Windcatchers or windtowers, known to Egyptians since Pharaonic times, were primarily developed in Persia (modern times Iran) and adopted by other peoples living in the Middle East and the Arabian Gulf, especially in Dubai and Bahrain.

Scorching sun and extremely high temperatures are the prevailing climatic conditions for most of the time in large parts of Middle East. Using basic principles of aero and thermodynamics, architects of that era solved the problem of ventilating and cooling the interior of their buildings. There are basically three types of windcatchers, one that directly “catches” the wind and drives it downwards through the house, one that combines the air flow with a water reservoir in the basement of the house and the third that uses the principle of the solar chimney. Sometimes the windcatchers were wrapped in wet clothes for extra cooling.

In the late 1990s Dubai Municipality, through its Historic Building Section, started renovating and rebuilding old historic buildings with windcatchers in Al Bastakiya area and elsewhere. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) is housed in one of those original windcatcher buildings.