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Welcome Centre
Welcome Centre
Start your journey into the traditions and culture of Dubai in the right place

Salaam-Alaikum! If you are new to Dubai, this is a phrase you should acquaint yourself with as soon as possible. It means "Peace be unto you," and is the standard greeting among Emiratis. In case you are wondering the correct response is: “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam" meaning: "And unto you peace."

Emiratis have a well-deserved reputation for courtesy, generosity, and a love of community. In their homes they ensure the majlis (reception area) is always kept tidy and prepared to receive visitors. It is also perfumed with the traditional incense of Oud to welcome guests, who are invited to sit in places of honour within the room. These small gestures speak volumes about their hospitality and genuine warmth. 

The Welcome Centre at The Shindagha Museum is the perfect starting point before embarking on a journey of historical exploration. Located at the entrance to the museum, here visitors will receive orientation and wayfinding information, and details about current or new events and programmes – as well as guided tours and theatre productions. 

A sophisticated ticketing and retail system means you are off to a smooth and hassle-free start with no excessive queuing. At the same time, helpful staff will answer any questions about museum timings, what to see, mobility or disability issues, and general queries. 


Al Maktoum Family
Al Maktoum Family

Learn all about Dubai’s pioneering royalty and their achievements

At its core, Dubai’s story is that of the ruling Al Maktoum family, a royal dynasty that over generations has transformed the emirate from a small town to a globalised metropolis. The family descends from the Al Bu Falasah section of the Bani Yas, a tribal federation that was once the dominant power through most of the country. 

Visitors to the Al Maktoum Family house will discover the history of this pioneering clan, as well as getting a riveting look at the reigns of 19th century leaders – their decisions, and the important events connected to them. 

Full of intriguing historical information, the Al Maktoum Family house is accessible, surprising, and full of human stories that bring the family’s fascinating characters to life. 

It also illustrates how in an era of upheaval and uncertainty the seeds of Dubai’s prosperity were sown due to a combination of pragmatism and open-mindedness in its leaders. 
Dubai Creek
Dubai Creek


Discover the central hub of Dubai’s birthplace

Set sail across the centuries to a time when Dubai’s modern society was beginning to take shape on the shimmering blue waters of its famous ‘khor’ – a traditional regional word for creek or waterway. 

Discover the place where trade with the outside world began, while being guided step-by-step through the area’s extraordinary development – the first bank, the first police house, the first produce market…

Find out what it took to grow a business and raise a family by the creek for the hardworking and innovative Emiratis of the past, from the shrewd merchants and tradesmen to tough seafarers and boat builders. Learn how the skills they developed in response to extreme conditions set the whole society on the road to affluence. 
Story of the Creek offers a state-of-the-art multimedia experience, including an informative and inspiring film that allows visitors to immerse themselves in personal stories that bring the neighbourhood to life. A unique sensory experience, it tells the universal tale of the power of the human spirit and how Dubai’s inhabitants managed to build a successful city rooted in its heritage and taking wisdom from the past


Social Values
Social Values
Understand how Islam has empowered Emiratis to hold fast to their heritage and culture

Islam is the foundation on which Emirati culture is based. It is a source of strength, joy, and unity for the people of Dubai. The faith has shaped society in a way that means the emirate is known for its courtesy, respect, tolerance, and acceptance of others.

The Social Values house at the museum looks at the powerful religious and social messages that have come out of Emirati Islamic heritage, and how they inform the way people raise their families, do business, and interact with the world.

It begins with an orientation experience that offers an insight into the essential principles, elements, and beliefs of Islam – as well as its influence on language, science, the arts, and architecture. You can then take a step back in time to catch a glimpse of how Emiratis from the first half of the 20th Century lived in accordance with the principles of Islam, sharing beliefs and attitudes which they then built into the fabric of everyday life.

Accessible in content to a wide range of visitors, the house offers a rich ‘people perspective’ and caters to all levels of knowledge, interest, and understanding. 
Emerging City
Emerging City
Get up close and personal with Dubai’s culturally rich and inspiring urban landscape

Dubai’s physical presence – both its elegant traditional buildings, and its iconic modern towers – have captured the imagination of the world.

