North of the Creek lies Deira, the second of the old city’s two principal districts, founded in 1841, when settlers from Bur Dubai crossed the Creek to establish a new village here. Deira rapidly overtook its older neighbour in commercial importance and remains notably more built-up and cosmopolitan than Bur Dubai, with a heady ethnic mix of Emiratis, Gulf Arabs, Iranians, Indians, Pakistanis and Somalis thronging its packed streets, along with a healthy contingent of African gold traders and camera-toting Western tourists. Specific attractions are thin on the ground, but this remains the city’s best place for aimless wandering and even a short exploration will uncover a kaleidoscopic jumble of cultures. Indian curry houses jostle for space with Iranian grocers, Somali shisha-cafés and backstreet mosques – not to mention an endless array of shops selling everything from formal black abbeya to belly-dancing costumes.
For the visitor, Deira’s main attraction is its myriad souks – most obviously the famous Gold Souk and the small but atmospheric Spice Souk – although in many ways the entire quarter is one enormous bazaar through which it’s possible to wander for mile after mile without ever surfacing. The district is also home to the interesting traditional Heritage House and Al Ahmadiya School museums, while along the banks of the Creek itself you’ll find the atmospheric Dhow Wharfage, an authentic taste of Dubai past, plus a clutch of striking modernist buildings centred on the landmark National Bank of Dubai, an icon of Dubai’s dazzling present.