What are the customs and traditions of the UAE?  

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kateanswers eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To discuss all of the customs and traditions of the United Arab Emirates would require an entire book, if not more than one, but I can certainly describe a few cultural practices here which are distinctive to the UAE.

A custom may be thought of as particularities in everyday behaviors and actions that is shared by an ethnic or national group. Traditions are slightly different because they are the enactment of rituals within a particular space and time. Sometimes the two can overlap, as in the Arab custom of hospitality. In the Arab world, and especially the UAE, hospitality and generosity are taken very seriously. If you were to visit a person's home or place of work in the UAE, they would demonstrate this custom of hospitality through the tradition of offering you coffee or tea and perhaps something sweet to eat. It is very unusual for even a casual visit to not involve sitting down to share something to eat and drink. 

A custom which some Westerners may find unusual involves handling food with only the right hand. In Muslim culture, the left hand is used for ritual cleansing before prayer and is considered unclean for handling food. It is a violation of social norms to take food or eat with the left hand, so if you ever visit the UAE, be sure to only eat with your right!

A custom unique to the UAE is a kind of nose-rubbing greeting. When good friends or family members greet each other, they may rub noses together rather than (or in addition to) shaking hands or hugging. The nose is considered a noble, beautiful, and personal part of the body in Emirati culture, so to rub noses with someone implies a lot of trust and respect for one another.

The UAE is a Muslim-majority nation, so there are many traditions surrounding Muslim holidays. For example, the holiday of Eid al-Fitr (the end of Ramadan) is a major celebration where most people have the day off and will spend it with family and friends. This holiday carries the same importance in the UAE as Christmas does in the United Kingdom. Children may receive a gift such as a doll or other toy, and most people are gifted or purchase a new outfit for the occasion. It is also traditional to have a big meal with your family to celebrate.

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