“Ah, simple pleasures, so familiar in a land so far removed! Not in great towns, not in palaces, had we felt the tie of humanity which binds East and West, but in that distant roadside village…we claimed kinship with the toilers of an alien soil. For one night we, too, were taking our share in their lives, with one flash of insight the common link of joy and sorrow was revealed to us- of a different civilization and a different world.”
Gertrude Bell, Persian Pictures, 1894
The Bastakia is my favorite section of Dubai. My most pleasant days here are the ones spent wandering through this charming, unique part of the city, a quaint village located on the creek opening into the Arabian Gulf. This is the site of the original city. On the other side of the creek are the colorful, bustling old souqs (bazaars), where locals and travelers alike have bartered for spices, fabrics, and pearls for centuries. The best way to reach the souq is by boats, called abras, that serve as water taxis.
Named for the town of Basta in Iran, the Bastakia is filled with the famous windtower courtyard homes built by Persian merchants in the 1800’s. (See my post, Windtowers to Skyscrapers, March 26.) These handsome mud and stone dwellings are packed close together, along narrow, shaded alleyways, which keep residents as cool as possible during the hot summer days. The entire area has now been converted into a maze of art galleries, craft workshops, cafes, and small boutiques. Handsome Arabesque motifs are incised over doors and windows and on shallow recessed wall panels. There are three categories of decorations: birds, geometric, and floral, especially flowers and foliage in vases. As I peek in windows, walk into hidden rooms like inner sanctuaries, peer up inside the stately windtowers, and climb stairs to welcoming balconies and rooftops, I am curious about the Arab families who made their lives here, working and raising families. This was clearly a place where children flourished, roaming freely within the safety net of their extended families. I also am enchanted, over and over again, at the artwork in all media, both traditional and contemporary, that is creatively displayed here.
The slide show below features the Bastakia neighborhood. Take a stroll! (approximately 90 seconds) Next Post: The Majlis Gallery
Next Post: The Majlis Gallery