The attractions of modern Dubai are often so glittering it is easy to overlook that this once small fishing village has a fascinating heritage. Yet visitors really appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the emirate’s culture and history, and the way of life of the local population.
Hasan al-dayifa - or hospitality - has long been a central part of Bedouin culture, a tradition stemming from the tough life of roaming the desert. Religious beliefs and honouring one’s guests go hand in hand and are just as important a custom today.
The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU)
A great place to start particularly for group experiences, the SMCCU is set in a beautifully restored wind tower house in the charming Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. Guests take a seat on Bedouin-style cushions and enjoy a delicious authentic Emirati meal while chatting with a local guide.
It’s an opportunity to taste local delicacies such as gahwa, Arabic coffee often served in a dallah, the delicious shorbat abas or spicy lentil soup, shuwaa, slow-cooked lamb with roasted nuts, raisins and rice, often followed by sweet, sticky dumplings drizzled with date sauce known as luqaimat.
With its motto ‘Open Doors, Open Minds’, the Centre encourages visitors to ask questions and have honest discussions about the local culture and customs. So it's the perfect opportunity to learn more about the food while trying it but also to ask questions about the strong tradition of hospitality, the Bedouin life, clothing such as the kandoura, jalabeya and abaya, and the Islamic religion. They can also arrange a guided tour of a mosque.
The Al Fahidi district is a delight to wander around and is increasingly home to small boutiques and galleries showcasing local crafts and handicrafts from perfume to pottery, weaving and calligraphy. Take an abra – or small boat – across the water to explore the gold, silver and spice souks.
Telling the story of the birth of the United Arab Emirates, formed in 1971, through a series of interactive pavilions, this is a great way for visitors to get a perspective on the astonishingly rapid development of Dubai and the UAE. Union House, where the leaders of the respective emirates came together to join as one nation, sits within the grounds of the museum, putting visitors literally on the steps of history.
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This article is brought to you by Dubai Business Events.