Each year the SMCCU is keen to be a part of the cultural induction and training that takes place at local international schools throughout the UAE. This year the SMCCU saw more that 35 schools’ staff and teachers in the month of August, and will continue to participate in new and returning staff training year round. Visiting the centre in one the oldest historic neighborhoods in Dubai is an excellent and interesting way to experience Emirati hospitality and culture as well as enjoying an open Q & A session which is meant to help acclimate staff to living, working and teaching in Dubai. Top schools such as King’s Dubai, Gems World Academy, Bradenton Prep, American Academy Al Mizhar, Dubai American Academy, Jumeirah College, Universal American School, The School of Research Science, Raffles International, Jumeirah Baccalaureate, Greenfield Community School, Horizon International School, The Sheffield School, Deira International School, American School of Dubai, Star International Schools, Nord Anglica, and Victoria International School attend our programs year on year. Several local universities have chosen to participate in our student orientation programs, and local international schools participate in bespoke cultural programs throughout the year. Teachers utilize our programs to support the KHDA and international social studies and natural sciences curriculums. With a variety of subjects available related to Dubai’s rich history and vibrate present, these programs offer an alternative hands on learning environment for students to experience local culture. To find out more about what we have on offer, visit http://www.cultures.ae or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding has been hosting guests during the month of Ramadan since 1998. The program began with the founder Abdullah Bin Eisa Al Serkal and other volunteers who invited expats into their homes to experience Ramadan with the family.
In 1999, the SMCCU hosted its first Ramadan Tent at the Landmark Jumeirah Mosque During the month of Ramadan.
By 2004, the Iftar Events moved to our current home, an old wind tower house in the Al Fahidi Historic District of Dubai.
Throughout the years, visitor and residents, dignitaries, business groups and social clubs have joined the 1000’s of individuals who have participated in these cultural and spiritual events.
The evening begins with the breaking of the fast, consisting of dates, water and Arabic coffee, followed by evening prayers performed in view of the guests. After prayers are concluded, guests are invited to enjoy the local Emirati dishes prepared such as Machboos, Saloona, Thareed, Margoogah, and salad. After the meal, guests take a short walk through the district to the Diwan Mosque. Inside, the group learns about the house of worship, prayer, and why Ramadan is such a special month for worships. Event goers then return to the wind tower house where dessert is served, and an open Q & A discussion is run by young volunteers. It’s an opportunity for the guests to get to know local Emiratis, and hear their points of view on the city, the religion, growing up during the development of Dubai, and current affairs. The volunteers will admit that they’re not experts on the subjects but are willing to share their views to give visitors a better insight into local culture traditions and religion.
This year the SMCCU is continuing its tradition of hosting guests in the Al Fahidi Historic District of Dubai for Iftar. Special guests in 2015 included the Consul General of Bulgaria, Bogdan Kolarov, guests of the British Embassy, Chancellor of Environmental Sciences at American University of Sharjah Bjorn Kjerfve, Hong Kong celebrity Dodo Cheng, Mr David Chaplin, First Secretary at the Embassy of Australia, Ms Emma Buckingham, Vice-Consul of Australia, Ms Kim Debenham, Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of Australia.
The SMCCU’s mission is to promote cultural understanding and provide a venue where visitors and residents can come together in an informal open atmosphere and get to know a little more about the Emirates through the eyes of an Emirati.
To find out more, visit our website at http://www.cultures.ae.
The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) has been at the forefront in promoting an authentic understanding of the UAE and the region’s traditions and practices. The wealth of information that can be accessed here is to ensure that both Emiratis and expatriates are aware of and understand these traditions and practices, and the role they play in distinguishing the culture of the region.
A number of expatriates often express discomfort at having to conform to the guidelines that are in place for Ramadan. The UAE is a very tolerant country. Even if you experience challenges in understanding the culture, it is courteous and wise to observe and follow the laws that are in place. Keep in mind that you are in a Muslim country.
As the Holy month of Ramadan approaches, we have received numerous requests to remind our audience of what the Holy month of Ramadan means to Muslims, the ‘dos and don’ts’ and the activities that they can expect to see throughout this time.
Below are some guidelines that you can use to learn more about Ramadan.
The Holy Month of Ramadan
The Holy month of Ramadan begins on June 19 this year. While expatriates who have been living in the UAE or the region for a few
Ramadan, or the Month of Fasting is the fourth of the five pillars of Islam. It is regarded as the holiest month in the Islam calendar because Muslims believe that the Qur’an (Koran) was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) during the month of Ramadan on the night of Laylat al Qadr (Laylat ul Qadr), one of the last ten nights of Ramadan. Ramadan ends on with the festival of Eid-ul Fitr – Day of celebration and gratitude.
