Im not one for going on organised tours, but, if you are short on time, and until Dubai has a better public transport system (rail system due to open Sept 2009) then going on a tour is the best option for seeing as much of the city as you can. The city is quite spread out, and unless you plan to hire a car and brave the manic roads, tour bus it is.
?My mother booked us on the City of Merchants Tour with popular tour company
After being picked up promptly by our tour guide, we drove up the coast, stopping off close to the Burj Al Arab the ‘7star’ hotel for a photo opportunity, before heading to the Jumairah Mosque. We were not allowed to enter the mosque, you need to arrange a separate tour for this, but we were allowed to wander round the grounds and see worshippers brave the heat for their daily prayer.
Our guide then drove us to Bastakiya, the ‘old town’ and we had time to wander down the old streets, and through courtyards to see the original and oldest inhabited buildings made of brick, sand and coral which came as a refreshing change. Only 1 and 2 floors high, they make a huge contrast to those mindblowing, skyscrapers quickly being erected everywhere else in the city, including what will soon be the worlds tallest building, Burj Dubai. A highlight was seeing the windcatches, one of the earliest forms of modern Air Conditioning and is much needed as the temperature pushed the 50’s whilst we were there.
?The Al Fahidi Fort is the oldest building in Dubai, once a fort to guard against neighbouring tribes, it is now the Dubai Museum, and well worth a visit. Well laid out, you go on a journey discovering the history of the area, from the days of tribal lands and Bedouins living in their tents, to one of the most modern cities in the world today. A great collection of artifacts too can be viewed from the many countries that have traded with Dubai over the years.
A quick water taxi ride or Abra across the Creek, we arrived at the many bustling alleyways where the spice, textile and gold souks are located. Be prepared to haggle if you fancy some bags of Tumeric, Saffron or perhaps something more expensive like a gold watch. Or if like me, you have no intention to buy, grab a cold drink and just wander through, trying to take it all in, as noise, smells and sights hit you all at once.
Tired, our knowledge of Dubai greatly expanded, and with plenty of photographs, we returned to the air conditioned bus and headed back to our hotel. A great afternoon out!