One man in particular has made significant efforts that helped shape the city-state of Dubai into one of the most progressive places in the Middle East and in the world. Sheik Saeed Al Maktoum is regarded by many as a great man and a great leader. During the time of his leadership, Dubai turned itself into a world-class sheikdom, flourishing in business and entrepreneurship and serving as a good example to neighboring places.
But what was this person like as a man? There are several personal accounts of him showing just how big of a heart he had, and what a good person he really was. Stories are told of how benevolent he was to his servants and household help even when they commit petty things. One such account was when he caught a man attempting to steal his belongings. He mildly rebuked him, telling him to put it back. The thief remained in the Sheik’s employ as if no crime had been committed.
The reason why this man is so loved and well-remembered is because he was one of the most productive rulers of Dubai. At the time, Dubai was not yet the oil giant it is known to be today. The state was only just beginning to explore its capabilities in the pearl industry. When the global market experienced a recession and the demand for natural-grown pearl subsided, his foresight to delve into the business of culturing pearls allowed Dubai to stay afloat despite the financial decline. He was soon then considered to be one of the foundations of Dubai’s strength today.
His former residence, located near the banks of the Dubai creek in Al Shindaga, is quite the tourist attraction. Built in the 1890s, it is one of the most popular architectural sites in Dubai. Its infrastructure is reminiscent of a grand palace. However, the structure we see today is a mere restoration of its original grandeur. Originally erected so that the Sheik could keep an eye on shipping activities as this served as a port in those days, today, it is a very popular museum.
The house has 30 rooms, four wind towers, and a courtyard. The splendid regional architecture really stands out as an ancient reminder of Dubai’s pre-oil past. It now serves as a museum, housing a lot of historically and culturally significant artifacts of that period. Most of these artifacts are displays of old photographs showcasing Dubai’s development through the years, a collection of old coins, some unique postage and document stamps, as well as other significant papers like old letters, treaties and geographical maps. Some artifacts here even date as far as three centuries ago.
Also showcased here are some remnants of the city’s pearl-rich past, with interesting photographs about fishing, pearl diving and culturing, as well as boat-building. The museum is largely a self-guided tour, however, there are some educational and explanatory materials available. If you are taking a bus tour, the house of Sheik Saeed Al Maktoum is definitely a recommended stop.