Shindagha museum in Dubai's Shindagha Historic District

Exploring Al Shindagha Historic District of Dubai

by Dubai Travel Planner

Al Shindahga is an area on the banks of the Creek on the Bur Dubai side.

The area is flanked by Port Rashid on one side and Al Fahidi historical district on the other.

While lesser known than Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, the historical significance of Al Shindagha is unmistakable not only from the strategic location at the beginning of the Creek, it is further reinforced by close ties to the ruling family of Dubai, the Maktoums.

The area has been dedicated to showcasing Emirati history and culture since 1997 when the Heritage Village opened to the public.

Today, the area is home to Al Shindagha Museum and is part of a larger conservation area included in the Dubai Historical District.

A Brief History of Dubai

Dubai started out as a small fishing settlement located around the Creek, a natural water inlet, and pearl diving activity has been recorded as far back as the 16th century.

Al Shindagha is situated right by the mouth of the Creek as it flows into the Persian Gulf, next to Port Rashid. This is one of the oldest neighbourhoods of Dubai and has been inhabited for centuries.

In 1833 a large section of the Bani Yas tribe settled on the banks of the Creek in Shindahga. The Maktoums belong to the Al Falasi branch of the Bani Yas tribe, which originated out of Saudi Arabia.

By the turn of the 20th century, the first freezone had been created, which helped establish Dubai as a hub for the pearling industry and wider trade. Fishermen from Iran were persuaded to stay in Dubai to benefit from the tax free conditions.

By the 1920s the population had reached nearly 20,000 residents. Whilst Dubai had prospered during the growth of the pearling industry, it was impacted by the global economic recession during the 20s and 30s.

Around the same time, Japan introduced the cultured pearl, and the production of high-quality pearls at a fraction of the price had devastating consequences for the pearl diving industry in Dubai.

Seeing Dubai through this financially turbulent period was the then ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum. Throughout his rule from 1912 to 1958 when he passed away, Sheikh Saeed kept his main residence in Al Shindagha.

house of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum in the Al Shindagha Historic Distric
Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House – found in Al Shindagha

This is where Sheikh Saeed’s son, Sheikh Rashid Bin Saaed Al Maktoum, who steered Dubai through the oil boom through to diversification, spent his formative years, and current ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, was born at the family residence in 1949.

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Al Shindagha is quite literally the birthplace of the great visionaries of Dubai. 

Al Shindagha Historical District

The main attraction of Al Shindagha Historic District is the Shindagha Museum. It comprises a small enclave of traditional buildings recreating the residential area. Some of the foundations of the buildings date back to pre- 1900s.

They have been sympathetically restored, using original materials and the many wind towers showcase the iconic local architecture. A few modern twists have been incorporated into the architecture to update and innovate the visitor experience.

The museum was established in order to give visitors a unique insight into the historical perspective of Dubai and the birth of the city. Like the neighbouring areas of Al Fahidi and Al Seef, you will feel transported back in time, when you wander the narrow lanes between each building.

As a visitor, you start at the Welcome Centre and you are then invited to visit themed pavilions each dedicated to different aspects of Emirati history, life and culture. You can learn about the Maktoum family and see their family residence as part of Governance and Society.

The perfume house and jewellery-making are part of Creativity and Well-being. Living of the Sea and Land takes you through the significance of the fishing and pearling industry for the region, as well as the challenges of living in the desert. There is a great selection of artefacts on display, supporting the carefully curated visitor journey around the museum.

Inside the perfume house, Dubai's Al Shindagha Historic District
Inside the Perfume Museum – Al Shindagha

The museum has gone to great lengths to ensure that you will have an engaging and interactive experience of the history of Al Shindagha, the area around the Creek and wider Dubai.

Further Dubai & UAE History

You may wish to extend your visit to Al Shindagha by also visiting the Etihad Museum, less than 5 minutes away by taxi.

Whilst Al Shingadha is focused on the history of Dubai, Etihad Museum walks visitors through the journey of the United Arab Emirates and is home to Union House where the constitution was signed in 1971, bringing together the UAE.

You can find out more about all of Dubai’s Museums and historic buildings here.

How to get to Al Shindagha Historic District

Al Shindahga is very well situated if travelling by public transport.

The closest metro and bus station is Al Ghubaiba, which is only a two minutes walk from the Shindagha Museum. If you opt to arrive by Dubai Ferry, alight at the Al Ghubaiba Marine Transport Station just one minute from the entrance to the museum.

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If you are travelling by car, there is public parking along Khaleej Street. You can also park at the Shindagha City Centre Parking, which is about 10 minutes away from the museum on foot.

Opening hours and entrance fees for Al Shindagha

The museum is open Wednesday to Monday between 10:00 am and 8:00 pm (Closed Tuesdays)

Entry fees are 15AED per adult, 5AED for students and children, and 10AED per person for groups of 10 or more. People of determination, children below five and over 60s are free.

Tickets can be booked in advance here as well as at the main entrance. 

Learn more at Dubai Culture or on Instagram @alshindaghamuseum

A UNESCO World Heritage Site?

The areas of Shindagha and Al Fahidi along with Deira have been the cornerstone of a UNESCO World Heritage Site bid going back to 2012.

Originally the bid included the entire area around the Creek (Khor), starting at the port all the way to Al Maktoum Bridge.

The bid then went through several different iterations and it was ultimately withdrawn entirely in 2018, due to ongoing developments in the area.

The only UNESCO World Heritage Site currently listed in the UAE is the Cultural Sites of Al Ain – which you can visit on a day trip from Dubai.

Overhead view of Dubai creek
Overhead view of Dubai Creek – the epicentre of trade and heart of “Old Dubai”

Before you go… More important things you should know when planning a trip to Dubai

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