Expatriate and tourist demand for activities aimed at understanding the Emirati culture has increased over the last five years according to the Shaikh Mohammad Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU).
Established in 1998, SMCCU is a non-profit and self-sustaining organisation that aims to remove barriers between people of different nationalities and educate them about the UAE culture, customs and religion.
“We have grown — quadrupled — in terms of the number of activities and audience over the last five years. In the old days, we would be happy with one activity a day. Now we have around eight activities a day from morning till evening,” Nasif Kayed, SMCCU’s general manager, told Gulf News.
Based on its 2011 End of Year Report alone, 2,570 guests participated in SMCCU’s Cultural Breakfast Programme, an increase of 64 per cent compared to 2010 figures.
Its Cultural Lunches also increased by 76 per cent, and the Bastakiya Walking Tours and Heritage Tours also saw participation rise by 360 per cent. Grand Mosque and Diwan Mosque Visits, on the other hand, increased almost four-fold compared to the previous year.
Cultural breakfasts and lunches are held every week inside the centre, which is a typical wind tower house in Bastakiya house in Bur Dubai.
The gathering resembles that of a typical Emirati meeting over a meal, with an Emirati host talking about the UAE culture and customs.
“This increase could mean two things. First, demand for activities that focus on cultural understanding is rising. And second, people are beginning to recommend us because of our reputation,” Kayed said.
“The first time you visit Dubai you will want to see the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall. But sooner or later you’ll want to know about the Emirati culture,” he added.
To meet this increasing demand, Kayed said they will continue to study and introduce programmes as needed in the future, beginning with a monthly documentary feature this month.
SMCCU will feature relevant documentaries at the Dubai International Financial Centre once a month, which began this month.
The first documentary feature was held on Friday titled ‘Legacy of a Prophet.’
For more information on the centre’s activities, visit www.cultures.ae.