Discovering the Rich Tapestry of UAE's Culture and Traditions



The United Arab Emirates, also known as UAE, is a country located in the Middle East that includes 7 Emirates. Abu Dhabi and Dubai are two of the most commonly known Emirates of the UAE. To UAE its own culture dress, culture food, culture facts, and religion. The predominant religion in the United Arab Emirates is Islam. However, the country includes other nationalities as well. 

UAE culture dress

In the United Arab Emirates, also known as UAE, there is a traditional dress that both men and women tend to wear which is the abaya for women and dishdasha or what some call thawb for men. However, it is important to mention that the abaya is not considered to be a dress, but rather a thin cloak that usually covers the entire human body, except for the face, the hands, and the feet.

Women typically wear a black abaya and some choose to wear a niqāb and Gafaaz that cover up their faces and their hands as well. Women wear clothes underneath and they often choose styles that are inspired by the West such as jeans. 

As for the men, the dishdasha they wear is a garment that is a single-piece ankle-length robe usually in white or they sometimes choose some shades of light colors. They also wear Gutra on their heads. This is usually worn by Islamic citizens residing in the UAE.

It is important to note that tourists and immigrants are not obliged to wear the abaya or the dishdasha, but rather, they are free to wear the clothes they feel comfortable in, as long as they respect the law and the culture of the UAE.

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Dubai culture dress

In Dubai, just like the rest of the UAE, women wear the abaya, which is a long thin cloak that covers their bodies except for their faces, hands, and feet. It is usually in black, and some prefer to cover their faces and hands as well, so they also wear a niqāb and a Gafaaz. This way, none of their body parts is visible. 

On the other hand, men in the UAE wear the dishdasha, or what some call thawb, it is a long garment that also covers all of their body parts except for their faces, hands, and feet. The dishdasha is a white robe that is completed by what is called Gutra that covers the heads of Emirati men and is considered to be an integral part of the traditional clothing in the UAE.

The Gutra is a square piece of scarf that aims at protecting the head and face of Emirati men from the heat of the desert. Gutra is also useful for them if they want to cover their faces in case where the dust is very high. 

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Cultural food of UAE

The cultural food of UAE, which is also known as Emirati Cuisine, offers a wide range of traditional foods for its residents, tourists, and citizens. It is important to mention that Emirati Cuisine shares a significant number of similarities with countries that include Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Asia.

Also, Emirati food includes some foods and cuisines of other cultures. Emirati Cuisine typically includes fish, meat, coffee, tea, cardamom, saffron, and even mint. 

The most popular and common dish in UAE is Shawarma. Shawarma is a wrap that includes chicken, beef, or lamb, with some vegetables and mayonnaise. Some consider Shawarma a snack, while other restaurants serve Shawarma platters as a starter in the case of large dinners. 

However, there is a vegetarian option for the ones who don’t eat any kind of meat; Falafel. Falafel is a chickpea patty that is deep-fried, along with some vegetables and dressing. It is typically wrapped up in bread. Falafel, just like Shawarma, can be found in nearly all restaurants across the United Arab Emirates. 

Emirati food is typically known for its meat. However, there are other options that don’t include meat such as Fattoush, which is a salad that includes fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, mint leaves, lemon, garlic, olive oil, and Levantine bread. 

Also, there is Rigag, which is a healthy Emirati Crepe made with wheat, and individuals are free to add the toppings they like such as cheese and eggs. 

In addition to that, there is Fattesh, which is a dish that includes 3 layers that are bread, chickpeas and stuffed aubergines, and yogurt and tahini sauce on top. Individuals might choose to add pine nuts and parsley to it.

Manakish is another popular snack that consists of flatbread that is filled with cheese and then cooked in the oven. Individuals might add vegetables, spices, and even meat to it.

Furthermore, there is Machboos, which is a main-course meal that includes rice, meat, vegetables, and spices. Machboos are cooked in the oven. 

Last but not least, there is Kunafa, which is a dessert that consists of sticky pastry that is made of cheese (sweet cheese), baked in phyllo dough, and then soaked in sugar syrup. There is also Luqaimat which is deep-fried dough that is very similar to donuts. They are often drizzled with some date syrup. 

