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A visit to the Al Fahidi Fort (the Dubai Museum)

02 Dubai Museum (44)

When you visit Dubai today you’ll see a landscape of shiny skyscrapers piercing the hazy desert air.  There’s a lot of history to the region, although little lingering evidence of man’s habituating it because until a few decades ago, this was the home of nomadic tribesmen.  In the mid-twentieth century the influx of petrodollars changed all that and fueled the construction boom leading to the city we see today.  If like me you like to study the history of a place, then a visit to the Dubai Museum is a must when visiting the U.A.E.

The Al Fahidi Fort, built of coral stone and mortar in 1787, is the oldest building in Dubai.  The Fort is situated on the south side of Dubai Creek in the Bur Dubai neighborhood.  It was the fortified home of the monarch and at the time situated on the outskirts of the city.  Later the fort became an arsenal for artillery and weapons and it was also used as a prison.  It was opened as an Museum in 1971 which displays the history and heritage of Dubai.  In 1995, another underground wing was added to the old fort containing some interesting dioramas

Dhow and fortified Wall, outside the Dubai Museum(Dhow and fortified Wall, outside the Dubai Museum)

The first thing that struck me was how small and modest the fort was, especially when compared to the lavish palaces being built in Europe at that time.  The entire complex today is encompassed by a small city block and the fort itself is just a fraction of that.

On the outside of the complex you’ll find a few canons and a lovely dhow, as well as a part of the historic wall that once encompassed Dubai.  You’ll pay a modest admission charge and you can then explore the exhibits at your leisure.  The logical start is within the courtyard, where you’ll see a collection of small boats typical of those used by the Emiratees in the past.

The courtyard also houses an example of an old well, and a summer home constructed of palm fronts, with typical windtower to help the evening breezes cool the home.  While it was an upscale home for that time, it is extremely simple.

Exhibits in the Interior courtyard, Dubai Museum

The exhibits within the fort are varied and include weapons from the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as historic models and exhibits ot the city….The most interesting of these are the exhibits and dioramas which show scenes of everyday life before the petrodollars arrived.  These include recreations of Arab homes, souks, mosques, date farms and marine life.  It also includes an exhibit on pearl diving, with sets of pearl merchants and scales….You can view a recreated archaeologic site with (genuine) artefacts from Africa and Asia, as well as local finds that date back to the third millennium BC.

The museum takes about 2 hours to visit.  Photography is obviously allowed.  The place is popular with visitors (over a million a year) and tour buses, so try to arrive early.  I was there when the museum opened (jet lag) and found the museum to be uncrowded and easy to explore.  A recommended destination.

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, then right arrow to advance the slideshow)

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