If you’re planning to head to Al Seef along Dubai Creek anytime soon, read on. Salwa Al Obaidli, Cluster PR & Communications Manager for Jumeirah Group, was born and bred in the UAE. Here, she shares her ‘insider’ tips on exploring one of Dubai’s most interesting neighbourhoods and the home to our latest property Al Seef Hotel by Jumeirah.
Tucked away amidst the rooftops and courtyards of a souk located on the banks of Dubai Creek, the 190 room hotel is spread across 22 traditionally designed Arabian Bayt (homes), adorned with the wind towers famous throughout the region. With views down into the alleyways of the souk and out across the busy waterways of the Creek, Al Seef Hotel by Jumeirah is inspired by the culture, heritage and stories of old-world Arabia; and brings to life the warm traditions of Emirati hospitality.
Family friendly festival
Dubai’s Al Seef neighbourhood has announced a huge festival will take over the destination from now until the end of the year - just in time for the cooler months! The area will be transformed into an al fresco festival where you can expect carnival rides, live music a petting zoo and on Thursdays there will be an outdoor cinema. A newly installed waterfront market will feature pop up stalls selling traditional handicrafts, home décor, souvenirs, accessories, and jewellery. On Fridays there will be live performances from both Arab and Western musicians from 4pm onwards at the Al Seef Events Arena.Mini festivals are also planned along Al Seef to celebrate UAE Flag Day and Christmas Eve, with the first penciled in for 7 November, where a dazzling firework show and themed decor will celebrate the Indian festival of Lights, Diwali.
This atmospheric area in Bur Dubai is one of the oldest residential places in the city, with a neighbourhood that dates back to the early 1900s. You can take a stroll down the narrow alleyways for a glimpse of history or take pictures of the unparalleled infrastructure such as the iconic wind towers. Try and visit over the weekend to browse through a selection of handmade jewelry, accessories and traditional clothing on sale. The neighbourhood also features street performances and events like the sounds of Dubai Drums. I would recommend this as the ideal spot for families and friends, especially during winter.
Distance: 3 minutes by car (1.7 km) and 20 minutes by foot (1.5 km) from Zabeel House MINI and Zabeel House Al Seef by Jumeirah average price: (depends on your purchase)
Travel across the creek on an Abra
You can use the Al Seef shuttle bus service that moves around the Al Seef promenade, or take the bike from the hotel (Zabeel House MINI) and discover the neighbourhood on wheels? Sure! But why not try living like a local for a day and opt for the AED 1 traditional boat ride instead?
These Abras literally take you from one end of the creek to the other, which, by the way, is still used as a mode of transportation by the locals. This is just too cool for school!
Distance: 7 minutes by car (2.5 km) and 32 minutes by foot (2.5 km) from Zabeel House MINI and Zabeel House Al Seef by Jumeirah, average price: AED 1 per person
Visit the Spice Souk
The Spice Souk is a must-visit if you travel to this side of town.
Take in the aromas and vibrant colors from some of the world’s most prized spices. Just a few blocks away from the Gold Souk, the market is stocked with local delicacies.
Quick tip: get a pack of the popular Middle Eastern herbaceous spice blend called za’atar. This popular spice blend boosts the flavours of roasted veggies and meats brilliantly! It’s simply delicious!
Distance: 18 minutes by car (7.4 km) and 18 minutes by foot (2.4 km) from Zabeel House MINI and Zabeel House Al Seef by Jumeirah, average price: AED 150 (depends on your purchase)
Al Fahidi Souk
The souk boasts traditional architecture and is not as busy as the other markets around town, providing a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The Fahidi Souk is quiet and based on an energy saving-model. You will find the Gold and Textile Souk a few steps away - the Textile Souk is stocked with every fabric and design imaginable.
I was told the textiles are imported from all over the world, so if you are looking for embroidered or silk fabrics, this is the place to shop. I was raised to believe gold is like stocks, so if you are anything like me, the Gold Souk is a must-visit attraction. It’s wise to do your research beforehand but here’s a quick tip: the higher the Karat, the purer the gold! Fun fact: you can easily haggle with the vendors. Overall, this is a great place to bargain when shopping for souvenirs and mementos.
Distance: 5 minutes by car (2.2 km) and 26 minutes by foot (2 km) from Zabeel House MINI and Zabeel House Al Seef by Jumeirah, average price: AED 800 (depends on your purchase)
Arabian Tea House Café at Bastakiya
One of the few areas in Dubai that will instantly take you back in time. Arabian Tea House is a truly hidden gem, serving authentic Emirati food with the level of hospitality and service popularly associated with this part of the world.
The ambiance is rife with culture, from the magical scent of oud that welcomes you at the entrance of the café, to the traditional wooden accessories used to embellish the outdoor space.
The food served is humble, but deliciously scrumptious and generously portioned. I’d recommend visiting this spot with family and friends. Be sure to order the Emirati breakfast tray with some tea, freshly baked bread and Arabic dips. Just sit back and take it all in. Arabian Tea House Café promises an authentic experience.
