Allow me to take you to Al Fahidi District (P.S: you won’t regret it).

After a hectic year and a well-deserved summer break, we are finally back with our monthly articles where we get to share our monthly interests and finds with you! My “back to school” article is going to be a nostalgic one to kiss summer goodbye. So without further dew, buckle up and get ready for one last trip before the hectic semester begins!

    I shall be taking you to Dubai, United Arab Emirates … and no it is not going to be another tall building or huge structure, you have plenty of media sources for that. This one is more modest and humble looking. A district in Dubai that is still holding on to the past. Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood is located at Dubai Creek ( Khor Dubai).This district may sound out of context when I repeatedly mention and rage about traditional and vernacular architecture in the middle of a modern and a smart city like Dubai, however, the elegant transition between the old district and the more modern one is simply a district that is hanging in-between the two styles. A district of modern looking buildings built with the orientation and the organization of the past. therefore, as you drive along the highways and roads heading towards Al Fahidi historical neighborhood, buildings and structures start getting shorter and come closer to each other and one can sense the smooth transition between the modern and the vernacular architecture that it almost feels natural.

    Now that we are back in the 19 th century, the various openings, doors, heights of buildings all seem to be hiding away stories of experience and reason. The orientation of the different buildings, space organization, location of openings, and many other details that you may observe while walking around the district are all representations of how those before us tried to solve design problems (which we may still face today) which reminded of a line in a book that stated the following: “The lesson to be learned from the architecture of ‘peasants’ was not necessarily its forms but the way in which form was a direct response to function.” 

(Brebbia, C.A, and S. Hernandez. Structural Studies, Repairs and Maintenance of Heritage Architecture XIV. Southhampton, WIT Press, 2015)

    Therefore, please find below some of the elements that were generous enough to tell me their stories of experience and reason.

  1. Ventilation  

    Before technology and air conditioners,  Barjaeel  (wind towers) were used to bring cool air into the house.

The wind towers work like an air conditioner where warm air rises to leave the house and cool air enters the wind

towers and falls to cool the rest of the house. 

  1. Courtyards

    The courtyards present also help in cooling the house as they lose heat rapidly. 

They lose the heat quickly by radiating to the night sky as well as it cools down the air so that it falls and enters the surrounding rooms.  While in the day-time, the hot air in the rooms exists to the courtyard.

  1. Narrow Alleys                       

    The narrow alleys allow for shade and protection from the blazing summer sun and heat. 

    As an international student living away, I really look forward to going back in the holidays and exploring areas I wouldn’t normally do. Districts that encourage connecting with the past and revising what our ancestors did. I can spend days and days here with wide open eyes to try and absorb everything around me because of the mixture of the past that exhibits tradition and history as well as modern times. This pleasant place does not deny or forget the current times and their beauty. There are hints of art and modernity within the place which never fails to make me feel like I’m on a scavenger hunt. 

Now do not get me wrong here! This place isn’t quiet and buzzes with life just like the rest of the city, however, in this district you get to slow down and stroll along the textile and spices markets to discover local products and put your bargaining skills to the test. There are many cafes within this district that I cannot just limit you or myself to just one café or restaurant recommendation. There are cafes just by the creek with simple metal chairs and tables, courtyards, backyards, galleries within cafes, and cafes within museums, and the list goes on! Each café brings a special element to the historical district. However, if you happen to visit this rich area of Dubai, treat yourself to a tour around the creek to get an overview of the different architectural styles in the district and the development of this ever-growing city.