Immerse yourself in the rich tradition and culture of Dubai with the Dubai Heritage Walk Tours
By Namita Gupta
Minus the skyscrapers from Dubai and you can visualise how Dubai was in the olden days in Old Dubai. With traditional markets and souks, this is peek into the rich history and culture into the life of Emiratis as they were. Take an immersive walk and explore some of the hidden cultural gems as you meander through the winding alleys with mud and gypsum walls with corals and sea shells that keep the Al Fahidi historical neighbourhood cool even during the summer months. Some of the interesting ones to take you down the nostalgia lane are the Dubai museum, coin museum, dagger museum, coffee museum and the traditional Emirati house. In the earlier days, the Sheikhs families crushed the mother of pearls as the sunlight would reflect on them, making it easy for fishermen to find their way back to the harbour. You can also book a Cultural lunch or dinner with the local people here, while you interact with them and know about their Bedouin roots. End your walk with the Bur Dubai Spice market and a stroll through the Old Souk where you can unearth some real treasures and souvenirs at throwaway prices to take back home.
Dubai may be the Middle East’s most modern and futuristic state, but that does not mean you can’t take a step back in history. The Museum of the Future as the name suggests shows you a futuristic world, but there are plenty of museums that take you back in time to give you a glimpse of the lives of the traditional Emiratis. The museums in Dubai are perfectly positioned in the downtown area, with the skyscrapers and traditional sides easily merging into one amazing combination. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the history of how people were in the earlier days, and how Dubai emerged over centuries from being a small trading post to the luxurious and one of the most modern cities of the world today, or about the pearl industry that brought immense wealth to the trading families of the Emirates, the city’s museums is where you should be headed to. Take a walk down the heritage lane with the Dubai Heritage Walk Tours to understand and soak it all in with the help of a local guide who will have answers to all your questions.
The Bur Dubai area is dedicated to help the visitors understand and explore the culture of Dubai. You can see the replica of how the bedouins of the yesteryears used to live. You can also see a similar tent when you go for the Desert Safari. Even today some of the local people during the winter months, live like the bedouins. They make their colours using henna leaves and indigo.
The architecture of the buildings is traditional and the buildings are made from corals to keep them cool. Temperature is also cooler inside compared to outside due to the way its built. This is the oldest part of Dubai. There’s also a race course owned by the Prime Minister who passed away – Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The Maktoum family donated this port to help people understand the Dubai culture, so the visitors today come here to immerse themselves in knowing about old Dubai and also participate in various sports. In the winter months, you can enjoy the traditional boat racing here. Nearly 50 people sit on a boat and race together.
Ever wondered if one is from the city and the other person is from the desert – how would you be able to distinguish one from each other? Our local guide tells us that the bedouins would be in red colour and the city people would be wearing white colour. If you were to be visiting the royalty in Dubai, you would find three sections – one for the VIPs, one for the public and one for the women. Even if you’re visiting a local family, then you’ll be escorted to the ladies gathering area and men will be escorted to a men’s gathering area. Only in Ladies Clubs these women can interact freely and indulge in entertainment like musical shows, fashion shows and other activities.
For a long time this was a Walled City in the 1800s. Now there’s only one wall. The Sheikhs at most of the places in UAE have built large tents where they give 35,000 meals during Iftar. These are prepared at the Armed forces club. Dubai charity organisation and other charity organisations distribute free meals to everyone who comes during the holy month. This is also a pillar of Islam called the Zakath which talks about almsgiving, often collected by the Muslim Ummah. It is considered in Islam as a religious obligation.
As history goes, the year the Sheikh’s father took over, there was a sandstorm and he had to take a loan from the Kuwait king and expanded the Dubai creek. Due to the creek expansion, they were able to receive a large number of boats, which meant expansion of trade. There are many museums around this area that you can explore to understand how Dubai was in ancient times and how it has emerged over the years. The four museums in the Al Fahidi Historical District area are – the Traditional Emirati House Museum, Coffee Museum, Coins Museum and the Dagger Museum.
Dubai Coffee Museum – As a beverage, coffee has been a part of Middle Eastern culture for nearly as long as it has been. This monument to caffeine intake, located in Dubai’s Al Fahidi Historical District, is sprinkled with interesting artefacts and displays a vast collection of antique goods highlighting the regional and international coffee history and culture. The bottom floor is divided into zones that depict the customs of many coffee-drinking countries, while the literature room, which exhibits coffee-related writings, is located above. Finish your caffeine-fueled tour with a cup of coffee from the custom-built brew bar. It is one of the free museums in Dubai.
Coin Museum – The Coin Museum houses a huge collection of over 470 types of rare coins and paper notes that have been used in Dubai over the centuries. This assortment even features rare Arab Sasanian currency used during the Caliphate period of 632 AD. There are digital displays at this popular museum in Dubai that tell visitors about the coins, their period of usage and translate the Arabic inscriptions. It is located in the Al Shindagah area of Bur Dubai.
Saeed Al Maktoum House – Al Maktoum House is a historic building located in the Al Shindagha area of the city. Former residence of Dubai’s then ruler Saeed Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, the house built in 1896 is now a museum. Visitors can enjoy and get to know about the city and the royal family’s culture and lifestyle. It is now a famous tourist spot which impresses residents and visitors with its simple yet vast stature, open areas and courtyards, and cooling wind towers. You can find a lot of old pictures, documents, stamps and coins, jewellery and decorative items in this ancient museum in Dubai.
Dagger Museum – Located in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, Bayt Al Khanyar Museum – The House of Daggers’ Museum hosts a collection of rare Emirati daggers dating back to various periods in history. Daggers hold a significant place in the history and cultural tapestry of the United Arab Emirates.
Some of the other museums in Dubai are –
Museum of Illusions – The Museum of Illusions in Bur Dubai (Al Seef) along the Creek is a wonderland of mind-blowing optical illusions. The Museum of Illusions in Dubai is one of several such museums maintained by the world-renowned museum chain of the same name. The one in Dubai, the largest of them, contains more than 80 tricks and illusions that’ll leave you baffled!
Dubai Museum – The museum, which is located on Al Fahidi Street in Bur Dubai, is ideal for individuals who wish to comprehend the shift from Dubai’s medieval city to the contemporary metropolis that we see today. It is adjacent to Dubai Creek, which is one of the city’s most historic regions. Dubai museum is housed in the Al Fahidi Fort, which was completed in 1787. The city’s history is told through models of people, animals, and locations. You’ll get a peek into history as well as some incredible artefacts.
Pearl Museum – While Dubai is known as the “City of Gold,” it has a long history with the pearl trade. While pearl diving is no longer king, the Pearl Museum pays respect to the magnificent jewels and the divers who acquired them. The main exhibit of the museum, located at the National Bank of Dubai headquarters in Deira, includes a collection of magnificent pearls in odd forms and hues, as well as some spectacular jewellery. The museum also displays numerous pearl diving instruments, such as classic dhow boats used by Arabian divers. Visitors can listen to an informative lecture on different pearl beds and the variety of oysters found in the Gulf water.
Camel Museum – Camel being the lifeline of the desert, this museum in Dubai gives its visitors a chance to understand the status of this animal in Arabian culture.