The first spaces in what will be one of the largest open-air museums in the world are set to open on the banks of Dubai Creek.
Al Shindagha Museum will encompass much of the Shindagha area, on the Bur Dubai side of the Creek, and consist of 23 museums that will open as part of the Dubai Historical District project, which was first announced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, in 2015. The project is being developed by Dubai Municipality, Dubai Culture and Dubai Tourism.
The redevelopment project involved converting many of the historic houses in the area into museums to highlight and preserve different aspects of Emirati culture. They will also be also reconstructing more buildings while staying true to the traditional architecture. In the future, spaces will play host to exhibitions, organised events and public learning programmes.
The Shindagha neighbourhood is known today for its coral-clad houses, traditional wind towers, and attractions such as the Heritage and Diving Museum, and the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House. This was the residence of the Al Maktoum family until as recently as 1958, and was the home of the Dubai monarch at the time, Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, the grandfather of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid.
The project is expected to attract 12 million tourists a year.
The Perfume House
One of the first museums to open will be the Perfume House, which is expected to open in the first quarter of this year. It pays homage to the history of all things scented in the UAE.
The museum is housed within the former home of Sheikha Shaikha bint Saeed bin Maktoum, who was an avid perfumer. Many of the items inside were part of her personal collection. This includes her perfume application and a 28kg piece of oud she had in her house and which she donated to the museum just a few weeks before she died in 2017, as well as other artefacts from other notable Emiratis, and those sourced from sites such as Saruq Al Hadid, an archaeological site in Dubai.
Outside the Perfume House, you'll find the ‘Windows of Dubai’, a display that will be part of all Shindagha’s museums and is intended to offer a glimpse of what’s inside. The Perfume House's iteration shows exactly how many oud chips are needed for one tola (the equivalent of 12 grams) of perfume. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot.
Inside, the museum uses technology and interactive elements to tell the story of perfume in the UAE. You enter through a courtyard, where you'll find descriptions of all of the most common sources of perfume; you hear via video interviews from first, second and third-generation Emiratis, who talk about their family’s perfuming traditions.
There's also a perfume workshop where you can learn how to mix your own fragrance using an interactive mixing table.
'The Dubai Creek: Birth of a City'
‘The Dubai Creek: Birth of a City’ pavilion will open at the same time as Perfume House. It serves as a starting point for visitors by introducing them to the history of the emirate.
It will showcase Dubai's journey, from a small village on the banks of the Creek to thriving metropolis.
The future of Shindagha
There are many elements of Al Shindagha Museum set to open in the coming months. There will be an exhibition area focusing on different land environments in the UAE – the desert, coasts and mountains – explaining the importance of their co-existence, and other pavilions outlining important Emirati traditions such as navigation and astronomy.
Abdul Rahman Al Owais, chairman of Dubai Culture, said: “The opening of Al Shindagha Museum commemorates the historical city of Dubai and our ancestors’ footprints to ensure they continue inspiring future generations, strengthening their sense of pride in their country and heritage.
"This major landmark allows us to spread our rich heritage and introduce it to visitors, underlining our vigorous efforts to safeguard Emirati heritage."
Saeed Al Nabouda, acting director general at Dubai Culture, added: "The museum is part of our ongoing efforts to establish Dubai as a global cultural hub and support Dubai’s Tourism Vision 2020 by inviting the world to discover our rich heritage.”