Discover Dubai's History: A Complete Guide to Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood

Discover Dubai's History: A Complete Guide to Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood

There's no doubt that Dubai is known for its gleaming skyscrapers and glamorous architecture, but beneath all that lies a unique cultural history. From traditional souks to historic buildings, Dubai offers a rich tapestry of heritage and traditions waiting to be explored.

One of the most notable historical sites in Dubai is the Al Fahidi Neighborhood, which dates back hundreds of years. This well-preserved area showcases traditional Emirati architecture and provides a glimpse into Dubai's past as a trading hub. With museums, classic dining spots, and traditional souks, Al Fahidi is a one-stop destination for those looking to learn more about Dubai's rich history.

Here's your complete guide to this historic neighborhood!

About the neighborhood

Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood is a remarkable neighborhood nestled among the waters of Dubai Creek that goes all the way back to the early 1800s. This enchanting area was mainly developed by Persian merchants who were attracted to the Emirati government's promising trade prospects and incentives.

The traditional homes, which are crafted from materials like coral, stone, and gypsum, showcase the remarkable architectural skills of the city's old days. With narrow alleyways, wind towers, and traditional courtyard houses that have been carefully preserved to maintain their historic charm, it's the perfect place to escape the bustling city and immerse yourself in the rich heritage of Dubai.

Fast forward over two centuries, Al Fahidi has transformed into a living museum, with many of its historic buildings being repurposed into art galleries, museums, and cultural centers. Now, visitors can explore the streets of the district with its fusion of modernity and tradition, experiencing a unique blend of past and present.


Arabian Tea House

Arabian Tea House is one of the first authentic Emirati restaurants, being in business since the late 90s. A trip to Al Fahidi is definitely not complete without visiting this charming establishment for a taste of traditional Emirati cuisine and hospitality. The cozy courtyard setting and an extensive menu of local dishes make it a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the culture of Dubai.

As you step into the Arabian Tea House, you are transported into the old times. You can enjoy your refreshing cup of gahwa (traditional Arabic coffee) in the shade of an old tree and immerse yourself in the rich history and flavors of the region.

Average price for two: 225 AED

Timings: 7:00 am to 11:00 pm

Contact: 04 353 5071

Local House Restaurant

Nestled in one of the oldest houses in Al Fahidi, Local House Restaurant is one of the first restaurants in the city to introduce and popularize the unique Emirati delicacy: camel meat! You can find a delightful array of genuine Emirati flavors, including an extensive selection of seafood, tantalizing starters, refreshing salads, and tempting desserts; they even serve camel ice cream!

Established in 1997, the Local House has been a vibrant and welcoming veranda where the essence of Arabian hospitality has thrived for decades. As you enter, you'll be greeted by the sight of the oldest buckthorn tree in Dubai, adding to the historical charm of the place and making it the perfect place to indulge in a rich traditional ambiance.

Average price for two: 165 AED

Timings: 8:00 am to 11:00 pm

Contact: 055 757 7023

Al Khayma Heritage Restaurant

Nestled in the alleyways of the Fahidi neighborhood and adorned with lanterns on the walls, Al Khayma Heritage Restaurant isn't just a cozy spot to enjoy a meal but it's also a place where you can experience the history of Dubai.

With classical Arabic music playing in the background, traditional dishes, and authentic decor, guests are transported back in time to savor the region's rich heritage.

Al Khayma Heritage Restaurant, one of the most recent additions to Dubai's growing list of Emirati restaurants, prides itself on using handpicked, farm-fresh ingredients. The menu covers everything from local favorites like chebabs (Emirati pancakes) to meat-laden dishes and seafood platters, making it an ideal spot for a delicious dinner after a day of exploring Old Dubai.

Average price for two: 225 AED

Timings: 8:00 am to 11:00 pm

Contact: 055 180 2080

XVA Cafe

XVA Cafe, located in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, is a popular spot for art enthusiasts and history buffs alike. In fact, it has even gained a reputation as 'Dubai's best-kept secret'! Located in the XVA Art Hotel, a converted heritage building, it offers a serene atmosphere with its lush greenery and tranquil courtyard. The cafe offers a variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes, including innovative takes on classic dishes, salads, soups, and desserts, all made with fresh and locally sourced ingredients.

Average price for two: 180 AED

Timings: 7:00 am to 10:00 pm

Contact: 04 353 5383


Of course, in a district with deep-rotted heritage, there's bound to be gems to discover and explore!

The Dubai Museum

The Dubai Museum is easily one of the most historic buildings in the UAE. It is one of the oldest existing buildings in the UAE and is believed to be the oldest building in Dubai that still stands today.

The fort, which was built around 1787, was used to guard approaches to the town from raids from neighboring tribes. Today, the museum serves as a window into Dubai's history and houses tombs, ancient documents, diagrams, and monuments.

The museum was opened in 1971 to present the traditional way of life in Dubai. Visitors can enter the fort and explore the galleries, which display the general culture of the land, especially during the early 1800s.

The galleries also feature local antiques, artifacts from countries that traded with Dubai throughout the years, and dioramas showing the way of life before the discovery of oil. The museum also showcases the rich history of pearl diving in the region, with items dating all the way back to 3000 BCE!

Entrance fee:

  • 3 AED for adults
  • 1 AED for kids under 6 years

Timings: 8:30 am to 8:30 pm

Contact: 800 33222

Coffee Museum

In Dubai's old days, coffee wasn't just a drink, it was a lifestyle. In fact, there's an entire museum just dedicated to coffee! The Dubai Coffee Museum is a treasure trove of Arabic culture and history, showcasing the origins of coffee and its global celebration. The museum displays everything coffee-related, from grinders and old brewing pots to historical facts and interactive exhibits. It also provides insights into coffee's importance in different cultures, Arabic traditions, and preparation methods.

