Page update - Oct 10, 2022
Where is the Dubai Museum of the Past and Al Fahidi Fort? How to get there conveniently and quickly? How much do you have to pay to get in? What are the opening hours? And most importantly - what to see inside? Read the answers on this page.
There are two main historical museums in Dubai, and there is some "division of duties" between them. The museum at Al Fahidi Fort shows life in Dubai before the formation of the UAE state and before the oil era. The Etihad Museum in Jumeirah district is dedicated to the formation of the UAE and the evolution of the country into a new era. If you like history, you should visit both of these museums.
The fort was built in 1797 as a defensive structure on the outskirts of the city, at the same time serving as the residence of the Emir. Later, in 1896, the Emirs moved to a separate residence next door, and the fort became an arsenal, later a prison. In 1971, the fort became a museum of Dubai history.
Al Fahidi Fort is now the oldest preserved building in Dubai. The late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum wanted to preserve the memory of the traditions of life in Dubai before the oil age. He chose the fort as a place to preserve tradition.
The total area of the exhibition halls is 43,000 square feet (4,000 square meters). The exhibition is conventionally divided into 9 sections. Almost the entire exposition is located in the underground rooms of the fort, where there used to be the arsenal. On display are antiques and restored scenes from the life of the inhabitants of Dubai in the old days.
The exhibition also includes artifacts recently unearthed from excavations of the Hafit, Umm An-Nar, Wadi Suq cultures, dating back to before 3000 BC. Read about these cultures in our detailed review "History of the Arab Emirates". Since Dubai has been the center of trade since ancient times, the exhibition includes many ancient objects from Persia, India, and Africa, the countries with which the Dubaiis traded.
There is no point in describing all the exhibits on this page, especially considering the fact that there are no very important and valuable items among them. Let us concentrate on a few.
Be sure to see the traditional "arish" house, built entirely of palm leaves, in the yard of the fort. This is not a shabby hut, but a real house with several rooms and a wind intake system for ventilation. It's exactly the kind of house ordinary Dubaiis used to live in before the oil era. As the house looks like inside, see the photo below, click on the photo to enlarge.
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The expensive houses were built with coral stone, which was very rare and expensive. It was coral stone that the Al Fahidi Fort is built of.
A separate room shows the life of the desert Bedouins. There you can learn about their methods of orienteering by stars. After all, in the desert as well as in the sea, to orient is extremely difficult - everywhere you look, everywhere the same sand. Many tourists are amazed, but the Bedouins knew a lot about the stars and could orientate themselves masterfully.
On some of the figures of women can be seen "battula" which is a golden mask. The origin of these masks is unknown exactly. They were probably borrowed by the Arabs of the Persian Gulf from India in the 18th century. In the old days, these masks were an obligatory part of women's attire, even in everyday life, not only on holidays. Girls began to wear the battula from the age of 9.
There is a very interesting hypothesis associated with this mask. It is believed that Arab women used these masks to deceive their enemies. The battula mask is shaped like a mustache. Thus, from afar it seemed that it was not a woman, but a man with a mustache.
It seemed to the enemy that there were twice as many combat-ready men in the settlement as there were in reality. But this is only the hypothesis, and no proofs.
Al Fahidi Fort is located in the Bur Dubai area, on the south bank of the Creek Canal. Further across the canal is the Deira area.
From Deira you can get there by boat abra, the price is 1 dirham. Of course, this way is only convenient if you are near one of the marinas in Deira - Deira Old Souk Abra Station or Al Sabkha Abra Station. In other cases, it's better to take the subway.
Option 1 - subway + bus. Previously, you had to get only on foot from the subway to the museum. But since October 20, 2019, there is the F70 bus, which stops near the museum. It's convenient.
You can take the F70 bus at the Sharaf DG (before 11/25/1920 called Al Fahidi) subway station on the green (second) line or the BurJuman at the intersection of the red and green lines. The F70 is a one-way traffic circle so you cannot take the bus in the wrong direction. It's better to get from BurJuman station - it's about 10 minutes. See the subway map with all the last updates in our review "Dubai Metro".
