As the midday sun begins to wane, the sleepy Bastakia Quarter in the heart of Dubai awakens from the stifling afternoon heat to a cool evening breeze. Soon, the sound of trickling fountains and the wind echoing through rooftop barjeel (wind towers) will be joined by the bustle of traders and restaurateurs getting ready another lively evening of food and entertainment.
Built in the 19th century by Persian traders arriving along Dubai creek to sell their wares from the Orient in the souks, this tiny quarter, untouched by time, will transport you to a whole new world where you can soak up an atmosphere that harkens back to the fishing village that was once Dubai.
Whether you and your beloved arrive by dhow along Dubai Creek or take a train to the Old Souk, the moment you step onto the narrow, stone-paved alleys of the Bastakia Quarter, you’ll see glimmers of crushed pearl reflecting from the sandy walls of courtyard buildings decorated with palms and flowers, shaded by rooftops made of dark wood from Zanzibar. As the quarter comes alive, heavy doors with decorative grilles and latticework are thrown open in welcome. Join the shoppers as they wander through the labyrinthine alleyways in search of old books, bolts of textiles, traditional garments, and other bargains you’ll only find here.
If you love art, you can join other art lovers who gather in the shaded courtyards of local galleries to see new exhibits and engage in conversation over sweet tea. At the modern XVA Gallery, you can explore Emirati, Iranian, and Middle Eastern art, including incredible 3D collages made of colorful world maps and more traditionally-inspired line drawings in inks and watercolor. Dubai is a city of stunning anachronism: From far away, all you can see are futuristic skyscrapers, but when you zoom in, there are streets full of living, breathing ancient culture.
As the sun sets, and the hanging oil lamps of the Bastikya Quarter are lit, you and your loved one can relax with other visitors and local Emirati and enjoy fresh fruits and salad with sweet tea, or a delicious mint-and-lime juice slushie at the outdoor Arabian Tea House. Housed in the courtyard of an old barjeel, this is an ideal setting for celebrating the culture of Old Dubai.