Monday, November 02, 2015

A Journey to the Past of Dubai

Field trip to Al Bastakiya, the Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood 

Students enrolled in the MEST 318 Cultures of the Middle East class with Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at AUD, went on a field trip to Al Bastakiya, the Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood recently.

Quoting H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, “He who has no past, has no present”, Dr. Chrabieh explains, “This field trip was about the importance of preserving the cultural heritage that is – along with the natural heritage – an irreplaceable source of life, inspiration, identity and communal support.”

She continued, “Young generations usually feel that traditions and old habits, customs and artifacts are no longer relevant. However, cultural heritage provides a sense of unity and belonging, allows us to better understand previous generations and the history of where we come from, and learn lessons from the past in order to tackle our present day situations in a better way.”

Students were also introduced to the importance of understanding multiple patterns that constitute a culture to be able to value it and enjoy it, and vice versa.

Al Bastakiya is a historic district in Dubai, named after the Bastak region of Iran and built in the 19th c. C.E. The locality lies along Dubai Creek and includes narrow lanes and wind towers, as well as Al Fahidi Fort, the oldest existing building in Dubai (1787) that includes the Dubai Museum with its diverse sections showing life in the Emirate before the advent of oil, in addition to artifacts from recent discoveries as old as 3000 B.C.E.

In the Museum, students were divided in groups and were assigned specific galleries such as the Fort courtyard with its dhow, traditional summer house (arish) and wind-tower (barjil); the collection of old weapons and musical instruments; the 19th c. C.E. model of the city and the creek-side souq as well as pre-oil era old maps and dioramas; scenes of the Bedouin daily life and the marine life; etc.

The second activity was a free-style walk in the Al Fahidi Historical neighborhood with a focus on the history of architecture, the elegant wind-towers, gypsum decorations and woodwork, and the early urban development of Dubai. The Al Fahidi includes many art galleries, restaurants, heritage houses and museums such as the museum of coffee, the calligraphy museum, the camel museum and the coins museum.

Students visited the Majlis Gallery and had the opportunity to learn more about local and regional artists such as Tunisian Abdallah Akar, Dubai’s famous artist Abdul Qader Al Raes, Calligrapher Khaled Al Saai and photographer Udaybhanu.

The last stop was at the Arabian Tea House CafĂ© for a cultural lunch, where students enjoyed their time discussing what they experienced, listening to Fairuz and tasting delicious Emirati and Southwestern Asian food. 

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