Dazzling Dubai

DubaiDubai is the home of sand, sun, and shopping. There are two sides of Dubai to explore – the sleek, futuristic world of mirrored skylines, chilled-air malls, and James Bond-style artificial islands; and old Dubai, perhaps most clearly represented by its ancient mosques and countless Souks, all of which sell a different specialty.

Food:

Even picky eaters will have to surrender to the variety offered in terms of dining, which ranges from economical fast food joints to posh clubs and restaurants. Besides trying the Italian, Mexican, or Chinese, do not forget the delicious Arabic cuisine. Shawarma, a pita bread roll with chunks of chicken or meat and savory sauces, is a delight. French fries served not on a plate but on a burger along with chicken patties!

Automatic Lebanese Restaurant can offer Hummus and Mutabbal, two great dips to go with pitta bread and sourly pickle. Sheesh taook and Kebab are also recommended.

For South Indian food lovers there are plenty of Masala Dosa inns, “India House” being one. “Bombay Chowpati” is for Chat lovers. Pakistani restaurants are famous for their Nihari and chicken Biryani. Trendy cafes, such as “French Connection,” are everywhere for a light bite.

Sight Seeing:

Walking Tours

Dubai is a sprawling city and, combined with the heat, can be difficult to walk around. There are no official guided or signposted tours. A number of companies offer half-day city tours.

Other Tours

“Coastline Leisure” operates one-hour guided tours of Dubai Creek by dhow. “Arabian Adventures,” also offers a choice of cruises on Dubai Creek. Alternatively, go down to Dubai Creek and charter a traditional Abra (water taxi).

Dune Bashing

Regular tours are run and can combine dune bashing with desert dinners in recreated Bedouin camps.

Camel Rides

A ‘Rides and Slides’ tour combining camel rides with sand skiing is also offered.

Parks:

The lush green stretching for miles can be a very serene outing. Parks can entertain you with beautiful landscapes, swings for kids, boat ride adventures, barbeque grills for family cuisines, and even cable cars for having a panoramic view of the city. Some of the most famous names are Safa Park and Creek Park.

Water Sports:

“The Wild Wadi” water park is just the place for aqua lovers. The tall and swirling water slides are part of a big investment in tourism. Apart from that, scuba diving and wind surfing in the azure waters of gulf are also a treat.

Museums and Other Edifice:

Dubai National Museum

Built in 1787 as a fort for sea defense and located in Al-Fahidi Fort, it is one of the most ancient buildings in Dubai. The Museum displays pottery, stone and metal items, stone engravings, and skeletons. Here the visitors can browse through a collection of old maps of the Gulf and the Emirates. A model of a wind-tower room is an interesting feature of the architecture section.

Sheikh Saeed’s House
It is on the Shindagha end of Dubai Creek. A rare collection of historic photographs, coins, stamps, and documents can be seen here.

The Bastakiya
The largest concentration of traditional courtyard houses in Dubai, located in a short walk distance from Al-Fahidi Fort. The old district of Bastakiya provides a hint of the old Dubai, with its narrow lanes and tall wind towers.

Bur Dubai Creek Side
The buildings lining the Bur Dubai side of the creek provide the main panorama of the old city. The traditional facades of these buildings have been restored to their original state, with wooden windows, decorative gypsum panels, and screens.

Archaeological Sites

There are four main excavation sites in Dubai: Al-Qusais, Al-Sufooh, Jumeirah, and Hatta. The Jumeirah site reveals artifacts from the 7th to 15th centuries AD.

Burj Al-Arab

This is a sail-shaped edifice as tall as the Eiffel Tower. The hotel has become Dubai’s striking trademark and a wonder to see. The Burj (meaning ‘tower’ in Arabic) is not everybody’s idea of a place to stay on a holiday budget, as rooms start at USD 1361/- per night!

Shopping:

Being an open port with low import duties and no taxation, the city offers the bargain hunter unbeatable value. Dubai’s major shopping areas include: City center, Burj Uman center, Marcato, Al-Rigga Road, Karama, Al-Dhiyafa Road, and Bani Yas Square, not forgetting the Dubai Duty Free complex at the airport.

Value buys can be made at discount stores located all over the city. They offer items worth from Dhs 2/- up to Dhs 20/-. This is especially meaningful for souvenirs, gifts, and other nick knacks.

Carpets: Numerous shops specialize in carpets, with countries of origin ranging from Iran, Pakistan, and Central Asia to China. “Deira Tower Shopping Mall” in Al-Nasr Square has the largest number of carpet outlets under one roof.

Clothes: There are many boutiques and designer label shops for men, women, and children. Each shopping mall offers a mixture of expensive and cheaper clothes.

Electronics: Prices of electronic goods in Dubai are generally lower than anywhere else in the world.

Gold and Jewellery: Dubai’s Gold Souk is world famous for its low prices and sheer variety on offer. Those who bargain hardest get the best price.

Perfumes: Just about every perfume in the world is available in Dubai.

