In a city of glittering modernity and towering structures, there are still pockets of Dubai which reveal its past and a glimpse of a time before the discovery of oil and the arrival of container ships. Dubai Museum is one such place, housed in the tiny Al Fahidi Fort, which was built in 1787 to guard against invasions by land or sea.
The building became dilapidated during the 20th century but underwent renovations to open as the Dubai Museum in 1971. Within the restored coral stone and stucco walls of Dubai’s oldest building, the national museum offers an array of dioramas showing what everyday life was once like in the busy port city.
Galleries recreate life-size scenes from the creekside wharfs, traditional Arab housing, mosques, souks, date farms, traditional dress and jewellery, plus life in the desert and the sea, animated with sounds and projected images. Of note is the display about pearl diving, where you can view pearl merchants’ unique utensils and tools.
The final gallery displays ancient artefacts that have been unearthed from graves during archaeological digs in the Emirate. Some of these finds date back to 3000BC and include human remains from ritual burials. A particular highlight is the recreated grave from the Al-Qusis tombs.
In the courtyard you’ll find old fishing boats and examples of traditional Arab dwellings, including a barasti house with wind tower. There’s also a timeline in the first room showing Dubai’s transition from trading port to ultra-modern city.
The compact museum will give you an opportunity to learn the rich history of Dubai in around an hour. To visit, the closest metro station is Al Fahidi Metro Station. From here, it’s roughly a nine-minute walk to the museum, which is located opposite the Great Mosque.