Dubai and the UAE
Hospitality is central to everyday Emirati culture, and sipping Arabic coffee, or gahwa, is part of the warm welcome. This aromatic coffee is made with cloves, cardamom, cumin and saffron, and poured from a dallah pot into a small cup called a finjaan. Enjoy gahwa with dates while relaxing in the majlis, a comfortable meeting space traditionally used to host guests and catch up with friends.
Traditional Emirati art is based on Arabic calligraphy, which uses Arabic script to create artistic patterns. Arabesque and girih Islamic geometric patterns are also a big part of traditional art. Look out for events and exhibitions celebrating local and international talent in Alserkal Avenue in Al Quoz and Dubai Design District, also known as d3. You’ll find galleries, studios, performances, furniture shops, pop-up shops and cafes in these creative hubs.
Poetry is in Arabic tradition with roots in the nomadic Bedouin culture, where it would serve to tell stories, deal with issues in society, welcome guests or entertain them on journeys across the desert. There are two prominent types - Nabati and Al-Taghrooda. The colloquial Nabati poetry is simple and direct, while Al-Taghrooda is chanted poetry performed back and forth between two people. Sometimes poetry accompanies the Al-Ayyala folk dance traditionally performed during festivities or celebrations. Men hold canes and dance in rows to a steady drum to express unity.
These days water sports, motor sports, and desert adventures are a big part of weekend local culture, along with tennis, golf, football and rugby. But there’s a chance to take part in traditional Emirati heritage sports that originated from hunting and survival, including falconry, camel racing and equestrian sports.
The laws and culture of Dubai and the UAE are directly linked with Islamic tradition. And there’s no better time to experience it than during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month. Followers fast from dawn to dusk, and when the sun sets Muslims enjoy an iftar meal with friends and family. You can join in the many iftar buffets across the city and take part in local traditions. Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar, so the dates move forward every year, ending with the public holiday for Eid al Fitr.
Delve into Dubai’s culture and history along the Dubai Creek. Start at the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood and work your way along to Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum’s House and the Heritage Village. Explore traditional style villages with wind towers and courtyards, take a closer look at pottery and weaving by local artisans, and learn about local life at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. There are several museums and galleries in the area, including the Dubai Museum in the Al Fahidi Fort.