Khor Dubai

Photo by Els Slots.

Khor Dubai is part of the Tentative list of United Arab Emirates in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

Khor Dubai comprises the late 19th, early 20th century settlement around Dubai Creek. It shows the evolution from pearl diving town to commercial hub. Traditional elements include its mud-brick wind-towers.

Map of Khor Dubai

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

Community Reviews

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Kyle Magnuson

California - United States of America - 01-Dec-23 -

Khor Dubai (T) by Kyle Magnuson

In the dwindling chance Dubai Creek is inscribed, I will seek to plot out the best use of your time over 2 days. After visiting "Khor Dubai" I have to say, it certainly can be an enjoyable place to visit. Though for a World Heritage Traveller, I suspect the UAE's recent update to their tentative list might take up more of your time. 

Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood

This is the best neighborhood to walk around the narrow streets and stop for food or coffee at XVA Gallery or at the Arabian Tea House Restaurant & Cafe. Al Fahidi is the best preserved district in or around Dubai Creek that was mostly saved from complete demolition. I suppose if you want to see the difference between what is new and what is mostly old (late 19th, early 20th century), the OLD Al Fahidi district sits adjacent to the NEW Al Seef Promenade. Since Al Seef was completed in 2017 and has by some been labelled a "historical fraud" you can easily compare the historical district with its nearby imitation. The buildings in Al Seef are deliberately aged and the old wind towers tend to be taller and larger than the ones in the Al Fahidi district. I will not trash this 2017 development, because I would then be a hypocrite for having stayed in a hotel there (which was quiet comfortable and affordable). However, I will simply say Al Seef will hold little interest to most of our community other than its close proximity to the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. What if Dubai had built some massive buildings along this part of the creek? I suppose the Al Seef development has prevented such an outcome.

Al Shindagha

Start at the Visitor Centre – Al Shindagha Museum and visit some of the excellent exhibits/pavilions by using this brochure map. There are 22 pavilions that act as an open-air museum. As Els stated in her 2018 review, "It turns out that a completely reconstructed 'new' old neighbourhood is being built on the banks of Dubai Creek." I can now conclusively say the work is finished. The museum is stunning and worth your time, its curated in a style that addresses what could be the OUV of Khor Dubai. Yet, from the perspective of a world heritage traveller there are few actual sites to see in Al Shindagha. It also did not impress ICOMOS enough in 2017.

"The reconstructed neighbourhood of Shindagha, only hesitantly reinstalls functions which relate to trade and commerce, and is unable to illustrate continuous commercial and cultural exchanges."

I visited 4 of the 22 pavilions in depth, while others I visited only briefly or exteriors while walking well into the evening. Each pavillion is superbly curated and organized, but to see most or all of them you would need pretty much the whole day! Better to pick 3-5 pavilions and be satisfied.

#1 Visitor Centre (glass building)

#2 Dubai Creek - Birth of City

#4 Traditional Crafts

#22 Culture of the Sea Pavillion

Al Ras (via Marine Transport Station - 4 dirham)

Besides the Souk, which has more to offer than its more touristy counterpart on the other side of the creek, my highlight in Al Ras was the Museum of the Poet Al Oqaili. This museum located in a historical building actually feels old and offers insight into the poet's life and works. The home was built in 1923, so its a century old and has two floors [pictured]. The staff here was so welcoming and happy to have us. It is a wonderful little gem of a house museum, which includes full translations.

Based on the most recent iteration of "Khor Dubai" as a candidate for world heritage, this concludes my summary of each area and its highlights. Would an inscription for Dubai Creek further degrade the world heritage label? I suspect not, but nor would it add much. World Heritage or not, I found myself enjoying all 3 areas around Dubai Creek more than modern Dubai.

Read more from Kyle Magnuson here.

Els Slots

The Netherlands - 28-Apr-18 -

Khor Dubai (T) by Els Slots

Does something like ‘Old Dubai’ still exist? Dubai only developed independently from Abu Dhabi from 1833 onwards. The origin of the city lies at Khor Dubai, the saltwater creek that flows through the city. From its small-scale port, pearl fishermen departed to dive off the coast and trade was driven with Asia and East Africa. The multicultural trading city with its skyscrapers that we now know dates from the seventies of the 20th century at the earliest.

