If you find yourself in Dubai, do pay a visit to the museum
One of the wealthiest cities in the Emirates, Dubai offers dozens of places to visit. While the city boasts of shopping malls literally at every intersection, visiting places like Global Village, Burj Khalifa or Burj al Arab, enjoying a Desert Safari, the Atlantis and wild Wadi water park, going for a cruise dinner, or visiting the Miracle Garden, the Butterfly Garden, Dubai Marina or the Palm Jumeirah will always form a part of one’s itinerary while visiting Dubai. But all of these activities come with a steep price.
There are a few pocket-friendly entertainment avenues as well. Dubai Museum and the Al-Fahidi Fort are two of the cheapest places in Dubai that you can visit for just around AED 3 for adults. Dubai Museum, is housed within the historical Al-Fahidi Fort which was built in 1787 to defend the area. It is considered the oldest building to exist in the city. Being one of the most popular destinations in Dubai for tourists, it is estimated that more than 2,000 people visit this museum daily.
Spread over 4,000 square metres, the clay-coloured building of Al-Fahidi Fort is made of coral blocks, lime, wooden poles, palm fronds and mud. Just before the entrance, there is a courtyard which is inhabited with traditional boats or dhows used for pearling, a local wind tower and primitive Al-Kalmah houses made with palm leaves and palm tree branches. The entrance which is marked with captivating maps of the UAE and Dubai over the years, leads to the main museum which is divided in various galleries.
There is a spiral stairway that takes you down to the galleries. The visitors can witness the transformation of Dubai over the years, from what it was a century ago to its current state. A combination of traditional museum exhibits and original antiques along with running documentaries, audios, videos, photographs and folklore music in the museum help visitors understand how the oil boom in the 1960s became the instigator of this duty-free emirate to reach new heights while being strongly committed to their civilisation and cultural roots.
As you leave the Dubai Museum after a spiral ramp takes you up to the exit, you may still find yourself bewitched at the pace of the economic boom in such a small span of few decades.
While traditional weaponry and primaeval arms from different eras are on display there is another section which is mostly packed with traditional musical instruments. The musical instruments include different types of flutes, drums, bagpipes, lyres, gheychak and zurna.
Due to dim lighting in a few sections, you may even confuse a life-sized dummy Bedouin or Emirati model mannequin with a human being. They are shown going about their normal day-to-day life from decades back in life-size dioramas. Read-outs are placed at every step for additional information on the exhibit. Life-size videos and realistic sounds of the mock labourers and craftsmen give an overall atmosphere of a souq (market) of Dubai in full business.
The final display hall, located below the ground floor, has a massive collection of artefacts from local Emirati life to traditional Bedouin desert life and pearl fishing, etc. In the Archaeology section, ancient relics and artefacts from the sites of Hatta, Al-Qusias Tombs and Umm Suqeim mound are displayed. Visitors may also find excavation findings from Jumeirah and Umayyad sites.
Finally, just before the exit, there is a souvenir hall for the visitors. Sometimes, there are free pick-me information leaflets at the exit, detailing the various historical and traditional exhibits which are on display in the museum.
As you leave the Dubai Museum after a spiral ramp takes you up to the exit, you may still find yourself bewitched at the pace of the economic boom in such a small span of few decades. From here, instead of deciding for a cab or metro, you may opt for Abra ride, the traditional water-taxi boat and enjoy yet another different but pocket-friendly experience in the city for just under AED 1.
The writer is a physician, health care leader and a traveller. He tweets @Ali_Shahid82