“A ship in the harbour is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”
Friday, the first day of the weekend here in the UAE and the perfect opportunity to explore Dubai Creek and the area affectionately known as Old Dubai. Spending our downtime on the water, while experiencing a new-to-us pocket of this intriguing city, might be just what the Dr ordered.
It is hard to pinpoint whether it was the comfortable rays of the sun warming our backs, or the gentle rocking of the boat which was sending us into a blissfully calm and meditative state. Seagulls were pleasantly singing overhead and we could just make out the haunting call to prayer, drifting out from nearby minarets.
The glitz and glamour often associated with Dubai felt worlds away and the only ‘traffic’ congestion was the hustle between the larger boats and the wooden Abra’s, as they all skilfully navigated their position through the activity on the creek.
Quick History of Dubai Creek
- The first inhabitants, members of the Bani Yas Tribe, took up residency along the Dubai Creek in the 19th century.
- As well as the obvious industry of fishing, the Dubai Creek was also the main harvesting area for the Pearl Industry, until the introduction of cultured pearls in the 1930’s.
- In the early 20th century Dubai Creek was established as the only Port or Harbour in the city and, thanks to the first dredging carried out in 1961, larger Dhows were able to enter the creek connecting trading between the coast of Eastern Arabia, India and East Africa.
- Al Maktoum Bridge was built in 1963 and was the first bridge constructed to connect Deira and Bur Dubai
The Pearl Divers might have long moved onto alternate waters but trading and industry is certainly still alive and thriving on Dubai Creek. Wooden Dhows are moored at the creek bank and their rustic appearance creates an eye catching contrast to the shiny modern buildings rising up from the city behind. This is indeed a working Port and, if your timing is right, you might even see the large quantities of merchandise being loaded and unloaded from the boats decks.
Departure begins once the Dhow’s are fully loaded with their cargo. Watching these beauties pull away from their mooring is definitely a moment which understandably attracts a lot of attention from those standing near by. Deck hands perch themselves at the bow and you get the sense they are keen to be setting off on their journey. Slowly, but surely they leave the controlled confines of the creek, their exit exuding an exciting sense of intrigue and adventure.
Arabic Dhows also share the water with another thriving Industry – Tourism. Water Taxis and Abras have taken up residency on these waters, giving visitors the opportunity to be submersed in and experience the bustling vibe of the area. There is no shortage of ‘Tour Guides’ passionately manning the surrounding footpaths and, for 150 Dirhams, you can enjoy a ‘private’ hour long tour of the creek.
We agreed to the Water Taxi without any prior planning and, although it was a comfortable and pleasant ride, my true fascination is with the Abra’s.
Abas are available for private hire for around the same price as the Water Taxi’s and are also the designated mode of transport for taking passengers backwards and forwards from Bur Dubai to the Deira side of the bank. The 10 minute transfer will cost you only 1 Dirham which you pay directly to the driver – you will find him standing at the controls, right in the middle of the boat.
An Abra seats around 20 passengers, all sitting facing outwards and protected from the elements by a simple canvas roof. Riding an Abra just on sunset, or even wandering along the creek banks during this spectacular time of the day, is definitely an experience not to be missed and a perfect moment to practise #tojustbe.
With views like this I'm sure you can imagine how busy the banks of the #DubaiCreek were, as people of all ages and nationalities lined up eager to capture a picture of the sinking sun. As it slowly disappeared below the horizon, I was once again left in awe of the brilliant colours, reflections and serenity of this special moment. A great opportunity #ToJustBe … . . . . #mydubai #lifeindubai #visitdubai #dubaidiaries #dubailifestyle #lifeindubai #everydaymiddleeast #discoverarabia #discoveruae
The Abras aren’t the only highlight of the visit. It is also the ancient style of architecture and the promise of exploring unassuming laneways, which has drawn us to visit the historic area known as Old Dubai. Lining these laneways and dominating the Town Squares (on both sides of the creek), is the vibrant atmosphere of the colourful and quirky Souks (marketplace). Do yourself a favour and allow plenty of time to wander aimlessly and soak up the eclectic culture of this unique Middle Eastern tradition.
While souvenir items tend to dominate the majority of the stores, if you are patient and dig a little deeper, you are bound to find some real gems. The colourful spices at the Spice Souk will always attract my attention and a visit to an Arabic Marketplace is never complete without sampling some local dates.
Keep your eye out for the world’s heaviest gold ring, as listed in the Guinness World Records, which is proudly displayed in the Gold Souk. A must see attraction which is impossible to clearly photograph, as it sits behind glass, in the front window of the store.
Just for the record…those of you who saw me on the day, the random smile spread across my face as I wandered past each display of shoes and rack of pashminas, was due to me feeling like I was ‘on set’ in one of my all time favourite movies – can you guess which one!
Because everyone loves a good Spice Souk picture!! 😉 . There is nothing like the buzz of a bustling #Souk. Yes there are a lot of souvenir type items for sale however, if you dig a little deeper, you will find some real treasures. Like these package free spices, dates as well as local handcrafts. Definitely worth the visit to experience the vibrant atmosphere. . . #plasticfree #greenliving #sustainablelifestyle
Once you have exhausted the Souks you might enjoy a short walk to the local Fish and Fruit & Vegetable Markets located on the Deira side of the creek. If your visit coincides with the weekend and you are relying on a car or taxi as your mode of transport, prepare yourself for the possibility of frustrating delays due to traffic congestion.
Although the Fish Markets will never be my first choice to visit, as the Mother of a passionate young fisherman, it is usually unavoidable. Our Little Man’s debating skills are quite sharp and he tactfully emphasised the small point which involves him patiently following me around the souks…
A word of warning – do not wear your best shoes!
Although the energy of the area starts out as infectious, there comes a time when you might crave a quiet spot of down time and the ‘Creekside Restaurant & Cafe’ can offer just that. With tables positioned ‘creekside’ and a good selection of freshly prepared food, juices and smoothies on the menu, all that is left to do is chill out and enjoy the view. The most perfect way to finish your day.
Related Post: Keen to continue exploring the creek? Pop over to Our Big Dubai Adventure where Tani will show you around the Dubai Creek Harbour Promenade and a Family event called Rise DCH (time sensitive).
As you know our family has made a lifestyle commitment to embrace Less Stuff and enjoy More Experiences. A weekend exploring Dubai Creek has certainly provided us with this opportunity.
Gently exposing our Children to contrasting ways of life is important to us as Parents, as we strive to create a balance with their other more privileged adventures. A healthy dose of Keeping It Real in the anticipation of nurturing respectful, grounded and grateful adults.
Although our Children have become accustomed to hearing the haunting echo of the daily call to prayer, they are still adjusting to the dynamics of being in a busy multicultural crowd, as well as the colourful culture of market banter.
Over the course of the weekend we also found ourselves surrounded by a healthy mix of people from different socio-economic backgrounds which provoked unexpected, yet interesting, Family conversations…
How many other Expat Families can relate to similar situations?
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Love to continue this conversations via the comment section below or you can find me over at the CWMS Social Media pages –
Looking forward to hearing from you,