43 National Day 3rd Annual Treasures of the UAE Art Competition Awards

In the celebration of this year’s UAE 43nd  National Day, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) were pleased to host an Award Ceremony on Tuesday 2nd December to honour the 24 winning student artists of the 2014 “Treasures of the UAE “ Art Competition. The Ceremony included prize giving in partnership with Wild Wadi, Pepsico and Nestle, a private Cultural Lunch and a visit to the Diwan Mosque in Al Fahidi Historic District.

24 winners were selected by prominent regional artists from the Emirates Fine Arts Society.  In total, 422 pieces of artwork were submitted by students from 62 schools across the UAE capturing the essence of the UAE’s famous historical sites and landmarks.

All winning artwork is displayed in a bespoke Exhibition at the SMCCU Heritage House in the Al Fahidi Historic District of Dubai open to members of the public until Sunday 4th January 2015.

All submitted artwork may be viewed in an exclusive online gallery published on the SMCCU website; http://www.cultures.ae/index.php/art-competition

Nasif Kayed Managing Director of the SMCCU commented: “UAE’s historic monuments and landscapes stand here to remind us of our roots, traditions and the UAE’s great history. This initiative strives to uncover a new interpretation of these historical landmarks from the next generation residing in the UAE, encouraging creativity combined with historic knowledge.”

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“Treasures of the UAE” Art Competition 2014 Judging Begins

The SMCCU has received more than 400 works of art from 62 schools for its’ Third Annual Treasures of the UAE Art Competition.  We received entries from all Emirates this year from students age 8 to 18.   The aim is to get the youth  interested in learning more about  the UAE’s historic sites and to celebrate the diverse artistic talents of students across the country.  The Emirates Fine Arts Society is busy reviewing all entries and winners are scheduled to be announce on November 15th.  The Winners will have their artwork featured in our 2015 Heritage Calendar as well as having their artwork displayed in our windtower house during the month of December.  All winners will also be honored on our National Day Celebrations December 2nd, with an awards ceremony and cultural event.  This year’s Sponsors include Wild Wadi Waterpark, Pepsico and Nestle.  The 2014 Participant’s Booklet is currently published here.

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Eid Al Adha

The word ‘eid’ in Arabic means festivities, a celebration or an occasion. Eid Al Adha is the celebration of the sacrifice, signifying the end of the Hajj or Pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims all over the world not just those in Mecca will slaughter of a lamb on such an occasion.Eid Mussalah

The Story of Ibrahim

The story goes that when the father of humanity, Ibrahim (PBUH) was getting old and yet to have a child, he prayed hard and long asking the Lord for his blessings. Sure enough, his prayers were answered when his wife Hager bore him a son. That son was named Ismail. A few years later, Ibrahim (PBUH) dreamed he slaughtered his son. It was a very disturbing dream, but knowing about prophets, their dream is an order and he knew he had to adhere. The Lord says: “I shall test you to see if your faith is true, in your health, wealth and family.” Ibrahim (PBUH) told his son: “I dreamed I slaughtered you.” The son, Ismail (PBUH), replied: “Is that an order from the Lord, dad?” Sheikhs At Eid PrayersThe son knew his dad was a prophet and his dream was no nightmare, so he listened to his father’s reply: “Yes dear.” Ismail said: “Then do as you are ordered.” Ibrahim (PBUH) took his son Ismail (PBUH) and prepared to adhere to the order. Just as he was about to execute his son, a sheep appeared, sent by the Lord to praise them both for their complete submission and adherence to his commands.Then Ibrahim (PBUH) was ordered to sacrifice the sheep instead. Of course, what a moment, what a feeling of relief! But here is the lesson: to accept whether the Lord exists or not is negotiable. It’s for you to search, ponder and reflect, and decide whether to accept. Once you have accepted, then you adhere.

Dubai Festival CityEid Festivities

During Eid Al Adha, we dress in new clothes and go to prayer, but afterwards it’s off to the slaughterhouse – no slaughtering is done at home. We commemorate the example of obedience from the human to his Lord and son to father, which is much needed in our lives nowadays. The meat of the lamb goes one third to the poor, one third to close friends and family and one third for us, the family, to eat. We hope that everyone in the world has food on the table that day. The rest of the day is spent visiting relatives and friends. Please visit your Muslim friends this Eid and say ‘Eid Mubarak’.


