Dubai’s Bastakiya District

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Courtyard with art installationBastakiya Street

Bastakiya Art Gallery

Bastakiya Mosque

Cooling towerPalm frond houseBeginning in the early 1800s, wealthy merchants and pearl traders built their homes near the Dubai Creek in the Bastakiya area. Wealthy inhabitants built houses out of blocks of coral that were covered with plaster. Less wealthy inhabitants used palm fronds as a building material. Narrow streets provided shade for pedestrians. Tall towers catching the wind and large interior courtyards provided an early form of air conditioning.

Over the years, this area had deteriorated so, in an effort to promote an understanding of the Emirati culture, the Dubai government has purchased all the houses in this area and restored them to their original glory. Rather than allow the buildings to sit unused the area is now home to several small museums, eclectic art galleries, restaurants and a variety shops selling handcrafted items.

True to Emirati hospitality, if a door is open in this area, it is an invitation for guests to enter. You can wander through the lanes and check out the buildings by yourself but, to get a good understanding of the history and culture, I joined a tour offered by the Sheik Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding. The tour was excellent and the guides were great.
This little bit of traditional culture nestled in the center of a modern sprawling metropolis is a great counterpoint to the glitz and glamor of the huge shopping malls.