Bastakiya is now officially renamed as "Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood" with its Windtowers referred to as a Dubai City Icon. Yet barely 40 years ago half of Bastakiya was demolished with the remainder scheduled for demolition in 1990s. It was only through British architect, Rayner Otter, supported by UK's Prince Charles, identifying Bastakiya's historical significance that the remaining parts of Bastakiya were saved and eventually restored in 2005.
In the Beginning - 1901
Al Bastakiya has its beginnings in Sheikh Maktoum bin Hasher Al Maktoum's decision to declare Dubai a Duty Free Port around 1901. At that time Port of Lingah on Iran's southern coastline was the centre of the pearl trade. Lingah was governed by Gulf Arabs based in Sharjah. Iranian Government was unhappy at the low level of revenue they were receiving from the Port, blaming corrupt Officials, so introduced a strict tax regime and appointed Belgian Officials to administer the new regime and run Port Lingah. This caused Port of Lingah to fall into decline. Merchants were unhappy and began to move across the Gulf to Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah. Sheikh Maktoum wanted these Merchants to bring their trade to Dubai so he offered them free land in Shindaga. Many of Port Lingah's Merchants already had close family and religious links with the Gulf Arabs so readily accepted Sheikh Maktoum's offer and moved to Dubai together with their families. They also brought tradesman to build houses on the land Sheikh Maktoum had given them. These Merchants either lived in, or had links to, Bastak, a town in the Hormozgan Province of southern Iran located inland from the Port Lingah. Architecture along the Port Lingah's coast featured Windtowers designed to take advantage of cooling sea breezes. This was the style of architecture Iranian Merchants brought to Dubai. These Merchants established enclaves both in Shindaga and Bur Dubai building houses replicating those homes they had left in Port Lingah. Enclave in Shindaga became known as Bastakiya.
Wealthy Merchants & Decline
Freed from taxes, these Merchants grew wealthy in Dubai trading pearls and textiles. As their wealth grew, they moved out of Bastakiya. Dubai was growing and Bastakiya was no longer separate from the surrounding Shindaga. Slowly Bastakiya fell into disrepair. Its buildings with their unique Windtowers were now either warehouses, housing for Dubai's growing foreign labour force or abandoned. In 1970s half of Bastakiya was demolished to build a new Majlis while the remainder fell into further disrepair. Eventually Bastakiya's historical significance was recognised. Dubai Municipality restored what was left of Bastakiya in 2005 although questions are now being raised about the authenticity of Bastakiya's restoration citing the use of modern materials and methods used in the restoration.
VIDEO: Bastakiya 1988
Marilyn Wouters lived in Dubai from 1988 to 2003. Marilyn took a series of videos during that time. This particular video shows both Bastakia and Shindaga before their restoration. Marilyn has a photo record of her stay in Dubai on her Website.