“There are a lot of myths about the city that we uncover and debunk together.”
Passport? Check. Sunhat? Check. Preconceived ideas about a destination’s culture and society? Check, check.
We all know there are many misconceptions that first-time visitors bring with them to Dubai. But one local tour guide is determined to prove that it’s not all flashy skyscrapers and shopping malls.
In March last year, Nada Badran quit her desk job to start her own tour company, Wander With Nada. The 29-year-old leads cultural walking tours around the older parts of Dubai, showing tourists the city’s forgotten sights – all of those places that are so often left in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa.
“I found many visitors coming to Dubai and only tackling the very tall, the very big, and the very well-known sites,” she says.
“For many people coming from abroad, Dubai is a very unknown place. There are a lot of myths about the city that we uncover and debunk together.”
After leaving the corporate world behind, Nada, who was born in Jordan and raised in the UAE, underwent an official training programme with Dubai Tourism to become a fully licensed tour guide. Before long, she was out roving the streets of Deira with curious visitors from the likes of the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Over the course of four hours, Nada takes her intrepid guests through the bustling gold, spice and textile souks (offering shopping tips along the way), across the Creek in a traditional wooden abra, and to one of Dubai’s oldest restaurants, Al Ustad Special Kabab.
“I’m interested in educating travellers on how to have an unique experience – none of the typical cookie-cutter experiences,” Nada says.
“I always want to leave the traveller feeling like they’ve become more informed or more educated about the city.”
One stop on her tour is the Dubai Women’s Museum, tucked away in an alley near the Gold Souk. Nada makes a point of talking visitors through the role of women throughout the UAE’s history, and how they have become empowered (which takes care of that particular misconception).
It’s no surprise that her tours are particularly popular among solo female travellers, and Nada says her job is to be a ‘local friend’ to visitors, offering advice on where to stay, how to use the public transport, and tips on things to do in the city, even after the tour ends.
“Solo female travellers often say they booked one of my tours because they’re more comfortable with a female guide,” she explains.
“They tell me they often feel less inclined to wander out and about because they’ll feel lonely or intimidated by the unfamiliar. So one way they avoid that is by signing up with a guide who they share interests with, and will also feel comfortable wandering around with.”
To find out more about Nada’s tours visit wanderwithnada.com