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United Arab Emirates: Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House

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Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House | United Arab Emirates | Asia

[Visited: February 2015]

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.

Picture of Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House (United Arab Emirates): Afternoon sun striking its light on the Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum 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.

Picture of Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House (United Arab Emirates): Top floor of the house seen from the outside

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.

Picture of Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House (United Arab Emirates): One of the rooms with pictures on the walls
Picture of Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House (United Arab Emirates): Looking up part of the house from the outside
Picture of Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House (United Arab Emirates): One of the wind towers seen from below
Picture of Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House (United Arab Emirates): Courtyard with wind towers
Picture of Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House (United Arab Emirates): The majlis seen from the outside
Picture of Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House (United Arab Emirates): Old watch in one of the exhibitions of the house
Picture of Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House (United Arab Emirates): Door in the house in close-up
Picture of Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House (United Arab Emirates): View of the wall with staircase leading to the majlis
Picture of Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House (United Arab Emirates): Old astrolabe on display in the map section of the exhibition
Picture of Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House (United Arab Emirates): Interior view of the majlis, or guest room, on top of the house
Picture of Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House (United Arab Emirates): Arabian Peninsula as it appears on one of the old maps in the map section of the exhibition
Picture of Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House (United Arab Emirates): Face mask for women displayed in the house
Picture of Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House (United Arab Emirates): Wind towers stand around the courtyard of the house

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