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Culture of United Arab Emirates

Here you will find a most important informations about UAE's culture


Islam is the official religion and Arabic the official language. The majority of the local population is Sunni. The communities have their own schools and social and cultural institutions. English, Urdu/Hindi and Farsi are also spoken. Traditionally, the people of Abu Dhabi are courteous, kind and friendly and quite hospitable both in social matters and in business. Foreigners. especially tourists and visitors are treated with generosity. But they in turn are expected to respect local customs, especially religious practice. and abide by the law of the land. During Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, non--Muslim foreigners are expected to refrain from eating. drinking and smoking in public places during the hours of fasting. In Ramadan official working hours are reduced. Shops compensate for the loss of business by staying open longer. The two Eids arc also the period when many people go abroad for holidays. It is, therefore, advisable to book flights in and out of the UAE well in advance.


Native menfolk of the Arabian peninsula have a distinct form of dress. They wear an ankle-length shirt (dishdasha), usually white (or colored or striped in winter), a white, or sometimes red-chequered, headcloth (ghutra) and the twisted, black rope piece (agal), holding the gutra in place. Men of distinction and the Sheikhs also wear on top of their dishdasha a flowing cloak (abba or bisht) edged with gold braid. It may he black or brown. UAE women are very particular about their dress. They generally cover themselves from head to feet with a black cloak called the ahaya'.


Reflecting the traditions of the desert, the role of the camel has been given much attention. Once it carried the people across the sands, providing at the same time milk, meat and leather, while its shoulder-blades were used as little 'blackboards' for children studying. Now proper school equipment is available from other sources, as is leather, but many local families still keep a few for meat and for milk. To encourage them to do so, the government offers subsidies to those who still keep this noble and historic beast of burden. The camel will more easily be noticed by the visitor, however, during the great camel races held in various locations throughout the country in the winter months, when owners from the Emirates and the rest of Arabia pit their fastest steeds one against the other. The major festivals attract many hundreds of camels to compete for prizes that total several million dollars. The top steeds can each fetch well over a million dollars. Camel-racing has become one of the country's most popular spectator sports.


Another tradition that has taken on new life in the years since the UAE was established is that of boat racing, now given substantial encouragement by the government in the form of handsome cash prizes. Two kinds of boats are used. The first is powered by a single sail that catches the wind to drive wooden boats of shallow draught fast across the surface of the sea. A couple of dozen such sailing boats scudding across the waves, their sails shining in the sun, is one of the most romantic sights to be seen anywhere. The other boats are powered by men, not the wind, great rowing boats of 20 meters or more in length, rowed by up to a hundred oarsmen straining every muscle to reach the finishing line. Boat races are held on special occasions throughout the year, to commemorate events such as the annual National Day holiday, and have proved a popular attraction for visitors, while, at the same time, keeping alive the maritime traditions of the UAE's sturdy people.


More of an individual sport is that of falconry, whose origins among the Arabs date back many centuries, and are lost in the mists of time. Flying Saker or peregrine falcons prized for their strength or speed, the people of the Emirates practiced falconry in the past not merely as a sport but as a way of providing a useful supplement to their diet, or a tasty hare, or a well-fed bustard. Today, it is purely a sport. and one which is popular from the highest to the lowest in the land. Like other hinters, however, the people of the Emirates are concerned with the need to) understand and protect the environment, and the quarry which they hunt, lest it disappears.


Folk dances and music are integral to any celebration. Most dances are male-oriented. Everybody present at a joyous occasion is expected to join in. Dancers sway together in a line or a circle or clapping to the accompaniment of tambourines of various sizes, with rings or bells attached. Drums are an integral part of classical and folk music. A popular dance for females has young girls in flowing black tresses swing their heads in a hypnotic, undulating movement. Many popular songs are sung on special occasion. Both music and words, usually of a bedu dialect, are simply composed. The wedding provide the most popular occasions for traditional dancing. Dance groups may begin performing a week or more before the event. Most wedding music and dance is of local origin but some brought by immigrants have also been absorbed into the folklore. At functions attended by local dignitaries and state guests a particular folksong - the Ayyalah - is performed. This is basically developed from a war song whose purpose was to raise the morale of the fighting men.

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