next door. Note there's no wind tower here; before the
surrounding buildings were constructed, its open verandahs captured the cool sea breezes.
Jumeirah Archaeological Site
Built sometime in the 6th century AD, this township is the biggest and perhaps most
significant archaeological site in the UAE. Located between Jumeirah and Al-Wasl Rds, you'll
see the remains of stone walls, a souq, houses and what is thought to have been a governor's
palace. Objects found on the site, such as pottery and coins, are on display at Dubai Museum
and the Heritage Village. The settlement is interesting in that it spans the pre-Islamic and
Islamic eras and was once a caravan stop on a route linking Ctesiphon (now Iraq) to northern
Jumeirah Beach Park
Tel: 04 349 2555 (info)
This lovely grassy park adjoins Jumeirah Beach. It has walkways, kiosks, barbecue pits, picnic
tables and a children's play area. The long stretch of beach is clean, lined with shady palm
trees, and regularly patrolled by lifeguards. The women's only day is an opportunity for the
ladies to get a tan.
Tel: 04 353 6666 (info)
This splendid mosque (stunningly lit at night) can only be visited on a guided tour. Put it at
the top of your 'to do' list, book ahead and dress modestly.
Tel: 04 366 8888 (info)
There's plenty to do at enchanting 'Jumeirah City' - explore the old Arabian-style
architecture, snoop around splendid Al Qasr and Mina A'Salam hotels, admire the Burj Al Arab
views and browse the souq. When you need to refuel there are plenty of fab waterfront
restaurants and bars.
Tel: 04 353 6233 (info)
In a charming courtyarded house in the historic Bastakiya Quarter, the city's oldest
commercial gallery, established in the 1970s, exhibits paintings, Islamic calligraphy and
sculpture by Dubai-based artists, along with high quality locally produced pottery, ceramics,
glassware and handicrafts.
Nad Al Sheeba Racing Club
Tel: 04 336 3666 (info)
While Dubai's racing season starts in November, the Dubai International Racing Carnival, held
from late January through to the end of March is when things really hot up. It culminates in
the Dubai World Cup (www.dubaiworldcup.com), the world's richest horse race, with prize money
of a dizzying US$6 million and a total purse for the event of over US$20 million.
More like a typical Middle Eastern bazaar than Deira Covered Souq, Naif Souq (Deira) is where
Emiratis and African expats like to shop for everything from fake Chanel shaylahs (women's
headscarves) to cheap kids' clothes. Although this is mainly a clothes souq, you'll also find
stalls that sell bags or kids' toys. Sometimes more interesting than the shopping is the
amazing insight this souq gives into the lives of the locals.
Also known as Russian Beach, because of its popularity with Russian tourists, this stretch of
white sand gets crowded with a mix of sun-worshippers and expats from the 'hood. On Fridays
guest workers also like to hang out here on their day off. There are showers and a kiosk.
Several blocks of perfume shops near the Gold Souq hardly warrants the title 'souq', yet these
bustling stores sell a staggering range of Arabic attars (spicy Arabic perfumes), oud(fragrant
wood) and incense burners. More fascinating than the perfumes is the perfume-buying ritual -
just watch the burqa-covered ladies waft the smoke from burning oud under their abayas(Islamic
women's dress) as they sample the pungent aromas.
Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary
Tel: 04 338 2324 (info)
Spy on Dubai's 3000-plus pink flamingo population, which flocks here during the winter months,
from excellent viewing hides. Powerful binoculars can be borrowed to get a close-up of the
birds without disturbing them. The juxtaposition of these elegant birds against the Dubai
metropolis is amazing. It’s also known somewhat confusingly as the Al-Khor Nature Reserve and
the Dubai Creek Waterbird and Wildlife Sanctuary.
Tel: 04 349 2111 (info)
Popular with Jumeirah families, the facilities at this verdant park keep everyone happy. There
are tennis courts, a soccer pitch, barbecues, a lake with paddleboats, and even an artificial
Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House
Tel: 04 393 7139 (info)
Built in 1896, this was once the home of the ruling Al-Maktoum family. It was built using
traditional methods, from coral coated with lime and plaster. Inside there's an interesting
exhibition of photographs showing how little time it took for Dubai to go from a little
fishing and pearling town to a big money, resort-style oil city.
The Third Line
Tel: 04 394 33194 (info)
Talented young curators, Sunny Rahbar and Claudia Cellini, operate Dubai's most adventurous
art space. Consistently impressive exhibitions of contemporary Middle Eastern art have shown
provocative work that often breaks the rules to create refreshing new forms. Sign up to their
mailing list so you don't miss out on the glam champagne openings.
Total Arts At The Courtyard
Tel: 04 228 2888 (info)
In a modern courtyard complex with artists' workshops, designers, craftsmen and media
companies, Total Arts holds changing exhibitions of contemporary art and Islamic calligraphy,
along with rare carpets, textiles and sculptures by local and regional artists. Also check out
The Courtyard Gallery while you're here.
Wild Wadi Waterpark
Tel: 04 348 4444 (info)
There's no better way to cool down in Dubai than heading to Wild Wadi for the day. This
popular water park caters for everyone with sedate rides for young kids and nervous adults,
and two Flowriders (artificial waves) and the terrifying Jumeirah Sceirah for the more
adventurous. Hint: keep your legs closed and hang on to your swimmers.
Tel: 04 353 5383 (info)
A peaceful retreat from the traffic chaos that's less than a block away, XVA is a contemporary
art gallery, cafe and boutique hotel in a beautifully restored old courtyard residence. XVA
holds regular exhibitions of art, sculpture and design, organises creek cruises with a
difference and has a wonderful gift shop. This is what Dubai needs more of!