As you wander through the houses in the Emerging City section of the museum, you can follow the fascinating evolution of the emirate’s built environment and take in the development of its architecture and urban landscape. The houses explores specific elements of the growth of the city, focusing on Dubai’s famous megastructures, as well as the enduring spirit of the neighbourhood of Shindagha
As an introduction to the whole cluster, in Juma & Obaid bin Thani House visitors are guided through the cultural, economic and historical factors that laid the groundwork for the development of Dubai. 

The upper floor focuses on the explosion of growth in the emirate from the 1800s-1900s – which was a fascinating period in the economic and urban evolution of the city. Meanwhile, in the two smaller houses, vignettes of the urban development of the Dubai are explored. This is the section to understand the roots and progression of Dubai, from the ground up.


Crafts of Dubai
Crafts of Dubai
Get a feel for the skills that influenced the culture of a nation

Handicrafts and the time-honed skills for making everything from pottery and cooking ware to fabrics and jewellery, are an integral part of Emirati culture, showing an impressive use of natural resources. 

The Crafts of the UAE house reveals the lives of skilled Emirati men and women, demonstrating how over the centuries their work was integral to daily life – providing shelter, clothes, tools, cooking implements, as well as storage for food and medicine.

Return to the time before imports and machine-made goods to see how previous generations responded directly to conditions in the mountains, in the desert, and by the sea. Explore the use of natural products to make by hand what was needed to survive from day to day, and how this evolved into creating intricate clothes and goods for special occasions. 

The house also charts the inevitable cultural shifts, such as the decline of the nomadic lifestyle, urbanisation, and competition from machine-made imports.
Beauty and Adornments
Beauty and Adornments
There is more to the Emirati appearance than meets the eye

Beauty and the adorning of one’s body is an essential and symbolic part of traditional Emirati culture. Did you know the ancient black eye cosmetic kohl – which is often associated with the pharaohs of Cleopatra – has played an important role in the personal rituals of Emirati women for thousands of years?

Visitors to the Beauty and Adornments house will be submerged in the unique techniques, styles, and products that make up the world of traditional beauty in Dubai. 

For Emiratis, hairstyles, clothing are an essential part of national identity – for both men and women. In the house there are stunning examples of the kandura, the ghutra, the shaila, and the jalabiya, traditional wear that has developed from being merely practical attire to gorgeous, expressive items of outerwear.

The art of henna is also explored at the house, a tradition that has been practiced for centuries – especially as part of celebrations such as weddings. Used on women's hands and feet, the henna features large, intricate ‘tattoos’ and is a perfect example of why traditional Emirati adornments are so unique.
Jewellery
Jewellery
Enter the intriguing and intricate world of traditional Emirati ornaments

In Emirati culture jewellery has for centuries played a powerful role in expressing ritual, status, key milestones in life, and family history. 

A love of jewellery is something that runs deep in the society, with women often collecting exquisite pieces to hand down over the generations.

The Jewellery house at the museum takes a closer look at the history and practice of adorning one’s body with ornate, exquisitely designed pieces and how the trends and tastes in this area have altered over the years. 

It also displays examples of precious metal, stones, and pearl ornaments that have been crafted in the UAE and which assume attractive shapes expressive of the marine, desert and mountainous environments of the country.
Perfume House
Perfume House
Indulge in the enticing world of Emirati perfume making

Allow all your senses to be stimulated and delighted in the realm of exotic Emirati fragrance, while delving into the skills that bring them to life. 

Showcasing traditional techniques for making scented oils and perfumes that date back centuries, Perfume House takes visitors on an aromatic journey to learn about ancient traditions while exploring some unusual Ingredients. 

Discover the important role traditional scents play in Emirati culture, how they connect to the past, and their role in religious and everyday life.
Traditional Medicine
Traditional Medicine
Delve into the intriguing world of traditional Emirati remedies and their relevance today

While the arrival of modern medicine in the 1950s changed life in the UAE, there is still a huge respect for, and interest in, traditional remedies and methods.

The Traditional Medicine house at the museum charts the history of innovation in ancient Emirati medicine, including the use of herbs and plants such as saffron, anise, nutmeg, lemongrass and ginger to cure ailments, and the role of the Atar and Hawaj (healers) in these treatments. 

The house shows not just medical methods, but also how previous generations of Emiratis took care of their health and hygiene. For example, how clay and leaves were used to make shampoo and coal to make toothpaste. Then there is cupping, or ‘Hijamah’, an effective and ancient technique that is still used today for dealing with a variety of ailments, particularly back pain. 

