Dubai is one of life’s luxuries, filled with fast cars, futuristic buildings and ultra modern hotels. As beautiful as it is, I couldn’t help feeling like I was missing something. I was yet to find the essence of Arabia, sandstone buildings, Arabian arches and souks. After speaking to the concierge in my hotel, I decided to jump in a taxi and visit the Souk Madinat Jumeirah. Another hair raising journey along Sheikh Zayed Road and 25 minutes later, I arrived.
Dropping me off at Jumeirah Public Beach, the driver told me I just had to start my trip off at this beach. Confused and concerned I took his word for it, not wanting to miss an opportunity to collect beach treasure (note from photographer: beach treasure is shells). 99% of the time I am way too skeptical for my own good. Taxi drivers are probably the best people to ask for recommendations of where to go, and this was a fabulous suggestion. I had been dropped of at the best beach in Dubai (in my eyes); white sand, colourful shells and ocean waves changing from green to turquoise. Being an early riser, I had Jumeirah Public beach mostly to myself. Happily hunting for treasure I noticed my photographer had gone quiet (for once) and was enjoying a beautiful view of the Burj Al Arab hotel and the Palm. The hotel reminds me of a sail and fits perfectly with the blues from the sea and sky surrounding it. By 11 am, the bus tours arrived en mass. So I bid farewell to the beach and decided to take a walk to the Souk Madinat.
My favourite part of this area is the stark contrasts between old and new. The Burj Khalifa kept peeping out behind ornately decorated mosques and palm trees. The short walk took me through ‘real’ Dubai; houses, mosques and open green areas. The paths are wide and flat with plenty of places to stop, sit and enjoy the view of the Burj Al Arab. The 7 star hotel really does look fabulous from all angles. The busy city feel melts away in this area and it’s relaxed vibe immediately makes you feel safe whilst wandering about.
Walking up to the entrance of the Souk, was the moment I finally found what I was searching for. Sandy buildings, wooden arches and turquoise canals. Built in the not so distant past, 2003. The aim was to recreate life as it used to be along Dubai Creek (with some added fancy hotels). Including waterways, Abras, wind towers and a bustling souk. It may not be old but they have successfully managed to create an Arabic market place with an actual bazaar like atmosphere. Maybe it’s the many scents which float around the meandering paths. Or the open fronted shops and barrows selling spices, oud, gold and lanterns. Suddenly, I had lost my inner skepticism and feel in love with Arabia. When thinking about the Middle East, this is the vision I had. I just couldn’t wait to lose myself in the winding paths leading me in and out of the buildings in the area.
I started by exploring inside, the wooden ceiling is ornately patterned with lanterns gently lighting the way past the numerous shops. I loved seeing shops filled with lanterns, scarves and home accessories. Brass burners holding incense sticks decorate the walls, allowing all of your senses to be filled whilst you shop.
Inside and outside blend together perfectly, small stalls are located in hidden corners. I found the best way to explore was to simply allow myself to get lost. Each time I turned a corner I was surprised at what I found. Although some areas are only for hotel guests, I didn’t feel as though I was missing out on anything. I really enjoyed walking along the canal side. Seats and shady spots are plentiful for you to sit and watch the world go by. Abra tours are available too, but I missed it out because the boats looked hard to get on and off.
After a while I decided it was time for a rest and a well earned coffee. Costa is in Souk Madinat and has a beautiful terrace to sit on. It’s the cheapest coffee I drank in Dubai and the one with the best view too! There are so many restaurants and cafes to choose from, but I have heard it gets busy on an evening so booking a table may be wise.
The crowds began to appear mid afternoon so I took this as my cue to leave. Taxi’s are the easiest way to get to and from this part of Dubai. But, if you’re able to walk and are staying in the Dubai Marina/ JBR area it isn’t far to get the tram. I chose this option as it allowed me to explore more of Dubai. Luckily it was quite a cool day of only 23 degrees, perfect for walking and enjoying the ever changing cityscape of the Dubai skyline. From Souk Madinat to Al Sufouh Tram station is just over a 40 minute walk along King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Street. If you’re able to walk that far along the flat path, the route passes the beautiful palace of Dubai and also Al Sufouh Public beach which has great views of the Palm.
Fun Fact: If you pass the Palace on an evening there is often a lot of bunny rabbits on the grass out front of the Palace opposite Dubai College.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah is, hands down, my favourite place in Dubai. Even though it was built for tourists, it doesn’t feel like an attraction. It’s a place I would happily return to explore some more. I’d love to stay in one of the hotels here, so I can experience the area both day and night. When I return to the city, I’ll be returning to explore more and now I know what a souk is, I’ll visit the gold and spice souks on Dubai Creek.
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