Arts & Entertainment

Dubai’s al-Fahidi, where the story of the city of skyscrapers began

By Bassam Madhoun

Dubai, Feb 22 (EFE).- Over 30 years ago, skyscrapers took over the United Arab Emirates.

But while most neighborhoods were taken over by the tall and modern buildings, the al-Fahidi neighborhood managed to keep its traditional buildings intact to become the only heritage district left of old Dubai.

Al-Fahidi, once known as al-Bastakiya, is situated along Dubai Creek and is striving to be a tourist attraction that offers a different experience to the rest of Dubai.

In the 1990s, the district was partially demolished to make way for new construction, but authorities realized that completely erasing history from the map would have consequences on the ultramodern city of extravagance, which was once a fishing village.

The restoration work, finalized in 2005, made a significant leap forward in urbanization and services in the district that was built in the 1890s, Emirati heritage expert Hamad al-Matroushi explains to Efe.

Al-Matroushi says the area was a transit point for trade between the Arabian Peninsula and India, Iran and the rest of Asia, and that is why the first inhabitants were mainly families of Persian origin who had arrived from Iran.

Its buildings were inspired by Islamic architecture and the heritage of the Iranian city of architectural specialist, Bastak, Amr Anabtawi, tells Efe.

Due to their fishing background, residents there took all construction elements from the sea, such as corals and clay.

In the 21st-century restoration process, the past and the present were combined so it is not strange to see a modern lift incorporated in a mud roof.

The oldest building there is the al-Fahidi fortress, which dates back to the 18th century. It used to be a prison but now it houses the Dubai Museum, where all kinds of ancient artifacts are showcased.

“The place is attractive and ancient, although there is no map indicating the locations of the museums or their opening hours, to discover the buildings you have to make a personal effort,” Bushra al Hamui, a 42-year-old tourist, says.

Far from the world’s tallest tower, Burj Khalifa, and the yacht parades at the Dubai Marina, al-Fahidi tries to lure in local and foreign visitors with its historic charms. EFE


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