What once was a small fishing village, has now grown to be one of the wealthiest, multi-cultural and metropolitan cities in the world. Known for its jaw-dropping and futuristic skyscrapers, world-class shopping, and alluring beaches, Dubai continues to draw over 14 million tourists from all over the world to experience its magnificence.
Rather than standing in long lines to get to the top of Burj Khalifa, shopping through the Mall of Emirates, or tanning on the overcrowded beaches at the Palm Islands, why not take on the city and all that it has to offer outside of the norm? If you are the non-traditionalist when it comes to sightseeing, then we have just what you need. Here are Dubai’s top five hidden delights guaranteed to provide you with a true Arabian adventure.
Bur Dubai Souk
Located between Bur Dubai waterfront and Ali bin Abi Talib Street is a traditional market known as Bur Dubai Souk, a.k.a the Textile Souk. You can find anything from cheap souvenirs, clothes, traditional hats, rolls of silk, cotton, satin and velvet fabrics, and more pashminas than you’ll ever need in your life.
The best (and most scenic way) to get there is via a ferry ride across the Dubai Creek from Deira. Friday evenings are the most lively after 4pm, but they are open all days starting at 9am. Make sure to negotiate as low as possible and then work your price up—everyone is willing to bargain, so don’t settle for the first number the shopkeepers throw at you.
Al Fahidi is the most historical area in all of Dubai with a rich, thriving Emirati culture. Here you can ride a riverboat called an Abra from one side of the creek to the other—a popular mode of transport for many of the city’s residents. The best times to ride one is during the winter months when the weather is not above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Al Fahidi is the place to get lost in with its narrow streets full of art galleries, trendy cafes, colorful graffiti, old clay buildings built before the 1970s, postal and coin museums that you can visit for free, coffee museum, and an old souk selling clothes, toys, gifts, antiques, electronics, perfumes, cosmetics, shoes, bags and accessories. The best time to wander through this historic district is Saturday to Thursday, from 8:30am to 7:30pm, and on Friday, from 1:30pm to 7:30pm.
There’s a lot more to Dubai than five-star restaurants. We suggest you try a more relaxed scene at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Bu Qtair, tucked away on the Jumeirah beach area. It may be one of the best places to score the freshest fish for only a few dollars. Be warned, the fish and shrimp can get spicy, so make sure you ask for non-spicy if you can’t handle a kick. There’s also no menu—you rely on the catch of the day, but it’s worth it!
Bu Qtair is not a fine dining restaurant. You sit on plastic chairs and eat on paper plates. Seating is based on a first-come, first-served basis. Make sure to bring cash because cards are not accepted.
In order to get a feel for Dubai’s art scene, head over to Alserkal Avenue, where you’ll find a multitude of art galleries and cultural areas all within a quarter of a mile of each other. It has become a growing paradise for the renovated international creators, the new generation of designers and their audience.
Weekends are the best. We recommend checking their website for upcoming events as there may be times when only a few exhibitions are open.
After a day of shopping, eating and discovering Dubai’s hidden gems, take a break and relax at a beachside bar called the Jetty Lounge. It’s a popular hangout spot for locals who are looking to have a drink while gazing at the magnificent sunset. The bar is located at the One&Only Royal Mirage.
Dubai has a strict law against the sale of alcohol—it’s prohibited from being sold outside of a hotel or private club, which is why hotels are such a large attraction for locals and outsiders alike. From wine, beer and champagne to notable and sensational cocktails, Jetty Lounge is the ideal bar to finish off your day.
Dubai is a destination that has emerged from being a trading village in the early 5th to the 7th century to a global city and business hub of the Middle East. It’s a new, hip, wealthy, artistic and a wonderful alternative to its many counterparts, which is why there are more expats and foreigners living in Dubai than Emiratis. Nonetheless, the metropolitan city is flourishing with activities to gratify diverse travelers from all over the planet.
If this or any other destinations speak to you, we’d love to help you get there in comfort and put some savings in your pocket. Submit a flight request or contact your agent and we’ll find the best dates to travel there!