What’s On has a guide to traditional things to do in Dubai, with souks, Jumeirah Mosque, Sheikh Mohammed Centre For Cultural Understanding.

Souks guide
We Love UAE
UAE road trips
Day trips from Dubai

As a melting pot for other worldly cultures, it is important to remember that Dubai and the UAE as a history and tradition all of its own. So how best can you enjoy it as a resident, and where are the good local spots when you have guests in town? Here’s our handy guide to peeping behind the glitz to see another side of Dubai…

Ride an abra on the Creek
For centuries, these rickety wooden boats have served as water taxis across the Creek, and it’s still an amazing trip. Go early, as there’s nothing quite like seeing the creek bathed in the morning light. Help your mum aboard, pay your dirham and take some snaps.

Deira Waterfront, Baniyas Road, Dubai, 24 hours, Dhs1. Tel: (04) 2844444. Taxi: Near Spice Souk. rta.ae

Ride an abra on The Creek

Visit the Jumeirah Mosque
The only mosque in Dubai open to the public, this proud edifice is a place to soak up the serenity of Islam. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre For Cultural Understanding offers daily mosque tours (except Friday mornings) at 10am. These last around 75 minutes, and include a Q&A. Afterwards, head to the adjacent The Majlis café, which sells camel milk coffees.

Jumeirah Beach Road, Dubai, Sat to Thur 9am to 5pm. Tel: (04) 3536666. Taxi: Jumeirah Mosque. cultures.ae

Jumeirah Mosque

Desert safari
There’s nothing quite like escaping to the dunes, but if you’re trying to impress, it’s probably best to leave it to the professionals. With an organised tour you can safely set off into the sand, go dune bashing, get a henna tattoo and eat local food while watching traditional dancing.

Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, daily, late afternoon till evening, Dhs360. Tel: (04) 2144888. arabian-adventures.com

Alserkal Avenue
Hang out with the hipsters of the Al Quoz art scene, if only to make you and your guests feel terribly cool. This creative complex is home to art, design and photography galleries and there always seems to be something going on, from pop-up fashion shows to live music. A4 Space, Gulf Photo Plus and The Fridge are highlights.

Alserkal Avenue, Al Qouz 1, Street 8, Dubai, 7pm, free. Taxi: Alserkal Avenue. alserkalavenue.ae

The Sheikh Mohammed Centre For Cultural Understanding
Located in the Al Fahidi District in Bur Dubai, this non-profit organisation aims to educate visitors about Emirati culture. They organise guided tours of traditional Emirati neighbourhoods, the areas around Dubai Creek, and the Jumeirah Mosque. This is also the place to try authentic Emirati food.

Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, Al Fahidi, Dubai. Tel: (04) 3536666. Metro: Al Fahidi. cultures.ae

Al Fahidi Historical District

Munch on a shawarma
While Dubai’s fancy restaurants merit a spot on a foodie’s bucket list, the real must-try during your visit to the emirates is this local meaty treat. Shawarmas are available pretty much everywhere, but for the best in the city, head to Al Mallah in Satwa, a low-key café on the corner of Dhiyafa Street.

Al Mallah, Dhiyafa Street, Satwa, Dubai, daily 7am to 11pm. Tel: (04) 3984723. Taxi: Dhiyafa Street

Browse the souks
If your parents want to pick up some authentic souvenirs, the souks of Deira are the place to go. There are stalls dedicated to textiles, local spices, perfumes and gold. Pack tissues for when you’re browsing the spice souk – you’ll sneeze all the way around.

Textiles, perfume and gold souks: Sikkat Al Khail Street, Al Fahidi. Spice souk: Al Ras. All souks 10am to 10pm. Metro: Al Fahidi or Al Ras 

Gold Souk

PS Try a Karama shopping trip
If you and your parents can’t find what you want in Karama, then you’re just not looking hard enough. This neighbourhood has shops selling everything you could possibly need, from souvenirs and electronics to designer (lookalike) accessories.