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Dubai Creek (Khor Dubai): Cruises & Best Things to Do

    Dubai Creek, also known as Khor Dubai, is a sea inlet that winds its way for about fourteen kilometers through the heart of the city, separating Bur Dubai from Deira. Since ancient times, it has been the lifeblood of Dubai, serving as a harbor for dhows sailing to India or East Africa. Today, it remains one of the city’s most authentic and captivating locations, a bustling port of dhows and yachts, flanked by glittering skyscrapers and old-fashioned souks.

    Stroll along its banks and soak in the vibrant atmosphere. Even today, old dhows and boats laden with goods from distant places dock along the banks, while small abras tirelessly traverse the waters, shuttling from one bank to the other. The surrounding alleyways of the souks buzz with activity, with vendors offering everything from spices to silk fabrics, to jewelry and diamonds. Travelers will undoubtedly be captivated by the traditional neighborhoods overlooking its calm waters.

    From the souks of Deira to the historic district of Al Bastakiya with its narrow cobblestone streets and traditional houses with wind towers, to the modern districts of skyscrapers and the best panoramic views of Dubai Creek Harbour, Dubai Creek is a place of contrasts – the old and the new, the eastern and the western, the traditional and the modern. So, hop on an abra, enjoy an evening cruise, immerse yourself in the atmosphere, and let yourself be swept away by its timeless charm.

    Dubai Creek: History and Curiosities

    Dubai Creek, locally known as Khor Dubai, is a natural inlet formed by the waters of the Persian Gulf. It stretches over 14 kilometers into the heart of Dubai, reaching the Ras Al-Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, a brackish area inhabited by a variety of protected marine birds. Dubai Creek has always held a pivotal role in the city’s development. The first settlements, Bur Dubai and later Deira, sprang up along its banks, forming the oldest districts in the city today.

    The inlet provided an ideal location for a natural harbor. With a history that spans centuries, Dubai Creek has long been the center of the city’s thriving commercial activities, earning it the nickname “Venice of the Gulf”. Around the first half of the 19th century, it became a vital hub for trade with Africa and Asia. Merchants from India, present-day Iran, and Arabia flocked to its docks with their valuable goods, creating a bustling market of spices, pearls, and fabrics.

    Dubai Creek Deira Al Bastakiya

    At that time, Dubai’s economy heavily relied on pearling and pearl trading. Dubai Creek served as one of the region’s main ports and one of the world’s primary routes between the East and the West. Furthermore, the canal’s mild water temperature created an ideal habitat for numerous fish species, leading to a flourishing fish trade. This commercial activity and the associated boat traffic grew so rapidly that interventions were needed to make the canal navigable for larger ships.

    As a result, in the 1960s, Dubai Creek was dredged, a dock for loading and unloading goods was constructed, and the banks were reinforced. In 2007, an artificial extension of the canal was added. Now, Dubai Creek doesn’t end at the Ras Al-Khor Wildlife Sanctuary. Instead, it continues towards the sea, winding around Downtown Dubai and effectively turning Bur Dubai into an island. This new artificial section is known as the Dubai Water Canal.

    Dubai Creek is so wide that at times it may seem as though the opposite bank doesn’t belong to Dubai. In fact, in some places, it exceeds 1 km in width. Until a few years ago, the only way to cross from one side of Dubai Creek to the other was by boarding one of the many small traditional wooden boats known as Dubai Abra. Today, however, three road bridges facilitate easier movement.

    Despite this, the abras remain a popular mode of transport. They offer locals a convenient way to get around, while providing tourists with a unique and authentic experience of Dubai’s rich cultural heritage. This includes enchanting views of the banks, which continue to bustle with dhows, sailors, and goods. Along Dubai Creek, it’s also possible to see the traditional large wooden boats called dhows, used by the Arabs since ancient times. Some of these have been restored and now offer tourists the opportunity to take evening cruises on Dubai Creek.

    Despite the city’s impressive growth and its status as a symbol of modernity and prosperity, the area around Dubai Creek remains the true heart of Dubai. It continues to exude a special atmosphere, reminiscent of bygone times. Today, the Dubai Creek represents a fusion of the old and the new, where glittering skyscrapers stand alongside ancient souks and traditional houses. A stroll along its banks offers views of a different era, dominated by ancient wind towers, palaces, and residences from Dubai’s past.

    Some of Dubai’s most iconic attractions are located along its banks, such as Al Fahidi Fort, which now houses the Dubai Museum, and the captivating Al Bastakiya district, with its narrow streets and beautifully restored traditional houses that embody the authentic spirit of Dubai before the oil era. The Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House, a former royal residence located right on Dubai Creek, is nestled in another restored historic district and is now open to the public as the Al Shindagha Museum.

    Be sure to also visit the fascinating Al Seef district, where you’ll find well-preserved traditional architecture and an old-world atmosphere. And if you’re up for it, lose yourself among the souks of Deira, starting with the famous Gold Souk and Spice Souk, where you can purchase artisanal treasures, aromatic spices, and sparkling jewels.

