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Dubai - Culture and Heritage

In spite of Dubai’s rapid modernisation and stellar economic growth, the emirate is dedicated to preserving its traditions, culture and values. The national dress generally worn in Dubai is adapted for the high temperatures and religious beliefs. Men wear an ankle-length, loose-fitting garment known as a kandoura or dishdasha which is usually made of white cotton. A small white crocheted skull-cap, the ghafia or taiga, is covered by the gutra, which is a long white cotton cloth. The gutra is kept in place by the igal, a double black braid worn around the crown of the head. Ladies of the region usually wear a long-sleeved, full-length dress, which is also called a kandoura and is often elaborately embroidered in gold, silver or coloured thread. The thobe is worn over trousers, sirwal and dress and covered entirely by a black abbaya. The hair is covered and the face may also be covered by a gishwa, a thin veil. The sport of falconry is a traditional pastime still practised in Dubai and is a unique partnership between man and bird. The ancient sport of camel racing also attracts a sizeable following with substantial purses for champions. Traditional water sports are practised off the shores of the city including sea rowing, dhow sailing and the more recent wooden powerboat racing. Throughout history, Arabs have maintained a great love of horses. This tradition lives on in the rapid growth and development of horse racing. Every year in March, thousands of visitors attend the world’s richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup. In a city resplendent with modern amenities, Dubai’s collection of historical sites and cultural attractions takes the visitor on a journey through time. With its narrow lanes and houses with tall chimney-like structures called wind towers, the Bastakiya district of Bur Dubai provides a tantalising glimpse of old Dubai. The district also includes a museum, cultural centre, restaurants and a heritage hotel with an art gallery. The Dubai Museum is housed in Al Fahidi Fort, an imposing building which is also a fascinating military museum. Built around 1787, it once guarded the city’s landward approaches and has served as a palace, garrison and prison. Colourful and evocative dioramas complete with life-size figures, sound and lighting effects vividly depict everyday life in Dubai during the pre-oil days. Galleries recreate several scenes from the Creek, traditional Arab houses, mosques, the souk, date gardens as well as desert and marine life. One of the museum’s most spectacular exhibits portrays the underwater world of pearl diving, accompanied by sets of pearl merchants’ weights, scales and sieves. Located in the Creek, near the Shindagha tunnel, the Heritage and Diving Village site presents both a comprehensive insight into the emirate’s maritime past and a fine example of Gulf architecture. Local potters and weavers sell their handicrafts in a tented Bedouin village and camel rides are also available. During Eid holidays and the shopping festivals, traditional ceremonies such as sword dancing are performed. You may also want to visit the Jumeirah Mosque, a prominent landmark of the city. Built in the medieval Fatimid tradition, it is a spectacular example of modern Islamic architecture and is particularly attractive at night.

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