Exploring Dubai’s Old Quarter

I love combining my two favourite pastimes- exploring new places and shopping. While modern Dubai has plenty to offer, it cannot beat Old Dubai’s authenticity.

I realised that despite living in Dubai for many years now, I have been neglecting the old part of town. So I decided to re-visit the old trading quarter of Bur Dubai and Deira to explore Dubai’s souk districts.

In Gold souk in Deira, I fell for the abundance of gold displayed in shop windows. I was fascinated by the sparkling isles full of golden bracelets, necklaces, earrings and rings. Even if you’re not planning to buy gold it’s great to go there exploring, just for the fun of it.

Did you know that the history of Gold souk goes back to the early 1900s? At that time, few merchants set up a shop close to the creek. Since then the old souk flourished supported by the wooden dhow trade. Read more about the history of Gold Souk here.

Nowadays, there are more than 300 retailers operating in this bustling quarter. Needless to say, it remains the home of the largest retail gold markets in the world.

A close neighbour to the Gold Souk is Spice Market in Deira.

If you like cooking you will love Spice Market, the smells and colours are heady. I love to go there just to soak in the atmosphere. The stalls are full of aromatic spices, medicinal, culinary and beauty products. Most of them are from across the Middle East, India and Iran. Sacks filled with coloured powders and leaves are exotic, and their vibrant colours grab the attention.

Exploring Spice Souk in Deira
Exploring Spice Souk in Deira

As I browsed through the stalls for some spices I chatted with the merchants. They were delighted to share the secrets about their products with me. I learnt there about the essential spices for Emirati cooking. A mixtures of spices like cumin, nutmeg, cardamom, turmeric, and saffron play an important role in Middle Eastern cuisine.

UAE’s unique location, along the path of both the silk and spice roads, had a significant influence on Emirati’s cooking. Find out more about the origins of Emirati food here.

Lastly, I took home some saffron, one of the world’s most fragrant and expensive spices in the world. The prices of saffron flowers start from 15 dollars per gram. It’s almost as costly as gold, no wonder its nickname is red gold.

Located on the Bur Dubai side of the creek you will find the colourful Textile Souk. You can easily cross the creek that separates Deira from Bur Dubai in traditional wooden abra or water taxi. But it was not something we wanted to do in Dubai’s summer heat. So we chose to cross Dubai’s famous creek through the underwater road crossing- Al Shindagha Tunnel.

In some parts of the Textile market it felt more like a flea market- there was plenty of clothes, antiques, stones, vintage furniture with a curious mix of junk and treasure.

I loved the part of souk with the long line of restored sand- coloured stone buildings. Most of them had the Arabic traditional wind towers.

Textile Souk Old dubai
Textile Market shopping walk

There were plenty of small shops offering lots of fabrics from cashmere, silk, cotton, and wool to Asian style clothing and other goods.

I wanted to pick up some cashmere pashminas to keep and bring for my friends in Poland. The trader was keen to negotiate the price, and it was a fun experience as he was a real character 😄

If you want to experience a mixture of traditional and modern- it is an excellent place to explore. You can find there almost everything from abayas, cushion shops, carpets, hookahs to football t-shirts targeted more towards tourists. It’s a great place to pick up a souvenir at a low price.

A trip to Old Dubai wouldn’t be complete without trying an authentic street food from this diverse area. We stopped and had a feast at this modest hole-in-the-wall local eatery. We had some samosas, pakoras and bhaji- Indian deep-fried street food.

To conclude, revisiting Old Dubai had some kind of charm and calming energy that makes me go back there again and again. And it was a fantastic way to spend a few hours.

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