For a real taste of old-time Dubai, nothing beats a ride across the Creek in one of the city’s abras, the old-fashioned little wooden boats which are traditionally used to ferry locals from one side of the city centre to the other.
It’s a pleasantly breezy ride even in the heat of the day, offering matchless views up and down the Creek, with its fascinating tangle of traditional minarets and wind towers muddled up with gleaming contemporary high-rises.
You’ll also find an entertainingly cosmopolitan cross-section of Dubaian society scrunched up on board, from local Emiratis in flowing white dishdashas through to Indian labourers, African traders and the occasional Western tourist.
There are two main abra routes: one from the Deira Old Souk Abra Station (next to the Spice Souk entrance) to the Bur Dubai Abra Station (at the north end of the Textile Souk), and another from Al Sabkha Abra Station (at the southern end of the Dhow Wharfage in Deira) to the Bur Dubai Old Souk Abra Station (in the middle of the Textile Souk). There’s also a third abra route from Al Seef station in Bur Dubai to Baniyas Station in Deira.
The fare is a measly 1 AED per crossing. Boats leave as soon as full (usually meaning every couple of minutes); the trip takes around five minutes. Abras run from 6am to midnight, and 24hr on the route from Bur Dubai Old Souk to Al Sabkha (though with a reduced service between midnight and 6am).