Deira is the heart of Dubai’s Old Town, and today it is one of the most interesting areas to visit in the city. Perfect connection between tradition, past and modernity, today it is the neighborhood where many workers from all over the globe live (mainly from India or Middle Eastern countries).
Stroll through the maze of narrow alleys overlooked by hundreds of traditional houses, souks full of spices and handicrafts from all over the Middle East: with its liveliness Deira continues to win the hearts of visitors who prefer the most authentic side of Dubai.
Deira: where tradition meets modernity
Deira is located on the outer side of Dubai Creek, bordering the Sharjah emirate. The origins of this neighborhood date back to 1841 when part of the inhabitants of Bur Dubai began to cross the Khor and settle on the opposite bank.
Thanks to its proximity to the Emirate of Sharjah, which at the time was the most important in the whole area, the Deira settlement grew very quickly, so much so that by the early 1900s it had already become one of the most important souks of the entire Gulf Coast, with over 300 shops.
Until the late 90s, the Deira area was the administrative and business center of Dubai, as well as being the most important commercial area: the first shopping centers, hotels and skyscrapers were built right here.
The souks are still one of the most popular areas, crowded night and day by many locals and many tourists, among the smells of spices and food that are so reminiscent of that authentic taste of the Orient.
Things to Do in Deira
Get ready to watch something very, very sparkling! The Gold Souk is one of the oldest in Dubai and today has over 300 shops that attract buyers from all over the world.
Located at the mouth of Dubai Creek, the Gold Souk is characterized by the many windows full of jewels of all kinds: from rings to statues. Wherever you turn you will see the sparkling yellow that made Dubai famous all over the world. The purity of gold is often remarkably high here, which attracts buyers interested in jewelry but also in bullion.
Many goldsmiths have the opportunity to create bespoke and totally personalized jewelry. The prices are recognized among the lowest in the world, but be careful: there are no fixed prices, so it all depends on your ability in bargaining.
A great way to explore the souks is with an experienced local guide. This way you can enjoy a unique experience, discover the most hidden places and get the best tips for your visit and your shopping.
Food lovers this is the right place for you! If you like to cook or relax with a good tea in the afternoon or an herbal tea in the evening at home, here you will not be able to resist the temptation to buy something.
The Spice Souk is located not far from the Gold Souk, just a few steps from the Deira Old Souk Abra Station.
From morning to night dozens of merchants sell spices and herbs, from dried oranges to incense. Whether you are looking for new flavors for your exotic dishes or want to surround yourself with the beauty of this colorful and fragrant souk, a tour of the Spice Souk is recommended! Even here there are no fixed prices, therefore bargaining is a must!
Discover the most hidden gems of Dubai’s Old Town with a Local Guide
Deira, with its ancient souks and museums, can be easily explored on foot. You can take the opportunity to participate in a walking tour with one of the friendly and experienced local guides who will tell you the stories and legends of the places you see, and will show you the most hidden corners of Dubai’s Old Town.
If you love weird and fun experiences, and maybe you are traveling with children, check out this amphibious bus tour!
Take a trip to the various museums of Deira to better understand the Emirati culture
Women’s Museum Bait al Banat
In the Deira district you can visit several small museums. The Women’s Museum celebrates women with a whole series of performances and exhibitions by Emirati women artists and intellectuals. Particular emphasis is placed on the important role played by women in society and in achieving the independence of the United Arab Emirates.
Opening hours: Sat to Thu – 10 am / 7 pm.
Entrance fee: 20 AED
Al Ahmadiya School and Heritage House
Another interesting museum is the Al Ahmadiya School and Heritage House, a museum entirely dedicated to education, located in an ancient building that was the first school in Dubai. Today it is possible to see memorabilia, parchments, diplomas and find out more about this ancient institution dedicated to the teaching of religion, literature, astronomy and arithmetic.
In the same place you can visit the Heritage House, in what was once the home of a rich and respected pearl merchant: admire the rooms and find out more about what life was like once in Dubai.
Opening hours: Sat to Thu – 8 am / 7.30 pm and Fri 2.30 pm / 7.30 pm
Free of charge
Deira Clock Tower: the symbol of the new era of Dubai
The Deira Clock Tower was once called Dubai Clock Tower and was famous for being the symbol of the city of Dubai.
It is located in the heart of the Al Rigga area, one of the most important residential and business centers in Dubai, at the center of a roundabout near the Al Maktoum Bridge, the first bridge built over Dubai Creek (before then to go from Deira in Bur Dubai was necessary to cross the Khor by boat) and a few steps from the Deira City Center.
The Deira Clock Tower is the symbol of the turning point achieved by the city of Dubai when the first oil searches in the early 60s gave positive results and the city exported its first barrel of oil. It is located symbolically along the axis of conjunction between the center of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, just to remember the importance that the discovery of oil has had for the life of these two cities, transforming a territory of pirates and pearl seekers in one of the richest areas in the world.
My favourite places to eat in Deira
Aseelah – Radisson Blu Dubai Deira Creek
Aseelah is the renowned restaurant of the Radisson Blu Dubai Deira Creek and is the perfect place for a quality dining experience. This Deira restaurant offers traditional and authentic Emirati cuisine, made with fresh local raw materials, such as spices from Ras Al Khaimah, fresh fish from the best local markets and home-grown meat.
