Under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Dubai Municipality today announced the completion of a project to revive the traditional markets of Deira and preserve its distinctive architecture.
Stemming from the keenness to preserve the nation’s heritage and cultural identity, the project had the aim of revitalising the area’s traditional markets and reinforcing its role as a major cultural and tourism attraction in the emirate. While preserving the unique character and historical importance of Dubai’s traditional markets, the project also adds several creative touches to the surrounding modern buildings to enhance the area’s historical ambience and ensure overall design integration with the traditional architecture of the markets.
This initiative is part of the development projects approved by HH Sheikh Mohammed last January during his visit to the Dubai Municipality headquarters.
Eng. Dawoud Al Hajri, Director General of Dubai Municipality, said: "Dubai has witnessed significant leaps in its development over the past few decades and has become a global trading and business hub in a short period of time. The retail sector in the region is supported by a range of modern markets that are among the most prominent in the world and attract some of the world’s prestigious international brands. However, this drive for modernity has not diminished the importance of traditional markets, which have been at the heart of the city’s commercial and economic life.”
“We received clear directives from HH Sheikh Mohammed to give special attention to these traditional markets and restore the prestige they enjoyed over the decades, which gave them an important place in the emirate's history," Al Hajri added.
Vision and Objectives
Apart from revitalising and reorganising the markets, the project sought to restore their role as a commercial centre serving the residents of the UAE as well as a focal point for visitors from around the world. The retail neighbourhood offers a variety of products with competitive prices that attract a large number of visitors, especially tourists looking for traditional merchandise.
The Dubai Municipality project aimed to preserve more than 220 historical buildings by renovating their facades and restoring their historical and architectural uniqueness. The project also sought to enhance the urban spaces surrounding these buildings by modifying traffic routes to highlight the distinct character of the historic area. It also aimed to enhance the area’s visual charm by creatively modifying the facades of the surrounding modern buildings to harmonise with the traditional character of the area.
The oldest commercial complex in Dubai was restored and rehabilitated following specialised studies focused on restoring the architectural authenticity of the markets. The shops were renovated according to the general requirements of the commercial area. As part of ensuring its sustainability, traditional materials like coral stone, gypsum, palm branches and wood were used in the restoration project.
Two Phases of Development
The development of the Dubai markets was carried out in two phases, the first of which included the completion of the main information centre at the entrance of the Grand Souq in Deira. The information centre welcomes visitors, receives proposals from traders, and provides assistance and information for tourists. A second centre built close to Al Ras Metro station offers tourist maps and information brochures on the traditional markets and historical landmarks.
Dubai Municipality has issued an invitation to youth volunteers to contribute to the promotion of this heritage project by welcoming visitors and introducing them to the area. The move will help increase young Emiratis’ knowledge of their country’s history and rich heritage.
Work on the project included installation of shades, development of the floor and ceiling, installation of market entry signboards and billboards, facilitating market connectivity and visitor traffic movement, as well as installing seating areas . Street names and nameplates were changed to reflect the heritage and traditional spirit of the place.
The second phase of the traditional market development project included the addition of an Abra station opposite the historic Shindagha district in addition to allocating a bus stop to give easy access to tourists. These sites will be implemented in conjunction with the Deira Waterfront Development project.
Dubai Municipality is currently reviewing a comprehensive plan for the development of the entire historical areas in Deira and Bur Dubai that will include modifying its urban features to highlight the historical character of the place. The plan aims to enhance the floor of the markets as well as install new light fixtures. It also includes the launch of a smart application that offers a tour of the market and information on its most important heritage features.
Commercial and Historical Significance
Deira's traditional market is one of the most important commercial markets established since 1850. The market is the largest, oldest and most important in the area thanks to its direct connectivity with the harbour on the creek that enables it to receive merchandise from cargo ships from Africa and the Indian Subcontinent. Located along a narrow strip, the pedestrianised market featuring small shops has traditional air towers that cool the atmosphere. Large doors made of dark red wood add to the character of the place. The markets offer a wide range of merchandise including souvenirs, metal works, pots, trays, spices, perfumes, medicinal herbs, shawls and fabrics.
Previously, in 1998, Dubai Municipality implemented a comprehensive restoration programme without disrupting normal activities in the market that is one of the most important tourist attractions in the emirate.