Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Discovering the Cultural Heritage of Al-Fahidi Historical Neighborhood

Fieldtrips with my MEST 329 (Islamic Art and Architecture) 
and MEST 318 (Cultures of the Middle East) students
May 19, 2015
Bur Dubai

Al-Fahidi dates back to the 1890, and occupies the eastern section of the old Dubai along the Creek. This area represents an important space in the history of architecture, and the urban development of the town, with its elegant wind-towers, gypsum decorations and woodwork. Students visited Al Serkal Cultural Foundation, a heritage house that promotes local, regional and international artists such as Mohammed Ali Abdulla Mohammed Al Marzooqi, Clare, Basem Al Sayer and Wafa Khazendar, and preserves the UAE culture and heritage. They were also introduced to the works of calligraphers, painters and sculptors in the Majlis Gallery such as Abdallah Akar, Mustapha Ali and Abdul Qader al Rais. The Coffee Museum guided tour helped them discover the coffee itinerary from Ethiopia to Yemen, to the Ottoman Empire and its famous coffee-shops, then to the worldwide trade starting the 17th c., and the different ways of making coffee: Ethiopian, Egyptian, and Arabian, to name just a few. Furthermore, a cultural lunch was part of the fieldtrips at the Arabian Tea House Café.

The fieldtrips’ objectives included the visceral experiences in learning about local and regional cultures through food, the exploration of tangible objects and resources and intangible heritage forming cultures (buildings, archeological remains, landscapes, arts and artifacts, objects, oral traditions, music, folklore, customs, traditions, beliefs…) and an initiation to the preservation of cultural heritage. Students learned for instance that the restoration of old buildings is not just about saving bricks but also the layers of information about our lives and those of our ancestors; and that when we erase historical patterns, we are removing spaces for invention, or when we allow cultural productions to decay because of neglect, we are engaging in an act of disrespect to our cultures thus to what forms our identities.

 With my AUD students