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Bastakiya is the oldest quarter in Dubai. In fact it is called Al Fahidi and it dates back to late XIX century. Much before Dubai become the vibrant and modern city it is nowadays, it was a was a place of humble beginnings known for pearls and textile trading and as pit stop along trade routes to Asia and Africa. The city was born in the Al Fahidi area, where fishermen, herders and date farmers lived in the surroundings.
Bastakiya’s foundation was funded by rich pearl and textile merchants over an area of 300 square meters and walls to defend it, the oldest built in 1800AC. In the years 2000 it passed through renovation and the wall was demolished to accommodate the city’s expansion, which included some museums. Only a small part of the wall foundations remained and was restored in 2001.
The quartier’s unique architecture and importance in Dubai’s history is undeniable, and for all this time it has held the essence of Old Dubai with Levantine decoration, Islamic calligraphy on the walls, Arab-style courtyards and with a specific glamour that comes from the impact of different cultures. Visiting Bastakiya is an invitation to travelling in time and understand the heritage of this fantastic city much below its glamorous surface. Nowadays it serves visitors who seek for history and a cultural spot, with rich artistic life.
There are several must-see places to visit in Bastakiya.
A charming stop for a nice coffee or breakfast. It is an authentic place that connects past and present, famous among locals and visitors from all over the world who want to try the delicious food and enjoy the owner’s hospitality. After strolling and walking around the neighborhood it is a pleasant stop.
Bastakiya is a very cultural quarter and while walking you will find many art galleries. One of them is Mawaheb from Beautiful People, and art gallery for the ‘determined ones’, as they call adults with special needs. There, the determined people are invited to develop their potentials and all products on sale are created by them. Visitors can be sure they will be purchasing unique items. The gallery also has a coffee shop.
Built in 1944, the building where today is Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding is a symbol of traditional architecture, located in a wind tower house. It was restored and nowadays hosts several international and cultural events. Visitors can enjoy a traditional Emirati breakfast, lunch or dinner and a guided walking tour of the neighborhood within the centre. Their motto is Open Doors, Open Minds, which means that no matter what questions people might have, sensitive or not, all are answered and welcome. The aim is to establish fulfilling conversation and communication.
Settle in regional traditional architecture, the museum is small yet very cozy and conduces visitors through a pleasant story of coffee, showing the brewing and roasting methods in many countries. The museum has its own shop, which among many items such as books, grinders, jewelry and coffee makers, also offers visitors a taste of its own Arabian and Turkish coffee.
Built in the 60´s, this now restored building is a boutique hotel with cozy amenities and nice courtyard. But more than just a hotel, it is place that combines heritage and art, a spot for artists and where visitors are welcome to spend the day. The place has proudly been featured by Condé Nast Traveler as the number 1 place not to miss in Dubai.
Built in the 30´s by Mir Abdullah Amiri, nowadays the building open its doors as a painting and antiquities store in 1989, with traditional designs and different types of ornaments. The gallery is one of Dubai´s fine art galleries, representing local and international artists and working as meeting point for creatives.
If you would like to know more about the traditional Arabic architecture, the Architectural Heritage Society is the place. It aims to focus on the national identity, preserve the identity, increase awareness on heritage preservation and encourage studies in architectural heritage, among others.
Built by Mohammad Habib Al Haji in 1954 and restored in 2005, the building is dedicated to Islamic culture; it is only 2 floors and the major attraction is the writings on the walls.
This is the oldest building in the quarter, built in 1895 by Abdul Razak Abdul Raheen Al Bastaki. It spreads across 2 floors rich in traditional architecture and ornaments. It current is a Middle Eastern authentic restaurant overlooking the creek, a great stopping option for enjoying an Arabian-style dinner in Dubai.
Dubai really has a lot to offer, and considering its glamorous and modern reputation, you will be amazed to discover more about its history while walking around Bastakiya, a neighborhood faithful to its traditions and full of personality. Enjoy your tour!