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Al Souk Al Kabir, Bastakiya Area Guide

Al Souk Al Kabir, Bastakiya Area Guide

Schools: 1*
Entertainment: 4*
Family friendly: 2*
Traffic: 1*
Rents: Value to Moderate

History in motion, the area known as Al Souk reflects the ebb and flow of populations that have come, and gone. Rich Persian merchants have now been replaced by traders from the sub continent, but thanks to restoration in the area, Souk al Kabir still captures a time long gone by.

This is one of the oldest and most populated residential areas of Dubai. It is also home to some of its most historic monuments and buildings. The predominantly South Asian population give the area a distinct feel with restaurants and shops a reflection of the community, particularly in the Meena Bizarre where traders sell clothing, fabrics, and jewelry, and repairmen fix everything from watches to computers to AC units. Perhaps the strongest assault on the senses come from its restaurants, with aromas guaranteed to take you, mentally at least, across the sea to Southern India.

Al Souk Al Kabir encompasses the historic Al Bastakiya district of Dubai – now renamed the Al Fahidi Historic District, an area guaranteed to be included in any Dubai tourist guide worth its salt. Along with the Souq in Deira, it does allow the visitor to catch glimpses of how Dubai used to be – at multiple stages along its journey.

Note, the original name, Al Bastakiya was named after Bastak, a province in southern Iran, from where merchants emigrated on the invitation of the Emir of Dubai in the early 20th century to avoid taxation by the Iranian state.

Places to visit in Al Fahidi Historic District include Fahidi Fort, the oldest building in Dubai dating from the 1780s; Bait Al Wakeel, the city’s first office building; Dubai Museum; the Majlis Gallery; Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) and the XVA Art Gallery. In general the old buildings have been converted into caf├ęs, galleries and small boutique and artisan shops. “Bastakiya Nights” (04 353 7772), a Lebanese/Arabic restaurant in the heart of the restoration area, is the perfect place to eat if you want to soak up the atmosphere. Situated in a traditional open-roofed building diners sit at low tables overlooking the torch-lit courtyard below. You can walk up to the parapet for a great view of the creek. Situated by the mosque the call to prayer greatly enhances the atmosphere of the place. Note: reviews of the food itself are distinctly mixed.

If you do visit the Al Fahidi Historic District you’ll note what makes it stand out is its architecture, and most notably its wind towers, which were AC units before there were AC units. The towers are designed to let warmer air escape, and facilitate a downward flow of cooler air.

Al Souk Al Kabir does offer tightly packed, residential accommodation, particularly around Al Mankhool road. In fact, this is one of the most densely populated areas in Dubai, with residents numbering 45,000, with three males to one female.


A one-bed will cost in the region of 70,000 AED, a two bed 85-90,000 AED and a 3 bed 125,000 AED plus. Forget living around the Bastakiya/Fahadi area however. The property in this area was bought up by the Dubai government in the late 90s as it began its mission to restore the area.

There are no schools in the area. Residents would travel in the main to Oud Metha for the nearest schools – a 15-20 minutes drive away.

And they say Dubai has no history

You can’t live in the nicest bits
Difficult to get in and out of
Not well served for schools, hospitals, etc.


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