Historical District – so that’s museums and stuff then?
You could say that. Al Fahidi, formerly known as Bastikiya, is one of the city’s oldest heritage sites (and a proposed Unesco World Heritage Site). In the 1800s, it was a trading hub for textile and pearl merchants, in the shadow of Al Fahidi Fort, now home to the Dubai Museum. The area that exists today has been built with traditional materials and laid out in the way the original would have been, with narrow passages winding between the low-rise buildings.
Fascinating. What’s happening there now? Presumably those pearl and textile merchants have shuffled off to the mall?
To some extent, but you’ll find a lot of fabric shops in the nearby Textile Souk. At Al Fahidi now, it’s all about art and culture. There are art galleries and exhibitions (check out XVA and Majlis Gallery) and institutes such as the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, which holds regular talks on UAE traditions and heritage, Emirati breakfasts and storytelling sessions. It conducts 90-minute tours of the district, as well as tours of Jumeirah Mosque.
I’ll have a wander around. Anywhere I can stop for a coffee and a bite?
Check out the Arabian Tea House – formerly known as Basta Art Café. It’s a lovely, ornate building with a quaintly appointed courtyard that is the perfect place to put your feet up for an hour over a cold lime and mint juice and a slice of date cake (keep those blood sugar levels up, and all that).
Great, what’s next?
Make sure you check out the Dubai Museum. The structure is an attraction in itself – the exhibits are located within the walls of the restored Al Fahidi Fort. Built in the late 1700s, the building is one of the oldest in the city. Check out old photos of Dubai, as well as traditional fishing boats, water tanks, old weapons and scenes depicting traditional ways of life in the UAE over hundreds of years.
Learn more at www.dubaiculture.gov.ae.
Only at Al Fahidi Historical District
Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
One of the best places in the city to learn about the UAE’s heritage, traditions, language and evolution, the SMCCU has a calendar filled with talks, breakfasts, Arabic lessons and workshops. Absolutely worth visiting at least once.
House 26, Al Mussallah Road, Al Fahidi, www.cultures.ae (04 353 6666).