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Tide of change for Scandinavians.

Dubai: For 30 years, the Norwegian Seaman's Centre has been serving Scandinavian seafarers who visit the Gulf's waters.

Seafarers are sometimes on the seas for months at a time, without the opportunity of docking or setting foot on dry land.

The centre has been providing a welcome haven for those stuck at sea for years in Dubai; and if the seafarers can't visit the centre on land, a representative takes a trip out to their vessels.

Over the years, the centre has evolved to serve the wider Scandinavian community based in Dubai.

Keeping in touch

Brigt Skeie has been a general manager at the centre for the past two years, and often visits ships out at sea.

"It's a social club for Scandinavians living and working in Dubai. In the beginning we just served seafarers on ships coming to the centre. We bring Swedish and Norwegian newspapers to the ships as well as magazines and books because many of the ships don't have good internet access," he said.

Scandinavian ships entering waters near Dubai contact Skeie with their orders of reading material and he visits one ship a week on average.

The centre also publishes its own yearly magazine focusing on special topics, such as living and working in the UAE and taking trips through the UAE and Oman, for Scandinavian communities.

According to the centre, there are around 1,000 Norwegian, 3,000 Swedish, 1,500 Danish and 4-500 Finnish residents in the UAE, with around 80 per cent residing in Dubai and 20 per cent across the other emirates.

Changing times

The Seaman's Centre (SjA[cedilla]mannskirken) is a charitable organisation, which is supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway and the Norwegian government.

Founded in 1864, the Norwegian Seaman's Mission aims "to secure the moral and religious education of Scandinavian seafarers and to give them a breathing room, where a fellow countryman was available to lend an ear and give attention".

By 1989, there were 56 centres around the world, including the UK, South America and Australia.

Over the years, the centres have evolved, keeping pace with changes, and offer social gatherings, business meetings and even traditional waffle competitions.

A welcome rest

Dubai's Seaman's Centre offers a family atmosphere, with employees who speak a range of Scandinavian languages as well as English.

Most afternoons draw parents with children, who go to the centre to let off steam in the covered play area and use the swimming pool.

Trips to the sights of Dubai, such as the Bastakiya and the Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding, are also arranged for parents and children alike.

A wide range of celebrations also take place at the centre, and couples can even get married there. On June 6, the Swedish community celebrated its National Day in Dubai, and more than 400 people attended the Norwegian National Day celebrations on May 17.

Skiei said: "We don't have a membership system but last year about 10,000 came to the centre here in Dubai. We have close links with the embassies, so we offer advice for the Scandinavian communities. We are also serving tourists who come to the centre and the number is increasing. We offer coffee and waffles and give advice about what to see, where to go or things like how to rent a car in Dubai."


- Opening times vary from day to day and during the summer. Contact the centre for the latest updates of activities. It is on Oud Metha Road, near Rashid Hospital.

- Website: .

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Jun 13, 2008
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