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Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (Al Bastakiya)

A Guide to Dubai’s Historic Neighbourhoods and Walking Tours (2024)

Dubai, a shimmering jewel of the Middle East, is often synonymized with skyscrapers, luxury shopping, and state-of-the-art theme parks. But behind this modern facade lies a rich tapestry of history and culture waiting to be uncovered. For those willing to look beyond the glitz and glamour, Dubai offers historic neighbourhoods and engaging walking tours that provide a window into its past.

1. Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (Al Bastakiya)

History: Nestled along the Dubai Creek, the Al Fahidi neighbourhood dates back to the 1890s and is a testament to Dubai’s architectural and cultural heritage. Previously known as Al Bastakiya, it once housed wealthy Persian merchants who dealt in pearls and textiles.

Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (Al Bastakiya)

Image Source : Flickr (Ankur Panchbudhe)

What to Expect: Stroll through the narrow lanes lined with wind-tower architecture, a traditional form of air-conditioning. The sand-colored buildings are home to art galleries, museums, and cultural exhibits. The famous Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort are also located here, offering a deep dive into the emirate’s history.

Walking Tour Tip: Begin your walking tour at the Coffee Museum, where you can savor a traditional Arabic coffee before heading out to explore.

2. Deira Old Souk and Gold Souk

History: Deira, one of the oldest areas of Dubai, is home to traditional markets (souks) that have been operating for centuries.

What to Expect: The vibrant Gold Souk is a dazzling experience with shop windows glittering with gold jewelry. Adjacent to it is the Spice Souk, where fragrances of spices, dried fruits, and incense fill the air. Barter to get the best deals and immerse yourself in this lively market culture.

Walking Tour Tip: Take a traditional abra (water taxi) across Dubai Creek to combine your Deira exploration with a visit to Al Fahidi.

3. Shindagha Historic District

History: Once the home of Dubai’s ruling family, Shindagha is amongst the oldest areas in Dubai. It’s situated on the shores of the Dubai Creek, playing a pivotal role in trade and commerce.

What to Expect: The Dubai Creek itself is a sight to behold, brimming with dhows and abra boats. The district is adorned with coral-clad houses, museums, and the iconic Shindagha Watchtower.

Walking Tour Tip: Visit the Saruq Al Hadid Museum to see artifacts from an archaeological site that dates back to the Iron Age.

4. Jumeirah Archaeological Site

History: This site offers insights into Dubai’s past before the discovery of oil. It’s believed to have been a caravan stop along an ancient trade route.

What to Expect: Although it’s an open excavation site, you can spot remnants of stone walls, pottery, and tools from the Abbasid era.

Walking Tour Tip: Wear comfortable shoes and bring water, especially if visiting during the warmer months.

Walking Tour Companies in Dubai:

For those who prefer guided tours, several companies in Dubai specialize in historic walking tours:

  • Dubai By Foot: Known for their Al Fahidi and Creek tours, this company provides a detailed overview of the history, art, and culture of Dubai.
  • Wander With Nada: Offering personalized walking tours, they help visitors discover the hidden gems of Dubai’s old districts.
  • Frying Pan Adventures: Perfect for foodies, they combine culinary delights with historic insights during their walking tours.

Tips for Walking Tours

It is important to note that Dubai can be a very hot city, especially during the summer months. When taking a walking tour, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothing, and bring plenty of water and sunscreen.

It is also a good idea to book your walking tour in advance, especially if you are visiting during peak season. This will ensure that you have a spot on the tour and that you can get the most out of your experience.


Dubai, with its juxtaposition of the old and new, offers a unique travel experience. By exploring its historic neighbourhoods on foot, you not only engage with its past but also experience the warmth and hospitality of Emirati culture. On your next visit, take a step back in time and discover the soul of Dubai that lies in its ancient streets and alleys.

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