United Arab Emirates
Concierge.com's insider take:
Shops, galleries, and charming restaurants pack the alleyways of the Bastakiya quarter, an area on the west side of the Creek that has been inhabited by wealthy Persian merchants since the late 19th century and was painstakingly renovated by the government in the 1980s. Narrow pedestrian alleyways snake around the district, lined with local architecture and wind-towered houses (the tower was designed to catch cool breezes and direct them to the lower rooms) in coral-colored stone and rose-beige clay. Almost every heavy wooden doorway swings open to reveal a courtyard where you'll find traditional craftsmen or studios. Highlights include the Majlis Gallery, which showcases both traditional and contemporary ceramics, jewelry, and art; XVA, a hotel/art gallery/vegetarian café in one. The exhibitions can be a bit hit-or-miss, but the area is charming and sensitively restored, even though it is now blatantly aimed at the tourist market. The rooftop of the restaurant Bastakiah Nights has breezy views of the Creek and a set menu of Arab and Iranian dishes (971-4353-7772). For walking tours, contact the Sheikh Mohammad Centre for Cultural Understanding. In cooler weather there is a weekly Saturday-morning flea market.
In March, Bastikiya's alleys and courtyard houses become showcases for an Art Dubai fringe fair of concerts, films, exhibitions, and lectures promoting the best of the UAE's contemporary art (note the main fair takes place at the Madinat Jumeirah resort).—Updated by Susan Hack