Dubai’s Cultural Attractions: Sights to See Beyond the Tourist Hotspots

From the historic quarters that offer a glimpse into the city’s past to the vibrant arts district and newly opened museums, Top Spots Dubai shares Dubai’s lesser known cultural highlights.

1. Sheikh Mohammed Cultural Center

The Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) aims to offer its visitors insight into Dubai’s culture and customs. The centre provides a host of activities expand upon local life from the chance to sample Emirati cuisine to basic Arabic language lessons classes, tours of heritage sites and guided mosque visits. The SMCCU centre is housed close to the Dubai Creek inside a restored wind tower house in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. Make a day of it and explore the other cultural sites that Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood has to offer.  The centre’s motto is ‘Open Doors, Open Minds’ so all questions are welcomed.

2. Dubai Museum

Located within the Al Fahidi Fort (1787), the oldest building in Dubai, the Dubai Museum showcases a rich display of replica scenes and historic exhibits that offer insights into the region’s history and everyday life in the UAE. The museum features simulations of historic Arab houses, mosques, souks, farms, and glimpses into desert and marine life.

The fort, which is situated near the creek, was once the monarch’s residence and also served as a storage for weapons and a prison before its revival under Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum.

3. The Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House, Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood

The Al Fahidi Historical District in Dubai is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in exploring the city’s rich cultural heritage. The district is home to several well-preserved traditional Emirati buildings, including the Al Fahidi Fort which houses the Dubai Museum, and Sheikh Saeed’s House, a stunning example of Arabian architecture. Visitors can wander the narrow alleys and courtyards, take in the beautiful wind towers, and explore the many galleries, museums, and cafes that showcase the area’s unique history and culture.

4. Jumeirah Mosque

The Jumeirah Mosque welcomes visitors from all faiths to discover Islam and local culture. Local mosque representatives offer a 75-minute guided tours six days a week at 10am. The tour explores Islamic holidays, practices, cuisines and local customs. The structure of the mosque was built entirely from white stone following the medieval Fatimid tradition. Visitors to the mosque should behave and dress respectfully and dress modestly. There is traditional attire available to borrow on-site.

Mosque public visiting hours: Daily, 10am and 2pm (except Fridays)

5. Etihad Museum, Jumeirah

Etihad Museum immerses visitors in the UAE’s history via interactive pavilions. Discover how the region has evolved via photographs, films and more. Artefacts of particular interest were collected between 1968 and 1974.

6. Mohammed Bin Rashid Library

Situated on the historic Dubai Creek, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library is the largest in the region (home to almost 1 million publications!) and is designed in the shape of a traditional Islamic lectern. Set across nine levels and over 54,000sqm, there’s a fully digitalised laboratory, publications in multiple languages, as well as compilations for children, archives, specialised collections and a cafe inside.

Opening hours: Saturday to Thursday, 9am – 9pm , Friday, 2pm – 9pm, Sunday Closed

7. Al Serkal Avenue

Alserkal Avenue is a place of intriguing contrasts. Despite its industrial origins, it has become a hub for the best contemporary art galleries in the region. It is a unique cultural district that also features a variety of innovative business concepts. Visitors are sure to enjoy a personalized experience in this carefully curated space.

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