Thursday, June 6, 2013

SMCCU Heritage Tour and Emirati Brunch

I had long been postponing my planned tour and meal with the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding because I thought there was only a weekday option (blame the outdated brochure). When I recently checked the website, however, I found a very convenient Saturday morning 09:00 tour, followed immediately by a 10:30 brunch option. And there was even an online booking option, with cash payable on arrival. Perfect!

I and my friends arrived at the SMCCU majlis just in time for the guide's introduction and Q&A session, during which dates and coffee were served. We spent quite a while talking about the coffee and the local etiquette of serving and drinking it, then moving on to other topics of family and tradition, along with lighter topics like the different dialects/patterns of Arabic spoken in different emirates.

Our walking tour took us through the alleyways of the Bastakiya, where our guide explained the construction materials and design intention of the buildings, the doors and the windows, as well as the trees and walls.

She took us into the coin museum as well. Actually, I had been to Bastakiya umpteen times, and the coin museum on several occasions. Still, the rest of the tour was very informative.

We rested on the terrace for a bit before heading to the mosque next door. In the mosque, she explained Islamic beliefs and traditions, including prayer and sartorial customs, and invited questions (which I was, again, happy to oblige).

Those of us who signed up from brunch went back to the majlis and joined the others who had come for just the brunch.

Top middle: Machbous
Bottom right: Lugeymat
Bottom left: Balaleet

Our guide described the spread before us, and another introduction/Q&A session began. Some of the topics had already been covered earlier, at the beginning of the tour. But with added probing, we got to talk about topics in Emirati society such as marriage (age, cost, matchmaking, etc), subcultures (anime, metal, hipster, etc), taboos (homosexuality, alcohol, Westernization, etc) and such.

I highly recommend this combination. It's a great use of a Saturday morning, with hearty food and a chance to delve into the deep recesses of our host nationality's world.

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