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Society of United Arab Emirates is diverse and multicultural. The small cultural imprint of the country has been changed over the time with the arrival of various ethnic groups and nationals like in early 1900 by Iranians and in 1960s by Pakistanis and Indians. Criticism of Dubai lies in having a class based society as the immigrant workers are considered as lower class. But despite all this no major incidence of ethnic tension have been reported. Major holidays in Dubai are Eid-ul-fitr and National Day [2 December], that is the day of UAEs formation.
Culture of UAE revolves mainly around Islam and Bedouin culture but none the less it has a vibrant and diverse culture thanks to being a cosmopolitan society. Arabic culture and Islam have a great influence over its music, art, attire, architecture, cuisine, and lifestyle. Mosques are scattered all around the country where Muslims pray five times daily. As Friday is the holiest day for Muslims, the weekend begins on Friday.
Islam is the main religion of UAE but it has been tolerant to other religions as well, as a result Hindu Temples, Sikh Gurudwaras, and Christian Churches can also be found alongside Mosques. But surprisingly no Jewish Synagogue is found!
UAE homes several communities are facing persecution in other parts of the world which is unique in itself. Due to the rapidly growing cosmopolitan atmosphere a number of Asian influenced schools, themed restaurant and cultural centers can be found. European centers, restaurants and school are also seen in UAE today. Etiquette is important feature of the culture and tradition of UAE so the visitors are but naturally expected to show good manners and etiquette. (Al-Abed & Vine, 2004)
People of UAE
People of Emirates comprises of native Arab people who have dominated this region for centuries. Majority is represented by descendants of Al Nahant and Al Mattoon.
Many people from Indian subcontinent, Europe and Arab countries migrate to UAE seeking better life style and higher income jobs. U.S. state department estimated the population to be at 4.4 million people with citizens being only 15-20%. The annual growth rate of population is 4% per annum. 96% of population is Muslim. Christianity, Hinduism is followed by traces of population. Arabic is majorly spoken so it is the official language. English, Urdu, Hindi and Persian are also spoken among various groups of people. Average life expectancy is found to be seventy seven years.
The nationals belonging to UAE can own property and enjoy all the welfare benefits offered by the government of UAE, whereas the immigrants from other countries have no right to settle permanently and also cannot own property in UAE. If the immigrants from other countries fall ill or loose their jobs they are returned back to their own country (Cavendish, 2007)
People from Indian subcontinent and the Philippines sometimes also have to face racial discrimination and the people from these countries mostly do low paid and unpleasant jobs. (Cavendish, 2007)
Islamic architecture greatly inspires the architecture of United Arab Emirates. Builders use simple materials but still they are nicely adapted to the demands of harsh climate and life style. In winter season portable tents provide shelter during tribal wanderings. More permanent houses build with stone guss and are roofed using palm tree leaves in inland. In coastal regions fossilized coral bonded with sarooj and plastered with water paste and chalk is extensively used. Privacy and ventilation is taken care in houses layout.
There are a number of forts and watch towers in the Emirates which were built to protect the urban population. The Husn of Abu Dhabi which was built in the 18th century is the oldest watch tower which was built to protect the city's well. (Petersen, 2002)
Museums and Art Galleries
Sarah was declared the cultural capital of Arab world in 1998 with 17 museums in its Heritage District. Cultural foundation of Abu Dhabi is a place for the presentation of indigenous & for an art. Al Quoi area of Dubai has attracted a large number of art galleries.
A cultural district on Saadiyat Island has led Abu Dhabi on a way to become an international level art center. Here six grand projects planned are:
Sheikh hayed National Museum
Guggenheim Abu Dhabi- Modern art museum
Louvre Abu Dhabi- Classical museum
A Maritime Museum
A Performing Art Center
A Biennale Park with sixteen pavilions
Food and Cuisines
Cuisine of UAE is a blend of different Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines. The modern diet of UAE is cosmopolitan, including several dishes from all over the world. Many people confuse Levantine as being Emirati Food, but tabbouleh, hummus, mixed grill and shawarma are recent additions which does not do justice to title 'soul food' that makes up Emirati menu.
