Saleh, who’s in Grade 6, was one of the 13 students there from Sharjah’s Al Mawahib British Private School learning about the UAE and Dubai’s past as part of the Heritage Week events taking place across the city.
The open-air market displayed photographs of some of the most notable monuments in the UAE — from Nahar Tower in Deira to the Fujairah Fort which, some historians say, dates back to 1670.
Saleh’s PSP was a sharp contrast to the narrow alleyways and heaps of spices displayed in front of the many shops in the souq, harking back to a bygone era when Dubai’s malls and skyscrapers weren’t around.
“It’s very important for them to know their past, to know where their grandparents came from and how they lived here,” said Siba Al Qadhi, Saleh’s English teacher.
“And by looking at them, you see, they like it,” Al Qadhi said, pointing out to a group of students creating gypsum moldings as part of a workshop in the souq.
Ashraf Tantawi, who led the workshop, said gypsum is the most important building material in the city’s past, without which people wouldn’t have homes to live in.
“All the buildings around us are made from gypsum,” Tantawi said, while gazing around the souq.
Gypsum is a soft, opaque mineral found naturally in quarries across the country, and is used as a building material after it’s ground into a powder and mixed with water.
Tantawi, whose day job is to help renovate and preserve historic buildings in Dubai, said the next generation needs to have an appreciation of where their grandparents and great grandparents came from.
“This is very important for them because you don’t know the future without looking at the past,” he said.
Amna Khalifa Al Shamsi agrees. The grade 12 student from El Alqala School in Sharjah was also on a field trip to the souq.
“It’s very important for us to learn about our great grandparents and how they lived,” she said. “It was a different time, they didn’t have the malls, they didn’t have the computers or the cars.”
Al Shamsi said while life in Dubai is much more comfortable now than it was during her great grandparent’s time, there are aspects of the past she appreciates and would like to see in today’s society. “They had time for family, now everyone is very busy.
“They worked hard, they ate together as a family, but we don’t have things like that now.”
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