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Arts & Culture

Top 11 spots to explore the heritage and culture of Dubai

Mohammed Kazim

Mohammed Kazim

Culture enthusiast

Wed, February 28, 2024

A city with soul, each district in Dubai has its own identity. Follow culture expert Mohammed Kazim as he reveals his favourite heritage hotspots and activities.

Mohammed Kazim

Mohammed Kazim

Culture enthusiast

A city with soul, each district in Dubai has its own identity. Follow culture expert Mohammed Kazim as he reveals his favourite heritage hotspots and activities.


Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood


Step back in time with a visit to Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. Once an important administrative and commercial district, the area now offers a glimpse into Dubai of the late 19th and early 20th century. Discover traditional architecture as you navigate the winding alleys and sunlit squares. The neighbourhood is bustling with museums, exhibitions and cultural activities, and it’s always worth checking if there are any special events taking place during your visit – Al Fahidi hosts numerous cultural events throughout the year, such as Sikka Art Fair and Heritage Week. You’ll find plenty of traditional teahouses and cafes, where you can soak up the old-school ambience.


Essential info


Opening hours: 7am to 8pm daily 

Location: Al Fahidi, next to Dubai Creek

Nearby attractions: SMCCU, Coins Museum, Coffee MuseumAl Seef

Nearby cafes and restaurants: Arabian Tea House, Al Fanar Restaurant & Cafe, Wokyo Noodle Bar

Dress code: Wear modest clothing, including skirts or shorts past the knee. Read our guide on what to wear in Dubai for more insights

Prices: Entry is free, with no booking required


Textile Souk

Textile Souk in Dubai

No trip to Dubai would be complete without visiting one if its vibrant souks. The Textile Souk in Bur Dubai is the perfect place if you’re shopping for fabrics, or just want to enjoy the colourful surroundings. Here, you can browse hundreds of reels of raw and embroidered fabric in a dizzying array of colours and textures. There are also plenty of ready-made outfits available from local designers.

Essential info


Opening hours: 9am to 2pm, then 4pm to 9pm daily except Sunday, when the souk is closed  

Location: Bur Dubai, next to Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood and Dubai Creek

Nearby attractions: Meena Bazaar, Abra Creek Crossing, Museum of Illusions

Nearby cafes and restaurants: Al Ustad Special Kabab, Bayt Al Wakeel, Mazmi Coffee and More

Dress code: It's a good idea to wear comfortable clothes that are easy to change, if you're planning to try on some new threads in the souk

Prices: Free to enter, no booking required


Bur Dubai Grand Mosque 

A short walk from the Textile Souk is the Grand Mosque in Bur Dubai. Built in the traditional Islamic style, this stunning mosque forms the hub of Dubai’s religious life. Laced with blue mosaic and intricate geometric carvings, it’s an architectural masterpiece – and, after dark, the spectacular illuminations make it the most photographed mosque in Dubai. Nearby is the Imam Ali Mosque, commonly known as the Iranian Mosque. Founded by the local Iranian community, this mosque is a real architectural delight, ornately designed in the traditional Fatimid and Persian style.

The UAE is also home to a large Hindu community and it’s well worth visiting their temple, nestled above the labyrinth of old shops nearby the Grand Mosque. Built in the 1950s, this is the only Hindu temple in the emirate, and provides a peaceful, serene environment for visitors and worshippers alike.


Essential info


Opening hours: Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week

Best time to visit: Enjoy a free guided tour of the mosque (no booking needed) from 9:30am to 11:30am, Sunday to Thursday 

Location: Bur Dubai, near Dubai Creek

Nearby attractions: Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, Gold Souk, Al Seef

Nearby cafes and restaurants: Bastakiah Nights, Al Khayma Heritage Restaurant, Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor

Dress code: Wear loose-fitting, conservative clothing that covers the ankles

Prices: Entry is free, as are the morning guided tours

Where to book: No booking is required, but you can visit the website to find out more details of the tours


Dubai Creek


Abras are small motorised water taxis that ferry passengers between Bur Dubai and Deira. These traditional boats are very cheap (just AED1 each way, cash only) and offer the perfect way to experience the historic Dubai Creek. Once you arrive in Deira, head to the famous Spice Souk and immerse yourself in a rich landscape of colours and aromas from the furthest corners of the globe.

Essential info


Opening hours: You can visit Dubai Creek any time, day or night. Abra (traditional wooden boat) crossings begin at around 6am daily

Best time to visit: Sunrise and sunset are popular times to visit Dubai Creek. From October to March, you can stay outside for longer due to the cooler temperatures 

Location: Dubai Creek, in between Deira and Bur Dubai

Nearby attractions: Perfume Souk, Queen Elizabeth 2, Women's Museum – Bait Al Banat

Nearby cafes and restaurants: Al Bait Al Qadeem, Cielo Sky Lounge, Aroos Damascus

Dress code: Check the weather forecast, as you're likely to be outside a lot. Wear lighter clothes in summer, and a sweater or light jacket at night in winter

Prices: An abra journey costs just AED1 each way (or AED2 with air-conditioning). Make sure you bring cash to pay with

Where to book: For AED120 per hour, you can hire an abra for a private trip along the creek. Contact the RTA or go to an abra station at Dubai Creek


Al Ustad Special Kebab

Iranian Restaurant in Dubai

For mouthwatering Iranian cuisine, visit Al Ustad Special Kabab near Al Musalla Tower. This diner has been producing wonderfully authentic fare since the 1970s and is now something of an institution in Dubai. It’s a friendly and inviting spot, with colourful photos lining the walls…and plenty of tasty kebabs on the grill.