Due to harsh climatic conditions of desert, traditional food of UAE uses a large quantity of meat, dairy and cereals. Here vegetables are very difficult to grow and so they are not strongly featured in daily diet. Margooga, fireed, Harees, Jishied, Machbous, and Mishwy are included in traditional dishes. Meats usually used are either chicken or small fowl, like Houbara bustards and goats. Because camels are highly prized for milk and unique transporting ability, the eating of their meat is kept for the special occasions.
Because everything is cooked within a single pot, the dishes are generally like stews. The core flavors which are used in Emirati cookery include Saffron, cardamom, turmeric and thyme. Rice was included in the diet when traders moved to this region. The leaves from the indigenous tress like the Gaff also used to make stuff of the small birds, thus releasing the flavor and aroma during the cooking process.
UAE breakfast usually features many types of breads like chebab, khameer and ragag, served along with cheese, syrup of date, or eggs. These are made over the curved hot plate, which are used by the Bedouins. Balaleat is yet another popular dish, but is advent again with traders, who are known to introduce pasta.
Sweet choices include luqeymat which is a deep fried ball made of pancake batter which is rolled in sesame seed then further drizzled with date syrup. Other major desserts are khabeesa which is flour bread crumbs mixed with sugar, cardamom, saffron or bethitha, and semolina mixed with crushed dates, cardamom and butter.
At the end of the meal generally a red tea blended with the mint is served, which helps in digestion of food. The traditions to meal includes the welcome with the dates and the ghawah (Arabic coffee), which is generally offered on arrival of the guest and is thus kept available till end of the guests' visit. UAE cuisine is a reflection of Arabian heritage together with vast exposure to other civilizations over the period of time. Pork meat is prohibited in Islam that is the reason why it does not include in Arab menu. While the fish, rice and Meat are the staple foods, but the meat of Mutton and Lamb are the most favored. Popular beverages include coffee and tea which are supplemented with cardamom and mint to give it a delightful and distinct flavor. (UAE Food)
Many Hotels have substitutes like beef sausages and veal rashers in their respective breakfast menus but in case the pork is the available part, it should be clearly labeled.
Alcohol is usually only served in hotels, restaurants and bars (and not in Sharjah). All the night clubs and golf clubs are allowed to sell alcohol. Very specific supermarkets may also sell alcohol and pork but still they have to sell it in separate sections.
Dishes which are part of the UAE cuisine are as follows-
Al Jabab Bread
Dress and Clothing
While the major religion is Islam, still the Islamic dress code is not compulsory unlike Saudi Arabia. Many of Emirati men prefer wearing thoub which is ankle length white shirt made of wool or cotton while women wear abayah. These clothing's are well suited for the hot and dry climate. Apart from traditional clothing, western clothing is also quite popular among the youngsters.
Etiquette is important feature of the culture and tradition of UAE so the visitors are but naturally expected to show good manners and etiquette. Recently the expatriates who were not respecting laws were arrested as they were not wearing enough clothes at beaches; some of them were even completely nude.
Poetry and Literature
Poetry has been part of the culture of UAE since dawn of time. Style and form of ancient was influenced by 8TH century Arab scholar. This form went slight modification during Islamic civilization in Spain. However, the Indigenous Arabic poetry was not left unaffected from western influence. In 20th century the prose poetry made its way into local literary scene.
Poetry is vivid in themes ranging from patriotism, religion, family to love, satire and chivalry, self-praise. It can vary from descriptive to narrative.
