Discovering More .... Dubai
Entrance to Dubai Museum
Close to the Bastakiya area is Dubai Museum. Before you enter the museum take a moment to look at the remains of the town wall. Question – what do build a wall with when all around you is sand? Answer – fossilized coral. You can see in the section of the wall close to the museum how coral from the seabed has been used to form the wall along with gypsum.
Town Wall remains near Museum
This is the remains of the oldest town wall built about 1800. It once surrounded the old city including the Al Faheida Fort (now the Museum), the Grand Mosque and some residential houses. It was about 600m long, 50cm thick and 2.5m high. Most of the wall was demolished at the start of the 20th.Century to make way for the expansion of the city. There is also a little of the wall left in the Bastakiya area. A later wall was built in Deira (the other side of the Creek) in the 1850s.
The Al Faheidi Fort is believed to be the oldest building in the area. Built in 1787 to defend the city against foreign invasions, it was once home to about 100 men and was also the home and office of the Ruler It is built of sea rocks (fossilized coral), palm tree trunks, palm fronds, mud bricks and sarooj (mortar made from imported clay, manure and water) The fort is 41m long and 33m wide and has towers at three corners. The oldest round tower is 12.5m high and 5m in diameter with a narrow entrance. The tower on the northwest corner is square with three storeys and the last is a round tower on the north east corner. The second floor of the fort has a path 5m wide along the top of the walls. Three vast halls facing the courtyard were added in about 1900. The main entrance door is made of teak and studded with iron nails. Initially, built as barracks, the halls served as Dubai’s jail as late as 1971.
The museum has been incorporated into the fort without altering its original structure. It was opened as a Museum in 1971. It illustrates the history of this 5000 year old city from its trading and seafaring origins through pearl diving, the oil boom and finally the international city it is today. The courtyard of the museum has a well, some local boats formally used for fishing and pearl diving and water containers.
Boats in the Museum Courtyard
There are also examples of the early types of houses found in the Gulf. The Al Kaimah house was used by the early inhabitants and was built of palm branches.
Al Kaimah – an early house
An Al Arish was a house with a wind tower made of burlap (a course cloth made of jute or hemp). In winter, the people tended to leave the houses and live in tents that were warmer.
An Arish House
The halls around the courtyard have displays of armour, weapons and musical instruments. There is limited information on the exhibits – but look out for the curved daggers – the Khanjar dagger is from Oman and the ‘tambura’ a large harp.
Downstairs you enter the new galleries completed in 1995. There is an audiovisual show that takes you through the recent history of the city and it is quite astonishing how quickly the modern city has grown. Moving on from here you can wander through tableaus that show life in souks and homes from the 1950s. These include the interiors of shops and workshops.
Dubai Museum – Spice Shop
Dubai Museum – Pearl Merchant
Following life in the town, life in the desert is explored as you walk through a desert camp and there is information on finding and managing water.
Dubai Museum – Al Falaj
The Falaj system of irrigation was devised about 3000 years ago to water the date palms. Water is brought from underground sources in tunnels and channels and delivered to the date gardens.
Moving on you reach a section looking at Dhow building, fishing and pearl diving. Pearls were a source of wealth for the area before oil and before the advent of cultured pearls from Japan. Pearl divers made about 50 dives a day, each lasting about 3 minutes.
Dubai Museum – Pearl Diving
The final section of the museum displays archaeological finds from Jumeirah and other local sites. These include pots, jewellery, weapons and other domestic items. The finds show that despite the harsh environment, there is evidence that civilisation in the area dates back over 5,000 years and means that Dubai and its surroundings was a centre of construction, agriculture, craftsmanship and art.
There is a small shop – but if you hoped to find a café, then you will be out of luck – if you want refreshments the closest cafes are probably back in the Bastakiya area.