SMCCU’s Guide to Ramadan 2015

The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) has been at the forefront in promoting an authentic Jumeirah Mosque Eidunderstanding 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
years have some insight into the significance of the month, there are some who are new to the region, and may not understand, or have their own questions about Ramadan, despite what they have been told.

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, unnamed
abstaining from food and drink creates a deeper gratitude for these vital gifts without which we cannot survive but often take for granted. It is also a good reminder to all to not be wasteful. The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), in admonishing us about fasting said, “… one third of your stomach is for food, one third for drink, and leave one third empty so it can do its work.” Fasting encourages us to exercise greater self-control, patience, perseverance and discipline.

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 Iftar foodparticular, 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

  • Respect the dress code – dress modestly. Both men and women should cover their shoulders and ensure that the length of their clothing is at about the knee line.
  • Be courteous – Do not eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public or in the presence of those who are fasting. Be discreet with your eating and drinking. Many companies provide private rooms for those who are not fasting – use those areas to eat. Be especially discreet if you are in your car or in public areas.
  • Be Responsible – Do not play loud music, curse or behave in a manner that is considered disrespectful to others. Ramadan is a time of heightened spirituality. Be mindful of the needs of others.
  • Learn to greet others – Learn the appropriate way to greet others in Arabic during Ramadan and practice saying it to those you meet. ‘Ramadan Kareem’ or ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ is a popular greeting said at the start of Ramadan. ‘Kareem’ means ‘generous’ and ‘Mubarak’ means ‘blessings.’ Other greetings include ‘Mubarak Alaikum Alshaher’ to which the response may be ‘Allah Yebarek Feek’.
  • Be Aware – The timing of business hours and bus routes change during Ramadan. Many shops and government agencies will post Ramadan timing, so be sure to check before you venture out. Peak hours have slight variations at this time too. Avoid going out on the road during the hours leading up to Iftar. Also of note, most companies are legally required to reduce working hours for all employees (Muslim and Non-Muslim).
  • Participate – Many hotels and restaurants have special Iftar deals but join Muslims for an authentic Iftar. Accept invitations from a Muslim work colleague or friend at his home for Iftar. You can also join a tent or a masjid Iftar feeding the poor, by handing out food and food items. Try an Iftar at SMCCU. We have special (bespoke) Iftar packages where you can enjoy authentic Emirati cuisine while learning more about Ramadan.


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.

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Two Common Myths: Hot Drinks & Black Clothing Make You Hotter

What bedouins and desert dwellers have known for centuries? Hot drinks cool you down, and black fabric protects us from the sun.Emirati Women  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 bedouin ManErgonomics 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.




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Astronomy Enthusiasts Enjoy a Free Lecture with Dubai Astronomy Group & SMCCU

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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Peace Concert in Zabeel Park Organized to Promote Unity

IMG_7305The rain didn’t stop the Salam Aleikum Peace Concert from attracting expats, visitors and locals alike from gathering together last night at Zabeel Park to enjoy music performed by artists from Africa and the Middle East.  From Zain Bikha’s contemporary Nasheed  to the hip hop rhythms of Arabian Knightz, the concert’s mission was to organize an event where people could come together and enjoy alternative beats and celebrate diversity and Dubai’s multi-cultural city.  Badiaa Bouhrizi, an indie folk composer and singer from Tunisia, with her song “Salam” got the crowd in the spirit of the event.  Delhi Sultanate & Begum X’s, wowed the people with their alternative beats, while Al Morabba3 a  poplar band from Jorden, Amani Yahya from Yemenand Malya Saadi from Algeria, wrapped up the show.  Graffiti artists painted a large Salam sign at the park and event goers were invited to write their messages of peace on a board near the stage.

The SMCCU  was keen to support such an event  and its organizer Hamida Aman, an Afghan-born and UAE-based media entrepreneur to help promote the ideas of peaceful coexistence and tolerance  among the people from all walks of life.


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Free Concert in Zabeel Park Amphitheater March 27th

Press Release
On March 27, 2015 there will be a free concert held in Zabeel Park Amphitheater where thousands of young women and men are expected to gather in Dubai to send a message of tolerance to the world.

Organized under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding, “Salam Aleikum” is a non-profit initiative aiming at mobilizing the youth for tolerance while celebrating togetherness and harmony.

Conceived as a musical dialogue between artists from different cultures and influences, “Salam Aleikum” will gather musicians and performers of the region.

