When you think of Dubai Creek, what comes to your mind? Bustling souks selling gold, spices and textiles? Perhaps small wooden abra boats transporting locals and tourists across the waters of the glistening Gulf Sea? Maybe you think of tourist-packed dhow dinner cruises and the distant sound of their Tanoura dancers as they float past the shore? Dubai Creek is probably one of the most diverse and ever-changing areas of Dubai, rich with culture and heritage but constantly adapting to modern demands.
Nestled amongst the banks of the creek, just a stones-throw away from Al-Fahidi Historical District, is a new development of shops, restaurants, entertainment and accommodation. Al Seef is based on an ‘old meets new’ concept, cleverly highlighting the vast differences between historical and contemporary Dubai whilst maintaining a sense of love for the past and pride at how far we’ve come. Depending on where you enter the complex, you’ll either start with the ‘old’ or ‘new’ area. Let yourself get lost amongst the quirky contemporary art and wander through the meandering sikkas and along the shore, where you’ll trace the steps of fisherman and tradesmen from times gone by.
Having lived in Dubai for a while, it’s always irritated me to hear people describe Dubai as a city without culture. If you’ve lived here, or even just visited, you’ve likely heard the infamous ‘it’s all fake’, ‘the country is only 47 years old anyway’ and ‘the only thing you can do in Dubai is shopping’. Whilst it’s true that the United Arab Emirates was formed less than 50 years ago, and there are large areas of Dubai aimed at attracting tourists, there are so many other great things about Dubai! Diversity is the UAE’s strength, and considering it is one of the world’s most diverse countries, it’s a melting pot of culture! Couple that with places like Al Seef, Al Fahidi and Al Bastikiya which actively try to restore and promote sites of heritage and local custom and Dubai is looking more cultural by the minute!
We’ve explored Al Seef on a few occasions and adore the contrast of walking from the contemporary side which echos everything we thought we knew about Dubai, right through to the sprawling streets of traditional Emirati architecture with a dreamy sense of having gone back in time. If you’re hungry, there are a range of cuisines to choose from. Sample traditional Arabian delicacies or try something more contemporary - the burgers from Stuffed Burger Co are second to none and we loved the fresh juices at Hello Fruits, both located in the historical area.
If you have an evening to spare, why not visit the Bastikiya Quarter and the Arabian Teahouse or Coffee Museum. Or take the abra from the station at Al Seef and head over the creek to explore the souks or enjoy a steaming cup of karak chai from the many vendors which line the shore front. All just a walk away!
Have you visited Al Seef yet?
How do we define the ‘culture’ of a place?