Souks and boats in Old Dubai

For those who say that Dubai is a destination devoid of “authenticity”, I double triple dare you to take a stroll through Old Dubai.  Far from the glitz, glamour, and sometimes non-sensical opulence the newer part of the city is known for, Dubai’s old town transports you to a completely different world.

We decided to begin our Dubai explorations with a visit to the oldest part of the city.  Driving in our little rented car from our gorgeous hotel, the Pullman (located in the jaw-dropping Mall of the Emirates), we braved the busy highways that would lead us to our destination.  Parking our car in the lot of a large supermarket in the general vicinity, we set off by foot to better absorb this historic district.

We arrived at the shores of the Dubai Creek, which separates Deira (the centre) from Bur Dubai (the old town).  To get from one side to the other, we hopped on a wooden boat known as an abra, for the low low price of 1 dirham (about $0.27 USD).  What followed was a breezy, leisurely, and visually stimulating ride.

Feeling relaxed and refreshed after our boat ride, we landed at Bur Dubai ready to delve into the souks.  I, for one, love souks and markets in general:  the smells, the colours, and the interactions with the vendors make me feel light and gay.  While I often do not buy anything, I love to haggle, peruse, and bargain.  As Liebling broke out the maps and plotted out our route,  I wandered and stumbled upon these furry critters:

Route sorted, we briefly made our way through the fragrant spice souk.  I was shocked by the cleanliness, relative unclutter, and order of the stalls selling condiments and seasonings.

We made our way through an area selling housewares and brick-a-brack as we searched for the souk selling jewelry.  Again, I was surprised by the cleanliness and order that reigned in this marketplace, so unlike other markets I have been to in the world.  The Chicastenango market in Guatemala and the Grand Bazaar in Turkey were both hustle bustle, crazy, and frenetic.

We at last found ourselves at what we had been anxiously anticipating: the gold souk.  Dubai is not known as a hotbed of wealth and excess for nothing.  What we stumbled upon was astounding:

I didn’t dare check the prices- it was obvious that the procurement of such ostentatious displays of wealth were way beyond my reach.  After our bit of gawking, we exited the gold souk and strolled along the streets of what was the historic centre of this ever-changing city.

What we found was strikingly normal.  We were far from the skyscrapers, precious jewels, and fancy cars. The locals went about their daily business and gave us nary a glance.

After a bit more exploring, we regained the port, where we were met by a variety of men loading and unloading large wooden crates of goods presumably shipped from lands far away.  We eyed them with fatigue- they grunted under the weight of the boxes and sighed from exertion. As we curiously eyed them, two gentlemen taking a rest from their work beckoned to us; a wordless request for us to take their picture.

Back onto the boat we went, retracing our journey and going back from whence we came.  Once back on the Deira side, we sauntered down the boardwalk.  I courageously volunteered myself to take this picture with the gaggle of gulls gathered on the waterfront.

We then observed the weakening daylight and took in the beauty of the boats to-ing and fro-ing  across the creek.

To be honest, this was not the Dubai I expected.  But this is the Dubai I really loved.

Are you a fan of markets like me?  Do you like walking around the historic centre of a city, or do you much prefer the newer parts of town?

Psst! Don’t forget to “like” me on Facebook if you haven’t already! Your support is much appreciated!

Facebook Comments

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    March 26, 2012 at 12:46 am

    Very interesting. And not at all what I expected. As usual, your photos (and you!) are gorgeous.

  • Reply
    Chizzy D
    March 26, 2012 at 2:13 am

    your camera takes amazing pics

  • Reply
    Chizzy D
    March 26, 2012 at 2:14 am

    Do you have to mess with the setting for each pic, or does the camera automatically take amazing shots?thx

  • Reply
    March 26, 2012 at 4:44 am

    I like seeing it all, but especially the old parts. I LOVE markets too but I hate having to haggle 🙁 I can't wait to travel again and yes, Dubai is on my list. Thanks for the beautiful pictures and awesome post (as always).

  • Reply
    March 26, 2012 at 7:35 am

    i just noticed you cut your dreads, you look SO cute in your twa! And if I ever visit Dubai, this is where I'd like to visit. I grew up going to markets so I'm definitely a lover. I'm not sure why but I really like the picture of those two men resting.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Those wooden boats look so cool! And that gold jewellery…wow. Bling much 😉

  • Reply
    March 26, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I love outdoor markets. If I ever visit Dubai, I'll definitely take this same trip.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    I think there is a certain charm to older part of cities! The souks, the markets, the boats….it looks so fantastic!

  • Reply
    Emily in Chile
    March 27, 2012 at 2:23 am

    I love it – I had no idea this side of Dubai existed! So glad you got off the beaten path a bit.

  • Reply
    March 27, 2012 at 2:44 am

    Awesome, it was nice to see an older part of the city. Not what I thought either!

  • Reply
    March 27, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Wow!! Reminds me of my trip to Kuwait…I miss it sooo much! The Middle East is definitely a beautiful place to be. Can't wait til my next trip.

  • Reply
    March 28, 2012 at 12:06 am

    What is authenticity anyways? A place is a place is a place! Travelers really need to get over that whole concept of authentic.

    Anyways, just dropping in to say hi and I miss you and let's Skype!

  • Reply
    Audrey | That Backpacker
    March 28, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I love the shot with the seagulls filling the sky! The boat ride looks like a nice leisurely way to take in the place. 🙂

  • Reply
    March 29, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Awww thanks!! Old Dubai really surprised me as well!

  • Reply
    April 1, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    Yeah, the old town looks more intriguing to me than the new town. I love the photos you've captured.

  • Reply
    Noor - Desert to Jungle
    March 17, 2014 at 8:04 am

    I love that you loved the old part of Dubai, it’s one of my favourite parts of the city too (I’ve also blogged about it). Great photos, I’m off now to read about the rest of your adventures in my former home town.

  • Leave a Reply