Image by Lara Brunt Lonely Planet
Anyone keen on delving deeper into Emirati culture and history should take advantage of the activities, Emirati meals and tours offered through this nonprofit centre, based on the edge of Al Fahidi Historic District. Guided by the motto 'Open Doors, Open Minds', this unique institution was founded in 1995 by Dubai's current ruler, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, to build bridges between cultures and to help visitors and expats understand the traditions and customs of the UAE.
From mid-September to mid-July, the centre runs highly informative 90-minute guided heritage tours of Al Fahidi Historic District several times weekly. For groups of 10 or more, staff can also organise more comprehensive 2½-hour 'Creekside' tours that include a peek inside a mosque, an abra ride and a spin around the textile, spice and gold souqs in Bur Dubai and Deira. All tours conclude with a Q&A session and Arabic coffee, tea and dates.
To experience the culinary side of Emirati life, join one of the centre's traditional Bedouin-style meals. Depending on whether you come for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, you'll get to taste such local dishes as balaleet (sweetened crunchy vermicelli), chabab (cardamom-spiced pancakes), saloona (a stew) or machboos (a rice and meat or fish dish).
The centre also runs hugely popular tours of Jumeirah Mosque.
All tours and meals must be booked in advance. Check the website for the latest schedule.