7 Of The Best Cultural Sites In Dubai

Dubai is the richest and most powerful of the seven city-states that make up the United Arab Emirates. Besides excellent shopping, sophisticated dining, and luxurious hotels, Dubai offers a nice mix of Arab culture, Bedouin heritage, and Islamic architecture.

Whether you arrive by one of the many Dubai cruises or by plane, here are the best cultural sites that should easily get on your must-see list.

Dubai Museum

For many years, the Dubai Museum was the emirate’s only real effort to prove that Dubai has a culture beyond sand, sea, and shopping. Seated in the late-18th-century Al Fahidi Fort that over time served as the ruler’s palace, a prison, and a garrison, this became a museum in 1970 and has been expanded over the years. Life-size dioramas represent Dubai life in its pre-oil days with recreations of a souk, early Arabian homes, mosques, and date gardens.  

Spice Souk 

Although smaller than it once was, the market features winding alleyways of stalls packed with exotic fragrances and Arabic seasonings. Set in the heart of Deira, this is one of Dubai’s most authentic sights, and you’ll discover a remarkable variety of spices, nuts, dried fruits, incense herbs, and perfume oils here.

Al-Ahmadiya School

A visit here gives a chance to learn about the history of education in Dubai. Teaching in the UAE was originally done by religious men called Al-Muttawa in private homes and was limited to the religious teachings of the Holy Koran, writing, arithmetic, and Arabic calligraphy. In the early 20th century, the Al-Ahmadiya and other semi-formal schools began to open, offering students instruction in literature and various sciences, in addition to religion. Students were grouped by their age and abilities and typically sat on mats rather than at desks. In 1956, Dubai adopted a formal education system, and the number of students rapidly expanded and the school moved to a new location to accommodate more pupils.

Heritage and Diving Village

Near the mouth of Dubai Creek, Heritage and Diving Village showcases Dubai’s history as a pearl-diving and trading post. In addition to photographs and exhibits focused on Dubai’s maritime past, there are potters and weavers selling Arabian handicrafts, local women serving traditional Emirati food, and vendors offering afternoon camel rides. 

Heritage House  

The Heritage House was built in 1890 and fully restored in 1994. It contains two floors overlooking an authentic Arabian courtyard. Rooms are traditionally furnished, with displays explaining the original purpose of items in each room. You can see the majlis, the area of the home designated for
receiving visitors, as well as the main living room, where the family would come together. The architecturally significant courtyard home is one of Dubai’s most interesting.

Jumeirah Mosque 

You’ll likely hear the mosques before you see them. The call to prayer can be heard in the morning. A trip to Dubai isn’t complete without a visit to the Jumeirah Mosque, the only one in the emirate that’s open to non-Muslims. Tours are organized by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, and they educate visitors about Islamic religion and culture.

Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum’s House 

The home of Dubai’s former ruler is a good example of the 19th-century architectural style of the Gulf coast characterized by vaulted high-beam ceilings, arched doorways, and sculpted window overhangs. You can visit the downstairs majlis, living room, kitchen, and courtyard, as well as the upstairs bedrooms and balconies. The house exhibits rare photographs of Dubai in its pre-oil days, as well as paintings, lithographs, and art objects that capture the emirate’s development. There is also a collection of rare coins, stamps, and historical documents.