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

According to an update by Yasalam on its official website and social media handles rapper Travis Scott has cancelled his performance at the Friday Yasalam After-Race Concert.  However, the show will go on with two new artists replacing Travis Scott.

One of the best selling R&B groups of 90s, the boy band Boyz II Men, are set to perform in Dubai next month. It will be band's debut performance in the Emirate. The band, whose hits include the smash hit 'End Of The Road' is made up of Nathan

Dubai Police has added another luxury car to its fleet of patrol cars and this time they have announced the addition of the new Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S, that goes from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds, and claims a top speed of 315 km/h. You can spot this

Travelling to more destinations across India from Dubai has just got a whole lot easier as passengers can now book one single ticket, instead of booking two separate tickets, to destinations that do not have direct flight links from Dubai.

If a hot piping cup of 'chai' is a thing you can never say no, here's some news for you. All tea lovers can celebrate International Tea Day on 15 December by visiting a tea-concept store in Dubai for a very pleasant gift. The casual dining restau

A new survey conducted by the UK’s famous website www.CompareTheMarket.com has placed Dubai top of the list for the best destination for beach holidays across the globe. Dubai earned an overwhelming score of 82.71 out of 100, way ahead of second

Dubai adds yet another feather to its cap by once more entering Guinness Book of World Records for laying down the largest natural flower carpet spread across 5,426.65sqm of area. Dubai broke the existing record of 3,980.84sqm flower carpet laid

Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has opened a new Mother and Child corner within its head office, that aims to give their women employees an exceptional working environment to do perfect jobs. Ms. Moaza Al Marri, Executive Director, Office of

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has announced an extension to its free service of electric vehicle charging until 31 December 2021, which applies to non-commercial users, who register for the EV Green Charger Initiative.

A new anti bullying song is out in the internet, and everyone needs to listen to it. Cartoon Network collaborated with two young YouTube artists, Rawan and Rayan, to produce a catchy Arabic pop song called "Ya Ashab". The song promotes positive

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
After an action packed weekend of fun and activities, you could be forgiven for wanting to take it easy this week. But don't! You will only miss out on a whole load of great things happening in Dubai over the next few days, and there is something for
Get ready for a great weekend with music, comedy, art and sport all happening around this great city. Go with friends and family to watch international golf stars in action, enjoy the sounds of live jazz as the band from one of the world's most
This weekend, venture outside at your peril and beware of things that go bump in the night. It's a spooky weekend, where ghosts and ghouls come out to scare us for Halloween, and if that is your thing then there are lots of ways you can mix and
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 Downtown Dubai, DIFC, Business Bay, Al Meydan and Dubai Design District
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 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.
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.