Today’s Culture with Travel post is by Thomas Grundner
Beyond the Skyscrapers: Embarking on a Dubai Heritage Tour
Most tourists who come to Dubai automatically marvel at the impressive progress the city has made from simply being a desert. Who can ignore all the innovative developments that defy the natural conditions of the city, and the parade of supercars during the rush hours?
If you’re looking for a city that is ready for the future, there’s no doubt that Dubai is “it.”
But this emirate is not just about the flashy developments such as the Burj Khalifa, Burj al Arab, the Palm Jumeirah, and the exciting Mall of the World (which, incidentally, will be ready in time for Dubai 2020). It remains connected to its humble beginnings as a fishing settlement where small-time trading thrived and gave birth to the original souks.
Therefore, if you wish to experience old Dubai, it’s easy to do so. You can sign up for a Dubai Heritage Tour where you’ll be treated to the history of the city, which dates back to the 1800s.
What to Expect from a Dubai Heritage Tour
There are different tour packages to choose from, but perhaps the most popular among tourists is the one that includes a boat trip on the Dubai Creek that leads to either Deira or Bur Dubai, where the city’s trade industry began.
At these trading hubs, you’ll see traditional items such as gold, perfume, spices and textiles. Get your wallet ready; it’s hard to resist buying these items — in particular, affordable bags of myrrh, and colorful scarves.
After that, you’ll be taken to different important heritage sites. You have the Bastakia Quarter, which is a treat for culture vultures because it boasts of traditional Emirati architecture, a museum and art galleries. Plus, there’s a charming tea shop in this area that serves both hot and cold tea concoctions.
Following this location is the Heritage and Diving Village where you can get a glimpse of the maritime heritage of the city, as well as the original coastal lives of local folks. You’ll be surprised at how rustic this site is compared to metropolitan Dubai.
Brace Yourself for Quirky Side Experiences When You Join a Heritage Tour
Touring the traditional side of Dubai can present a lot of unique experiences. Here are a few examples:
Getting flanked by persistent merchants
It’s not an uncommon occurrence for tourists to find themselves enclosed in a wall of pushy souk merchants, especially when it seems like they’re exploring alone.
There’s a high likelihood of it happening to you. All that attention and all the sales pitches can get overwhelming, so it’s better to stick to your tour group if you’re the type to get frazzled by such attention.
First-hand experiences of traditional practices
Most tourists are treated like VIPs. You’ll enjoy the experiential activities prepared for you in the tour. These can be anything from mounting a camel, to learning a cultural dance, to getting dressed in the local attire.
It’s loads of fun, especially when you find yourself in a clothing souk. The souk owners are always happy to let you try on Arabian clothing and footwear, and they shower you with compliments.
Haggling like a pro
Every tour guide will tell you that you should haggle like you’ve been doing it since you were a tyke. In Dubai, haggling is a common practice, especially in public marketplaces.
Go really low with the prices (to the point where it’s almost shameful) and then negotiate, then walk away if you can’t agree on a price. This simple act alone can present an even better deal on the merchandise you want.
After several haggling opportunities during the tour, you’ll think yourself a pro at bargaining, and ready for the next time you hit the souks.
Awful sunburn and the stickiest, most tangled hair
If you have long tresses, joining the Heritage Tour will have you cultivating a strong
appreciation for headwear. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hijab, a bucket hat, a keffiyeh or a baseball cap – you will want to wear it because of the heat, the wind and sand, and how these can wreak havoc on your hair.
You may initially think that the head wraps that locals wear are purely a traditional practice of maintaining modesty, but it actually offers really smart protection from all the elements, especially during the boat or walking tour. You may find yourself dressing like the locals more and more for the rest of your trip.
Indeed, Dubai is not just about modern advancements and the glamorous lives of the royal and rich. It holds greater significance, especially when you learn about its history through a Dubai Heritage Tour, which can actually bring you closer to locals. You’ll find that Dubai folks are some of the most hardworking people and that they’re quite dynamic while staying true to their strong adherence to spiritual beliefs.
It’s amazing how the city was able to advance immensely in a considerably short period of time, and all the while continuing to take pride in its humble roots. This unique quality is truly what makes Dubai a delightful place to visit.
Thomas Grundner is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for JA Resorts & Hotels. He has more than 20 years of expertise in the hospitality and leisure industry – across international markets including Germany, Egypt and Spain. Grundner oversees all sales, marketing and revenue efforts as the company continues to build on its key growth and development strategies and further cultivates its unique blend of “Heartfelt Hospitality” and “Casual Luxury.”