While Dubai may be known for glitzy skyscrapers and cutting-edge technology, today we’re going to take a look at the city’s beginnings — specifically heritage sites that give us an intriguing glimpse into the history of this remarkable emirate. Join us as we take a look at some of the most fascinatingly historical places in Dubai.
List of Dubai heritage sites
Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
Built in the mid-19th century, Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (previously known as Bastakiya) is a vibrant symbol of the city’s past and its cultural future. Situated on the banks of Dubai Creek (on the Bur Dubai side), the neighbourhood was one of the city’s first settlements, thanks to its prime location.
Walking into Al Fahidi is a treat for the senses as visitors are greeted by the smell of spices and the sight of traditional tan wind towers. A few of the many notable Al Fahidi landmarks are the remains of the old Dubai wall and the delightfully quirky Dubai Museum.
Al Fahidi is also home to the hidden gem that is the XVA Art Hotel – an art gallery, cafe and boutique hotel all wrapped into one! There are many other things to see in this fascinating neighbourhood, including a host of art galleries, creative spaces, restaurants, shops, and the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU). The SMCCU is a great place for visitors to explore Emirati culture, offering interesting insights into everything from cuisine to clothing, all relayed by friendly and knowledgeable staff.
Recent years have also seen an upswing in the frequency of events taking place in Al Fahidi, including the Sikka Art Fair and unique National Day Celebrations.
To get here by public transport, use the metro and disembark at the Al Fahidi Metro Station. The neighbourhood is then a 10 to 12-minute walk away. Visiting Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood is free.
Hatta Heritage Village
Next on our list of historical places in Dubai around is the Hatta Heritage Village. The Hatta area is an enclave of Dubai situated about an hour from the city’s centre. The area is situated at the foot of Hajjar Mountains and is home to centuries-old Hatta Heritage Village. The village is a treasure chest of Emirati history with so much for visitors to explore and enjoy.
Hatta Heritage Village and its surrounding area is a natural haven with refreshing greenery, beautiful mountain views, fields of date palms and the breathtaking Hatta Dam which was built in the late 1990s. Visitors can also enjoy kayaking and other watersports at Hatta Dam. This whole area is, without doubt, one of the best historical places to visit in Dubai.
Like many other village sites in the UAE, Hatta Heritage Village is home to a traditional water irrigation system called a Falaj, which is hugely beneficial for farming. Farming has been prevalent in the Hatta area for generations and it continues to be the primary source of economic revenue with over 550 farms spread across 140 sq. km of land.
The Hatta Heritage Village is a jewel in Dubai’s historical crown and is definitely worth a visit.
Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum house
The Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House is beside the Dubai Creek on the Deira side and was originally built in 1896. It was the official residence for the ruling family for over sixty years. Visiting this historical spot in Dubai is a fantastic and unique way to explore how they lived. It could be said it’s a veritable time machine!
The range of unique spaces throughout the house and a variety of wind towers are fascinating to behold. Interesting point – the house was purposely built near other dwellings to foster accessibility between the people and their ruler.
Today, the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House has been transformed into a museum dedicated to Dubai — filled with historical photographs, official documents, jewellery, stamps, coins and other artefacts that detail the city’s history. The displays are spread over nine different wings of the abode and chart the history of the house, the former ruling family, old Dubai, the cityscape, and the social life of the city.
It’s a quick eight-minute walk to the house from the Ghubaiba Metro Station. Entry is just AED 3 for adults and AED 1 for kids.
Souq Al Kabeer – Dubai Creek
Between the Bur Dubai and Deira areas, the Souq Al Kabeer is strategically located in front of the Dubai Creek. Souq Al Kabeer is sub-divided into several smaller souqs, with each being dedicated to specific products including grocery items, women’s accessories, home décor, fabrics, marine tools, perfume and more. This market in Dubai Creek is one of the oldest markets in the emirate. It offers its visitors a truly unique experience. A maze of narrow alleyways packed with the region’s traditional commercial offerings. The souq is more than 150-years-old. It used to be a central trade hub for import and export between East Asia, Africa and the Gulf region.
Souq Al Kabeer at Dubai Creek is just 11 minutes away from Al Fahidi Metro Station.
Al Ahmadiya School
The first national school established in Dubai, Al Ahmadiya takes you back in time to the beginnings of education in the emirate. Established by one of the most eminent pearl merchants in the Gulf in 1912, the institution counts many leading thinkers and scholars amongst its alumni. After the school ceased operating in 1958, it lay dormant until 1994 when the government renovated it and reopened it as a museum.
As one of the most treasured historical places in Dubai, the school is a monument in its own right. Visiting the school is a great way to explore how education evolved throughout the country. Old school furniture and various academic materials are all on display.
Visitors can also find government papers related to the school and its role in the city’s education. Some of its students even went on to become rulers and prominent members of the country. This includes His Highness, the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum – builder of Dubai, His Highness, the late Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum – the former Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum – Deputy Ruler of Dubai.
The school is a short three-minute walk from the Al Ras Metro Station and entry is free. So if you are in search of historical places in Dubai, this is a great option.
Frequently Asked Questions
What cultural activities can be enjoyed in the UAE?
Visitors and residents can witness traditional camel racing and dhow racing in Dubai. Besides these, sports lovers can also try their hands at falconry and other traditional sports in the UAE.
How many museums are there in Dubai?
There are many museums in Dubai. The extensive list includes the excellent Dubai Museum and the Saruq Al-Hadid Museum.
Where can I see other historical artefacts?
Those who find Arab world history an interesting subject will find several tentative and official UNESCO heritage sites in the UAE. There are also several archaeological sites in the UAE, including the Hili Archaeological Park, Baynunah Fossil Site and Jebel Hafeet Tombs.
Which cultural and heritage sites can I visit in Sharjah?
Sharjah is packed full of heritage and history. Visitors can check out the popular Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, Mleiha Archaeological site, Al Mahatta Museum, along with many other museums and heritage sites in Sharjah.
Are there any historical places to visit in Fujairah?
Tourists and residents of UAE can travel to Fujairah Heritage Village to relive rich Arabian heritage. The site is home to Fujairah Fort that displays defensive architecture of the region.
That concludes our list of heritage sites in Dubai. We hope you enjoy your time at these fascinating historical venues. Those visiting the UAE should also consider these notable historical places in Abu Dhabi.