Who will Prevail? – Mother Nature or the Desert Sheikhs

View of area next to Dubai Mall from Burj Khalifa

Dubai reminds me of Las Vegas – without the gambling.  From the desert’s blank slate ambitious people employed modern engineering and literally created a fanciful world reminiscent of Arrakeen from the Dune series.

After years of going to Dubai for “events” and shopping, during my artist sister and mother’s visit, I finally went against traffic and followed Sheik Zayed Road to its origin at the Dubai Creek.  Two-story floating palaces anchored along the corniche’s edge reminded me of the Nile River cruisers.  Reaching the water, our taxi turned left and followed the Al Seef Road to its end at the wrought iron gates of the Ruler’s Court.

Arabian Horse outside Bastikiya Dubai

The road veered left, past the painted Arabian horse to the first roundabout. There on the right is Bastikiya.

Wind Tower House in Bastikiya, Dubai, 2012

Bastikiya is a restored village previously inhabited by the Persian pearl and textile traders.  It is one of the last remaining historical neighborhoods in Dubai.  Compared to the tourist filled Dubai Mall with its dancing fountains, aquarium, 1,200 stores and view of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, Bastikiya felt like a ghost town.  But what it lacks in excitement the small village made up for in its artist charm and peacefulness.

Alley pathway between houses in Bastikiya Dubai

The old-Dubai architecture is similar to Bahrain.  Tiny alleys between mud houses with palm-frond roofs (barasti) are a kind of human warren built as a fortress against the desert.  Most houses had a central courtyard.  Larger houses also incorporated wind towers.

Wind tower were natural air conditioners that took advantage of ocean breezes.

Tallest wind tower in Yazd, Iran

Brought to the Gulf by Persian immigrants, wind towers date back to the fourth millennium BCE in Iran and are found in central and southern Iranian deserts.  There are several types of wind towers including a style built over a cellar or an underground reservoir.  The evaporating water cooled the air and the inside of the house.

Windtower Shutters in Muharraq, Bahrain

Equipped with shutters, the tower could be opened from any of the four sides.  Depending on the wind’s direction, the shutters were opened to capture the wind and directed it to the sitting rooms below.

Windtower House. Inside sitting room. Muharraq, Bahrain

In Bahrain most of the old houses with wind towers have disappeared.  A few Muharraq wind tower houses have been preserved by the Sheikh Ebrahim Center for Culture and Research.  La Fontaine Center for Contemporary Art, a restored private home, has a wind tower.

Perhaps someday in the future, this tiny village using traditional desert architecture with thick mud walls and wind towers will be the last building standing in Dubai.   Only time will tell.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Debbie Al Asfoor
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 06:58:51

    I remember Dubai from my first visit in 1978 where the focal point was the “creek” with water taxi’s taking you back and forth. There were two hotels, the Carlton Towers and a newly built Sheraton. It is quite unbelievable what has emerged from the ground over a few decades. All very bling but none the less, quite amazing at the same time. One has to go there and admire the structural engineering and a man’s vision for his country. It seems to be what people want nowadays so why not. There are plenty of other places to live in the world if that isn’t your cup of tea!


    • Eva the Dragon
      Apr 23, 2012 @ 08:04:10

      Thank you my Gulf historian.

      I will be back in Dubai this weekend. There is a certain view of downtown I want to try to take as the skyline is AMAZING. It really is a futuristic looking city like something out of a science fiction novel.

      And as much as I would like to get to Bastikiya again, I think I will be shopping and outside at the baseball tournament.


  2. Beej
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 16:07:33

    Thanks for writing about our venture into this old world, lest I forget the details.


  3. Stephen8
    May 24, 2013 @ 02:37:38

    Nice blog. I had fun reading this. And it is easy to understand. Nice going.

    Burooj Views


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