Al Bastakiya, Dubai, UAE

Escape the skyscraper valleys of the city center and travel back in time with a trip to Al Bastakiya, also known as Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood. This atmospheric area in Bur Dubai is one of the oldest heritage sites in the city, with a neighborhood that dates back to the early 1900s. A tour of the area offers a beguiling glimpse into the Dubai of a bygone era including traditional wind towers, bustling courtyards and maze of winding alleyways.

Al Bastakiya was constructed back in 1890s and consisted of 60 housing units in its prime time and most of them were owned by rich Persian merchants. Traditional narrow lanes and wind towers (called Barajeels) were used to separate houses. However, All of this changed when oil was discovered in the region and most of families moved to the new and modern city of Dubai.

Barajeels were used in houses to keep the house interior cooler than outside temperature and heat. A wind tower is a traditional Persian architectural element to create natural ventilation and passive cooling in buildings. They came in various designs and used in many countries. The wind towers used in Dubai are rising above building's roof and open to all four directions. They capture wind and redirect the air into the interior spaces of the building through narrow shafts.

In the 1980s half of the Al Bastakiya was destroyed to make way for the development of a new office complex. After that the wind tower houses in remaining area were mostly used as warehouses or accommodation for laborers came from different countries. In 1989 Dubai Municipality issued a schedule to demolish the remaining parts of Al Bastakiya. During that time Rayner Otter, British architect came to the area and made extensive renovation in the house where he was staying. Rayner started a campaign to preserve the area and wrote a letter to Prince Charles who was scheduled to visit Dubai that year. On his arrival Prince Charles asked to visit Al Bastakiya and explored the whole area with Rayner Otter. During his visit Prince suggested that Al Bastakiya should be preserved and upon that demolishing of Al Bastakiya was canceled.

The buildings of the district, about 50, are currently used in incubating a number of varied cultural and artistic activities (both public and private) ranging from art exhibits, specialized museums, cultural and artistic societies, ateliers to cultural centers (such as Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Center for Cultural Understanding). The district also hosts a number of seasonal cultural and artistic events such as Sikka Art Fair, Artists-in-Residence Programme, Heritage Week, National Day Events and religious celebrations. Beautiful and cozy cafes, restaurants and motels overflowing with heritage are scattered all over the district.