[April 13 2015]
Away from the mega-skyscrapers, malls, and neon highlights of new Dubai is a small area on the Creek now known as Al Fahidi. Known as ane of the oldest heritage sites in Dubai and the last wind tower quarter in left on the Arab side of the gulf. When I was a child, it was called Bastakiya – named after the area in Iran from which the textile and pearl traders who established Bastakiya in the late 1800s originated. I loved this place back then because my favorite museum was here, but on a return visit I enjoyed the calmness found in this maze of tiny streets, wind towers, and walled courtyards which house art galleries, hotels, cafés, and cultural organizations, and the raised views over the Creek to Deira.
Further north along the waterway, through the new Souq and into Al Shindagha is the Heritage Village, constructed in the late ’90s to highlight traditional activities that took place in Bur Dubai before the Emirate metamorphosed into the tourism hub it’s known as today. Currently hidden amongst the models of Bedouin settlements and displays of pearl fishing are various contemporary artworks – Monira Al Qadiri’s “Alien Technology”, for example, shimmers like an iridescent, petroleum-covered UFO that somehow landed in the Diving Village and couldn’t get back out.
Walking back through Al Fahidi at dusk, the streets filled with textile stores, electronic showrooms and the odd photo studio (whose owners laugh and tell me to buy a new camera when I ask them if they stock any analogue film), I’m reminded again of the Dubai of my childhood; a somewhat less polished, but somehow charming version of the city.
Text and photo Nicola Powell