After a visit to Dubai Museum, I walked past various mosques and though the suq to reach the Al Shindagha neighbourhood. Squeezed in between the port of Dubai and the creek, it actually is a traditional part of the rapidly growing city. Walking the waterfront, I have views of the other side of the creek, Deira. Mosques and tall, flashy buildings both define the skyline rising from the creek here, while boats ply its waters. I walk to the Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House. Built in 1896, this used to be the residence of the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum, from 1912 until his death in 1958. After that, it was restored in 1986, and subsequently opened as a museum. The house was badly damaged, and much of what we see today is a restoration of the original house.
The sun is already sinking towards the horizon when I approach the house. The light strikes nicely against the walls, and I start my exploration by walking around the building. There are some nice details, and wooden poles stitching out of the walls cast shadows on the adobe walls. Once inside, I enter a small office to buy my ticket, and I enter the courtyard of the house through a wooden door. Around the courtyard, are four barjeels, or wind towers, providing for much needed air circulation inside the building. It is the same system I have seen in other parts of the Gulf states. Rows of wooden poles stick out of the towers, and they have different decorative elements on their top, depending on the section of the house they are standing on. I climb to the majlis, the room where guests were received, which finds itself on top of the building. It has carved windows on top, and lanterns behind it; from inside the room, you have great views over the creek if you would open the wooden shutters, whilst catching any breeze there may be: it probably is the best spot of the house.
Several rooms of the Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House are open to visit, and hold various exhibitions. There are those showing traditional life in the Emirates, there is a room with old maps and documents, there are coins and bank notes. There is a section about marine life, about fishing and the various boats used. Then, there are rooms with old, black and white pictures, of the history of the Emirates, and more particularly, the history of Dubai itself. It is amazing to see that only a few decades ago, it was not much more than a fishing village, with residences on both sides of the creek, surrounded by desert. Could the former ruler of Dubai, in whose house I am walking, have foreseen that his city would develop into what it is now? A modern port in walking distance from his house, an airport which links Dubai to the rest of the world on the other side of the creek, and the tallest building in the world which is standing in the architectural playground south of the city, artificial islands off the coast: chances are, he would not recognize his own city.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House (United Arab Emirates). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House. Read more about this site.