Dance and Music
United Arab Emirates is known for its Bedouin folk music. Liwa type of music and dance is performed in communities which have descendants of East Africa. During the celebrations, singing and dancing takes place and many songs and dances which passed down from generation to generation, have survived till the present time. Young girls usually dance by swinging their long hair and swaying their bodies according to the strong music beats. Men re-enact the battles fought and successful hunting expeditions, often using sticks, swords and rifles. Bollywood and Hollywood movies are quite popular in Dubai. UAE has active music scene, with the musicians like Amr Diab, Tarkan, Aerosmith, Diana Haddad, Santana, Mark Knopfler, Bon Jovi, Elton John, Pink Floyd, Shakira, Pink, Celine Dion, Phil Collins and Coldplay having performed on major occasions in the country. Kylie Minogue was paid a handsome 4.4 million dollars to perform during the opening ceremony of Atlantis resort on 20 November, 2008. Dubai's Desert Rock Festival is yet another major festival which consists of Heavy metal music and rock artists. (Culture of UAE, 2010)
As UAE is dry land most of the traditional sports of UAE have relations with the desert sand. Due to this factor the traditional games are related to camels and horses which are commonly seen in the country. Camel racing, Horse racing, Endurance riding, falconry and Dhow sailing form part of the traditional games played in UAE. (traditional sports in UAE)
Football is the National Sport of the UAE. Emirati Soccer clubs like Al-Ain, Al-Wasl, Al-Sharjah, Al-Wahda, Al-Shabbab ACD and Al-Ahli clubs are most popular teams and they enjoy reputation of the regional champions. Great rivalries keep the UAE streets energized because people crowd the streets when the team which they are supporting wins. The UAE Football Association, first established in 1971 has dedicated itself to promote the game, organizing many youth programs The U.A.E. football team first qualified for World Cup in 1990 with Egypt. It was the 3rd consecutive World Cup having 2 Arab countries qualifying after Kuwait and Algeria doing it in 1982 and Iraq and Algeria doing it again in 1986. UAE has recently won the Gulf Cup soccer championship organized in Abu Dhabi in January 2007.
Cricket is amongst one of the most popular sports, mainly due to the high population from Indian subcontinent. Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium hosted 4 international Test matches. Also Abu Dhabi stadium also hosts international cricket matches. Dubai has got 2 cricket stadiums with a 3rd 'S3' is currently under construction. Dubai is also home to the International Cricket Council. United Arab Emirates' national cricket team was qualified for the 1996 World Cup. Other popular sports are racing, Falconry, Tennis and Endurance riding.
Dubai Media City aka DMC has been built which is a tax free zone. Purpose behind this is to establish and boost media foothold of UAE. It serves as a regional hub for various media organizations. Groundwork for its infrastructure is developed in such a way that it provides easy setup and in addition the visa and other operational procedures are slightly relaxed for firms which operate inside DMC. Having more than 1300 companies working and registered under its free zone, DMC serves as a hub for media industry.
But media in Dubai has also faced censorship for example when telecom was ordered by government to stop the transmission of Pakistani channel ARY one world and also Geo News on the request of Pervez Musharraf, military regime of Pakistan. Later their transmissions were restarted but significant difference is seen in their coverage. Censorship is also seen in internet facilities.
Important news agencies include APTN and routers. Popular TV channels are CNN international, BBC World, Al Arabiya, Orbit show time, MBC 1, MBC Action, CNBC Arabiya, Infinity TV, Ten Sports, Geo TV, City 7 TV, etc.
Geography and Environment
UAE lies between latitudes 22°50â€² and 26° north and longitudes 51° and 56°25â€² east. It shares borders with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman. Border shared with Oman is a source of dispute between both the countries. Total land area is approximately 83,600 sq. km.
The environment of UAE is generally sandy. The landscape in mainly low-lying except for the salt flat bed at the coast and a range of steep mountains on the eastern side of the country. (Haggett, 2002)
UAE has a hot and dry climate with the months of July and August being the hottest when temperature may rise to more than 48°C. Average temperature around January and February is around 10-15°C. Southeastern wind called Shari blows during late summer month which is very humid. Rainfall varies with around 120mm in coastal areas to around 350mm in some areas of higher altitudes. Occasional dust storms are also observed.
Date palms, eucalyptus and acacia grow in oasis. Since desert forms a great part flora is very sparse and mainly includes thorn bushes and grasses where as the fauna is on the verge of extinction because of hunting. Therefore a conservation program is started on bane Yes Island which helped in the survival of many species like Arabian oryx and leopards. Coastal fishes like tuna and mackerel are found as well as whales and sharks.
Forest cover is 3.8 % which is a serious issue. Natural hazards include frequent dust and sand storms. There is scarcity of natural fresh water resources. It is dealt by setting up desalination plants. Other environmental issues include increasing desertification and pollution of beaches due to oil spills. (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - General Information)