Dubai is a big city, and there are so many things to see and do. However, due to the heat, it can be quite tiring and – at times – difficult to navigate the city on your own. Thus, I recommend signing up for a tour.
There are a number of companies which provide a variety of city tours. Whether you wish to spend half the day or a full day exploring, there is something for you. Many tours will organise pick-up from your hotel and will take you through the city to all the major sights.
When I was in Dubai, I chose to join a half-day tour. I arrived in Dubai from Scotland in the early morning, and chose to join the tour in the afternoon so that I could get my bearings and gain a sense of the city before embarking on my own adventures alone.
I was picked up from my hotel lobby in the early afternoon and we then picked up a few other passengers, our guide explaining the buildings and areas which we passed as we went along. We were (thankfully!) provided with bottles of cool water to combat the heat.
The first official stop of the tour was the Jumeirah Mosque. Unfortunately, we were not able to enter during our tour, but the mosque has an Open Doors policy by which all visitors are welcome to enter, ask questions and sample traditional Arabic coffee and sweets. On our tour, we were able to walk around the mosque and the gardens, which were quite peaceful.
The next stop was the renowned Kite Beach. We piled out of the bus to have a look and take photos, and being the excitable child that I am, I made a beeline for the water. I was already hot and sweaty, and I haven’t been to a beach in a while, so I was so happy to splash around at the water’s edge. As I walked back to the bus, I marvelled at the beach-goers and their bravery in battling the fierce Arabian sun (and the burning sand).
At the end of the beach was the famous sail-shaped Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, a seven star hotel hailed as “the most luxurious hotel in the world” and known for its incredible opulence – complete with gold-finished furnishings!
Once we were all back on the bus, we moved on to Al Fahidi Fort, a 200-year-old fort which was situated at the historical edge of urban Dubai. Below the fort, Dubai Museum has been constructed. On our tour, we were able to explore both, and they gave a really fascinating peek into life in Dubai before the discovery of oil, and how said discovery permanently changed the landscape of the city. The visit to the museum allowed us to learn about traditional practices such as falconry and camel-riding, and about the Bedouin lifestyle. We were also able to learn how Dubai interacted with other peoples and cultures through time. It was fascinating, and I was glad to gain another, more historical, perspective of the wonderful city which is Dubai.
Al Fahiidi Fort is not far from Dubai Creek, so the next part of the tour took us to the water. Here, we caught an abra, or water taxi, to take us to the other side of the creek to explore more of Old Dubai. The abra is a common mode of transport along the creek and there were many dotted across the water. We climbed on together and pushed off! Though the trip was short, being on the water was beautiful and I felt very far removed from the glamour and modernity commonly associated with Dubai.
Once we had crossed the Creek, we made our way to the Spice Souk and Gold Souk. The souks are true to their names: stores in the Spice Souk sell an array of spices, sweets and other foods, while the Gold Souk is home to an uncountable number of jewellery stores. The souks were a bit overwhelming (particularly for someone like me who finds shopping consistently stressful). But they held an energy which doesn’t exist in any of the grand malls, and it was great to experience a more traditional way of purchasing goods. I purchased some chocolate-flavoured tea and chocolate-covered dates from the Spice Souk – the variety which I chose were covered in chocolate made from camel milk!
When we were all shopped-out, it was time to head back to our respective hotels. As the sun set, the temperatures remained high. I felt drained from the heat and the sight-seeing, so I was glad to have a bus to take me back to my accommodation!
When I returned to my room, I cooled myself down with a shower and cider, and settled down with my chocolate-covered dates (the camel milk variety) to prepare for the next day’s adventures!