Al Bastakiya A Glimpse of Dubai’s Rich Past

Al Bastakiya: A Glimpse of Dubai’s Rich Past

A city as successful as Dubai must have started somewhere, right? If you’re a curious type of person and want to learn about the city’s history, there’s only one place to go – Al Bastakiya.

Stepping inside this historical neighborhood instantly transports you back in time to Old Dubai, and you’ll surely be in for a treat!

So, if you’re ready to soak in Dubai’s history, let’s go on a little trip down memory lane, shall we?

What is Al Bastakiya?

Al Bastakiya or the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood is a heritage site in Bur Dubai where an old neighborhood is preserved for tourists to visit.

This neighborhood dates back to the 1890s when it was built by Mr. Qasim bin Abdullah Al Bastaki with funding from rich pearl and textile merchants. 

Named after the town of Bastak in southern Iran, Al Bastakiya drew a lot of affluent merchants and reached up to 60 housing units divided by winding lanes during its prime.

But after the UAE was established and Dubai grew into a city in the 80s, almost half of the original neighborhood was demolished to make way for modern buildings.

What was left of the houses were also used as the quarters of foreign laborers and warehouses for construction companies in the area.

In 1989, the Municipality of Dubai ordered that the rest of Al Bastakiya should be destroyed, so that newer buildings can be built in the area.

However, a British Architect named Rayner Otter opposed this decision, especially since he already made extensive renovations to the house he was staying in at Al Bastakiya.

So, in the effort to preserve this historic neighborhood, Otter wrote a letter to Prince Charles, now King of England who was scheduled to visit Dubai that year.

When he arrived in the city, the Prince visited Al Bastakiya and suggested to the government that it should be preserved as part of the city’s historical sites.

Because of Otter’s efforts and the Prince’s visit, the municipality decided to cancel the demolition and in 2005, it funded the restoration of Al Bastakiya’s lanes and buildings.

Best Time to Go

Al Bastakiya is open all-year round with establishments operating between 7:00 AM and 8:00 PM daily.

But if you want to explore this historical neighborhood without battling other tourists, it’s  best to go early on weekday mornings.                                                     

Things to Know

There’s so much to see and do at Al Bastakiya, so make sure to keep these things in mind when planning your trip:

  • Allocate at least three hours for your visit to Al Bastakiya, so you can really explore its alleyways, corners and shops. In fact, some tourists spend the entire morning in this area.
  • You can explore Al Bastakiya for free, but make sure to bring some cash to buy souvenirs from the local shops and dine at the many cafes and restaurants in the neighborhood.
  • Avoid wearing any revealing clothing like shorts, sleeveless or short skirts during your visit to Al Bastakiya. Since you’ll be doing a lot of walking and exploring, it’s best to wear light clothing and comfortable walking shoes.
  • Don’t forget to bring your travel documents since you may need it in some restaurants and shops to get discounts.
  • You have the option to do the tour on your own or book a guided tour online. 
  • Both paid and free parking are available at Al Bastakiya. If you go early, you can park at roadside public parking zones or pay per hour in one of the many private parking areas around the neighborhood.

How to Get Around

Trains: Ride the M2 Metro line and stop at the Baniyas Square Metro Station. From here, you can walk to Al Bastakiya for about 9 minutes. You can also stop at the Burjuman Metro Station,which is a 23-minute walk away from Al Bastakiya. 

Buses: Many bus lines go through Al Bastakiya, but the nearest bus station is the Sharaf DG Metro Bus Stop 1-2, which is a 7-minute walk away. Check this list for more bus stations near Al Bastakiya.

Taxis: You can ride a taxi from anywhere in the city to Al Bastakiya if you don’t want to take public transportation. You can also book a ride through Uber or Careem.

Car service: Many car companies offer private chauffeured car service or self-drive cars for tourists who want a more private way to go around Dubai.  

Where to Stay Near Al Bastakiya 

Al Seef Heritage Hotel Dubai Curio Collection by Hilton

Address: Dubai Creek – Al Seef St. – Umm Hurair 1 – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 4 707 7080
Pricing: $$$
Book Now

If you want to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Al Bastakiya, you can stay right within the historical district at Al Seef Heritage Hotel Dubai.

