My previous post included photos from the souks I visited with Nada from Wander with Nada. Not only did we visit several markets, but we also visited two museums and took a little boat ride. Dubai isn't really known for its museums. I definitely recommend a stop at The Women's Museum at Bait Al Banat and The Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort. Both of these are small but important. Throw in a boat ride on a traditional abra across the Dubai Canal and you see why this walking tour was the highlight of my time in Dubai.
I feel like the Women's Museum in Dubai is probably one of the most important museums I've ever visited. Especially in the times that we are currently living in. Mark Twain said that "...nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact with many kinds of people." Truer words...
I'm so thankful that I've had the opportunity to do that and it has certainly changed me. This Women's Museum celebrates the history and philosophy of Emirati women and the critical role they've played in the story of the country.
The founder of the museum is Professor Rafia Obaid Ghubash, an academic, psychiatrist and former President of the Arabian Gulf University in Bahrain. She was also inspired by travel and the exploring the cultures of other people.
It helped her to see and appreciate her own culture in a new light, in particular the role of women in the Gulf world. Her goal then was to create "a house to honor the women of her culture, that would exhibit for the world to see their great knowledge, their talents, their impact and their power– a Women’s Museum in Dubai – the first and only one of its kind in the entire Arab region."
The museum is a small but powerful space. It explores social, philosophical, religious, political, family, economical, cultural, and historical aspects of Emirati women. We women are universally multi-faceted, aren't we?
This museum houses so many beautiful stories of strength and dedication to family. Nada is well known at the museum and was able to get us in a little early. She was also able to add some fascinating context to the various items on exhibit.
There is a beautiful exhibit about the Gulf Burqa. When I first heard the word burqa, I pictured the flowing black robes worn by Afghan women. But traditional dress in the Arab world is widely varied. In the UAE, a burqa is a traditional face mask made from a cotton fabric dyed with indigo and tied with gold strings.
It was once part of daily wear, but now you will see the mask worn by mainly the older generation. Traditionally women wore the burqa once they hit puberty or became engaged. The designs vary slightly among the seven Emirates and it's cut to follow the contours of the face covering the forehead and upper lip.
The burqa's have a metallic sheen achieved by rubbing the material with a shell or a stone. "It was believed that the burqa protected a women’s face from the scorching sun and dust. There are also tales that the design of the burqa echoed the features of the falcon, a symbol of pride, strength and grace."
I could go on and on about this museum. They also focus on the important women in the lives of the Emirati leaders and Sheikhs. You should definitely make a stop here if you are in Dubai. They were happy for me to take photographs, but there were a few exhibits that they request you don't photograph and they are well-marked.
The other museum we visited was the Dubai Museum at the Al Fahidi Fort. The fort was built in the late 1700's and is believed to be the oldest building in Dubai. The museum focuses on the traditional way of life in the Emirates.
The United Arab Emirates was established as a country in 1971. Prior to that it was a group of seven separate sheikhdoms. At first glance, Dubai is a modern city of skyscrapers, fancy cars and massive malls. But until relatively recently this was a desert tribal culture.
This museum gives a hands on look at the history of Dubai and explores this civilization and it's relationship with the rest of the world.
It was fascinating to step into a traditional home. I wanted to stay and have a meal. You won't believe the air-conditioning set up. I won't spoil it for you but it was ingenious and incredibly effective.
There is the upper area of the fort with boats and the traditional home. Below the fort are several galleries that explore the culture even further using dioramas. You can walk through an ancient souk and peek into a traditional school.
I love museums like this where you feel as if you're walking back in time. Again it's a small museum but very impactful and informative. Having my own tour guide Nada to add additional context was ideal.
I was surprised to learn that prior to the discovery of oil, pearls were the economic mainstay of this area going back for thousands of years. There is a wonderful exhibit about the pearl divers. Men would set out to sea for months at a time to dive from sunrise to sunset. Equipped with a nose clip, ear plugs and finger pads they would dive down on weighted ropes to almost 50 feet and collect oysters.
So many incredible stories. Do you ever wish you were a time traveler? I sure do.
No matter where I go in the world, I'm drawn to the boats. You may have noticed that I take a lot of pictures of boats. Dubai was no different. With Nada's guidance I clambered onto an Abra to cross the Dubai Creek.
An abra is a small motorized wooden boat that will take you across the Dubai creek for 1 dirham. It was a short but fun ride.The water taxi holds about 20 people.
The Dubai Creek is a saltwater creek that separates the city into two main parts, the Deira and the Bur Dubai. The week they were there they opened up a new extension of the canal and it now extends all the way to the Persian Gulf.
I love this photo of Dubai. I feel like its a good representation of the city. The tall buildings in the background, representing the growth and finance of the modern city. The Dhow (wooden cargo ships) lined up along the canal representing the trade and commerce that the city has seen for centuries, all centered around a body of water representing the gulf.
I loved my time in Dubai and I have to say again that the tour Nada was a highlight. I also love editing photos and writing these posts. Blogging is so time consuming and time is something I don't seem to have an excess of lately. I'm behind and never seem to keep to my schedule. But it's such a great opportunity to go back and relive my travels. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to explore and for the generosity of people like Nada that are happy to share the world with me.
Would you believe I have one more post from my four hour walking tour? I also have a few more posts about Dubai. It may seem like overkill to some that I stretch out my trips into so many posts. But this is my scrapbook and I want to capture everything so I never forget all I've seen and experienced.
If you're still actually following along, thank you! And know that the connections I've made through this blog are still the most important part of this.