Dubai: If you are interested in exploring the unique facets of Emirati culture under one roof, then Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) is a must-visit site in Dubai. Its beautiful architecture, combined with its 132-year history, make this place truly fascinating.
SMCCU was founded in 1998 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Under Abdullah Al Serkal, its current manager, the centre operates under the theme ‘Open Doors, Open Minds’. Today, the centre offers cultural breakfasts and luncheons and even conducts classes in Arabic.
The Al Fahidi district of Bur Dubai, the neighbourhood where the centre is located, has been a bustling market since the 1890s. In ancient times, merchants arriving at Dubai Creek from all over the world would set up shop here. No wonder SMCCU chose such a location, given its deep roots in the sands of time and tradition.
So what makes this centre so special?
Khola Al Marzooqi, one of the presenters at the centre, says: “It’s a great place to learn more about not just Emiratis, but also about the rest of the Arab world and the region.”
Speaking about the significance of the centre’s ‘Open Doors, Open Minds’ theme, Marzooqi added: “Open Minds means that as a presenter, I must create an open space for people to ask questions. And the guests are open to ask me anything. So, it is a pleasure when I see people really letting their guards down, asking me questions that they would possibly not ask outside the centre. That is one of the main reasons why this centre is so popular and successful.”
Explaining what he loved most about his job, Ahmad Al Jaflah, another presenter at the centre, said: “I love meeting people, talking to them, discussing issues, answering their questions and explaining our life, food and culture to them.”
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For all those who are yet to visit the centre, cultural presenter Shaimah Mohammed has a simple appeal: “I would say they should open their minds, come here and ask whatever questions they have about Emirati and Arab culture. We urge people to come here and learn things first-hand.”
Writer is an intern with Gulf News