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Saeed Al Maktoum House in Dubai: A Guide to the Visit

    The Saeed Al Maktoum House is a historic building nestled in one of the oldest and most picturesque parts of Dubai. It stands as one of the most intriguing museums to visit for those keen on uncovering the history and origins of this captivating city. Well-preserved in its original Arabian style, this imposing courtyard mansion was once akin to a royal palace. In fact, it served as the residence of Sheikh Saeed’s family, the grandfather of the current ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, from 1912 to 1958.

    This place holds immense significance in the history of the United Arab Emirates, offering a tangible glimpse into the modesty of the royal residences of the past, before the country emerged as a hub for global economy and oil extraction.

    Dating back to 1896, the current palace is the result of successive expansions that have made it more magnificent over the years: an ancient architectural marvel with three courtyards surrounded by 30 rooms and four beautifully preserved wind towers. Today, the house serves as a museum hosting a small but fascinating exhibition on the royal family of Dubai and its evolution over time, featuring a collection of vintage photographs, coins, stamps, and documents.

    Saeed Al Maktoum House: The Former Royal Residence of Dubai

    The Saeed Al Maktoum House is one of the most fascinating historical buildings in Dubai. Even from the outside, its wind towers, arches, and doors make it resemble a large sand castle. Constructed in 1896, it served as the residence of Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum bin Hasher Al Maktoum and his family from 1912 until his death in 1958. Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum reigned during a particularly challenging and complex period in Dubai’s history, holding the title of Dubai’s longest-serving ruler.

    His reign marked the transition from a village of fishermen and pearl divers to a port town with an economy centered on international trade. In fact, the pearl market was in recession, leading Dubai and its population into a deep economic crisis. The ruler sought to make the village’s commercial port increasingly attractive and competitive, even though he had to face many rebellions and discontent from the population and local elites during those years. He eventually handed over the administration of Dubai to his son, Sheikh Rashid, while continuing to reign.

    Saeed Al Maktoum House

    Under Sheikh Rashid, the crucial transition of Dubai towards a modern city-state based on global trade took place. During his reign, there was the oil boom that changed the country’s economy, followed by significant development. Even though relations with neighboring emirates were quite tense during those years, and there was even a conflict with neighboring Abu Dhabi. Despite this, Sheikh Rashid managed in just twenty years to convince Abu Dhabi and the other neighboring emirates to unite and found the current United Arab Emirates, bringing stability and prosperity to the entire region.

    After Sheikh Rashid, other rulers succeeded, and Dubai has become increasingly larger, more important, and modern. But the roots of its history always started from this modest dwelling that is the Saeed Al Maktoum House, where Sheikh Saeed lived and where many of his children and grandchildren were born, including Sheikh Rashid (son of Sheikh Saeed), the current ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed (son of Sheikh Rashid), and also Sheikh Ahmed (son of Sheikh Saeed), CEO of Emirates Airlines and many Emirati banks and investment companies.

    The Saeed Al Maktoum House has recently been restored and transformed into a museum that showcases the history and culture of Dubai, with a particular focus on its royal family and the history of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum. Before even exploring its exhibits, admire its traditional architecture: the Saeed Al Maktoum House stands as an excellent example of early 20th-century Arab architecture, with intricate carvings and fascinating arabesque decorations.

    Constructed with a blend of coral, sand, and lime plaster, which gives the entire complex a particularly striking pink hue, especially at sunset, it spans over 3,600 square meters and includes about 30 rooms, several courtyards, and numerous terraces from which you can enjoy a splendid view of the Dubai Creek and the Persian Gulf, as well as picturesque views of Old Dubai and its modern skyline in the background.

    Note its location on the edge of Dubai Creek: this is the oldest port in Dubai, and at the time, it was the bustling heart of life and commerce, with the Deira souks just a few steps away. Also noteworthy are its wonderfully preserved wind towers, the four towers placed at the corners of the house that in the ancient Arab world were used to keep the internal temperature pleasant during the summer period. They are a sort of ancestor of air conditioning.

