Deira makes up the ‘old town’ of the international and sprawling city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Boarded by the Persian Gulf, the old city of Sharjah and the bustling Dubai Creek, Deira is a welcome blend of old and new in Dubai with recent investments and older Islamic culture making for an exciting fusion for tourists around the world.
The recent Versace Dubai Hotel is testament to this on-going revival of the old town. What attracts millions of visitors to this day are the numerous museums, intransigent souks, and of course, old Dubai Creek.
Things to do
Anyone who says Dubai’s history only goes back fifty or sixty years when the investment started pouring in has clearly never visited Al Fahidi fort. Now serving to house Dubai Museum, Al Fahidi fort was built in 1787 and as such is the oldest extant building in Dubai.
The fort was built to protect the town from night raids from rival tribes but since its inception has served many other functions: among them, a royal palace, a garrison for troops, a prison, and now a museum. The most popular times to visit the museum are between August and April, so if you’re looking for a more immersive, quiet experience then perhaps you should consider visiting in the early summertime.
Sheikh Said Al Maktoum House is a unique fusion of different architectural elements and worth a visit for anyone interested in Islamic architecture and the city more generally. As the name suggests, the tower-like structure was formerly the residence of the sometime ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum bin Hasher Al Maktoum.
Now the house serves as a reminder of the pre-globalised culture of Dubai’s old town both in its architectural witness and also as it houses a museum memorialising the old town.
The souks in Deira are the modest remnants of the old covered souks that once spanned Deira. Although smaller than many souks in the Middle East, the Spice Souk in Deira still boasts an interesting collection of spices and exotica and the shopkeepers are often friendly and willing to speak English.
Meanwhile the Gold Souk is one of the largest gold markets in the world with over 700 shops. It has to be seen to be believed with just about anything you can imagine being fashioned in 16-, 18-, 20-, 22-, or 24-carat gold.
Dubai Creek is a saltwater creek that historically divided Dubai into Bur Dubai and Deira, now the new town and the old town respectively. Known to the ancient Greeks as the River Zara Dubai Creek had a long life as a crucial trading river but now, as boat trade diminishes, it is primarily used to offer boat tours across the city.
Nevertheless, from Dubai Creek you can still get a sense of the old Bur Dubai and Deira with cargo boats unloading their wares noisily into the beating heart of the Gold and Spice Souks. From here it is just a short way to either Deira’s rich history or to the vibrant and diverse centres of commerce and trade in Dubai’s new districts.
Our Top Tips
• Visit twisty Narrow Street with small shops and local coffee house.
• Shopping for spices, gold or perfume at the souks, one of the largest gold markets in the world, a stroll through the dazzling arcades leaves an indelible impression.
• Deira Fish Market and its fascinating museum; apart from the wooden crates containing fish of all shapes, sizes and colors, there’s a little museum paying tribute to this once vital industry.
• Deira City Center Shopping Mall, the oldest mall in Dubai, is 25 years old.
• Walk on the walkway by British Embassy located on the Bur Dubai side and visit underwater tunnel Shindagha, which connects Deira district to Palm Deira.