Exploring the Bastakiya Quarter in Old Dubai
Every so often, expats get tired of the modern concrete Dubai they live in. It isn’t long before they look towards old Dubai to see what it was like before the development. While places like Deira and Bur Dubai still cling to their humble beginnings, they haven’t been well preserved.
For a walk down history’s lane and to see what Dubai actually was like before modern development took over, go to the Bastakiya quarter in Bur Dubai.
Bastakiya is one of Dubai’s oldest heritage sites and is known as the cultural centre of Dubai. It dates back to the 1890’s and is now preserved and maintained by the Dubai Government.
If you’ve ever wondered how people kept cool in Dubai’s punishing heat before air conditions were invented, you’ll get the answer as soon as you enter Bastakiya.
The houses in Bastakiya are characterized by wind towers. That’s how people kept their homes cool back when there was no air conditioning. Houses in Bastakiya are flat roofed and have four sided wind towers known as Barjeel on top.
Back in the day, Bastakiya was home to Dubai’s rich families. In fact, the number of wind towers someone’s house had was an indication of how well off they were.
Since it’s a preserved site now, houses and buildings have turned into museums, art galleries and cafes. Not surprisingly, there’s even a guest house.
The biggest attraction of Bastakiya is the Dubai Museum housed in Al Fahidi Fort. Another attraction is the Dubai Wall. There’s very little left of the original wall but it was originally built to protect the city. While it’s not much to look at, the history and the stories attached to it inspires one’s imagination.
The Bastakiya area also has a few art galleries that are known for showcasing local talent. Visit the Majlis Gallery and the Ostra if you want to check out the local art scene.
If you’re interested in the guest house I mentioned, look for XVA. It’s a guest house and art gallery rolled into one.
With its maze of narrow lanes, the only way to explore Bastakiya is on foot. So don’t forget your water, sunscreen and hat. Also make sure your health insurance is up to date just to be on the safe side.
After a few hours of exploring Bastakiya, tired feet and hungry stomachs can relax and recuperate in the Basta Art Café. There’s just something about sitting in a courtyard café surrounded by Old Dubai architecture that rejuvenates the soul.
If you fancy a ride in the Abra (wooden boat), the station is just a short walk away. You can easily walk over, hop in an abra and go to Deira. Of course, exploring Deira is an adventure for another day.
So if you’re looking to spend some time in old Dubai, there’s plenty to keep you busy in Bastakiya.
If you’d rather not explore Bastakiya on your own, then there are plenty of guided tours. Just contact the Culture Centre and find out the details.
Personally though, I prefer to explore Bastakiya on my own. Getting lost in its lanes is an adventure in itself!
To find out more about Bastakiya, and to see what it looks like, check out the video below: