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About Dubai

The UAE is located in the Middle East along the southern most part of the Arabian Peninsula. The UAE spans 83,600 kilometers and is comprised of seven sheikdoms:

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1) Abu Dhabi
2) Dubai
3) Sharjah
4) Ras Al Khaimah
5) Fujairah
6) Umm Al Quwain and
7) Ajman.

The federal capital is Abu Dhabi.

The UAE was established on December 2, 1971 following Great Britain’s withdrawal from the Arabian Gulf’s coastal region.

A large percentage of the population is foreign. The local population, known as Emiratis, account for approximately 20% of the entire population. Europeans, Arab Nationals, Asians and Americans make up the balance of the population. English is the country’s business language and Arabic is the country’s official language.

The two main cities in the UAE, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are 160 kilometers apart (100 miles).
Abu Dhabi is the country’s administrative center and key hub for oil and gas operations.

Dubai with it’s slightly faster pace of life has acquired international acclaim for its trade related achievements, world class shopping, real estate developments and international sporting events. The Royal family are his Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler of the UAE, and his Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

National Flag
The UAE flag comprises three equal horizontal bands:
green at the top, white in the middle and black at the bottom. A thicker, vertical band of red runs down the hoist side. The colors on the flag are common to many of the Arab nations and they symbolize Arab unity and independence.

Local Time
The UAE is four hours ahead of UCT (Universal Coordinated Time – formerly known as GMT). There is no altering of clocks for daylight saving in the summer, and so when Europe and North America loses an hour, the time in the UAE stays the same. During this period the time difference is one hour less, for instance when it is 12:00 in the UAE it is 09:00 in the UK instead of 08:00 during the winter.

Culture
The national dress for men is the “Dish-dasha” or “Khandura”, an ankle length robe, usually white. Dish-dash are usually worn with a white or red checkered head cloth “Gutrah” and a twisted black rope coil called “Ogal” which holds the Gutrah in place. Under the headdress is a skull cap “Gahfya”. In public, many Arabic women wear a black “Abaya”, a long loose black robe that covers their normal clothes, plus a head scarf, called a “shaylah”.

Some women also wear a thin black veil covering their face, while some older women wear a small mask made of fabric known as a “Burgaa”, which covers the nose, brow and cheekbones. It is important to note that more conservative Emirati men will not shake hands with a woman (and vice versa) so please keep this in mind in social and business interactions.

A common question is do women need to wear veils in the UAE and the answer is no. Only a woman’s culture, religion and her personal choice determines whether or not she wears a veil. The one exception is if you plan to visit a mosque, women must cover their heads with a scarf.

Otherwise expatriate women dress much the same way as they do in their home countries. The dress code is much the same as in the US, Canada or Europe for casual attire. Shorts, skirts and short sleeved shirts are quite acceptable, but a sense of modesty and common sense should be applied.

Revealing or tight fitting clothes should be avoided. Lightweight summer clothing is suitable for most of the year, although it can get cool during winter evenings.
Swim wear is acceptable on the beach and at the swimming pool. To protect yourself from possible sunburns it is recommended to wear sunglasses, sun block cream and a hat.

Language
In Dubai the official language is Arabic, however with nearly 80% of the population being expatriates the English language is used predominantly, especially in business. Many expatriates have conducted business in Dubai for years without learning Arabic.

Outside of the Emirate Arabic is spoken. Most road signs, shop signs and restaurant menus are in both languages (Arabic and English). The following link provides a great resource of Arabic greetings for reference: Common Arabic Phrases

Usually the greeting “Assalam o alaikum” is the preferred opening phrase. Men always shake hands with the right hand as this is custom.

The working week is Sunday through Thursday, however some businesses follow the western week of Monday to Friday.
Business hours may vary from 8am to 5pm to split hours of 8am to 1pm and 4pm to 8pm. Shopping centers are typically open until 10pm daily.

Religion

Islam is the official religion across the region and it is important to respect Muslim and Islam. Meetings should be scheduled around an awareness of prayer times. It should be noted that every year, during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset and business hours are generally reduced.

The Islamic holy day is Friday. The basis of Islam is the belief that there is only one God and the prophet Muhammad is his messenger.

There are five pillars of the faith which all Muslims follow: the Profession of Faith, Prayer, Charity, Fasting and Pilgrimage.

Every Muslim is expected, at least once is his or her lifetime to make the pilgrimage, “Hajj” to the holy city of Mecca (also spelled Makkah) in Saudi Arabia.

Additionally, a Muslim is required to pray (facing Mecca) five times a day. The times vary according to the position of the sun.

Most people pray at a mosque, although it is not unusual to see people kneeling on the side of the road if they are not near a place of worship.

It is considered impolite to stare at people praying or walk over their prayer mats. The modern-day call to prayer, transmitted through load speakers on the minarets of each mosque, ensures that everyone knows it is time to pray.

In an effort to ensure that prayer times are easily accessible to all Muslims, there are often several mosques within walking distance in each area. Under Islamic Shariah law, Muslim men are allowed to marry non-Muslim women, but a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim man.

The region has a robust legal system based on “Shariah Law”. Shariah law may be defined as: “Muslim or Islamic law, both civil and criminal justice as well as regulating individual conduct both personal and moral.” It is based on the Koran and the religion of Islam and
these religious texts are guarded as the law.

Key holidays include: Islamic New Year, Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday, Eid al Fitr (end of Ramadan) and Eid al Adha (feast of Sacrifice). Neither pork or alcohol are consumed by Muslims.

Ramadan is the holy month in which finding of The Quaran is commemorated. It lasts for a full lunar month, and all Muslims abstain from food, drink and tobacco between sunrise and sunset during this time. The fast is broken every evening after prayers and out of respect. Non Muslims are not permitted to eat, drink or smoke in public or in the presence of a Muslim during these hours.

Each year Ramadan occurs approximately 10 days earlier than the previous year. Many local businesses and all government departments are only open for a few hours in the morning during the month of Ramadan. All restaurants and coffee shops are closed all day, and only open in the evenings, however most shops usually have a door delivery or “take away” policy during the day so non-Muslims can eat at home.

Dress code is more conservative during Ramadan and women should wear trousers or skirts below the knee and shirt sleeves down to the elbow when in public. There are also strict regulations with regard to the consumption of alcohol and the playing of live music. Alcohol may only be served by hotels after 7:00pm and no live music or dancing is allowed during this month.

While the official religion of the UAE is Islam, the religious tolerance is high and respected by one and all in the UAE. Foreigners are free to practice their own religion. There are several churches in Dubai including: Holy Trinity, Evangelical Church, United Christian Church of Dubai (UCCD), and St. Mary’s (Roman Catholic Church) plus the various churches grouped together in a complex at Jebel Ali. There’s also a Hindu temple in Bur Dubai.

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3 Responses to “About Dubai”

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