The traditional buffet formula, particularly popular among locals, allows you to try different typical specialties, and eat as much as you want.
Spice Island – Crowne Plaza Dubai Hotel
I am crazy about buffet restaurants. But Spice Island beats them all, to the point of having become one of my favorite restaurants in Dubai.
First tip: go there only if you are really very hungry. It is a buffet restaurant that offers over 200 different dishes of meat, fish, vegetables, sushi and pasta, as well as a wide selection of desserts. Excellent dishes from Eastern, Indian, Middle Eastern cuisines, and seafood are usually of excellent quality.
The place is very popular with the locals, so it is always good to reserve a table in advance. They offer themed evenings with fixed price menus (all you can eat) and with an average price of AED 250 per person.
Al Dawaar Revolving Restaurant – Hyatt Regency Dubai Hotel
Another exceptional buffet restaurant. Located on the top floor of the Hyatt Regency Dubai hotel, Al Dawaar Revolving Restaurant offers spectacular views of the city, thanks also to the fact that the restaurant is located on a rotating platform.
The atmosphere is refined and the food is of very good quality. The dishes range from oriental to international cuisine, with a good selection of typical Emirati dishes.
This restaurant is particularly popular with business travelers and couples. It offers a fixed menu (all you can eat) with the possibility of adding drinks separately. Book in advance. Average price AED 250 per person.
Enjoy an unforgettable Dubai Creek Dinner Cruise
If you are looking for an unforgettable (and maybe romantic) experience, you cannot miss the opportunity to enjoy a delicious dinner cruise on the calm waters of Dubai Creek, aboard one of the traditional old wooden boats called Dhows.
The cruise sets sail every day at sunset, just from Deira, and sails along Dubai Khor (also known as Dubai Creek) throughout the evening, while you enjoy a romantic buffet dinner, featuring delicious local meat and fish specialties (and excellent vegetarian alternatives), accompanied by a good glass of wine and unlimited soft drinks.
The experience is enlivened by live traditional music and dance, while from the boat you can admire the glittering and breathtaking skyline of Dubai.
Other excellent restaurants in the Deira district of Dubai
Creekside Japanese Restaurant – Japanese cuisine restaurant with excellent sushi and fish buffets.
Danial Restaurant – Arabic and Middle Eastern buffet. The food is very good and the place is well known by the locals. Average price: AED 150 per person.
Al Fanar Restaurant And Cafe – This restaurant has a beautiful atmosphere that takes you back to Dubai in the early 60’s. They serve typical Arab and Middle Eastern dishes. Main courses: AED 60 – 90
Go on a food tour with a local guide and discover authentic local food!
Deira is Dubai’s oldest and most authentic neighborhood, so it’s no surprise it’s also the best place to explore the authentic flavors of traditional local food.
If you are a lover of exotic food, you will love this experience: 10 incredible tastings of local specialties (including saffron ice cream and the famous camel burger) that you can enjoy in the best places chosen by the locals. An experienced guide will accompany and guide you throughout the tour to discover the traditions and food of the Middle East.
Deira City Center: the best-kept secret for shopping at cheap prices
Deira City Center was the first large shopping center to open in Dubai. Its inauguration dates back to 1995, long before the construction of the most famous Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates.
It is well known and popular with locals and offers over 370 stores covering from high-end electronics to clothing (even inexpensive, like H&M and Zara), from cosmetics to perfumery. There are two well-stocked pharmacies and there is a large Carrefour supermarket where you can buy food at cheap prices. By the way, if you are interested in spices, here you’ll find most of the spices that are also sold in the souks and often here these are of better quality and sold at lower prices (and fixed, which is much better if you don’t like bargaining.).
At Deira City Center you can also find good cheap food
If you are hungry go to the Food Court of the Deira City Center, here you will find a wide choice of fast food and restaurants, including the most famous international chains (McDonald’s, KFC). There are also alternatives of Chinese, Indian, Japanese and obviously Arab cuisine, as well as a good choice of vegetarian and healthy alternatives.
Things to do and see around Deira
Go to Deira Old Souq Abra Station and cross Dubai Creek aboard an abra, the traditional Dubai boat, to Bur Dubai Abra Station (it costs just 1 AED).
From here explore the historic district of Al Bastakiya (also known as Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood), the Dubai Museum at Al Fahidi Fort and finally make a trip to the magnificent Dubai Dolphinarium (Metro, green line, from “Al Fahidi” station to “Dubai Healthcare City” station).
You can move very easily between the attractions of Deira and Bur Dubai with the Hop On Hop Off double-decker buses, which connect frequently and conveniently all the major attractions of the city.
Planning your trip to Dubai? Then you should check out our GUIDE TO THE BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN DUBAI.
Useful information to cross the Dubai Creek aboard traditional boats called Abra
To cross the creek aboard one of the traditional abra, keep in mind that there are 2 routes connecting Deira with Bur Dubai (and vice versa):
Route 1: from Deira Old Souq Abra Station (very close to the Spice Souk and the Gold Souk) to Bur Dubai Abra Station.
From early morning until around midnight.
Route 2: from Deira Sabkha Abra Station (near the Covered Souk) to Bur Dubai Old Souq Abra Station (near the textile souk and the Dubai Museum).
Connections 24 hours a day, with reduced frequencies at night.
The capacity of each abra is about 20 people, you pay on board, cash only, no tickets are issued. The journey takes 5-10 minutes.