If you fancy to know what life felt like years past, Dubai invites you to investigate its rich history, discovering how that past relates to this vibrant city today.
Walking along Dubai Creek takes you directly back to life in the historic city, with colourful dhows – some over 100-years-old — still plying the waterways that led to far away ports on ancient trade routes. Jump in a water taxi to explore the souks of Deira.
Delve into the Spice Souk; the heady smells and vivid hues alone will send you back in time. An expert in the nearby Perfume Souk will develop a custom scent for you alone, decanting the precious oil into an opulent vial. Down the street, the Gold Souk houses 300+ retailers who are ready to bargain with you for the souvenir of a lifetime.
Back across Dubai Creek, visit the Textile Souk, another extravaganza of colour and luxury. Close-by stand the remnants of the defensive city wall of 1800. Also near the wall is charming structure, the Bastakiya Mosque, worth a visit for its picturesque patterns and simplicity. Imagine this area, Bur Dubai, less than three decades ago; it was the city, surrounded only by the vast desert. Visiting Dubai means straddling the past and present.
First thing one morning visit the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding, as they serve a delicious, traditional breakfast (and lunch), in addition to offering the experience of a wind tower house. These houses, found throughout the area, borrowed technology from Egypt circa 3100 BC. The towers create an amazing cooling effect using natural air flow, still appreciated today.
After savoring the hospitality of the Centre, join their tour of the exquisite Jumeirah Mosque. To encourage understanding of Islam, the Centre offers guided tours every day except Friday; this is the only mosque in Dubai open to non-Muslim visitors six days each week.
Although constructed relatively recently, the Jumeirah Mosque was built in the Fatimid style, dating to the 12th century. One of the most beautiful structures in the city, the mosque shines with a particularly haunting beauty at night – leave time to visit it again after dark.
Prince Charles was instrumental in preserving Bastakiya, also known as Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood. In the 1980s, half the village was demolished, with plans to complete the task in the hurry to modernise the city. A British architect, Rayner Otter, wrote to Prince Charles with an invitation to visit; once the Prince toured the area, he encouraged the preservation of what is arguably the most charming area of Dubai.
Not all history is ancient. With design referencing a spiraling minaret, Burj Khalifa became the world’s tallest building upon its completion in 2010, with a final measurement of 829.8 metres. Travel to the observation deck on floor 148 (of 160) for the spectacular view of sand meeting ocean. Nighttime visits offer a magnificent full-circle view of downtown Dubai and the surrounding coastline. Book online for discounted tickets and to ensure your visiting time, especially during busy times.
Dubai is known for its thrilling superlatives; after visiting its many wonders, you’ll add a few of your own.