Dubai is mostly famous for its unique buildings and it is one of the riches cities in the world. Similar to most places, Dubai started out as a small 17th century fishing village and one of its last remnants is the little Al Bastakiya quarter located at the banks of the Dubai Creek.
Most of the buildings in this neighborhood was restored to their former glory so people can step back into the past. It was during the month of February when my friend Zea and I visited the place. It was during noon and was hot at that time. We walked through the street, leading up to the Mosque.
There were other tourists exploring the place like us and as you walked through the streets, you will feel a sense of nostalgia from the past. According to the Flashy Dubai website, the Al Bastakiya sprung out during the 1690s and during its prime, it had about 60 housing units primarily owned by powerful merchants such as the Persians.
That had me thinking that was maybe why they created a Coin Museum (free admission) inside this old village. Out of curiosity, we went inside the museum to learn more about the UAE coins. According to the marker at the entrance,
“The building is located in the Bastakiyah area next to the ruler court mosque. It was built at the end of the 19th century from palm fronds, and in 1944, it was constructed from sea stones and gypsum. The area of the building is about 240 square meter, with two floors of 6.70 meter height the house on the ground floor consists of 5 living rooms. 2 stores and one kitchen, and on the upper floor there is a summer room and a store.”
Inside the house is a collection of coins dating back from the time of the Greeks, Romans, and Caliphate Era. You will learn many things from the information given on the coins. There is a small courtyard in the middle where you can walk to the other rooms which served as resting place. While there, you can freely take pictures or just sit down and enjoy the weather.
After exploring the Coin Museum, we headed out through the traditional narrow lanes, passing through the wind towers above us which was used to separate houses. Al Bastakiya was mostly populated until oil was discovered and that was when many people moved to the current metropolis of Dubai.
Then we came across the “Wall of Dubai” where it is written, “City walls are one of the prominent architectural features of the urban context of old cities. These walls surrounded cities to defend and secure them against external attacks. Throughout History, there were many examples of walls that had played an important role in protecting cities, such as the walls of Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad.”
“In the past, Dubai City had two such walls that defined the city context. The Oldest one was constructed in Bur Dubai about the year 1800 A.D. It surrounded the old city, which included Al-Faheidi Fort, the Grand Mosque and residential houses. The second one was built in Deira side in the fifties of the nineteenth century.
“The Bur Dubai wall was built using Coral stones and Gypsum. It was 50 cm thick, approx, 600 meter long and 2.5 meter high. In the beginning of the 20th century the wall was demolished to accommodate the expansion of the city.”
Ahead, we passed through the Coffee Museum and a souvenir store where you can see a collection of typical middle eastern things such as Aladdin’s oil lamp, Dubai mugs, bells, and souvenirs. That is where we concluded our tour of this tiny little village full of merchant houses, museums, galleries, cafes and stores.
Moving on as we passed through Dar Al Nadwa where there are two traditional Wind towers which main purpose was to keep the “interior of the house cooler than outside temperature and heat.”
The architectural structure is based on Persian style as “to create natural ventilation and passive cooling in buildings. They came in various designs and used in many countries. The wind towers used in Dubai are rising above building’s roof and open to all four directions. They captures wind and redirecting into the interior spaces of building through narrow shafts.” as both described in the article of Flashy Dubai.
Although the place was cleaned and well maintained, I felt that the authenticity was not there. It was not a living village; it was just a museum or a reminder of the past.
There were no busy people doing their day to day works, just empty streets filled with echoes of the past. As we walked to our next destination we pass through a cafe, and the sign tempted me. Unfortunately, we have to try it next time.
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