Every attempt to unravel Dubai’s heritage leads visitors and residents alike down to the Al Fahidi Historical District. It’s an important part of the cultural fabric of the city, but there’s a historical thread that few have picked up on; one that trails all the way to the south of the creek to the Jumeirah Archaeological Site.
Hidden in plain sight, stashed smack between the neat rows of villas, townhouses, designer boutiques and consular offices of Dubai’s ‘Beverly Hills’ – Jumeirah – it’s older than anything you’ve seen in the city before.
The Jumeirah Archaeological Site is a relic of ancient history that makes no attempt to be obscure or throw visitors off its scent, which is what makes it doubly satisfying to discover this treasure trove of history.
Although it was first discovered by archaeologists in 1969, the excavation was only completed in 2020, and the visitor’s centre and accompanying museum were inaugurated by H.H Sheikh Mohammed.
The site is an 80,000 sqm expanse of flat, vacant land dotted with pieces of walls that are almost a millennium old and offer one of the most unobstructed views of the city’s soaring skyline. You’ll be standing in the past and looking into the future.
A visitor’s centre is located at the entrance of the Jumeirah Archaeological Site with staff who are happy to answer any questions that history buffs have or offer guidance to the unsuspecting tourist who stumbles upon this location.
But it’s all pretty self-explanatory, and the information boards do a thorough job of breaking down historical data into easy-to-understand chunks, so you can stroll around at leisure and let the magnitude of the location wash over you and travel back in time to the Abbasid era from the 9th to 11th centuries.
Echoing the Jumeirah area’s modern residential avatar, the historical site also once housed residential buildings back in the 10th-century Abbasid period. None of those structures remain today, but their fragments can be found in the ruins.
Eight buildings make up the historical plot – five houses, a mosque, a marketplace and a caravansery. Don’t worry, we Googled it for you – it’s a historical term unique to North African deserts and means an inn with a central courtyard for travellers.
Yesteryear’s Jumeirah was a key stop on the trade route connecting Oman, Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq), the Arabian Peninsula and the Far East and weary travellers would seek shelter and refuel here. Nowadays, the visitor’s centre houses the glazed pottery, copper coins, gold ornaments, and more that archaeologists unearthed at the site. They’re lovingly preserved and on display to teach you more about what life was like at the Jumeirah Archaeological Site centuries ago.
After you’ve gained enough captivating insights about life during the ancient Islamic civilisation and addressed your hunger for historical knowledge, the Arabian Tea House next door is a picturesque spot to satiate regular hunger with some Emirati delicacies.