Wake up to views of the Dubai Creek and the hustle and bustle of the old city. 

Just imagine being minutes away from the gold and spice souks, the bazaars and Al Bastakiya.

Each room at the Al Seef Heritage Hotel Dubai is carefully designed following the Hilton standards and you can also access the hotel’s outdoor Majlis and vintage playground.

Arabian Courtyard Hotel and Spa

Address: Al Seef Area Opposite Dubai Museum – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 4 351 9111
Pricing: $$
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Giving you the full Arabian experience, the Arabian Courtyard Hotel and Spa is located opposite the Dubai Museum and minutes away from the souks and Al Bastakiya.

This four-star boutique hotel has 172 rooms, 40 executive rooms and 20 suites, each decked with Arabian-inspired interiors. 

It also has modern amenities like a temperature-controlled swimming pool, wellness spa and health club.

Al Khoory Inn

Address: 7 17th St. – AL Hamriya – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 4 310 7999
Pricing: $$
Book Now

Al Khoory Inn may be smaller than its counterparts, but it’s preferred by business and holiday travelers for its convenience, comfort and accessibility.

Each room in this hotel is designed and furnished to the highest standards and you can also enjoy amenities like its restaurant, laundry services and even wake up call service.

XVA Art Hotel 

Address: Al Fahidi St. – Bur Dubai – Al Fahidi Neighborhood Near Dubai Museum – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 4 353 5383
Pricing: $$$
Book Now

The XVA Art Hotel is not just your regular boutique hotel because it has also become a tourist attraction for art lovers. 

Located within the neighborhood, the hotel takes pride in its bespoke rooms that are curated by its art specialists. 

Here, you can expect your room to be filled with art pieces from local and international artists.

Where to Eat Near Al Bastakiya

Al Khayma Heritage Restaurant and Cafe

Address: Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood – 79 Al Mussallah Road – Al Fahidi – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 55 180 2080
Pricing: $$

Al Khayma Heritage Restaurant is definitely one of the best restaurants to try if you want to experience authentic Emirati flavors. 

Every detail about this restaurant takes you back to the Old Dubai when restaurants were outdoors and you can see beautiful trees and colorful lanterns while you enjoy the fresh air. 

Al Khamya also takes pride in using only hand picked fresh ingredients to bring you the best dishes with the most authentic flavors.

And don’t forget to enjoy your cup of “gahwa” or authentic Arabic coffee while you listen to Arabic music playing and people enjoying their own meals. 

Arabian Tea House Restaurant and Cafe

Address: Al Fahidi – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 4 353 5071
Pricing: $$

The Arabian Tea House Restaurant and Cafe is one of the most iconic dining establishments in Al Fahidi and the rest of Dubai.

In fact, it has become a tourist spot because of its delicious breakfast platters, traditional arabic coffee and an ambiance that makes you feel that you’re back in Dubai’s old days.

This restaurant also has an extensive menu with some must-try dishes like the Biryani, Machboos, Laham, Saloona and Tahta.

Of course, you can’t finish your meal without a cup of traditional Arabic coffee.

XVA Cafe

Address: Al Fahidi – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 4 353 5383
Pricing: $$

Located at the XVA Art Hotel is one of Dubai’s best kept secrets, the XVA Cafe.

Here, you can al fresco in three shaded courtyards that offer the most relaxing ambiance.

But what makes this cafe unique is that it serves vegetarian and vegan dishes that are inspired by classic Middle Eastern dishes.

The XVA Cafe offers dishes like the classic XVA Breakfast, a Superfood Salad, Bahar Wrap, Beitinjan Feta and Rice Pudding of Dreams.

Bayt Al Wakeel Museum and Restaurant 

Address: Textile Souk – Bur Dubai – Al Souq Al Kabeer – Dubai  – United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 4 353 0530
Pricing:  $$$

Located inside the Textile Souk, Bayt Al Wakeel is a local favorite in this part of Dubai.

Serving comfort food inspired by dishes from around the world, it’s definitely a must-visit if you want to satisfy your cravings.

