Emirates country overview

The culture of Emirates

Geography, People, Culture, and Economic Profile

Emirates information index

Daily life and social customs of Emirates

In recent years, the United Arab Emirates has seen a significant shift in its cultural landscape, particularly in regards to attitudes towards marriage and the role of women in society. Traditionally, marriage was seen as a central institution in Emirati culture, with arranged marriages being the norm. However, in recent years, there has been a noticeable trend towards greater autonomy and choice in marriage decisions for both men and women. Furthermore, the employment of women has also seen a marked increase in the UAE. The government has taken active steps to promote the empowerment of women in the workforce, recognizing the important contributions that women can make to the economy. In fact, the UAE constitution provides guarantees and protections for women, ensuring their rights are protected and respected in the workplace. As a result of these efforts, nearly half of Emirati women are now part of the workforce, a significant increase from previous years. Women are now making strides in traditionally male-dominated fields such as finance, engineering, and technology, breaking barriers and shattering stereotypes along the way. Overall, the cultural landscape of the United Arab Emirates is evolving, with attitudes towards marriage and the role of women in society undergoing significant changes. The government’s active promotion of women’s empowerment and the constitutional protections for women have played a crucial role in this transformation, leading to greater opportunities and equality for women in the region.

While many Emiratis no longer follow the traditional nomadic lifestyle or engage in fishing and pearl diving in the Persian Gulf, several traditional practices still persist. The Muslim majority observes major Islamic holidays, such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, and traditional clothing remains the norm. Women typically wear a light chemise called a dirʿ, often paired with an ornate dress known as a thawb. They also wear loose trousers called sirwāl. In public or when encountering strangers, women cover themselves with a dark cloak called an ʿabāyah and wear a headscarf known as a shāl, which can also function as a veil (ḥijāb or burquʿ). Emirati women adorn themselves with delicate, colorful, and intricately embroidered fabrics, as well as fine gold and silver jewelry.

In addition to the kandūrah or dishdashah, men in traditional attire often wear a bisht, which is a cloak-like garment worn over the kandūrah for special occasions or formal events. The bisht is usually made of luxurious materials such as silk or wool and is often embellished with intricate embroidery or beading. It is worn draped over the shoulders and can be held in place with a decorative brooch. In some regions, men may also wear a sirwāl underneath their kandūrah, which is a loose-fitting, ankle-length trousers. The sirwāl is typically made of a lightweight fabric like cotton or linen and can be plain or patterned. Some men may also wear a izār, a wrap-around skirt-like garment, underneath the kandūrah for added modesty or comfort. When it comes to footwear, men in traditional attire often wear sandals or slip-on shoes made of leather. These shoes are practical for the hot climate of the region and allow for easy movement on sandy terrain. Some men may also wear embroidered or embellished footwear for special occasions or formal events. Overall, traditional attire for men in the region is both practical and elegant, reflecting the cultural heritage and customs of the area. The garments are designed to be comfortable and functional, while also showcasing intricate craftsmanship and attention to detail. Whether for everyday wear or special occasions, traditional attire plays an important role in the cultural identity of the region and continues to be worn with pride and respect.

Emirati cuisine is a beautiful tapestry of flavors and traditions that have been woven together over centuries. The blending of Arab and Iranian influences has created a unique culinary experience that is both delicious and diverse. From traditional Arab dishes like hummus and falafel to the rich flavors of Iranian cuisine with ingredients like saffron and cardamom, Emirati food is a reflection of the rich tapestry of cultures that have left their mark on the country. One dish that truly captures the essence of Emirati cuisine is makbūs. This hearty dish, featuring tender poultry, meat, or fish, is served on a bed of spiced rice flavored with dried lime. The combination of flavors and textures in makbūs is a true delight for the senses. In addition to makbūs, Emirati cuisine also features a variety of meats, with lamb and chicken being the most commonly enjoyed. Fresh fruits like dates, figs, and citrus fruits, along with an array of vegetables and khubz (flatbread), are also staples of daily meals. And no Emirati meal is complete without a cup of strong, sweet, hot coffee. Emiratis take their coffee seriously, and the ritual of preparing and serving coffee is an important part of their culture. Overall, Emirati cuisine is a celebration of the diverse cultural influences that have shaped the country’s culinary landscape. With its rich flavors, vibrant colors, and aromatic spices, Emirati food is a true reflection of the country’s history and heritage.

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