On my last day in the Gulf region I spent a few hot hours looking for the old core of Dubai. A WHS proposal for this zone has already been met with a ‘Rejection’ advice twice, leaving the international advisors in despair. The course of the creek through Dubai has often artificially been changed, extra land has been won and old neighbourhoods have been demolished. Getting it registered is a hopeless mission according to the advising committee, but hopes have been kept alive by the WHC which overruled ICOMOS to Deferral (2014) and Referral (2017) respectively. And the Emirates will not give up.

I made a list of the named locations in both evaluation documents, and tried to find them on the ground using google maps and This mission ended in a lot of searching for the remnants of old neighbourhoods like Al Fahidi and Bastakia, and the Souk al Kabeer. The 'largest Hindu temple of Dubai' must be in this area as well - but where? I did not manage to locate it.

It turns out that a completely reconstructed 'new' old neighbourhood is being built on the banks of Dubai Creek. Partly they are still working on it (even on Friday, the 'Islamic Sunday'), but for the most part the buildings in old style are already standing. This neighbourhood is dotted with museums, cultural centres, restaurants, boutiques and other tourist attractions. Much is not open yet. If you look very closely, you can still find fragments of something really old, such as a few meters of the old city wall.

The neighbourhood is now particularly popular with the large numbers of Asian workers who keep Dubai running. Only 15% of the 2.7 million inhabitants is a citizen of the Emirates. The rest comes mainly from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iran and the Philippines. On Fridays they can enjoy each other's company here near the river, take a boat trip to the other bank for 1 dirham or eat an ice cream.

I found Dubai in general very touristy, and to not offer much beyond shopping and cheesy / overpriced attractions. It felt like Kuala Lumpur without a soul. I cannot understand why some people choose to spend a whole week there. If you want an easy encounter with Arab culture close to Europe, please go for Morocco which has formidable WHS (and they will find you a camel to ride if you're adamant to have this 'experience').

Read more from Els Slots here.


Malta - 20-Mar-17 -

Khor Dubai (T) by Clyde

I visited this tentative WHS in January 2015. Khor Dubai or Dubai Creek is a natural seawater inlet of the Arabian Gulf located in the heart of Dubai.

It is 14 km long and varies from 100 to 500 m wide and ends at the Ras Al-Khor wildlife sanctuary (photo). The creek divides the city into two parts, namely Bur Dubai and Deira, and has played a major role in the economic development of the region throughout history.

The Ras Al-Khor wildlife sanctuary is home to hundreds of pink flamingoes and many other bird species. It lies at the interface between the Arabian Gulf and the Al Awir desert and is a Ramsar coastal wetland

of global importance and a Birdlife Important Bird Area. The peaceful panoramic view from the hides with the Dubai Skyscraper skyline in the distance is worth seeing.

The historical importance of the Dubai creek is hard to grasp the closer you get to the noisy urban hotspot of Dubai apart from the wooden boats (dhows) which nowadays are powered by diesel engines and their berthing spots. Abras are smaller wooden boats powered by oar. Today these are equipped with diesel engines too and are still used to ferry passengers back and forth between Deira, Shindagha and Bur Dubai as well as for sightseeing harbour cruises with stops at the Gold Souk and the Dubai Heritage Village.

Needless to say, I very much enjoyed the Ras Al Khor wildlife sanctuary which was a welcome peaceful place away from the bustling city of Dubai.

I failed to appreciate any OUV but I'd gladly revist should I ever visit the UAE in the near future.

Full Name
Khor Dubai
United Arab Emirates
Urban landscape - Arabic and Middle Eastern
2018 Requested by State Party to not be examined

2017 Referred

2017 Advisory Body overruled

ICOMOS advised Not to inscribe

2014 Deferred

2014 Advisory Body overruled

ICOMOS suggested rejection, because this site is largely based on reconstructions

2012 Added to Tentative List

Unesco Website: Khor Dubai

The site has 1 locations

Khor Dubai (T)
WHS 1997-2024