Historical Attractions in Dubai
Old and New Dubai
When thinking about Dubai, most people will imagine big skyscrapers, lots of traffic, 7 star hotels, cranes and beaches as well as malls and indoor ski slopes amongst other things! What most people don't realise until they visit is that Dubai does have it's own interesting history and there are still some areas of Dubai where you can see this, albeit they are few and far between.
There are a few areas in Dubai that hold most of the historical attractions and these are down by the creek where the original settlers lived. Dubai has a big history of pearl diving which has died out in recent years but you can still find evidence of this if you look. There are also some great old buildings with wind towers which are often replicated in modern architecture in order to get a flavour of the old style buildings.
Travelling Across the Creek on an Abra
For many hundreds of years Dubai (or rather the UAE) was a trading port and the main industries were fishing and pearl diving. The pearl diving industry, although it has died out somewhat with the invention of artificial pearls, still forms a great part of the heritage of the nation and the local Emiratis are very proud of this tradition.
The creek was the hub of the city and even today you see many boats with their loads of cargo moored at the creekside and being offloaded by manual labour to go to the soukhs and markets around the city.
The main areas of the current city of Dubai where you will see traditional buildings etc are therefore in the area of the creek and even with the new buildings that have gone up you can still get a sense of what life was like a few hundred years ago.
So one thing you must do is to take a trip across the creek and you will almost feel like you have gone back at least a few decades, if not more. Jump on an abra, pay your 1 dirham (less than a dollar!) and head over to the Gold Soukh (not so old) or the spice soukh (much more atmosphere) and then back again to the textile soukh.
Places To Go In Dubai
The Dubai Museum is located in an old building dating back to around 1790, which has been restored (the Al Fahidi Fort). With such a historical setting in itself, this is the best place to visit to go and see some old artifacts and and to generally find out what life was like for the pearl divers and traders who travelled long distances by camel or boat. It is easy to forget that essentially Dubai is a desert that has been built upon and you will get a good insight into this from visiting the museum which is in the Bastakia area of Dubai, down by the creek.
Saturday to Thursday: 08:30-20:30 daily
The bastakiya area of Dubai is also down by the creek and here you can find many old buildings with their traditional wind towers and sand coloured walls. Take a walk around the area and you will find lots of art galleries in the meandering alleyways that use the space in the old buildings to their advantage and some that have coffee shops in the courtyard (see in particular The Majlis Gallery and the Basta Art Cafe).
Wind towers were an essential part of the old buildings in Dubai as they would allow the hot air to escape in the summer and cool the rooms down - a kind of primitive air conditioning system that actually worked very well. Many new buildings that try to replicate the old style have pseudo wind towers as part of their design.
Mostly New Dubai
So really there has been so much building in Dubai that most of the stuff you see will be new but it is worth heading down to the creek and wandering through Bastakia and it's alleyways as well as taking a trip across the creek, so that you at least get a small sense of the old ways of Dubai.