The Bastakiya District is characterized by winding narrow lanes, traditional houses with tall wind towers, and an old quiet world that eagerly stands out against the raucous and neon of the city. Known as one of the oldest residential areas in Dubai, it also serves as the city’s cultural and historical icon. This traditional quarter attracts a lot of culturally-inclined tourists and expatriates who are curious about the humble beginnings of Dubai.
The Bastakiya Quarter is home to many museums, art galleries, traditional shops, and cultural centers. The arts and cultural heritage buzz is quite unlike anywhere in the city. Visitors will quickly be treated to a feast of galleries showcasing Dubai’s history. Among the famous buildings and organizations found in the area are the Dubai Museum, the Al Fahidi Fort, and the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.
The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding is a well adorned building among the elegant villas in the neighborhood. Visitors can visit the center for a cultural breakfast, followed by a stroll along the winding alleys to admire the decorations of traditional Bur Bastakiya buildings.
One unique thing about the district is its architecture. The original residents in the area were wealthy emirates who built houses that were shielded with rough stone walls and tall wind towers. The walls were meant to protect their privacy, while the tall wind towers were actually cooling systems. The more towers there were, the wealthier the owner of the house was. Vintage houses also had large main doors as well as low inner doors to allow visitors bow down and avoid direct eye contact with the women in the house.
The discovery of oil production forced the original wealthy residents to leave for other parts of the emirate. The greater part of the area was then demolished to give way to commercial establishments. After the restoration efforts by the government, however, the traditional district was brought back to life. Traditional wind tower houses were converted to shops and art houses that showcase both traditional and modern art.
The Sikka Art Fair is one of the most exciting events in the area. It is an annual arts and culture exhibition that serves as a platform for up-and-coming talents from all over the United Arab Emirates. The laid-back streets spring to life with public music and theater performances as various houses are being opened up to showcase artworks and host public workshops, talks, and film screenings.
Apart from the repertoire of museums and private galleries, there are traditional cafés and Saturday markets where local artists can showcase and sell their crafts. The Souk Al Bastakiya features clothing, jewelry, crafts, art, music, food, drinks, camel rides, and a whole lot more. There are also art workshops and musical events to keep shoppers entertained. All this and the valet parking service make everything more convenient for visitors. The Bur Bastakiya is open to the public from 10am to 10pm. Considering how they were threatened to be demolished in the past, it is certainly a treat to see the cobblestoned streets of the district of Bastakiya flourish today.