Dubai was initially established as a fishing village in the early 18th century. Now, Dubai is a glittering cosmopolitan with modern skyscrapers and international tourists. Despite its willingness to embrace modernity, the city still looks back at its roots, taking pride in the rich culture and history of the Emirati people. And this effort is clearly visible in the preserved historical neighborhood of Al Fahidi.
Al Fahidi historical district is a place locals in Dubai treasure as it offers a glimpse into the old way of life in the UAE. If you’re an outsider interested in understanding Dubai’s rich history and culture, here’s a comprehensive guide to visiting Al Fahidi, planning your itinerary, and maximizing your stay.
Things to Know Before Visiting Al Fahidi Quarter
Al Fahidi District is rich with history and other interesting things. Don’t just look at the surface on your first visit; discover hidden gems and unravel stories to maximize your stay. Here’s everything you need to know about the historical neighborhood.
What is Al Fahidi Quarter?
Al Fahidi Quarter, fondly called by some as the “Bastakiya Quarters”— its old name, is a historical neighborhood in Dubai, standing in the heart of the city since the 1890s. The district houses traditional buildings with high towers; most are made with traditional materials like stone, sandalwoods, palm wood, gypsum, and teak. The buildings are divided by pathways, squares, and alleys, giving the district a unique, maze-like structure. The local government of Dubai has successfully preserved the look and importance of the district through the years.
Today, the Al Fahidi historical district acts as the main area managing commercial relations of Dubai overseas and hosting special local events. There are traditional and modern stores in the area, as well as event spaces hosting cultural and artistic activities—such as specialized museums, art exhibitions, shopping bazaars, and more. The Al Fahidi Fort, the oldest existing building in the city, still sits immaculately and unbothered in the district until today.
Who Can Visit Al Fahidi Quarter?
Al Fahidi Quarter is an entire neighborhood that offers shopping options, special events, historical activities, and more. As such, anyone is encouraged to visit the district, may they be children or tourists. Some stores, historical areas, and activities in the district, however, may impose entry restrictions.
Is Al Fahidi Quarter Safe?
As a special, historical district, the local government pays close attention to the Al Fahidi Quarter. There are strict security schemes in the district to prevent crimes and keep the locals and tourists safe in public areas, such as 24/7 physical security and CCTV cameras. The local government has a dedicated department for commercial, health, and information security.
All public places and private establishments in Dubai follow special health and safety measures to combat COVID-19. The Al Fahidi historical district and its independent establishments, like Al Fahidi Fort, are required by the World Health Organization (WHO) and local authorities to ensure social distancing among visitors, sanitize publicly-used and high-touch areas, conduct temperature checks for staff and guests, and promote contactless payments. Some sites and activities at the district may limit visitors a day based on local regulations.
Visitors and passersby, too, are required to follow individual safety protocols. Visitors and passersby should wear face masks at all times, avoid physical contact among other people, and submit basic personal information for contact tracing purposes.
Guided tours at Al Fahidi Quarter, for one, must only contain small groups that comply with a precautionary framework. The travel and tour company must be registered at the local tourism government of Dubai.
When is the Best Time to Visit the Al Fahidi Quarter?
The district can be visited any time of the day, but be mindful of the crowd and the peak times if you want to have a hassle-free exploration of the neighborhood and its individual establishments. Consider the opening hours of the museums and tourist attractions you plan to visit to avoid long queues; most of them open between 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM. Meanwhile, the average opening time of the entire district is between 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM daily. Overall, the best time to visit the Al Fahidi historical district is during weekday mornings.
How Long Should You Visit and Explore the Al Fahidi Quarter?
The district is just a small neighborhood, but its corners and centers house many shopping districts and tourist attractions. It would take you around 1.5 to 2 hours to explore the neighborhood. Visits to museums, restaurants, and shops may extend your stay to 3 hours. The duration really depends on your itinerary and interests.
Where is the Al Fahidi Quarter Located?
The Al Fahidi historical district is strategically located in the heart of the city, south of Dubai Creek. It is adjacent to the divan of His Highness Monarch of Dubai. The exact address is pinned at Bur Dubai, Al Hamriya, United Arab Emirates. You can easily find the neighborhood through the Al Fahidi Metro Station and other public transportation modes.
Al Fahidi Preparation and Visiting Tips
We’ve laid down some of the most important facts about Al Fahidi and what to initially expect before you book your visit. If you can’t wait to step foot in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Dubai, let’s head to the actual preparation and visiting tips to help you plan your itinerary.
How to Get to the Al Fahidi Quarter
The Al Fahidi historical district is easily accessible from the city center and other areas of Dubai. Travelers with private or rented vehicles can easily reach Al Fahidi anywhere in the city through Sheikh Rashid Rd/E11, Al Ittihad Rd/D74, or Tariq Bin Ziyad Rd/D78 in 13 to 20 minutes.