A superficial observation that some persons tend to commonly share with those who do not know much about the holy month is that it is mainly a time of ‘not eating and drinking (fasting)’. However, there are many additional significant activities that encourage spiritual growth and allow for deeper reasons for what is done, when it is done and how it is done
The act of fasting during the daylight hours is an essential spiritual act. The objective is to obtain God Consciousness. For Muslims,
Even though all Muslims are encouraged to fast daily, there are a few exceptions that you should keep in mind. Persons who are exempted from fasting include those who are travelling long distances, the elderly, the insane, women who are menstruating, pregnant women, nursing women, the sick, and children under the age of 12.
Throughout the year, there may be instances in which our focus on spiritual growth may be minimised as a result of distractions. The Holy Month of Ramadan creates mindfulness of our shortcomings, as through reflection, we are able to strengthen the areas in which our faith may have weakened.
Between sunrise and sundown, sexual relations are forbidden. This is done in order to remind, and in some instances teach couples to appreciate and value each other more.
The holy book is also read daily and there is an increase in our prayers, particularly at night. We are more aware of how we behave and the manner in which we interact with each other. This means that undesirable behaviours such as being arrogant, vain, disrespectful or unkind are strictly forbidden. Gossiping and back stabbing are also forbidden during the process of fasting.
Zakat & Charity
Ramadan is a time in which a lot of emphasis is placed on charitable works. Special focus is given to helping those who are in need and looking after the poor.
Zakat Al Fitr is given at this time before the Eid prayer and equals 20AED per fasting person, as a token of thankfulness to God for having enabled him to observe fasts. Its purpose is to purify those who fast from any indecent act or speech and to help the poor and needy. It should not to be confused with Zakat, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, an obligation for every Muslim that fits the criteria. It is a mandatory way of giving money with the purpose of redistributing wealth. Each Muslim is expected to give 2.5 per cent of the value of his capital assets. This is then distributed by various Islamic organizations to those who are less fortunate.
Fellowship, Family & Iftar
During Ramadan, there is much social interaction between friends and family. Muslims are encouraged to visit friends and in particular, those with whom contact has faded.
Those of you, who have experienced Ramadan in the UAE, can confirm that during the evening hours, just before Iftar, there is an overwhelming amount of traffic on the road. This is usually a result of persons trying to get to specific locations for Iftar. Iftar is the evening meal after sunset to break the daily fast during Ramadan.
Key things to remember
At SMCCU our goal is to empower everyone with the information that is needed in order to facilitate a better understanding of the UAE and the region. We are happy to answer any questions that you may have; so don’t be afraid to ask. Our doors are open to you and in the process of sharing; we hope to open your minds to who we are as a people, a country and a region.
In conclusion, the Holy month of Ramadan is a great time for us to grow spiritually, to celebrate the joys of sharing and to show appreciation for all the gifts that we are fortunate to have. Through an overall feeling of thoughtfulness and reflection, we are able to reconnect with Allah who reminds us of the importance of worship and fellowship.
To learn more about our Iftar packages, click here.
What bedouins and desert dwellers have known for centuries? Hot drinks cool you down, and black fabric protects us from the sun. Still skeptical? At the SMCCU, we strive to bust the common myths about the region. With the help of pure science, what we have known from our own experience and traditions is unequivocally proven. Take, for instance, the traditional drink of Emiratis and the GCC, Gahawa Arabia. The Guardian writes, “Imbibing hot liquid can be cooling and warming. If you’re hot, it may warm you up a little, but when it reaches thermosensors in the oesophagus and stomach, these react as though the entire body is as hot as the drink, and turn up the sweat flow so much that, provided your clothing allows it to evaporate, you’ll end up cooler than when you started. Or, at least, this was deemed the most likely explanation for this effect in a study by Anthony Bain at the University of Ottawa’s Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory.”
What about black robes in the desert? This has been far more intriguing to the scientist who study human nature. There have been several published articles about why black is just as good if not better than white for the desert dweller. Add the UV blocking effect that black has and white does not, and you can draw your own conclusions as we have. (refer to the linked articles below). Still not convinced? Then why not visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding and listen to our well-informed staff about the Emirati lifestyle and traditional customs that have survived our growth into a modern metropolis. From daily tours and cultural meals, to the Iftar Dinner Events that will being in June 20th during Ramadan, guest are sure to leave with at least a better understanding of local culture through our “Open doors. Open minds.” programs.
Yesterday Astronomy enthusiasts attended a free lecture at the Jumeirah Majlis sponsored by SMCCU. Dubai Astronomy Group’s founder Hassan Al Hariri, delivered an interesting lecture about how knowledge of the stars and planets and their position in the sky helped the Arabs navigate in the open deserts and by sea. Mr. Al Hariri also brought with him an astrolabe, which was used for direction and calculating distances. Not only was the knowledge of the stars an important tool for navigation, it also was used to calculate and create the first calendars. The SMCCU is keen to provide opportunities for people to come together and learn more about the heritage and history in the region.
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