This is one of my favourite places in Dubai if not the planet. And when ever I am in Dubai I always find myself drawn to Bastakia, where I can lose myself for hours in the alleys and architecture of a Dubai gone by..
Bastakia (0r Bastakiya if you prefer the local spelling) is a hidden corner of Dubai and pretty much the only part of the city that harks back to a heritage that sadly has all but disappeared in terms of the rest of the urban fabric of the city. Once slated for demolition also, thankfully somebody in the government planning department had the good sense to place a heritage order on them, and preserve at least a little history in a city that is all to keen to build ever tackier and taller shiny metal and glass towers which really have little place in a desert climate.
The Bastakia courtyard houses are the true vernacular for this part of the world. They are solid and substantial, and at the same time cool in a very literal sense. The thick walls are actually a unique form of concrete built from crushed corals, mixed with sand and stone. Finished with a sand render they provide the the perfect heat sink to Dubai’s intense sun.
The design of the houses follow a traditional plan based around a central courtyard. The wind towers are on the corner (s) of the building and are designed to pull the rising warm upwards and conversely send cooler air downward whereby it can circulate through the interiors keeping the climate within relatively cool. Its a clever yet low-tech and low energy solution to building climate control. Best of all it creates a beautiful and humanistic housing design, with an engaging and highly visual aesthetic, which for the architectural photographer amongst us is a delight.
I’ve spent many a happy hour wondering round the (increasingly) trendy Bastakia heritage houses. Many of which have now been turned into art galleries, cafes, and even a hotel.
So the next time your in Dubai, do yourself a favour, and see if you cant persuade the wife or better half to leave the Mall for a few hours, and wonder over to Bastakia for an authentic time travel experience which will reconnect you with Dubai gone by.