Bastakiya Quarter – The Old Dubai
Most people know Dubai for its 5 star glamour and new developments, but there are also the old parts of Dubai.
One of them is the charming historical old quarter, Bastakiya. It is also known as the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood.
Bastakiya’s labyrinthine lanes are lined with restored merchant’s houses with courtyards, wind towers, art galleries, cafés, tea houses and boutique hotels.
Wandering through the narrow alleys and exploring the houses is a step back into Dubai’s past.
The quiet and relaxing atmosphere is what draws people into Bastakiya – the walls block out the sounds of the city.
The Bastakiya district was originally built in the late 19th century and was home to wealthy Persian traders. They were lured to Dubai because of the tax-free trading and access to the Dubai Creek which used to be a residential area for rich merchants.
In the late 80’s the area was half destroyed and the Dubai Municipality decided that the remaining parts should be demolished to make space for new developments.
Some say thanks to Prince Charles’s visit in the 80’s, this never happened. When touring through the district together with a British architect, Price Charles apparently said that Bastakiya should be preserved as a hub of culture and history.
In 2005 a project was initiated by Dubai Municipality to restore the locality’s of old buildings and lanes.
Historical Bastakiya lies along the bank of the Dubai Creek, next to the Dubai Museum in Bur Dubai.
In order to get there you can take the metro until Al Fahidi Station or the traditional abras (water taxis) to cross the Creek for only AED 1 ($.30).
If you have a ticket for the Hop On Hop Off Bus (Big Bus Tour), get off at Al Fahidi Fort. From there it is only a 3 minute walk until you enter the historic quarter.
The Art Scene & Museums
Many of the traditional houses have been converted into art galleries and art cafes. You will find pieces of art everywhere in the streets.
- XVA Gallery specializes in contemporary art from across the Gulf region. The gallery shares its location with the cute XVA Boutique Hotel and Cafe. The 14 rooms and suites of the hotel are all individually designed and showcase architectural and cultural motifs of the region. Something unique in Dubai.
- Majlis Gallery specializes in mainstream art such as Asian oils and watercolors of desert landscapes, along with calligraphy and sculpture. The city’s first gallery is where the Sikka Art Fair takes place each March.
The Cafés and Restaurants
Huge shade trees create a pleasant ambiance in courtyards converted into innovative cafes and restaurants with a distinct character.
- Arabian Tea House Restaurant & Café – A quiet and laid back outdoor café, where you can have a quick coffee, fresh juice, or snack. While waiting have a look at some of their art work and jewelry from local artists.
- Make Art Café – Set in a gorgeous courtyard, it’s a great place to sample a selection of pastries and fuel up with specialty coffees. Make sure to try their camel milk ice cream.
The adjacent rooms, showcase local paintings.
- Basta Art Café – Nestled beneath a mighty tree and hidden in a secluded courtyard, the café offers tasty food and freshly squeezed juices.