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UAE culture facts

There are many facts one must know about the UAE, here are 5 of them:

  • Archeologists have found out that for over two thousand years, nomadic people have been residing in the United Arab Emirates, long before Jesus Christ. These people were camel herders and it is believed that they lived off milk and meat of these camels. It is important to mention that some of these people are now known as Bedouins. 
  • The factor that is believed to have first brought recognition and wealth to the UAE is pearl diving. The UAE’s growth and stability are largely due to the trade in fishing and pearl diving, even with the oil being discovered and after it has become a nation-state back in the 70s.
  • For over a thousand years, the United Arab Emirates was believed to have been part of an ancient trade network with India, the Persian Empire, and East Africa. It played a significant role in both the trade and the building of the empire of the Safavid Empire in Iran, ancient India, and East Africa. 
  • The United Arab Emirates has more than only one Royal Family, unlike Japan or some European countries. Not to mention that each Emirate is ruled by a Royal Family. The most powerful one is the Al Maktoum Royal Family of Dubai and the Al Nahyan Royal Family of Abu Dhabi. 
  • The United Arab Emirates is typically made up of 7 different Emirates, and each Emirate is ruled by a different family with different cultures, history, and traditions. The Emirates came together and became one country in the 70s.

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Different cultures in UAE

The culture of the United Arab Emirates is typically a blend of Islamic, Arabic, and Persian cultures. It is also influenced by the cultures of the Indian Subcontinent and East Africa as well. 

However, Islam is the culture that has the most influence on the culture of the United Arab Emirates in terms of music, cuisine, lifestyle, architecture, and even the clothes of the people in the United Arab Emirates. 

Nevertheless, Sheikh bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, who is the Minister of Tolerance said that there are over 200 nationalities in the United Arab Emirates who live together in the country. Indians typically occupy 2.77 million and Pakistanis occupy 1.28 million. Other nationalities who reside in the United Arab Emirates typically include Chinese, Lebanese, Egyptians, Nepalese, Bangladeshis, Iranians, Filipinos, Sri Lankans, and many others. 

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Abu Dhabi religion and culture

The religion of Emiratis that is predominant in Abu Dhabi is Sunni Islam, and the social as well as political matters are all driven by Sharia law, which is Islamic law. Nevertheless, there are other religions in Abu Dhabi that include Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism.

The United Arab Emirates, notably Abu Dhabi, has always been known for its diversity in terms of religion. However, the official religion in Abu Dhabi and in the United Arab Emirates as a whole is Islam. There are many mosques in the country, along with other places of worship for the ones who have other religions and faiths.

As for the culture of Abu Dhabi, it is strongly related to the Islamic traditions of Arabia. There are many mosques in Abu Dhabi along with modern architecture. Nevertheless, there are different religions, nationalities, and cultures in Abu Dhabi which are welcomed under the condition of not jeopardizing the religion of Islam. 

There is freedom of worship in Abu Dhabi and in the UAE, and everyone can have their own religion as long as the religion does not conflict with the morals of Abu Dhabi and the public policy. 

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Islamic culture in UAE

The most popular and predominant religion in the United Arab Emirates is Islam. Islam is strongly embedded in the government and the law of the United Arab Emirates. Even though there are other religions, Sunni Islam is the one that has always influenced the UAE the most. This is reflected in the way Emiratis are dressed and in the law (Sharia law). 

However, this does not mean that the UAE does not include other religions and nationalities, as there indeed are other religions in the UAE such as Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and more. Also, there are many places of worship in the UAE that aren’t related to Islam that allows individuals with different religions to pray in. 

Overall, UAE has over 9000 mosques, and the reason is that it is an Islamic country that follows Islamic rules, which automatically results in a large number of Islam and in a large number of places of worship. 

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Dubai's religion and culture

In Dubai, Islam is the official religion. Dubai is considered to be one of the few liberal places in the Middle East. Other religions in Dubai are all tolerated expect for Judaism under the condition of respecting Arabic and Islam laws and cultures.

Other religions that are in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, include Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism. There indeed is freedom of religion in Dubai and all religions are respected, as long as individuals of other religions respect the official religion of Dubai which is an integral part of the law. 

As for the culture of Dubai, it revolves around the traditional Arab culture and the religion of Islam, and Islam is considered to be strongly embedded in the law. 

The United Arab Emirates is known for its citizens which include over 200 nationalities from around the world including Lebanese, Chinese, Pakistanis, Nepalese, Sri Lankans, and Indians who occupy the highest position.

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