Here, you can try dishes like Baby Hammour Grilled, the Fish Basket, Singapore Noodles and Lamb Chops. 

What to Do in Al Bastakiya

Learn Emirati Culture at the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding

Address: Al Mussallah Road – Al Fahidi – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 4 353 6666

Seeing the need for tourists and expats to learn about Emirati culture and traditions, His Highness ordered the creation of the Sheikh MOhammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding.

The center is located in an old wind tower, which is fitting for its purpose since these wind towers are a huge part of Dubai’s history. 

Here, you’ll see different exhibits and educational materials that talk about the UAE’s customs and traditions.

You’ll also see a traditional sitting area complete with Bedouin-style carpets where you can eat traditional Emirati breakfast, lunch or dinner that’s included if you book a guided tour.

The same area is also where visitors gather with local guides who will answer all questions about Emirati culture and traditions.

Explore Dar al Nadwa

Address: Al Fahidi – Dubai – United Arab Emirates

Built in 1925 by Mr. Abdul Rahman Mohammad Farooq, this 463 square meter building is the perfect example of old Dubai architecture  with its wind towers.

It was one of the buildings that was renovated by the Dubai Municipality and now serves as a venue for art shows, conferences, symposiums and other important events.

Visit the Dubai Museum

Address: Al Fahidi Street opposite the Grand Mosque – Al Fahidi – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 4 353 1862

The building where the Dubai Museum is now located used to be part of the Al Fahidi fort that was built in the 1700s.

After its restoration, the building was converted into a museum that houses many artifacts and exhibits that talk about the history of the city.

These include pottery, weapons, tools and even tombs that were found in different parts of Dubai. 

Appreciate Art at the Majlis Gallery

Address: Al Fahidi – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 4 353 6233

If you love art, you shouldn’t miss the Majlis Gallery within the neighborhood. 

Located in an old building that was built in 1930, this gallery was renovated in 2002 featuring traditional Middle Eastern design.

Today, it’s home to different art pieces, paintings and antiquities from local artists around Dubai and the UAE.

Where to Shop Near Al Bastakiya

Textile Souk

Address: 57 Opposite Abra – Ali bin Abi Taleb St. – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 50 768 8512

Immerse yourself in the rich colors, patterns and textures that you can see at the legendary Textile Souk within Al Bastakiya.

This market is a haven for textile lovers because it’s where you can find almost every type of fabric that you can think of.

From traditional embroidered materials to raw cotton and silk, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to textile here. 

You can also buy ready-to-wear outfits from local designers at the textile souk, so don’t miss the chance to take home your own Middle Eastern outfit.

Al Fahidi Souk 

Address: Al Fahidi – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 55 236 0053

Shopping at the Al Fahidi Souk isn’t just getting some retail therapy done. It’s also an experience that takes you back in time to how the early people of Dubai shopped.

This beautiful traditional souk is home to hundreds of vendors offering everything from antiques to toys.

Shop for souvenirs to take back home and grab some quick snacks in between at one of the many restaurants and cafes in the area. 

What to Expect from Weather in Al Bastakiya

Winter: Dubai’s winter season lasts from December to March. Although the city doesn’t experience any heavy rainfall or snow, the weather is cooler during this time of year, which makes it ideal for exploring the city.

Summer: Summers in Dubai are known to be brutal because of the extreme heat. With temperatures soaring by up to 50 degrees Celsius, most people tend to avoid going outdoors and prefer to visit indoor tourist attractions.

Transition period: In between seasons, Dubai goes through a transition period from April to May and October to November. During this time, the weather can suddenly shift from rainy to sunny or the other way around.

Apps to Download When Visiting Al Bastakiya

Visit Dubai: Find information about Dubai’s top tourist destinations including Al Bastakiya through this app
iOs | Android

RTA Dubai Drive: An important app to use if you’re renting a self-drive car in Dubai because it helps you navigate the city with detailed maps and even offer parking suggestions
iOs | Android

S’hail: The app that contains useful information about Dubai’s public transportation system
iOs | Android

Uber: The easiest way to book a car to take you to and from Al Bastakiya
iOs | Android

Careem: The local version of Uber for booking a private car service
iOs | Android