A visit to Al Shindagha is, arguably, a visit to the heart of Dubai.
Located on the western bank of Dubai Creek, Al Shindagha is bordered by Bur Dubai and Port Rashid.
The modest neighbourhood is where Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, was born and spent a significant part of his childhood, but closer look at the history Al Shindagha reveals a rich culture that has helped guide Dubai’s present and future.
Dubai has been occupied for many decades, with reports of Al Shindagha being inhabited as early as 1833. Its strategic location along Dubai Creek made Al Shindagha an ideal area to be populated by Emiratis and, of course, by the Al Maktoum family.
Today, while walking through the narrow, breezy alleyways, known as sikkas, it’s impossible not to admire the simple yet beautiful structures built in close proximity to one another. Reef stones, palm leaves, palm tree trunks and dried corals were used as structural materials and for decorative purposes. Stunning, hand carved traditional doors made of imported wood from India, are another indicator of how resourceful and visionary the inhabitants of the neighbourhood were.
Wind towers, mosques and watchtowers that still stand today, are a reflection of the traditional lifestyle early residents were accustomed to from the mid-19th century until the 1970s. As Dubai’s population started to considerably increase towards the end of the 20th century, new neighbourhoods outside Al Shindagha were built and the Al Maktoum family also left their residence.
The Al Maktoum family home, which dates from 1896, is a landmark and an incredibly significant part of Dubai’s history. The house was restored in 1986, and is now open to the public as part of the Al Shindagha Museum, which aims to teach the community about Emirati history and culture.
Over the years, Al Shindagha has been restored with 162 historic buildings renovated to preserve the traditional structures. Many of these buildings are now open to the public and include charming cafes, food stalls, museums and other cultural hot spots.
As July 15 marks the 73rd birthday of Sheikh Mohammed, looking back at Dubai’s story never felt more relevant. Al Shindagha is more than a neighbourhood. It’s a cultural touchstone that shows where Dubai has been, how far it’s come.