Wednesday, June 01, 2016

trees and towers in Old Dubai

People mostly visit Dubai for its dynamic present, not the past, which could explain why this lovely part of Bur Dubai, officially the "al Fahidi historical neighbourhood", is always so unexpectedly empty. Admittedly it was 36 degrees and people weren't outside much, but judging from the small size of the car park and the free admission, they don't ever expect many visitors. The buildings were private homes built in the mid-nineteenth century, inhabited until 1971. The houses are given to privacy, with few outside windows: life faced in to the inner courtyards, not out to the narrow alleys between the houses. It's a neighbourhood without a living community: Emiratis don't need to live here now. The current occupants are an international bunch of gallery curators, artisans, and cafe staff. (You can even stay here.)

The "barajeel" (air towers) were designed to draw cooler air into the house and to drive the warmer air out.

Authenticity and reality are more problematic notions in Dubai even than elsewhere. But this is a marvellous place to ponder them, especially while eating apricot and saffron cheesecake!


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