Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood plays an important role in the history of Dubai mainly because of its strategic location on the Dubai Creek. Ships and merchants from all over the world for several centuries used it as a hub of commerce. It extends for 300m along the Creek and 200m inwards.
While walking around the district, visitors can learn a lot about ancient Emirati architecture. Homes and buildings of ancient Dubai show a lifestyle, which prevailed from the mid-19th century till 1970th. Buildings in the area are made of traditional materials like teak wood, sandalwood, coral stone, and palm fronds. The streets and alleys are narrow, paved with stones. Most of the buildings are no more than two storeys.
Barjeels are attractive architectural elements, the most prominent feature of Emirati style. They are actually wind towers, sometimes called “catchers of the wind”. In fact, these are the ancestors of a/c units. As explained in the article about Dubai Heritage, it was only in the late 19th century that these cooling systems began to appear in Dubai, where they’re known as barjeel. The flourishing pearl trade saw traders and craftsmen from neighboring countries come to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Some of these artisans brought with them construction knowledge of how to beat desert heat. The wealthy traders then adopted the elements for their own homes. Studies have found that wind towers can lower the interior temperature of homes by about 10 degrees Celsius (about 50 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to the scorching heat outside. Gradually, these towers became a permanent feature of almost all homes in the old district.
The Traditional Architecture Museum is also situated in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. It is almost 100 years old and originally was the residence of Sheikh Juma bin Maktoum. Now it serves as a museum of traditional tools and ornamental items used in homebuilding in Dubai and the other emirates back in the day.
Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (also called Bastakiya) is a gateway to Dubai’s past and national identity. You can find more information about Bastakiya on the Visit Dubai web page.
You may also be interested in visiting Bait Al Naboodah, a home which belonged to the most successful Emirati pearl merchant. You can also read about the programs “Rehabilitation and Revitalisation of Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood Strategy” and the “Public Art Strategy” in our article.