“Built on the shores of Dubai’s historic creek, Al Seef is a family-friendly lifestyle destination where you can explore, shop, dine, relax, and stay.” Al Seef
Al Seef Dubai, the ‘old meets new’ district created by Meraas, sits along the banks of the creek in Bur Dubai. Located next to the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (previously known as Al Bastakiya), it’s a place to discover the heart of old Dubai and get a glimpse into the emirate’s history and culture. Transport yourself back to a time when the emirate was a hub for pearl diving and a bustling trading port and not the glitz, glamour and modernised malls that’s known for today.
Combining traditional architecture with modern amenities, Al Seef recreates the narrow walkways and market stalls of the souks of a bygone era while disguising new shops, cafes and restaurants within facades that have been deliberately aged. It’s a great place to take visitors especially when combined with a walk to Al Fahidi and an arba trip across the creek to Dubai’s old souks. Pick up a local handicraft or silk pashmina, don’t forget to haggle as it’s expected and stop off at the Museum of Illusions.
This area is rich in culture and history, it was once the emirates principal trading hub for textiles and pearls and although the cargo may have changed it’s still a busy creek that is jam-packed with old wooden dhows, abras and bigger ships. The short trip across the water from Bur Dubai to Deira to visit the vibrant souks starts from just AED 1 for a single trip.
The Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood is a conservation area with traditional Emirati houses with their famous wind towers, that acted as early air-conditioners in the pre-electricity era, surrounded by narrow pedestrianised streets and alleyways. One of the oldest heritage sites in Dubai, this area was originally inhabited by wealthy Emirati families and frequented by Persian merchants who immigrated to the emirate to escape high Iranian taxation.
Al Bastakiya, as the area was previously known, was named after the town of Bastak in southern Iran and is now a mixture of small quirky shops, some of which still selling Iranian handicrafts, art galleries and a traditional Arabian Tea House enclosed in a garden. It’s also the home of Mawaheb (meaning talented in Arabic), an art studio for adults with special needs now known as ‘the determined ones’.
The colourful and aromatic Spice Souk across the creek in Deira is a maze of identical stalls and shops with merchants offering Arabic spices, herbs, teas, oils, nuts and saffron. The vendors are persistent, some may say aggressive, enthusiastically trying to tempt you into purchasing their wares whether it’s a dried lemon, a lump of indigo for home dying or a beautiful Arabic designed bowl or plate. The key is to be authoritative and politely decline, although this does decline the longer you stay.
Stop by the Gold souk to buy some gold and silver jewellery and precious stones, the Perfume souk for Arabic scents and incense or visit the Textile souk in Bur Dubai. You can find anything in these narrow streets as long as you are prepared to haggle, be prepared to walk away to secure the best or ‘last’ price.
Location: Al Seef Street, Al Seef, Bur Dubai, Dubai
Opening Times: Daily from 10:00am until 10:00pm and until 12 midnight on Thursday & Friday
The views in this post are all my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2019. All rights reserved.