In 1862 in Basra Iraq, a company called Gray Mackenzine was formed between Archibald Gray Sandy Dawes, John Holliday and Sir George Mackenzie. The company has been known over the years under several names: Mackeller, Gray and Co., Gray Paul and Co.The Mesaptamia Pesia Corp and the Euphrates and Tigris Steam Navigation Co.
In 1891, Gray Mackenzie and Company was appointed as the licensed shipping agents in Dubai. This marked the beginning of a long relationship between Gray Mackenzie (now MMI) and the trucial States, which became the United Arab Emirates in 1971. The company contributed to the development of the UAE by providing services to trading, shipping, insurance and transportation and was later entrusted with the task of operating the Port Complex at Port Rashid and Mena Saqr at Ras Al Khaimah. Bayt Al Wakeel was originally built as a shipping office in 1354 (S) 1935 (a.d) by Iranian mason Saji Mohd Kukhardi from gatch, a form of mud that was brought from the top of Dubai Creek, near what is now the airport.
They burned the gatch to make a form of cement in order to construct the building. It was also made of coral, brought in from the creek at the front of the building. Ships carrying general cargo and passengers enroute from Bombay, India to Basra, Iraq and back again, and Dubai was a port of call. With as many as 1200 passengers and crew on board, water was precious as it could only be replenished in Bombay and Karachi at that time. Many local residents would storm the ship when it arrived to try to get some fresh drinking water. The bottom was used for the shipping office, while the manager lived upstairs with his family.
The building was in itself unique, as it had the largest living area in Dubai at the time. Most living areas were eleven feet wide, because the building was constructed using mangrove poles from East Africa. They grow straight and are resistant to the depredations of termites.
They are used in the Gulf to support the flat, mud roofs in Arabia. The poles were 13 feet long, and once you added a foot on either side for walls, you were left with 11 feet of living area.The builder of Bayt Al Wakeel used a different design of building by making a centre pillar, using chandals (‘poles”in Arabic), and making the living area 22 feet wide. Of course there was no running water of electricity in Dubai in 1935.When a ship was expected, the manager would start his 3-kilowatt generator, which illuminated a 200-watt bulb on top of a flagpole on the top of the building, acting as a Lighthouse to guide the ships.
Passengers who were sailing to Basra or Bombay would assemble on the ground floor of Bayt Al Wakeel to embark the ship that was due. There was one ship going north once a week to Basra and one ship going south to Bombay. Since this was the only means of travel at the time, Late Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum would be a passenger on occasion. He stopped traveling on the ships once he bought his private plane, in 1961 when his airfield opened. A British man named Mr. George Chapman came to Dubai in 1950 to work for Gray Mackenzie .
He and his family lived on the upper floor of Mackenzie house off and on from 1950 – 1965. Mr Chapman had many encounters with the rulers of Dubai. In April 1961, one of the mail steamers called the ‘Dara’ was sailing from Basra to Bombay in April 8, 1961.
When it left Dubai for Muscat, there was an explosion and subsequent fire on board that killed over 230 people. The wreck of the vessel now lies 3 kilometers off.
Come and enjoy the historic ambience of Bay Al Wakeel. You may choose to relax on the jetty overlooking the busy creek, watching Abras break the sea carrying passengers across Dubai or dine in the original house and experience the warmth of old Dubai and let the house speak for itself.
The cuisine made specially to signature the house; a cross between middle and far east. The house serves a fusion of seafood, Arabic dishes and you may enjoy all day snack.