If you want to commute, city buses can take you to Al Fahidi and its surrounding areas. Take buses 15, 21, 29, 83, and C1, depending on your location, then alight at the Al Fahidi Metro Bus Stop B – 01, A – 01, or A – 02 bus stations. It will take you a 2 to 3-minute walk from these stations to reach Al Fahidi.
If you want to take the metro, ride the Green Line to the Al Fahidi Metro Station or Burjuman Metro Station, depending on your origin. The central metro station of the district directly takes you to Al Fahidi, while the Burjuman Metro Station will require a 10-minute walk.
What to Bring and Wear For a Visit to Al Fahidi
Al Fahidi is a public attraction and commercial area full of tourist offerings. You won’t have to bring anything aside from your valuables for your visit. Don’t forget your cash, mobile phones, and cameras. Aside from your valuables, here are a few reminders on some of the critical things you need to prepare.
Dress modestly when visiting public areas in Dubai filled with locals and tourists. In the case of Al Fahidi, a historical neighborhood, you should pay close attention to what you plan to wear. Follow the UAE’s general rule for public dressing; avoid sleeveless, shorts, and short skirts. Further, avoid shirts with vulgar, offensive, or obscene texts and images.
Documents or Identification Cards
Some establishments and tourist attractions in the Al Fahidi historical district ask for identification cards to verify age and country of residence. This applies to buildings like Al Fahidi Fort and establishments like Dubai Museum. Bring your local identification cards or passports.
Can I Pre-Book Activities and Tours?
It’s highly recommended to pre-book your Al Fahidi guided tours and other activities to avoid queues and plan a detailed itinerary. If you wish to book a tour, do it days before. If you plan to visit museums, look for tickets online and book a schedule at least a day before your visit.
What are the Top Things to Do at the Al Fahidi Quarter?
The Al Fahidi historical district today combines the old and new Dubai. There’s so much to see and explore in the neighborhood, but here’s a list of activities you shouldn’t miss on your first visit.
Shop at Traditional Stores
Buy souvenirs and rare items at traditional stores inside and near the neighborhood. Visit the Old Souk, which carries the Dubai Gold Souk, Spices Souk, and Textile Souk, and other individual souvenir stores in the area offering jewelry, textile, food, clothing, and electronics.
The Al Fahidi historical district houses some of the biggest and traditional museums in Dubai. The Dubai Museum, the main museum of the city carrying its history inside Al Fahidi Fort, should be on top of your list. Other minor museums with equal importance you should visit are the Coins Museum and the Coffee Museum.
Drop by Galleries and Art Exhibitions
Al Fahidi is a cultural center in Dubai, so most art exhibitions and galleries are hosted here. The most common establishment hosting art exhibits is the XVA Art Hotel, which showcases several works of Middle Eastern art on display. Another place to check out is The Majlis Gallery, a special art gallery with a collection built from the home of ex-pat interior designer Allison Collins. Other arts and history-focused establishments you should visit are the Alserkal Cultural Foundation, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCU), and the Mawaheb for Beautiful People.
Catch Special Local Events
If you can or happen to schedule your Al Fahidi visit during national or local holidays in Dubai, you can participate in special events hosted at the district. Events like National Day Celebration, Heritage Week, and Sikka Art Fair come with special programs and attractions. You can even score deals and discounts at shopping centers during these days.
Eat at Locally-Approved, Homegrown Restaurants
Taste local food offerings combined with traditional and modern touches at homegrown restaurants in the Al Fahidi Quarter. These stores mainly offer traditional Arabian and Indian delicacies. For breakfast, locals recommend the hidden gem Al Khayma Heritage Restaurant & Cafe, which offers all-day Emirati breakfast. For lunch, you can drop by at the popular Arabian Tea House, which opened in 1997, to get authentic and healthy Middle-Eastern food. You can also check out the many traditional food stalls standing near the Al Fahidi Metro Station.
Where to Book the Best Al Fahidi Quarter Tour in Dubai
You can easily tour the Al Fahidi Quarter by yourself or with your friends and family. But if you want to discover hidden gems and be educated with the rich history of the neighborhood, it’s best to book a short guided tour with reputable travel and tourism companies in Dubai. Here are some of the most trusted and bestselling guided Al Fahidi tours you can book online:
My UAE Tours – Starts at 99 AED (26.95 USD) for a 4-hour Dubai city tour
Final First-Timer Tips for Visiting the Al Fahidi Quarter
Al Fahidi is quite a small neighborhood; what makes it big is its rich history and engaged community. We recommend spending half a day navigating the maze-like quarters to maximize your visit, try all attractions and activities, learn the history of Dubai, and discover hidden gems. The main highlights of the district are its galleries, exhibitions, and cafes.
What to Do After Visiting the Al Fahidi Quarter
Although the most popular historical neighborhood, the Al Fahidi Quarter is just one of Dubai’s many historical sites. If you’re interested in learning more about the history, culture, and tradition of the Emirati people, extend your visit to Al Seef, Jumeirah Archaeological Site, and Hatta Heritage Village. If you want more tours and activities that have something to do with traditional and modern art, visit the Alserkal Art District or Dubai Frame.