Culture of the United Arab Emirates

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The United Arab Emirates has a diverse, cosmopolitan and multicultural society.[1] The country's historical population as a small, diverse pearling community has been changed with the arrival of other nationals — first by the Iranians in 1810, and later by Indians and Pakistanis in the 1960s.[2]

Emirati people are ethnically diverse, with great ancestors from the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Baluchistan and East Africa.[3] Arab descendants of the Bani Yas, Al Nahyan and Al Maktoum families in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, respectively, represent the Emirati leadership. Al Qawasim have also played a vital role in the history of the United Arab Emirates. Some Emiratis in Dubai are of Persian ancestry.[4][5][6] Emirati culture is based on Arabian culture and has been heavily influenced by Persian culture. Arabian and Persian inspired architecture is part of the expression of the local Emirati identity.[7] Persian influence on Emirati culture is noticeably visible in traditional Emirati architecture and folk arts.[8] For example, the "barjeel" has become an identifying mark of traditional Emirati architecture and is attributed to Persian influence.[8] Certain folk dances, such as "al-habban", are originally Persian.[8] Local Emirati culture has also been influenced by the cultures of East Africa and India.[8]

Dubai has been criticized for perpetuating a class-based society, where migrant workers are in the lower classes.[9] Despite the diversity of the population, only minor and infrequent episodes of ethnic tensions, primarily between expatriates, have been reported in the city. Major holidays in Dubai include Eid ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and National Day (2 December), which marks the formation of the United Arab Emirates.[10]

Being a highly cosmopolitan society, the UAE has a diverse and vibrant culture. The influence of Islamic, Persian and Arabian culture on its architecture, music, attire, cuisine, and lifestyle are very prominent as well. Five times every day, Muslims are called to prayer from the minarets of mosques, which are scattered around the country.[11] The weekend begins on Friday due to Friday being the holiest day for Muslims. Most Muslim countries have a Friday-Saturday or Thursday-Friday weekend.[12]

This unique socioeconomic development in the Persian Gulf has meant that the UAE is much more liberal than Saudi Arabia. Emiratis are known for their religious tolerance, and churches, Hindu temples, Sikh Gurdwara can be found alongside mosques. However, there are no Jewish synagogues in the United Arab Emirates. A cosmopolitan atmosphere is gradually growing. As a result there are a variety of foreign-influenced schools, cultural centers, and themed restaurants.

Emirati People[edit]

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Main article: Emirati people

Emirati people are ethnically diverse, with ancestries from the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Baluchistan and East Africa.[3] Arab descendants of the Bani Yas, Al Nahyan and Al Maktoum in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, respectively, represent the Emirati leaderships. Al Qawasim have also played a vital role in the history of the United Arab Emirates. Some Emiratis in Dubai are of Persian ancestry.[4][5][6] Emirati culture is based on Arabian culture and has been heavily influenced by Persian culture. Arabian and Persian inspired architecture is part of the expression of the local Emirati identity.[7] Persian influence on Emirati culture is noticeably visible in traditional Emirati architecture and folk arts.[8] For example, the "barjeel" has become an identifying mark of traditional Emirati architecture and is attributed to Persian influence.[8] Certain folk dances, such as "al-habban", are originally Persian.[8] Local Emirati culture has also been influenced by the cultures of East Africa and India.[8]

Due to growth in trade, many expatriates from Arab countries, the Indian subcontinent, and Europe came to the UAE seeking better lives and higher-income jobs.

The population as a whole is estimated by the U.S. State Department to be at 4.4 million people, with only 15–20% of these being citizens. The population growth rate is 4% per year. The primary religion in the United Arab Emirates is Islam, with the population estimated to be 96% Muslim. Hinduism and Christianity are minorities as stated by the United States State Department. The official language is Arabic. Other languages such as English, Persian, Hindi and Urdu are spoken among the different peoples. The U.S. State Department estimates the people of the UAE to have an average life expectancy of seventy-seven years.

Architecture[edit]

The Wind Tower in Dubai.

The United Arab Emirates's architecture is inspired by Islamic architecture, Arabian architecture and Persian architecture. Arabian and Persian inspired architecture is part of the expression of the local Emirati identity.[7] For example, the "barjeel" has become an identifying mark of traditional Emirati architecture and is attributed to Persian influence.[8]

Emirati architecture reflects the traditional lifestyles and customs of the people. Building materials are simple, but well-adapted to local living and climatic circumstances. Portable tents traditionally provided shelter during tribal wanderings in the winter season. Inland more permanent houses were built of stone guss and were roofed with palm trees leaves. Fossilized coral, cut in blocks, bonded with sarooj, or a lime mixture derived from seashells, and plastered with chalk and water paste, was used extensively in coastal regions. Privacy and ventilation were important influences in the layout of the houses.

