Follow us for more inspiring travel ideas

How to feel (and taste) the essence of Dubai

by Vanessa White

Have you tried Gahuwa Arabia (Arabic coffee) while in Dubai? This drink of hospitality is a blend of lightly roasted arabic beans, cardamon and saffron which are ground and boiled. The coffee is strained and served hot in small cups.

The centre's philosophy is “Open Doors. Open Minds.”

Did you know that more than 40 varieties of dates are grown in Dubai?

What do you know about the bedouine cuisine?

Dubai is known as a technological and cosmopolitan city. And while gazing at the skyscrapers, you might miss the essence. If you want to culturally immerse in Dubai and the Emirati life, visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU).

The idea

The centre was founded in 1998 and since then have been acting as a bridge between the many different nationalities living, working and visiting the UAE. The centre's philosophy is “Open Doors. Open Minds.” Located in a traditional Wind Tower House in the heart of the historic Al Fahidi District in Bur Dubai, the centre offers a range of enrichment activities.

Heritage tours

Step back in time and enjoy the atmosphere of Al Fahidi Historic District, one of the oldest traditional Emirati neighbourhoods in Dubai. Get the best guides for a walk through the unique narrow sikkas and beautiful wind towers that adorn the original residences along the Dubai Creek. Or learn about Emirati culture and religion in a relaxed, casual and open atmosphere at only mosque dedicated to receiving non-Muslim guests in Dubai - the Jumeirah Mosque.

Cultural meals

Skip the hotel breakfast and join a traditional Emirati breakfast or lunch at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. The authentic Emirati cuisine that you are going to try is homemade using the founder's mother recipes. The local diet and dishes are made mostly of fish, meat and rice with sweeter dishes served at breakfast. It's not only about the food – your meal will be accompanied by a chat with an Emirati host about UAE culture, customs and religion.

Contacts and opening hours: The centre is open to the public Sunday through Thursday 8am to 6pm and Saturday from 9am to 1pm.