The museum is divided into two floors, with a shop on the ground floor. The ground floor showcases roasting and brewing styles from various countries, while the first floor features a literary section with 18th-century coffee books and maps. Visitors can learn about the entire coffee process and unique brewing techniques, and even try out different coffee samples from around the world in the museum's tasting room!

Entrance fee: FREE!

Timings: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturday to Thursday

Contact: 04 353 8777

Coin Museum

The Coin Museum in Dubai showcases over 470 rare coins from various Middle Eastern eras, dating back to the 7th century. Opened in 2004, it features eight rooms, showcasing coins used in Dubai and their connections to the British Empire, India, and other countries. Visitors can explore coins through display cabinets, magnifying screens, and touchscreens. The museum covers historical significance, Arab-Sasanian, Umayyad Caliphate, Abbasid Caliphate, and other regions. With informative displays and exhibits, the Coin Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the rich currency history of the region. Visitors can also learn about the evolution of currency and its role in shaping Dubai's economy over the centuries.

Entrance fee: FREE!

Timings: 8:00 am to 2:00 pm on Sunday to Thursday

Contact: 800 33 222

Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding

The Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) offers a unique opportunity to understand the culture of the UAE. Established in 1998, the non-profit organization promotes awareness of Emirati culture, customs, traditions, and religion among both expats and foreign visitors in the UAE.

Some of the activities include tours of heritage sites, educational programs, cultural awareness events, lectures, Emirati Arabic classes, iftars during Ramadan, and traditional Emirati food experiences. The center's location, a restored wind tower house in the Al Fahidi Neighbourhood, is a popular choice for visitors to enjoy authentic Emirati breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The center's motto, "Open Doors, Open Minds," encourages all questions to be welcomed and answered, regardless of their sensitivity.

Entrance fee: FREE!

Timings: 8:00 am to 4:00 pm

Contact: 04 353 6666

Majlis Gallery

The Majlis Gallery is one of the top art galleries in Dubai. Established in 1989, the gallery aims to promote international artists and serve as a meeting place for creative minds, offering permanent installations and a variety of artistic pieces. The gallery features fine arts, paintings, sculptures, ceramics, glasswork, and photography.

The gallery is surrounded by original structures, including shuttered windows, a wind tower, and oiled hardwood doors. Over the years, the gallery has hosted numerous solo and group exhibitions, introducing the region's finest artists to the stage. Visitors can also enjoy workshops, artist talks, and special events hosted by the gallery. The diverse range of art on display appeals to art enthusiasts of all tastes and backgrounds.

Entrance fee: FREE!

Timings: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm on Monday to Saturday

Contact: 04 353 6233


In Al Fahidi, shopping takes you back in time with traditional souks offering a wide array of authentic Emirati products.

The Old Souk

The Old Souk Dubai is a historic shopping destination in Dubai, offering a unique blend of hand-woven and machine-made fabrics, dubbing it the Dubai Textile Souk. Visitors can find both international and local products, including candles, fabrics, pillows, cotton, raw silk, wool, cashmere, and accessories like buttons and lace. After shopping, you can even visit the tailors in the market to have your clothes stitched. The vibrant atmosphere of the Old Souk Dubai is enhanced by the traditional architecture and bustling crowds, creating a truly immersive shopping experience. Don't forget to haggle with the vendors to get the best deals on your purchases!

Spice Souk

Get ready for an exciting sensory adventure at the Spice Souk! Follow the scents to a lively trading floor filled with colorful sacks of spices, herbs, rice, and fruits. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere as you explore different stalls, chat (and bargain) with vendors, and sample exotic flavors. You can stock up on high-quality spices at local prices, taste fresh organic dates, and explore a variety of spices, nuts, and locally blended teas.

Whether you're a cooking expert or just looking to experiment with your recipes, the Spice Souk is the perfect place to uncover a treasure trove of new tastes and ingredients in Dubai's heritage area!

Gold Souk

The Gold Souk is one of the oldest and easily the most fascinating traditional markets in Dubai. Whether you’re just browsing, or on the hunt for precious gold, the Gold Souk offers a unique shopping experience with over 300 retailers selling a variety of jewelry pieces. Walk through the glittering market to find designs from around the world crafted with a variety of carats!

Contrary to its name, the Gold Souk doesn't just sell gold. Make sure to keep an eye out for diamond-encrusted ornaments, strings of pearls, and platinum and silver jewelry. The government of Dubai rigorously regulates every item to guarantee the genuineness of the quality you get, so you never have to worry when buying anything!

Also Read:

Gold Bullion in Dubai: Gold Souk, Online Dealers & More
Are you planning to invest in gold bullions or bars? We’ve compiled everything you need to know about buying gold bullion in Dubai.
Secrets of the Sand: Digging Up The UAE’s Top Archaeological Sites
UAE’s history unfolds through its archaeological sites. Explore & uncover the rich tapestry of this region’s past! Unique sites await!
A Guide to the Best Dubai Souk and Markets
Dubai Souks Market: Know More about Best Dubai Souks and Markets. Check out what makes it special and the major attractions to see. Read More
Dubai Creek Facts: Historical Numbers, Attractions & More
Hidubai brings you all Dubai Creek Facts that you should know about before visiting the place. There are historical facts as well as things that you can do and attractions to visit in the Dubai Creek area.
Living in Bur Dubai vs Deira Dubai: Renting, Buying & More
Deciding between moving to Bur Dubai vs Deira Dubai? Our in-depth comparison of two of Dubai’s oldest neighborhoods can help make your decision easier!
Nour Aboras

Written by Nour Aboras

Nour is a Content Writer at HiDubai with three years of experience. She graduated high school with distinction and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Psychology.
Dark Light