Also known as the Emirates, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) lies on the southeastern side of the Arabian Peninsula with its neighbor being Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. The seven emirates countries making up the UAE are Abu Dhabi, which is the capital, Dubai, Fujairah, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al-Khaimah and Umm Al-Quwain. The rich culture and history of the Emiratis in these countries goes all the way back to around 125,000 BCE. Over the years, however, the UAE has been occupied by a wide range of visitors and migrant workers who have also played an important role in shaping the culture of the whole country.
Emirati culture is completely different from the western culture in many ways, and a thing which is seen as totally fine in the western culture might be offensive in the Emirati culture. A country seemingly filled with ostentatious glitters and luxurious buildings, the UAE hides away a deep-rooted culture that originates from the desert and spreads to the international seas.
One major thing to know about Emirati culture is that the people thrive on their hospitality. They are immensely amiable and welcoming in nature, so their greetings are rather long with prayers and embrace and kisses. Nonetheless, this is only true in the case of Emirati men, for Emirati women it is completely different. It is offensive to shake the hands of the women while greeting unless they put out their hands first. It is offensive even to stare at Emirati women in the UAE albeit out of curiosity.
Being an Arab country, it is no surprise that most people follow the Islamic religion there. Having said that, there are other religions like Hinduism, Christianity that people follow. But the government doesn’t allow promotion of other religions, neither does it allow proselytization.
As the country has a deep-rooted culture, similarly they have their own unique cuisines when it comes to food. The food of the Emiratis is really delicious and visitors always have a good time enjoying their food. Traditionally, they have their staple foods as rice, meat and seafood. Cultural Emirati foods include Chabab bread, Machboos and Lugaimat, which is a really popular dessert in the Emirates. Some of the more common delicacies that Emiratis enjoy are dates and camel milk. When Emiratis host visitors, they often offer dates and coffee as part of the welcoming process. It is considered rude to refuse the coffee and dates. The sign that Emirati people show when they have had enough coffee is shaking their cup from side to side.
Emirati music and dance is one not to miss if you’re visiting the country. The men perform dances re-enacting past battles whereas the women dance by moving their hair and hips. Songs and dances can be frequently heard and seen in social events such as parties. Also, tourists can catch a glimpse of the Emirati music and dance when going on desert safaris or during national holidays. All the Emirati dances have been transmitted from generation to generation usually by word of mouth. On the contrary, the Emirati music comes from the time of the Bedouins, sung by professional performers and camel herdsmen.
Ramadan is hugely important to the Emiratis, which they celebrate thoroughly maintaining the fast from dawn to dusk every day during the month. After the sun sets, people enjoy an iftar meal with their friends and family. If visitors are in the country during the Ramadan month, then they are welcome to join the many iftar buffets across the cities and take part in local traditions. During Ramadan, it is crucial that the people there do not eat, drink, smoke or even chew gum in public which is considered to be vastly offensive and is also not allowed by the law of the country.
So, if going to Dubai or Abu Dhabi is on your bucket list, keep in mind the few things that are highly offensive towards the country and delve deep into the unique culture and traditions of the Emirati people.