A journey into Dubai’s past could well begin through the door of a quaint tea house in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, once known as Al Bastakiya. As you step into the Arabian Tea House (although old-timers would still prefer to call it the Basta Art Café), you transported into the old times, authentic style with turquoise benches, white rattan chairs, lace curtains and beautiful flowers, enjoying your cup of gahwa (traditional Arabic coffee) in the shade of an old tree and the languid air swoons around you, dreamlike, as if it were always afternoon. You sit here savouring your cup of gahwa (meaning coffee in Arabic, but also used to refer to tea in the context of a tea house) under a grand old tree that bears little apples, hear the birds sing and marvel at the architecture of the stone house with wind towers that once belonged to a tawash, or pearl merchant.
This old-world charm is one of the few authentic examples Dubai has of a life gone by, when her people would meet and take refuge in tea houses, not just to escape the heat of the day but to bond with each other, relax and talk business. It opened in 1997, and remains an oasis of peace and calm where tourists and locals come time and again, to journey back to the city’s past and explore its cultural heritage. Dubai Tourism cites the tea house as a cultural reference point and recently both the Michelin-starred culinary expert and author Geoffrey Zakarian and TV star Martha Stewart visited the tea house, praising it in their blogs and social media platforms.
As Dubai has grown, the tea house has moved beyond Al Fahidi, opened new branches in UAE- Sharjah, The Mall Jumeirah, Jumeirah Archaeological Site, one branch in Egypt – Dubai House and one branch in Montenegro . ‘It is time now to take the experience to other parts of the world. Being traditional is not something to shy away from, we should be proud of who we are.’