At a time long ago, traders from across the deserts and seas of the Gulf, and lands far, far away, would arrive on dhows (traditional sailing vessels) to the Creek of Dubai, bearing delicacies, spices, artefacts, and tales of adventure. And to rest their weary bodies, the village of the Creek—Al Seef—became their welcoming abode, as the locals opened their homes to travellers. Over time, settlements emerged, with restaurants at the souk (bazaar), fishermen and pearl divers began selling their ware, and grain merchants and spice traders added to the vibrant space... This became the destination that promised an exciting, bright future.
This distant memory from the dusty pages of history can once again be experienced by the modern adventurer at the delightfully-traditional, creek-side villas of the Al Seef Heritage Hotel. An oasis for those who want to escape the hurried pace of life and immerse themselves in fresh experiences, this must-visit destination offers a distinct take on the futuristic metropolis that is Dubai.
Al Seef, the new district of restaurants, shops, and plazas is located on a two-kilometre promenade on the south bank of the Dubai Creek, and is wrapped in an ambience of mystery. The destination is the latest creation by Meraas (who developed some of Dubai’s most popular tourist destinations, including The Beach and City Walk), and from the get-go, you’ll be transported to a different era with the imposing sand-hued buildings that take inspiration from traditional architecture. The locale is situated close to the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, which emerged in the 1890s, and that is now home to important art galleries, cafés, and a coffee museum... Needless to say, Al Seef is perfect for those who are drawn to old-world charm.
To truly immerse yourself in the experience, a stay at the Al Seef Heritage Hotel is a must. This tradition-inspired stop offers all the modern comforts of a good sojourn. There are 190 rooms here, spread across 10 traditionally designed Arabian homes (bayts). The design draws deeply from the UAE’s rich culture and heritage, and once you enter your room, you’ll quickly be transported to a different era, with its rustic ceiling, wooden furniture, old-school fans and switchboards, dial-up telephones, metal lamps, and fittings. In fact, the rooms will take you back to the way the merchants lived, and as you peep out of the wood-panelled windows and balcony, you’ll be able to soak in views into the alleyways and courtyards of the souk, across the busy waterways.
The interiors are in shades of light blue that reflect the sea waters in the Creek, beige, and soft green tones from the country’s flora, with vibrant hints of red, turquoise and yellow. But the best bit is, you’ll be safe from the heat as the architecture is based on the traditional building techniques of the Middle East, along with featuring roughly-plastered walls.
For the conscious traveller, the Al Seef Heritage Hotel offers eco-friendly products by Cosmetiq, that are not tested on animals and are paraben-free. So much so, the soaps are handmade from the sands of the seven Emirates, along with natural oils and 100 per cent natural materials.
The warmth of Arabian hospitality is famous, and at the Sabaa Restaurant, you’ll be spoilt for choice with a spread of traditional Emirati fare. Open for breakfast till 12:00 p.m., you can satiate your cravings with freshly-made saffron French toast; cardamom waffles; baid O’ tomat with tomato shakshouka, olives, halloumi, minted yoghurt, and pita bread; or an Arabic breakfast of foul madamas, balaleet, omlette, humus, and Arabic bread. The first-floor restaurant is almost like walking into an art studio, with classic metalware decorated in corners, and large cushions with flowers rendered in traditional thread work.
There are Arabic nights hosted here too, and to bide your time, you can stroll around the lanes of Al Seef for a bit of shopping. Keep an eye out for the cashmere shawls, intricate carpets, cushion covers with art-inspired embroidery, and the many souvenirs that will make for precious mementos of your visit here.
Against a backdrop of local heritage and architecture, the Al Seef Heritage Hotel will transport you to calmer, happier times as you rediscover the little details that make life all the more special. For, as the ancient explorers always knew, fresh perspectives are what make the mind and life all the more exciting.
Photo credit: Dubai Tourism, Al-Seef Heritage Hotel, and Sabaa Restaurant