The Dubai museum is located inside the Al Fahadi Fort, probably the oldest building in Dubai. Built in 1787, it has served as a palace, garrison and a prison.
The Gulf region was exposed to foreign attacks due to its position at the cross-roads of international routes. Security was the main reason why the Emirates’ cities were located by the shore or on small creeks, such as the Dubai Creek. Settlements on either side of the creek were surrounded by walls, with entrance gates and watchtowers.
The Al Fahadi Fort is one of the best known forts in the Emirate of Dubai and was constructed from sea rocks and gypsum. Not only was it used to defend the town of Dubai, but it also served as the office and residence of the Ruler. The fort is 41 metres long, 33 metres wide and has three towers.
The museum was opened by the late Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum in 1971. Restoration work on the fort was completed in 1994, in accordance with the Dubai Municipality’s policy of preserving the historical sites of Dubai. Additional galleries were added in 1995 and the museum is now a popular cultural heritage site.
We pass through the wooden gate, past the ancient cannons and into the fort. We arrive in the courtyard, which is now home to traditional boats that were used when fishing and pearling were the main industries in Dubai.
The gulf region was long famous for its natural pearl production and worldwide trading. Pearl dealers, traders and financiers were known as Al Tawashoon. Every day during the diving season, traders gathered at the pearl diving grounds and also along the coast at Shindagha and Jumeira to select their merchandise straight from the dhows. Small dealers then resold to larger Tawashoon and, at the end of the pearling season, the most affluent pearl merchants took the pearls to international markets in India and Europe.
Nearby is a traditional desert house. Traditional huts were made from the date palm tree, which has been referred to as the ‘bride of the desert’ and is considered to be one of the oldest and most fruitful trees.
The areas planted with date palm trees around Dubai at the beginning of the 20th century covered approximately half of the city (around 40,000 trees). City dwellers and the Bedouin were dependent on the trees; houses and tents were built from the trunk and fronds, as well as various domestic and agricultural implements. Date palms were also a source of food and their leaves could provide raw material from which a variety of essential objects could be made. The leaves were cut into long ribbons and then sewn together in different shapes to create mats, baskets and fans.
The architecture of Old Dubai was influenced by the environment, the teachings of Islam, and by social structure. In addition to the desert huts, local builders would build residential, defence, religious and commercial buildings, using their understanding and knowledge of their environment.
Buildings were made out of readily available materials, such as sea stones and mud with limestone to cement the stones together. Shell stones, used for building walls, were cut from the banks of the Creek and left for drying and desalination. Houses were linked by narrow, sandy lanes that provided shade and had wind-towers and air vents. The wind-towers were built on top of the main rooms of the houses and were devised to provide ventilation as, traditionally, the main windows were not opened in order to retain privacy.
- Information provided by the Dubai Museum