After our exciting little mooch around the hidden souq (Part 2!) and our impromptu silly faces photo shoot outside it to pass the time, we jumped back on the bus and headed off to learn more.
We battled the traffic through Karama and Burjuman and I spent half the time giggling at our fellow explorers. Their faces were priceless! It is absolutely not the Dubai that they were expecting. It wasn’t the Dubai they had seen in the glossy brochures and the websites that they looked at before heading over. There was a brief reprieve when the newly refurbished BurJuman shopping mall came into view, but then as we headed to the Creek, the faces came back.
It’s not that these are dangerous places. They are just old and tired, and a bit grubby. It doesn’t help with all the balcony’s being full of laundry or used as storage generally. They don’t have the same layer of gloss applied like Downtown, but they aren’t meant to have. If you think about it, the Burj Khalifa is only 8yrs old. The buildings surrounding it all followed it’s completion, so are even younger. The buildings in places like the Creek and Karama are easily double that. More so probably. Some of these buildings would literally have been built when the city was first developing. If you can look past the grub then it’s quite interesting to see how far Dubai has come, especially with architecture.
Sorry… I got on a bit of a ramble there but actually it’s kind of topical as the next stop we got off at was the Dubai Museum. Literally a place dedicated to showing you the growth of the UAE as a nation.
Half of me was intrigued, half of me was bored in advance. History has never been my thing. Unless it’s Henry VIII who for some reason I am fascinated by. But I am pleased to report that Dubai Museum is actually quite interesting!
I didn’t know what to expect going in. I didn’t think looking at it that it would be too big. I was wrong. There is underground levels and new wings and all sorts! But I am getting ahead of myself.
You first walk through the doors and into a courtyard where you find a bunch of relics from the past, as you would expect, including a cannon, boats, some more boats, a water tank and a water well. All original pieces – even the well which has been there since the fort which houses the museum was built.
There is also an example of a Bedouin house. The Al Kaimah is made of palm tree branches which keeps it warm in winter but allows it to stay cool in the summer too.
In the summer the wind tower, or Al Arish, was added. The design of them traps any breeze and filters it through the house. They are still occasionally used in modern architecture, although less so since air-conditioning has become the norm. A great example though is the fans at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The mosque doesn’t have air-conditioning and it is literally kept cool by these Al Arish.
(Not sure whether they are called that still when they are so huge but it made me feel clever! Also, that came out of my head and not a tour guide I will have you know!!)
On either side of the courtyard, in the walls of the fort nearly, are rooms (corridors?) set up to give you a brief glimpse into the more military history of the UAE. As well as show cases of weaponry, there is a video playing with a history of dance which doesn’t sound very army like, but actually they recounted their various battles through these dances so it was quite topical. There was also the obligatory wax work figures that all heritage type places seem to have.
After you’ve seen all the stuff the courtyard and walls have to offer, you head down the spiral ramp, passed the stuffed birds….
… and into the main body of the museum, starting with very cool old maps…
… and giant story boards explaining what growth was achieved in each decade from the 1930’s to the 1990’s.
What I found most interesting was the pictures of the royal family. I do like the human side to history, without anything too sad or whatever, so lovely photos of how they have changed over the years was great!
Then we went through into the next room which I am now dubbing “Waxwork Ally”. There were loads!! I should have known when I saw the one upstairs that there would be more. They really do love a good waxwork model here. They are literally at every place where you can see the UAE’s history! Being the official museum of Dubai, I probably could have put two and two together and worked out that there would be a bigger collection here than anywhere else!!
It is though, all joking aside, a great way to show how things used to be. This country really does have a rich history and to see how things used to look is fascinating.
The one complaint I have is that it was just the worst for being pushed and prodded by people who think they are more important than anyone else. I literally had to use my body and weight against people pushing to block them from getting to Mum on some of the more tricky parts. It was ludicrous. It wasn’t that it was over capacity, just that bus loads of tourists apparently have no manners. The man whose foot I stood on learnt the hard way that literally trying to be closer to me than my back pack was, was a terrible idea. I felt guilty for a nano second, until he literally elbowed me out of his way. I got him back later though, don’t you worry!
I really enjoyed seeing and learning about the Pearl Merchants though. The name “Al Towashoon” covers the dealers, traders and financiers. The chaps that went diving for them were just ‘divers’ I guess! They were however famous in the region for having the best dhows (boats) and the best pearls. The Al Towashoon would literally come to the beaches to meet the boats coming in and then buy the ones they wanted. I can’t imagine Jumeirah’s beaches looking that way now but think it would have been amazing to see.
Once you’re through daytime Waxwork Ally, you head into the night version. I had pretty much lost interest by this point. Sorry.
Next up is the ocean pastimes type room. You can see boats, diving and fish along with more waxworks of fishermen. I had literally zero interest by this point. Mum read her way around while I impressed-laughed at a family who were using a sliver of mirror to get a photo of them all together. It was a real mission but they achieved it and high fives were given to everyone!!
Last on the inescapable route was the Archaeology section. It was more interesting than the wax people by far and I discovered that I had a strange obsession with arrowheads. I don’t know why but that and the jewellery were the bits that caught my eye the most. There wasn’t enough though and I just figured that there hadn’t been that much found…. until we rounded what I thought was the final corner and discovered a very modern new wing, with all the rest of the finds laid out.
It was however (finally) time to get back on the bus. By this point the cloud cover had broken and we stood interminably waiting for the bus to arrive. Despite the nice man from Big Bus telling us there was one due in 5 minutes, we waited close to half an hour. The traffic really is shocking at that end of town.
Can you guess what part 4 is going to be!?