Responsible tourism guide to Dubai – nature & heritage 12


It’s a difficult task to write responsible tourism guide to Dubai, as U.A.E. have the biggest ecological footprint in the world. Land of the emirates is a desert and not sustainable place to build huge cities. During summer months the temperature rises to 40 degrees Celsius and more, which requires a wast amount of the energy used for air conditioning, modern transport and plants desalination. If you have been visiting Dubai, you noticed that every single building is air conditioned, so is the public transportation and even the bus stops. There are also beautiful parks with always green plants and blooming flowers, which require incredible amounts of water to maintain. In fact, the U.A.E. have the world’s highest per capita water use.

Glass scyscrappers of Marina Bay in Dubai.

Marina Bay

Responsible tourism guide to Dubai

After welcoming 14.9 million visitors in 2016, and by setting an ambitious target of welcoming 20 million in 2020, tourism has undoubtedly become one of the key pillars driving Dubai’s economy. This pushes the government to rise consciousness about the environmental impact.

Sustainable tourism in Dubai is still barely visible. However, government is beginning to make major changes in tourism industry to boost sustainable solutions. The Dubai Department of Tourism launched the Green Tourism Award, which encourage eco-friendly innovations to reduce the carbon footprint.

This responsible tourism guide to Dubai will let you discover nature as well as the culture and heritage. I intend to show you of the beaten paths spots in Dubai and inspire you for more of an eco-friendly traveling. Moreover, I am trying to prove that the city can surprise you not only with the luxury, innovation and skyscrapers.

Air - conditioned bus stop in Dubai city. Old part of Dubai near creek.

Air-conditioned bus stop in Dubai

See the old Dubai heritage

Seeing the modern part of Dubai such as Marina Bay or Dubai Mall and moving to the old part is literally like coming to another country. Old Dubai is near the creek, with the port still functioning.

I started visiting the Old Dubai from Al Ras metro station which is just near the Gold Souk (gold market). The street full of jewellery shops is interesting to see as the items are often unbelievably precious, rich in decorations and size. For instance, the biggest golden ring in the world or wedding necklesses, which weight would surely make me collapse if I would wear it. Literally like an armour.

Gold Souk in Dubai, gold necklesses, precious stones on the market.

Gold Souk in Dubai

Gold bazar in Dubai Old town. Traditional clothes in Dubai, couple buying gold jewerly. Back abaya for woman and white dress for a man. Just few steps after, there is Deira Grand Souk with spice market, souvenirs and clothes, in case you haven’t packed enough for Dubai. It’s a bit pricy, and you have to bargain a lot before buying something. However, it’s nice to see and smell various spices, herbs, teas and natural medicines. The highest attention gets natural viagra and sulfur which is suppose to heal skin allergies.

Apart from the souks, it’s nice to go off the beaten path in Dubai and just get lost in the narrow streets and see what locals do.

Spices on the Dubai Souk. Colorful spices, teas and herbas on the street market in Dubai.

Spices market in Old Dubai

Colorful plates on the market in Dubai. Hand made pottery in Dubai

Crossing Dubai Creek

You can get a wooden boat for only 1 dirham (0,25 €) and go from one side of the canal to another. After crossing the creek I got into the souk again. Walking through, I saw the Dubai Museum and got into Dubai Heritage Village which is a place of artists. Roaming around these beautiful streets, I visited several galleries, artists workshops and even witnessed a street theater performance.

Old Dubai district in Heritage Village. Two man in traditional clothes standing in the narrow street.

Dubai Heritage Village

Theater performance in Dubai Heritage Village. Men in traditional clothes.

Dubai Heritage Village in Dubai is a place of artists. You can see galleries, workshops and street performances.

Later, in the evening I continued towards Al Seef which is like a continuation of the Heritage Village but fully commercial project. In contrast with huge shopping malls, however, Al Seef is a walking street with shops and restaurants fully designed for an old part of Dubai. Very interesting to see that every single detail, such as the trash cans or doors look old and dusty.

Al Seef district in Old Dubai. Colorful door with wooden table and old architecture.

Al Seef promenade

Two man in traditional clothes sitting in the Al Seef district.

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

It was such a surprise for me to see wildlife sanctuary so close to the city’s skyscrapers. Even bigger surprise for my couch surfing host, which lives 3 km from there and never heard about Ras Al Khor. This natural reserve is a wetland which was fenced off and not developed. It’s home for thousands of birds, crustaceans, mammals and fish. There are 3 birds observatory stations around the wetland. We saw hundreds of flamingos and other birds. Ras Al Khor is open free of charge during daylight hours. However, the best time to come will be around 9 am when there is a bird feeding.

Birds watching in Dubai. Flamingos in Dubai in Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary.

Ras Al Khor WIldlife Sanctuary

Ras Al Khor Sanctuary in Dubai. Wetland in Dubai with skyscrappers on the background.

Ras Al Khor Birds Watching

Dubai Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center

Incredible idea of creating the turtles rehabilitation center in the most luxury hotels in Dubai. Burj AL Arab and Madinat Jumeirah hide the sea turtles being rescued since 2004. Their project together with Dubai Wildlife protection Office already rescued over 1 600 sick or injured turtles back to Dubai’s waters.

