Arts & Culture

The Dubai You Don’t Hear About: Al Fahidi District

The Dubai You Don’t Hear About: Al Fahidi District

Top-best-hd-wallpapers-dubai-skyline-hd-wallpapers-imagen-by-balamudaWhenever I travel abroad and tell people that I study in Sharjah the responses are typically along the lines of “Sha-what?”, “where on the map is that?” and, my personal favorite, “I heard it’s pretty cold up there.” After I have had my fun, I casually add that it’s a city right next to Dubai and watch their faces light up in recognition. Over the past 10 years, Dubai has become globally famous for its unmatched glitz and glamour; for its skyscrapers, gigantic shopping malls, Lamborghini police cars, pet tigers and gold vending machines.

I am usually asked if it truly lives up to its reputation as one of the most fabulous cities in the world. My answer is always yes and no. Yes, because I have been to the world’s tallest tower, shopped at the world’s biggest mall, and watched the world’s most expensive fireworks display live. No, for exactly the same reasons. These activities are only fun while they last. This type of life is superficial and at times unfulfilling. It encourages mindsets that value material things over human bonds. In a city home to 200 different nationalities, consumerism has become the dominant and almost only publicly manifested culture. Even the rich Emirati culture has been shoved aside to give way to the overwhelming glitter of capitalistic globalization.

As time flowed by and everything in Dubai gradually let go of culture, the banks of the creek clung tightly to it. On the east side of the water, Al Fahidi District in Bur Dubai, remains one of the few places in Dubai where the deeply rooted Emirati culture still thrives. For those who live on the west side of the creek the adventure through time and culture begins with an Abra (traditional wooden boat) ride to the other side of the creek. The ride can be quite an experience under two conditions: if it’s taken during the few months of winter when the weather is below scorching or if, like in my case, the driver is using his feet instead of his hands to navigate the boat.

Abra Dropoff

The Abra ride ends at the magnificent Textile Souk. This souk is one of the oldest and most beautiful in Dubai. The tiny shops on either side of its narrow alleys display fabrics of all colors, textures and motifs. Of course no souk in Dubai is complete without its Aladdin-themed shoes which are the second most abundant commodity in this one. In addition to the wooden shutters, the dimly lit lanterns, and the smell of oud that floods the souk, the overly friendly and very insisting shopkeepers add to the magic of the place. Often, in attempt to display their generosity and confidence in the quality of their products, they will wrap one of their silky fabrics around a potential customer’s neck and walk back in to their shops.

Textile Souk

A five minute walk from the Textile souk and right across from the Grand Mosque is the Dubai Museum. The museum is located inside Al Fahidi Fort, which is considered the oldest surviving structure in all of Dubai.

Dubai Museum

The fort is said to have been built in 1799 and was converted into a museum in 1970. The museum attempts to tell the story of Dubai from a scarcely inhabited desert to the cosmopolitan city it is today. It revives culture through multiple terrifyingly realistic statue set-ups that depict various aspects of the traditional Emirati life. The slightly creepy atmosphere is further heightened by dim lighting and sounds of snakes and other desert animals quietly hissing through the speakers.

Dubai%2002%20Dubai%20Museum%2007%20Typical%20Souq

A street away from the museum is what is now known as Al Fahidi Historic District and previously as the Bastakia Quarter. The quarter is the oldest formerly residential area in Dubai. Its buildings have served for a long time as homes to now some of the wealthiest families in Dubai, most notably Al Siddiqi. The maze-like district is one of the few surviving samples of traditional architecture. Besides its pleasing appearance, the true magnificence of this form of architecture is that it takes into account its natural surroundings to create regionally suitable designs. In these old structures wind towers and courtyards served as forms of cooling and ventilation. Nowadays’ glass covered skyscrapers do exactly the opposite. They act as greenhouses; taking in sunlight, which is abundant all year round in Dubai, and trapping it inside. Thus creating the need for high power air-conditioning systems.

Courtyard

Today, the quarter sprawls with handmade antique shops, spice stands, charming little cafes and boutique hotels. The beauty of the place is that it engulfs all these institutions into its vibe rather than allowing them to impose their own.

Spice Stand Bastakia

Al Fahidi District still stands stubborn and proud in the midst of a quickly westernizing city that is gradually letting go of its roots. A city that pretends to celebrate culture and diversity but truly shuns anything that does not fit in with its gold plated world. Under the façade of seven star hotels and tennis court helipads, is another Dubai that they will rarely, if ever, tell you about.

This Exhibition Shows Photography Isn't An Exclusive Hobby For Egypt's Privileged
Mazaj Brings You Shami Music To Cairo

Subscribe to our newsletter


Arts & Culture

Farah Hamdy is a jaded international studies student and a covert romantic at heart, hoping someday to find a balance between the two. She writes about everything and is trying to identify her self through her writing. She likes food and questions, although both always leave her with more than she bargained for.

More in Arts & Culture

amr-diab

‘No Veiled Women Allowed’ at Upcoming Amr Diab Concert in Egypt

Daily News EgyptDecember 4, 2016
14086320_1093692857379993_5639455455839658167_o

Egypt Sexual Harasssment Documentary Wins Award at San Francisco Arab Film Festival

Egyptian StreetsDecember 4, 2016
temple-singer-with-scan_-trustees-of-the-british-museum

‘Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives’ Reveals Secrets of Mummies Like Never Before

Mohamed KhairatDecember 1, 2016
abdelaziz

Egyptian Actor Mahmoud Abdel Aziz Dies at 70

Egyptian StreetsNovember 13, 2016
14971986_10155271537013484_624304693_n

Hamza Namira is Back

Tine LaventNovember 10, 2016
Ati Metwaly after receiving an award for her story 'Music against all odds' published in Al Ahram Weekly in November 2015. (Photo: CNN African Journalist Award's website)

Egyptian Journalist Wins CNN African Journalist Award

Aya NaderOctober 17, 2016
pablo-artifact-mummy-mask

French-Egyptian Citizen Returns Golden Mummy Mask to Egypt

Egyptian StreetsOctober 6, 2016
mohamed khan

Art-House Theater Zawya to Honor Late Egyptian Filmmaker Mohamed Khan in Six-Day Film Screening

Egyptian StreetsOctober 3, 2016
Egyptian Streets is an independent, young, and grass roots news media organization aimed at providing readers with an alternate depiction of events that occur on Egyptian and Middle Eastern streets, and to establish an engaging social platform for readers to discover and discuss the various issues that impact the region.

© 2016 ES Media UG. All Rights Reserved.