x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Malls' latest offer - lessons on heritage

The plan aims to help curious tourists and expatriates better understand Emirati culture.

DUBAI // Permanent exhibitions showcasing Emirati culture could soon be set up in many of the city's malls.

The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding is in talks with mall bosses to open the first such display by the end of the year.

As part of the presentation and exhibitions plans, volunteers would advise and instruct shoppers and tourists about the country's rich heritage and many traditions.

The initiative aims to reach those who are unlikely to visit the cultural centre's Bastakiya headquarters to take part in cultural awareness programmes and events.

"We want to be in people's faces," said the centre's general manager, Nasif Kayed.

"The malls have visitors every day and these exhibitions would be satellites of what we do here. Not everyone can come to Bastakiya and find this small house.

"It would be nice if people could go to a place in the mall and have an experience about what true Emirati culture is.

"Certain people want this and, therefore, you make it available for them, and the malls are the perfect partners.

"Right now it's being negotiated with a few malls, we have put out the proposal to quite a few and are discussing it back and forth." He said many tourists did not know where to go to learn about the country's culture and heritage.

Some mistakenly booked desert safaris in the hope of learning about, for instance, Bedouin life, but came back disappointed.

"They say, 'That wasn't Bedouin. Was that cultural: shisha and belly dancing?' They're not. They want to see cultural activities, so we want permanent exhibitions, whether it's in the Dubai Mall or wherever.

"People could ask questions about religion - 'What is that call to prayer, what are they saying?' or, 'As a non-Muslim can I enter a mosque apart from Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Jumeirah Mosque?'

"We want to answer these questions."

The centre envisions a revolving programme of displays and presentations that would explore various aspects of Emirati culture in depth.

In addition to religion, topics such as traditional dances, dates, perfumes and henna would also be covered.

The demand for such an initiative was demonstrated last month at Dubai Mall when the exhibition Min Bladi Al Emarat - Arabic for My UAE, My Heritage - attracted large crowds.

The event's organiser Nadine Manning said: "At midnight when the mall was closing there were still 200-odd people here, they didn't want to leave."

csimpson@thenational.ae