The Venue: Zabeel Park Amphitheater, access Gate 1 or 2, door open at 6pm, show starts at 7 pm.?????????????

Hamida Aman – an Afghan-born and UAE-based media entrepreneur – initiated this project.
Having lived in exile most of her life and currently sharing her home between Kabul, Dubai and Paris, Hamida developed over the course of her life a strong sense of togetherness that she felt important to share in these times of great turmoil and confusion.
About the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
The SMCCU is a non-profit organisation whose mission is to increase awareness and understanding between a multitude of cultures and nationalities represented in the UAE. Operating under the philosophy “Open Doors, Open Minds,” the SMCCU strives to remove barriers between people of different nationalities and raise awareness of the local culture, customs and religion of the UAE.
The artist’s are
• Zain Bhikha – a well-known songwriter & performer from South Africa
• Arabian Knightz, Egypt’s most prominent hip-hop band
• Badiaa Bouhrizi, an indie folk composer and singer from Tunisia
• Amani Yahya, a female Yemeni rapper
• Al Morabba3, an indie rock band from Jordan.
• Malya Saadi, “the Queen of Chaabi” from Algeria
• Delhi Sultanate & Begum X, an Indian dub / reggae band,
that participated in Kabul Peace concert, that Hamida organized in October 2013.

More than just a concert, this event will aim at creating a festival spirit, where people, cultures and arts can meet.

In addition, A VJ will animate the show with a stunning visual performance, mixing Arab street art, calligraphy and geometry, while graffiti and stencil artists will be invited to paint & spray tolerance messages and illustrations on the stage’s background.

Food trucks and stalls will serve Middle-Eastern food / fusion cuisine and beverages around the premises, creating a friendly and festive atmosphere around the event.
MD of SMCCU Nasif Kayed, says “There are many doors open for us to connect and get to know one another. Music is one bridge we can cross to come closer to each other and better connect. Let us enjoy our differences and share our cultures with each other through this initiative. Join us in listening to good music, good lyrics, a good gathering promoting tolerance and peace.”

For more information, please contact:
+971 56 640 96 56
+971 56 413 99 68

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The Arabian Horse

Pure Breeding Techniques
While the Arabian horses’ exact origins are obscure, it was the Bedouins of the Arabian peninsula, through meticulously line breeding and in-breeding practices that made her the most sought after horse in the history of mankind. First known as a warhorse, the Arabian horse is mentioned as far back as the days of King Solomon. She is brave and steady, fast and resilient. She has a bulging forehead or Jibbah, broad nose and about 14 to 15 hands high. These characteristics are said to have been preserved throughout the centuries.

Breeding Lines
Every pure bred Arabian horse came from three original classifications, the Kehilan, the Seglawi, and Hamdani. Today, these lines are credited with producing the best Thoroughbred horses in the world. Arabian horses were introduced to Europe in the 1730’s. Prior to this it is said that the Arabs rarely parted with a pure Arabian horse, and felt it a duty and an honour to keep the bloodlines pure. “ The Godolphin Arabian horse was imported to England in 1730 as well as The Byerley Turk (1683) and the Darley Arabian (1703). These three “Eastern” stallions formed the foundation upon which a new breed, the Thoroughbred, was to be built. Today 93% of all modern Thoroughbreds can be traced to these three sires.” Arabian Horse Association Issue 29 African Story, Winner of Dubai World Cup Race 2014.United Arab Emirates' Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Rashid al-Maktoum poses with his horse African Story after winning the Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai March 29, 2014.

HH Sheikh Mohammed’s Part in Thoroughbred History
HH Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Stables have won Group One races in 12 countries. His love of the Arabian horse began at the age of 9, and he has continued to be instrumental in development, growth and success of Godolphin Stables. In the early 1990’s he made what was thought of at the time as a bold move in bringing several horses from the then famed stable in England to Dubai. His decision proved itself with many winning Group One horses, included the Sheikh’s personal favourite, Dubai Millennium who won 9 of his ten starts and the Dubai World Cup in 2000.


In 2012, Monterosso,  from Godolphin Racing won at the Dubai’s famed race the World Cup.  In 2014, Godolphin Racing produced another winner, African Story ridden by famed jocky Sylvestre D’Sousa.  This year, the World Cup will be held on March 28th and it will also be celebrating its 20th year.


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