Although it’s famed for ultra-modern attractions and futuristic skyline, there’s more to Dubai than vast shopping malls and glamorous hotels. The UAE city is brimming with authentic Emerati culture and history just waiting to be explored. From museums and mosques to souks and historic sites, we’ve rounded up an inspiring checklist of ways to discover Dubai’s rich local heritage and traditions.
Fill up on flavour at the Dubai Food Festival
Held annually over a few weeks each February, the citywide Dubai Food Festival celebrates the diversity of the city’s culinary pleasures from gourmet dining and international chefs to local street food and traditional Middle Eastern fare. A must-do for foodies, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to sample what’s on the calendar of exciting entertainment, promotions and masterclasses.
Visit the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
Dubai may be known as an ever-changing cityscape, but UAE’s first national park is dedicated to preserving the desert’s wilderness and the endangered species who live there. Here, you can explore the unique landscape via four-wheel-drive or on foot with the help of a guide. Immerse yourself in falconry, camel treks and horse riding or have a go at sand-skiing.
Cross the Dubai Creek in an Abra
Take an abra – a motorised water taxi – across the creek to see palaces, mosques and other Dubai landmarks. The bustling creek is teeming with dozens of abras making their way across the water to the abra stations. Return at dusk to enjoy a sunset dinner cruise on board a traditional Arabian wooden sailboat locals call a dhow.
Discover treasures at the Dubai Museum
Pay a visit to Dubai’s oldest building, Al Fahidi Fort, also home to the Dubai Museum where you’ll gain an insight into the city’s past. Along with a pearl diving exhibit, you can also view traditional houses, mosques, Souks and desert life.
Tour the Jumeirah Mosque
One of Dubai’s most striking landmarks, the Jumeirah Mosque is the only Mosque within the city that welcomes non-Muslim guests. Six days a week visitors are given the opportunity to learn about Emirati culture and religion during a 75-minute tour which includes refreshments and traditional pastries. Visitors are expected to wear modest clothing, however traditional attire can be borrowed on arrival.
Barter at the Gold Souk
If you find yourself wandering through one of the city’s souks, be prepared for some serious haggling. If you’re after trinkets as a keepsake of your trip, The Gold Souk is an essential experience. Hunt for statement jewellery pieces for yourself or loved ones back home from the hundreds of sellers and stores.
Step into the past at Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House
Enter the grand residence and premises of Dubai’s former Monarch, currently a museum exhibiting rare historic photographs, historic and official documents, authentic jewellery, coins, stamps and other antiquities.
Dine in the Desert
After a long day on a desert safari, sit back and relax in traditional seating and enjoy an authentic Arabian feast under the stars. Enjoy Arabic coffee and Middle Eastern cuisine as you’re entertained by belly dancers and music surrounded by the tranquillity of the desert.