SMCCU – a must do cultural experience in Dubai

20150124_121301

The Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood

A great way to start a visit to Dubai is a visit to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) located in the historic Al Fahidi District in Bur Dubai.  An easy walk from the Al Fahidi Metro Station and down Al Mankhool Road – the variety of shops and businesses giving a glimpse into everyday life in this old part of town. The wind towers, stone coloured buildings and minarets of the mosque announce your arrival.  

The SMCCU is the brain child of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. His vision is to educate visitors in the traditions and customs of the UAE – with ‘no-holds-barred’ question sessions (in keeping with its “Open doors. Open minds.” motto), traditional meals and heritage tours.

SMCCU entrance

The entrance…

We are invited into the central courtyard (or majilis as its known in the region), freshen up and then take a seat on the cushions surrounding a large Persian carpet set ready for our brunch.  But first we are welcomed with a cup of aromatic Arabic coffee typical of Emirati hospitality.

The courtyard is beautiful, with ornate columns, decorative metalwork and traditional items – I smile at the social media icons beneath traditional cookware on a shelf.

20150124_120259

Check out the social media icons : )

Soon we are lead out a wooden side door for a fascinating tour through the narrow streets of the old Bastakiya neighbourhood which dates back to around 1890. The historic buildings have been restored and offer visitors a glimpse into a past where coral clad mansions with their carved wooden doors, wind towers (barajeels) and open courtyards were home to wealthy pearl and textile traders – many are now home to quirky coffee shops, art galleries and museums.  Removing our shoes and making sure our shoulders were covered we are invited into the mosque and have the opportunity of learning more about the Islamic faith.

20150127_121158

A beautiful building with an ornate entrance…

20150127_141618

A wind tower with minaret in the background

20150124_100234

Decorative details

20150124_100155

Check out the window detail

20150124_095423

UAE flags adorn the wall

After our fascinating tour we sit down to enjoy a traditional Emirati brunch and the much anticipated Q&A session facilitated by the gracious Manal. 

The open discussion included the anticipated questions about religion and traditional attire to more sensitive questions around women’s rights and men having more than one wife – all answered with humour and openness.

20150124_113904

Manal explaining and demonstrating how to wear an abaya

 With typical Emirati hospitality, our brunch started with Arabic coffee spiced with cardamom and saffron,  followed by a selection of authentic Emirati dishes including Balaleet (sweetened vermicelli), Machboos (chicken and rice, like a biryani), Laham Nashif (chicken in a vegetable sauce), Khamir (delicious  flat bread) and my favourite Ligamat (yummy little ‘donuts’)  smothered in ‘dibbs’ (date syrup). All this washed down with a refreshing cup of tea.

20150124_105622

Our wonderful traditional Emirati meal

20150124_105849

On my plate… yum!

20150124_112807

The delicious Ligamat and ‘dibbs’

Finishing off with a cup of tea

These narrow twisting streets certainly deserved a second more leisurely visit – be sure to pop into the Coffee Museum to learn about the history of ‘the bean’, see the ancient ‘tools of the trade’ and enjoy a traditional Arabic, Turkish or Ethiopian coffee; or enjoy a relaxing lunch at the XVA Boutique Hotel after browsing their thought provoking contemporary art.

20150127_122501

Pop into the XVA Cafe for lunch

Other places of interest include the inspirational Mawaheb Art Studio for adults with special needs, the Majlis Gallery, the Philately House, Heritage House, Coins Museum as well as the Dubai Museum –  housed in the Al Fahidi Fort, Dubai’s oldest building.

20150127_141115

Inside the Mawaheb Art Studio

20150127_134355

Inside the fascinating Heritage House

20150127_134302

An ancient craft being demonstrated inside Heritage House

www.cultures.ae

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.