general info LIFE IN THE PAST
Life In The Past
Updated on 07 August 2019

By: Salamah Ghudayer

The heritage houses of Al-Fahidi, with their wind towers decorating the Bur Dubai skyline and their impressive interior courtyards, are a wonderment to explore. As you walk around the alleyways (sikka), that turn and intertwine, you feel as though you are in a secret maze. Standing within this neighborhood, once called Bastakia by its original inhabitants who built it, you experience a Dubai which you only hear about as you walk in the malls, stare at the skyscrapers or race down the eight and ten lane roads.

‘Dubai is very historical,’ they say. ‘Dubai is a mix of old and new,’ they reason. Yet few take the time to witness the old, protected and beloved historical sections. For those of us working within their gypsum walls, they are an escape from the modern world.

The Al-Fahidi district is named after its fort which was used as a garrison to protect Dubai from invaders. The area was a haven from tribal skirmishes and outside aggression for those deeming the creek a port of call, tucked away from the monsoons and on the terribly long maritime trade route between Asia, Africa and Europe. At the end of the wall of the fort settled a group of people. They were invited by Dubai’s sheikh to build their homes in what was the original financial district of Dubai, just down from the Ruler's House and currently behind the Ruler's Court. They were the merchants, building their houses along the creek, where the cargo came in before our larger ports were built, just a short walk from the Grand Souq - the Dubai Mall of the 1800s. They were perfectly positioned to do business, trade and flourish into the leading merchant, exchange and real estate families we know today.

Yet these houses were unlike any others you find in modern times. They are the far from the mass produced, identical houses that pop up in hundreds at a time. The courtyard houses of Al-Fahidi were built around the family and each house was unique. Through a massive wooden door, you would pass a room or two for greeting visitors. Then there was an interior door or a wall shielding the courtyard. Sun, breeze and sometimes rain would fill the interior of the home. For as much as the sun brings the heat, the rest of nature would bring the cold.

Ringed around the courtyard were rooms for family members; each housing the parents, the children and their spouses and the grandchildren. In one or two of these rooms, the ceiling would open up to a two-storey tower, with the top extending a storey above the roof. There sits a cube, open on four sides and covered on the top, with all four corners connected. The breeze hits from either side and shoots down the shaft into the room. The result: the temperature in the room would be at least 10 degrees cooler. Hang wet fabric to its frame and the room becomes even cooler. Open the doors to the room and the wind-pull can be felt through the home. Unlike the Bedouins of the desert who could lower their tent sides for shade or raise them on one side to capture the breeze or even lift all sides to release the heat, the hadther - settled people - had to rely on these towers to 'catch the breeze' so they could survive the heat. Being businessmen, they didn't have the freedom to move around like the Bedouins. They needed to stay in one place.

The neighborhood itself was designed to 'make breeze' and not just capture it. Based on what we now know about ‘windy cities’, the sikka pathways curve as well. This is not a neighborhood built on a square grid like some modern cities. These sikkas pulled air into the neighborhood as each walkway ended up curving like the shape of a fan blade. Walking around this area you notice, it is windy in the interior; the leaves are always moving and the flags always rippling. When the original houses, prior to air conditioning, opened their windows, they could also capture this breeze.

A walk through the old Bastakia of Al Fahidi District will have you witnessing a lifestyle of shade, wind and community which the wealth of modern life has deemed unnecessary or else is the missing link to interior comfort for some. There is much more to these houses; the art work, the windows, the pillars and beams, aside from cooling the families, provided an element of beauty. They reflect the era gone by. They were not architects of shelter alone but of a culture.  

