In a city like Dubai that’s constantly on the hunt for the new, Bastakiya remains as a solitary outpost to the past. The buildings, which are about 50 years old may not be considered “old” by most of the world’s standards, but they are symbolic of how people lived in the Arabian peninsula before oil wealth transformed society here.

The mud-brick houses that make up the village are whitewashed on the inside and each feature the vertical wind tunnels that brought in cool breezes from Dubai Creek, which was – and still is in a small way today – the commercial lifeline of what was once a small fishing village. Today, it’s home to the Sikka Art Fair – “sikka” means alleyways such as are found in the compound – which started yesterday and runs for 10 days. Also, the Dubai Culture Authority this year started an artists-in-residence program in one of the houses.

The noise of the city slips away once inside the compound. It even seems cooler; a breeze wafts through the alleys and Bastikiya is filled with birdsong. Have to enjoy it before the summer’s annual assault sets in!

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