The turtles lagune is open for everyone, every day of the week. However, the best time to come is on Wednesday at 11 am when is the turtles feeding. I went there in the evening and found the hotel amazing, but could not see many turtles in the dark. The turtles lagune is near the restaurants area. A travel tip: Madinat Jumeirah hotel is the best spot to see Burj Al Arab – the most expensive hotel in the world.

Dubai Sea Turtles Rehabilitation Center

Madinat Jumeriah is the best place to see Burj Al Arab.

Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve

Thanks to responsible tourism practises in Dubai, you can get close to flora and fauna of the desert. Heading to Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, you will encounter stunning views of the desert landscapes, especially during the sunset. This protected area takes approximately 5 per cent of the total Dubai territory. Over a hundred kinds of birds and 43 mammals and reptiles live on this 225 square km area.

With the municipality support on eco – friendly tourism in UAE, lots of outdoor activities were created such as desert Safari, hiking and camping in Hajar mountains or snorkeling. Dubai Safari has become one of the most popular outdoor activities for a visitor of Dubai. Sunset on the Desert in Dubai. Dubai Safari picture.

Choose the right Dubai Safari

Although, I love outdoor activities, I have to warn you to choose the Dubai Safari wisely as personally I wasn’t lucky with a choice. Most of the agencies will offer you a very commercial adventure, where you can put a tick on the next touristic things you have done. I didn’t like this experience and wouldn’t recommend.

How did the Dubai Safari look like?

We went with the bus which took us to desert not far from the industrial zone. We arrived there with the crowd of few other buses. Next, the jeeps took us to the camp, doing the dune dashing on the way. When we arrived to the camp, one man informed us that there is going to be 700 hundred people in the camp. He explained what is included in the price and what is paid extra.

One of the included things was riding a camel for 2 minutes. Imagine the camels after carrying 700 asses. There was also a falcon to make photos with. In the evening, there was a dinner and all those 700 were queueing for the food and drinks. Big mess and not really my type of experiences. I don’t like commercial events for mass tourism, I prefer doing what locals do. The only things I enjoyed during the whole Dubai Safari experience, were the Tanoura show and belly dance show. These are part of the culture, and I was happy to witness the shows.

I just want you to choose your safari responsibly. Think of the animals working for your entertainment and check the plan of the safari. I wasn’t lucky to go for an eco-friendly safari, but what I have learnt is, that it’s possible to do. You just need to looks for agencies organising tours to Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.

Responsible tourism guide to Dubai. Caricature on a man in traditional clothes and woman in abaya writting sms.c

Walking around the streets of Old Dubai

Birds flying in the old port in Dubai.

Old Dubai port

Souvenirs market in Old Dubai. Buying traditional clothes in UAE.

Souvenirts market in Old Dubai

Souvenirs market in Dubai. Salt and pepper in traditional clothes design.

Souvenirs market in the Old Dubai Souk

Birds flying in the old parts of Dubai.

Cat sleeping on the coffee bag in front of the coffee museum in Dubai Heritage Village

Cat in front of the Coffee Museum in Dubai Heritage Village

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12 thoughts on “Responsible tourism guide to Dubai – nature & heritage

  • Shreya Saha

    It’s so great to find a blog on Old Dubai. I am so much not into the New Dubai skyscrapers. Loved knowing that Old Dubai has so much to offer. Especially the Dubai Creek sounds really awesome. Would love to take that boat for an hour and chill on the sea. Plus the Dubai Old markets are also lit!

  • Amy Chung

    Dubai is one city I simply can’t decide if I ever want to visit. Nothing there really appeals to me, especially the hot summer weather but at the same time I’m intrigued by its massive expansion in the last decade. Didn’t know it has the world’s highest per capita water usage although I can’t say I’m surprised. Everything there seems over indulgent and opulent. The souks look interesting and the desert safari would be awesome! Hopefully Dubai will reduce their carbon footprint substantially over the coming years.

  • Daniel

    I really love this series of articles you’re writing about responsible travel guides to different cities in the world. As you mentioned, it sure is hard to write such guide for a city from the country that has arguably the biggest ecological footprint in the world but I think you did a great job. Keep these articles coming, they’re really fun to read.

  • amar singh

    I quite agree with you that Dubai due to its climate and development does surely add a burden when it comes to the environment. The amount or air conditioning alone would be a huge amount but good to know they are trying to do something about it. They do have a few natural wonders which are carbon neutral and a good way to visit and be more eco friendly. Thanks for sharing this post which is making people aware as well.

  • Jane Dempster-Smith

    Excellent article. We visited Dubai in 2017 but spent all the time in the hotel as my husband was ill. We did not see anything so this article is just what I need for the next time I visit. I will bookmark it. I cant wait to wander through the Gold Souk and the Al Seef Promenade.

  • Paula

    This was very nice post! There are so many writings about “why not to travel to Dubai”, that it is nice to read about something that actually gives some solutions to problems there. I have been in Dubai years ago, and I get it, that it is very complex issue. This was good guide what one can do while there in order to make the change happen.

  • blair villanueva

    I’ve read many blogs about Dubai travel and I am truly amazed about this city. Though they have lack of natural resources compare us here in Asia, Dubai had successfully turn that weakness into strength and now they are one of the most powerful city in the world. How lovely to explore an afternoon at the Gold Sook, I heard they have the best gold quality in the market.