Share this page!
COMMENTS
MORE ON general info

The number of international overnight tourists has spiked to 8.36 million in the first half of 2019, an increase of 3 percent from the same period last year, according to data released by the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing

Dubai is selling off the skeleton of a massive 155-million-year-old dinosaur that can still be seen at The Dubai Mall, up until it is auctioned off on 25 August. Dubai based Emirates Auction will organise this unique sale to sell the giant dinosaur

OAG, the international provider of travel data has released its list of ‘Top Ten Highest Revenue Routes’ and the highly popular Emirates route between Dubai and London Heathrow came third on the list. Emirates flies 10 flights per day

British Orchard Nursery, winner of 25 national and international awards, has announced the launch its new branch in collaboration with Department of Finance (DOF). The nursery's 22nd branch opened its doors at the DOF headquarters in His Highness

After a long refreshing Eid Al Adha break, are you already wondering when the next long weekend break might be? The good news is it may not be that far off. The Islamic New Year, Hijri is expected to be on Saturday, 31 August, however as the date is

Dubai Police took to Twitter to advise motorists to not to leave their car unattended with the engines running, as it will make their cars an easy target for car thieves. In a tweet, Dubai Police said, “Dear Driver, do not be an easy target for car

Are you flying out this weekend for an Eid Al Adha vacation? The you should aim to get to the airport at least three hours before the flight’s scheduled departure time. The coming weekend is expected to be a very busy time at Dubai International

Are you a movie junkie and also like the finer things in lfe? well you can now watch a movie in an exclusive and luxurious environment, and share with friends as well, by booking a private cinema for 15 people at VOX private-only Cinema at the

Following the tradition of releasing inmates during religious holidays, in the run up to Eid Al Adha, the rulers of the Emirates have ordered the release of over 1,800 prisoners and have also committed to settle some inmates’ financial debts.

More than 2,000 cars abandoned on Dubai’s streets have been confiscated by the Waste Management Department of Dubai Municipality. In only six months from January until June this year, a total of 2,053 vehicles were impounded by the municipality, the

First Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  ... Next Last 
FEATURED
A 'must do' when in Dubai.
The Dubai Fountain was designed by California-based WET, the creators of the Bellagio Fountain in Las Vegas, and is 275 metres long with five circles and two central arcs. Over
Unveiled in February 2010, the Burj Khalifa stands 828 metres high - 320 metres taller than Taipei 101 which held the record since 2004. The Burj Khalifa currently holds seven records, including the highest occupied
Since its opening in December 1999, the Burj Al Arab has been one of the most photographed structures in the world. Sometimes referred to as "the world's most luxurious hotel
The UAE is surrounded by two bodies of water, both offering different diving experiences. Dubai is good for shipwrecks, which are home to Barracuda, Snappers and Jacks, with common
Take a magic carpet ride across rolling red sand dunes, with an amazing bird's eye view of the untouched desert below.
HAPPENINGS
Now that a five-day long work-week is back, we have great plans on how to deal with work blues after a long holiday and a tiny working week. This week on our list of things to do we have a baking class for kids and mums, interior design class
Top things to do in Dubailand, Motor City, Sport City and Green Community
Top things to do in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT), Emirates Living, Jebel Ali, Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR)
Top things to do in Al Barsha, Barsha Heights and Al Quoz
Top things to do in Sheikh Zayed Road, 2nd of December Street and Al Satwa
Top things to do in Bur Dubai, Karama, Al Mankhool, Al Jaddaf and Oud Metha
Top things to do in Deira, Garhoud and Al Muteena.
Top things to do in Jumeirah 1,2,3, Beach Road, Al Wasl Road, Umm Suqeim, Al Sufouh, Palm Jumeirah
Top things to do in Downtown Dubai, DIFC, Business Bay, Al Meydan and Dubai Design District
Travelling through Dubai International Airport (DXB) gets even more exciting, as travellers will soon be able to watch local and international musicians and DJs performing live for them, and the best thing is it’s free to watch. DXB becomes the
Dubai stands in line with cities like Paris, Milan, London and New York, so you can never be bored of this city. There are a million of things to see, try, and taste!
And you won't be disappointed.
Your little ones will thank you.
INSTAGRAM
FOLLOW
Discover Dubai
Stay Connected - Drop us your email.