Dubai is an extremely modern city with a past that is in great danger of being swept away in the sweeping tides of modernism (phew, that was a bit dramatic). However, there are a very small selection of truly notable museums to give you a glimpse of old and contemporary history.
Dubai Museum is one of the most authentic museums in the UAE. It is located inside the Al Fahidi fort, which is approximately 200 years old and has been a museum since 1971. Many of the artefacts come from tombs that date from around 3000 BC, as well as old pearl diving equipment (one of the main industries before the discovery of oil). There is also a traditional house located outside the Museum, showing the old way of life, as well as numerous dhows (Traditional boats which are still used today by many traders at the famous Dubai creek) and cannons for protecting Dubai’s coastline. The only real disadvantage is that it’s usually crowded with tourists during the winter season (November – March/April).
Dubai Heritage Village
While it’s more of an experience than a museum, it’s still worth mentioning nonetheless. Dubai Heritage Village is a recreation of an old settlement complete with mosque, a Majlis (a traditional Arabic sitting room or meeting area) and coffee shop where traditional Arabic coffee and dates are served (beware as the local coffee is somewhat of an acquired taste because of its bitterness). There’s also a market area featuring traditional arts and crafts. Dubai Heritage Village is also a great opportunity to learn more about the aforementioned craft of pearl diving, a fairly profitable but arduous way to earn a living; the pearl diver had to hold his breath for two minutes, avoiding stingrays, jellyfish and other aquatic nasties in order to reach pearls at the bottom. It definitely makes you glad about your desk job!
Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum’s House
Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum was the ruler of Dubai from 1912 until his death in 1958, and for the benefit of everyone, his house has been converted into a museum. Its exhibits include many rare coins, photographs, and documents that mark Dubai’s history, as well as some material on the Sheikh’s life, the Grandfather of the current ruler of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Along with the Dubai Museum, it’s particularly notable for having been constructed with mud and coral, one of only obtainable permanent building materials at the time. Since only a very few of these buildings were built, with even fewer surviving to this day, it’s definitely worth a look at for those who are interested in building methods and techniques. It also features four wind towers, an early primitive form of ventilation and air-conditioning.
Thanks for reading and enjoy your travels!
3 Options for Accomodation in Dubai:
Al Manzil Hotel - Stylish and modern 4 star hotel in Dubai from € 96/£ 83/$ 120
Metropolitan Deira Hotel - In the lively Downtown area of Dubai from € 50/£ 43/$ 63
Hotel Comfort Inn – For a less expensive option, a three star hotel in Dubai from € 36/£ 31/$ 45
Photo of Dubai Musuem by Alex Drennan