Culture, Courtyards and Kaftans
The tiny, old Al Fahidi Historic district near the mouth of Dubai Creek affords a rare and fascinating glimpse of the old Dubai with its renovated, but atmospheric wind-tower houses. (Note most places are closed Friday). Start late afternoon and take a taxi to the Al Musalla roundabout to find Majlis Gallery / Al Fahidi St. / 353 6233 / 10am-6pm SatThu / themajlisgallery.com. This converted courtyard house is home to an eclectic array of art of varying ability and style, ceramic and jewellery, including a selection of covetable pieces by the talented Oytun Camcigil (see Advanced Shopping). Adjacent and just behind is the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre / 353 6666 / 9am-5pm SunThu, 9am-1pm Sat, closed Fri / cultures.ae. Stop in to enjoy a cup of Arabic coffee and dates, or get involved with one of the heritage and walking tours hosted by local Emiratis. Opp. Majlis is the Basta Art Café / 353 5071 / with its laid-back, rustic courtyard and shady tree, perfect for a snack or soothing mint cha. With tea in your veins, turn right as you leave and then immediate right again before walking past the quaint little Orient Guest House / 351 9111 / to reach the century-old Heritage House / 226 0286 / 8am-7.30pm Sat-Thu, 2.30-7.30pm Fri / on the corner. This gallery-cum-cultural foundation in a beautifully restored courtyard house supports art from local and regional artists – don’t miss the stunning Islamic calligraphy tucked away in the corner. Exit right and you can’t miss lovely XVA Art Hotel (see Accommodation). This boutique-y hotel/art gallery/café is the perfect retreat from the heat and hurly burly. Browse the art, sip fresh mint lemonade in the courtyard and feast on simple local vegetarian fare. There’s even a sweet little air-conditioned salon and a good loo, Lou.
Refreshed? Retrace your steps back to Al Fahidi St. and swivel right. You will soon come across the fascinating old Al Fahidi Fort on your right (see Activities/Dubai Museum). You can whip round this museum in twenty minutes no sweat. When you exit simply head towards the Grand Mosque (yes, the one with all the domes), and take the little street that runs down the right side. Go as far as you can towards the river and then turn left into the rabbit warren of narrow alleys (parallel to the creek). These lanes lead to the Old Souk, a semi open-air market that no doubt once was redolent with Arabian magic, now sadly packed mostly with Arabian tat and touts. Alrighty, choices... If it’s early evening you could weave through the rest of the souk ending up at the Bank of Baroda on the creek, from which you can jump on a boat (abra) at Bur Dubai Abra Station and shuttle over to the Deira side (one way costs 1Dhs), for the touristy but fun Spice and Gold Souks (see Shopping/Souks). Or, you could hire the whole abra (100Dhs/1hr) and have them chug you along the creek to the marina at the Park Hyatt (see Accom.) for glammy alfresco cocktails at The Terrace. Whatever you do, avoid crossing by car to Deira at rush hour as the traffic can be purgatory. Phew, and you’re done!