Distance: 3 minutes by car (1.6 km) and 21 minutes walking (1.7 km) from Zabeel House MINI and Zabeel House Al Seef by Jumeirah Average price: AED 105 per person
Mawaheb Art Studio
Explore culture, design and creativity like never before, through some of the community’s local, inspiring and artistic institutions like Mawaheb, from beautiful people – an art studio for adults with special needs, located in the Al Fahidi district. This community aims to foster a spirit of acceptance and continuous learning. You can head down and mingle with this talented lot, and enjoy the hospitality of these truly beautiful people.
Distance: 4 minutes by car (1.8 km) and 22 minutes by foot (1.6 km) from Zabeel House MINI and Zabeel House Al Seef by Jumeirah
Al Ustadi Special Kebab
Special Ustadi Restaurant is a family-owned Iranian restaurant that has been serving the cities best tasting kebabs since 1978! The dining hall is small, intimate and cosy. The walls are covered with photos (if you decide to visit this spot make sure you look out for Wally)!
Tables are also bedecked with international currencies that date back to the days of to George Washington! I would say the best thing about this restaurant are the owners, they will literally come to your table, eat from your plate, crack some jokes and take pictures with you. Oh and you must try their Special Kebab and Joujeh Kebab, it is to die for!
Distance: 5 minutes by car (2.3 km) and 25 minutes by foot (1.9 km) from Zabeel House MINI and Zabeel House Al Seef by Jumeirah, average price: AED 40 per person
Located in a traditional Emirati home, this museum offers an aromatic journey of coffee, traditions and makings from around the world.
You can pick up on the importance of coffee across different cultures and methods of coffee making, and sample freshly brewed coffee.
If you are a coffeeholic this is the place to be.
Distance: 5 minutes by car (1.8 km) and 20 minutes by foot (1.5 km) from Zabeel House MINI and Zabeel House Al Seef by Jumeirah Average price: AED 25 per person
Opened in January 2018, this impressive 'picture frame' sits between historic and modern Dubai, and provides grand views of both parts of the city from the top. If you decide to visit Zabeel House Al Seef, head up to SOL Sky Bar and spot this beauty.
Distance: 11 minutes by car (4.2 km) from Zabeel House MINI and Zabeel House Al Seef by Jumeirah Average price: AED 50 for adults, AED 20 for children
Shindagha Historic District
Once an area where the ruling sheikhs and elite lived, this district is now the heart and soul of a city that defines the Emirati cultural legacy and heritage. The neighbourhood is well-known for traditional wind towers and Museums, like the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House and historic attractions. Oh, and if you are looking to try camel meat they serve it here. Go for the camel burger - it takes some getting used to (I’m not going to lie) but it definitely grows on you.
Distance: 12 minutes by car (3.8 km) and 41 minutes by foot (3.2 km) from Zabeel House MINI and Zabeel House Al Seef by Jumeirah
Explore this beautiful gallery also considered as “Dubai’s best kept secret” which specializes in contemporary works from established and emerging artists from the Arab world, India and Iran.
They also have a café – which I recently found out is Gordon Ramsay’s favourite spot in town. If you are a cheesecake fan, this is the place to indulge.
Distance: 4 minutes by car (1.8 km) and 21 minutes by foot (1.6 km) from Zabeel House MINI and Zabeel House Al Seef by Jumeirah Average price: AED 65 per person
Are you a history buff? If so, take a trip down to the Dubai Museum, and get a glimpse of everyday life before the discovery of oil.
The museum gives visitors and tourist’s an insight into the city’s history and origins, which to be honest is hard to imagine amidst this stunning landscape of skyscrapers and modern architecture.
After my visit I learned that the building served as a prison and as an arsenal for weapons. The museum is open daily, and the place is air-conditioned which perfect is whether you plan to visit in the morning, afternoon or summer months. You can do this one at your own pace!
Distance: 5 minutes by car (2 km) and 24 minutes walking (1.8 km) from Zabeel House MINI and Zabeel House Al Seef by Jumeirah Average price: AED 3 per person
MAKE Art Café at Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
So this site was a random pick, one that we walked into on a spur-of-the-moment decision and I’m glad we did. This hidden gem is tucked away inside a small art gallery with a modern yet culturally intriguing décor. You will find small hidden rooms which you can wander into, with wall-to-wall vibrant art pieces. Some might say it’s great for Instagram. You can savour the art pieces along with delicious food - a must-try from the menu is definitely the delicious saffron camel's milk ice cream.
Distance: 3 minutes by car (1.7 km) and 21 minutes walking (1.7 km) from Zabeel House MINI and Zabeel House Al Seef by Jumeirah Average price: Approximately on average AED 180 for two people
SOL Sky Bar – Zabeel House Al Seef
Saving the best for the last! Head down (or should I say up) to the SOL Sky Bar at Zabeel House Al Seef, and savour the panoramic view of city – which is surely one of the best in town.
You can clearly soak in an aerial view of old and new Dubai, while sipping on some delicious blends (get the Zabeel House 55 East) and listening to upbeat music by our resident DJ.
Average price: AED 50 per person