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10 Ways to Experience Emirati Culture In 2024

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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 the 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 Emirati Culture and Heritage to Be Aware of When Visiting the UAE:

Let's look at some of the most Emirati Culture and Heritage that are the most prevalent in the UAE, so that you know what to expect, and how to react.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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 UAE Culture is on full display in the colourful dance and fun music of the country, and most tourists can't help but love it.

4. 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.

5. 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. 

6. 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. 

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

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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 UAE Culture, 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 Traditional Emirati Culture", we have tried to compile some of the most peculiar traditions of the UAE.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The traditional dance form in Emirati culture is Ayyala. This dance form is performed by men on special occasions like marriage. Male performs Ayyala dance holding bamboo canes.

The most famous traditional sweet dish of Emirati culture is Luqaimat. This sweet dish is a dumpling made up of sugar, cardamom, and flour. Al-Boubar (mildly sweet), Chebab (similar to pancakes), Kunafa (royal Arabian dessert), Maamoul (pastries), and Qatayef (Arabian pancake) are other traditional dishes served in UAE.

Almost all the nationals of the UAE follow Emirati culture. In this culture, hospitality is one of the main social and cultural values. Emirati people treat outsiders and guests very nicely and they are friendly towards them. Emirati people do serve coffee with dates to the guest who visit their homes Tourists will feel safe and homely in UAE. 

Yes, every foreign national should stay respectful to Islam religion in UAE. Although, it is not mandatory to follow the Islam religion. A visitor must dress properly, cover head, and remove shoes outside while entering the mosque or prayer area in UAE.

The traditional wear in Emirati culture for men is referred to as Kandura. The Kandura is single piece commonly white color ankle-length dress for men. Emirati wears collarless Kandura and Gutra to cover their head. The traditional dress worn by women in Emirati culture is known as Abaya. The Abaya is mostly black and sometimes carried over other dresses. Hijab, kaftan, Shyla, burqa, and Gishwah are the other traditional clothing in Emirati culture.

Females should avoid wearing short dresses and shorts in public places in UAE. You will not be asked to wear burkha and long dresses like Emirati women. But you should wear a dress which covers your shoulder area fully and knee area. Try to wear casual dress and not too tight or revealing clothes while visiting malls, restaurants, and other public places in UAE. If you are at a very tourist popular place then you may be allowed to wear short dresses. Men should also dress modestly and avoid wearing above knee-length clothes in UAE. If you are visiting popular tourist destinations like palm beach or Aquaventure waterpark in Dubai, then you can wear short dresses.

Tourists should be respectful to others and locals in UAE in the public area. Tourists should be careful about the basic public norm. Tourists should not pass out negative comments on Islam religion and culture. In UAE, it is considered unethical to abuse and use bad language in public. At the same time, tourists should respect the prayer timing. Dressing modestly, greetings other during conversation, and do not take pictures of women and locals without taking permission. Not behaving properly in public additionally drinking alcohol is considered unethical and against the social value in UAE. Visitors should not photograph the military building and other government buildings in the United Arab Emirates as it is prohibited. 

Foreign nationals traveling to the United Arab Emirates should know at least the basic social value and traditions of Emirati culture. Even nonmuslim visiting UAE should know about the basic etiquette of dining, dressing, and greeting. Visitors are recommended to value and culture regarding female and male relations and most importantly the dress code. Visitors traveling to UAE should know that the Emirati culture is not at all similar to other western countries. UAE has maintained its rich culture and heritage with modernization, iconic skyscrapers, numerous shopping malls, and more. Therefore, visitors should follow these basic social etiquettes and social values in UAE.

The Emirati value is reflected in the everyday lifestyle of locals and residents of the UAE. The basic value of the Emirati culture is to greet guests, relatives, visitors, business partners, and elders properly. In UAE, men generally do not make long eye contact with an unknown female as it is considered unethical. While greeting others or taking food you should use your right hand. In Emirati culture, guests are welcomed and treated respectfully. The main Emirati value is to pray 5 times every day followed by ablution.

The culture of the United Arab Emirates also known as Emirati culture is greatly influenced by Islamic values and Arabic customs. The Emirati culture is also somewhere influenced by Indian culture and east African culture. If you will look at the art, architecture, food, society norm, tradition, attire, custom, cuisine, and music. All these areas are prominently inspired by Islamic values. In UAE, the weekend starts from Friday as this day is considered the holiest time of the week. Emirati word is a combination of "Emir" and "ate". The word Emir means Islamic leader derived from the Arabian language. The major religion followed by locals in the United Arab Emirates is Islam. Emirati culture has two major caste classifications that are Al-Muwateneen "meaning- national" and Al-Wafedeen " meaning- foreign nationals or residents".

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