Back in Time!

Authored by:
Rawya Abu Hajleh

In the heart of the modern cosmopolitan city of Dubai lies the Bastakiya Quarter in Bur Dubai, a well preserved heritage area where the old is embraced and valued. This historical neighborhood dates back to the 1890s, when Persian merchants moved to Dubai to take advantage of the relaxed trade tariffs.

In 1989 this neighborhood was restored, and today it is one of the main tourist attractions in Dubai. One can wander its narrow winding pathways, and admire the details in the old buildings along the walkway. Every detail seems to be a piece of a puzzle uncovering how people must have lived in this area. The thick coral and gypsum walls for isolation and privacy, and the way the roads are structured creating a creative cooling system to adapt to the intolerable heat of the desert. The details in the size and location of the doors and windows that reflect the conservative culture, and the common areas in the neighborhood with its indigenous plants that were created to emphasize the collective energy of collaboration and cohesion of the society.


Walking inside the old houses is so humbling, simplicity is in every detail. The common courtyards surrounded by family rooms, and when looking a little closer, one can see the minor details and how they represent the use of the rooms. The way the people’s belongings were displayed so openly challenges you to reflect on the simplicity of life and in turn, how materialistic we have become.

In the heart of one of these old houses we sat in the courtyard majlis, we gathered like those who lived there many years ago to hear more about how people managed to live in this harsh environment years ago. After being dressed in the traditional Emirati clothing our students got to learn about some of the customs and traditions of the region! Students enjoyed a traditional Emirati breakfast at the end of their visit. It was a simple meal that reflected the minimal resources people had. Students had Dango, Balaleet, Egg tomato, Chabab and Lugamat. Many students even tried to mimic the Emirati culture by sitting on the floor and using their hands to eat.

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