Dubai Creek: Where Past Meets Present

In the early 20th century, Dubai was a small coastal village inhabited by a tribe—who came from the neighboring emirate, Abu Dhabi—led by the Al Maktoum family.  Unlike its neighboring emirate, Dubai lacked the fertile oasis, so its inhabitants settled along the banks of the creek and involved themselves with fishing, herding sheep and goats, pearling, and trade.

Soon, Dubai became a sufficiently prosperous port attracting settlers from Iran, India and Baluchistan. The facilities for trade and free enterprise were enough to make Dubai a natural haven for merchants who left Lingah, on the Persian coast, after the introduction of high customs dues there in 1902. These people were mostly of distant Arab origin and looked across to the Arab shore of the Gulf finally making their homes in Dubai.

The creek divides Dubai into Bur Dubai and Deira …

Image courtesy of Google Maps

Crossing the creek during those times meant a long and arduous journey around the end of the creek or a ride in an abra, a small wooden boat that ferries passengers to this day.   Today, the city is connected via modern bridges and a tunnel that runs underwater.

A stroll down the wharf on Dubai’s Creek amidst the hustle and bustle of business evokes memories of the city’s trading past.  One can see trucks laden with goods and laborers hurriedly loading the dhows with cargo ranging from car tires and batteries, to soft drinks, fabrics, bags of rice to electronics and other consumer goods destined for the markets in the neighboring countries of Africa and the middle east and beyond.

And besides the traditional abra that I absolutely love to ride (it only costs 1 dirham to cross the creek!), there are also the modern Water Taxis …

But nothing beats the traditional abra ride …

Oh, and I was deeply fascinated by the way they load a jeep onto the old, wooden ships.  One moment the Land Cruiser was driving past me, the next moment it was being pulled up in onto the ship.

If you ever visit Dubai and not see this place, I’d feel sorry for you.  You have to see this part of the creek where you can experience the old Dubai as you face the setting sun, watch the abras float by, and bite into a piece of warm shawarma and a sip of hot chai.


  1. Your blog makes me (& others) realize that there is more to see in Dubai than shopping malls and tall buildings! Thanks!!

    1. You are most welcome, LavendarClouds!

      The weather here these days is absolutely lovely and that’s why I’m going out a lot and taking pictures. Come summer, the only place where we can walk and not pass out (due to heat and dehydration) is the mall, so yeah, enjoy the outdoor pictures in the meantime 😀

  2. I liked the abra 🙂
    Would like to be sitting on one right now rather than freezing in this cold! Actually would like to be anywhere else except here right now.

    1. ‘liya, I’ve heard from a certain blogger that you and V were going on this trip (where it’s warmer). Did you go?

      We miss you! Please resume blogging 🙂

  3. The last pic of the setting sun is awesome! Loved it and the others as well.The abra in a way looks ancient 😀 But ancient things have a way to captivate us in their art and history.Dubai should be very pleased at you for showing her beautiful side to us!

    Now for the pic of the car,I really hope there’s no misadventure..And my sons would be so captivated by this ‘flying’ car no doubt 🙂

    1. Thank you, Lat!

      Yep, the abras are old and that’s what makes it even more appealing! And when you ride across the creek in the late afternoon, you’ll find birds flying about and chasing the abra. It’s precious.

      Ha ha … not sure about the “misadventures”. I hope there weren’t any.

  4. I totally agree with LavendarClouds! And its all thanks to you, Nadia!
    Its sad when they miss out pieces from the entire jigsaw, some things you never get to see.
    I love the last picture of the sun heading to bed 😀

  5. fantastic pictures.

    While I am glad we were able to visit Dubai (and also meet up with you guys) I was sad we only had such a short time. I always liked the abra rides, having been to the creek many times as a kid. It’s sad they don’t publicize these much more than some stupid malls. These are what people go to the Middle East for.

    1. Thanks, Mezba.

      Yeah, sadly, it’s all about malls and shopping, or the newest building/hotel, etc. Of course, one would like to see the largest aquarium and indoor ski resort in the malls, but then you’ll find most of the tourist along the creek, Naif area, Karama enjoying the older, more real Dubai 😀

  6. Wow… Beautiful… Wish I was there too… watching the sunset and of course not to miss biting into a piece of warm shawarma and sipping hot chai…. mmmm what a life~ 😉

    1. Mrs Umer, I doubt you’d be able to enjoy the shawarma these days given your current aversion to food. So I’ll eat that shawarma for you 😀

      1. Sighs.. you’re so right my dear… lol… hence the wishing…
        Mm… talking about food… I am indeed missing many types of Pakistani food! I miss falooda… Premier bryani (have you heard of this?!!)… kebabs… *drools* hehe…

    1. Hello, The Dreamer! India isn’t bad, but the UAE has a different experience to offer. I hope you get to visit this part of the world soon 🙂

  7. hello, Nadia…

    i must say, the last pic is magnificent or is it the view, huh? the first pic is really good, too. i hope you’re happy even as you are busy… it’s hot, hot over here, dear. Ingat lagi! 🙂

    1. Thank you, San! These were the days when I was taking so many photographs. Oh, how I miss photography. I’m happy, San, thank you so much. You are so sweet. It’s super hot here too!

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