One of the places you need to go to see Arab architecture from ancient times is the Dubai Museum. That is Dubai’s largest museum, which is over 4,000 square meters, located in the oldest surviving building in the city – the Al Fahidi fortress built by the English in 1787. In the 1970s, the fortress was chosen to be the place to recreate the traditional life of the Emirate of Dubai before oil was found. The first image you see when you enter the museum gate is the Al Banoush boat – a means of transporting people and goods up and down the Dubai creek connecting with the Persian Gulf. The museum is divided into galleries of maps, many local antiques as well as artifacts from African and Asian countries trading with Dubai.
The last gallery is located deep underground with statues of people wearing ancient costumes, camels, eagles, daily items … of the ancients. This is my favorite area of the museum. All the scenes, sounds, and lights are lively and so real, plus my rich imagination, making me think we’re actually going back to the past, living among the ancient Arabians.
The coffee museum located in Al Bastakiya heritage center is the place I am so in love with. Coming here, you can walk around, take pictures in the small “alleys” of Arabic nature, then leisurely enjoy Arab coffee or Ethiopian coffee in an Arabic atmosphere.
While holding a small finjān coffee cup of uniquely-carved patterns in your hands, you will also get more interesting information, such as Arab coffee accounts for 60-70% of the world’s coffee output, originating from Yemen and eventually going to Mecca, Egypt, Levant, and then, in the mid-16th century, to Turkey, is an intangible cultural heritage of Arab countries named by UNESCO.
Arabian coffee is a version of brewed coffee (the popular method of brewing coffee in the world by pouring boiling water over coffee to brew using a layer of filter). The jar used to make Arab coffee is a 2-span-tall jar with a handle, pointed lid, long spout, gilded with gold or copper, and looks extremely luxurious. The man in charge of making coffee for the guests is gentle, speaking not very fluent but enough-to-understand English, that Arab coffee is not used with sugar, but people always use coffee with dates to lessen the bitter taste of the coffee.
I hadn’t been able to drink coffee for a long time because I always feel drunk after drink coffee, but on the day I went to the museum, if I hadn’t tried the coffee there, it would have been a big waste, so I tried it anyway. The coffee was quite thin, slightly bitter, and slightly acidic. In the coffee, there was a strange taste that only after I asked, I knew that was the cardamom. Arabians like to add other spices to coffee to create its own flavor. Coffee paired with dates is extremely delicious. In addition, I also tried Ethiopian coffee – Ethiopia is an African country – sold by a big-figured African woman – 10aed (~ 65,000vnd)/ cup. Interestingly, Ethiopian coffee had a bitter and sour taste, but the sourness was more prominent, and it was great to be served with popcorn!
Textile Souk Fabric Market
Another favorite destination of mine is the Textile Souk Fabric Market located in the historic Bur Dubai neighborhood of Dubai. The clean, decent stalls with Arabian architecture will take the visitors into the fabric world of mesmerizing colorful patterns of the Middle East people.
The sellers were mostly male, cheerful, and eagerly welcoming customers. There were no annoying faces because the customers just watched but didn’t buy anything. There was no banishment when the customers took photos at the stalls or touched the stuff. There were no people insisting on customers to buy goods.
According to an article by Charlotte Jirousek on LovetoKnow, in the Muslim world, textiles are highly appreciated, once relaced of taxes in some periods. Textiles and garments were presented as gifts to honor the visiting officials and ambassadors. Textiles are also used widely in furniture, floor mats, wall mattresses, gift packs … Even before the Muslim period, the Middle East was a bustling place with textile production relationships between Asia and Europe…The “Silk Road” to the ports East of the Mediterranean must not be a new thing to mention. The relationship between Islamic and European fabrics can be seen in broad textile terms that originate from Persia, Arabia or Turkey, including such terms as damask, taffeta, cotton, muslin, seersucker, and mohair. I watched from stalls to stalls, taking pictures to keep watching again, but I didn’t feel bored with that. The market is located on the banks of Dubai Creek, so after walking around, you can take a coffee and have lunch at the café by the pier.
Souk At Madinat Jumeirah Ancient Market
If you love Arabic architecture and still don’t want to step out of the “journey to the past”, Souk At Madinat Jumeirah ancient market is probably the next destination. Being a part of the stunning Madinat Jumeirah resort, this market has endless alleys for you to wander. Although it was very sunny, and extremely hot, making us all sweaty, when we came here, it took us more than half an hour to go from the outer gate to the main gate of the market because we were engrossed in taking pictures. Going into the market, you will be attracted by the typical scent of the Middle East, chasing colorful lanterns, delicious spices, and handmade souvenirs…. This market, if I have to compare to make you understand more easily, is like the Ben Thanh market in our country – which means it is a large, long-standing market, and now mostly for tourists, however, this market is more organized and fragrant. I heard that at night, Souk becomes lively with a variety of exciting music activities but I haven’t had the opportunity to come back here yet in the evening. If you come here, try going in the evening to see how it is and tell me!
According to some documents, Persia’s influence in the federal culture can be clearly seen in the traditional Arab architecture and folk art. For example, the ventilation tower (as in the picture) featured on top of traditional buildings and called barjeel becomes an identifier of the United Arab Emirates architecture and is believed to have been influenced by Persia… This influence stems from the traders escaping the tax regime in Persia in the early 19th century and also from the local owners of the ports on the Persian Gulf coast, such as Al Qassimi port. The more the barjeels there are, the richer the building’s owner is.