walking tour old dubai

Here’s the thing you need to know about Dubai – you can fit more into a day here than you could fit into a WEEK at home. Seriously, it’s crazy. On our recent trip, hosted by Dubai Tourism, we had a month’s worth of holiday in a little over four days.

Video Highlights

If you fancy watching, we’ve captured some of our Dubai highlights in this video:

After spending our first day in Dubai exploring the Mall of Dubai and Burj Khalifa, we spent day two on a walking tour of Old Dubai with Arabian Adventures, and checked out one of the city’s best (and oldest) water parks – Wild Wadi Water Park.

It might not sound like the most natural itinerary but that’s the thing about Dubai – it’s like two different cities sharing the same space.

Old Dubai Walking Tour

We were collected from the Jumeirah Beach Hotel by a rep from the Arabian Adventures tour company, and we were taken on the short drive to the Al Fahidi Cultural Neighbourhood, which gives you an insight into the way of life in Dubai from the 1850s.

old dubai walking tour

The neighbourhood is pretty, with light stone buildings, ornate wooden doorways, little squares and dark passages offering welcome refuge from the hot sun.

Many of the buildings have been converted into an eclectic collection of museums and open houses. Around one corner you’ll find a museum dedicated to coffee, around the next, one telling the story of stamps in the UAE, or schooling.

The tour isn’t slick, or particularly grand, but I love having the chance to walk these sorts of areas with a guide, because you can learn so much.

Did you know that the sticks pointing out from these roofs are old-fashioned aircon? Locals would wet linens and hang them at the top of the tower, and the air moving through them would bring cool breezes into the house.

Our guide and driver were also really patient with Flea, answering her questions on Muslim dress and the differences between the different people she’d seen during our visit. Although she was possibly left with more questions than she started with, I’m inclined to think that’s no bad thing!

coffee in old dubai

During our four-hour tour, we stopped to taste Arabic coffee and dates (you eat the super-sweet date first, then sip the piping hot coffee, spiced with cardamom and saffron).

After a short break, we took an old-fashioned wooden abra boat across the creek to the spice and gold souks, where you can explore the tiny crowded stalls that line the streets here, with vendors shouting about their wares, and offering you pashminas and knock-off designer handbags. It’s fun but also quite intimidating for children – Flea wasn’t keen to hang around here.

the creek dubai

Wild Wadi Water Park

After the walking tour, we checked into our second hotel in Dubai – the Madinat Jumeirah – and decided to head straight to the Wild Wadi water park. With temperatures in the mid 30s, Flea was beside herself with excitement at the idea of an on-site water park!

wild wadi water park dubai

If you’re a guest of the Jumeirah Beach or Madinat hotels, you’ll enjoy free, unlimited access to the Wild Wadi water park, which you can reach using a complimentary buggy from your hotel (unless you’re at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, in which case it’s next door). I imagine it’s a huge draw for families staying at the Jumeirah resorts and hotels in Dubai.

As water parks go, Wild Wadi is a little more modest than some we’ve visited but if you’re travelling with children, I personally think that’s something of a bonus.

The rides, slides and attractions are all within a short walk of each other, and there’s plenty for younger or more timid children to do, along with two or three really good big slides for more daring members of the family.

wild wadi water park

Flea is an adrenaline junkie and found plenty here to keep her entertained for a long afternoon – she loved the Tantrum Alley big ride, and there’s another slide that connects together 11 slides, that are a lot of fun. There’s also a flow rider surf simulator and a boogie board version, both of which were popular. We attended on a weekday (the weekend in UAE is Fri/Sat) and the queues were really very short, but I can imagine it gets more crowded on the weekend.

Perhaps my favourite thing about Wild Wadi is the use of a wristband to access lockers and act as cash while you’re in the park.

It might seem like a little thing but we’ve been to a LOT of water parks, Flea and I, and it’s always a hassle to know what to put in the locker – there’s nobody to watch our stuff so we usually lock up everything, but then what happens when we want a drink? At Wild Wadi, you are given a wristband which acts as a key for your locker but which you can also load with cash, and then use it at the park’s kiosks to pay for drinks, food and souvenirs. Genius.

After a long day we walked back to our new hotel along the beach  – there are buggies that will ferry you, but in my book, it’s a sin to turn down the opportunity to walk along a beach at sunset.

In one of those perfect moments you can’t ever really plan, we found a hammock on the beach and as the sun set below the Burj al Arab (the world’s only seven star hotel, trivia fans) Flea took the opportunity for a splash in the sea, the whole beach to ourselves.

In a hectic week, I think this very much counts as one of my favourite memories of Dubai.

sunset in dubai


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Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She's also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world's coolest ten year old.