Dubai is a city synonymous with 21st century wonder, of dazzling skyscrapers reaching above desert sands and manmade islands that show just what humans are capable of when we set our minds to it. But we’ll let you in on a little secret: Dubai isn’t only a contemporary city – it’s brimming with history and tradition too. You just need to know where to look.

With the Dubai Expo 2020 taking place in October this year, after a 12-month delay, now is a perfect opportunity to experience the city’s distinct contrasts of old and new. From losing yourself in souks filled with the scents of exotic spices to exploring the amazing pavilions that make up the Expo precinct, every step offers a new adventure.

Pop on the Spotify ‘Dubai On My Mind’ playlist to get into the spirit and let’s explore!

The Old

Dubai has come a long way from its origins as a humble fishing village. Back in the 18th century it was home to less than a thousand people who relied mostly on the bounty of the Persian Gulf to provide for their families. Over the centuries since, the city has grown into a powerhouse on the international stage, yet there are still many reminders of days gone by.

Al Fahidi Fort, the oldest building in Dubai, is the best place to see this heritage today. Built in 1787, it is now home to the Dubai Museum and offers a fascinating glimpse into the past – the people, their traditions, and daily life. You can see displays about the folklore, view antiquities such as pottery and weapons, and get a feel for what life was once like.

An Emirati Kashta Cultural Tour guided by locals is a great way to go behind the scenery and experience what makes the city tick – all through the eyes of the Emirati. You’ll take in places like the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, stroll through traditional marketplaces, and even climb aboard an abra (ferry) to see the city from a different perspective.

For something completely different, try the Desert Safari experience. Think exploring huge sand dunes by 4WD in the late afternoon, camel rides at sunset and then feasting on a delicious barbeque dinner while watching dance performances around the campfire.

The New

Burj Al Arab put Dubai on the map as a city willing to push the boundaries of architecture and innovation in the mid 1990s. Its sail-like design became instantly iconic. In its wake, countless others have transformed the skyline, including the mighty Burj Khalifa, and the city is still far from done. Each time you visit it feels completely different. And it won’t explore itself.

The Modern Dubai Tour is a fun way to discover the contemporary side of the city, ticking off architectural marvels such as The Palm and Mall of the Emirates. Or, you could take to the water and witness the city’s unique wonders on a thrilling 90-minute speedboat tour. Either way, the city is guaranteed to blow your mind with one incredible sight after another. 

tour on a boat

Ready to explore in person? The Dubai Pass powered by iVenture Card is your passport to amazing attractions, tours, dining, and entertainment, all curated by local travel experts.

Happy Travels!