    The Saeed Al Maktoum House is spread over two floors and has two entrances: one leads to the so-called majlis, a series of rooms once used for receiving guests and for official meetings, the other to the main inner courtyard, around which are located the various areas of the house, such as the living room, the warehouses, and the kitchen, while the bedrooms were located on the first floor with balconies overlooking the Dubai Creek and the sea.

    The most interesting feature of the house, however, is its location: in a densely populated neighborhood, amidst the souks and very close to all the other houses. This reflects the policy of the Al Maktoum family who wanted to maintain a sense of continuity and closeness between the ruling family and the people of Dubai.

    Saeed Al Maktoum House Exhibitions and Things to Do

    Our best advice is to visit Saeed Al Maktoum House as part of a walk through the Al Shindagha Historic District: it is one of the most picturesque and captivating neighborhoods in Dubai, and you can easily explore it on foot on your own. In fact, it’s one of our favorite spots in Dubai. You might even consider visiting at sunset for a serene walk along the stunning promenade that overlooks Dubai Creek. Here, you can immerse yourself in an ambiance reminiscent of bygone times and enjoy splendid views of Old Dubai, with the charming neighborhoods of Al Bastakya and Deira on the opposite side.

    Indeed, the Saeed Al Maktoum House is a part of the Al Shindagha Historic District, which was once a large complex of palaces and royal family residences. It has been recently restored, and now you can meander among the historic homes, narrow alleys, and the beautiful promenade that overlooks Dubai Creek. You can witness what was once the political and administrative core of the Emirate of Dubai: there are 21 meticulously restored historic houses, each of which now serves as a small museum.

    You can visit all 21 homes, including the Saeed Al Maktoum House, with a single ticket. In fact, all the house-museums have been consolidated into the Al Shindagha Museum, which also features interactive and contemporary exhibitions. These exhibitions employ audiovisual and digital technologies to narrate the thrilling story of Dubai’s dramatic and swift development. The Al Shindagha Museum’s exhibitions are undoubtedly among the most intriguing insights into the city’s history and culture, and are a must-visit for anyone wishing to delve deeper into its fascinating past.

    Generally, it takes about half a day to tour the entire neighborhood with its historic homes and museums. However, for those who just want a brief overview, a minimum of 2-3 hours should suffice.

    Saeed Al Maktoum House: What’s Inside and Exhibitions

    The Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House is undoubtedly the heart of Al Shindagha, and one of its main museums. You can admire its traditional architecture with vaulted high-beam ceilings and arched doorways, the traditional majlis (meeting rooms), and well-reconstructed domestic settings, complete with period ornaments and furniture.

    Inside the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House, you can view exhibits that tell the story of the Sheikh and the royal family, as well as a collection of photographs, coins, and local handicrafts dating back to the period before the oil boom.

    The exhibitions, in addition to providing insight into local life of past centuries, allow you to see a collection of ancient maps and documents, coins and stamps from the Sheikh’s era, and a series of photographs that depict what Dubai was like in the 1900s. An entire wing is dedicated to the exhibition of jewels that belonged to the Sheikh and his family. Finally, ascend to the upstairs majlis to enjoy charming views across Dubai Creek.

    Other Exhibitions in the Al Shindagha Historic District

    The same ticket for the Saeed Al Maktoum House also allows you to visit all the other historic houses and museums in the Al Shindagha Historic District. In total, you can see 21 restored ancient residences, including the Sheikh Obaid & Jumma bin Thani Al Maktoum, the Poetry House, and the Perfume House. The latter is one of the most famous attractions of the Al Shindagha Museum and offers an overview of the history of Emirati fragrances, which have played an important role in the country’s history and are a long-standing tradition.

