Before The Oil Boom: The Dubai Museum

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posted on Dec. 18, 2016
by Rick Fo

There are certain events that happen during a country’s history which are so catalytic that they come to completely redefine the nation’s identity and future. The Renaissance, the French Revolution and the Golden Age of Pericles, all completely redefined respectively Italy, France and Greece (or the city-state Athens if you’re a history buff). For Dubai, it was the oil boom, making it a huge contemporary boom city from a historic trade hub it was before.

Although Dubai embraces and revels in its modernity, it is still very proud of its history and tradition as a bridge of trade between the east and west. The Dubai Museum is built the Al Fahidi Fort which was built in the 18th Century, will take you through Dubai’s rich history and its ascension as a contemporary mega-city.   

About Dubai Museum

Originally the space which the Museum is located in was a defensive fort, which was later used as armory for artillery and munitions. Finally in the 70s the fort was designated to become a museum displaying not only its heritage but also its tradition. The exhibits usher guest through hundreds (if not thousands) of years’ worth of Dubai history. From its terrestrial trading and markets to its coastal fishing, pearl diving and ship making, you will see all of these significant elements in the form of audio/visual media, dioramas and even life sized displays.

The market display, shows you what a merchant selling his wares would look like as early as 1950, a far cry from the luxury retailers that pepper Dubai today. You will also see a representation of pearl merchants that were popular in Dubai in the previous century.


The exhibits are largely separated according to type, with the “Monuments” wing, being dedicated to larger artifacts including ceramics, weapons and of course monuments. The middle wing is dedicated to the aforementioned displays of merchants and markets of years gone by. You can also see musical instruments used traditionally, made from easily sourced materials such as bone and animal hides. Some of the days also show everyday scenes from life in Dubai before the oil boom. These show children studying with a teacher, men socializing; smoking hookah and drinking the ubiquitous mint tea and even people harvesting the ever popular palm fruit, dates.


The Museum is located just outside urban area of Dubai, which will help you further appreciate how rapid Dubai developed into the economic power-house it is today.

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