You do remember that you have seen couple of domes from the bus, one being decorated with blue and green ornaments, and it was indicated by the guide that „behind the building on your right“ there is the largest mosque in Dubai, but also the Iranian one, Indian etc. The bus doesn’t stop there. But I was too keen to see those ornaments up close and they said that Dubai Museum is in the same area, along with the former Sheikh residence and the old Arab Heritage Village…
Wind tower in Bastakiya
If it’s too much trouble to jounce on the bus that needs a lot of time to come through those busy boulevards towards Deira and Bur Dubai districts, the right way to go is by Metro.
There is a station nearby called Al Fahidi, and with water, wet wipes and sun glasses as a must, you will reach Bastakiya in few minutes.
It reflects typical settlement with small houses and windtowers which were channeling the breeze down, cooling wide courtyards; with narrow passages; old craftsman shopes in traditional environment; calligraphy store; small Coffee Museum; impressive white mosque; old style hotel etc. There, you will find a part of the old wall that dates back to the end of 19th century, encircling the city at the time.
Bastakiya was named after Bastak area of southern Iran. Traders from Bastak were encouraged to settle here by tax consessions at the beginning of 20th century.
After a nice stroll around Bastakiya, while the heat sneaks up from above and bellow, take a break for tea or coffee in typical Arabic (air conditioned) cafe.
And than, not very far from there, there is a museum you were recommended to visit. Located in the old Al Fahidi Fort from 1787, it offers all you can find regarding Dubai’s history and heritage.
It should be said that those who live and work in Dubai, not being Emiratis, have just smiled to the idea of anything in Dubai possibly dating back to 18th century: „The whole country exists for no more than 41 year and everything you see is recent. Half of the city didn’t exist just a decade ago. There might have been a fort there, but it is surely long gone.“
Skeletons and dolls
Al Fahidi Fort did exist at the spot and it was the ruler’s residency and pillar of defense not far from the Gulf. In 1970 it was renovated and turned into museum. At the entrance a replica of typical wooden boat for fishing and pearl diving is displayed… I barely got out of the group of excited Japanese tourists who were moving slowly in densely packed circle, flashing their cameras all around.
Replicas of old Arab houses are displayed in the courtyard, covered with reed, fireplace in the middle, maybe a bed or a large pillow on the floor.
There is a spiral lane taking you down to chilled basement with the actual exhibition. One room packed with posters representing Dubai in different decades, short film about the old pearl diving, the other with pearl trading tools, replica of a boat. The third contains info about flora and fauna, palm trees and dates. While you are walking through dark tunnel you notice that there are replicas of old craft shops on both sides – with life-sized dolls within. Group of children was greatly amused by the exhibition, and I was drawn towards two skeletons, mail and femail. They date back to the third millennium BC, were uncovered in Jumeira in that same position – hugging each other.
You will not need more than 30 minutes for the whole Museum. If you don’t bring your children along, that is.
The Old Souk
At least you did get a chance to cool down a bit and to catch a breath or two. Now, moving on, strolling through the heat and humidity.
Right next to the Museum there is a long mosque, beige on the outside, with numerous small domes and tall minaret.
Stroll through nearby passages and you are already in the Old Souk, the real Arab market, with salesmen stopping you at every stall smiling and offering tea.
Part of it is covered by wooden beams, while the rest bursts with passages and all the range of dresses, scarves, table cloths, curtains, swinging above.
One salesman charmingly puts one of the scarves over your arm, so you have to stop to give it back, a there it goes… „Just looking, thank you.“ „Welcome, do come in, please, we have a lot more inside“, „no, thank you, some other time maybe“, „you don’t have to buy anything, let me just show you those beautiful scarves, colors are like they were made just for you“…
And than, around the corner, a large mosque appears, covered in blue and green tiles, with flowers and leaves shaped ornaments, great dome decorated in the same manner. It dominates the area of beige and gray buildings, surrounded by cars, building constructions.. There it is, Iranian Mosque. And on the other side of the small square – another mosque, Sunni one, with elegant small domes, beige but more charming than the most…
Even the camera got tired, „bugging“ from time to time because of the heat. People around smile – it seems I have once again entered an area not often visited by tourists in the summer.
Wooden boats’ taxi station
I have checked the Big Bus schedule, there should be one in few minutes at the entrance of the Old Souk.
The plan is to hop off after less than 15 minutes to visit the Heritage Village which is not that far. Well, if it wasn’t for those 45 degrees.. Now, on the other hand, that chilled bus seems like better idea.
After hopping on, burned by the sun, we were reminded by the guide that we are at the Abra station with small wooden taxi boats zipping up and down from Bur Dubai to the other side, to Deira district. „That is on the agenda for tomorrow“, it crossed my mind, „along with the cruise“.