8am Visit the wild flamingos at the Ras Al Khor nature reserve
After a hearty breakfast at home, pack a pair of binoculars head to the Ras Al Khor nature reserve. The reserve, which is also an extensive mangrove swamp area, is home to a vast number of indigenous bird species and is under the protection of Dubai Municipality. There you’ll find an information centre with details of all the different birds and wildlife, plus all the rules and regulations that need to be adhered to. There are strict pathways that lead to hides deep in the mangroves, which literally offer you a birds-eye view of the wildlife. It’s a very kid-friendly place to visit, and a good lesson for little ones about how important preserving wildlife is. It’s free to visit as well. However, you must register online first, so that you have the correct visiting permits.
www.wildlife.ae (04 606 6826).
10am Head to Creek Park
What better way for them to run off their exuberance (and make as much noise as they like following their trip to the nature reserve) than a rambunctious visit to Creek Park. Costing just Dhs5 on the gate (little ones under three go free) and offering a wide variety of family entertainments, you can happily while away a couple of hours on the adventure playgrounds and other activities. We especially like the park train, which takes you on a tour of the entire park for just Dhs5 per person. Then there are the four-wheeler bikes, and the no trip is complete without a ride on the cable cars. Costing Dhs25 per person, each pod can seat up to six people, and the 30-minute ride gives you a fantastic aerial view of the Creek’s almost entire length. You even get to dangle over a section of the highway!
Head to Bastakiya in Bur Dubai for a taste of old-style Arabia. The network of narrow streets are lined with old villas built in the traditional gulf style, with courtyards shaded with ancient gaff trees and wind towers galore. Not only that, but as well as preserving the original architecture, the patrons of Bastakiya have turned many of these quaint dwellings into charming, and rather cool cafes and art galleries. Stop off for a tasty bite to eat and browse the available wares which make fantastic presents for friends and family back home. You can also visit Sheikh Saeed’s house – a registered heritage site that has been beautifully maintained so that you can see how people lived by the Creek in the years before modernization and air conditioning.
2pm Visit Dubai Museum
No trip to Bur Dubai would be complete without a visit to the very well run Dubai Museum located on the site of Al Fahidi Fort (a real Arabian castle). The layout is organized into lots of little tableaux, with street scenes depicting the silk and spice traders of yesteryear, and a whole room that is set ‘under water’ to show exactly how pearl diving was achieved. We're big fans of the ancient cannons, plus the sparkling jewellery exhibits.
Dhs3 (per person) and under 16’s get in free. Visiting hours are from 8.30am to 8.30pm (Saturday to Thursday) and 2.30pm to 8.30pm (Friday).
3.30pm Take a tour of the Creek on a Dhow
Cross the water on an Abra (water taxi) for the princely sum of Dhs1 per person, and investigate the Dhow-trader’s quay on the Deira side of the Creek. Just a wander in the direction of the Bank of Dubai from the Gold Souk end, is literally like entering another world. Those members of the family into pirates will love the sights and sounds of the working dhows. Kids will also love the fact that these vessels have genuine ‘poop decks’. Once you get opposite the Dubai Municipality buildings, there are several tourist dhows that can take you for a guided trip up and down the Creek. They supply soft drinks and a commentary of the historical landmarks. The kids probably won’t listen, but they’ll be very excited by the whole event anyway. And it makes for great picture opportunities.
5pm Visit the Heritage Village
Pop back across the Creek in the direction of Shindagha, and visit the Dubai Heritage Village. Entry is free and entertainment is abundant – especially after dark. There are camel rides, Arabian horsemanship demonstrations, Emirati snacks cooked on outdoor hot plates by bona fide Bedouin women, bird of prey and falcon demonstrations, exhibitions of Emirati art and culture held within the various buildings, and more. The atmosphere is welcoming – and it’s little wonder that this place becomes a melting pot of Dubai’s cultural cross-section if you visit on a weekend. There are also organized wedding demonstrations and traditional dance displays held throughout the month.
For details prior to your visit, check out the website www.dubaitourism.ae.
6.30pm Time for tea
Stomachs will be growling loudly by now if you’ve followed our exhausting itinerary. But thankfully, there’s no need to go far. Just outside the Heritage Village, on the Creek’s corniche, there are several Arabian restaurants offering a delicious range of local dishes. Not only that, but they are all pretty reasonably priced too. You can park your tired feet at an al fresco table next to the water, which provides a wonderful view of the Creek at night. While the kids tuck into their plates of traditional mezze and cusheri, they’ll be entertained by the illuminated water-way traffic. We have a soft spot for the tourist Dhows, which are lit up merrily with lots of pretty lights as they carry their dinner cruise guests up and down the thoroughfare. After so much excitement, everyone will be ready for bed!