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When visiting a country with countless attractions, most tourist guides seem to rush us through the ‘top 10’ and back to the hotel leaving behind many undiscovered hidden gems. For independent travellers who want to step off the main route and explore downside streets at their own pace, we have put together a few itineraries to travel on foot. Follow our footpaths to explore some of the awe-inspiring areas and landmarks the country has to offer.
SHOP FOR TREASURESin Deira Dubai
(Approx. 2 hours)
Before the breakout of shopping malls, Deira was the commercial centre of Dubai. Despite losing its importance to modern developments, Deira is still very popular among tourists who want to practice their bargaining skills while wandering the old souks with their wind towers, inviting merchants and narrow alleys.
Highlights: (1) Deira Grand Souk (2) Al Ahmadiya School (3) Heritage House (4) Gold Souk
Begin your tour at Deira Grand Souk located adjacent the Deria abra and water taxi station from the creek. The Grand Souk, also known as the Spice Souk, is a great place to indulge in fragrant spices, henna and other traditional goods. Here all the products are spread before you in same sacks that they were shipped in.
Exiting the souk, turn towards Al Ras Road leaving the creek behind you and dig deep into the neighbourhood to find Al Ahmadiya School. This is first school in Dubai. It dates back to 1912 and is a great example of the exquisite architecture of those days. After admiring the great historic value of the school, find your way to the Al Ahmadiya Street. Around the corner stands Heritage House. This 38-year old courtyard house belonged to Sheikh Ahmed bin Dalmouk, the founder of Al Ahmadiya School. The house has been turned to a museum which offers a peek at the bygone. The next stop is the Gold Souk. Take a stroll down this souk to truly understand why Dubai is often called the "City of Gold".
For anyone who is not used to walking a lot, Big Bus hop-on hop-off tours can be a good approach to get the most of your walking tour and circumvent from tired feet.
DISCOVER THE HERITAGEin Bur Dubai
(Approx. 4 hours)
Before the arrival of skyscrapers, Dubai consisted of small neighbourhoods. The most remarkable of these neighbourhoods was Bur Dubai. The area is still true to its origins, thanks to the government’s efforts to preserve this heritage. On this walking tour, you will experience the nostalgia of old Dubai and cover all the significant heritage sites.
Highlights: (1) Heritage & Diving Village (2) House of Sheikh Obaid bin Thani (3) House of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum (4) Al Shindagah Fort (5) Bait Al Wakeel Restaurant (6) Textile Souk (7) Grand Mosque (8) Dubai Museum/Al Fahidi Fort (9) Al Bastakiya
To get started on this amazing journey, head down to the mouth of creek and start making your way up alongside of it. The first attraction you will encounter is the Heritage & Diving Village. Here you will find exhibits and demonstrations of traditional practices and crafts in a setting that reflects the maritime culture of the emirate.
As you make your way further up the creek, and past a stretch of restaurant and cafes, you will arrive at the House of Sheikh Obaid bin Thani and the House of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum. These two buildings are of great significance to the history of Dubai as they used to be the living quarters of the emirate’s leaders before they were turned to museums that showcase items and photographs of Dubai’s days of yore. Further up the pathway and you will see on old watchtower made of stone standing to your right. This is Al Shindagha Fort, responsible for the safety of the people in the early days. Turning away from the fort and back to the creek will lead you to Bait Al Wakeel. Overlooking the water, this building was built in 1934 to be the first office building in Dubai. Bait Al Wakeel has been redesigned as a heritage showcase restaurant. Right outside the restaurant, the bust-ling Textiles Souk awaits, with its colourful storefronts and chatty shop owners. Make your way through the Souk until you pop out in front of the Grand Mosque. This mosque with its 54 domes is a dominant edifice in the old city. It was rebuilt in 1998, to resemble in style its original architecture of 1900.
A very short distance from the mosque is Dubai Museum, formerly known as Al Fahidi Fort. Built in 1787 of coral rock and mortar, Al Fahidi Fort, which once guarded the town, still depicts those days with two cannons at the main gate and galleries that recreate some historic scenes on the inside.
From the Eastern Wall of the fort turn left towards Al Fahidi roundabout to get to the last destination on in this tour, Al Bastakiya. This is one of the oldest residential areas in the city of Dubai. After the restoration of the locality's old buildings and cultural flavour in 2005, Al Bastakiya became a destination for tourists and those interested in learning about the history of Dubai, and what once used to be a small town for Persian merchants and fishermen, is now a quarter abundant with art galleries and traditional restaurants. Be sure to drop by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding. Located in a traditional wind tower house in the heart of Al Bastakiya, the centre offers information about the UAE, cultural activities and tours and meals with local flair.
At Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
Breakfast (AED 70 per person)
Every Monday & Wednesday at 10:00am
Lunch (AED 80 per person)
Every Sunday & Tuesday at 1:00pm
Dinner (AED 95 per person)
Every Tuesday evening at 7:00pm
Brunch (AED 85 per person)
Every Saturday at 10:30am
Tour includes a walk through the historic district and a cultural discovery Q&A session. Guests will be treated to Arabic tea, coffee and dates.
Heritage Tour (AED 65 per person)
Every Saturday from 9am to 10:30am and every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday from 10:30am to 12:00pm.
Walking Tour (AED 50 per person)
Sunday through Thursday from 9:00am - 10:00am.
