x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Please, sir, there's a lion in the cafeteria and a horse on the lawn

Big cats were pacing the school cafeteria as families gathered to celebrate International Day at Emirates International School.

Sandor Boros, from Hungary, performing a stunt with his horse during the celebration of the International Day at Emirates International School Jumeirah. Jaime Puebla / The National
Sandor Boros, from Hungary, performing a stunt with his horse during the celebration of the International Day at Emirates International School Jumeirah. Jaime Puebla / The National

DUBAI // Lions were pacing a school cafeteria yesterday – a star attraction for families gathered to celebrate International Day.

The big cats were joined at Emirates International School by thoroughbred Salukis, all on loan from the emirate’s ruling Al Maktoum family, to educate visitor about Emirati traditions.

Salem Al Mansoori, 11, walked with a snow-white Saluki proudly explaining to expatriate students the importance of the traditional hunting dog in UAE heritage.

“I love dogs and this one represents my country,” said Salem, a Grade 6 pupil. “It’s not mine – it is Sheikha Latifa’s dog.”

The school in Jumeirah has 860 pupils of 68 different nationalities, and families celebrated International Day by showcasing their unique customs through dance, food and traditional crafts.

While Salem and his classmates scurried off to pet some of the other animals – including a St Bernard dog and goats – the senior school pupils manned craft and food stalls at the other end of the playing field.

Wenjia Zhang, from China, dressed up in a one-piece Chinese outfit called a cheongsam. “I’ve organised a Chinese food stall and also danced,” said the A-level student. “Our sweet-and-sour noodles and Chinese pies were very popular.”

Also represented among the more than 60 stalls and food tents were Germany, the Netherlands, India, Pakistan, Britain, Lebanon and Canada.

Chris Burch, dean of students, said the main focus of the day was raising cultural awareness.

“We have been doing this for six years,” said Mr Burch. “It’s a day to celebrate the multiculturalism of the school.”

Prabha Gopalakrishnan, who has two children at the school, said she found it hard to leave because she kept getting drawn back in by the shows the children were staging.

“It’s a really nice way to know about other countries, especially when the children get involved,” said the mum, who moved to Dubai from Switzerland.

“The costumes, handicraft work – it’s all beautiful. When my children were in Switzerland, they were in a public school and not exposed to so many cultures.”

Jessica Dearden, a history teacher from New Zealand, said the diversity in the UAE encouraged her to work here. “This makes this place and Dubai unique.”

aahmed@thenational.ae