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The Importance of Dates in the UAE

The Date and the Date Palm have been an important part of survival in the UAE for close to 7000 years, the oldest seeds found on Delma Island dating back to 5110BC. So important, that the United Arab Emirates could become the first Globally Important Agriculture Heritage System (GIAHS) in the Near East countries in 2015, and in August UAE University completed its first phase of Date Identification and Classification in the UAE. The Date Palm

The UAE being recognized as a globally important region for date farming in not knew news to the Bedouin and local farmers. They have utilized and harvested dates as part of their food source for survival in the UAE, as well as the use of the Date Palm tree for shelters built from its stalks and leaves.   What makes the date fruit so important and perfect for survival in the desert environment is that they are easily digested, allowing the body to take full use of its nutrients. It reduces bad cholesterol, and contains, iron, potassium, Vitamins, B, A and, K, and 15 minerals. No wonder Bedouins were known to have survived on dates and camel milk alone. They can be dried and stored for future consumption and eaten year round.Yellow dates

The UAE currently grows about 160 varieties of dates and 55 species have been initially identified in the UAE University study.  There are a staggering 44 million date palm trees in the UAE that produce 76,000 tons of dates per year.  Dates are mentioned 26 times in the Quran, and the Prophet Mohammed PBUH was known to have eaten and sustained himself on dates alone. Therefore, the local population is not only connected to the Date Palm as a part of their livelihood, but it also holds special religious significance. Muslims throughout the world during Ramadan break their fast with dates.

This year, the Emirates International Date Festival will be held this year in Abu Dhabi from 24th to the 29th of November 2014. It’s a great way to learn more about this invaluable fruit.

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The Wind tower, an Early Feature of Residential Life in Dubai

Ancient Egyptian WindTower Home

Ancient Egyptian WindTower Home, 3000BC

Areeh Home with Windtower, Dubai Museum

Areeh Home with Windtower, Dubai Museum

A wind tower or Barjeel is the traditional architecture found throughout the Arabian Gulf, in particular Dubai & Bahrain, and also throughout Persia, parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Its origins go as far back as Ancient Egypt, with examples of wind tower construction dating back to 3100BC.  In arid climates the wind tower acts as a ventilation system allowing hot air to rise out the top of it, and cooler directed winds to flow down into the home.  Wind tower houses along the Dubai Creek were constructed of palm fronds known as Bait Areesh and was the standard material used for constructing homes in the region  pre-1900’s. The Coral or Sea Stone home locally known as Bait Morjan   was constructed using sea stone and coral from the Dubai Creek which was stacked in a bricking fashion, set with a mixture of mud, sand, gypsum and sometimes limestone.  Later the building was covered with a layer of sand, mud and rock for added insulation and protection. The oldest of these types of homes date back to the late 1800’s.  Historians attribute the  abrupt change in building materials to a fire that swept through the Deira side of Creek in 1894, virtually destroying most of the market and surrounding Areesh homes. Residents looked to a more fire resistant material in the construction of their homes and sea stone and coral were readily available.


Dar Al Nadwa Cira 1925

Dar Al Nadwa, Al Fahidi Historic District constructed in 1925

At the turn the 20th century these buildings were considered to be the best type of home, and in the early 1900’s only a few landmarks, such as the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House in Al Shindagah were built of sea stone and coral using wind tower technology.  In the past these types of buildings signified wealth and status. The later more elaborate homes were built with a central courtyard or majlis commonly seen in Islamic architecture, and the wind towers would be situated on one or more exterior rooms.  This type of construction became more common as merchants and traders, and local families settled along the Dubai Creek and their living conditions gradually improved. The homes along the Dubai’s Creek eastern shore in Bur Dubai are separated into two sections, the Al Fahidi Historic District (formerly known as Al Bastakiya) and Al Shindagah where the Al Maktoum’s ruling family resided. The neighborhoods are divided by   the Souq Al Kabir or Meena Bazzar,

In the 1980’s a restoration project began to preserve these original homes along the Dubai Creek.  The area known as Al Fahidi Historic District, (Al Bastakiya) is the center of the restoration effort and the neighborhood, open to the public contains more than 55 homes. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding has called this neighborhood home since 2004, and occupies one of the original wind tower houses.  Visitors can take a tour of the neighborhood with the centre year round. The second phase of restoration is continuing in Al Shindagah area and currently you will find a labyrinth of historic homes and Mosques, as well as the Diving Village.  The Sheikh Saeed House now a museum, is one the original residences of the ruling family and formerly the seat of government in Dubai.