Advance booking is required (Tel: +971 4 353 6666)
SEE THE BEAUTYof Abu Dhabi
(Approx. 5 hours)
Abu Dhabi is known for its beauty and greenery which is manifested around its Corniche Road that stretches along a manicured waterfront.
Highlights: (1) Ittihad Square (2) Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation (3) Qasr Al Hosn (4) Family Park (5) The Corniche Road (6) Ettihad Towers (7) Emirates Palace (8) Heritage Village
Start your tour from Al Ittihad Square on Thani Road. The square presents a photographic opportunity with four oversized symbols of the Emirati culture and identity: cannon, coffee pot, makabbah, and mabaakhur. Once you are done snapping some photos, head in the direction the cannon in the square points to. Before your reach the second intersection of streets, turn to your right to see Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation. This is a centre of art and learning that hosts a variety of events, including art exhibits, lectures, concerts and art workshops throughout the year. The building of the centre has typical Islamic characteristics: arched columns, elaborate courtyards and beautifully carved doorways.
Located towards the rear of the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation is Qasr Al Hosn Fort. The grounds of this pure white fort are the birthplace of the first watchtower built in the emirate in the 1760s. The fort remains a great example of the city's heritage and identity. After visiting the fort, proceed towards the Corniche Road via 5th Road to reach at Family Park with its fountains, ponds and lush gardens. You might want to stretch or lie down over the grass for a few you minutes as you still have a lot road to cover on this tour.
Pick up your walk at Abu Dhabi Corniche. This waterfront boulevard is a favourite stroll spot for visitors and residents alike. You should be able to see Emirates Palace from here. Walk towards it until you reach its grand gate. Opposite to the gate stands a cluster of five breath-taking towers known as Ettihad Towers. Together, these towers constitute an exclusive address for shopping, dining and entertainment. Situated on level 74 of Tower 2 Etihad Towers, the Observation Deck is the highest vantage point of Abu Dhabi. It offers splendid views of Abu Dhabi’s Corniche, and magnificent cityscape. Once you’ve marvelled the beauty of the city from above, head back down to marvel the beauty of its most luxurious hotel, Emirates Place.
See that road that stretches ahead into the water? That’s where you need to head to get to the Heritage Village, which provides an interesting glimpse into the emirate’s past. At the end of the road, you will come to a crossroad, keep right to reach your destination. Upon arrival, you will be greeted by craftsmen and women demonstrating traditional skills in a traditional setting.
ENJOY THE SERENITYof Shajrah
(Approx. 3 hours)
The emirate of Shajrah is recognized for its culture and serenity. And although it does not enjoy the fame of its neighbouring Dubai, there’s whole lot of fascinating places to visit in this beautiful emirate.
Highlights: (1) Eye of the Emirates (2) Al Qasba (3) Al Majaz Island (4) Al Majaz Waterfront (5) Heritage Café (6) Al Noor Mosque (7) Buhairah Corniche Park (8) Blue Souk
From Al Khan Lagoon, start your walking tour at the mouth of Al Qasba canal which connects Al Khan Lagoon with the other lagoon in Sharjah, Khalid Lagoon. Standing on one of the banks of the canal is the 60-metre tall Eye of the Emirates. This is the most visible landmark in Al Qasba, and one of the largest observation wheels in the region. Step aboard one of the air-conditioned cabins to be steadily carried upwards. From here, you can enjoy spectacular views of the city and the surrounding landscape all the way along the Gulf coast.
Once your joyride is over, continue walking up the Al Qasba Canal lined with shops, restaurants and kiosks. Here you can also enjoy a leisurely abra cruise in the lagoon. Once you have reached the other end of the canal, which opens to Khalid Lagoon, you will have to make your way across to the other bank of the canal by crossing the bridge connecting the canal banks.
Coming down the bridge, you will see Al Majaz Waterfront as you loop around Khalid Lagoon. Here there is fun for the whole family with a splash park and mini golf along with a great selection of restaurants and cafés overlooking the Sharjah Fountain. Sending jets of water soaring 100 metres high in the air, The Sharjah Fountain is one of the biggest fountains in the Gulf region. Installed in the late 70s, the fountain has become an iconic attraction in Sharjah and continues to be a fascinating sight for visitors. In addition to that, there are cybernetic fountains that combine with lasers, light, video, audio and movement to create a true spectacle.
Continuing along the lagoon will lead you to a small café known as Heritage Café. A few steps from the Heritage Café lies Al Noor Mosque which has marvellous architecture and is the only mosque in Sharjah to open its doors to non-Muslim visitors so that they may learn about the UAE’s culture and religion. Past the mosque you will come along a vast green area that looks like a palm-tree farm. Known as Buhairah Corniche Park, this is the perfect place for a picnic or to cool down under the shade of palm trees.
Walking further out along the lagoon, you will pass by Holiday International Hotel and Marbella Resort. From here you will be able to see the iconic Blue Souk, also known as the Central Market, situated up ahead. Upon reaching the fully air-conditioned souk, you will find that it houses about 600 small yet charming shops selling traditional arts and crafts, jewellery, antiques, rugs, textiles and other goods. The souk comprises two buildings – one of which is dominated by gold and jewellery merchants – that are connected together through suspended pedestrian crossings. If you are here to shop, then haggling is the name of the game.
Where to find?
+971 4 258 37 78
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