Before the futuristic skyscrapers, fancy malls and manmade beaches, Dubai was known mainly for its fishing and pearl industries. In the 1960s, oil was discovered and the city began it's journey of rapid growth and modernization that is still on the rise. These days, you can find most visitors hanging out in upscale clubs downtown, or soaking up rays at Jumeirah Beach, but many skip over the older part of town known as Bur Dubai. Although Bur Dubai lacks the fancy cars and shiny buildings of southern parts of the city, it makes up for it in culture and a hustle and bustle reminiscent of the pre-oil days. Many tourists think that Dubai is a brand new city with no culture or history, but that is far from the truth! Check out a few must-visit sites and activities that will give you a glimpse of the Dubai of yesteryear.
1. Visit the Gold Souk
Shopping is everywhere in Dubai, but you haven't gotten an authentic (and slightly annoying) experience until you visit the gold souks, or markets. Aside from gold, the area has a variety of other souks that sell everything from textiles, to shoes, spices and pearls. Beware though: when the vendors see tourists, they see dollar signs. Be ready for every single vendor to practically follow you down the street in an attempt to get you to shop. While the shops have some interesting finds, perusing in this area can become a bit of headache. If you do decide to shop though, remember one word: haggle. The vendors love it.
2. Take a Ride on an Abra
The best way to get to the old souks is on an abra boat. Once upon a time, these narrow wooden boats were used primarily for transporting goods across Dubai's creek. Although workers still use them for this, they also have a slew of abras that ferry visitors and locals alike across the creek to the souks. For only 1 AED, (approximateLy .27) you can hail a cheap ride across the water to take in the picturesque views of the creek and Old Dubai. Take a taxi or Uber to the Bur Dubai Abra Station to hop on an abra to the other side of the creek.
3. Check Out a Camel Race
Yes, you read correctly. Camels can run. As a matter of fact, they can run up to 40 MPH once they get going. Camel racing is the official sport of The UAE, and these days, you can find a modern version of a local tradition at camel racing tracks on the outskirts of the city. The sport is just like horse racing except there are no jockeys (or horses). Instead owners ride next to their camel in 4x4s to lead them to the finish line. From September through April, visitors can check out this age-old tradition that's a surefire way to get a truly authentic taste of Emirati culture.