Open Doors. Open Minds.
According to the website of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU):
“Dubai is a uniquely modern and cosmopolitan city and the United Arab Emirates is home for families from all over the world, each with their own distinctive culture. Expatriates and UAE nationals are neighbours; however, they can also be strangers. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, saw the need to reach out and educate expatriates in the traditions and customs of the UAE. His vision led to the creation of The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) in 1998.”
The SMCCU is easily one of the best places for expatriates and visitors to receive authentic information on the cultural practices and traditions of the UAE in a comfortable, entertaining and welcoming environment that is reminiscent of the country’s rich hospitality.
A number of influential world leaders, international celebrities and members of the UAE government have all been hosted at the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding.
Located at House 26, Al Mussallah Road, Al Fahidi District in the Bur Dubai area, guests have the opportunity to pick and choose from an extensive list of activities that include; heritage tours, mosque visits, cultural meals and cultural awareness discussions among other offerings.
SMCCU & Education
Many students who are new to the UAE learn about aspects of the culture from their Emirati classmates and persons in their immediate surroundings. However, in order to give students a more genuine experience and correct information, a visit to SMCCU can be quite useful. In fact, both teachers and students can benefit greatly from the material that is presented during their visit and they also have the opportunity to ask questions on topics that they may be curious about.
Since its inception, SMCCU has provided educational programmes for local schools, universities and institutions across the UAE, as well as abroad. Today, there are a variety of packages and flexible programmes aimed at enhancing students’ knowledge of the local culture, traditions and the religion of the Emirates in a fun and engaging learning environment. Many of these programmes can be accessed at the SMCCU home location, which provides a perfect backdrop for students to explore with the help of experienced programme guides.
The SMCCU also has a number of bespoke cultural programmes that can be hosted at your school, as well as, Teacher and Staff Induction programmes.
Why is a teacher and staff induction programme worthwhile?
Many expatriate teachers who are new to the UAE, experience a bit of a ‘culture shock’ when they get here. There is so much to learn and the language barrier can also add to the challenges. Since the UAE is a Muslim country, there are many speculations as to what can or cannot be done. This also includes how and when things get done. Additionally, most of us who are new to an environment that has significant differences from what we are accustomed to, tend to carry with us some of our preconceived notions and prejudices.
A good way to immerse into the culture of a new country (wherever you are in the world) is to interact with the local folk (Emiratis in the UAE) and to find a reliable and trustworthy source that can guide you in navigating aspects of the culture that you may not understand or have difficulty accepting.
As educators, this is extremely important since a lot of our interactions are with both our Emirati colleagues and students in the work setting. It is imperative that we acknowledge the cultural differences and understand their importance, so as to function optimally at what we do.
What can you else can you expect from SMCCU?
Expatriates living in Dubai have the greatest advantage in easily accessing the events and activities that help to increase awareness of the UAE’s traditions and customs. However, groups and organisations outside of the Emirate can book private tours that are specific to what they want to do.
Cultural events are tailored to the needs of the guests and can be fun or educational. Activities include traditional bands, henna, calligraphy, falconry, Bahkoor and Oud preparation.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could say more than just the usual catch phrases in Arabic? The SMCCU has you covered. Spoken Gulf Arabic has been taught at SMCCU for over eight years. Classes are conducted on weekdays or the weekend at the centre. If you would prefer to have a more personalised approach, private customised Arabic courses with content that is relevant to your specific needs are provided with special focus on private companies and their respective business or industry.
There is a wealth of information on the UAE at the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding. It is easy to pick up some of the nuances in the culture. It is easier to learn from experienced Emiratis who understand their culture very well and are able to articulate the importance of the traditions and customs in a manner that is engaging, humorous and informative. The easiest option would be to simply go and get the SMCCU tour!
PS. Whatever package you choose, absolutely do not pass up the cultural meal. It is delicious!
Visit http://www.cultures.ae/for additional details on how to book a tour at the SMCCU.
Source: Some information gathered on location at SMCCU, as well as from their website http://www.cultures.ae/