Extending north of Dubai Creek—to the border of neighboring Sharjah—is a patchwork of tightly packed districts known by the name of its oldest area, Deira. The district, the historic core of Dubai, has been a commercial hub for rice, spice, and gold trading for more than a century. The traditional souks here, just as important as the city's modern malls, make quite the contrast as customers haggle over merchandise and barrow-toting warehousemen weave through the crowds. In the Al Ras region, which abuts Deira to the west, you'll find some of Dubai's oldest historic buildings amongst the shops and commodity warehouses.
In recent years the Deira side has expanded dramatically, spreading to the east and southeast down Dubai Creek. Dubai's first high-rises define Al-Rigga, also known as the financial district, where banks and government buildings are staffed by Emiratis dressed in crisp dishdashas (tunics worn by Emirati men). The creek once defined Dubai, and although the city has spread and the modern heartbeat has drifted south, it's still the place to come to watch the last of the old boats doing business and to take a trip on a Dubai abra.
Head up the creek to the Garhoud and Festival City districts near the airport to enjoy central Dubai's first purpose-built community and the closest golf course to downtown.