The heat of the day seems to dissolve through the narrow streets and carved wooden panels of the buildings of the Bastakiya quarter of Dubai. A far cry from the modern eclectic structures and traffic jams of the city, it’s a piece of the times gone by preserved for posterity.
Built in the 1890s, the oldest neighbourhood of Dubai spent its heyday accommodating around 60 upper class residences at the turn of the century. In later years, many had relocated with the prosperity of the oil boom, leaving Al Bastakiya to immigrants and warehouses. Half of the area was demolished to make way for office complexes in the 1970s, but the rest was saved by a British architect named Rayner Otter. He brought the old Arabic architecture and lifestyle conserved within the quarter to attention by renovating and restoring some buildings to their past glory. Today’s Baskatiya locality is filled with art galleries, restaurants and plenty of nooks and corners that reveal a bit of the old age.
Al Fahidi Fort defended the Bur Dubai in the 1800s- a part of which still stands at one edge of Al Bastakiya. Dubai Creek offers a cool and picturesque platform to see the area from a boat. After visiting the traditional textile souq, cross the creek to reach the gold and spice souq of Deira. The grand mosque of the town is a sight of coral, gypsum and limestone, with intricate patterns in wood. Strolling down the narrow lanes of the neighbourhood, the wind towers of buildings are visible standing above the walls. Other than providing a natural form of ventilation, the number of wind towers per residency was a method of determining the wealth of the owner. Now many of these buildings host art galleries – showcasing various traditional arts – and cafes bringing food of the Middle East to the wanderer. The tranquillity of the entire city makes it an ideal place to visit for families with children.
Among these attractions are the Majis Art Gallery, Dubai’s oldest gallery showcasing ceramics, jewellery, sculpture and calligraphy amidst paintings. Located in yet another fascinating building, the Sheik Mohommad Center for Cultural Understanding offers guided tours that include tea with locals and rides along Dubai Creek. Take a panoramic roof top view of Al Bastakiya after a meal with the Emiratis, or listen to the call for prayer echoing from the mosque nearby.
The authentic charm of the small city is easily accessible from any Dubai airport hotel. Considering convenience and comfort, many choose the Millennium Airport Hotel Dubai for their stay in the country. Its luxurious yet modern settings give functionality an edge without compromising on the finesse of a 5 star hotel Dubai.
Uditha Dharmawardhane is a travel writer who writes under the pen name Roland Lefevre. He specializes in creating features on leisure as well as business travel destinations across the globe. Google+