    However, the primary allure of Dubai Creek lies in its cruises. Immerse yourself in a dhow cruise on its tranquil waters, savoring the moment as you gaze upon the Dubai skyline. This view offers an intriguing blend of architectural styles, spanning from the era prior to the oil boom up to the present day. You might opt for a dinner cruise, a captivating and memorable experience that allows you to relish a delectable meal of local cuisine. As you dine, admire the city lights reflecting off the water and watch as the sun descends on the horizon, painting a breathtaking array of colors in the sky.

    Dubai Creek Cruises: Best Dinner Cruises on Dubai Creek and Dubai Water Canal

    The Dubai Creek Cruise ranks among the top attractions in Dubai. This dinner cruise takes place aboard a beautifully restored dhow, sailing for a couple of hours along the tranquil waters of Dubai Creek, offering captivating views of its shoreline. Although over time it has become quite touristy, it is still a good choice to spend an evening with a nice view and enjoying a good buffet dinner.

    The menu features traditional dishes and options designed to satisfy international and vegetarian palates. The buffet includes a variety of local specialties, including meat, fish, and vegetable dishes, along with excellent vegetarian alternatives. Unlimited soft drinks, tea, coffee, and local desserts complement the meal.

    The evening typically comes alive with live performances, featuring musicians and traditional Youwla and Tanoura dancers. Prices can vary significantly depending on the company, but they usually reflect the quality of the experience. Therefore, it’s worth investing a bit more for a significantly enhanced experience.

    For a complementary or alternative experience, consider a dinner cruise along the new Dubai Water Canal. This allows you to explore the other side of Dubai Creek, the man-made canal situated in the heart of Downtown Dubai. Here, you’ll traverse one of the city’s most modern and dazzling areas, adorned with skyscrapers and offering stunning views of the skyline, including the iconic Burj Khalifa. Consider this as a river cruise – indeed, this is the Dubai’s river cruise, and it’s an absolute must-do!

    Things to Do at Dubai Creek

    Dubai Old Town and Souks

    Nestled along the banks of Dubai Creek are the two oldest neighborhoods in Dubai: Al Bastakiya, also known as Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood on one side, and Deira on the opposite bank. There is no better place to discover one of the most authentic and fascinating sides of Dubai, learn more about its history and taste its delicious traditional cuisine.

    Start exploring the Deira’s old souks: the first stop could be the Spice Souk, a vibrant and aromatic market with dozens of merchants selling spices and aromatic herbs, from dried oranges to incense. Continue to the so-called Textile Souk, a covered market of brightly colored fabrics, with hundreds of rolls of every type of fabric, from raw silk to cotton and embroidery. Finally, arrive at the Gold Souk, one of the oldest in the world with over 300 shops full of all kinds of jewelry. If you see something you like, enjoy haggling for a better price.

    Along Deira’s bank, don’t miss the view of the skyscrapers of Dubai Creek, with the Deira Twin Towers, two 102-meter tall twin towers housing a shopping center, the imposing and modern Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel, the National Bank of Dubai with its gigantic semi-arched wall, and the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, with its half-arrow shape. Particularly at sunset, their mirrored facades reflect the sun’s rays and create spectacular panoramas.

    Cross the Dubai Creek aboard a traditional abra and dive into the Al Bastakiya neighborhood. Here you can visit the Al Fahidi Fort, a fortress still perfectly preserved as it was over a hundred years ago, which houses the Dubai Museum. Here, you can discover the history of Dubai before the oil boom through a rich exhibition of artifacts, vintage photographs and documents, and realistic reproductions of markets and ancient traditional houses.

    Then visit the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House, the former residence of the royal family considered an excellent example of 20th-century Arab architecture, and the Heritage Village, a realistic reproduction of the Old Dubai where you can learn about the city’s past, traditions, and lifestyles of the time. The entire route can easily take a full day, but you could opt for one of the popular guided tours that will allow you to get an in-depth overview of the historic neighborhoods around Dubai Creek, discover the most beautiful corners and taste some local food. Then you can continue exploring at your own pace, according to your personal preferences and interests.

    Dubai Creek Park

    Nestled on the banks of the canal in Bur Dubai, Dubai Creek Park stands as one of the city’s largest and most iconic parks, cherished by locals. This verdant oasis amidst the urban landscape offers an ideal retreat for those seeking a tranquil respite from the city’s hustle and bustle.

    Covering an expansive area of over 96 hectares, the park features a variety of play areas, numerous well-equipped picnic spots, and dedicated cycling and pedestrian paths. It is also home to the Dubai Dolphinarium and Children’s City, a unique educational and recreational attraction tailored for children. This venue provides a range of engaging and interactive experiences across various themes, including participating in scientific experiments, exploring nature, indulging in artistic activities, role-playing various professions, and partaking in entertaining shows and activities.

