There are so many layers to Dubai. The old, the new, the modest, the extreme... Dubai has it all. But why do we sometimes feel like there is nothing authentic to do in this modern city? Possibly because we don't often take the opportunity to venture beyond our comfort zone to explore the unusual or unfamiliar. Now that the weather is pulling us outdoors, it is especially the time to seek out all the nooks and crannies of this world-class destination. Our suggestion is to start with a real genuine spot bursting with culture, foods, and energy - Bur Dubai!
Heading to Bur Dubai, Nicole and I had three major goals on our agenda. The first was to experience the differences the area has to offer versus the Dubai everyone sees in tourist brochures. Second, we wanted to see the area sparkling with lights at night (we went during Diwali). The last goal was to visit the Bur Dubai Hindu temple. With cameras ready, it was time to feel the lively, energetic vibes of this interesting part of Dubai's diverse cultural landscape.
Fantastic Shops to Peek Into
Fabulous Food & Drinks
Bur Dubai has many restaurants serving food from the local region and from India. They range from fast window type service to full sit down dining. The options are yours to explore!
In need of a cold drink, we tried the Mumbai Masti Juice Bar. On a hot evening, the air conditioning inside felt so good. The waiters brought a few things to sample, I'm not sure what they were, but I can guarantee I have not had them before. The food was really tasty and not killer spicy (which often is the case for a Canadian eating Indian food :-)) But I'm not going to lie, Nicole and I were not keen on the drink we chose - Falooda. It looked very pretty, but I couldn't get used to sipping cold noodles through my straw. Maybe it is one of those things that requires a couple of tries to truly enjoy.
The Hindu Temple
With food and drinks out of the way, we headed towards the Temple. One of the things that makes Dubai so special, is the way that a wide variety of different cultural backgrounds and beliefs can live harmoniously together. It really is very special. Life in Bur Dubai is a perfect example of this. The Hindu temple and the Mosque sit back-to-back with each other. Muslims and Hindus going to pray peacefully amongst each other. It's a beautiful thing.
Once you enter the "streets" leading to the temple you must take off your shoes. The streets are not really streets, but more like smaller alleys. Walking through these alleys in your bare feet, looking at all the stalls full of religious items, flowers, and plates of food and flowers for offering is so magical. It really felt like we were exploring somewhere beyond Dubai.
Back stairs led up to the very busy, main worship area of the Temple. I don't think it was hard to tell that Nicole and I didn't have much experience in this setting but people were very accommodating and quickly pointed us in the areas we were allowed to go.
The Streets Come Alive at Night
It was daylight when we entered the Temple but night when we exited. The evening in Dubai is when everyone comes out to gather and Bur Dubai was no exception. The streets became more congested and the sidewalks full of activity. Add to this all the lights from Diwali and you have a very stimulating atmosphere to enjoy.
Take the Abra Down the Creek
We walked past the textile souq to make our way to the Abra station. I have taken an Abra from the textile souq to the spice souq before but only in daytime. I highly recommend trying it at night. It has a completely different feel with the lights from the buildings reflecting on the water. Instead of cruising directly across the canal to the spice souq station, we floated further down the canal. Beyond all the beautiful lights and the boats quietly passing by, I saw a new development that I didn't even know existed. Al Seef is a new area by Meraas and looks super. From what I understand it is partially open now with the rest opening in the new year. You can be sure I'm definitely coming back for a visit of this area.
Have you ever thought about where the boats fill up with petrol? Having only gone the short distance back and forth between the two souqs before, I had never really thought how the boats fuel up. Lucky for me, on this night, our driver made a detour for petrol and we got to watch as he filled his boat. It wasn't that this was a super interesting thing to see but just more a moment where you connect the dots on how things happen. I really enjoyed this pit stop :-)
Our Final Stop - Personalized Perfume
By the time we reached the Spice souq on the Deira side of the canal, it was almost time to head home. We quickly walked through the Gold Souq and made a pit stop at one of the perfume shops. Here we had a quick lesson behind the scent of Oud. Living in Dubai, this is a fragrance you become very familiar with. It was interesting to learn where it came from and to see how the scents can be mixed to come up with your own personalized perfume. After perfume shopping, it was time to call our Uber and head home (another reason to use a taxi or Uber and not your car, is so that you don't have to start and stop your tour at the same location.)
We were only gone for 5 hours but it felt like we had been on a mini vacation miles away from the usual. I highly recommend exploring this part of Dubai. When it comes time for you to leave Dubai you will surely regret not experiencing it!
1. Our Route
Below, is more or less the walking map of our route that may help you out. Do not follow it exactly. Instead, take your time to meander the lively streets and sample the local food of this lively district. My only warning/recommendation is not to drive here. From what we saw, there is limited parking and the traffic is very congested. We took an Uber to Al Fahidi metro station and started our walk from there. Do yourself a favour and take an Uber, Careem, or metro. (The red line on the map below is showing how far down we took an Abra ride before turning around and heading to Deira Old Souq station.)