TAKE OLD DUBAI BY STORM
- Immerse yourself in a collection of traditional experiences
- Wander through artifacts at a museum devoted to all things coffee
- Taxi boat with the locals to the city’s best spice and fish souks
If you’re looking for the ultimate immersion experience into Old Dubai, this is the itinerary for you. (Note: it’s best to get an early start so as to avoid the heat of midday.) Begin at the edge of Bastakiya at the Dubai Coffee Museum, an amazing space entirely devoted to the past and present of coffee around the globe. There are incredible artifacts throughout the house, as well as a café upstairs serving every manner of coffee drink imaginable (from cardamom-scented Arabic to Vietnamese to syphon to pour-over and beyond). Now that you’re thoroughly caffeinated, you can either explore the charming side alleys of the Old Quarter [see our 3-hour itinerary – LINK] or head to the Dubai Museum in the restored Al Fahidi Fort. A quick spin will help you grasp the transformation of Dubai from sleepy pearling port as recently as the 1950s to the megalopolis it is today. Next up: the Bur Dubai Abra Station, for a ride across the Creek. The wooden taxi boats (approximately 30 cents a ride) are as authentic as it gets—they’re the way many of the city’s workers get to the Deira side (where they live). Along the way on the Creek, you’ll see traditional shows unloading their cargo; the whole scene is very Tintin. You’ll get off at the Old Souk Abra Station, directly in front of the Spice Souk. While the Spice and Gold Souks have become quite touristed (try to avoid the hawkers), the Fish Souk, with its gleaming rows of lobster, snapper, prawns, swordfish, and sturgeon, retains its authenticity. It also retains its authentic fish smell… so don’t say we didn’t warn you! Definitely do not visit during the summer months.
Start at the Dubai Coffee Museum and, once properly caffeinated, walk right around the corner on Al Fahidi and you’ll be in front of the Dubai Museum. From there, head on over towards the Dubai Creek where you can catch a traditional wooden taxi across the water to the Old Souk Abra Station. Be sure to check out all the fresh fish markets that line the street.
BE A THRILL SEEKER
- Take the plunge of a lifetime over the Palm Jumeirah
- Starting at 13,000 feet, experience the thrilling view- if you can take it
- No experience necessary, just hold onto a pro for a tandem jump
Looking to get your blood pumping? Dubai has got adrenaline junkies and edgy-experience collectors covered, with all manner of envelope-pushing pursuits. Sure, you can pilot an A380 simulator courtesy of Emirates, or go dune-bashing and sandboarding in the desert. But for our money, and for the most exhilarating thrill ride of our lives, we’d pick skydiving from 13,000 feet over the Palm any day. Best part: a tandem jump means you don’t have to have any prior experience. After your jump, don’t forget to collect your video and pictures provided by their videographer skydivers.
If you’ve seen enough on land, get a bird’s eye view of the city. From the Mina Al Siyahi station, walk across the bridge and make a right on Al Seyahi Street, where Skydive Dubai will be at the end of the road.
GO ON A FOODIE OUTING
- Take a tasty walking adventure, there’s one for every palate
- Uncover fresh spices and try delicacies from around the Middle East
- Learn culinary stories of Old Dubai, right where they took place
For a taste of the real Dubai beyond the glitz and the skyscrapers, we love Frying Pan Adventures, a walking tour lead by 2 long-time resident sisters. Their 4-hour “Middle Eastern Food Pilgrimage” takes you to parts of Deira (Old Dubai) that travelers—and even many locals—rarely visit. Along the walk, you’ll get your fill of traditional delicacies from all corners of the Middle East: Syria, Egypt, Palestine, and the Emirates. We especially loved the flavorful pistachio-flecked Syrian booza ice cream, made with mastic. Ask them for their recommendations of where to buy the freshest spices at the Deira Spice Souk (they definitely know their way around). Be on the lookout for Iranian saffron, coriander, mint, or dried limes. Word to the wise: if you buy pungent spices, be sure to triple-wrap them before they go into your luggage; otherwise, your entire travel wardrobe will smell like the Spice Souk by the time you get back home. Aside from the Middle Eastern Food Pilgrimage this family run business offers several food trails and photography experiences that will fulfill a variety of individual palates.
Get off the beaten path and immerse yourself in culture by booking one of these walking tours. You can select which tour you’d like to do depending on the time of year and your interests, and your reservation will let you know where to begin your journey.
SEE THE CONTEMPORARY ART SCENE IN A NEIGHBORHOOD ON THE VERGE
- Gallery hop in an up-and-coming community
- Explore the city’s creative hub, set in a revitalized industrial district
- Stop for snacks at a canteen with French and Aussie bites
Art is one of our biggest passion points at Conrad Dubai, and this couldn’t be a more exciting time for contemporary art in the Middle East. Dubai’s creative arts hub is centered on Alserkal Avenue in Al Quoz, a revitalized industrial district. We love spending a few hours here exploring some of the best galleries in Dubai. Alserkal is about to undergo a major expansion, but some of our all-time favorite venues include the brand new Jean-Paul Najar Foundation, a private museum helmed by curator Deborah Najar; Lawrie Shabibi; and the Salsali Private Museum. Most taxi drivers still don’t know their way to Alserkal so to avoid having to navigate, we suggest you take an Uber from the hotel and program the address into their GPS from the start. Post- or pre-, head to Al Quoz’s de facto canteen, Tom & Serg, for all manner of Aussie snacks and the perfect flat white. Their gluten-free brownie is a game changer.
To check out the art scene, head to 8th Street. You’ll find yourself in the heart of creativity for Dubai. You’ll see Alserkal Avenue tucked behind 8th Street, where you’ll be able to check out the Jean-Paul Najar Foundation, Deborah Najar’s private museum and the Salsali Private Museum – all within a few feet from each other.
HIT THE TOWN
- Groove through the night to live performances and hit DJ’s
- Begin with appetizers, then order up a round of signature cocktails
- Clear your schedule for this popular Thursday and Friday night party
Dubai has fallen in love with the musical theater/dance club concept from Beirut: Music Hall. It all builds up rather slowly after doors open at 9 p.m. to a hushed supper club (red velvet banquettes; ornate gold stage), where couples file in and order drinks and appetizers. Before long, the room is filled to capacity with revelers who are serious about getting their party on. Make sure to get here no later than 10:30 p.m., when the show begins: a series of mini concerts by a dozen or so eclectic musicians who get the crowd revved up, followed by a DJ spinning 80s dance hits that whip the partygoers in a frenzy. As the night progresses, no one stays in their seat and cocktail tables become the de rigueur place to show off your dance moves till the wee hours. To the uninitiated, it may seem like a raucous live version of America’s Got Talent with a whole lot of audience participation. To loyalists, it’s the most fun you can have in Dubai on a Thursday or Friday night.
If musical theatre and dancing is your thing, head to the Palm Jumeriah One stop on the T1. You’ll have to walk across The Palm Jumeirah but the sight is well worth the journey. The Music Hall is at the farthest left point of The Palm Jumeriah, just past the Taj Exotica Resort and Spa.