Dress[edit]

Many of the older Emirati men prefer wearing the traditional Emirati clothes, such as the kandoora, an ankle-length white shirt woven from wool or cotton while many local women wear an abaya, a black over-garment covering most parts of the body.[13] On an average a UAE male national would have up to 50 kanduras as they keep changing their clothing to ensure the dress being kept clean.[14] This attire is particularly well-suited for the UAE's hot and dry climate. Western-style clothing is also fairly popular, especially among the Emirati youth.

Etiquette is an important aspect of UAE culture and tradition, and whilst in the UAE, visitors are expected to show appropriate manners and etiquette. There have been several recent cases of expatriates not respecting the laws and being arrested. For example, there have been instances of expats for not wearing enough clothing at beaches, and some even being completely rude.[15]

Before the discovery of oil, pearling formed a crucial part of UAE's economy. Pearl fishery, known as ghaus, suffered decline after the advent of Japanese pearl farming. However, the UAE pearl industry laid the foundation of its rich maritime history. Dhows, large wooden ships made from teak wood imported from India, became an indistinct part of the countries maritime fleet and how building is still practiced in this Persian Gulf state and perform an important role of trade between countries like Iran, India, and Eastern Africa.[16]

Food[edit]

Many natives eat hummus and kuboos which is also known as arabic bread.

Literature and poetry[edit]

The main themes in Emirati poetry for Arab poets range from satire, chivalry, self-praise, patriotism, religion, family, and love, and could range from descriptive to narrative.

Poetry in the United Arab Emirates has a great influence on culture, being an Arab country in the Persian Gulf where poetry has been part of since the dawn of time. The style and form of ancient poetry in the UAE was strongly influenced by the 8th-century Arab scholar, Al Khalil bin Ahmed. This form underwent slight modification (Al Muwashahat) during the period of Islamic civilization in Andalucia (Spain), where "the line or bait adhered to the two hemistitches form, each with an equal number of feet, all the second hemistitches ending in the same rhyming letter and sound throughout the poem". The indigenous Arabic poetry form, however, was not spared from western influence; sometime in the 20th century, prose poetry started to make their way into the local literary scene.

Ibn Majid, who was born between 1432 and 1437 in Ras Al Khaimah was an iconic poet. Coming from a family of successful sailors, Ibn Majid has a total of 40 surviving compositions, 39 of which are verses.

The greatest luminaries in the UAE literary realm during the 20th century, particularly for Classical Arabic poetry, were Mubarak Al Oqaili (1880–1954), Salem bin Ali al Owais (1887–1959), and Ahmed bin Sulayem (1905–1976). Three other poets from Sharjah, known as the Hirah group, also thrived during the 20th century including Khalfan Musabah (1923–1946), Sheikh Saqr Al Qasimi (1925–1993), an ex-ruler of Sharjah, and Sultan bin Ali al Owais (1925–2000). The Hirah group's works are observed to have been heavily influenced by the Apollo and romantic poets.[17]

Music and dance[edit]

The United Arab Emirates is a part of the Arab khaleeji tradition. Yowla is a type of music and dance performed mainly in communities of Bantu peoples from the African Great Lakes region.[17] During celebrations singing and dancing also took place and many of the songs and dances, handed down from generation to generation, have survived to the present time. Young girls would dance by swinging their long black hair and swaying their bodies in time to the strong beat of the music. Men would re-enact battles fought or successful hunting expeditions, often symbolically using sticks, swords, or rifles. Hollywood and Bollywood movies are popular in Dubai. The UAE has an active music scene, with musicians Amr Diab, Diana Haddad, Tarkan, Aerosmith, Santana, Mark Knopfler, Elton John, Pink, Bon Jovi, Pink Floyd, Shakira, Celine Dion, Coldplay, Linkin Park Slipknot and Phil Collins having performed in the country. Kylie Minogue was paid 4.4 million dollars to perform at the opening of the Atlantis resort on November 20, 2008.[18] Dubai International Jazz Festival has been held annually since 2003. The Dubai Desert Rock Festival (2004-2009) was another major festival, consisting of heavy metal and rock artists.[19]

Sports[edit]

Football is the most popular sport in the UAE. Emirati football clubs Al-Ain, Al-Wasl, Al-Shabbab ACD, Al-Sharjah, Al-Wahda, and Al-Ahli are the most popular teams and enjoy the reputation of long-time regional champions.[20] The great rivalries keep the streets of the UAE energized as people fill the streets when their favorite team wins. The United Arab Emirates Football Association was first established in 1971, and since then has dedicated its time and effort to promoting the game, organizing youth competitions and improving the abilities of not only its players, but of the officials and coaches involved with its regional teams. The UAE national football team qualified for the FIFA World Cup in 1990 with Egypt. It was the third consecutive World Cup with two Arab nations qualifying, after Kuwait and Algeria in 1982, and Iraq and Algeria again in 1986.[21] The UAE also recently won the Gulf Cup of Nations held in Abu Dhabi in January 2007.[22]

