Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Center for Cultural Understanding

SMCCUDubai has emerged, over the past number of years, as a center of culture and commerce for the entire Middle East. This city is the most populous in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and it also a major transportation center for both passengers and cargo. The culture is very rich, and for tourists visiting the UAE, learning more about this global city and its inhabitants should be on the agenda of all. The Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) was established for just that purpose. The Prime Minister of UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vision is to reach out to expatriates to educate them on the evolving nature of Dubai. The goal was to educate in traditions and customs of the UAE. This led to the creation of this cultural center, a rich and diverse institution designed to help all that are interested develop a better understanding of the people, customs and traditions that make this coastal city a destination for millions. In addition, the center hosts events for corporate institutions as well as school groups and private groups.

Travelers who are planning to visit Dubai can easily check the calendar-of-events at the SMCCU website http://www.cultures.ae so as to take full advantage of the many events taking place. Most travelers will want to take a tour of the facility, and quickly perusing the calendar will show that tours take place just about every day. There is, in fact, something going on every day of the week. The center is closed on Friday, but every other day of the week visitors can enjoy award-winning programs offered daily. This well-designed, center-for-cultural-immersion could easily become a model for other cities interested in establishing similar facilities. Tourists feel comforted by having a place to go and learn more about the local culture before heading out and exploring. It helps them to feel at ease while exploring, fostering a far more cosmopolitan visitor.

When traveling the world, each country shares its gastronomic delights, and Dubai is no different with its buffet of Emirati dishes. At the SMCCU, visitors will be treated to an array of local cuisine all prepared in the home of the founder, Abdullah bin Eisa Al Serkal. Meals prepared at home, as we all know, are always more indicative of the true local culture than are those prepared commercially. For this reason, those who visit the SMCCU will truly have an authentic experience. Meals of fish, meat and rice are served as well as dishes that are a bit sweeter being served at breakfast. In a city with Starbucks and Cinnabon, having a cup of their traditional local coffee is a real treat. At the SMCCU, visitors will enjoy local coffee made from roasted Arabic beans and boiled to perfection. Offering coffee is symbolic of hospitality, and visitors will not soon forget this rich experience.

Congruent with the entire focus of the SMCCU, those planning to visit should familiarize themselves with the host of cultural information and events as listed on their website. Here several local traditions and customs are explained. There are other links, like one about local fishing methods, or Nabati poetry, for further information about what to expect when visiting. Located in the historic district of Dubai, the SMCCU is a place where newcomers can go repeatedly to develop a better understanding of the culture, and those that are moving to Dubai can utilize the center as a means of getting adjusted to a new environment. There is also an eclectic mix of local art on display in the mosque. Congruent with Islamic tradition, there is education for visitors on how to dress while visiting the mosque. In the end, a visit to the SMCCU will make all those interested more comfortable and confident as they navigate this vibrant city.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Muslims around the world spend daylight hours of this entire month completely fasting. These daylight hours are a time to purify the soul, to practice self-sacrifice, and to focus all attention on God. The SMCCU, should you find yourself visiting during Ramadan, offers “break-fast,” evening meals where attendees can learn more about this Islamic tradition. These events are very popular, and those looking to attend should book well in advance. From the location in the historical district, many visitors take a walk through this part of Dubai, taking in sites and visiting the Diwan Masjid. The center also offers classes in “Ramadan 101” for those looking for greater understanding.

George W. Bush while visiting SMCCU

There is no greater way to show your interest and concern for local people than learning a few words of their native language so as to be able to communicate more effectively. In most major cities like Dubai, the most prevalent languages in the world are widely-spoken, but it is always nice to meet a tourist who has taken it upon themselves to learn a few local words. The SMCCU has been teaching spoken Arabic for over 8 years. The classes are small and are offered both weekdays and on weekends, making it easy to fit even a few classes into most any schedule. Dubai is a city no different from many others where the populace is an international fabric representative of people from nations all over the world. In this way, tourists, visitors and those who have just moved to the UAE will be in the company of other newcomers looking to learn the local language.

Dubai is a gorgeous city, and many would regard it as the jewel in the crown of the Middle East. It is wonderful for all heading here to know there is a place like the SMCCU where they can go and learn all they need to about getting along, getting around, and better enjoying their time in this magnificent country. The Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding was developed to help others better acclimate, either temporarily or for those that have relocated to the area. Every city in the world can learn something from the SMCCU, how it was developed, what their mission is, and how they can embrace newcomers through equally beneficial efforts.