Tel: 04 800 900 (info)
This fantastic 51-ha (126 acre) park has gentle undulating green hills (perfect for picnics),
gorgeous lakes and ponds, a low-impact jogging track, excellent sports facilities and kiosks -
not to mention fabulous views of the Sheikh Zayed Rd skyline. It gets wonderfully packed on
With hundreds of hotels and many more on the drawing boards, Dubai
doesn't lack accommodation.Religious holidays are tied to the lunar Islamic Hejira calendar,
so dates vary from year to year on the Western Gregorian version, which runs on solar time.
Eid al-Fitr (the end of Ramadan), Eid al-Adha (a celebration that follows Pilgrimage), Lailat
al-Mi'raj (the Ascension of the Prophet), the Prophet's Birthday and the Islamic New Year are
the main celebrations. Secular holidays include New Year's Day (1 January) and National Day (2
December). Keep in mind that Thursday and Friday make up the Dubai weekend.
Ramadan is the month during which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, and you cannot eat, drink or
smoke in public. Although it's highly unlikely, if a Muslim offers you tea or coffee during
the daytime in Ramadan, politely refuse. Bars and pubs are closed until sunset each night, and
some restaurants do not serve alcohol. At sundown, the feast begins.
Dubai hosts two major tourist-oriented events during the year. The fiercely promoted Dubai
Shopping Festival (DSF) is held from December to February. Shopping centres bust themselves to
bring in the spenders. Entertainment for the kids, fireworks and free raffle tickets with
every purchase are just part of the fun. The lower-key Dubai Summer Surprises (held from June
to August) is designed, along with cheap hotel rates, to attract tourists during the summer
slump. Surprises include displays of traditional culture, cooking demonstrations, art shows
and more raffle tickets.
Dubai International Airport (DXB) is the busiest airport in the
Middle East. The national carrier is Emirates, which flies to more than 80 destinations in the
Middle East, Europe, Australia, Africa and the Indian subcontinent. For all the talk of free
markets, airfares out of the UAE are just as strictly regulated as anywhere else; there are no
bucket shops. Dubai International Airport has no separate airport departure tax; it's included
in the price of your ticket.
Passenger ferries make the 12-hour trip between Sharjah (a 20-minute drive from Dubai) and the
port of Bandar-e Abbas in Iran daily. There's also a fortnightly passenger service between
Dubai and Bushehr in Iran. It leaves the passenger terminal at Port Rashid every second
You can fly to almost anywhere from Dubai International Airport. Dubai is the base for
Intercity buses operate within the Dubai emirate only. To go to another emirate, you have to
take a Dubai Transport minibus. Dubai Transport's minibuses carry 14 passengers and run every
15 or 20 minutes depending on when they fill up. They are clean and efficient, and have fixed
prices. Larger buses also now ply the route between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Minibuses leave Deira from the bus and taxi station near the intersection of Omar ibn al-
Khattab and Al-Rigga Rds. Minibuses for Abu Dhabi and Al-Ain leave from the Bur Dubai bus
station on Al-Ghubaiba Rd.
There are two buses a day to Muscat, departing from the parking lot of the DNATA Airline
Centre on Al-Maktoum Rd. Tickets are available at the Oman Transport office at the DNATA
Airline Centre or from the bus driver.
Rates for car hire drop away the longer you are willing to rent the vehicle. You'll need a
credit card and drivers licence. There are dozens of agencies listed in the phone book; the
smaller ones may offer slightly better rates.
Buses run between Dubai International Airport and Deira bus station
every 15 to 20 minutes; however, the most popular way in and out is the metered, beige-
coloured Dubai Transport taxis - which are also the best to catch anywhere, as most drivers
know their way around.
Local buses run from the Deira bus station, near the Gold Souq, and the Bur Dubai station on
Al-Ghubaiba Rd. Monthly bus passes, known as taufeer, get you unlimited travel on one or the
other side of Dubai Creek or, more expensively, throughout the city.
Driving in the city of Dubai is considered an extreme sport, but masochists love it. If you
hire a car, bring your credit card and a copy of your passport. Note that all accidents, no
matter how small, must be reported to the police.
The older parts of Dubai, with their souqs, fascinating architecture and museums, are best
seen on foot. Abra (water taxi) crisscross Dubai Creek from early morning until around
midnight, and are a great way to see the waterfront.
Dubai has a large taxi fleet, many of which will beep you if they see you walking. You can
also call Dubai Transport for a taxi. Only the beige-coloured Dubai Transport taxis are
allowed to pick up passengers at the airport.
Local buses operate out of stations in both Deira and Bur Dubai. The Deira bus station is off
Al-Khor St, near the intersection with Al-Soor St. There is also the Bur Dubai bus station on
Al-Ghubaiba Rd. Numbers and routes are posted on the buses in English as well as Arabic. Free
route maps are available at both bus stations. The best way to get to where you're going is
just to say where you want to go and someone will point you to the right bus. Tell the bus
driver where you're going and he'll tell you when to get off.
There are buses every day to Hatta from the Deira bus station. Also from Deira, bus Nos 4, 11
and 15 go to the airport about every 30 minutes.
Abras leave constantly from early morning until about midnight. There are two routes. The one
closer to the mouth of the Creek runs between Bur Dubai Abra Dock and Deira Old Souq Abra
Dock, while the other is between Dubai Old Souq Abra Dock and Sabkha Abra Dock. The fare is
collected once you are out on the water.