UAE landmarks recreated in Minecraft games stir curiosity about history and science

Users can build and create new worlds using buildings as learning tools

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Distinctive landmarks across the UAE have been recreated in the popular Minecraft online platform.

From the striking sail of Burj Al Arab hotel to the gold-topped domes of Sheikh Zayed Mosque, UAE landmarks have been built into video games that draw pupils into immersive experiences in subjects ranging from history to science and mathematics.

Ahmed Ashour, education director of Microsoft UAE, told The National: “This is still very new in the region. We have developed a whole UAE world with all the highlights like Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, The Palm Jumeirah, so pupils can go in here and also to Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain and develop more elements around this.

“We know students will enjoy playing and want to learn more about where they live.

“With the Minecraft education edition, we are giving access to teachers to go within and create lessons within this interactive world.”

Millions of users around the world pile up blocks and zoom through retro graphics in the game owned by Microsoft.

They can build worlds, fight monsters or learn about the universe, human anatomy or biology.

The Minecraft education edition was adopted in the UAE more than three years ago as part of the curriculum in public schools under the Ministry of Education.

Users now have easily identifiable local signposts. They can learn how to build a rollercoaster under the striking red emblem of the Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, walk around Sharjah University City or climb the Jebel Jais mountains.

Nayla Al Ali, a sixth-grade teacher in Abu Dhabi, said there was growing interest among pupils to explore the famous buildings.

“There are many challenges children take up like adding animals in a desert so they try to understand whether these animals will survive,” she said.

“Some want to know more about building a car that is energy efficient.

“Pupils have fun moving blocks and learn about how the Burj Khalifa was built.

“Every time they answer a question, they learn more information about this country so it gets very interesting.”

The UAE’s national landmarks were the first in the region to be added to the education edition.

Burj Al Arab on Minecraft. Photo: Microsoft

Interactive graphics and videos can then draw pupils into other worlds filled with science laboratories.

“Learning is unlimited, there is science, maths, architecture and engineering,” Mr Ashour said.

“Today on the Minecraft website there are hundreds of lessons so if I want to learn about the structure of the eye, there is a science lesson already.

“So a teacher can invite pupils to take a walk within the eye.

“You open the eye, see the blood vessels and that’s something you cannot just do in a textbook.”

The online platform was also a success during Expo 2020 Dubai with more than a million downloads of Expo Minecraft that recreated the entire site from country pavilions to major attractions.

“We did Expo in Minecraft because it was just after the pandemic and we knew many people would not be able to visit,” Mr Ashour said. "But having that world meant children could go through it and see every country’s pavilion.

“It gave many access to the virtual world without having to fly here.

“These new buildings are the same, if a young child in another county hears about Dubai but has never seen it, this is a way for him to visit Dubai, the UAE and enjoy the architecture here.”

Updated: December 24, 2022, 3:37 AM