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Time Required : 2-3 hours

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Al Bastakiya, Dubai Overview

If you wish to get a slice of Dubai’s history then a visit to Al Bastakiya is a must. A trip to Al Bastakiya or Al Fahidi district can quench your thirst for discovering the historical roots of today’s glamourous star town. Characterised by large buildings made in traditional materials like mud and wood, Al Bastakiya place oozes charm of its own.

Also known as Old Dubai, this area came into existence in the nineteenth century much before Dubai’s transformation into the swanky town that we know today. Once here you may get to participate in art events that can be enjoyed with much fervour with the locals in this beautiful setting. It is rightly said that no trip is complete until you have seen Old Dubai. So, go ahead and unleash that explorer within you and add Al Bastakiya on your travel itinerary right away.

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History

Al Bastakiya came into being in the 19th century under the patronage of Iranian merchants who traded in pearls and textiles. There existed around 60 houses that belonged to the merchant community. The houses were separated by wind towers and narrow alleys which were very common at that time.  After the discovery of oil, most of its inhabitants moved to the new city for a better life leaving behind the old town.

Most of the vacant old structures were then demolished for new development. Some of the remaining old structures were used as a dwelling by the labourers or as warehouses. In 1989, the municipality decided to demolish the remaining parts too. However, the plan was stalled and it was decided to preserve the locality. And 2005 saw a restoration program come into place to preserve the erstwhile town.

Exploring Al Bastakiya

Al Bastakiya is best explored on foot as you can get the real feel of the place. Different textures and materials are quite characteristic of the place. The dark wooden doors generally open into galleries or cafes with an element of surprise. As you move around the old town, you may like to take a pause at the idyllic Tea House to explore over hundred varieties of tea and bite into some delicious date cake.

There is an artistic side to Al Bastakiya as well with prominent galleries like XVA and Majlis exhibiting works of prominent artists not only from Arab but also from different parts of the world. By stroke of good luck, you might just be around to attend the exciting art fair called SIKKA which is timed around March every year. This event celebrates art and artists by conducting workshops and exhibitions.

It is possible to learn about the rich culture by attending the programs conducted by SMCCU which is known for the warm hospitality that it extends to the tourists. If you fancy a cruise then a pleasant ride down the Dubai creek on a dhow is ideal. Complete with Tanura Dance and catchy music, you won’t have a dull moment.

Al Fahidi Historical District
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Places to Visit at Al Fahidi Historical District

1. Sheikh Mohammed Center for Civilized Intercommunication Building: This institute hosts large scale meets and conventions and has been the pride of Dubai for a long time now. It is considered as a fine example of architecture of the by-gone era and will make for a great backdrop for your travel photos.

2. Dar Al Nadwa: The structure was built under the able guidance of Mohammed Farooq having the typical elements of old Dubai architecture like the wind towers. Dar Al Nadwa hosts many conferences, meets and other important events regularly. The architecture of this building is a symbol of the rich heritage of Dubai which you can admire and add to your travel experience.

3. Al Fahidi Fort: This fort was built way more than two hundred years ago and still serves the function of a defence base. It houses a prison, storage for ammunition and offices. Al Fahidi fort also serves as the residence of the king. It has been converted into a museum where people can get to see ammunition and other ancient objects of interest.

4. XVA Hotel: XVA was once the residence of the Seddiqis before it got converted into a hotel. It has two floors and guest rooms with fourteen different themes inspired by the region. It also houses the famous art gallery and the prestigious restaurant. Reminiscent of the past this hotel makes for a pleasant stay as it is flanked by three spacious courtyards. 

5. Sahara Gate: Constructed by Al Haji, way more than half a century ago, this structure reflects traditional architecture in all its glory. It has been restored few years back and was converted to serve as a centre for heritage and culture. The tourists are mesmerised by the beautiful Arabic calligraphy done on the walls and by the interiors that reflect the rich culture of Dubai.

Architecture of Al Bastakiya Quarter

The architecture of Al Bastakiya is influenced by multiple cultures. So, while the courtyards reflect a strong North African influence, the traditional wind towers show the Persian flavour. Wind towers have been widely used in Persian architecture. It is interesting to note that the wind towers were the answer to the modern-day air conditioners which helped in cooling the house against the elevated temperature outside. These towers go higher than rest of the building and allow the cool wind to circulate within the interiors as hot air escapes outside.

The old town was later worked upon by architect R Otter from Britain who renovated the house he was residing in. He was to rework on large parts of the town after demolishing the same. However the plan to do so was cancelled when Prince Charles insisted on preserving the same to commemorate the past.

Al Bastakiya
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Tips

1. Light clothing makes for comfortable wear as it is an outdoor tour.
2. A tourist guide from this area can help you make the most of the tour.
3. It is a good idea to carry cash when visiting this side of the town as cards may not be acceptable at all places. Also, withdrawing money from ATM machines may not be possible all the time.
4. It is advisable to carry your identity proof with you always.

How To Reach Al Bastakiya

Al Bastakiya can be reached by car, bus or train. Being a well-known area in Dubai, most of the cab drivers are well aware of this place. It is possible to take a cab from anywhere to reach here. The nearest bus stops are Al Fahidi, while the nearest metro stations are Al Fahidi and Bur Juman.

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