The house explores the first pharmacy in Dubai too, opened by Mohammed Habib Al Reda in the 1930s, and the Al Maktoum Hospital which opened in the 1950s – both pioneering centres of healing that set the course for the future.

Culture of the Sea
Culture of the Sea
Dive into a world built on a mastery of the water

From pearl diving to dhow building (a traditional UAE boat), imports to exports, Dubai’s growth and development is inextricably anchored to the sea. 

The emirate has a rich and varied maritime industry dating back around 7,000 years – and the passion for waters of the Arabian Gulf is still strong in the hearts of Emiratis today. 

In the Culture of the Sea house you will explore the early twentieth century period, when Dubai was thriving at the heart of the pearl trade. Find out just what it took in terms of skills, fortitude and creativity, to succeed in a marine based economy. 

The house explores how families coped as dhows took men out for months, even years at a time, and how the bounty of the sea informed the local food culture. There are rich human stories interwoven in the exhibition, allowing visitors to see life through the eyes of people long gone, but not forgotten.

Those interested in marine biology will particularly enjoy learning about key marine fauna, environments, and natural resources. 
Life on Land
Life on Land
Learn how Emiratis mastered the environment around them and thrived

The opportunities and challenges the Emirati people encountered through history due to the UAE’s unusual and varying landscape is the central theme of the Life on Land house at The Shindagha Museum. 

From rugged stretches of coastline to golden beaches, from dramatic rock mountains to green oases – as well as the famed desert dunes of course – the local culture and economy has been founded on its wild and beautiful environments. 

For visitors, this is a thematic and immersive house that begins with an incredible introductory experience at the 4D theatre. Here, through the power of new technology, museum goers get to ‘see’ through the eyes of a falcon while soaring over the deserts, mountains and coastal regions. Observe with a birds-eye view what life was really like for the Emirati people of the past.

The adjacent Oral History Majilis then offers rich histories of each land environment before visitors are free to explore Life on Land at leisure and walk in the footsteps of the people who shaped Dubai’s culture and society. The house also allows people to learn more about how the flora and fauna in Dubai, which is just as diverse as the landscape.
Navigation
Navigation
Learn about traditional Emirati skills for reading the sky to cross vast distances

For centuries Emiratis have looked to the skies and studied its secrets to enable them to navigate their way. At 84,000 square kilometres, the UAE is one of the world's largest sand deserts, stretching from the Arabian Gulf coast to the Empty Quarter and east to the Hajar Mountains. To navigate its countless intricate dunes, they used a technique involving the stars and the sun.

Pioneers in this field, much of what we know today in terms of astronomy and plotting movement comes from the deep learning of Emirati scholars of the past and their ability to interpret the signs and patterns of the galaxy – as well as the positioning of the sun.

Visitors to the Navigation house at The Shindagha Museum have a wonderful opportunity to discover these celestial arts and traditional navigation techniques, understanding their crucial importance in terms of safety and survival. Three main themes are on display in the Navigation house: Marine Navigation, Land Navigation, and Aeronautical/Space Navigation.

With fascinating equipment and historical artefacts, visitors will have their eyes opened to innovations past and present from Dubai and further afield. The difference between the various navigational techniques is also explained in a way that is accessible to all, allowing for a working understanding of this fascinating subject.
Traditional Food
Traditional Food
Get a flavour of why traditional food is so important in Emirati culture

Families coming together each day to dine while reconnecting with each other – as well as the importance of specific meals served on religious occasions – is central to Emirati life. 

Visitors to the Traditional Food house at The Shindagha Museum will learn that eating is a way of keeping heritage and history alive, with most Emirati dishes having their own intriguing story. From soft wheaty Harees to spiced meat and rice dish Machboos, this is a cuisine created to be savoured and celebrated.

The house also explores how ingredients are gathered or caught from the mountains, oases, sea, and land, to create a delightful cuisine that is totally unique. Learn about traditional Dubai food and drink customs, rituals and practices, methods of cooking, and aromatic spices and regional produce. 

A treat for the senses, the house includes multisensory exhibits that are highly interactive – and delicious of course. Visitors can touch, taste, and smell their way around the exhibition because this area is all about having fun and enjoying the best in life.

