"Religion as a Way of..." United Arab Emirates Local Custom Tip by star_e

United Arab Emirates Local Customs: 34 reviews and 24 photos


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<LI><B>Religion as a Way of life</B>

The people of Abu Dhabi and throughout the UAE, led by their President Sheikh Zayed, are deeply committed to Islam. It establishes the principles and values by which they live day-to-day, such as preserving family life, sharing and showing equal respect for one another. Abu Dhabi is a city of mosques, with well over 400 of them and more being built each year. They range from elaborate architectural masterpieces serving thousands of worshippers to small, modest rooms conveniently located. The Muezzin?s call to prayer forms a rhythmic pattern to life in the city. Muslims have a duty to pray five times a day, not necessarily in a mosque, but facing towards Mecca and reciting the prescribed prayers. The most important prayer is said in the mosque on the holy day, Friday.

<LI><B>Dressed by Tradition</B>

Arab nationals usually wear their traditional dress. For men it is the white robe or dishdasha, with a white or red checked headcloth or gutra tied in place by the twisted black agal. A flowing gold-trimmed cloak or abba, is often added by men of high rank or wealth.

The woman?s abba or abbaya is normally black and covers her from head to foot, however underneath, her garments are often prettily embroidered. They consist of a rectangular half cloak layered over a voluminous dress, over a baggy trouser narrowed from knee to ankle. Many women also wear a canvas mask called a burqa which leaves only the eyes uncovered.

<LI><B>Equal Opportunity</B>

It surprises some visitors to Abu Dhabi to find the constitution of the UAE provides equality for women in both opportunity and social justice. There is a Womens Association in the Emirate, founded and chaired by the wife of the Ruler, to foster education and culture of women within the Islamic framework and Arab traditions.

Although local women are seldom seen in the streets, and older women still wear the burqa, the young generation is grasping the opportunity for education. Nowadays at least as many young women attend University as young men, and they go on to take paid positions outside the home. Women work in fields such as administration, commerce and medicine as well as the teaching profession.

<LI><B>Music and Dance</B>

Traditional dances and folk songs are a part of most festivities, particularly weddings. The Ayyalah, performed by up to 50 men, which has its origins in a tribal war chant and victory dance, is usually part of the extended dancing and singing which may begin a week or more in advance of an Arab wedding celebration.

During Eids (the end of Ramadan) and other national festivals where feasting and dancing take place, young girls may perform the ?hair dance?, swaying and tossing their long hair to the rhythm of the music. Another interesting part of the wedding ritual is the practice of decorating the bride?s hands and feet with henna on the eve of the marriage ceremony.

<LI><B>Time-Honoured Crafts</B>

Bedouin women were traditionally expert weavers. Floor mats, food mats and bowls were woven from date palm fibres. Examples can still be found in Abu Dhabi?s souks. They also wove cotton and silver threads into trimmings for their garments, and fashioned coloured yarns into camel blankets and various decorative items for their tents. Some traditionally Arab-crafted metal objects such as the handsome patterned coffee pots, daggers and swords, are being reproduced for the souvenir trade. Bedouin jewellery, not often made by the Bedouins themselves but by travelling tinkers and craftsmen, would be given to the bride as a wedding gift. It too, is now widely available in the markets of Abu Dhabi and elsewhere.

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  • Written Sep 12, 2002
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