Dubai is perhaps most famous for being one of the wealthiest and affluent cities in the world, where holidaymakers come to make the most of the glorious beaches and glamorous hotels.
However, this hectic centre of commerce still has plenty of cultural delights on offer too. Not long ago, nomadic Bedouin tribes occupied this Arabian Gulf country. Living a simple existence, natives would live in small fishing villages and roam the expansive desert.
Thankfully, some of this history can still be seen today, in and around the Emirate’s main sights and attractions. So here are some of the more cultural and traditional things to do in Dubai.
Visit a Bedouin village
It is easy to feel like you are a million miles away from busy Dubai life after observing the daily routine in a typical Bedouin village.
Women dressed in traditional Arabic clothes, which they stitch themselves, are busy doing household chores, milking cows and sheep, preparing Qahqa coffee and processing Labnah cheese for visitors to enjoy. The local men guide guests around each tent and explain some of the region’s most common traditions.
Walk around Deira’s traditional markets
From henna to textiles and clothes, the Deira Covered Souk (market) greets visitors with an abundance of customary goods. The narrow lanes are infused with intoxicating aromas, providing an authentic Middle Eastern experience.
Alongside one of the largest gold markets in the world, featuring intricately designed jewellery, you’ll find Deira’s Spice Souk, with products such as cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and incense imported from all over the region and sold straight out of open sacks.
Take a trip to Hatta
Located in the foothills of the Hajar Mountains, this historic town is the perfect place to escape bustling Dubai for a couple of days.
While the crystal clear water of the Hatta Rock Pools are a popular attraction, be sure to visit the heritage village’s traditional fort, mud houses and stone buildings for an insight into how life was before the town’s modernisation.
As an Islamic country where Sharia law is in place, the Holy Month of Ramadan is incredibly important in UAE. However, if you happen to be in Dubai at this time of the year, consider embracing the occasion.
Despite a large expat population, you can always learn the local language at the Arabic Language Centre, which has group and private lessons for both new and experienced students.
You may also be interested in witnessing the sound of the call to prayer at Jumeirah Mosque. The early 5am start might seem like a daunting prospect, but watching the congregation spilling outside is a truly spiritual experience and one that puts you in touch with the heart of this nation of contrasts.
Image by McKay Savage, used under Creative Comms license