Monday, December 22, 2008

Al Bastakiya

Now that I have finally visited Al Bastakiya, I am disappointed with myself that I have not visited that area sooner. The district, which dates back to the 1890s, is one of Dubai's oldest residential areas. In its prime, the neighborhood supported over 108 housing units, most of which were separated by narrow lanes. Partly to blame for my cultural bankrupcy is my secondary school; the only class trips we had were to malls (surprising?).

The area was refurbished and renovated in 1996 in order to turn the historic area into a tourist attraction. With the traditional 'freej' (Arabic for Emirati neighborhood) disappearing from the country's urban landscape (to give way to monotonous glass highrises and megamalls), Al Bastakiya is a breath of fresh air (literally, and otherwise).

And now that Dubai Events Management has launched the Saturday open market there, there are even more reasons to visit. The quarter now houses 2 cafes (one permanent one, and another temporary one set up just for the market), as well as several galleries nestled inside some of the houses and courtyards. And if you are like many of the expats (and visitors) to the country who are looking for some authentic local cuisine, visit the new restaurant they have 'Al Bait al Mahali' (roughly translates to: The Local House). The restaurant manager dubs it as the first independent Emirati cuisine restaurant, and will serve the food sans cutlery (unless you are really desperate). For those of you unfamiliar with the UAE's cuisine, I suggest you try the 'harees', a porridge like dish made of minced meat and wheat.

The central courtyard was also a main feature of traditional Emirati architecture, as many extended families lived around the same courtyard. Much has changed now, but it is worth visiting Al Bastakiya to understand what I am talking about.
Here are a few pictures I took from the day to give you an idea of what to expect.


Anonymous said...

cummon...although I was not in love with our school or its extracur (or lack of) activities...our trips were not just to malls! the mall was always the second part of the trip; the main part was a museum, a zoo, old forts, a park, factory, etc but we the students were always interested in the mall part only!

having said that, I remeber very well that we visited the Dubai museum (few feet aways from Bastakiya) and we probably possibly even visited Bastakiya in that trip!

admit it...we just were'nt interested in culture/history etc :P

Anonymous said...

further, we had international day and the bazaar....both very rich in culture, arts, traditions and the like of not just the UAE but from around the world...but all I remember from them is that they were about seeing and being seen ;)

sure the UAE culture doesn't hit you in the face everywhere you go..but we've been in this country long enough to take things for granted (heritage village, cultural foundation, al husn fort,etc, all right here in AD...when was the last time u've been? if ever?)!