So you’ve been in Dubai for all of 24 hours and you’ve got a million things you want to know about the local customs and traditions. Who do you ask what life is like in a local home, why Emirati men wear the dishdasha (white robes), and what the different colors of their headdress (kaffiyeh and agal) signify? And why do some women cover their faces with a niqab while others don’t? A great place to start is at breakfast at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, housed in one of the original wind tower houses of historic Bastakiya. This organization’s motto is “open doors, open minds,” so no questions about the local culture are off-limits. Local volunteers lead the conversation over a traditional bedouin breakfast in the house’s main courtyard. The dishes you’ll try are prepared from recipes handed down from the owner’s mother. They include freshly baked Khameer (bread) and Nihki; balaleet, a sweet noodle-and-egg dish flecked with golden raisins; lgeimat (Arabic doughnuts); and Emirati pancakes, or chebab, served with date syrup (there are over 40 varieties of the fruit grown in the UAE). There’s tons more to explore here in the oldest neighborhood of Dubai; if you have more time to spend, check out our 5-hour itinerary.
The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding is easily reachable by taking the Green Metro Line to Al Fahidi Metro. It’ll just be a short walk to Al Musallah Road, and the Sheikh Mohammed Centre is the first building on your right. Enjoy!
Al Mussallah Road, House 26, Al Fahidi District; +971 4 353 6666; cultures.ae; breakfast every Monday & Wednesday at 10 a.m.; AED 80 per person