Time Out Dubai takes a trip off the beaten track to discover Naif in Old Dubai, lodged between Dubai Creek and the old Gold Souk.
Time Out Dubai staff
What’s this place then? Naif, in Deira, is one of Dubai’s longest-inhabited areas and still one of its busiest and most densely populated. Roughly speaking, it’s between Dubai Creek and the old Gold Souk.
If it’s that old, it must have some interesting history… Reasonably so – it used to be a hub of trade. It still is, only you won’t find livestock here anymore, and back in the day it was the site of a very busy camel market. In 2008, the central Naif Souk burned down and was quickly replaced with a mall, which many of the souk’s traders moved into.
So I should head there? For a lively atmosphere, great people-watching and a slice of what certain people tend to unnecessarily snootily refer to as “real Dubai”, you’re really better off strolling around the neighbourhood’s outside portions. Particularly after dark. Explore the side streets and chaotic junctions in areas surrounding Naif Police Station (an old fort built in 1939), and be sure to take a stroll up Al Sabkha Road, too.
Sounds fascinating. What’s good to eat? Skip the Wimpy (really), and head to either Al Kabab Al Afghani for bargain grills atop mountains of flavoured rice, or check out the ever-busy Delhi Restaurant – the kitchen can be a little liberal (utterly excessive) with the oil, but the crowds of diners are a good indication of the restaurant’s reliability when it comes to tasty, reasonably priced dining – try the nihari (here, a slow-cooked beef recipe), which draws diners from all corners of town. We know it’s not traditional, but we can’t resist a roomali roti on the side – life is at least 93 percent better with a piece of that thin, stretchy, doughy dipping aid in hand.
And if I’ve still got some spends left over? The entire area is a great place to pick up cheap electronics (and get them repaired). There are also streets and streets of tiny shops selling pashminas, colourful kaftans, abayas, sandals, kids’ toys and sparkly handbags. Bring your bargaining skills – many of the shopkeepers here will happily offer you their best price, as long as you remember to ask for it, of course…
Only in Naif
Okay, so it’s technically just on the edge of Naif, but this small, funky sports bar and restaurant makes the cut for being within walking distance. Weaving your way through pavement traffic is thirsty work, and if you can catch the Rugby World Cup final or an hour of the Premier League, cold drink in hand, all the better. Fortune Boutique Hotel (055 969 5346).