Exploring Al Seef

Al Seef is an area of Dubai, running along the creek, across from Deira, the old town of Dubai, that has been created to resemble Dubai as it was 50 years ago, when it was still a pearl trading Arab town on the edge of the desert. It’s very picturesque, very well done, and is a mixture of museums, a heritage souk, quite upmarket shops, restaurants and a small bijou hotel. In the spirit of historical Dubai, it is totally alcohol free. Constructed in a sand coloured stone with narrow alleyways and courtyards lit by lanterns leading down to the creek. it has an atmosphere of Indiana Jones about it. The restaurants are mostly creekside and it is a pure delight to sit out on the terrace with a cold drink or a plate of food and watch the river go by, the dhows plying up and down, some small original style, some larger, fairy light festooned dinner boats. It is totally manmade and has a whiff of Disney’s Adventureland about it and for sure it is a lot cleaner and better smelling than I daresay Old Dubai ever was…. but it is very charming and somehow not kitschy.

We had a good wander round in the interval before Lucy joined us from work. There are lots of traders there: Palestinians offering spices, dates and perfumes; Jordanians selling much the same; Kashmiris offering rugs, kaftans and textile goods; Omanis offering frankincense and exotic spices, antiques or maybe antiques from god knows where….. I bought some perfume – I love the middle Eastern oud perfumes – and two pashminas. All incredibly reasonably priced – you had to bargain. It was hard to believe looking across the creek at the skyscrapers of modern Dubai and the luxury designer malls there of priceless goods, that this utter contrast could be. And like all of Dubai, it feels super safe for two women to be wandering around. Social laws are very strictly adhered to here. No staring, no leering, no importuning (instant deportation offence, quite unthinkable) . It’s spotless, not a bit of litter, there is obviously an unseen army that goes around cleaning everything.

We settled for a drink in a place on the creekside and watched the sunset and the full moon rise. It was a very beautiful sight.

Lucy arrived at 645 with a friend from St Andrews days, Hazel, and we wandered around again and also visited an adjoining historical area, before returning to our dinner restaurant Al Fanar at around 730. We had a table by the creek. All of us chose the Eat-As-Much-As-You-Want Seafood dinner which was a tad under £20 each. It started with crab cakes, calamari rings and a slice of fried aubergine. Then the main event which was a platter of grilled seafood: garlic mussels, crabs, squid, huge prawns… chips, rice and garlic bread. It was delicious – obviously only if you love seafood as we all clearly did. They did have other offerings but this was the main theme of the place. Frankly, I was done after the platter and that was without even trying the rice or the garlic bread. It was still amazing value. I would definitely return there and i do recommend a visit to Al Sheef if you are in Dubai, just to get a taste of what it was like a very few decades ago, long before there was ever a single skyscraper.