A sensory trail – Food and Photography walking tour in Dubai

It was dark as we pulled up to the Deira fish market. “Can you smell it?” asked Alex, our photography instructor and guide for the day. Sitting in the mini-bus, we shook our heads, sleepy-eyed from the 4am wake up call. He was so right when he said “You’ll smell it before you see it.”

In October last year, I celebrated the morning of my 31st birthday learning something new. A blossoming interest in photography had me sign up for the Gulf Photo Plus (GPP) and Frying Pan Adventures #Unseentrails, which is a selection of curated walking tours combining two of my loves – food and photos.

Deira fish market

Our group of eight photography enthusiasts disembarked from the bus and voila – there it was! The smell of fish hit our noses long before we could see it. Melted ice wet the asphalt, combined with fish guts and blood, with the hustle and bustle of the market in the background. Nothing like a good dose of fishy innards on your Nikes to set the tone for the morning! We were so pumped!

We dived right in to what felt like the deep end of the tour – best way to get acclimatised to anything if you ask me. Under the light of dawn and cameras in hand, we dodged trucks and wheelbarrows, handcarts, wet crates, moving in all directions laden with the catch of the day. We saw first-hand what a wholesale fish auction looks like. And boy was it lively. Having grown up in Dubai, I’ve visited this market with my parents for years, as they used to do their weekly shop there every Friday before the Carrefours of the world came to this city. This however was different. The sights and sounds – everything seemed alive! (No pun intended, poor fishy).

Deira Fish market

As the sun finally came up, our cameras were filled with incredible images encompassing the life of the fish market in different shades of sunrise. Of sea creatures big and small, fishmongers in rubber sandals putting on a show for the cameras, but also calling out to patrons to check out their spoils. The camaraderie between them was delightful to see.

deira fish market

For this walking tour, I borrowed my cousin’s Canon SX40 but the others had everything from iPhones to professional cameras. While I couldn’t figure out the best settings, it was still a lot of fun trying to find the best angles (and utterly failing!). Here are some of my favourites.

Deira fish market In frame, a van, a cycle, a wheelbarrow, man pushing a cart. Organised chaos!

Deira fish market

Deira fish market



Deira fish market

Rumour has it that this market won’t be around for too long so if you want to check it out, you should go soon. This market is now closed and has been moved to an indoor building called the Waterfront market.

After a brief walk around the meat market (not for the squeamish), this leg of the tour ended with vibrant hues of the fruit and vegetable market.

Deira fruit veg market

fruit veg market deira

After the markets, it was time to eat! We met Arva, the founder of Frying Pan Adventures, who took us to a couple of restaurants in a not-so-touristy neighbourhood to try some ethnic eats. I don’t want to give away too much but can say it’ll be quite a treat for your taste buds, with fascinating tidbits of information from Arva about the area, its history, and the origins of the food you’ll be tasting. You might even see a dancing dough man (below – taken on my trusty iPhone!).

food tour

If you’re looking for a unique food/ photography tour in Dubai, something off the tourist trail (kinda, sorta), with a bit of walking and some food, I highly recommend you book a spot on the next #unseentrails tour. While I’m no photography expert, I can certainly say I have a new perspective on looking out for shadows, reflections, expressions. And a resolve to finally book that beginner’s class with GPP.

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Author: Nancy

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