IF THESE STREETS COULD TALK

Written by root. Posted in Featured Article, FEATURES

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Published on March 06, 2019 with No Comments

Find a vibrant patchwork of old and new as you discover Dubai on foot.

Words & Images VISIT DUBAI

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There is more than just spice at the spice souk. Credit(s): Jacqueline Wong

 

It is challenging not to be awed by Dubai’s modernity. You can often spend your time in the city at the water parks, doing the desert safaris or simply skiing (yes, really!). But, Dubai also has something for the culture and history buff. In recent years, thanks to enthused individuals and adventurous spirits, nuggets of the city’s history that was once foreshadowed by the skyscraper-filled landscape have been unearthed. Through Dubai’s by-lanes and back streets, guests and visitors can experience another side of the city simply on foot. One such example is the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. Once the epicentre of city life, the winding alleyways of this old town district will lead you to the Dubai Creek where you will be walking in the footsteps of Dubai’s early settlers.

Begin at the Arabian Tea House at Al Fahidi Street in Bur Dubai. Mornings are best to escape the heat and you can start by fuelling up with a cup of local ‘karak chai’ – a strong tea blend with a dash of milk and spices. From the tea house, turn left to enter the labyrinthine lanes of the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. Part of the attraction of the district, which showcases the traditional way of life in Dubai from the mid 19th century until the 1970s, is simply wandering through its narrow lanes. Here you’ll discover creative art spaces, museums and cafés housed in traditional L-shaped homes made from gypsum, coral and limestone. Look up and you can’t miss the buildings topped with distinctive wind towers.

Continue in the direction of Dubai Creek towards Al Musallah Road to reach Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU). The Centre was founded to offer visitors a greater understanding of local culture and traditions and is often the first port of call for most Dubai guests. You can get a lot of information from here, but it is usually the hosted activities that craft a different experience for the guests. You can sign up for a traditional Emirati meal, join a guided mosque visit or simply wander around and admire the venue, which is located in a carefully restored wind tower house. When you are ready to leave, simply turn left to follow the sandy lane buttressing the simple but elegant Diwan Mosque, part of the Ruler’s Court complex and stop by XVA Art Hotel. This Instagram-worthy space features a stunning courtyard and contemporary art gallery as well as a popular vegetarian café.

From here, a left turn towards Ali Bin Abi Taleb Street will take you through a colourful trail to the Saruq Al Hadid Museum. Just follow the winding path to the Textile Souk, which is reminiscent of Dubai’s historic trading past. Walk along the warren of small shops and stalls and engage in friendly bartering for colourful fabrics and kitsch souvenirs. Once you’re done shopping, turn right on to 34th Street and follow 3A Street and you will soon reach Saruq Al Hadid. This recently opened museum displays a range of artefacts unearthed from a centuries old archaeological site in the depths of the desert. You may wish to walk among some of the reclaimed relics – an impressive haul of over 900 objects discovered from the site.

Walk back towards 3A Street to the Bur Dubai Abra Station by Dubai Creek that was recently extended as part of an ambitious 3.2km canal project. This waterway continues to reflect Dubai’s historic roots, back when early settlers relied on its waters for their livelihood. Visitors can queue for a short trip across the Creek to Deira on traditional wooden boats, known as abras, for just AED1. Once you reach the other side of Dubai Creek, cross Baniyas Road and follow Old Al Baladiya Street for one kilometre before turning right into the original Gold Souk district, where all that glitters is definitely gold. Haggle with the shopkeepers over delicate handcrafted pieces and ornate wedding jewellery sets, or better yet, craft your own bespoke jewels. The vendors here are some of the best in the business and can offer competitive rates. With a little more time on your hands, follow your nose to the Perfume Souk for a quick lesson in oud and bakhoor. Retrace your steps to make your way to the Spice Souk. The souk is easy to find – just turn right onto Baniyas Road and follow the aroma of cardamom, turmeric, dried lemons and rose petals. The spice market’s alleys feature a network of local vendors and storefronts piled high with bulging sacks of spices. Interacting with the vendors is part of the fun, and friendly bargaining is often welcomed with a smile.

Continue your adventure by turning left to Old Baladiya Street to reach Baniyas Road. Here, you can admire views of the Creek and traditional dhows as you pass the iconic Deira Twin Towers. Walk towards Radisson Blu Hotel Dubai Deira Creek – the city’s first five-star hotel that opened in 1975. After a long day of exploring – and it should take you between three to five hours on this route – treat yourself to a traditional Emirati meal at the hotel’s signature Aseelah restaurant. The hearty lamb harees where coarsely-ground wheat is mixed with tender meat and spices, and the fish machboos that sees locally-caught sustainable fish served with Arabic rice, offer yet another window into Dubai’s storied past.

 

Royal Brunei Airlines flies Dubai daily. Discover things to do in Dubai in www.muhibah.com.bn

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