What is the Heritage Express Dubai
The Heritage Express Dubai is an immersive experience taking you on an insightful and entertaining journey of Dubai’s culture, customs and traditions as explained by young, enthusiastic Emirati ambassador/guides.
All Aboard For a Fascinating Ride
Is the Heritage Express Dubai the same as a Dubai Sight Seeing Bus
No it isn’t like a traditional sight seeing bus tour of Dubai at all. While an element of the experience takes part on a special trolley bus, much of the experience also happens in a historic house. You hear first hand about how Dubai evolved from what it was to where it is today and where it’s going in the future.
Moreover the information is given to you using real stories from people who were born and brought up in Dubai or the near Middle East. They are products of modern, contemporary Dubai but their roots lie firmly in traditional Emirati/Arab culture.
You won’t get that on a red bus tour of Dubai!
But note that the ambassador/guides have also all been trainedin line with WFTGA (World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations) standards so they are true professionals.
What is the format of the tour
That depends on what length of tour you choose to take. We chose the longer tour that included a meal. Our experience started with a warm welcome, a hearty, traditional Emirati breakfast during which we were entertained and informed with stories of Emirati culture and customs (along with some dressing up too!)
You could opt for lunch or dinner instead of breakfast if you preferred. Allow yourself at least 3.5 hours in total for this tour.
The next part of the experience comprised of a short walk in the Al Fahidi neighborhood of Dubai focusing on those architectural details that make a city distinct from anywhere else. This may have been a little longer if the weather was cooler but we were almost always in some when outside.
On the trolley bus itself
The next part of the tour takes place on the actual trolley bus itself. The bus is a specially designed 15 passenger vehicle (each passenger has their own section, so 1 passenger either side of the bus)
It has artisanal embroidered cushions to give a feel of a traditional Emirati seating area recreating the feeling of you being welcomed in a home.
So for this reason the red trolley bus is sometimes called a Moving Majlis. A place where guests are welcomed and given refreshments while chatting about a whole variety of things. It’s important to be comfortable in Emirati culture.
This part of the tour on the bus is also fully guided with one of the Emirati ambassador/guides. You ride around the older, heritage parts of the city with short stops (you don’t get off the bus if it’s hot) and hear in a bit more detail about more of Dubai’s architecture and some new projects that are preserving the old look of Dubai in a very modern way.
The guide is separate to the driver. And fascinating for me was the drive into the Shindagha area of Dubai where you’ll not only see where the first rulers of Dubai lived, but also hear about the inspiration for where the new Dubai 2020 logo comes from!
But tour isn’t finished yet!
The bus then stops at a key landmark and this stop is the furthest away from where the tour starts. You end up at Jumeirah Mosque in Jumeirah 1 area of town. More coffee and dates to welcome you here (and water is available throughout even on the bus)
We were thrilled to pose with a live falcon here in the hall adjacent to the mosque and hear about falconry and it’s role in Dubai even today. Our falcon was called Thunder and was a male!
Do we have to cover up to attend
There are no strict dress requirements for the tour, you’ll be sitting on cushions on the floor for your meal, so I think loose, comfy trousers are a good idea. Long sleeves aren’t necessary but it’s better to wear something that has maybe short sleeves at least.
While Dubai is very hot during the summer months, a lot of places have powerful air conditioning so take something to keep you warm if you feel the cold.
You do take your shoes off when you eat in the historic house and there is a bit of walking so wear sensible footwear. If it’s summer then a hat is a good idea. There is no formal requirement to cover your head at any point.
Can we ask questions
Yes absolutely! Questions are positively encouraged, this is a very interactive experience and the more you put in to it the more you get out! Our questions were well received and answered in full. Obviously it’s best to stick to questions around the topics that are being discussed. But having said that we found our ambassadors open and very friendly at all times.
Where does the tour start
All the tours start at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultral Understanding or the SMCCU for short.
This centre is housed in the Al Fahidi area of Dubai, close to the Dubai Museum. It’s also close to Bur Dubai, the older area of Dubai that’s well known for smaller Indian and Pakistani restaurants and a shopping area called Meena Bazaar. Definitely worth a walk around if you’re in the area.
A meal if you didn’t do the longer tour would be a great idea here.
Is the tour suitable for kids
I think all children would be welcome, but I don’t think very young children would be able to sit for a longer periods if you chose the 3 to 4 hour tour.
Is it safe bearing in mind covid issues
Everything is sanitized and very clean. You remove your shoes at the entrance to the SMCCU and everyone is at a very safe distance. The bus is very spacious and covid safe. I felt very safe and reassured on all fronts regarding covid protocols.
TAKE A CULTURAL QUIZ
get the answers when you book a tour on the Dubai Heritage Express
- Name 3 different words for the long white, full sleeved tunic worn by Arab men and boys.
- Why were hand signals used to indicate to servers you had enough or wanted more Arabic coffee in historic times?
- Why do Arab women wear mainly black while the men wear mostly white for their traditional dress?
- What is the smaller door within the main door for in the old, Al Fahidi houses?
- Can you name the original currency of the United Arab Emirates?
- What is the name given to the traditional head covering worn by Arab men?
- Can you name 2 specific Emirati foods?
- What was the purpose of the wind tower structures in older houses?
- What was Dubai’s original main industry focused on?
- How much do you think it costs to cross the Dubai Creek on a traditional abra/wooden boat today?
- Why was the original flag of the Emirates only red and white?
- Where did inspiration for the current Expo 2020 logo come from?
The website The Heritage Express website will give you more background information on the tour, exact location details and any offers (especially during the summer) that may be available. Use the booking page to reserve your places.
You may also like to visit
The Pearl Museum in Dubai, it’s in the same area of town but booking is essential.
Click on the PDF to get the key points of this post in Arabic.