Cricket is one of the most popular sports in the UAE, largely due to the expatriate population from the Indian subcontinent. The Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium in Sharjah has hosted four international test cricket matches so far.[23] Sheikh Zayed Stadium and Al Jazira Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi also hosted international cricket. Dubai has two cricket stadiums (Dubai Cricket Ground No.1 and No.2) with a third, S3 currently under construction as part of Dubai Sports City. Dubai is also home to the International Cricket Council.[24] The UAE national cricket team qualified for the 1996 Cricket World Cup and narrowly missed out on qualification for the 2007 Cricket World Cup.[25]

Other popular sports include camel racing, falconry, endurance riding, and tennis.[26]

Magazines on Culture in the UAE[edit]

  • Vision (Magazine) is a Dubai based Magazine presenting Dubai’s perspective on Culture,Art, Music, Business and Life in the Emirate.[27]
  • Brownbook, based in Dubai, is an urban lifestyle guide focusing on art, design, and travel across the Middle East and North Africa.[28]
  • Canvas is an international bi-monthly magazine dedicated to art and culture from the Middle East and Arab world.[29]
  • Bidoun covers art and culمture from the Middle East.[30]

Holidays[edit]

Date English Arabic
January 1 New Year's Day Ra's as-Sana al-meladiah رأس السنة الميلادية
zil hajjah 9 Day of the Sacrifice Eid ul-Adha عيد الأضحى
Muharram 1 Islamic New Year Ra's as-Sana al-Hijria رأس السنة الهجرية
variable The Night Journey Al-Isra'a wal-Mi'raj الإسراء والمعراج
December 2   National Day Yawm al watani اليوم الوطني
Ramadan 30 End of Ramadan Eid ul-Fitr عيد الفطر

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Country and Metropolitan Stats in Brief. MPI Data Hub
  2. ^ "Negotiating Change: The New Politics of the Middle East". Jeremy Jones. 2007. pp. 184–186. 
  3. ^ a b JIMD Reports - Volume 10. UAE citizens (Emiratis) are ethnically diverse, with ancestries from Arabian Peninsula, Persia, Baluchistan, and East Africa. 
  4. ^ a b "Dubai, the City As Corporation". Ahmed Kanna. 2011. p. 144. 
  5. ^ a b "Global Downtowns". Marina Peterson, Gary McDonogh. 2012. p. 300. In Dubai, a majority of the population (perhaps 80 percent) is expatriate, and majority of the citizenship is ethnically Persian, not Arab. The ruling families of each emirate, however, are ethnically Arab. 
  6. ^ a b "The Shia Revival". Vali Nasr. p. 109. 
  7. ^ a b c Handbook of Islamic Marketing. p. 430. Arabian and Persian inspired architecture is part of the expression of a 'local' identity. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Folklore and Folklife in the United Arab Emirates. p. 167. 
  9. ^ The Dark Side of Dubai, Johann Hari, The Independent, 7 April 2009.
  10. ^ "Official holidays in UAE". Gowealthy.com. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  11. ^ "UAE Culture". Uae.gov.ae. 2000-06-01. Retrieved 2009-07-15. [dead link]
  12. ^ Advanced Digital Technology www.adtworld.com. "New UAE Weekend". Gulfnews. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  13. ^ "Clothing in the UAE". Grapeshisha.com. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  14. ^ "UAE National Dress". yagulf.com. 
  15. ^ "Blame Europeans for topless displays, British women say". Gulfnews. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  16. ^ UAEinteract.com. "Dhow race keeps tradition alive UAE – The Official Web Site – News". Uaeinteract.com. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  17. ^ a b "Welcome to Abu Dhabi – Literature and Poetry". Visitabudhabi.ae. 2009-07-01. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  18. ^ "Kylie Minogue paid $4.4m for hotel gig". 2008-09-11. [dead link]
  19. ^ :::: Center Stage Management ::::. Desertrockfestival.com. Retrieved on 2012-08-19.
  20. ^ "Clubs, Sports Clubs UAE United Arab Emirates". Indexuae.com. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  21. ^ UAEinteract.com. "UAE – The Official Web Site – News". Uaeinteract.com. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  22. ^ "Gulf Cup 2007". Gulfnews. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  23. ^ "UAE Cricket Timeline". Cricketeurope4.net. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  24. ^ "Cricinfo – Grounds – United Arab Emirates". Content-uk.cricinfo.com. 2008-06-17. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  25. ^ Advanced Digital Technology www.adtworld.com. "Not stumped by UAE cricket issues – Khan". Gulfnews. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  26. ^ "UAE Sports". Uae.gov.ae. Retrieved 2009-07-15. [dead link]
  27. ^ http://www.falconandassociates.ae/en/our-work/article/vision-magazine
  28. ^ "Brownbook Magazine Homepage". Retrieved 24 May 2010. 
  29. ^ "Canvas Online". Retrieved 24 May 2010. 
  30. ^ * Bidoun