Less than a century ago Dubai was just a small town living off pearl trade. But the discovery of oil in 1966 turned into a shiny new megapois. But Dubai is not just business and shopping, as it might seem. It is also a chance to acknowledge the many-thousand-year old Arab culture, to learn the marvellous story of a sleepy little town becoming the glorious megapolis, and to watch the vibrant contemporary art scene.
The Dubai Museum occupies the Al Fahidi Fort, the oldest existing building in Dubai, constructed in 1787. Most of the exhibition (musical instruments and antique weapons, dioramas and multimedia and 3,000-years old archaeological artefacts) is located underground.
Now a museum, one of the oldest buildings in the city was built in 1896 as the official residence of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai in the first half of the 20th century.
His grandson, the present Ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, spent his childhood here. This story could be a vivid symbol of Dubai’s rapid development. During the childhood of the present ruler of Dubai the Sheikh’s palace had no electricity or running water (both arrived only in 1960).
Built in 1970s in the medieval Fatimid tradition, Jumeirah Mosque is one of the most beautiful among Dubai's mosques.
It is also the only Dubai mosque (and one of the only three mosques in the UAE) open to non-Muslims. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding organises guided tours of the Jumeirah Mosque six days a week (except Friday). A tour costs 25 AED (sweets and tea included), lasts about 75 minutes and starts at 10am (visitors gather at the main entrance at 9:45am).
Visitors have to wear proper clothes (women must cover their heads), however appropriate attire can be provided at the entrance.
The most charming part of Bur Dubai, Bastakiya or Al Fahidi, is an old neighbourhood: narrow lanes with elaborately restored Iranian merchants’ houses. That is what Dubai was like before the oil and the modern glory, and that is what traditional Persian architecture looked like. For example, one of the typical elements of the Persian architecture is a windcatcher, or a windtower: a tower for natural air-conditioning. The device was known yet in ancient Egypt.
Nowadays Bastakiya’s traditional houses are occupied mostly by tiny cafes, shops and art galleries.
An interactive museum and a reconstruction of old Dubai, the Heritage village in Al Shindagha Historical Neighborhood features potters, weavers and other craftsmen.