Old Dubai sprang up around the Creek in the 1800s as a centre of fishing, pearling and trading. The area is still home to atmospheric souks (markets) selling goods to locals and tourists that line the Creek, bound for India, Pakistan and Iran. The small but wonderfully pungent Spice Souk in Deira has mounds of herbs and spices piled high in sacks outside each souk. Stock up on cardamom, turmeric and saffron, as well as dates, rose water and frankincense. Bargaining is the norm in the souks, so be prepared for some good-natured haggling.
Less aromatic but arguably more atmospheric is the Deira Fish Market. Open from 5am daily, it’s a lively place with chatty fishmongers and a wide array of fish and seafood. Look beyond favourites like hammour and shaari and choose a more sustainable species such as faskar (two bar seabream) and jesh (yellow bar angelfish). Then take your catch to the Egyptian grill masters at the hole-in-the-wall Grill and Shark restaurant next door and enjoy a cheap fresh-cooked lunch. There’s also a large fruit and vegetable souk adjacent to the fish market that is worth a visit.
For a smaller-scale market experience, head to Souq Al Bahar 4 Fish in Umm Suqeim 1. Opened in 2014, the covered outdoor market is clean and organised, with around 40 stalls offering fresh fish and seafood including lobster and crabs. If you’re feeling peckish, wander over to Seaview Restaurant which has a lovely outdoor terrace overlooking the glistening harbour.
In the gloriously green surrounds of Zabeel Park, Ripe Food & Craft Market is a great place to spend the morning grazing and shopping for unique arts and crafts. There are over 100 traders selling organic and seasonal fruit and vegetables, coffee, and local honey, along with street food stalls and trucks such as Raw Coffee and Moti Roti. It takes place on Fridays from 9am until 2pm during October to April.
On Saturdays, Ripe Night Market at Al Barsha Pond Park is just as much fun with food and craft stalls galore, twinkling fairy lights and live music. Pull up a patch of grass, or find a seat at one of the communal tables, and enjoy the community atmosphere and delicious food on offer from 4pm to 9pm during the cooler months.