The emirate of Dubai is known for being one of the most modern cities in the world. But it also has something to offer those wishing to see what the city looked like before it put itself on the map as a tourist hotspot. If you like to see what the emirate was like before the oil boom which resulted in unprecedented wealth for the region, head to the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. What is there to see and do in the historic district? Let’s find out.
About the Al Fahidi Historical District
The Al Fahidi Historical area is located in Bur Dubai. There are no official Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood timings for tourists to contend with; however, while the neighbourhood can be visited at any time of the day, visitors are expected to take into account the official opening hours of the museums and landmarks they plan to visit.
How to go to Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood?
Those interested in visiting the historical area can reach it via the Al Fahidi bus station or through the Al Fahidi Metro Station nearby. Guests who prefer to drive are duly accommodated with parking areas.
History of the area
Commonly known an Al Bastakiya, the Al Fahidi historical neighbourhood is one of Dubai’s oldest heritage sites. The district holds memories of an era that pre-dates the federation of the emirates — before the union of the Emirati tribes in 1971 and a time when the pearl trade flourished in the region.
A former trading hub for pearl and textile merchants in the 1800s, the area retains some of its originality— with narrow passages winding between low buildings.
Walk through the narrow winding alleyways and you come across ochre-coloured buildings made of palm wood, coral, mud or gypsum. Look up and you will see the wind towers on top of the houses — the era’s answer to local air conditioning in which the towers are designed to funnel cool air through the buildings. For the best experience, take an Al Bastakiya tour on an abra along the Creek.
Prominent attractions in the Al Fahidi historical neighbourhood
In addition to being the oldest standing residential area in Dubai, the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood also features a number of interesting landmarks and attractions which are as follows:
A trip to the Dubai Museum is usually on every tourist’s bucket list when they visit the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. An attraction in itself, the structure is actually a restored Al Fahidi Fort. Originally built in the 1700s, the fort is now home to the many exhibits and artefacts that preserve the history of the emirate.
Located in Bur Dubai, the Dubai Museum also served as a home to a former reigning monarch and even served as a prison before it was converted into a museum in 1971. As a visitor, expect to see replicas of the traditional markets of old, ancient weapons, pottery and tombs. Notable exhibits include those which depict pearl diving, which was an important part of the old economy before the discovery of fossil fuel.
- Dubai Museum Location: Al Fahidi Street, opposite Grand Mosque
- Price of admission: AED 3 for adults and AED 1 for kids (under 6)
- Contact: +971-4-353-1862
- Opening hours: 08:30 am to 08:30 pm | 02:30 pm to 08:30 pm (Friday)
In addition to the Al Fahidi historical museum, there is also the Coins Museum. Located near the Ruler’s Divan, the museum features two floors and displays around 470 coins from different eras. For example, the third room displays Dinars and Dirhams used in the Abbasid Caliphate.
- Contact: +971-4-392-0093 | +971-4-515-5000
- Location: Al Shindagha area – Bur Dubai
- Price of admission: Free of charge
- Opening hours: 08:00 am to 02:00 pm (Closed on Friday and Saturday)
Coffee isn’t native to the emirate, however, it does have some influence over Emirati culture and history. Those who wish to know more about it can visit the Coffee Museum which features around 300 antique displays depicting the beverage’s history in the Emirates and its global influence. Make sure that you get a taste of the traditional Arabic coffee, available at the brew bar.
- Contact: +971-4-353-8777 | +971-4-353-8666
- Location: Villa 44, Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, Bastakiya – Bur Dubai
- Opening hours: 09:00 am to 05:00 pm (Closed on Friday)
Considered one of the oldest markets in the region, the Textile Souq is a must-visit for guests. Nestled under wooden roofs, a visit to the textile market is the best way to get a glimpse of old Dubai and find the best fabrics, silks, and printed garments this side of the region. Take a look around for interesting finds in Arabic clothing accessories and don’t be afraid to haggle.
Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) was the brainchild of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who saw the need for a centre that educates expats about the UAE’s traditions and customs. The centre is located in a restored wind tower in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. Visitors can sign up for a traditional Emirati breakfast, lunch or dinner which starts with an enlightening tour of the old district. After that, guests are seated on Bedouin-style carpets while feasting on traditional food. With its motto, Open Doors, Open Minds — all questions are welcomed. For the best experience, opt for a tour of the Jumeirah Mosque. Spots are limited, so book early to guarantee a tour.
- Location: House 26, Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, Al Musallah Street
- Contact: +971-4-353-6666
- Timings: 08:00 am to 04:00 pm (Sunday to Thursday) | 09:00 am to 01:00 pm (Saturday)
Other cultural retreats
Art aficionados will love scouring the Al Fahidi historical district for its art, one of the most prominent locations being the XVA Art Hotel. The hotel features several works on display; giving visitors a glimpse into Middle Eastern art. The public areas are three main courtyards which are air-conditioned during summers. Shaded by trees, the tranquil area is the ideal retreat for poets, artists and visitors looking for a quiet place to reflect.
Another place visitors can check out is The Majlis Gallery which is a known platform for regional artists to display their works. The gallery also features works of global artists. Another place worth a visit is the Alserkal Cultural Foundation which features boutiques and galleries that support regional creativities.
In addition to housing artworks, the old neighbourhood in Dubai also serves as a venue for events like the Sikka Art Fair, Artists-in-Residence Programme, Heritage Week, religious celebrations and National Day events. For the best experience, we recommend scheduling your Al Bastakiya tours when these events commence.
That’s a wrap of our review of the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. Have you ever visited the area? Drop us a comment below and tell us about your experience. There are several things to do in Bur Dubai, so make sure that you explore the area during your trip. To complement your historical tour, check out other museums in Dubai too. We also recommend visiting other heritage sites in Dubai to complement your trip.
For more information on historical and cultural sites in the UAE, stay tuned to MyBayut.