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Dubai’s Deep-Seated Maritime Roots

Dubai’s Deep-Seated Maritime Roots: Dhows and Museums Showcasing a Rich Seafaring Legacy (2024)

Dubai, a city known for its glittering skyscrapers, luxurious shopping malls, and groundbreaking technological feats, also boasts a rich maritime heritage that offers visitors a journey back in time. In the heart of this bustling modern metropolis lies a world that recalls Dubai’s intimate relationship with the sea.

Dubai’s Dhows: Sailing through History

This article delves into Dubai’s maritime legacy, highlighting the iconic dhows and taking readers on a voyage through its maritime museums.

Dhow: More than Just a Boat

For centuries, the dhow, a traditional Arabian wooden boat, has graced the waters of the Persian Gulf. With their characteristic lateen sails and sturdy wooden structures, dhows have been integral to the region’s trade, fishing, and pearling activities. While the dhow’s origin remains debated, its impact on the Gulf’s socio-economic landscape is undeniable.

The Evolution and Uses of the Dhow

Over the years, the dhow has evolved in design and purpose. From the ‘Baghlah’ with its massive structure ideal for long voyages, to the smaller ‘Battil’ favored for fishing and pearling, the dhow’s variety showcases the Gulf’s multifaceted maritime activities.

Today, while modern ships dominate Dubai’s ports, the dhow hasn’t disappeared. A visit to Dubai Creek will reveal dhows bustling with activity, as they’re still used for regional trade. Moreover, dhow cruises have gained popularity among tourists, offering a unique blend of Emirati cultural experience combined with picturesque views of the Dubai skyline.

Maritime Museums in Dubai: Reliving the Legacy

Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort

Located within the historic Al Fahidi Fort, the Dubai Museum offers a comprehensive look at the emirate’s transformation from a small fishing village to a global city. The maritime section is particularly intriguing. Here, visitors can explore life-sized models of dhows, along with displays of fishing equipment, bringing to life the era when the sea was Dubai’s lifeblood.

Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House

This restored residence of Dubai’s former ruler offers insights into the city’s maritime activities through photographs, artifacts, and maps. The pictures of the old port and creek, teeming with dhows, offer a nostalgic look at Dubai’s maritime golden age.

Saruq Al Hadid Museum

While not strictly a maritime museum, Saruq Al Hadid offers a treasure trove of artifacts discovered from an archaeological site in Dubai’s desert. Among these relics are items suggesting trade links across the Arabian Gulf, further emphasizing the significance of maritime activities in shaping Dubai’s history.

Dubai’s Maritime Heritage: An Ongoing Journey

While Dubai’s relentless pursuit of modernity continues, the city doesn’t forget its roots. Efforts are constantly underway to preserve its maritime heritage. From the annual Al Gaffal Dhow Race, celebrating the return of pearl divers, to the restoration of historical sites, Dubai ensures that its maritime legacy sails smoothly into the future.

Things to do

If you are interested in learning more about Dubai’s maritime heritage, there are a number of things you can do:

  • Visit the Dubai Museum or the Al Shindagha Museum to learn about the city’s maritime history.
  • Take a dhow cruise to experience traditional sailing and learn more about the dhows.
  • Visit the Dubai Creek to see the dhows that are still used for fishing and trade today.
  • Visit the Al Fahidi Historical District to see the traditional wind towers that were used by pearl divers to cool their homes.
  • Visit the Jumeirah Mosque to see the mosque’s minaret, which is shaped like a traditional dhow mast.


Dubai’s maritime heritage offers a refreshing counterpoint to its contemporary image. For travelers, this provides a balanced perspective, allowing them to appreciate the emirate’s journey from the decks of dhows to the pinnacle of modern achievements. As you walk along Dubai Creek, with the silhouette of dhows set against a backdrop of soaring skyscrapers, you’ll witness a harmonious blend of Dubai’s rich past and its ambitious future.

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