Strung out along the southern side of the Creek, the district of Bur Dubai is the oldest part of the city, and in many ways still the most interesting. This is where you’ll find virtually all the bits of old Dubai that survived the rapid development of the 1960s and 1970s, and parts of the area’s historic waterfront still retain their engagingly old-fashioned appearance, with a quaint tangle of sand-coloured buildings and a distinctively Arabian skyline, spiked with dozens of wind towers and the occasional minaret. Away from the Creek the district is more modern and mercantile, epitomized by lively Al Fahidi Street, lined with neon-lit stores stacked high with phones and watches. This is also where you’ll get the strongest sense of Bur Dubai’s status as the city’s Little India, with dozens of no-frills curry houses, window displays full of glittery saris, and optimistic touts offering fake watches or a “nice pashmina”.
Much of the charm of Bur Dubai lies in simply wandering along the waterfront and through the busy backstreets, although there are a number of specific attractions worth exploring. At the heart of the district, the absorbing Dubai Museum offers an excellent introduction to the city’s history, culture and customs, while the old Iranian quarter of Bastakiya nearby is home to the city’s most impressive collection of traditional buildings, topped with dozens of wind towers. Heading west along the Creek, the old-fashioned Textile Souk is one of the prettiest in the city, while still further along, the historic old quarter of Shindagha is home to another fine cluster of traditional buildings, many of them now converted into low-key museums, including the engaging Sheikh Saeed al Maktoum House.