Culture of the United Arab Emirates

Culture of the United Arab Emirates
File:Deira Souk on 9 May 2007 mother of dogs use to live thir Pict 2.jpg
A traditional souk in Deira, Dubai

The United Arab Emirates has a diverse and multicultural society.[1] The country's cultural imprint as a small, ethnically homogenous pearling community was changed with the arrival of other ethnic groups and nationals — first by the Iranians in the early 1900s, and later by Indians and Pakistanis in the 1960s. Dubai has been criticized for perpetuating a class-based society, where migrant workers are in the lower classes.[2] 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 al Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and National Day (2 December), which marks the formation of the United Arab Emirates.[3]

Emirati culture mainly revolves around the religion of Islam and traditional Arab, and Bedouin culture. Being a highly cosmopolitan society, the UAE has a diverse and vibrant culture. The influence of Islamic and Arab 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.[4] The weekend begins on Friday due to Friday being the holiest day for Muslims. All Muslim countries have a Friday-Saturday or Thursday-Friday weekend.[5]

This unique socioeconomic development in the Persian Gulf has meant that the UAE is generally more liberal than its neighbors. While Islam is the main religion, Emiratis have been known for their tolerance, and Churches, Hindu temples, Sikh Gurdwara can be found alongside mosques, However there are no Jewish synagogue in the United Arab Emirates. The country is home to several communities that have faced persecution elsewhere. Cosmopolitan atmosphere is gradually growing. As a result you will find there a variety of Asian-influenced schools, cultural centers and themed restaurants. Increasing number of European centers, schools, and restaurants are also can be seen in today's UAE.


Emirati People

Nuvola UAE flag.svg
Life in the UAE
Human rights
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The Emirati people are members of the native Arab tribes that dominated the land for centuries. Descendants of Bany Yas tribe Al Nahyan and Al Maktoum royal families in Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively represent the majority of Emiratis. Al Qawasim as well have played a vital role in the history of the United Arab Emirates.

Due to growth in trade, 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 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 follow in minority as stated by the United States State Department. The official language is Arabic, but English, Hindi, Urdu and Persian are found to be 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.

Museums and art galleries

Many emirates have established museums of regional repute, most famously Sharjah with its Heritage District containing 17 museums,[6] which in 1998 was the Cultural Capital of the Arab World.[7] Abu Dhabi's cultural foundation is also an important place for the presentation of indigenous and foreign art. In Dubai, the area of Al Quoz has attracted a number of art galleries.[8]

Abu Dhabi has embarked on the path to become an art center of international caliber, by creating a culture district on Saadiyat Island. There, six grand projects are planned: the Sheikh Zayed National Museum by Foster + Partners, the modern art museum Guggenheim Abu Dhabi to be built by Frank Gehry, the classical museum Louvre Abu Dhabi by Jean Nouvel, a maritime museum by Tadao Ando, a Performing Arts Center by Zaha Hadid, and a Biennale Park with 16 pavilions.[9]

Dubai also plans to build a Kunsthal museum and a district for galleries and artists.[10]


Wind Tower in Dubai

The United Arab Emirates's architecture is largely inspired by Islamic architecture. UAE reflected the traditional lifestyles and customs of the people. Building materials were simple but were superbly adapted to the demands of lifestyle and climate. Easily portable tents 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.


While the Islamic dress code is not compulsory, unlike neighboring Saudi Arabia, many of the older and young Emarati men prefer wearing thawb or a dishdash, an ankle-length white shirt woven from wool or cotton while the minority of women wear abaya, black over-garment covering most parts of the body.[11] This attire is particularly well-suited for the UAE's hot and dry climate. Western-style clothing is also fairly popular, especially among the 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, for not wearing enough clothing at beaches, some even being completely nude.[12]

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 dhow building is still practiced in this Persian Gulf state and perform an important role of trade between countries like Iran, India, and Eastern Africa.[13]


Literature and poetry

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 a Persian Gulf Arab country were 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 Persian Gulf Arab scholar, Al Khalil bin Ahmed, which followed sixteen metres. 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.”1 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.[14]

Music and dance

The United Arab Emirates is a part of the Persian Gulf khaleeji tradition, and is also known for Bedouin folk music. Liwa is a type of music and dance performed mainly in communities which contain descendants of East Africans.[15] 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, 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.[16] The Dubai Desert Rock Festival is also another major festival consisting of Heavy metal and rock artists.[17]


Football is the Popular National Sport of the United Arab Emirates. Emarati Soccer clubs Al-Ain, Al-Wasl, Al-Shabbab ACD, Al-Sharjah, Al-Wahda, and Al-Ahli clubs are the most popular teams and enjoy the reputation of long-time regional champions.[18] 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 programs and improving the abilities of not only its players, but of the officials and coaches involved with its regional teams. The U.A.E. football team qualified for the 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.[19] The UAE also recently won the Gulf Cup soccer championship held in Abu Dhabi January 2007.[20]

Cricket is one of the most popular sports in the UAE, largely due to the expatriate population from the Indian subcontinent. Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium in Sharjah has hosted 4 international Test matches so far.[21] Sheikh Zayed Stadium and Al Jazira Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi also host 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.[22] The United Arab Emirates national cricket team qualified for the 1996 Cricket World Cup and narrowly missed out on qualification for the 2007 Cricket World Cup.[23]

Other popular sports include camel racing, Falconry, Endurance riding, and Tennis.[24]


Date English Arabic
January 1 New Year's Day Ra's as-Sana al-meladiah رأس السنة الميلادية
variable Day of the Sacrifice Eid ul-Adha عيد الأضحى
variable 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 Al-Eid al-Watani العيد الوطني
variable End of Ramadan Eid ul-Fitr عيد الفطر m

See Also

  • Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation
  • Abu Dhabi Festival
  • Takatof


  1. ^ "Country and Metropolitan Stats in Brief. MPI Data Hub
  2. ^ The Dark Side of Dubai, Johann Hari, The Independent, 7 April 2009.
  3. ^ "Official holidays in UAE". Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  4. ^ "UAE Culture". 2000-06-01. Retrieved 2009-07-15. [dead link]
  5. ^ Advanced Digital Technology "New UAE Weekend". Gulfnews. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  6. ^ "Sharjah Museums Department". 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Clothing in the UAE". Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  12. ^ "Blame Europeans for topless displays, British women say". Gulfnews. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  13. ^ "Dhow race keeps tradition alive UAE - The Official Web Site - News". Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Welcome to Abu Dhabi - Literature and Poetry". 2009-07-01. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  16. ^ .,21598,24334183-5005368,00.html. [dead link]
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Clubs, Sports Clubs UAE United Arab Emirates". Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  19. ^ "UAE - The Official Web Site - News". Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  20. ^ "Gulf Cup 2007". Gulfnews. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  21. ^ "UAE Cricket Timeline". Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  22. ^ "Cricinfo - Grounds - United Arab Emirates". 2008-06-17. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  23. ^ Advanced Digital Technology "Not stumped by UAE cricket issues - Khan". Gulfnews. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  24. ^ "UAE Sports". Retrieved 2009-07-15. [dead link]

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