These historic areas are open year round, but the best times to visit are in the cooler months so that you can spend more time in the beautiful neighborhoods meandering through the homes, art galleries, restaurants, boutique hotels, museums and cultural centre.

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Ramadan Explained by SMCCU

The Holy Month of Ramadan, or the Month of Fasting is one of the five Acts of Worship in Islam.  More than that, it is a time for spiritual growth through self-control, discipline, and patience;  an exercise in controlling one’s desires and increasing one’s good works in the hope of forming a new balance in our lives that lasts far past Ramadan.  To the average observer Ramadan seems to be more about “not eating and drinking” than anything else. For Muslims, this act of abstaining from food and drink during daylight hours is the core of the worship, but certainly not the only spiritual act.  Self- reflection, controlling one’s bad habits, abstaining from lawful things, such as food and water help one to appreciate and value such great gifts without which we cannot survive. It teaches one to not be wasteful, “eat to live, not live to eat”.  The Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him said about eating and drinking “one third of your stomach is for food, one third for drink, and leave one third empty so it can do its work,”. During daylight hours one also abstains from lawful relations with one’s spouse, to teach one another to appreciation and value each other and to not take for granted the gifts that the Creator has given us in our lives, companions to find comfort in. On the other hand, abstaining from the unlawful in our actions and deeds, things such as arrogance, vanity, gossip and back stabbing, cursing, disrespecting one’s parents or those in authority are integral to the fasting process. The body, the eyes, the tongue and the ears, all acutely aware of the things we should avoid.    In effect it is an exercise to enhance one’s character from the inside out. Charitable works are emphasized as well as looking after the poor, and increasing our prayers, particularly at night.

In a city with more than 230 nationalities, cultures and religions, Ramadan may feel like a time when the city sleeps during the day and becomes alive at night.  Expats and visitors may be curious and cautious at the same time; why are most restaurants closed?  Are the beaches open? Malls? Are there special hours for supermarkets? Can I eat in public? Should I wear special clothes?

While most restaurants are closed during the day, Malls, supermarkets, and most establishments maintain daytime open hours with extended evening hours.  Employers follow the guidelines set up by the Federal Government and private sector companies are required to shorten working hours during Ramadan, and this applies to all employees, not just Muslims.

Eating brazenly in public could result in a ticket or a trip down to the police station so common sense applies. If you are in your car and need a drink, be discreet. It is simply a courtesy extended to fasting Muslims, and most visitors quickly catch on to the rules without a problem.  Are some Muslims exempt from fasting? Not all Muslims fast during Ramadan, there are several exceptions; in particular young children, the elderly and feeble, pregnant and nursing mothers, the traveler and people with chronic illnesses that prevent them from fasting. Adults and care givers cook and attend to the needs of those not fasting and according to Islam this a considered a charitable act, so relax and again use common sense read, visit SMCCU, take advantage of the quiet roads and retail establishments during the day. Capitalize on the kindness of people; join Muslims for an Iftar, an authentic one, not in a restaurant or at a resort. Visit a work colleague, friend, a Muslim you know at a home Iftar or join a tent or a masjid Iftar feeding the poor by handing out juice boxes, or a fruit like an orange or a banana. It’s about everyone coming together fasting or not, in an effort to improve the relations we have with everyone in our community.

As to the topic of appropriate dress, keep in mind that modesty in dress is emphasized in Ramadan and all should maintain the same standards that are requested of them in malls and public places every day.  Shoulders should be covered for both men and women, and women and men should mind there lengths, keeping in mind the heightened spirituality during the Holy Month of Ramadan, a month in which all of us should reach out to each other and exercise the absolute ultimate show of humanity and tolerance towards one another. For a list of Ramadan Do’s & Dont’s visit our Ramadan Etiquette page on our website.


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