Dubai is something of an unparalleled phenomenon.  In the past fifteen years, it’s grown from a sleepy port to a certifiable world-class city.

One of the things that have made this rapid growth so remarkable is the sheer scale of the economic growth that the city has undergone. However, in all of the attention that this economic growth is getting, Dubai’s many cultural sites can be overshadowed. This article covers the top five cultural treats that Dubai has to offer – treats which absolutely cannot be missed on a visit to the city.

1. Dubai Museum

The Dubai Museum is located within the city’s Al Fahidi fort. The fort itself is actually considered to be one of the city’s oldest structures, therefore acting as an additional layer of history to the artefacts that the museum contains. Its permanent exhibition charts the city’s incredible progression from small fishing village to megacity. It’s walk-through design also displays the significance of the discovery of oil on life in the city, which provides a fascinating overview of how Dubai’s incredible economic prosperity occurred.

Bastakia Quarter
Bastakia Quarter

2. Bastakia Quarter

There is very little left of “Old Dubai”, but the Basyakia Quarter, which was built by Persian traders in the late 19th century, still a perfect example. The quarter, which can be found nestled is one of the city’s most picturesque heritage sites, hosts both the Dubai museum and the Sheikh Mohammed Centre For Cultural Understanding. Basyakia is also home to the only remaining section of Dubai’s Old City Wall, which once surrounded the entire city. The Quarters’ twisting alleyways have now been pedestrianised, allowing you to delightfully wander while you shop for trinkets or dart in and out of the many preserved buildings it contains, providing an excellent insight into what life was like in Old Dubai.

3. Deira Souks

Deira Souks
Spicies in Deira Souks,

The Deira Souks encompass a range of different souks which each specialises in their own particular trade – there’s the gold souk, the perfume souk, the spice souk, and the textile souk. The souks are an incredible thing to behold, as they perfectly meld the history of the city and its modern culture. It was in these souks that Dubai first made a name for itself as a trading port – it seems appropriate that it should still be one of the top tourist attractions in the city today. The city may be famous for its enormous and glamorous malls, but if you want a more authentic experience (which provides just as many shopping options), it’s the Deira Souks you want.

4. Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve

Oryxes or Arabian antelopes in the Desert Conservation Reserve

Much of the appeal of Dubai lays in its frenetic, metropolitan pace of life but beyond the city limits, it also has an enormous array of nature reserves. One of the most impressive of these is the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Boasting one of the largest protected areas in the United Arab Emirates, the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve has a host of activities for visitors that include horse riding, camel trekking and dune driving – all of which allow you to witness the beauty of the desert.

5. Mottahedan Projects

Dubai’s art scene is on the up and up. It might not be especially well-known outside the region right now, but just you wait. The Dubai art fair is one of the region’s fast-growing cultural events, and its popularity is a testament to the fact that art in the Middle East is alive and kicking. Get in before the word gets out and visit the incredible Mottahedan Projects while you’re in the city.

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