Exploring Old Dubai: Abra Ride, Gold & Spice Souks and Museum Visit

Expat Life, Wanderings

Dubai as a metropolitan city that it is, is famous for skyscrapers, luxurious hotels, lavish resorts, massive malls and other ‘superb’ attractions. But what lies in the city’s heart is its true charm – the Old Dubai.

We started off at Al Shindagha area as it was the nearest from where we live. We got off at Al Ghubaiba bus station and walked several meters to reach the Bur Dubai Abra Station. Our sole plan on that day was just to experience riding the abra but since there were cultural spots in proximity, we decided to explore some.

House of Sheikh Khalifa Bin Saeed Al Maktoum

On our way to the abra station, we passed by Sheikh Khalifa Bin Saeed Al Maktoum’s house turned museum also known as Juthoor Art Center. Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum is the grandfather of Dubai’s current ruler and this was his official residence during his reign as monarch until 1958. It houses artworks and several vintage items depicting Emirati lifestyle.

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The view upon entering the premises.

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Artworks and historical items on display.

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Nose-rubbing is the Emiratis’ custom way of greeting one another.  This is also practiced in other cultures (i.e. Maori people of New Zealand).

Abra Ride across Dubai Creek

Before bridges connected the Deira and Bur Dubai areas, the only means of crossing either side is through a small wooden boat called abra. This is a traditional form of transport and still operates at present. Fee is at AED 1 each way and is paid directly to the operator. It takes about 5-10 minutes to get to the other side of the creek depending on which station you start and dock.

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Abra operators in queue.

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There can be long lines especially during weekends but there are plenty of trips to and fro so don’t worry about getting aboard one.

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This is on our trip back. It’s best to experience the abra during winter season either early morning or late afternoon to witness this breathtaking view. Lord, thank you for sunsets. ❤

Gold and Spice Souks

A few meters walk from the Deira side of the creek is the Grand Souq where you’ll find all the spices you can think of, textiles, trinkets and a variety of souvenir items. Walk a few more blocks and you’ll reach the Gold Souk. These souks are never without tourists / travelers since they are almost always included in every tour itinerary.

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The most popular are the Middle Eastern and Arabic spices such as cardamon, cumin, turmeric, cloves, tahini and zatar.

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Cinnamon sticks are also staples in Arabic cuisine.

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Herbs and dried flowers – lavender, hibiscus, rose and many others. You can also spot dried fruits and nuts in other stalls.  Every alley you turn to is a sensory experience.

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Miniature camel and Emirati figurines.

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We asked if we could take his photo and he willingly obliged. It would have been nice to know his name but we forgot to ask. 😦

We just did a quick stroll at the Gold Souk since we were not going to buy anything and also, we were trying to catch the sunset while on board the abra.

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That concluded our half-day tour of Old Dubai. ❤

Mathew and I have been here for three years but we feel like we’re still strangers in this emirate. What are other nearby spots worth visiting?

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