    Dubai Dolphinarium

    If you’re traveling with children, the Dubai Dolphinarium is an unmissable attraction! Nestled within Dubai Creek Park, the Dolphinarium showcases acrobatic performances by dolphins and seals. The shows run at fixed times, so it’s essential to book in advance for your preferred slot. An afternoon ticket also grants you access to an exhibition of exotic birds and a captivating illusion show.

    Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club

    For those passionate about golf, a must-visit destination in the UAE is the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, situated along the banks of Dubai Creek, opposite Dubai Creek Park. This lush 18-hole golf course offers a luxurious experience, cherished by golf enthusiasts in Dubai for its unique canal-side location and breathtaking views.

    Established in 1993, the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club holds the distinction of being home to the first golf academy in the Middle East. Its iconic sail-shaped clubhouse, designed by British architect Brian Johnson, draws inspiration from an Arabian tent, adding to the club’s charm. The championship golf course, spanning 7005 yards and boasting 18 holes with a par of 71, provides a thrilling challenge for golfers of all levels, with its beautifully manicured, undulating fairways marked by mounds, date and palm trees, and often by water.

    The club also features a 9-hole par 3 course, perfect for beginners looking to hone their skills before tackling the championship course. If you’re looking to test your skills or simply indulge in a luxurious stay in an idyllic setting, consider booking a room at the Park Hyatt Dubai Hotel. As one of the finest hotels along Dubai Creek, it’s nestled within the golf club, surrounded by lush lawns and tree-lined avenues, offering sensational views.

    Dubai Festival City Mall

    As you continue your journey along the banks of Dubai Creek, towards the side of Dubai International Airport, you’ll come across the Dubai Festival City Mall. This shopping destination is conveniently located near one of the most appealing areas currently under development along the canal – Dubai Creek Harbour, an attraction in its own right. Consider visiting after sundown. You’ll be treated to a stunning panorama of skyscrapers around Dubai Creek, all beautifully lit up. Additionally, you can enjoy the spectacle of dancing fountains and captivating light shows around the mall.

    If you’re a shopping enthusiast, a visit to Dubai Festival City Mall is a must, as it is one of Dubai’s largest and most frequented shopping destinations, offering an array of shops, eateries and entertainment. The mall houses over 400 branded stores, ranging from international luxury labels to local and mid-tier brands. It also boasts a cinema and a diverse selection of dining options, from casual eateries to upscale restaurants, serving both international and local cuisine.

    How to Get to the Dubai Creek

    The Dubai Creek is located between the areas of Deira and Bur Dubai and is easily accessible from both the Deira souk’s side and the Historic Districts of Al Fahidi, Al Shindagha, and Al Seef. The nearest Dubai Metro stops are Al Ghubaiba, on the Bur Dubai side, and Al Ras on the Deira side, both on the green line. You can move smoothly between the two sides by riding an abra. The Dubai Abra is a quick and cheap means of transport, also loved by the locals. Keep the tradition alive, make sure to experience taking a ride from one bank to the other!

    Other metro stops near Dubai Creek are Bur Juman and Union, the first served by the red line, while the second by both lines, red and green. The Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club is located near the City Centre Deira Metro Station, on the red line, and not far from the airport.

    Heading towards the innermost end of Dubai Creek, the Dubai Healthcare City Metro Station is the closest to Dubai Creek Park, while the Creek Metro Station is located near the Al Jaddaf Marine Transport Station 1, which is the departure point for abras and boats heading to Dubai Creek Harbour, Dubai Festival City Mall, and the Dubai Canal. Both stations are on the green line.

    The historic section, home to the oldest buildings and offering the most picturesque views on both the Bur Dubai and Deira sides, is traversed by the routes of the double-decker Hop On Hop Off Buses. These buses provide an easy means of transportation between the city’s main attractions, offering panoramic views of the most famous landmarks. You have the freedom to hop on and off at any point of interest. The buses run frequently, and tickets, valid for 24 hours or more, allow for unlimited boarding and alighting.

    Things to Do Around Dubai Creek

    You are in the historic heart of Dubai: around Dubai Creek, you can visit the vibrant Deira and the Al Bastakiya Historical District, with its well-preserved traditional architecture. Be sure to visit the Dubai Museum and the Al Shindagha Museum to discover the fascinating past of the region. The latter hosts a collection of dozens of small museums housed in traditional homes, including the House of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, a former royal residence.

    Don’t miss visiting the souks of Deira, starting with the most famous: the Spice Souk and the Gold Souk. The former enchants with its oriental charm, while the latter boasts goldsmith shops selling jewelry, diamonds, and precious stones at prices considered among the most competitive in the world. In the area, you will also find various eateries and traditional restaurants. A bus or taxi ride will take you to the attractions on the seafront and to the Jumeirah Mosque, or to the iconic Dubai Frame, located a short distance from Dubai Creek Park.

    Planning your trip to Dubai? Check out our guide to the BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN DUBAI.