Back before Dubai was what it is today, Dubai had few real neighbourhoods and you were either east or west of the creek. But as we all know, Dubai has grown into a multitude of neighbourhoods and districts. It's all been planned very well, but to the uninitiated, all these areas may feel like a blur. We have done our best to talk you through the most important ones.
Bur Dubai - Is where it all started in Dubai, this area is renowned for its numerous museums, places of historical interest and Little India or the Textile Souk. By now, you may be so used to the shiny buildings, huge malls and perfect looking hotel beaches that your mind is craving a bit of history and culture and yes, Dubai does have plenty of sights to visit in this glitzy holiday paradise. Bur Dubai is made up of several areas, Shindagha, rich in early Dubai history and was once the high end area of Dubai, with its huge wind - towered houses whilst others still lived in palm huts. Just off the Al Shindagha Road you'll find a series of lovely places of interest starting with the Heritage and Diving Villages, where you'll find local people hard at work weaving crafts, the village is lively in the evening when entertaining takes place such as local singing and dancing. If you have an interest for camels and horses, there are two museums devoted to the history of these animals and their significance in Arab way of life. You'll find the Camel and Horse Museum adjacent to the Heritage Village. If you have time for only one place of interest in Bur Dubai, then you must visit Sheikh Saeed Maktoum House.This is one of the oldest buildings in Dubai and the place of residence for many of Dubai rulers from 1896 up to 1958. The current ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed also lived here whilst growing up in surroundings that had very basic ameinties compared to what he and his family live in today. Take time to visit the exhibits within the Sheikh Saeed Maktoum House, which include a large number of old photographs from 1940 showing what the emirate was like then and how it has becoming the luxury holiday magnet today. If you want more history, you may like to walk further down, weather permitting, to Bastakiya, about 20 mins. Here, you'll find more traditional wind- towered style housing and alleyways which used to be dominated by the Iranian traders, the buildings have now been converted to house the Majlis and XVA Galleries. Head up Al Fahidi Street for a few minutes and you'll find the Dubai Museum housed in the old Al Fahidi Fort, with a facade that looks like a huge sandcastle. Inside the museum you'll find interesting artefacts and items used for weaponary, old dhows and a recreated old hut which was the common dwelling the early settlers lived in.
Deira - If your staying in the newer parts of Dubai, Deira will come as a bit of a shock for you. Its not as modern, but what it does have is life and soul. Deira is where you'll find a mishmash of cultures brewing harmoniously giving a diverse mix of souks, restaurants and shops. If you've been dropped off by the abra - just walk into the streets and you will soon find yourself near the Deira Gold Souk, probably one of the most famous landmarks for Deira. People come from around the globe to soak in the atmosphere at the gold souk. Even if you dont plan to buy/sell any gold you must take a walk through here to see the volume of gold hanging from shop displays and the keen shoppers. Dotted around the gold souk are various independent shops selling anything from bric-a-brak, plastic made in china toys, tacky arabian souvenirs, abayas (local dress), belly dancing gear etc all for dirt cheap. Feel free to bargain - they love it. If you love your souks, neighbouring the gold souk are the Spice Souk and Perfume Souk both worth checking out. Heritage House is just a few minutes walk from the Spice and Gold Souk, and if your interested in what the early Emirati dwellings looked like, its worth checking out, admission is free. Alternatively, if your after some air conditioning respite, you can take a taxi for a short ride to Deira City Mall.
Dubai Creek - Splitting the two main districts Bur Dubai and Deira is the Dubai Creek, a natural seawater inlet. The Creek holds onto many of its historical past and still embraces its role as a key port trader at the Dhow Wharfage, when in the past, used to handle a significant amount of cargo coming into the city. Today its not as much but imports do arrive from neighbouring countries such as electrical goods. The Creek is a lovely place to while away time walking along and admiring the dhows and beautiful buildings. At night, hop on one of the abras for 1 AED to take you across the creek to either Bur Dubai or Deira - definately more convenient then getting in a taxi and cheaper!
