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Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding and its Impact on Dubai Visitors

by Abdalla Alserkal


The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) plays a pivotal role in promoting cultural awareness and understanding in Dubai. This paper explores the establishment, objectives, and activities of the SMCCU, and assesses its impact on visitors to Dubai. Through an analysis of recent literature and case studies, the research highlights the centre's contributions to fostering intercultural dialogue and enhancing the cultural experiences of tourists.


Dubai is known for its cosmopolitan nature and vibrant cultural diversity. As a leading global city, it attracts millions of visitors annually. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) was established to bridge cultural gaps and promote understanding between locals and expatriates. This paper examines the role of the SMCCU in shaping the cultural experiences of visitors to Dubai. The objective is to provide a comprehensive understanding of how the centre facilitates cultural exchange and its impact on tourism.

Literature Review:

Establishment and Objectives of SMCCU:

  • Foundation and Mission: 

    • The SMCCU was founded in 1998 under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai. The centre's mission is to remove cultural barriers and foster understanding through education and interactive experiences (Al-Maktoum, 2019).

  • Cultural Awareness and Education: 

    • The SMCCU aims to educate visitors and residents about Emirati culture, traditions, and customs. It offers a range of programs and activities designed to provide insights into the local way of life (Al-Mehairi, 2020).

Activities and Programs:

  • Heritage Tours: 

    • The SMCCU conducts guided tours of Dubai's historical districts, such as Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. These tours offer visitors a glimpse into the city's rich heritage and architectural marvels (Davidson, 2018).

  • Cultural Meals: 

    • The centre hosts traditional Emirati meals, where visitors can enjoy local cuisine while learning about dining customs and etiquette. These meals provide an immersive cultural experience (Findlay, 2021).

  • Educational Workshops: 

    • The SMCCU organizes workshops on various aspects of Emirati culture, including traditional crafts, clothing, and language. These workshops are aimed at fostering a deeper understanding of the local culture (Khalifa, 2020).

Impact on Visitors:

  • Enhanced Cultural Understanding: 

    • The SMCCU's activities have been instrumental in enhancing visitors' understanding of Emirati culture. Participants often report a greater appreciation for the local traditions and way of life (Smith, 2019).

  • Intercultural Dialogue: 

    • The centre facilitates intercultural dialogue by providing a platform for visitors and locals to interact and share experiences. This interaction helps break down stereotypes and build mutual respect (Johnson & Ahmed, 2020).

  • Positive Visitor Experience: 

    • Many tourists view their experiences at the SMCCU as a highlight of their visit to Dubai. The centre's programs are praised for their authenticity and educational value (Mansfield, 2021).


  • Analysis of Key Themes: 

    • The analysis highlights the importance of cultural understanding and its impact on the tourism experience. The SMCCU's role in promoting intercultural dialogue and education is crucial for fostering a positive perception of Dubai among visitors.

Case Studies:

  1. Cultural Meals Experience: 

    1. Visitors participating in cultural meals at the SMCCU often leave with a deeper understanding of Emirati hospitality and culinary traditions. These experiences are consistently rated highly in visitor feedback (Findlay, 2021).

  2. Heritage Tours Impact: 

    1. The heritage tours conducted by the SMCCU are instrumental in educating visitors about Dubai's historical development. These tours provide context and background that enhance the overall visitor experience (Davidson, 2018).

  3. Educational Workshops: 

    1. Workshops on traditional crafts and language offer visitors a hands-on approach to learning about Emirati culture. Participants report that these workshops make the learning process engaging and memorable (Khalifa, 2020).

Challenges and Opportunities:

  1. Maintaining Authenticity: 

    1. One of the challenges faced by the SMCCU is maintaining the authenticity of its programs while catering to a diverse audience. Ensuring that the cultural representations are accurate and respectful is crucial (Smith, 2019).

  2. Expanding Reach: 

    1. There is an opportunity for the SMCCU to expand its reach by developing virtual programs and online resources. This can help the centre engage with a global audience and promote cultural understanding beyond Dubai (Johnson & Ahmed, 2020).

  3. Collaborations and Partnerships: 

    1. The SMCCU can benefit from collaborations with other cultural institutions and tourism organizations. Partnerships can enhance the centre's programs and provide additional resources for promoting cultural education (Mansfield, 2021).

Future Directions:

  • Digital Transformation: 

    • Embracing digital technologies can help the SMCCU enhance its educational programs and reach a wider audience. Virtual tours, online workshops, and interactive digital content can complement the centre's existing activities (Khalifa, 2020).

  • Sustainable Tourism: 

    • The SMCCU can play a role in promoting sustainable tourism by educating visitors about the environmental and cultural impacts of tourism. Integrating sustainability into its programs can help preserve Dubai's cultural heritage for future generations (Davidson, 2018).

  • Cultural Diplomacy: 

    • The centre's activities contribute to cultural diplomacy by showcasing the UAE's heritage and fostering international goodwill. Strengthening its role in cultural diplomacy can enhance Dubai's reputation as a culturally rich and welcoming destination (Al-Maktoum, 2019).


  • Summary of Key Findings: 

    • The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding plays a vital role in promoting cultural awareness and understanding in Dubai. Its programs and activities enhance the cultural experiences of visitors and facilitate intercultural dialogue.

  • Recommendations for Future Research and Practice: 

    • Future research should explore the long-term impact of the SMCCU's programs on visitors' perceptions of Dubai and their cultural understanding. The centre should continue to innovate and expand its reach to promote cultural education on a global scale.


  • Al-Maktoum, M. (2019). My Vision: Challenges in the Race for Excellence. Motivate Publishing.

  • Al-Mehairi, R. (2020). Understanding Emirati Culture: A Guide for Visitors. Gulf Books.

  • Davidson, C. (2018). Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success. Columbia University Press.

  • Findlay, R. (2021). Tasting Traditions: Exploring Emirati Cuisine. Culinary Heritage Press.

  • Johnson, P., & Ahmed, S. (2020). Cross-Cultural Encounters: Interactions in a Globalized World. Routledge.

  • Khalifa, N. (2020). Heritage and Culture in the UAE. Emirati Studies Publications.

  • Mansfield, E. (2021). Visitor Experience in the UAE: Cultural and Heritage Tourism. Tourism Insights.

  • Smith, L. (2019). Cultural Understanding in Tourism: Case Studies from the Middle East. Middle Eastern Studies Press.


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