Category Archives: Events

Recent Activities at SMCCU

Eid Al Adha


It is Eid again, a time to celebrate! Eid means festivity or celebration in Arabic. Eid Al Adha means the Festival of the Sacrifice. It is an Islamic festivity observed by Muslims around the world, which commemorates the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim/Abraham (Peace Be Upon Him) to follow God’s command to sacrifice his son. Eid Al-Adha also marks the end of the Hajj which means pilgrimage.

Hajj is Muslims annual pilgrimage to the Holy city of Mecca, and the fifth pillar of Islam. All Muslims who are physically and financially able have to perform this pillar at least once in their lifetime. Millions of Muslims from different parts of the world travel to the Islam’s Holiest city of Mecca to visit the Kaa’ba. The Kaa’ba is the first house of worship ever built by the first mankind, Prophet Adam (PBUH), which was rebuilt by Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) and his son.

2245464943_8b056de8d2_bThe Hajj is a ritual that commemorates the trials and tribulations of Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) and his family, during which pilgrims follow their footsteps. It is perceived as a journey of the body, mind and soul. A time for spiritual connection, asking for forgiveness, a reflection of one’s life and a remembrance of mortality and the Day of Judgment. Hajj takes place during the month of Dhul Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar. It officially starts on the 8th of Dhul Hijjah and lasts for five days.

During Hajj all Muslims are equal and united regardless of colour, ethnicity, gender, language or status. This is reflected by the pilgrim’s dress, which is aimed to show equality and modesty. Men wear two pieces of unstitched white cloth, while women wear simple long and loose garments covering their body showing only their face and hands, therefore not reflecting any wealth.

During the first day of Eid Al Adha Festivities, Muslims dress in new clothes and go to the Mosque for the congregational Eid prayer in the morning. Afterwards they go to the slaughterhouse where the sacrifice is made to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim’s (PBUH) example of obedience. The meat of the slaughtered sheep is divided into three, a third for the poor, a third to friends and neighbours and a third for the family’s consumption. The rest of the day is spent visiting family, friends and neighbours, gathering to share meals and gifts. The three days of Eid are a time of celebration, generosity and joy.

It is a courtesy to greet your Muslim friend or neighbour by saying Eid Mubarak, which means Blessed Eid.

To understand more about Islam’s 5 pillars you can join our guided visit to the Jumeirah Mosque during the Eid or anytime throughout the year.
jumeirah-mosque

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under culture, Events, religion

The Fuala


Al Fuala, is a beautiful Emirati habit that has been abandoned by some Emirati.  It consists of coffee, tea, a simple spread of traditional dishes and an assortment of fruits. The Fuala represent the authentic generosity of greeting family, neighbours and guests. It is also an incentive for them to regularly communicate and exchange visits in a family atmosphere.

 

The term “Fuala”, derives from the Arabic word “good omen” and this is exactly what it represents, as local traditional dishes, such as Aseed (porridge), Khabeesah (pumpkin mash), Balalit (Emirati pancakes), Lugaymat (dumplings served with date syrup), fruits among others are offered to guests whether they are friends, neighbours, or just merely any passersby. It is usually served before noon or in the  afternoon.

IMG_8408.jpg

Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) strives to remove barriers and build cross-cultural understanding by raising awareness of the local culture, customs and religion. In its aim to preserve the traditional costumes and traditions of the United Arab Emirates, it has brought this Emirati tradition of serving Fuala back to life by adding it to its various activities and programs. It wishes to offer all its visitors, tourists, expats, diplomatic missions and corporations this unique cultural experience.

 

On Thursday afternoon, May 19th 2016, SMCCU launched its first Fuala by inviting some guests to share this genuine and traditional experience in a restored home in Al Fahdi historical district. The guests were greeted with Arabic coffee and dates while they were seated in the courtyard and were entertained by a group of Emirati young men who performed the traditional Zafra dance. Mr. Abdullah Al Serkal, SMCCU’s Founder and Director welcomed the guests and explained the tradition of the Foala and its significance to Emirati families. The guests were invited to savor the local food and fruits and encouraged to ask any questions. Guests had the opportunity to inquire about the local men and women’s dress, some even tried them on while their photos were taken, while others inquired about various local habits.

 

 

The Fuala program is now added to SMCCU’s various activities, offering its visitors another opportunity to experience genuine Emirati hospitality in a friendly atmosphere. It includes a talk and visit in the Diwan Mosque followed by a relaxing discussion in SMCCU’s courtyard. It runs every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday form 4:30 to 6:00 pm and prior reservations are essential.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Events, News

Spirit of the Union 44th National Day Treasures of the UAE 2015 Art Competition Awards


In honor of the Spirit of the Union 44th National Day Celebration, the SMCCU honors the winners of the its 4th Annual Treasures of the UAE Art Competition.  Winners and their families attended a private viewing of the artwork that will be displayed in the SMCCU during the month of December 2015.  The awards ceremony followed and included a cultural program and lunch, a tour of the Al Fahidi historic district and Diwan Mosque, and awarding of prizes.  The winners took away a package of prizes worth 1000AED each, and their artwork is now featured in the 2016 Treasures of the UAE Calendar available at the SMCCU.  Each month two winners will be featured in the Hijri-Gregorian calendar.

