Dubai centre staff hope to educate tourists about Ramadan
DUBAI // Tourists who visit the Emirates during Ramadan should be made aware of the true meaning of the holy month, and not focus on temporary rules such as not eating and drinking in public.
Staff at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre For Cultural Understanding hope to give visitors and non-Muslim residents a better understanding of Ramadan by explaining why fasting, prayers and showing courtesy and respect are so important.
The centre receives about 2,000 visitors during Ramadan and organises trips to Jumeirah mosque, Bastakiya and holds walking tours of old Dubai, guided by some of the centre’s 10 to 15 Emirati volunteers.
“This is a good month to come,” said Nasif Kayed, the centre’s managing director.. “You see the good in people rather than the bad in a very few. Ramadan is spiritual and religious tourism, cultural tourism, all in one. It’s not like any other time.”
Mr Kayed said that feeding visitors’ hunger for information about Islam, Ramadan and Emirati life is essential for preserving the UAE’s traditions and cultures.
“The more people keep asking us about our culture, the more we learn, we research and teach it,” he said. “There’s nothing better than this to engrave it in our kids’ minds and write it into our history. This way, we can overcome misconceptions.”
There is no better time than Ramadan to convey an authentic, welcoming Emirati and Islamic experience, said Mr Kayed. “What’s driven is the negativity – in the West, in the media.. It’s not doing good for us. People come to visit here and their families worry about them, yet this place is so safe, especially for women. They won’t walk alone in the street at night and have someone snatch their handbag,” he said.
Unlike the lavish buffets served in hotels and restaurants, iftar at the centre is a time to discuss, reflect on the day with those who have fasted, to ask questions about the culture and religion and to bring cultures together.
“It’s the only experience that’s true and we treat it like a home gathering.
“You go to a buffet and what do you get out if it? Everywhere else it’s about what you’re eating and how much you’re eating,” he said.
Other events held in Dubai to promote a message of peace during the holy month, include events at the Dubai Ramadan Forum. This will involve a series of lectures in English, Arabic and Urdu and include competitions and exhibitions.
The event’s head, Hamad Mohammed bin Mejren, said it aims to “spread the enriching values of the Islamic faith and its tolerant teachings”.
Amal Tarish, the assistant manager of marketing at one of the forum’s sponsors, Saeed and Mohammed Al Naboodah Group, said the event, in its 14th year, had “become one of the key annual events in the emirate” and helped to promote Dubai as “a key destination for religious tourism”.