If you’re looking for the ultimate immersion experience into Old Dubai, this is the itinerary for you. (Note: it’s best to get an early start so as to avoid the heat of midday.) Begin at the edge of Bastakiya at the Dubai Coffee Museum, an amazing space entirely devoted to the past and present of coffee around the globe. There are incredible artifacts throughout the house, as well as a café upstairs serving every manner of coffee drink imaginable (from cardamom-scented Arabic to Vietnamese to syphon to pour-over and beyond). Now that you’re thoroughly caffeinated, you can either explore the charming side alleys of the Old Quarter [see our 3-hour itinerary - LINK] or head to the Dubai Museum in the restored Al Fahidi Fort. A quick spin will help you grasp the transformation of Dubai from sleepy pearling port as recently as the 1950s to the megalopolis it is today. Next up: the Bur Dubai Abra Station, for a ride across the Creek. The wooden taxi boats (approximately 30 cents a ride) are as authentic as it gets—they’re the way many of the city’s workers get to the Deira side (where they live). Along the way on the Creek, you’ll see traditional shows unloading their cargo; the whole scene is very Tintin. You’ll get off at the Old Souk Abra Station, directly in front of the Spice Souk. While the Spice and Gold Souks have become quite touristed (try to avoid the hawkers), the Fish Souk, with its gleaming rows of lobster, snapper, prawns, swordfish, and sturgeon, retains its authenticity. It also retains its authentic fish smell… so don’t say we didn’t warn you! Definitely do not visit during the summer months.
Start at the Dubai Coffee Museum and, once properly caffeinated, walk right around the corner on Al Fahidi and you’ll be in front of the Dubai Museum. From there, head on over towards the Dubai Creek where you can catch a traditional wooden taxi across the water to the Old Souk Abra Station. Be sure to check out all the fresh fish markets that line the street.
DUBAI COFFEE MUSEUM: 69-69 Al Faheide Historical Neighborhood- Villa No. 44; +971-(0)4-353-8777; coffeemuseum.ae
DUBAI MUSEUM: Al Fahidi Fort, Al Fahidi St.; +971-(0)4-353-1862; dubaitourism.ae; open Saturdays to Thursdays, from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Fridays from 2 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.