When visiting any country, it is crucial to be well-aware of local customs. This helps avoid any cultural mishap and ensures you enjoy your trip and interact with locals, without offending anyone.
Emirati culture is rather different from western equivalents in many ways, and there are small acts in everyday life that visitors need to be mindful of when visiting any Emirate. There have been changes in the daily life and customs of the people in Dubai over the years. In several ways, change is apparent in the cultural life of the Emiratis.
Contrary to popular belief, Dubai is not a superficial city and is in fact rich in history and culture.
Dubai is one of the seven emirates that constitute the United Arab Emirates. What sets Dubai apart is that it remains true to its core Muslim values while also being open-minded toward expats and their ways of doing things. Islam is inextricably intertwined with the very fabric of UAE society not just Dubai. Although the most open of Arab societies in its culture, the Muslim tradition in Dubai is no different. Ramadan is the holy month in the Islamic calendar and is extremely important to Emirati people, as well as other Muslim cultures who reside in the UAE. There is also the sound of the mosques at prayer time.
Forget the propaganda, despite being in a Muslim country; Dubai has a big drinking culture. Most expats in Dubai drink a lot more than they do wherever they are from; it’s a very social place. Old Dubai with souks, museums, small cafes and art galleries proves there is truly something for everyone in terms of cultural activities.
Though visitors in Dubai may be in for a bit of culture shock, for women, traditional attire consists of a light chemise known as a dirʿ, which is often worn beneath a more ornate dress (thawb). Beneath the dress a sirwāl, a type of loose trouser, is worn.
Outside the home or in the presence of strangers, women still cover themselves with a dark cloak and cover their heads with a scarf, which may also serve as a veil. Fabrics are often delicate, colourful, and highly embroidered, and Emirati women wear a variety of fine gold and silver jewelry.
The traditional garb for men consists of a long, simple, ankle-length garment. Usually made of white cotton, the garment may instead be made of a heavier material and in a variety of colours.
Traditional music, such as the ḥudāʾ—sung originally by caravanners while on the trail—is enjoyed alongside popular music from abroad, and traditional dances such as the ʿayyālah, a type of sword dance, are performed on special occasions.
Dubai city is growing as a centre for regional film, television, and music production and is home to the Dubai Opera House.
Emirati life is very much geared around families, with marriage and children being the bedrock of society. These family ties are extremely strong and it’s crucial to respect the local’s families. The Emirati families with young children are very well catered for and lead “amazing” lifestyles. Hospitality plays a key role in Dubai culture, especially to strangers or newcomers, although older and more traditional Dubai citizens may be more reserved. Do not be surprised if you are invited to join an Emirati family for refreshment. It is polite to accept Dubai tradition like this graciously. However, as a visitor, never try to shake the hands of an Emirati woman except she offers her hands. Such act will be frowned.
Something interesting is that if the host pours their guest a full cup of tea, it is a subtle way of telling them that they have overstayed their welcome. Interesting right? Some of the more common delicacies Emirati people enjoy are dates and camel milk. Additionally, never serve pork to locals, or any Muslims for that matter, as it’s against their religion to eat it.
In Dubai, you will learn about life, what it means to different people and different cultures, than we could have ever imagined. Many say the place grows on you and the lifestyle becomes increasingly hard to give up. Even when you plan to stay for a year or so, you will still make the most of the experiences and opportunities that came your way.
It’s easy to get caught up in the flashy lifestyles many expats lead, which is fine if that’s what you want from life or it’s just a temporary thing.
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