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 are quite the contrast to Dubai's newer areas, 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 and across to the airport and Dubai Festival City. There are some good malls and eateries further down, but the cultural activities center closer to the mouth of the creek.