Rediscovering the Dubai Creek

Half a century ago, Dubai was virtually unknown outside the Arab world. Little is known about its beginnings or its first inhabitants. Now, almost everybody knows that Dubai was a flourishing fishing and trading village where members of the Bani Yas tribe, one of the most renowned tribes of Southern Arabia, settled in the 19th century. They established the famed Al Maktoum dynasty that rules the emirate up to this day, transforming the humble village into a booming metropolis.

Amidst all the gigantic skyscrapers and the sprawling man-made islands, Dubai stays in touch with its roots by taking extra care of its cultural heritage. The very heart and soul of Dubai is deeply entrenched and fully preserved in the quaintly charming district of Old Dubai along the historic Dubai Creek.

Dubai Creek or Khor Dubai is where the fishing, pearl diving, and trading industries were concentrated in the old days. It was the first center of commerce before the world’s tallest and largest architectures caught the eye of the international world. Its teeming rich marine resources make the creek an abundant source of living for the Emiratis of old. It also served as a port for trading dhows that come from neighboring countries like India and Africa. While pearl diving literally took a dive in the 1930s, the creek is still bustling with boats supplying cargo and passage within the area.

Dubai Creek has been lined up to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It measures 14 kilometers long, and divides Old Dubai into two equally scenic localities, Bur Dubai and Deira. These were the old business districts of the city before the hub shifted to New Dubai along Sheikh Zayed Road. Apart from abras and fishing boats, traditional Arabian dhows now ply the winding canal offering recreational dinner cruises to tourists, residents, and locals. There is no perfect way to relive the glory days than with a nostalgic dhow cruise Dubai Creek dinner.

Going on a cruise onboard a traditional wooden dhow somehow takes you back in time in a sophisticated and enchanting way. At night, the dhows light up in bright flashy colors as they welcome guests onboard. Once the dhow starts to sail down the creek, a generous buffet dinner is served comprising of a sumptuous mix of Arabian, Asian, and Continental cuisine. Magic shows, puppet shows, live singer and music, and Tanoura dances are some of the entertainment options that can be enjoyed onboard a dhow dinner cruise.

A dreamy dhow cruise along Dubai Creek also treats guests to amazing nighttime views of high-rise buildings on the Deira side vis-à-vis the historical structures of Bur Dubai. While malls and banks dot the Deira side of the creek, the picturesque Al Bastakiya Quarter, one of the oldest heritage sites, stand proud on the Bur Dubai side. It's a beautiful juxtaposition of Dubai’s past and present that every visitor should not miss.

For a truly immersive historical experience, you can sign up for cultural heritage tours and breakfasts at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding at Bastakiya. The Dubai Museum and the famed Textile Souk are also just short walks away. Further up the mouth of the creek is Shindagha, another interesting old area where you can visit the modest home-turned-museum of Dubai’s former ruler Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum.

Heavily ongoing right now is work on the Dubai Canal, a Dh1.76 billion project which will further extend the Dubai Creek, opening its one side to the Persian Gulf. It is scheduled to be completed by 2016.

To truly appreciate a country or a city, you must experience its culture and heritage. While Dubai boasts of jaw-dropping modern infrastructures, equally amazing are its cultural and heritage treasures nestled comfortably along the Dubai Creek. So climb aboard that dhow dinner cruise or stroll along the promenade on both Deira and Bur Dubai side, and treat yourself to an unforgettable experience that is uniquely Dubai.