Children’s Pavilion
Children’s Pavilion
A place where children can discover the wonders of Emirati heritage

Opening a door to the past in a way that young people can enjoy and easily understand, the Children’s Discovery house reinterprets themes from the rest of the museum in a way that is simple, safe, and relevant for early learners. 

Understanding that children take in new information best when having fun, the space offers a vibrant mix of high-tech and low-tech exhibits, as well as individual and group experiences – all with a hands-on and minds-on approach.  

This is a comfortable and engaging part of the museum that encourages inter-generational storytelling, life-long learning, while boosting observation skills and the desire to experiment. 

Children will also enjoy playing some traditional Emirati games, while also discovering the wonders of nature, the land and sea, and the animals around them.

Community Hall
Community Hall
Visit a place with a sense of togetherness

Occupying an area of its own within the central part of The Shindagha Museum, the Community Hall is in a beautiful historical building and provides ongoing programming and temporary exhibitions. It promotes not only the growth of Dubai but also an array of topics related to the museum. 

This space has a wide range of uses and welcomes various gatherings, school groups, conferences and events, as well as being the setting for more formal occasions. It animates and promotes The Shindagha Museum as a site with an important civic role in Dubai.

Visitors can share their interest in Dubai heritage and culture through programming that incorporates their voice, while a diverse roster of events and exhibitions is available for everyone. 

Above all, the Community Hall is an inclusive and dynamic place where ideas and new thinking can flourish, and where those keen to understand the wider UAE’s fascinating generational journey can discover the highlights of social history in the country.
Heritage Community Centre
Heritage Community Centre
Want to delve deeper into learning about traditional Emirati life? This is the place for you

Nestled in an attractive cluster of historic buildings at the edge of the museum, the Heritage Community Centre is an educational space dedicated to the practice and safeguarding  Emirati cultural heritage.

For casual drop-in tourists, the centre offers demonstrations on a range of craft skills. For more committed learners, it is the place to sign-up for an official, well-regulated course. With a specific focus on traditional craft skills, the programmes available are run in partnership with Dubai Culture. 

Course participants will gain a broad knowledge of the heritage of the UAE from the past to modern-day and will better know the country’s specific locations relevant to handcraft history. The courses also include visits to heritage centres, houses and museums across the UAE, as well as fascinating demonstrations by experts – all followed by group discussions and individual work. 

Academic research takes place here too, and the centre is as much about advanced learning for the future benefit of society as exploring the wonders of years gone by.



Performance Centre
Performance Centre

Celebrate life the Emirati way with a live traditional music and dance performance 

A passion for the arts runs through the veins of Emirati culture, with song, dance, music and theatre as important now as they were hundreds of years ago. 
An extra special treat for visitors to the Shindagha Museum, one that the whole family can enjoy, is the Performance Centre – a multi-use space for local and regional performances. Visitors here can take in traditional dances such as al-Ayyala, a popular and expressive cultural performance involving chanted poetry, drum music and dance, and simulating a battle scene. 
Or perhaps you can witness Al-Razfa, a traditional art practised throughout Dubai and performed by men of all ages and classes during social occasions such as weddings. Male performers form two facing lines with dancers filling the space between. Led by the main singer, the two rows create a dual chorus, singing chants to the accompaniment of drums and other instruments. Spectacular.
A state-of-the-art and versatile space, the Performance Centre also sees a range of shows – some large and some more intimate – throughout the year. With incredible acoustics and a versatile design, visitors can even catch fashion shows, lectures, film series, and special event celebrations including UAE National Day.


Temporary Exhibition Hall
Temporary Exhibition Hall
Enter a space for contemplating the world at large with other curious minds 

If you wish to learn more about history, art, life, and other cultures, experiencing diverse perspectives while communing with the people around you is often the most fulfilling route. 

Bringing a wide range of high calibre global exhibitions to Dubai, the Temporary Exhibition Hall is a flexible venue that caters to all kinds of shows and experiences. The theme of each exhibition varies greatly, and that is what makes the space so interesting and appealing. Often featuring immersive and multi-media based shows, this is a place where the senses are stimulated as well as the mind. 

For UAE communities, and especially young people, the hall offers a unique ‘window on the world’ by hosting amazing cultural experiences and works of art from all over the globe. This special arena provides world class museum exhibition experiences that are not on offer anywhere else in Dubai. 

It is a regional and international draw for a large spectrum of visitors, while providing enticing cultural offerings for Emiratis and residents.
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