Festivals:

Dubai Shopping Festival

Dubai must be the world leader, when it comes to organizing events, especially, when the Dubai Shopping Festival is concerned. 300 Hotels and 130 apartments also participate with special offers during this period. “Emirates” and most other airlines flying out of Dubai offer discounted airfares and much needed excess baggage allowances, during the festival. Events for children, street side performances, nightly fireworks, etc., reflect the emirate’s cosmopolitan character.

Hotels: “Sheraton,” “Sofitel,” and “Best Western.”

Blessed Food

Sunnah foodsOlive Oil

Allah says in Quran: “The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp; the lamp is within the glass, the glass as if it were a pearly (white) star lit of (the oil of) a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor west, whose oil would almost flow even if untouched by fire.” (An-Nur 24:35)

The Prophet (sa) said: “Eat Olive oil and rub yourselves with it; it is from a blessed tree.” (Ahmad)

Milk

Aisha (ra) narrated, “When Allah’s Messenger was brought some milk, he would say, ‘How much is there in the house, one blessing or two?'” (Ahmad and Ibn Majah)

The Black Seed

Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “A black seed has the cure for every ailment, except a fatal one.” (Ibn Majah)

Dates

The Prophet (sa) said: “He who eats seven ‘Ajwa dates every morning, will not be affected by poison or magic on the day he eats them.”(Bukhari)

Al-Qurtubi says: “On the surface, Ahadeeth specify the dates of Madinah as preventive of poison and witchcraft. A generalization of this is made by analogy with the specific meaning.” Ibn Hajar finds that, “The more likely meaning is that it is particular to the dates of Madinah.”

The Prophet (sa) said: “There is a tree among the trees which is similar to a Muslim (in goodness), and that is the date palm tree.” (Bukhari)

Truffle

The Prophet (sa) said: “Truffles are like Manna (i.e. they grow naturally without man’s care) and their water heals eye diseases.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Honey

In the Quran, our Lord inspired the bee, saying: “Take you habitations in the mountains and in the trees and in what they erect. Then, eat of all fruits, and follow the ways of your Lord made easy (for you).” There comes forth from their bellies, a drink of varying colour wherein is healing for men. Verily, in this is indeed a sign for people who think.” (An-Nahl 16:68-69)

Zamzam Water

Allah’s Messenger (sa) is reported to have drunk water of Zamzam in a number of true Ahadeeth. (Bukhari)

The Prophet (sa) drank Zamzam (water) while standing and said: “It is blessed. It is filling food.” (Muslim)

He also said: “Verily, it (the water of Zamzam) is blessed; it is a food that nourishes (or satisfies).” (Muslim)

In another narration the Prophet (sa) said: “The water of Zamzam is for whatever it is drunk for.” (Ibn Majah) Therefore, the scholars recommend that one should make lots of Dua while drinking the water of Zamzam and he should drink it for a purpose that will benefit him in this world and the next.

Food for Thought

Misplaced discipline in our eating lifestyles must be harnessed to discover the true joys of health and harmony, writes Dr. Sarah Shahab

Just as lack of food in many parts of the world causes misery and malnutrition, an excess of it poses the most common problems of the modern world. The relationship between diet and disease has long been established. Excess consumption of energy rich foods (containing fat and sugar), combined with physical in activity can lead to many chronic diseases-like obesity, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and arthritis in weight bearing joints (spine, hip, and knee).

A balance between energy intake and energy expenditure can be achieved through moderate physical activity, such as thirty minutes of brisk walking, five or more times a week, by limiting the amount of saturated fat, mainly animal fat, hydrogenated vegetable fats, and tropical fats (coconut and palm oil).

A diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, fish, beans, low-fat dairy and whole grains increases longevity and reduces the risk of overall mortality. A large number of anti-carcinogenic agents are found in fruits and vegetables. It has been observed in many studies that persons with low fruit and vegetable intake experience about twice the risk of cancer compared with those with high intake.

Body Mass Index

Health professionals consider the body mass index or BMI as a reliable means of identifying health risks in people due to obesity. BMI takes into account an individual’s weight and height. It can be calculated by dividing ones weight in pounds by the height in inches squared multiplied by 703. A person with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered over weight, while someone with a BMI of 30 or more is obese.

Benefits of Fasting and Taraweeh

It takes motivation and commitment for a permanent change in eating habits. Just like animals can be tamed by planned feeding and hunger intervals, much self-control can be developed in human beings through fasting. Fasting not only nurtures the soul, but the body through a voluntary control of physical desires. Depending on the correct and consistent choice of food consumed at dawn and dusk, fasting prevents formation of atheroma, lowers serum cholesterol and triglycerides. Serum Magnesium also increases during fasting-which has a cardio-protective role.

Studies reveal that underfed animals live longer and suffer less from disease than overfed ones. Just a few of the many diseases that benefit from fasting are hypertension, diabetes, obesity and osteo-arthritis. There is enhanced secretion of growth hormone by the pituitary gland during fasting. Besides stimulating erythropoeisis, increased insulin response etc., GH stimulates protein and collagen synthesis-hence preventing the skin of those who fast regularly from wrinkling. Opiods or narcotic-like substances are released during fasting, producing tranquility and elation.

