The Best Cultural Tours to Take in Dubai

Old Dubai by boat
Old Dubai by boat | © siska maria eviline/Flickr
Jessica Harn

Besides the better-known luxury and glitzy sights of Dubai, the city has a deep history and a cultural tradition that shouldn’t be skipped over for those travelling to the UAE. From centuries of traditional pearl diving to rich culinary tradition, the history of modern Dubai, as well as the ancient Bedouin lifestyle, here are the best cultural tours to take while in the dynamic city of Dubai:

Dubai Heritage Tour

The perfect tour for those who want to learn more about the history of Dubai, from its pearl-diving past to the ruling family of the city, this walking tour will take you through both the Al Bastakiya neighbourhood and the Al Fahidi Historic District. The tour finishes in the Sheikh Maktoum Cultural Centre, where you can enjoy Arabic coffee and dates during a Q&A session about any questions you have on the history of the city.

The old historic part of Dubai, only accessible by foot

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Authentic Emirati Cultural Meal and Talk in Old Dubai

For only around US$25-30, you can experience a traditional and informative Emirati meal in the heart of Old Dubai in the Al Fahidi neighbourhood. Delve into the delicious spices, flavours and recipes of traditional Dubai while learning about the history and culture behind each dish with a local guide.

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Bedouin Culture Safari

This is one of the best ways to learn and experience the ancient culture of both Dubai and the Emirates, through the eyes of an Emirati Bedouin. Enjoy an authentic Bedouin breakfast, then learn about their nomadic lifestyles surrounding the herding of camels, hunting in the desert and ancient cultural traditions that (unfortunately) you won’t find in modern Dubai anymore.

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Desert Safari Dubai and BBQ Dinner

A bit pricier because of the tour being able to bring you deep into the Arabian desert with a 4×4 vehicle with a huge Arabic BBQ dinner afterwards, this tour will delight anyone who wants to experience the beauty of the desert surrounding Dubai. Experience authentic Emirati Bedouin tents, dune bashing on the sand dunes and looking out onto the endless sea of the vibrant rolling desert.

Driving off into the desert for a safari

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Dubai City Tour

For less than US$40, this half-day guided tour literally takes you all around the city of Dubai, where you can experience world-famous buildings, such as the Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab and Dubai Marina, among others. This tour will also take you to the historic parts of the city, where you can explore places like the Gold Souk, Spice Souk and the ancient Al Bastakiya neighbourhood.

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Creekside Tour

While this tour is only offered during the cooler months from November to March, this is your chance to experience the culture of Dubai on the water in a traditional dow boat, while exploring the historical sites of the Textile Souk, the Diwan Mosque and the Gold and Spice Souk. At the end of the tour, you’ll be invited back to the Sheikh Maktoum Cultural Centre for Arabic coffee and dates for a Q&A session on any questions you have about the culture and history of Dubai.

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Emirati Cooking Session and Lunch

Learn how to cook four traditional dishes from Dubai thanks to an award-winning Emirati chef and while doing so, learn about traditional ingredients and the cultural history behind each of these dishes. After you’re done cooking (or at least trying), enjoy an authentic four-course Emirati lunch as part of the tour to enjoy the culinary food scene of Dubai to the fullest.

Emirati food, both traditional and influenced by ancient trade, is one of the highlights of any visit to Dubai

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Old Dubai Souks and Stories

Guided by a true local who loves the city she was raised in, this tour is perfect for those who want to explore the old town feel and culture through the narrow streets of Old Dubai. Experience the old souks and the culture behind them and stop over at a historic Iranian kebab restaurant for dinner to learn about the colourful and intricate history and culture of Dubai through the eyes of the people themselves.

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