Being an inherently Muslim country, the UAE largely conforms to the Sharia and the precepts of Islam. If you wish to travel to one of the Emirates, you should therefore be familiar with and respect the customs and traditions of the Emirates. Otherwise, you will not be welcome. To help you, here are some of the traditions and perceptions of the Emirates.
How to behave in public in the Emirates?
The structure of the Arab-Muslim society is of divine origin. Consequently, it is quite rigid. Also, the authorities do not tolerate any misbehaviour with respect to the Sharia, the main source of legislation in the UAE. In Muslim countries, drunkenness on the public highway is strictly forbidden. During festive events, Muslim tradition also prohibits dancing and kissing in the street. Such festive behaviour may be judged on charges of shamelessness and provocation. You are planning to go on holiday as a couple to the Emirates. It is important to know that legally married couples can hold hands, without abusing them. As for gay couples, they will have to show great discretion. During the month of Ramadan, the Emirates’ customs prohibit natives and foreigners from eating, drinking and smoking in public. This is a matter of public order, since it applies even to non-Muslims.
Greetings and accommodation in the United Arab Emirates ?
In the UAE, greetings cannot be made as you wish. To greet a man, you must shake his hand and hold it upwards. You must also use your right hand when you receive something or give it. In Muslim society, as in Arab countries, men and women cannot shake hands. Traditions and customs in the Emirates also prohibit an unmarried man and woman from sharing a hotel room. As such, travelling in the Emirates is not ideal for newly engaged couples.
Traditions and customs in the Emirates: what about dress?
In the Emirates, the bourgeois can be recognized in a fairly simple way, in the way they dress. Men always wear a white suit, long up to the ankles and with long sleeves. The lower it falls, the more the person belongs to a higher social class. The wearing of headbands, known as ghutra or keffieh, is also part of the Emirates’ customs. Women are required to wear black abaya. Tourists and foreigners are also required to dress in so-called “proper” attire, especially when visiting public places such as shopping centres, restaurants and amusement parks.
Traditional Emirati poetry, dance and sports
Arabic poetry allows us to tackle different themes such as stories and social problems. This culture, which originated in the nomadic Bedouin us, allows us to entertain ourselves while crossing the desert or welcoming guests. There are 2 main categories of poetry: Al-Taghrooda and Nabati. In a Al-Taghrooda poem 2 singers undertake verbal exchanges in verse. As for the Nabati poetry, this popular culture is carried out with a direct and simple language.
During celebrations and feasts, the poetry may be accompanied by traditional folk dance called Al-Ayyala. This choreography consists of men dancing in a line with sticks. The dancers follow the rhythm of the drum. Although in the UAE one can practice various modern sports such as motor sports, water sports, desert walks, golf, tennis, rugby and football, tourists can enjoy traditional sports. Among these cultural sports are falconry, equestrian sports and camel racing. These practices are inspired by survival and hunting techniques.
Some precautions to take during your stay in the Emirates
When you give something to yourself or when someone offers you an object, you will have to use your right hand. In the emirates, an unmarried man and woman are not allowed to share a hotel room. When presenting 2 passports with different names at the reception desk, it is preferable to choose “husband” and “wife” as the affiliation. Do not tell the reception desk that you are engaged or a companion. This precaution is necessary when 2 people of the opposite sex book a hotel room.
During a stay in the UAE, it is not advisable to take photos of the UAE citizens without their consent. Above all, do not photograph women. During discussions, one should not criticize Islam, the Emir, Palestine and the local authorities. Some sensitive subjects may be worth prison time. When discussing the religious subject, it is better to claim to be a Christian than an agnostic or atheist. Drunkenness is forbidden on the public highway, as is dancing, flirting or kissing. Such festive behaviour is punishable by one month in prison for provocation and indecency. While married couples are only allowed to hold hands in the street, homosexual couples should be very discreet or avoid travelling to the emirates.