The benefits of the five times Salah, as well as the optional Taraweeh Salah helps each and every muscle in the body contract. This increases blood flow and improves physical strength. Gentle exercise, as in prayer and in the Taraweeh prayer increases bone mineral density at sites of maximal stress, for example, during Ruku and Sujood, thus reducing osteoporosis. When blood sugar levels begin to rise after Iftar, the Taraweeh helps oxidise the circulating glucose to carbon dioxide and water during prayer.

The Prophet (sa) said: “Food for one man is enough for two, and that for two is enough for three, and that for three is enough for four.” (Bukhari)

Improving the Teaching of Islamiat

Speaking from a student’s perspective, Hafsa Ahsan humbly offers the teachers of Islamiat practical suggestions for improving the quality of lectures

I stifled a yawn and glanced around the class. Two of my classmates were reading a Danielle Steel novel under their desks. Behind me, a group of my classmates were chatting merrily. At the first read, you may think the teacher was not present in the class. But no, there was a full fledge lecture going on. This was a typical scenario of our Islamiat class, and some of the ways my classmates designed for breaking the monotony.

I feel really bad writing this, but the Islamiat classes were the most-dreaded ones. It was not so much the curriculum itself, as it was the way it was actually taught. I will be frank: the only reason I attended this class was because proxy attendances were against my principles.

Whether we talk about the British system of education or our Pakistani one, the curriculum is generally the same. Whether we studied the subject one semester or two years, not many of us actually remembered, what we had been taught. Most of the ‘study’ was comprised of a rush to make notes or open the textbook in the last month before exams, cram up as much as possible, and reproduce whatever we can in the exam paper. End of story.

The question, which generally arises, is – how should Islamiat be taught? It is a compulsory subject, after all. Its theoretical nature makes it difficult to fit Islamiat under the standards of science and commerce subjects, where concepts are understood through graphical, statistical, and logical means. However, there is plenty of room for improvement.

Using Audio Visual aids

I yet have to come across a teacher, who would actually use the blackboard, or any kind of Audio Visual aids, while teaching Islamiat. The ‘lecture’ in the truest sense of the word does not really hold the attention of students. If delivering the lecture in a form of an attractive presentation is too time-consuming, a good use of the blackboard would definitely make the class interesting. Mind maps showing the relations between different concepts are the most relevant diagrams, considering that we are talking about a theoretical subject.

Relating the subject to everyday life

In case of a simple topic like ablution, the teacher can go beyond the basic methodology of ablution and ask students questions like ‘what would they do if they have to pray at school and want to do ablution with their socks on?’ There are many such issues in our daily lives, for which we need to refer to Islamiat. Think about it: if we are not able to concentrate on our prayers, does not the need arise to remember the meaning of what we recite? Someone asks us to give Zakat to a charity organization, and we wonder, whether or not a charity donation actually counts as Zakat. There are many similar occasions, where we need to apply Islamiat.

Relating the subject to important scientific concepts

A couple of months ago, my sister showed me a physics formula, which illustrated, how at the time of Mairaj, Prophet Muhammad (sa) explored the seven skies and came back within a night. The formula had some values, which gave the value of time to be infinity. Now, if the Islamiat teacher is well up to date with the latest scientific research, he/she can relate similar connections in the class, which would definitely fascinate the students. Another example is the burning of the seas on the Day of Judgment. The teacher can show how, if the covalent bonds between hydrogen and oxygen break, one gas will burn and the other will make it burn -that is how the seas will be ignited.

Asking ‘how’ not ‘what’

Most of the Islamiat questions I saw in my school days began with ‘what’. Or still worse, there were such questions as ‘Write a note on Salah’. For the life of me, I have never understood the logic of the word ‘note’. Most students have come to translate this word as ‘Write everything you know about…’ And that is precisely what students do. On the contrary, such questions as ‘Why do you think Salah is not excused under any conditions?’ or ‘How do you think we practice Jihad-bin-Nafs in our daily lives?’ are more interesting and stimulate students to think. Such questions also ensure that the students do not rote-learn every chapter of the book. And from a student’s perspective, learning actually becomes a more fulfilling activity.

Encouraging class discussions and prompting students to ask ‘why’

One-way lectures on Islamiat just add to the drowsiness factor. If teachers would encourage students to ask questions, the class would become more exciting. An interesting discussion developed in one of my Islamiat classes – why do we believe the Ahadeeth to be authentic, when they were formally compiled after the death of the Prophet (sa)?

Engaging students in interesting activities

Research-based tasks, in which students have to consult sources other than the textbooks, are also a good option. The teacher can design activities that would require students to go online for looking up information, which would complement that of the textbook. Making small, attractive flash cards for different supplications, designing a Zakat calculator, and exploring online means of Dawah are some of the activities, which the teacher can assign students to make the subject livelier.

The above are some of my humble suggestions to Islamiat teachers. There is a widespread belief that ‘Islamiat is for exam’s sake only’, and it is up to the teachers to work towards eliminating it.