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Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Bastakiya, Historic Dubai Neighborhood

Step back in time and experience traditional Emirati life

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 0.9 miles / 1.4 km
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly
Overview: The Bastakiya neighborhood, one of Dubai’s most important historic districts, dates back to 1890 when wealthy textile and pearl traders from Bastak, Iran, built their homes here. This interesting collection of one and two story homes is connected by a labyrinth of narrow streets that are a delight to wander.

Notable are the architectural design and elements such as barajeels (also known also as wind towers, the Emiratis solution for air conditioning), beautiful columns and interesting wooden ornaments, especially the carved doors and gracious courtyards.

Today this historic quarter houses museums, craft shops, art galleries, a boutique hotel, a coin museum, a stamp museum and a mosque. The only remaining portion of the old defensive wall of Dubai, built in 1800 of gypsum and coral, can also be viewed.

Tips: As this is a traditional neighborhood of Dubai, modest dress is appropriate. Women and men should be loosely covered from the neck, to the elbow, to the knee. Pashima shawls come in very handy here.

Take a taxi – they are plentiful and cheap and parking is non-existent. You can also take the Metro if you do not mind walking a few blocks. Exit Metro at the Khalid Bin Al Waleed station. Walk toward the roundabout, about two long blocks. At the roundabout, go left to the second exit. Walk straight ahead and the SMCCU is on your left.

Take a bottle of water. Dubai is always hot.

Wear comfortable shoes for walking.

Points of Interest


SMCCU Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding

Most visitors are wildly curious about Emiratis – the natives in Dubai. The best place to get up close and personal with them is at the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) The SMCCU is dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding among the different cultures in Dubai.

Enjoy a typical Arabian breakfast or lunch in the beautiful courtyard of a traditional windtower house as you learn more about Arabian culture, customs and the Islamic faith. Presenters are Emiratis and encourage participants to ask any questions they want about the culture. Extremely enjoyable interactive activity.

If you happen to be there during Ramadan check the schedule of the Iftar dinner experience. Highly recommended.
Breakfast: 10am Monday and Wednesday
Cost: AED 60 (approx $16)
Lunch: 1pmM Sunday and Tuesday
Cost: AED 70 (approx $19)
Reservations are a must.

House 26, Al Mussallah Road, Bastakiya, Bur Dubai

Phone: +971 (0)4 353 6666

Heritage Tour of Bastakiya

There are several options for touring the Bastakiya neighborhood after your breakfast or before your lunch. You can certainly meander through the narrow streets and explore on your own or you can book a tour at the SMCCU and learn more about the intriguing history of Dubai and Bastakiya and Emirati life.

If you wander on your own here are some points of interest to find.

The traditional windtower house where the SMCCU is housed was built in 1944 and renovated in 2003. It has a center courtyard and second story balcony. The entrance doors are the traditional carved wooden doors.

From the SMCCU entrance go towards the Creek and turn left walking down the first alleyway, turn right and there should see the Dar Al Nadwa which was built in 1925 in a traditional architectural design. The building has a windtower which provides cool air for the building, classic wood doors and interior meeting space which today is used for small conferences and educational programs. It was restored in 2001.

Continuing towards the creek and you should see the Bastikaya Nights restaurant, the oldest building in Bastikiya, built in 1895. Keeping the creek on your right continue down the next alleyway to the white mosque. Highlights are the carved doors with brass knockers and the beautiful grille work.

When facing the mosque turn to your left and walk down the alleyways until you reach the site of the last remaining segment of Dubai’s original defensive wall. It was built in 1860 of gypsum and coral, and protected the old town of Burj Dubai from attack by neighboring tribes.

From this point you just have to meander around the alleyways to discover art and crafts galleries, the stamp collection and the coin museum. There is also the boutique XVA Hotel. All are house in restored windtower houses.

However, if you want to learn more details about Bastakiya and Emirati life before oil, feel comfortable making a reservation for any of the tours as they are all excellent. It just depends on how much time you have to spend. Reservations are a must. Children under 12 are free.

Bastakiya Tour – 90 minutes AED 55 (approx $14) – a guided walk through the Bastakiya neighborhood including a visit to the Bastakiya Mosque. Return to the SMCCU for Arabic coffee, tea and dates and informative Q&A session with your guide.

Bastakiya Walking Tour – 60 minutes AED 35 ($10) – A guided walk through the Bastakiya neighborhood. Return to the SMCCU for Arabic coffee, tea and dates and informative Q&A session with your guide.

Creekside Tour – 120 minutes AED255 ($70) – A guided walk through the Bastakiya neighborhood including a visit to the Bastakiya Mosque, the Textile Souq, an abra boat ride across Dubai Creek, the Gold Souq, and the Spice souq. Return to the SMCCU for Arabic coffee, tea and dates and informative Q&A session with your guide. This tour has a minimum of 5 participants and can be scheduled at your convenience.

Bastakiya Nights Restaurant

Depending in the timing of your tours, enjoy lunch or dinner at the Bastakiya Nights Restaurant, a delight for the eyes and the curious palate. Housed in a restored courtyard home, the oldest building in Bastakiya (built in 1895), it offers open-air courtyard dining or rooftop dining with views of the Dubai Creek.

This charming setting, decorated as a majlas (an Arabic place of sitting) with colorful Bedouin style cushions, offers an Arabic, Lebanese and Middle Eastern menu. Do not miss the Arabic bread that is cooked on the grill right in the courtyard. The best in town!

The restaurant is located just around the corner from the SMCCU but since the narrow walkways are confusing just ask anyone you see for directions.

Be sure to check before going as timings and seating options may change with the seasons. Food is tasty but service can be a bit erratic. The overall experience is pleasant. Lunch should run around AED 70-150 ($20-$40) dinner around AED 200-300 ($54- $80).
3 c Street, Bastakiya, Bur Dubai

Phone: +971 (0)4 353 7772

Dubai Museum

Just short walk from Bastakiya is the Dubai Museum. Go back to the SMCUU, facing the street go right to the roundabout and go right about 1 block and Museum will be on your right or just ask directions from locals you see.

The Dubai Museum is housed in Dubai’s oldest building the Al Fahid Fort built in 1787. The fort guarded the landward approaches to the city from attacks by neighboring tribes. Over the years it has also served and the ruler’s palace, a garrison and a prison. Built of coral rock and mortar, it is a square shaped building with towers on three corners with canons guarding the entrance.

The museum presents dirorams depicting life in Dubai before oil. Among the exhibits are local antiquities, artifacts from 3000BC, a collection of old weapons, a model of the city as it was in 1820 AD, traditional musical instruments and a traditional Amish house, a summer house made of woven palm fronds and pearl diving (a major source of revenue before the Japanese invented cultured pearls). A real dhow, traditional sailing boat sits on the courtyard of the museum.
Sat-Thurs 8:30am-9:30pm
Fri 2:30pm-9:30pm
Check if you are visiting during Ramadan as hours will change.

Adults AED 3 (approx $.80)
Children AED 1 (approx $.27)

Phone : +971 (0)4 353 1862
Pictures in this guide taken by: katiefoster46, photo courtesy of SMCCU, photo courtesy of SMCUU, Photo by Katie Foster

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About the Author

5 guides
view katiefoster46's profile
Katie is an American expat freelance travel writer living in Dubai, UAE. Her interests include travel,...

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