If you’re seeing Dubai only as the country of magnificent man-made marvels, you’d be wrong. Dubai has an enchanting cultural heritage that goes back for thousands of years. There are millennia of architecture, history, culture, and ways of life here. A visit to Dubai is simply not complete if you leave the history behind. We have here a list of beautiful historical places in Dubai that are a must-see. Do see them. Do relish them, as they are what remain of old Dubai.
Heritage Village Dubai
This is not a village from thousands of years ago, but it is the perfect replica of the way life was in Dubai of old. Every old tradition, art, and cultural aspect is preserved here. For a rare glimpse of Dubai’s nomadic lifestyle, visit the Heritage and Diving Villages along the creek in Shindagha area. You’ll get to enjoy exhibits from Dubai’s maritime past, olden day’s architecture and the pearl diving traditions of old. Be sure to buy some handicrafts made in the old ways.
The Dubai Creek is a sea water inlet that runs through the historic center part of Dubai. Each side of the creek is filled with the color and bustle of Old Dubai. Dhows travel up and down the creek, bringing in trade goods from India and East Africa along ancient trade routes. Take a tour of the creek on an abra, a small water taxi, and visit the old souks Deira and Bur Dubai. Traverse along the creek’s length to the Maktoum Bridge, passing many of Dubai’s historic and manmade modern landmarks along the way. Relax for a while on the Bur Dubai side in one of the extensive landscaped public gardens. A large, shallow lagoon at the creek inland end is a migratory bird sanctuary. Nearly 27,000 birds, including Greater Flamingos migrate here.
Sheikh Saeed House
Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, grandfather of the present Sheikh, ruled Dubai from 1912 to 1958. His old house stands proudly restored on Dubai Creek’s Shindagha end. The house is more than 120 years old. Today it’s a museum, displaying a rare collection of historic photographs and documents, stamps and coins form 100 years ago. The construction of the house is typically Arabian, with small ramparts, a courtyard and a separate zenana quarters. Located close to the Dubai airport, you can easily enjoy Dubai airport transfers till here. All in all, it is a must visit to understand the rich history of Dubai.
Al Ahmadiya School
Dubai’s very first school, built in 1912, the Al Ahmadiya School is now a museum that displays the schooling culture of long-ago Dubai. The school is located in the Al-Ras Area of Deira, where students were taught Tafseer-the Qu’ran explanation, Hadith topics and Islamic law. Students would sit on mats made from palm-tree leaves.
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The historic Hatta Fort is situated 115km southeast of Dubai city. Nestled cozily in the foothills of the spectacular Hajjar mountains, the Hatta Fort overlooks the Dubai Heritage Village. Hatta Fort was built by Sheikh Maktoum bin Hashr Al Maktoum in 1896 to be a place of sanctuary for the then viceroy. The fort now displays an enviable array of old weaponry including traditional daggers, swords, knives, guns, muskets and pistols. The Hatta site also has many traditional houses and other historical buildings.
Dubai Museum in Al Fahidi Fort
The Dubai Museum is housed within the Al Fahidi Fort, built in 1799 and beautifully restored today. The displays offer a fascinating insight into Dubai’s cultural heritage and rich history, via several colorful life-size dioramas. Each diorama depicts the way life was before oil was struck in the UAE. There are several galleries depicting the Dubai Creek complete with dhows, buildings and wind towers. You can also see traditional Arab houses, the gold souk, mosques, desert and marine life and date farms rendered in dioramas. There are also several artifacts that have been recovered from graves excavated in the UAE, going back to the third millennium B.C. The pearl diving exhibit includes all the original scales, sieves and weights used by pearl merchants long ago!
When you’re traveling the Metro or footing it near Dubai’s modern landmarks, you may not think that much has survived from old Dubai. But that’s before you step into the old Bastakiya district. The tall wind-towers, the narrow alleys and the multitude of shops and hawkers peddling everything from silks to saffron will take you right back to ancient Dubai. The Bastakiya has the largest number of traditional houses, each one with a wind tower. Windtowers were very necessary – they were the only means to cool houses in the old ways. Windtowers lined both sides of the Dubai Creek in the old days.
Traditional Old Houses
Take a look-see at traditional old houses that still stand in Dubai.
- The Bait Al Wakeel was Dubai’s first office building, occupied by clerks, solicitors and secretaries. It was built by the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum in 1933. The building still stands proud near the abra landing at the edge of the Dubai Creek.
- The Bin Muzaina House has a typical large courtyard in the middle for the men to congregate and smoke hookah in the evenings. There’s a rectangular wind tower to keep the house cool as well. The building dates back to the 1890s and is set right next to the Al Ahmadiya School.
- The Burj Nahar is a watchtower, one of many that stood guard over Old Dubai. It was built in 1870 and has lovely gardens that are a photographer’s dream.
It’s not possible to fully appreciate the beauty of a city without a study of its history, culture and historical architecture. A tour of Dubai’s historical places and monuments will change the way you look at Dubai and the UAE forever. From being a glittery, glitzy glamour paradise, Dubai suddenly starts feeling like a place you can call home. That’s because history brings you closer to a place – it makes you want to know its people and their way of life.