Maya Angelou famously said "perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends."
We are certainly in dire need of some kind of visionary bridge when it comes to the Middle East these days. I'm often left speechless by the broad statements I hear when I disclose to westerners my deep love for the region, the culture, the cinema but in particular, the people. There are so many misconceptions, it would take an entire book to unveil them all and honestly, I'm much more about celebrating the great, than about pointing out the flaws.
Dubai is fast becoming my favorite destination whenever I need to regroup and reconnect with who I am. I love the creativity of NYC, the antiquity of Rome, the great chaos of Bombay, but perhaps most of all, the civilization of Dubai. Those who don't realize how much culture is hidden within the golden city, perhaps have never had the luck to listen to Emirati filmmaker Nayla Al Khaja when she declares, in all her Emirati grace, that "every city has a soul but it's up to you to find it, you must be fearless about finding it."
Back in December, during the Dubai International Film Festival, I signed up for a visit to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, in the old Al Fahidi District in Bur Dubai. It was a day that changed my outlook of the city, and in the process, changed me. From drinking traditional Arabic coffee infused with cardamom and saffron, to tasting Emirati biryani and a dessert of fried dough (ligemaat) covered with date syrup, to afterward touring the Diwan Mosque, that day more than any other shined light on the heart and soul of a city that on a more superficial level seemed all about shopping, cars and luxury hotels.
To celebrate His Highness Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority announcing the launch of the inaugural "Dubai Heritage & Touristic Season" to run from October 2013 to April 2014, I wanted to share a few images of sights around Dubai. This is traditional Emirati culture in all its beauty, diversity and pride.
All images courtesy of Dubai Culture, used with permission