Deira: discover Dubai’s roots
Deira neighbourhood, together with Bur Dubai, Karama and Satwa neighbourhoods, is the living image of Dubai’s past and the city’s roots can still be seen here. The essence of Dubai has been forever captured in its narrow streets and souks. If you’re a history fan, you’ll enjoy the traditions and local culture in Deira – also known as Old Dubai – far more than the districts packed with skyscrapers.
Everything seems part of a ritual in this neighbourhood: crossing the canal in a boat (that only costs 1 AED), listening to the squawking seagulls, admiring the old buildings from the water, and disembarking at the jetty to enter another world. It’s a maze of labyrinthine streets that reveal a culture closer to Arabia than New York, where salespeople greet you as you pass by and the scent of incense blends with that of delicious stews bubbling in restaurants. A trip to Dubai would be incomplete without visiting Deira and discovering the origins of this city and the emirate, while learning about its exciting and meteoric history that proves that any country’s future can change from one moment to the next.
- Historia del barrio de Deira
- Lugares que tienes que ver en Deira
- Recomendaciones para visitarlo
- Dónde alojarse cerca de Deira
History of Deira neighbourhood
As you cross by boat, you’ll begin to notice the shapes of this historic zone and hear the call to prayer, making you feel as though you’re really in an Arab emirate for the first time. If you’ve only visited Downtown, the Marina and the artificial islands, you might have felt as though you could be anywhere in the world. In contrast, here, when you cross the canal in an abra or dhow and see the earthen colour of the buildings, the subtle decoration that is reminiscent of the architecture of Al-Andalus, the old boats that were once used for fishing and now transport tourists from one side to another… You might well wonder: how did this happen? How could the city have evolved so fast, from one moment to the next?
Here’s a brief historical outline to explain this remarkable change. Dubai was a walled-off city at the beginning of the 19th century but in 1820 Great Britain signed an agreement with local governors that meant it could be used for trade routes. This opened up the emirate to an exchange of trade with other countries in the world. In 1833, Maktoum bin Butti decided to bring his people to the mouth of the Dubai estuary, converting Dubai a fishing village. Trade flourished between 1894 and 1966, and Dubai started to receive businesspeople and workers from other countries. When it looked as though the decline of the pearl trade would hit it hard, the key feature of its history appeared: oil. Growth from 1966 onwards was meteoric. In little more than fifty years, the little trading port transformed into a futuristic metropolis with incredible buildings such as the Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab.
Essential places to visit in Deira
Once you’ve decided to include Deira neighbourhood among your plans in Dubai, you’ll be interested to learn about its most important spots. But remember to save some spare time to walk around, go shopping and soak up the culture. You can easily walk from one place to the next, so we recommend taking your time and staying to eat in Deira because it has excellent restaurants that serve traditional Dubai-style dishes.
Gold Souk and Spice Souk
Dubai’s souks are packed with all the products you’d expect to find in this type of local market: spices, hand-crafted goods, dried fruit and nuts, incense, fabric, etc. This universe of narrow streets and shops is home to two very special souks: the Gold Souk and the Spice Souk. The first is a calm, tidy and clean place with gleaming shop windows and pieces that have won world records for their size. It consists of several streets that compete to have the most eye-catching windows displaying all kinds of gold jewellery, diamonds, rubies, pearls and more. It’s definitely a great opportunity to pick up an exclusive souvenir of your holiday.
If your budget doesn’t run to jewels, why not take a look at the nearby Spice Souk? Enjoy the scent of dozens of spices, choose the ones you like most or try something new. Dates, tea, pistachios and other dried fruit also make wonderful souvenirs to take home with you. Other themed souks are also interesting, such as the Perfume Souk (in Sikkat Al Khali Street) where you can have an exclusive perfume created just for you, and the Textile Souk, which is full of gorgeous fabrics for making clothes and dressing the home.
Al Mamzar Beach Park
If you’re spending the day in Deira, take some time to relax in a huge park next to the beach: Al Mamzar Beach Park. This 106-hectare park contains three swimming pools, green zones for picnics and BBQs, playgrounds and gardens with over 1,600 palm trees and 300 coconut palms. And, naturally, it has beautiful white sand beaches that are lapped by the warm waters of the Persian Gulf. The perfect place to visit as a family!
This house dates from the end of the 19th century and shows visitors what a domestic home was like at that time, also revealing how family life was organised in the emirate. The meeting point for family members was the Al Makhzam room where they ate and spent time together. The centre runs experiences that include cultural talks with a brunch, giving you the chance to try traditional home-made cooking. Make sure you explore every inch of the house to see the photography exhibitions with images of everyday life.
Tips for visiting Deira
Our tips for visiting Deira are very simple: take your time, cross the canal by boat and stroll around the narrow streets to enjoy its architectural details, shops and atmosphere. If you visit in the morning, stay to eat locally and order off a traditional menu. And if you have the chance, cross the canal by boat at dusk, a magical moment when the city seems to take on another dimension.
If you’re the type who gets lost easily, take a map to find your way (Google Maps also works) because people often lose their way in the souks. If you buy spices or perfume, store them in the suitcase you’re going to check in on your way home to avoid any problems at the airport.
Where to stay near Deira
Dubai is a well-connected city and, despite its size, it won’t take you long to get to Deira, so choose a hotel that suits your tastes, budget and needs. Interesting options include: Barceló Residences Dubai Marina, which has 253 luxury apartments in an elegant tower; Occidental Al Jaddaf, a four-star hotel with 236 large, stylish rooms, and Dukes The Palm, a Royal Hideaway Hotel, a luxury five-star hotel with a private beach on Palm Jumeirah. This last hotel has 279 rooms, 285 apartments and a wide range of sophisticated dining options. Two wonderful four-star hotels are located a little further out from the centre: Occidental Dubai Production City, near the Dubai Expo, and Occidental Sharjah Grand, in Sharjah, a nearby city.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is there to do in Deira neighbourhood?
Deira neighbourhood is perfect for discovering the history of Dubai and this district, often called Old Dubai, reveals the origins of the city. Strolling along its streets, visiting the souks, Heritage House and going to the beach are great activities in Deira.
Where is Deira neighbourhood?
Deira neighbourhood is on the north shore of the Dubai estuary, close to the international airport. This historic district is the area where the first traders and fishermen settled and represents the origins of Dubai.
How do you get to Deira neighbourhood?
You can travel to Deira by public transport. If you take the metro, get off at Union station for the dhow jetty, at Al Ras station if you want the Gold Souk, and Al Rigga station to be as close as possible to the restaurant zone.