Dubai 1900s/unit/Saeed Maktoum House

Dubai 1900s/unit/Saeed Maktoum House


Saeed Maktoum House

Al Shindagha area – Bur Dubai, Dubai, UAE 1894

Architect: Unknown


Background Information

The historical Saeed Maktoum House was home to the former president of The United Arab Emirates, the Al Maktoum family until 1958. The courtyard house was constructed in 1896 at the Al Shandagha area. Located at the edge above the Dubai Creek, it allows the house to overlook the Arabian Gulf. Through the strategic locationing of the house, the authority and power that the residence holds were already expressed. The Saeed Maktoum house has been serving as the headquarters for the rulers for 62 years before the formation of the United Arab Emirates. Nowadays, it was preserved by the government of Dubai and acting as a heritage museum that allows visitors to learn about the history of Dubai.

In spite of the fact that the luxurious Saeed Maktoum House was less of an accurate representation of what the Dubai public’s residence during 1900s, it stands as one of the most complete and elaborate traditional Dubai housing to date.

Spatial Arrangement

The establishment’s orientation points towards the qibla of the Mecca, along with all the houses within the squatter, reflecting the strong religious communities that sit within the old Dubai. The Saeek Maktoum Housing units is arranged around a main courtyard, enclosed by 4 wings representing the 4 cardinal directions of north, east, south and the west. These 4 structures engulf the perimeter of the main establishment, and adds an aspect of symmetrical equilibrium and balance to the main structure.

In spite of the 4 aforementioned wings, the house was actually divided into 5 different sections, with a single family accommodating each fraction. Each of these 5 sections consist of a porch, guesthouse and numerous rooms for various uses. The Entrances were placed at the front and back of the house; the primary entrance is situated at the front, which upon entry led into a small entrance courtyard which mirrored the main one in design. The secondary entrance was situated at the back, which led from the main courtyard. Complimenting these 2 courtyards, was yet another private courtyard parallel to the entrance courtyard, which was often enjoyed by the residential family alone. This is in contrast to the other mentioned courtyards, which due to its larger size, was used to host social gatherings, an important and integral aspect of the citizen’s social life. Moving on to the indoor space, an open kitchen was located at the west wing and is shared amongst the families, as cooking and other culinary tasks was viewed yet again as a social event. Finally, the house boasts of 5 majils that were distributed at the 4 cardinal wings, which acted as meeting rooms for family and guests gatherings/occasions.

Construction Details

Due to the geographic location and inherently the unique climate of Dubai, the architecture of its establishments bore similarities to the vernacular houses located in the other desert regions. For example, the materials used to construct the houses were all procured from the local environment, entities such as coralstones and gypsum. Examining the finer details of the house, most of the interiors were decorated with handcrafted doors and windows, all of which were layered with traditional carvings of geometric patterns.

Additional units of housing were continuously added through the course of 62 years; once in 1920 and once again in 1930 in order to accommodate new generations of the families. This discrepancy in age of the residents perpetuated a generation gap within the housing establishments, which’s effect extrapolated to even the styles to which the house was decorated with. For example, whereas the older units boasted pointed arches for their openings, the newer units were more flat and rectangular in design. Similarly, the roofs were also designed and constructed very differently; from palm thatches to wood, the beams, windshields and skylights could be composed of very different materials, despite all occurring within the same house. This made for a very modular expression of style and preference, and did well in accommodating and reflecting the variety of individuals which called the establishment home.

Cultural Context

Living in a house with shared common spaces (kitchen, courtyard, majils etc.), whereby many living units combined to make one large establishment, promoted a harmonious relationship between the various families and generation members residing within. Moreover, this harmonious relationship was not only witnessed within a single family, but also between the numbers of families which lived in the wider village. The courtyard entrance, the numerous majlis, all acted as an inviting space to host guests and social events, accenting the strong and integral sense of community within the wider rural settlement. Finally, going hand in hand with the aforementioned sense of community spirit is an unfaltering and robust dedication to their Islamic religion; hence the orientation of the house towards the Mecca allowed for daily worship, and echoed the importance of Muslimism within their society.

In conclusion, although it may seem simple and ambiguous at first glance, the design of these establishments is actually meticulously calculated and designed to befit the social and cultural norms of the Al Shindagha villagers.


Government of Dubai. (2016). Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House. Retrieved from:

Safarafarin.(n.d.). خانه شيخ سعيد آل مکتوم دبی. Retrieved from:


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