Satwa - A stark contrast to other districts in Dubai, walking around Satwa makes you feel as if you've stepped back in time. Forget the shiny mirrored skyscrapers and boutique malls, this place is just brimming with people on the prowl for bargains. If your looking for a tailor to copy your favourite pair of trousers, or looking for some bargain bric-a-brac, or even some great artwork for cheap, Satwa is the place known as cheap central. You'll also find many of the indian, pakistani and filipino community hanging around here, as its a popular and budget place for them to live, but maybe not for long as recent talks by the government may put Satwa's future in the dust, as a regeneration project is looking to upgrade Satwa and develop modernised villas and apartments. A shame really, as it seems that eventually all districts in Dubai will look the same and loose the hustle and bustle of real soul on the streets. Part of the fun of visiting Dubai is seeing places like Satwa and enjoying picking up deals on cheap souvenirs, hardly something you can do back home! Anyway, all this walking around must be making you hungry, Satwa has a huge assortment of indian and lebanese cafes serving great, easy food on a shoestring budget. Ravi's is a pakistani cafe everyone talks about or for great lebanese fare look out for Al Mallah, both located around Al Dhiyafah Street. If you love history, make sure you don't leave Satwa without checking out Union House, on the top end of Al Dhiyafah Street. It houses the largest UAE flag in the world and marks the location where the treaty uniting all seven emirates was signed back in 1971.
Karama - Aswell as being a famous residential area for most of the working class Indian, Pakistani and Filipino expats, Karama is renowned for it's treasure trove of good quality brick-a -brac, fake designer bags, 'copy' watches, clothes and more. The experience is so much fun, you will most definitely come back to your hotel with bags of useless items that you love because you paid next to nothing for them! Tips for Karama Souk: take plenty of cash as cards are frowned upon plus you may not score such a good bargain and don't be shy to bargain to the max - they love the attention! Karama is also a great place to feast for cheap, if you like Indian and Pakistani food, there are plenty of choices here all with good, clean interiors to sit and food of good quality. We like Karachi Darbar where you can eat like a King. There are also a good spread of Arabic and Lebanese cafes if you prefer something less spicy. All restaurants are dotted at the end of Kuwait Street and Karama Park. If you have kids with you, they may want to stretch their legs at Za'abeel Park, which is great for kids and just beyond Karama.
Festival City - a newly developed residential and commercial area sitting on Dubai Creek has beautiful views and a great place to stay if you want to be near the airport. Festival City sits in the area more commonly known as Garhoud, which in the past wasn't renowned for much except the area of Dubai International Airport. Dubai Festival City regenerated the area with a host of new villas, apartments, marina and state of the art shopping area, all with stunning creekside views. If you haven't had enough of gold shopping, check out Festival City's Gold market, a modern alternative to the famous one in Deira and ofcourse bargaining is welcomed! Two famous brand hotels have opened in Dubai Festival City, Crown Plaza and the Intercontinental Festival City, the latter which is a super choice of hotel if you dont particularly want to be staying at a beach hotel. Dubai city centre is accessible here as well as metro stations and the airport which is based in an area called Garhoud.
Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Walk - If you continue down Sheikh Zayed Road in the direction of the highway toward Abu Dhabi, you will set your eyes upon an array of huge skyscrapers, dominating yet another part of the Dubai skyline. This area known as the new Dubai Marina development or New Dubai has seen the most amount of development from any area in Dubai over the last few years yet, the buildings developed look like such an overkill, it really seems hard to differentiate what would be a sought out after view when almost all the buildings stand shoulder to shoulder together. However, you cant fault Jumeirah Beach Residence's 'The Walk' area. A hip and trendy place to stroll in the evening and chill at one of many cafes, bars and restaurants or come towards the end of the week and visit the Covent Garden Market, normally open from about 5pm - midnight and all day on the weekends. You'll find plenty of stalls selling lovely gifts, clothes and jewellery at tourist prices ofcourse! The largest manmade marina in the world - Dubai Marina is about 1.5km long, you can admire the huge collection of yachts and speedboats by walking up and down the promenade and stopping off at one of the many cafes and restaurants. Kids will love to stretch their legs here and play around the cool fountain areas. Dubai Marina is home to about 20 hotels all varying from five star to hotel apartments, some of the designer hotels include Grosvenor House, The Address, The Habtoor Grand and the Ritz Carlton with many of these allowing non- guests to use their private beach facilities for a daily fee.
