Discover Dubai's history

Where you can learn about the city's rich past


Bastakiya Quarter
Strolling the narrow, breezy lanes of the Bastakiya remains an enchanting way to step back into the past. Located on the waterfront to the east of Bur Dubai Souk, the quarter hosts galleries and arts organisations, as well as boasting Dubai’s highest concentration of traditional wind-tower houses – an archaic form of air conditioning that uses a funnel to cool homes. These buildings were built more than 168 years ago by the wealthy Iranian Bastak family, who were attracted to the city by free-trade laws.

Al Ahmadiya School
Situated directly behind Heritage House in Deira Souk, this charming building is the oldest school in the city (today there are 225). Set up by Sheikh Mohammed bin Ahmed bin Dalmouk in 1912, at that time it would have been a semi-formal institution teaching the Holy Qur’an, Arabic, calligraphy, mathematics, astronomy and literature. During your visit, admire the delicate carving within the courtyard arches.

Dhow wharfage
Dhows – long, flat, wooden cargo vessels – have been docking in this part of the creek since the 1830s when the Maktoum family first established a trading port in Dubai, and an evening stroll along the waterside has been a popular pastime for just as long. Today there’s still a lively trade, with dhows exporting goods to Iran, Pakistan, Oman, India and further afield, transporting everything from canned food to white goods. If you’re
feeling brave, chat to a captain, or at least grab a juice or coffee at one of the eateries along the riverside.

The desert
If nothing else manages to evoke a feeling of the past, take a drive out of Dubai, in any direction, until you reach the desert. Reflect on the fact that, just 40 years ago, nearly all of modern Dubai was little different. You’ll probably spot some camels, which haven’t changed either.

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