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This centuries-old section of Dubai is full of sand-colored buildings made from coral harvested from the Persian Gulf, as they are highly effective in regulating temperatures indoors. More recently the area has become an artistic enclave with a few galleries and cafés. Bastakiya is not particularly pretty or striking to explore on one’s own, so it is essential to book a tour with the Sheik Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU), an organization created specifically to address tourists’ interest in Emirati culture, history and lifestyle. The hour-long walking tour is led by an engaging local who will discuss everything from dress, religion, gender roles and education. This enlightening exchange includes a mosque visit and ends in SMCCU’s majlis (seating area) where participants can ask any questions about the Emirates and its people over tea and candied dates.
Written by Janine Yu