Essential info


Opening hours: 11am to 1am daily except Friday (5:30pm to 1am) 

Location: Al Mankhool, near Sharaf DG Metro Station

Nearby attractions: BurJuman, Dubai Frame, Dubai Garden Glow

Prices: Dishes typically cost around AED25 to AED40; see the menu here

Where to book: No booking is required


Al Shindagha Museum


Sat on the shore of the Creek, Al Shindagha is a historical neighbourhood where the ruling family set up home in the early 20th century. Al Shindagha Museum celebrates Dubai’s remarkable history and culture, and the wider Emirati heritage. The museum hosts the ‘Story of the Creek’ – a stunning multimedia experience that charts how modern Dubai took shape on the banks of the Creek. It’s also home to the aromatic Perfume House, where you can learn about traditional Emirati scented oils and perfumes, and their role in religious and cultural life.

Essential info


Opening hours: 10am to 8pm daily (last entry at 7pm) 

Location: Al Shindagha, next to Dubai Creek

Nearby attractions: Jumeirah Mosque, Etihad Museum, Zabeel Park

Nearby cafes and restaurants: Ramee Dhow Cruise, Nikki Beach Dubai, Kimura-Ya

Dress code: Wear modest clothing, including skirts or shorts past the knee

Prices: Tickets cost AED50 per adult, AED20 per student (age five to 24) and AED40 per person for groups of five and above

Where to book: Visit the museum's website


Alserkal Avenue


A trip to Alserkal Avenue will take you to the cutting-edge of culture in modern Dubai. Opened in 2008, the district is home to a diverse and vibrant community of contemporary arts organisations and homegrown businesses – a mix of boutique shops, galleries, cafes and performance spaces. The studio for our high-end Arabian footwear brand Tamashee is based here and it’s a pleasure to share this address with so many creative people and organisations.

Essential info


Opening hours: 10am to 7pm daily

Location: Al Quoz Industrial Area 1

Nearby attractions: Cinema Akil, Bounce Dubai, Times Square Center

Nearby cafes and restaurants: Wild & The Moon, Nightjar Coffee Roasters, Ganache Chocolatier 

Prices: Entry to Alserkal Avenue is free; the cost of your visit depends on the activities you choose

Where to book: See Alserkal Avenue's website for the latest events and info


To The Moon & Back Coffee

This specialty coffee house in Jumeirah is a firm favourite of mine. As well as serving a fine selection of coffee, it’s also a gathering place for local creatives and artists. So grab your favourite blend, sink into one of the luxurious back couches and find inspiration in the astronomically-themed surroundings.

Essential info


Opening hours: 7am to 11pm daily

Location: Jumeirah 2, next to Jumeirah Beach and Dubai Water Canal

Nearby attractions: Safa Park, Sunset Mall, Kite Beach

Prices: Breakfast costs around AED35 to AED50, a main course for lunch or dinner around AED45 to AED70

Where to book: No booking required, see the venue's Instagram page for more details


Al Safa Art & Design Library

Al Safa Art & Design Library was built and curated specifically for designers and artists. Located on Al Wasl Road, it’s a striking contemporary building filled with stylish reading areas, galleries, co-working spaces, audio-visual rooms and a cafe. A large open courtyard hosts recitals and film nights in the summer too. It’s a truly modern space that inspires creativity and reflection for artists and visitors alike.

Essential info


Opening hours: 8am to 8pm daily, except Friday (8am to 12pm) and Saturday (closed) 

Location: Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah 3

Nearby attractions: Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, OliOli, 3D World Selfie Museum

Nearby cafes and restaurants: Goldfish Sushi & Yakitori, Three by Eva Halasa, Cipriani Dolci

Prices: Admission is free, see the website for more details



Once used to house military personnel, Karama is now a relatively gentrified neighbourhood – as well as one of the most populous districts in Dubai. Its many restaurants offer a rich range of ethnic cuisines from the Indian subcontinent, such as Gujarati, Rajasthani and Keralan. There are also some architectural features worth looking out for, like the distinctively uniform low-rise residential buildings that characterise much of the area.

Essential info


Location: Karama is situated within Bur Dubai, and close to neighbourhoods such as Al Raffa and Al Mankhool

Nearby attractions: Children's City, Dubai Flea Market, Frying Pan Adventures food tour

Nearby cafes and restaurants: Maharaja Bhog Restaurant, Calicut Paragon, Chef Lanka




Nestled high in the stunning Hajar Mountains, Hatta has become a hub for outdoor activities such as biking, hiking and kayaking. But those seeking more cultural nourishment will want to experience the rustic charms of Hatta Heritage Village. This lovingly-recreated traditional mountain village allows you to experience rural life in the UAE before modern development. The buildings are constructed with traditional materials such as wood, mud and stone, and are authentically furnished inside to bring the past vividly to life.

Essential info


Best time to visit: Hatta's many exciting outdoor activities are best enjoyed during the summer, when the weather is cooler 

Location: In the Hajar Mountains, around 130km south-east of central Dubai

Nearby attractions: Hatta Wadi HubHatta DamHatta Dome ParkHatta HorsesHatta AdventuresHappiness Farm Hatta

Nearby cafes and restaurants: Tanor LahmAl HajarainHatta Honey Bee Discovery Centre 

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