When the glitz and glamour of Dubai gets a bit too much, then better get out of the hotels and malls and I suggest you pay a visit to Bastakiya, the old neigbourhoods of Dubai. It’s just a couple of walks along Dubai Museum. Here, you’ll step into Dubai’s past and get a glimpse of what Dubai looked like in the days before oil. This is the other side of Dubai. Visiting this place keeps on reminding me that I’m in the middle east after all.
Bastakiya, located along the Dubai Creek, is known for its traditional homes, wind towers, and labyrinth of narrow alleyways. This is where the first settlements of Dubai were built. It was named after Bastak, a province in southern Iran, from where merchants emigrated on the invitation of the Emir of Dubai in the early 20th century to avoid taxation by the Iranian state. Today the restored quarter is filled with art galleries, cafés, museums, and boutique hotels.
Beautifully carved doors open onto small gardens and yards. Well restored and preserved for the future generations to see how people lived their lives and how life was.
The locals emiratis are so proud of their rich cultural heritage that even though a small part of it remains today, they are keen to develop new properties in line with keeping to traditional middle eastern design.
Many of the traditional buildings which were mainly residences have now been carefully restored and converted to cafes, museums, art galleries and shops. If visiting during the cooler months you will especially love to walk through all the narrow streets and admire the old wind towers, which, back in the day, were the main mode of air conditioning. It is best for photo opportunities of arabic architecture and lovely kept courtyards.
I can spend the whole day just walking through the dainty and spacious alleys and just admiring the beautifully restored architecture that was once inhabited mainly by rich Persian merchants.
The narrow alleys were built to maximize shade.
The aura in Bastakiya is of respect and a good deal of spirituality.
Don’t forget to visit to the famous Arabian Tea House Cafe, a haven in the midst of a busy city.
What i love the most about this place is that it was chosen as setting for the yearly Sikka Art fair. It is the most significant artistic event taking place in Dubai. It is seen as the edgier counterpart to the city’s more commercial art sector, with rooftop parties, DJs etc. It has become a place to nurture young artistic talents.
This is by far one of my favorite graffitis which is done by graffiti artist Ruben Sanchez.
This is the studio of Mawaheb from Beautiful People. It is an art studio for adults with special needs from 16 years and above. Some interesting original artwork created by the special needs artists are available to purchase.
When you’re in the area you can visit Dubai Museum, stamp museum, coin museum, art gallery and the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding. Bastakiya can be visited at any time and after 10 in the morning should be ideal as most of the art galleries, museums and shops open by then. If you’re in Dubai, then by all means enjoy the malls, Wild Wadi and all of the other attractions this wonderful city can offer but try to find time to treat yourself to a short visit here.
Bastakiya will be there as a reminder that the core of Dubai was already beautiful, there was no need to radically alter the city however stunningly breathtaking their new skyline is.
Did you know?
Prince Charles is known for helping to save Bastakiya; however, someone else was involved. Before the prince’s visit, British architect Rayner Otter had taken up residence in one of the houses in Bastakia and undertook renovations within. When Rayner Otter heard about the plans to demolish the neighborhood, he wrote a letter to Prince Charles. And the rest is Dubai history.