It is very easy to just see Dubai as a modern city with contemporary buildings, large shopping malls, and sun-drenched sandy beaches. However, to only look at the surface of this city is to miss the wealth of tradition and culture that lies underneath. Islam, tribal roots, and the importance of the family have shaped the traditions of the UAE. These play an important part in the local Emirati culture and traditions.

The Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding
http://www.cultures.ae/jumeirah.htm

This center was established in 1995 to help ex-pats learn more about the history, culture, and traditions of the UAE. Through providing opportunities to help ex-pats learn about the history, culture, and traditions of the UAE, serves to help them feel more at home, fostering a sense of community. There is no agenda to change the traditions, habits, and customs of the ex-pats themselves, the sole aim is to increase understanding so that all residents can live together as neighbors.

One of the easiest ways for a newcomer to gain an insight into the local culture is by visiting the Jumeirah Mosque on Jumeirah Beach Road. This mosque is open to non-Muslims but you can only enter as part of an official tour organized by the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding. These take place at 10 am on Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Your guide will explain important facts about Islam and demonstrate how Muslims pray. You will also have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have.

The Bastakiya

This is another important stop for those interested in learning more about Dubai. It is located in Bur Dubai next to the Creek. It is a recently restored part of town with houses dating back to the late nineteenth century. It contains displays of historical artifacts as well as modern art galleries and cafes. Cultural tours and Arabic courses are held regularly and can be arranged through the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding.

Museums and Heritage Sites

There are also several museums and heritage sites in the creek area. These include the Dubai Heritage and Diving Village, Sheikh Saeed’s House, and the Dubai Museum. These all allow visitors to see what life was like before the discovery of oil.

For details of these and other cultural and heritage sites, visit http://www.dubaitourism.ae/CultureHeritage/HistoricalSites/tabid/61/language/en-US/Default.aspx.

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