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From Jumeirah Zoo to Clock Tower: 10 Dubai icons that are set to get historic status

Several buildings that tell the story of Dubai’s past are going to be preserved as part of a project to protect the emirate’s cultural and architectural heritage. The 35 buildings that will be safeguarded include the Jumeirah Zoo, Al Nasr Leisureland, Clock Tower, the Flame monument and the water tank at Al Khazzan Park.

The buildings which date back from the 1960s to the 1990s reflect Dubai’s more recent architectural history and narrate the story of the historical, cultural, social, and economic transformations that Dubai has experienced.

This is the second phase of a project that aims to safeguard areas, sites and buildings, which hold significant historical relevance and tell the emirate’s journey through the years. This phase highlights the vision of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, who had shaped the city’s rapid development and modernisation during that period.

In the first phase of the project, the Dubai Municipality focused on preserving buildings from the city’s earlier historical periods.

Here are 10 of the most prominent sites that are covered in this project:

1. Jumeirah Zoo

One of the earliest zoos in the country, the Jumeirah Zoo was situated on the Jumeirah Beach Road and opened in 1967. With a handful of animals as exhibits, the zoo was small in size but a big part of the lives of many long-term UAE residents. It shut its doors in 2017 when all its inhabitants were moved to the Dubai Safari. It remains to be seen how the building will be repurposed.

2. Al Nasr Leisureland

Long before the opening of the huge ice rink at Dubai Mall, UAE residents used to flock to skate at the rink in Al Nasr Leisureland. One of the oldest entertainment centres in the country, it is where many youngsters headed to go bowling, play arcade games and swim in the 1990s. The venue also played host to many stage shows and concerts with thick carpet laid out over the ice rink. Although bigger and better entertainment centres have now popped up, Al Nasr Leisureland remains a popular hangout spot among families and youngsters.

3. Water tank at Al Khazan Park

The unique blue-and-white water tank in Al Khazan area has been a permanent fixture in the lives of many Dubai residents. Now located right across City Walk, the 40m tank and the park surrounding it was originally built in 1980. In 2012, the park was rebuilt to become the the first “zero-energy” park in the emirate.

4. Dubai Municipality Main Building

Located along the Dubai Creek close to the Union Square Metro station, the building was inaugurated by the late Queen Elizabeth II during her first visit to the UAE in 1979. The building, which has a plaque with the date February 25, 1979, on it continues to house several departments of the municipality.

5. Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Palace – Hatta

At a time when there were paved roads to Hatta, the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum built a guest house in the city. This was a place for him to relax as well as hold business meetings. A road to Hatta began being constructed in 1979 and took several years to complete.

6. Clock Tower

A long-standing landmark of Dubai, the Clock Tower was built in the 1960s. Located in Deira, it became an iconic structure that continued to fascinate residents and tourists alike. It has been rebuilt several times over the years, the last one being in 2023 when the tower received a Dh10-million facelift.

7. Jumeirah Mosque

Opened in 1979, the popular tourist attraction was a gift from the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the former Ruler of Dubai. With a style of architecture that originated from Syria and Egypt, the mosque cuts a striking figure when travelling along the Jumeirah Beach Road. With regular guided tours offered to visitors, the mosque has played a central role in fostering cultural understanding.

8. The Flame Monument

Located in the middle of the flame roundabout in Deira, the eternally burning flame was a source of wonder for most UAE residents. Lit by Sheikh Rashid in 1969 to mark the start of oil production in the emirate, it was a monument that signified prosperity. Later, when the roundabout was demolished, the monument was preserved and the flame continued to burn brightly.

9. Al Maktoum Hospital

The first hospital to be built in the UAE in 1951, Al Maktoum Hospital was a beacon of hope for both residents and expats. Although the hospital was shut down in 2009, it has played a significant role in the healthcare industry of the emirate. Now, it will be immortalised in this project.

10. Safa Park Building

For years, Dubai residents headed to one park to host their gatherings — Safa Park. Created in 1975 in the then outskirts of the emirate, Safa Park quickly became popular among residents. The park later underwent renovations, with amenities, play areas and washrooms added. In 2014, part of the park was demolished for the Canal project. To pay homage to its place in the history of Dubai, the Safa Park building will also be preserved.

Other buildings that will be maintained and protected are:

Rashid Tower
Dubai Petroleum Building
Terminal 1 at Dubai International Airport
Dubai Television Building
Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Palace – Za’abeel
Hospitality Palace
Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed School – Hatta\
Za’abeel Secondary School
Al Ras Library
Dubai Land Department Building
Fish Roundabout
Dubai Courts Building
Diwan Building
Naif Police Station
Emirates Post Building – Al Karama
Emirates Golf Club
Dubai Creek Golf Club
Rashidiya Grand Mosque
Al Fahidi Mosque
Health Authority Mosque
Omar Bin Haider Mosque,
Dubai Hospital,
Baraha Hospital
Rashid Hospital
Latifa Hospital (Al Wasl)


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