    Other interesting exhibitions are dedicated to Dubai Creek and the birth of the city, traditional crafts, traditional healthcare. But also to the modern development of the city and the relationships between the local people and faith. A large exhibition is spread across several buildings and is dedicated to the theme of Life on Lands, exploring the natural features of the region and its relationships with local society and economy. You can take a look at the museum map with its attractions here.

    Saeed Al Maktoum House Tickets and Prices

    The Saeed Al Maktoum House is part of the Al Shindagha Museum. To visit it, you will need to purchase a museum ticket, which includes access to all the exhibits scattered throughout the district and its 21 restored historic houses, including the Saeed Al Maktoum House.

    Tickets for the Al Shindagha Museum cost 50 AED (13.62 USD) per person. Students aged between 5 and 24 years can avail a discounted rate of 20 AED, upon presenting their identity document and student card. Admission is free for children under 5 years old.

    Tickets can be purchased online or at the ticket office on-site. However, it’s worth considering that buying them in advance online could result in a substantial discount. In that case, they cost around 35 AED (9.50 USD). The ticket grants access to all museums and attractions within the Al Shindagha Historic District, and allows participation in group guided tours that frequently depart, also in English.

    Until a few years ago, the Saeed Al Maktoum House was a separate museum and could be visited for a few coins (3 AED), but this is no longer possible.

    Guided Tours of Al Shindagha Historic District and Old Dubai

    Explore the charm of Old Dubai by immersing yourself in the bustling souks and discovering the most picturesque views of the Dubai Creek. Enjoy the more authentic side of this metropolis, now overshadowed by its modern architecture and opulent lifestyle: the historic districts of Dubai Old Town are rich with hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

    A great choice could be to book a guided tour with a local guide, which allows you to discover the most beautiful corners of Dubai’s Old Town, from Deira to the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. You will take one of the traditional boats called abras that ply the Dubai Creek, taste some local snacks, discover the traditional architectures of the Saeed Al Maktoum House and the surrounding neighborhoods, and visit the fascinating traditional souks, including the famous Gold Souk and Spice Souk.

    Saeed Al Maktoum House Opening Hours

    The Saeed Al Maktoum House and the Al Shindagha Museum are open every day from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM. The last admission is at 7:00 PM.

    How to Get to Saeed Al Maktoum House

    The Saeed Al Maktoum House is located in the heart of the Al Shindagha District, on the Bur Dubai side of the Dubai Creek. Access is through the visitor center of the Al Shindagha Museum, which is easily reachable: the Al Ghubaiba Metro Station (green line) is right in front of the entrance.

    The Al Shindagha District is also along the route of the hop-on hop-off buses: a stop is located right in front of the entrance to the Al Shindagha Museum. These tours make it easy to see all the city’s most famous landmarks and visit all its most famous attractions in a comfortable and easy way, allowing you to move easily from one attraction to another. Other stops along the bus route nearby include the old souks – including the Gold Souk and the Spice Souk – the Dubai Museum, the Al Fahidi Historical District, and the Al Seef Heritage Area.

    Things to Do Near Saeed Al Maktoum House

    The Al Shindagha District and Saeed Al Maktoum House are strategically situated between Deira and Bur Dubai, making it an ideal location for exploring the older, more traditional part of the city. After delving into the royal district of Al Shindagha with its array of museums, you might want to venture towards another captivating historical district, Al Bastakiya (also known as the Al Fahidi Historical District). Here, you can marvel at the city’s oldest structure, the Al Fahidi Fort, which now serves as the Dubai Museum, a tribute to the city’s rich history.

    On the opposite bank of the Dubai Creek, don’t miss the opportunity to wander through the labyrinthine alleys of Deira with its vibrant souks. As the sun sets, indulge in a serene cruise on the creek, perhaps aboard one of the traditional dhows, which were once the customary vessels of local traders.

    Planning your trip to Dubai? Then you should check out our guide to the BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN DUBAI. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about the exciting history and culture of Dubai, discover the BEST MUSEUMS IN DUBAI.