Dubai city tours are not necessarily green-travel friendly as the city has experienced huge development in recent years and sustainability has not been high on its agenda.
However, whilst the region has the roots of its economy in the oil industry, this is no longer the case and recent years have seen a focus on ecotourism begin to emerge. There are now a number of options to consider when planning your Dubai city tour which can take you out of the main tourist traps and into more sustainable activities.
Things to see on a Dubai city tour
Dubai is an amazingly diverse city and anyone visiting the city should be prepared for the differences in architecture and cultures that await. It’s usual to find traditional Arab houses nestled alongside looming glass, modern glass towers and there are a number of Dubai city tours which can help you discover the city’s delights.
Take a fascinating historical tour and visit the beautiful Jumeirah Mosque on Thursdays and Sundays (book first) and then go on to take in the wonderful Gold Souk and spice market. This Dubai city tour also takes in the Dubai Museum as well as the Shiekh Maktoum Palace and is recommended as a starter tour for the green traveller.
If you fancy getting out of the city, why not take to horseback and experience a genuine part of the Dubai culture. Horseback tours take you out into the desert with qualified trainers from a horse farm and riding lessons are available for all ages and abilities. Finish the day tired but happy with traditional Arabic food and really immerse yourself in the local cuisine.
Getting around on a solo Dubai city tour
Dubai suffers with traffic congestion and is now the most congested city in the Middle East. Although there is an extensive bus system, it’s recommended that you avoid these at peak times as commuters often find themselves with a wait of up to an hour on their hands when the services are busy.
As an ecotourist therefore, it would be better to explore the city during the day and in the evenings if you want to use the bus system. Probably the most commonly used mode of transport in Dubai is the taxi system, which is both privately and government operated.
Whilst traffic congestion in the city is a major concern, the Dubai government are thought to be investing heavily in roads and more buses with a view to easing the situation. This has already come about to some extent as the worldwide economic crisis forced many foreign nationals working in the city back to home countries.
The Metro system in Dubai can be used alongside the bus system and there are ‘feeder buses’ which visit each station. In order to use the Metro, you will have to purchase a NOL ticket.
Staying in Dubai
There are of course numerous luxury options to choose from in Dubai and, as all over the world, hoteliers are becoming wise to the need for sustainability, not least because more and more tourists now expect it.
The Movenpick Hotel and Apartments Bur Dubai is Green Globe certified accommodation which has introduced a sustainability program designed to teach both guests and staff the importance of being eco-friendly. The hotel has a green committee group and on-going staff training to ensure that the eye staffs firmly on the environmental ball. Additionally, water-saving devices have been fitted throughout the resort, already resulting in 30% less water usage.
Souk is the Arabic word for market and there are many fascinating souks in the city which are worth factoring in when planning your Dubai city tour. The markets really are a treat for all the senses and it would be a crime to tour the city without visiting at least a couple.
For the green traveller, touring Dubai souks represents an unrivalled opportunity to discover the traditional Arabic way of doing business. The souks are located on both sides of the Creek and can be accessed via ‘abras’ (small wooden dhows) or by taxi, if you know specifically where you are going. Buses also visit most of them and the best ones to take are numbers: 5, 16, 19 and 20 which all run frequently throughout the day.
The souks open at 7am through 12pm and then re-open for the evening between 17:00 and 19:00 every day except Friday when they open in the afternoons only. Evenings are busy and the best time to really soak up the atmosphere and witness the trading at full throttle.
A variety of souks can be enjoyed such as the fish market, which has an eye-boggling variety of fresh seafood on show and has recently undergone improvement in order to educate tourists on the fishing economy in Dubai.
The Al Hamriya is the place for fresh fruit and vegetables and also has an enormous variety and of course it wouldn’t be a trip to Dubai without seeing the Gold Souk. The many shops are blindingly arranged with an impressive choice of gold, diamonds, pearls and an array of other precious commodities and as with the other markets, prices are ridiculously low.
Of course, Dubai is also famous for its spices so the Spice Souk is also well worth a visit, especially since the wonderful aromas which cling to the very air is enough to tempt anyone’s appetite. The spice souk seems to be getting smaller as time goes on and electronic goods take over the area so it’s worth going and showing support, as well as to take in the exceptionally vibrant, lively and aromatic atmosphere whilst it still exists.
There is plenty for the ecotourist in Dubai, especially when taking a city tour around the many breath-taking buildings and colourful souks. However, this is a city which to date hasn’t really concentrated on sustainability, making it even more important for tourists to demand practices which aid the environment.
Photo credit: Mathias M