GP: Museums of Dubai

This is a guest post written by Neha from DubaiWikia.

Despite being a Dubai resident for more than a decade, it took me a while to visit its museums. I have always considered Dubai as a city of marvels (and still continue to), but conveniently overlooked its quaint historical side for quite long. However, my recent trips to some of its museums made me a real admirer of the humble Emirati past and culture. Yes, each of the museums in Dubai is classic and gripping in its own right. And here are a few of them. (This list also includes some of Dubai’s newest museums.)

Al Fahidi Fort, photo by Álvaro Vega Sánchez.
Al Fahidi Fort, photo by Álvaro Vega Sánchez.

1. Dubai Museum

This is the first museum I ever visited in Dubai. In other words, this was one of the first places that came up in Google results when I searched for top historical spots and best museums in Dubai. Rightly so, this museum has somewhat become a genuine reference for those looking to know about Dubai’s ancient history, culture, and traditions. It is extra special as this is found inside the region’s oldest fort, namely, Al Fahidi Fort (which once used to be a prison and garrison).

Highlights: Many intriguing sections, galleries and displays (including the life-life dioramas) here give an authentic glance into Dubai’s lifestyle before the discovery of oil.
Entry Fee: 3 AED for adults, 1 for children
Location: Al Fahidi region, close to Dubai Creek
Opening hours: Saturday to Thursday (08:30 hrs to 20:30 hrs) & Fridays (14:30 hrs to 20:30 hrs)

2. Etihad Museum

Besides the Eid holidays, the National Day (on December 2) is one of the most awaited holidays for us Dubaiites. It is celebrated in full vigor and spirit by many – regardless of caste, religion or nationality. It was on this day that six emirates combined to form the United Arab Emirates (the seventh emirate, Ras Al Khaimah, joined later in 1972). This museum is fascinatingly located at the very site where the rulers of all emirates met on December 2, 1971, and signed the historic federal constitution to form the UAE.

Highlights: Apart from its many compelling exhibits and sections that illuminate the UAE’s unification, its structure – modeled after the UAE’s constitution – itself is an architectural masterpiece.
Entry Fee: 25 AED 25 for adults, free entry for children
Location: Jumeirah 1 Street, Dubai
Opening hours: Open on all week from 10:00 hrs to 20:00 hrs

Coffee Museum, photo by Hoda Beltagui.
Coffee Museum, photo by Hoda Beltagui.

3. Coffee Museum

This is a true hidden gem as we came to know about it only on our visit to Al Bastakiya Quarter. We wandered into the Coffee Museum without any prior knowledge about it, but this spontaneous visit turned out to be a surprise package. With the rich aroma of coffee and some intriguing sections depicting the origin of coffee as well as its significance on diverse cultures, it is a must-visit for hardcore coffee lovers.

Highlights: The laidback ambience allows you to peacefully explore its diverse antiquated displays and learn some amazing facts about coffee and its importance in various cultures. There are also live demonstrations of coffee roasting and brewing styles of different regions.
Entry Fee: Free (!)
Location: Villa 44, Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, Bastakiya area, Dubai
Opening hours: Saturday to Thursday (09:00 hrs to 17:00 hrs); closed on Fridays

4. Coin Museum

We dropped into this museum on the same day we visited Coffee Museum. What appealed to me was its down-to-earth entrance and unpretentious settings (as a whole) which are an ode to Dubai’s glamorous past. Its exhibits, with some 500 rare and old coins, kept my husband and kiddo well engrossed for a little over an hour.

