Sunday, September 28, 2014

Faith and Culture in the UAE

A few months ago, I received a tweet from a subscriber of our youtube channel asking us to talk a bit more about faith and the culture here in the UAE. If you'd like to skip the blog post, scroll down to watch the video we've filmed on the topic!

To start off, I'd like to say that comfort, like many other things is truly subjective. How comfortable one would be living here in the UAE is definitely going to differ from one person to the next, and will often be tied to each person's unique background.

I've lived in both Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Florida, USA. I would place these on opposing sides of a "conservative - liberal" spectrum. If I were to place the UAE on that same spectrum, I'd put it somewhere in the middle, but probably a bit closer towards the conservative side as it is still an Islamic country.

It's important to note the make-up of the population here in the UAE-- the expat community is the majority. I've found that this fact has not gone unnoticed and that the UAE has tried to accommodate this.

For example:

  • Alcohol is not banned here in the UAE. While Muslims are not permitted to consume it, others are. There are bars that serve it, and some stores that have a "non-muslims only" section that stock it. It's also available at the airport. I believe that you must obtain and carry a license that shows you are permitted to consume/purchase it. The fact is though- many people do consume it regardless of whether or not they are permitted to.
  • You can find pork in certain stores, it will also be stocked in the "non-Muslim only" section.
  • Women are not forced to cover there hair or wear abayas (black robes). They are however asked to dress 'modestly'. Occasionally you may find a sign that asks that women wear garments that cover their shoulders and are knee-length. In day to day life though, you will find that many do not abide by these rules. At the beach, women are permitted to wear bikinis.
  • There are places of worship for certain religions. They have also opened a crematorium in Al Ain to accommodate the wishes of other faiths.

There are a few things to keep in mind when visiting/living here:

  • During Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims during which we fast from sunrise to sunset- eating, drinking and smoking in public are banned for both Muslims and Non-muslims alike. Most restaurants will not serve food until iftar (when Muslims break their fast).
  • Overt public displays of affection (PDA) are not really tolerated here.
  • Segregation only occurs in certain places. Unlike Saudi Arabia where McDonalds would have a "family only" and "men only" section- dining venues here in the UAE do not. Sections of public transportation and waiting areas in certain entities however will have the aforementioned designated areas. Women that give birth here may also find that their husbands area not permitted to spend the night at the hospital. 
Here's the video!

We think a nice balance has been struck here in the UAE, leave your comments below!

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