a guide on emirati culture
- Author- Rose Mary
- Publish Date-
Whenever you visit a country, you are expected to be mindful of, and respectful towards, the local traditions and customs. While you don't have to keep every single little cultural point in mind, you must know some of the most important customs, so as to save yourself from unnecessary hassle, and avoid offending anyone while you're on your trip. This is even more evident when it comes to Emirati tradition, which differs quite a bit from the Western mannerisms. To help you know what's okay and what's not during your trip to the UAE, we've put together A Guide On Emirati Culture.
Emirati Culture: From Where Is It Influenced?
The Emiratis from a few centuries ago were divided mainly into two groups, one that dwelled in the desert (the Bedouin nomads), and the other that were fishermen and seafaring pearl divers. Most of the UAE population today, has descended from these two lines. The locals are the centre of the Emiratis, and the ago-old customs can still be seen on multiple occasions. This is even more true when tourists visit, as the UAE citizens take pride in showing them their rich culture.
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Important Customs and Cultural Norms to Be Aware of When Visiting the UAE:
Let's look at some of the most cultural norms that are the most prevalent in the UAE, so that you know what to expect, and how to react.
- Emirati Clothing: When in the UAE, both men and women (especially women) are expected to avoid wearing clothes which may be considered provocative or inappropriate. While many locals are slowly growing more open-mimded to Western clothing, it is always better for the tourists to play safe. Additionally, unless they are invited to do so, or are going on a trip to the sandy desert, male tourists should refrain from wearing he tradtional Emirati men's clothing, as the locals might see it as offensive.
- Emirati Greetings: The Emirati locals are known for their friedliness and hospitality, and all the long greetings made in the name of God and paired with the embraces and kisses as is shown in movies, are commonplace in the UAE. However, they only happen between men. When it comes to Emirati women, avoid shaking their hands unless they offer it first themselves, and completely refrain from the embraces.
- Ramadan: Ramadan is the holy Islamic month, and if you happen to visit the UAE during this period, be mindful to not eat, drink, chew gum, or smoke in public, between sunrise to sunset. Such acts, in addition to being illegal under the Emirati law, are also highly offensive to the locals.
- The vibrant culture of the UAE is on full display in the colourful dance and fun music of the country, and most tourists can't help but love it.
- How to Act in Public: Tourists need to be very well-aware of public norms, as things which are common in other parts of world, many be frowned upon, or even illegal, in the UAE. One of them is drinking and being drunk. As the locals do not indulge in drinking, people can be booked for it. Taking pictures of women, or government and military facilities is prohibited, and public displays of affection is generally a no-no.
- Religious Beliefs: Islam is the most commonly-followed religion in the UAE, and tourists need to be respectful towards it. They are expected to dress properly if visiting mosques, respect the prayer timings, and to be mindful to not eat during the Ramadan hours.
- Emirati Homes: If you happen to befriend an Emirati local during your trip, then you can expect to be invited into their homes, given their knack for hospitality. Coffee and dates are generally offered as a welcoming meal, and declining the same can be seen as offensive. Once you have had your fill of coffee, instead of verbally declining, it is better to make a gesture by shaking your coffee cup from side to side.
- Emirati Food: The Emirati cuisine is one of a kind, and, being very delicious, is bound to lure tourists. Some of the common delicacies include camel milk and dates. Alcohol is not consumed by Emirati locals, and so, when out with an Emirati, it's always better to choose a restaurant that doesn't serve alcohol. Additionally, serving pork to Islam followers is a strict no-no.
- Women: While interacting with women from the Emirates, tourists need to be mindful of a number of small gestures, which can be seen as offensive by the locals, despite being mainstream in the Western world. Take for example, clicking pictures of, or staring at, Emirati Women, especially if they are in their traditional clothing. Another thing that is frowned upon is flirting with, or making unnecessary (and uninvited) physical contact with, local women.
- Body Language: Body language can convey a lot about a person, and has a lot of scope to be misinterpreted. So, it is always better to be careful of your actions. Standing up when someone enters a room, and serving food with your right hand, are considered signs of respect. Conversely, public displays of affection, and sitting with your shoe sole facing towards an Emirati citizen, are extremely disrespectful.
- Family: Family, both immediate and extended, are important parts of the Emirati lifestyle. It is common to find members of a family living in close proximity, and gathering together for festivities and the like. So, make sure to respect one's family bonds.
When visiting the Emirates, being aware and mindful of the local customs and cultural norms of the Emirati people always comes in handy for tourists. The culture of the UAE is quite different from that of the Western countries, in all things from food to greetings to public behaviour. The people of the Emirates are known the world over for their hospitality, and are extremely to the tourists, provided they respect the culture of the UAE, and avoid indulging in any acts that may offend the citizens. These include any unnecessary public display of affection, drinking in public, eating during Ramadan hours, declining any coffee or dates that are being offered to you, and a handful of other gestures which may be considered normal in other countries. We hope that this guide helps you know what to keep in mind when making a trip to the UAE. In "A Guide On Emirati Culture", we have tried to compile some of the most peculiar traditions of the UAE.