Trading at the Old Markets of Dubai, Deira, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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The city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is known for its glamour and exotic attractions. A seven star hotel? Fantastic water parks? World class shopping? Yes – it has all that. It also has one of the more original markets that existed in the Middle East that is often overlooked by it’s millions of visitors. We set out today to look at the old markets and souq’s of Dubai in Deira; Dubai’s original city center and home of it’s traditional roots.


This post is one chapter on our second Round the World trip via Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Poland. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Activity: Trading at The Old Markets of Dubai, Deira, Dubai, United Arab Emirates


The region of Deira is the traditional historic center of Dubai. It represents an area of Dubai that still functions without the commercial gilts and glamour that is represented in new Dubai. While it is similar to markets like the Souq Wahif in Doha, Qatar, it’s still an interesting perspective on life in Dubai. For a taste of old Dubai, we made it a point to visiting Deira, Dubai for a taste of yesterday.

Getting to Deira, Dubai:

We took the Dubai Metro from The Grosvenor House over to the Deira area of Dubai. From the metro, it was a short walk to the old market.

Visiting the Deira market:

The market contains almost four hundred stores. Many of the stores are related to the gold trade in the area and the appropriately named Gold Souq. The market is mostly of an open air variety, with many streets, lanes and alleyways where trading occurs.

Entrance to the Souq Market
Open Air Markets

There are some areas of the market that offer covered streets. This is great for beating the warm sun of the Middle East. There is also an opportunity to see the configuration of the older buildings with the built in air conditioning through roof top vents.

Covered Area of the Market
Market Areas with Traditional Rooftop Cooling

In addition to Gold, there are a variety of fresh spices that are available. These are traditionally displayed in appealing containers outside of the individual stores. While the displays can get elaborate with cylindrical towers, at most places they were in the traditional bulk bins.

Spices on Sale in Deira

Riding an Abra Water Taxi – Deira Ferry Ride:

A visit to Deira also offers one of the best local ferry rides in Dubai. Similar to riding the Star Ferry in Hong Kong, any visitor to Deira can ride the local Abra local ferry ride. The fare is typically 1 AED (0.28 USD), making it the best value transportation in Dubai.

The ride starts with hopping on the Abra from the market side, and taking it across the river. It’s a first come first served type of transportation, so you can be expected to squeeze on with your neighbours.

An Abra on the Dubai River
Abra’s on the Dubai River
UAE Residents in Traditional Garb

Once you get underway, there are better views on the water. It’s always a little cooler from the city heat out on the water and this river was no exception.

River View’s of Old Dubai
New versus Old in Old Dubai
Traditional Fishing Boats in Deira

The rewards for getting to the other side, are fantastic falafel and hummus restaurant at Al Medina. We previously visited on our last trip through the area and enjoyed ourselves greatly.

Falafel and Hummus

My Thoughts on a Visit to Deira, Dubai:

The streets and alleys of Deira represent a time long ago in Dubai. It’s a more authentic experience that can bring the traveler back to what Dubai may have been like prior to all of the glamour and luxury that the United Arab Emirates brand represents today. While it may not be the first item on anyone’s sightseeing list, if you’re looking for a more traditional experience, this would be among the better places to start.


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