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Al Fahidi Historical District (Bastakia) in Dubai

Исторический район Al Fahidi Historical (Бастакия) в Дубае

The Bastakia district in Dubai is the reconstructed oldest location of the city, where many narrow streets and several dozen old houses of the early XX century are concentrated. These objects are considered the calling card of the area. Visiting Bastakia, you will be able to feel the “spirit” of the past and get acquainted with the life of the country before the oil boom. 

What makes the area unique

The fact that the area still exists in highly developed Dubai is considered a miracle. At the beginning of mass construction work, they wanted to build a large office on the site of the city. But the architect who developed the project managed to dissuade the sheikh from eliminating the historical location.

The construction of the district began in the 19th century. Then only the trading quarter of Persian merchants was located here. Then pearl fishermen and rich families began to settle on the territory. In the thirties of the last century, thanks to the district, it was possible to overcome the crisis, and local merchants made it so that it remained “afloat” and established the largest trade turnover with Persia and India.

Today Bastakia is very popular among travelers. Because of the narrow streets, old houses and shops, a huge number of tourists come to this place. Land plots are expensive here, but despite this, new entertainment and public places are constantly appearing on the territory of Bastakia. We are talking about hotels, restaurants, museums, as well as shops. It is here that you can get acquainted with the pristine architecture of the Arabs.

History of the Old Town

Old Town history

Many buildings of the district were erected in the nineteenth century. At that time, houses were built strong enough, using clay, lime, palm branches, shell rock. The weather forced us to think over the ventilation device, which contributed to the appearance of the first wind towers on the territory to cool houses with them. The district was named after the Iranian city of Bastak.

The area is located on the shore of Dubai Creek. Previously, it was the center of the city with developed fishing and pearl mining. And trade has remained until now – the location is rich in traditional Arab markets.

After the discovery of the oil field, different sides of Dubai began to develop rapidly – from the economy, high-rises to the wealth of the population.

In the 1970s, part of the block was demolished for the construction of new modern buildings. At that time, the Old City was filled with poor people and dilapidated buildings, which caused the government to eliminate it completely. Everything was changed by the English architect R. Otter. Thanks to his assessment of the originality of the ancient area, the purchase of one building for restoration and the request not to destroy the city, it was possible to preserve it. As a result, the location was put in order and made one of the most visited attractions.

Architectural structures of the district

Architectural structures

The buildings differ mainly in the traditional style of the Arabs. The standard structure resembles the shape of a quadrangle with a courtyard in the central part. The rooms inside the house are connected in a circle for better air circulation. This is especially true for a country with a hot climate.

The houses of poor people were called barastis and were made of palm trees.

The symbol of the Arab Emirates is the elegant barjil wind towers, which were in any of the houses. If there were a lot of them, then the family was considered rich. They served as an air conditioner. The whole structure was equipped with protruding beams made of wood, on which people hung a wet cloth so that the air was even fresher.

Sights of Bastakia

Most of all, houses with courtyards for family holidays are attracted to this territory. The windows in them are closed with wooden shutters with slits, letting light into the rooms and not allowing others to look inside.

There are narrow streets between the houses, along which you can only move on foot. On many houses, you can climb to the roofs to admire the beautiful view.

In addition, Bastakia has interesting establishments, which will be discussed further.

Dubai Museum at Fort Al-Fahidi

Dubai Museum

The building was built in 1787. Now the main museum is located here. In the courtyard you can see an old Arab boat Doe. The rest of the exhibits are located in an underground compartment, since the building itself is small and does not allow to accommodate all the exhibits.


The towers were created to work according to the type of modern air conditioners. The construction originates in Iran, which is proof of the involvement of Persian sellers in the construction of this location.

Sheikh Said’s House

Sheikh Said's House

Part of the city has several palace facilities of the former rulers of Dubai. Said’s house bears little resemblance to the palace and is so named only because of the historical past. Now there is a museum with household items, coins, stamps, old photos of the sheikh’s family, as well as some personal belongings and documentation of the Emirates. You can visit it any day except Friday from 8 am to 8.30 pm. To do this, you will have to buy a ticket.

Sheikh Obein’s House

Another museum near Said’s house has permanent and changing expositions. The first are devoted to Arabic writing and scenes from the Koran. Every Friday there are calligraphy courses with various master classes. There is a kindergarten with a nanny at the museum. The museum’s work schedule is from 8 am to 10 pm, and on Friday from 16 to 22. You can visit the place for free.

Ethnographic village


In the ethnographic village, you can get acquainted with samples of different houses, outbuildings from long ago. Here you can find out how the houses where the Bedouins lived were built. There is a souvenir market nearby. Admission is free, opening hours are daily from 8.30 to 22.30.

The village of divers

Previously, local hunters dived into the bay for pearls. Hence the name of the village. It is located near the embankment by the water next to the diving center. On the territory you can also visit the museum, which is dedicated to the fishing craft of the nineteenth century.

Popular expositions are the tools used to catch shellfish, crabs and fish. There are also boats. Admission is free, opening hours are 8.30–22.30.

Museum of Architecture

Architecture of the district

The museum introduces its guests to photographs from a century ago, as well as tools. There are also models of buildings: for living by the sea, in the desert, in the mountains.

In the second hall, the work of workers in 3D models is demonstrated. When travelers enter the hall, the interactive model begins to move with the sounds of a working construction tool. All this is accompanied by music. Admission to the museum is free.

Shopping in the Old neighborhood

This part of the city has concentrated many markets called Juices – from the sale of silk, Arab clothing, imported textiles to souvenirs, antiques, precious stones. Seafood and spices can also be purchased here. The market points are located in a row on the same line near the embankment.

Grand Mosque


The mosque is the main attraction and accommodates more than a thousand people. She started her work in 1999. Entrance is allowed only for Muslims. If you are a tourist and want to visit this place, you will have to wear a white Arab robe (for men) or a scarf with an abaya cape (for women). 

Guided tours of the area

Bastakia is one of the points of sightseeing tours in the emirate. According to the time allotted for its inspection, you will have time to walk through the streets and take pictures.

Thanks to such a journey, you can see this quarter and its notable objects. On average, the tour will take at least 3 hours and will cost $ 200 per person if there are 10 to 15 tourists in the group.

How to get to the old town

Thanks to the well-developed transport infrastructure, it will be quite easy to get to the district of Dubai Bastakia. It all depends on the choice of transport. The fastest taxi is considered. You can also use the metro, a regular bus. The latter method is chosen less often, since it is more time-consuming.

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Vladimir Sviridov
Vladimir Sviridov
General Manager RLC Consulting
With a Postgraduate Masters in Finance from The, Moscow State University, Russia. Vladimir started his professional career as an auditor of the financial sector of EY. After that, he worked for several years in senior positions in corporate banking. In 2018-2021, he managed the finances of a large agricultural holding, and is currently responsible for strategic planning, corporate partnership and financial management in the role of General Manager of RLC Consulting GROUP in the UAE.

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