Highlights: This is the best place to enlighten yourself about the numismatic past of the region. Housed within eight rooms, these coins are acquired from different parts of the world and depict diverse historical phases. There is a magnifying screen for each coin which shows you more about its origin, era, size, shape, and metal type in detail.
Entry Fee: Free (!)
Location: Dubai Heritage Village, Bur Dubai – Dubai
Opening hours: Open all week from 08:00 hrs to 14:00 hrs

5. Camel Museum

Most people think that the camel is the UAE’s national animal, but in reality it is the Arabian Oryx. However, we cannot blame them. This is due to the camel’s inimitable role in the region’s history and cultural heritage. This museum is one portion of Old Dubai where you will be able to learn everything about the significance of camels in the Arab culture. This is also a good way to learn about camels without riding them.

Highlights: This museum is located in the site of Beit Al Rekab – a camel stable once maintained by the Sheikhs.
Entry Fee: Free (!)
Location: Al Shindagha Historical District, Bur Dubai
Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday (08:00 hrs to 14:00 hrs)

Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House, photo by Ian Lloyd.
Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House, photo by Ian Lloyd.

6. Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House

I still cannot get over the fact that a royal palace can be this striking and modest at the same time. This beautifully preserved structure stands as a real homage to Dubai’s unmistakable regal past. The royal mansion was built in 1896 during the rule of Sheik Maktoum bin Hasher Al Maktoum and remained occupied until the death of Sheik Saaed Al Maktoum (the grandfather of Dubai’s current ruler) in 1958.

Highlights: It is a typical traditional Arabian courtyard mansion spread over two stories and complete with four barjeels (wind towers). You will find four wings, dedicated to Dubai’s past rulers. There are also several pieces of art and artifacts on view, such as age-old coins, photos, jewelry and stamps.
Entry Fee: 2 AED for adults, 1 AED for children
Location: Al Fahidi, Bur Dubai, Dubai
Opening hours: Saturday to Thursday (08:00 hrs to 20:30 hrs) & Fridays (15:00 hrs to 20:30 hrs)

7. Past & Future Galleries at Dubai Frame

These are not a part of any museum, but I think they effortlessly fit into this list for their marvelous displays (representing both Dubai’s past and future). They are actually two segments of the giant picture-frame-like structure, Dubai Frame. Before you make your way up to its sky deck, the Past Gallery is the first thing you will see and it retells Dubai’s past through its immersive multimedia exhibits and projections. As for its Future Gallery, it is like walking straight into Dubai’s high-tech cityscape in 2050.

Highlights: Sky Deck with views over Old and New Dubai, Past Gallery and Future Gallery
Entry Fee: 50 AED for adults, 30 AED for children
Location: Zabeel Park, Dubai
Opening hours: Open all week from 09:00 hrs to 21:00 hrs

Museum of the Future, photo by Alain Alvarez.
Museum of the Future, photo by Alain Alvarez.

The above are a handful of museums that I have visited in Dubai, although more still remain on my wish list including Dubai Police Museum, Salsali Private Museum, and Al Ahmadabad School and Heritage House. Apart from these, the following is the newest and up and coming museum in Dubai which I look forward to visiting soon:

8. Museum of the Future

This work in progress, glittery museum has already caught our attention (every time when we pass through Sheik Zayed Road). With its unique oblong design and a hollow part in the center, it is already one of the city’s most impressive architectural landmarks. And we cannot wait to see its high-end, futuristic displays which will be mostly based on Artificial Intelligence and other cutting-edge innovations.

Highlights: It is expected to be all about future-themed exhibits.
Entry Fee: Not unveiled yet
Location: Near Emirates Towers and Trade Centre, Sheik Zayed Road
Opening hours: Not unveiled yet

So now you can get your Dubai tourist visa and be ready for a memorable vacation. Make sure that you add some of these museums in your Dubai program. Do not be deceived by their appearance – while the museums may sometimes appear simplistic or minimal, many displays unravel a side of Dubai and Arabia known only to locals and longtime residents in the region.

Author: Zen

Archaeologist & adventurer. Interested in vegetarian street-food, avoiding tourists and road-trips into the unknown. Originally from Holland - then Durham, Cambridge, Würzburg, Istanbul, Erbil - now London. Always learning a new language.

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