The discrete cilia approach is employed to describe the flow field above an active ciliated surface in a layer of finite depth. The infinite-size cilia surface model predicts a uniform flow above the cilia surface. Modifications as a result of a finitely extending cilia surface inside a finite-size dish predict a backward parabolic profile above an active cilia surface. Experiments are described which demonstrate a good fit between theoretical predictions and observations. The results provide a sound physical basis for the proper interpretation of fluid-flow observations close to an active ciliary field.