If you use the "transfer in 30 minutes" rule, then you will take the bus for free. Read more about this rule in our review "NOL Cards in Dubai". And don't forget to check-out when getting off the bus, otherwise you'll pay 7.5 dirhams per trip, read more in our review "Buses in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah".
Option 2 - subway + walking. You need to get to Sharaf DG metro station on the green (second) line. When you go up from the subway (the station is underground), you will find yourself at a big intersection. There you need to choose the right direction. You need to go northeast, toward the Creek Canal. Too bad none of the tourists carry a compass, but a navigator smartphone app helps.
You may navigate in a different way. At this intersection, 3 of the 4 roads have 3 lanes in each direction. And only 1 of the 4 roads has only 2 lanes in each directions, it is the smallest of the 4 roads, that is what you need.
Follow this street for 2,000 feet (600 meters) to the traffic circle. At the junction, turn left and after 800 feet (250 meters), you will see the fort, it cannot be confused with anything else, there is a big boat on the crossing.
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In winter, when there is no exhausting heat, walking on foot is nice. You can eat on the way, good thing there are more than a dozen eateries along the way. But in the heat of summer, we do not recommend walking that far. Read our review "Weather in Dubai by month".
Option 3 - taxi. You can catch a cab from BurJuman or Sharaf DG metro stations, the trip in both cases will cost 12 dirhams (the minimum price for a cab ride in Dubai). It is better to go from BurJuman as it is much easier to find a cab there.
You can take a cab from the hotel or anywhere in Dubai. The city is big, it's hard to predict the price of the trip - it can take from 12 to 120 dirhams, it depends on the distance and road conditions. Read our detailed review "Taxis in UAE - fares and rules".
From other emirates. There is no point in going to see Al Fahidi Museum, because it's not a TOP-attraction. But if you want to see it, you can read our pages "How to get from Sharjah to Dubai" and "How to get from Abu Dhabi to Dubai".
Regular ticket (from 6 years old) - 3 dirhams.
Children ticket (under 6 years old) - 1 dirham.
For the current exchange rates please see our page "The UAE Dirham".
WARNING! By the situation of October 2022, the museum at Al-Fahidi Fort is temporarily closed. It was closed during the coronavirus outbreak and has not yet re-opened. In addition, a major renovation began in January 2021 under the patronage of Prince Sheikh Hamdan, with no announced completion date. When will the museum open? It's unclear.
There are plenty of attractions already open in Dubai, see our page "UAE attractions".
On all days except Friday - from 8-30 am to 8-30 pm (8-30 to 20-30).
On Friday (UAE day off) - from 2-30 pm to 8-30 pm (14-30 to 20-30).
During the month of Ramadan:
On all days except Friday - 10-00 am. to 5-00 pm (10-00 to 17-00).
On Friday - day off.
Ramadan rules apply throughout the museum. Read our review "Ramadan in the UAE" for details.
Since the price of a ticket to the Al Fahidi Museum is very low, the museum is very popular as part of a sightseeing tours of Dubai. There are times when many sightseeing groups come together, and it is impossible to get in as the museum is jam-packed. And sometimes they bring school excursions, it's even worse.
There are two ways to avoid crowds.
First - arrive early.
Second - skip the tour group ahead as they do not stay long in the museum, they have a schedule.
- The exhibits have inscriptions only in Arabic and English. There are no audio guides. If you know English well, it will be much more interesting. Or get an app that can recognize text from the camera and translate. Unfortunately, such applications require an Internet connection. Read our review "Internet in the UAE";
- At the ticket office you can only pay in dirhams. Credit cards or NOL cards are not yet accepted there. And often there is no change at the box office, so stock up on coins. Read our review "Money exchange in the UAE";
- The museum has a dress-code, but quite soft, as in the whole emirate of Dubai. Shorts and miniskirts are allowed in without problems, but without overt eroticism. Read more about the dress-code in our review "What you can and can't in the UAE".
Have a nice sightseeing in Dubai, and read our interesting pages about the UAE (see the list of the pages below).
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