Sheikh Mohammed Centre For Cultural Understanding
One thing that’s striking about Dubai is how brand-new everything is nearly everywhere in the city. The exception is the tip of the city that points toward Sharjah, sometimes referred to as—yes, Old Dubai. Water (Dubai Creek) divides this section into two main neighborhoods: Bur Dubai and Deira. Plan to spend a morning/afternoon exploring both, starting with SMCCU in the historic Fahidi district of Bur Dubai. Here, you’ll see the oldest architecture in Dubai (meaning a couple hundreds years, but still, you’ll feel a world away from the sleek Burj Khalifa—a mix of stone, tent, and palm tree structures that were home to the area’s fishermen and pearl divers. The cultural center offers tours of the neighborhood, including Diwan Mosque (probably the only time women visitors will cover their hair—so it’s a good idea to bring a scarf with you, but you can borrow one if you forget). What’s really cool about SMCCU is they host breakfasts and lunches where visitors are invited to ask any and all questions about Emirati and Muslim culture. It can be a pretty fascinating experience—both learning more about different customs and traditions and also hearing the perceptions of other travelers. From Bur Dubai, you can catch a boat ride across the creek in Deira to shop the souks.