This year more than 550 students entered the competition from 53 schools across the UAE.  Managing Director, Nasif Kayed hosted the event along with volunteers from the SMCCU.  “Our aim is to spotlight the many historic sites and monuments across the UAE in an effort to bring about knowledge and appreciation of  our rich culture and history.  It is also an opportunity for students to express their creative talents.”, said Mr. Kayed.

The Emirates Fine Arts Society once again graciously donated their time in choosing our winning artists, and Yas Water World, Nestle and Explorer generously sponsored the competition this year.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, News

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

Fasting

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.

Spirituality     

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 points 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, News

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.

 http://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/aug/19/most-improbable-scientific-research-abrahams

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2006/aug/15/research.highereducation

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, News

Students Celebrate UAE National Day at the “Treasures of the UAE” Art Competition 2014


As a part of the 42nd National Day Celebrations, the SMCCU held its second annual “Treasures of the UAE” Art Competition 2013 Awards Ceremony in the the historic Al Fahidi District of Dubai.  Young artists between the ages of 7- 18 years were asked to submit original current art work depicting one of the historic sites across the UAE. 61 schools participated,  and submitted up to 12 artworks divided by age group. Our Judges this year from the Emirates Fine Arts Society, reviewed 283 submissions and chose 24 winners whose artwork is now featured in the Treasures of the UAE 2014 Calendar.

The awards ceremony was attended by the winning artists and their families along with school representatives, judges, and sponsors. Our generous sponsors this year, Nestle, Wild Wadi, Pepsico, and Jones, Lang LaSalle helped to make this year’s competition a success.  We would also like to thank all of those who  participated including volunteers, support staff team, Lucy, Debbie, Caroline, Yvette, Jess & Joyce. Together, we further our joint aim of highlighting the rich history and humble beginnings of this great nation we all call home.  The SMCCU is keen to raise awareness through many such events about the local culture, traditions and religion of the UAE. As a part of the celebrations, 120+ guests were treated to an Emirati cultural meal and explanation of the traditions surrounding food and honoring guests.  The meal was followed by a visit to the historic Diwan Mosque, where our Managing Director, Nasif Kayed, explained the significance of the mosque in the daily lives of Emiratis and muslims worldwide.

One of our visitors had this to say about the event:

Just a small note to express my gratitude for a  time well spent  this morning at the ‘treasures of the UAE ‘ presentation ceremony.

Although I am a regular visitor to Bastakhiya as an architect and a keen amateur photographer , it is the first time I visited SMCCU at the invitation of my brother as my nephew was one of the prize recipients.

I was impressed by the general courtesy ,hospitality and the friendliness of everybody from the top man to the servers! Enjoyed the meal and the explanation of the culture and customs that came along with it. The English explanations of the youngsters were flawless and everything was conducted with passion and in keeping with the motto – ‘open doors, open minds!’

Organizations such as yours are the answer to the current world in turmoil –  that brings cultures and beliefs together , endorsing ,- that understanding  and respect for each other are of prime importance for peace in humanity.

Thank you and wish you every success to opening doors and minds effectively and prolifically !!

Antonio Dias, Gems Modern School

View the Winning Artwork or our Participants Booklet

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, News

Business Culture Insight: Emirati Vs Chinese hosted at SMCCU


FDR_8042The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding was honored to host local leaders from the Chinese business community for an interactive and bridge building dialogue at the centre. Organized by  Lucy Chuang of the Global Sino Consultancy and  sponsored by Shihab Mohammad Shihab Gargash, director of Commercial Bank of Dubai and Gargash Enterprises, Emiratis and the Chinese Business community gathered to talk culture, business, and collaboration in the UAE.  Various traditional Emirati practices and terms were discussed beginning with how Bedouin hosts would accommodate a guest with traditional Gahaweh Arabia, how to conduct a meeting and socialise and the meanings of some commonFDR_8082 arabic terms like wasta and Inshallah, and how to build long-term professional relationships.  On that issue, both  Acting General Manager  of Petrochina International Middle East and Captain Song Wang, chairman of the Chinese Business Council, Wu Qiunan commented in regards to commonalities among the cultures, “When Chinese do business, it’s important for us that we build trust with our partners first, and we honour our word to them.” Qiang LI – Deputy General Manager, Agricultural Bank of China and Yu Tao – President/CEO, China State Construction Corporation were also in attendance at the event.   Lucy Chuang of the Global Sino Consultancy organizer of  the event chose the back drop of the  SMCCU as a perfect atmosphere to showcase authentic Emirati hospitality.

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, News