Dubai is not often recognised for its historical or cultural depth: it’s popularly seen as eschewing the old in favour of the newest, biggest and best – of everything. But whilst there is a nugget of truth in this perception, those who level such an accusation at the city simply haven’t learned where to look. So, after our mandatory weekend pizza (you will spot a theme with our family as our travels unfold) in Al Safa, we set off to explore part of old Dubai in search of history, and we were not disappointed.
The Shindagha Heritage Area in Bur Dubai is an historical gem, dating back to the 1860s, though the importance of the area increased in the late 19th Century when the ruling family took up residence there. There are several attractions along the waterfront, including the Heritage Village and Diving Village, unabashedly aimed at tourists, which both entertain and educate. However, our destination for the afternoon, amidst the initial reluctant groans of the children, was the Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum House, which was built in 1896 under Sheikh Maktoum bin Hasher Al-Maktoum for Sheikh Saeed, the grandfather or Dubai’s current ruler, Sheikh Mohammed. The ruling family lived there until the death of Sheikh Saeed in 1958.
The courtyard house is not only a beautiful building, but is a museum celebrating Dubai before the boom, and boasts collections of photographs of the creek area in the 1940s and ’50s, photos in the souqs and in the desert, of fishermen and pearl divers, and a lovely collection of photos of the ruling family. There are also rooms dedicated to coins, maps, stamps and historical documents, which cleverly reveal the development and modernisation of Dubai. The boys loved it – excitedly pushing though each heavy, small wooden door to discover what treasures lay within, and running up staircases in the labyrinthine building, eager to be the first to see what was at the top. This creekside treasure, only a few minutes’ drive from Jumeirah, is definitely worth a visit [3 dirhams/adult and 1 dirham/child].
Outside the Sheikh Saeed House, the lovely, paved waterfront in the Shindagha Area is dotted with cafes and restaurants and so provided a perfect creekside position to relax with an ice-cold pineapple juice after our step back in time, to watch the sun set and the world go by.