Sheikh Zayed Road (SZR) - Anyone visiting Dubai may have already heard of this famous road which houses the renowned Emirates Towers, Dubai International Financial Centre and a string of glitzy business hotels. Large global companies have their bases on Sheikh Zayed Road and many business travellers choose to stay here. That's not saying this area is dull and boring, actually it's quite the opposite, for starters, if you head down south toward Jumeirah you will find yourself nearing the Mall of the Emirates, which would probably be the one closest of the malls if you were staying on SZR, the other being Dubai Mall which would be on the opposite side of SZR. In terms of great hotels, you will find the Shangri - La, the Fairmont, Emirates Towers, Dusit Thani amongst many others. You also wont be short of cafes and restaurants with so many lined on the SZR itself and within the hotels. For nightlife, the best bars and clubs will be found at the five star hotels, for further information check out our Bars and Clubs section. The iconic Emirates Towers along the SZR once used to be the tallest tower in the Middle East and 10th tallest in the world when it opened in 2000, however was quickly stripped of its accolade when the Burj Khalifa and Almas Tower came onto the scene. The two towers are elegantly designed with one being an office tower and the other, Emirates Tower Hotel. For a chic pre dinner drinks venue, head up to the 51st floor to the Vu's Bar for some beautiful views of Dubai city and of course some sky high cocktails. Dubai's financial hub and equivalent of Wall Street is the Dubai International Financial Centre which is also a free trade zone and houses the Dubai Stock Exchange
Downtown Dubai - Dubai didn't have a downtown until recently, but the largest building in the world put an end to that. Downtown Dubai is essentially the area surrounding Burj Khalifa, parallel to the Sheikh Zayed Road. So in addition to the the Burj Khalifa, it also includes DIFC, the financial district and some of the hotels that line the edge of the area on SZR, such as the Fairmont, Shangri-la and the Emirates Towers ("the twin towers") - which makes for a very happening place. With Downtown Dubai becoming the focal point for a new cultural district encompassing the Dubai Opera House, this is where its at. As a tourist, it is guaranteed that you will be lured here, like the Eye of Sauron, as the Dubai Mall beckons. In fact, you could spend your whole time in Dubai just here, and maybe push out to Jumeirah and the beach, but the marketing gurus have done well here. Downtown is the right name for this area - and very well located
Jumeirah - if Dubai's modern day tourism story began anywhere, it was probably here. Jumeirah, or greater Jumeirah, as we like to call it, stretches down the coast all the way from Jumeirah Beach Park, and for all intents and purposes all the way towards Jebel Ali. The area of Jumeirah and a little further down to Umm Suqeim is prime beach front area and home to the Burj Al Arab, which not only put Jumierah on the map, but put Dubai on the map. But Jumeirah is broader than that. The area continues to be an exclusive area to live between old and new Dubai and thus remains prime. It is perfectly located to nip down to Mall of the Emirates of the Italian themed Mercato Mall or to pass by Madinat Jumierah and all that it offers. With exclusivity comes the fact that many of the villas here are populated with Local Emirati families. Lucky them! But the area is also available for the public, with the Jumeirah Beach Park open to all for 5 AED. But the pinnacle of Jumeirah is what took Dubai to the next level - Palm Jumeirah and the Atlantis hotel.