A trip down memory lane

Escape the humdrum and head off to Al Fahidi Street where stands the proud Al Fahidi Fort, which is today known as the Dubai Museum.

By Deepa Narwani (ABOUT DUBAI)

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Published: Sun 20 Mar 2011, 12:31 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 10:23 AM

The walls of the fort are built from coral and shell taken from the sea, and held together with lime. It is a popular spot for tourists and school visits and is always packed in the mornings. This is where the creek of Dubai came to life and the city as we know it today had its humble beginnings.

Al Fahidi Street in Bur Dubai or commonly known as Meena Bazaar is bustling with activity throughout the day. With traffic all day and cramped parking spaces, driving to that area can be a hassle, so it is best to go on foot. As you enter the magnificent iron-studded doors, the present day Dubai vanishes and you are transported to the 1930s where the bedouins of Arabia went about their business.

The courtyard displays Al Khamiah, the primitive house, and Al Arish, the summer residences. There are old abras on display, reflecting the pearl diving and fishing culture. Inside the rooms, there are glass displays of weaponry, utensils and music instruments used back then.

“I loved the ambience inside,” said Amanda Cornelio from Italy. “The museum offers a nice shelter from the outside heat and shows how life was before skyscrapers started cropping up all over Dubai and there was a time when AC was built-in in all houses, just by using the wind!”

The Galleries is where old Dubai is actually documented. The winding slope takes you underground into an air-conditioned area that is a virtual storybook of Dubai. The walls carry water-colour paintings of the creek and the first maps of the city.

The corridors then lead to a room where a 10-minute video of Dubai is played and shows the city right from the 1930s to the 1960s, when oil was first found, to 1990s when the Dubai skyline was fast evolving, to present-day Dubai which has become the epitome of success and the future projects in store.

It is followed by life-size models of the markets of yore. The models represent the business that took place those days — a jeweller inspects the jewels with a keen eye, a blacksmith is hard at work and children are being taught in the first school.

And then comes sand. The desert and oasis section has a display of a life-size camel and people collecting water from the well, all with information about the various plants that grow in the area. The desert at night has an interface which displays the wild animals found there and relays their habits.

On a tour of Dubai with a group of friends from Moldova, Cristina May said: “It is an interactive and original museum. It is totally worth a visit to understand the bedouin way of life, and the heritage of Dubai. You can also walk on sand inside the museum.”

It leads on to a bright blue circular room where the theme is shipbuilding and is a showcase of how people used to live out at sea for days together and fishing was the second most important trade after pearl diving.

The Archaeology section is the most intriguing one. It has remains of tombs from 3000 BC and was found in areas of Umm Suquiem, Hatta and Qusais. At the end is the Shaikh Mohammed bin Rahid Al Maktoum Hall that also has a collection of items found in excavations. The gift shop has exotic souvenirs as well as maps and guides of the city. Perfume bottles, antique jewellery, teapots, colourful rugs and key chains are part of the fare. The visitors’ comment book has been filled by people from all over the world showering the city with praises and affection.

Abdul Kadar, resident of Dubai for the last five years, was visiting the museum for the first time. He said: “The museum is very nice. It is amazing to see how Dubai has transformed from an oasis to a city of such glory. It has made me more aware of the culture of the city.”

There is also the terrace from where you can the see barajeel or the wind towers and can admire the dhow right at the centre of the museum and see the astonishing growth around.

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