Bayt Burj al-Riyah
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The Bastakia quarter of Dubai lies on the southern bank of the Dubai creek, giving onto the water. Its population grew at the beginning of the nineteenth century during a massive migration of Sunni merchants from southern Iran, who brought the tradition and building techniques of wind towers with them. In total, these towers rise fifteen meters above ground level, reaching above the surrounding one-and two-storey houses. In the humid and hot weather of the Gulf, these towers catch high breezes and channel them to the living spaces below, providing ventilation and freshness.

Wind tower houses are built around a courtyard. Usually one story high, a two-story house indicates a wealthy owner. The first floor is used in winter, and the upper floor, which is more exposed to breezes, is used in the summer. The foundations of these houses are constructed of masonry blocks held together with sarooj, a local mortar resistant to extreme climatic conditions. The upper levels of these houses are constructed using columns of petrified coral blocks, with wooden beams forming a roof structure which is then covered with silt and straw. The infill walls are built of stone and covered with mud plaster, which helps to preserve the freshness of the interior. Wooden gargoyles puncture the exterior façades of these houses and towers, providing water drainage from the roof and acting as scaffolding for maintenance work. Some of these houses have elaborate mashrabiyyah screens made of wood, wrought iron, or cast plaster. They act as balustrades or screens, ensuring air circulation and privacy between different spaces.

The wind towers themselves are rectangular structures that sit above the major living rooms of the house. They are built within a frame that is closed at the lower level and decorated with arched openings where it opens to the air outside. These elaborately decorated arches allow breezes to enter the shaft of the tower and sink to the living spaces below. Within the house, rooms below the shaft are typically decorated with cushions and mattresses for sleeping. The apertures to the tower are screened with a metal mesh to prevent pigeons and dirt from blowing into the house, and in the winter, they are closed completely with wooden planks.

The wind tower houses of the Bastakia quarter are distinctive features of Dubai architecture. The only examples of wind tower architecture remaining along the Gulf coast, they are currently (2004) undergoing renovation.


Al-Roostami, Ahmad Hassan. Dubai and its Architectural Heritage. Dubai: Mu'assasat al-Safir lil-Nashr wa-al-Ilan, 1991.

Coles, Anne, Peter Jackson. A Wind Tower House in Dubai. London: AARP, 1975.
Bastakiyya Quarter, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
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Associated Names
1920/1338 AH
Variant Names
Wind Tower House
Burj al-Riyah
Building Usages