Just when it seemed like things had eased up and we were beginning to find our rhythm in the new normal, the second wave of COVID-19 sent us retreating back into our burrows. Were you just about to make travel plans? Perhaps you had already made them and had to cancel at the last minute. You’re stuck wishing you could close your eyes and be transported to a foreign land.
Well, sometimes the magic carpet you need is right in your neighbourhood — literally.
The Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood popularly known as Al Bastakiya or Bastakiya Quarter is a treasure trove of history nestled between Dubai Creek and Bur Dubai. The oldest standing residential area of Dubai, it is populated by century-old sand-coloured buildings reminiscent of pre-federation Old Dubai. Al Bastakiya is now a popular tourist destination as it houses museums, cafes and art galleries, all showcasing the rich history and cultural heritage of Dubai. Spending a few hours in this neighbourhood is sure to stimulate your senses and satisfy your cravings for the new.
The town of Al Bastakiya was primarily built in the 1890s by Persian merchant immigrants from a town called Bastakiya in Iran. Fleeing persecution in their native homeland, these merchants settled in the area, encouraged by tax breaks and other incentives offered in the region. Following renovations of some of the buildings in the 1980s, Dubai government decided to preserve the area as a heritage site, and extensive restoration work was done in the early 2000s before the site was opened up to visitors.
Things to Do
A tour of this historical district offers a welcome break from the glitzy glass, concrete and steel for which Dubai is known. Travel through time as you walk through winding narrow lanes and alleyways, exploring historic architecture made of coral, mud, gypsum and palm wood. Look up as you walk, and admire wind towers – the “air conditioners” of the past – fitted on old houses. Wander through heritage museums and art galleries soaking up in the Emirati history and culture.
Worthy of note amongst a host of cultural attractions, is the Al Fahidi Fort, home of the Dubai Museum. Built in the 1700s, the Fort is regarded as the oldest building in Dubai. It originally served as a defence post as well as office and residence of the ruler of Dubai. In 1971, it was converted to the Dubai Museum and now houses ancient artifacts and relics of the old way of life. Another place worthy of note is the world-famous Grand Mosque. Originally built in 1900, it was demolished and rebuilt in 1960 and then further rebuilt in 1998. With a capacity of 1,200 worshippers, the Grand Mosque has become a centre of attraction to both Muslims and non-Muslims around the world.