Culture of the United Arab Emirates

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has a diverse society. [1] The country's historical population as a small tribal community that has changed with the arrival of other nationals, in the mid-20th century. [2] The country was also part of the British Empire until 1971. [3]


Emirati culture is based on Arabian culture, with influences from the cultures of East Africa and Indian Subcontinent. [4] The religion of Islam has had a prominent influence on local architecture, music, attire, cuisine, and lifestyle. Five times every day, Muslims are called to prayer from the minarets of mosques, which are scattered around the country. [5] The weekend begins on Friday due to Friday being the holiest day for Muslims; most Muslim countries have a Friday-Saturday or Thursday-Friday weekend. [6]

The city of Al Ain in Abu Dhabi is a UNESCO World Heritage site. [7] The Emirate of Sharjah was named "The Cultural capital of the Arab World" by UNESCO in 1998 and the "Capital of Islamic Culture for 2014" by the OIC. [8]

Emirati people

A dallah is a traditional Arabic coffee pot for serving Arabian coffee. It is a symbol of the Emirati culture, featuring on the United Arab Emirates dirham coin A dallah a traditional Arabic coffee pot with cups and coffee beans.jpg
A dallah is a traditional Arabic coffee pot for serving Arabian coffee. It is a symbol of the Emirati culture, featuring on the United Arab Emirates dirham coin

Due to growth in trade, expatriates from over 200 nations have migrated to the UAE seeking better lives and higher-income jobs. [9]

The UAE has been criticized for perpetuating a class-based society, where migrant workers are in the lower classes. [10] [11] Despite the diversity of the population, only minor and infrequent episodes of ethnic tensions, primarily between expatriates, have been reported.

Major holidays in Dubai include Eid ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and National Day (2nd December), which marks the formation of the United Arab Emirates. [12]

The population as a whole is estimated by the U.S. State Department to be at 9 million people, with only 15–20% of these being citizens. The population growth rate is 4% per year. The primary religion in the United Arab Emirates is Islam (Muslim), with the population estimated to be 96% Muslim. Hinduism and Christianity are minorities as stated by the United States State Department. The official language of the UAE is Arabic, although other languages such as English, Persian, Hindi and Urdu are also spoken. The U.S. State Department estimates the people of the UAE to have an average life expectancy of seventy-seven years.[ citation needed ]


The word Emirati is an English word derived from a combination of the word emir, which is an Islamic leader, and the English suffix -ate. It gradually came to mean the United Arab Emirates. The demonym Emirian has a similar root except with the suffix -ian being added to the emir. Rarer Emirian demonyms and adjectives include Emiri and Emiratian, both of which are unofficial and informal alternates. [13] However, due to strong tribal allegiances, many Emiratis also self-identify by their tribal affiliations, whereby some Emiratis may call themselves "Bani Yasi", "Suwaidi" or "al-Shamsi", especially if they come from an influential tribe.[ citation needed ] Historically, Emiratis were called Trucial Coasters [14] or Trucials in the medieval era. [15] In the ancient period, Emiratis were referred to as Maganites. [16]


Sheikh Maktoum house courtyard featuring the common architecture of wind-catchers called Barjeel. Sheikh Makhtoum house courtyard March 2008c.JPG
Sheikh Maktoum house courtyard featuring the common architecture of wind-catchers called Barjeel.

The United Arab Emirate's architecture is influenced by Islamic architecture and Arabian architecture. [17] For example, the "barjeel" has become an identifying mark of traditional Emirati architecture and is attributed to Persian influence. [4]

Emirati architecture reflects the traditional lifestyles and customs of the people. Building materials are simple, but well-adapted to local living and climate. For migrant tribes, portable tents traditionally provided shelter during the winter season. Inland, more permanent houses were built of stone guss with roofs made from palm tree leaves. Fossilized coral, cut in blocks, bonded with sarooj or a seashell-derived lime mixture, and plastered with chalk and water paste, was used extensively in coastal regions. [18]

A courtyard architectural layout was commonly seen in the vernacular architecture of the UAE such as houses, schools, mosques, and governmental buildings. The courtyard was a thermal regulator in hot and humid weather but also had privacy functionality. Privacy and ventilation are important components in traditional architecture of the UAE. [18]


Many older Emirati men prefer traditional Emirati clothes, such as the kandura, an ankle-length white shirt woven from wool or cotton. Many local women wear an abaya (black over-garment) and a headscarf. [19] On average, a UAE male national would have up to 50 kanduras to ensure cleanliness. [20] This attire is particularly well-suited to the UAE's hot, dry climate. Western-style clothing is also fairly popular, especially among the Emirati youth and expats. This is not always well received by local law enforcement: there have been several recent cases of expatriates being arrested for inappropriate attire or nudity. [21]

Traditional food

The Emirati diet is a mixture of a Bedouin diet (meat and camel milk), a fishermen's diet (fish), and a farmer's diet (dates). These foods, along with key spices such as cinnamon, saffron, and turmeric, form the basis of both historical and modern Emirati cuisine. [22] Vegetables that are easy to grow, such as cucumbers and tomatoes, are featured prominently in the diet. Dried lemons, called loomi, are grown locally and used in numerous dishes. Mangos are also grown in the northern emirates. Meats traditionally used include chicken or small fowl, such as Houbara bustards, and goats. Since camels are highly prized for milk and as a means of transportation, camel meat is normally reserved for special occasions.

Popular dishes include harees, fouga , kabsa and luqemat. Common middle eastern cuisine is also widely available. Due to the cosmopolitan nature of the United Arab Emirates, the most popular street-side snack is the Middle-Eastern shawarma . [23]

Greetings and social customs

For men, the traditional Emirati greeting is the khushmak, or touching of noses. Women greet each other by shaking hands and giving a kiss on the cheek.

Literature and poetry

Themes in Emirati poetry are diverse, ranging from satire, self-praise, and patriotism, to chivalry, religion, family, and love.

As in many other Arab countries, poetry is considered a key art form. The style and form of ancient poetry in the UAE was strongly influenced by the 8th-century Arab scholar, Al Khalil bin Ahmed. This form underwent slight modification during the period of Islamic civilization in Andalucia, where "the line or bait adhered to the two hemistitches form, each with an equal number of feet, all the second hemistitches ending in the same rhyming letter and sound throughout the poem." Traditional forms persist today, although some Western styles of prose poetry have gained popularity.

Notable writers from the UAE during the 20th century, particularly for Classical Arabic poetry, include Mubarak Al Oqaili, Salem bin Ali al Owais, and Ahmed bin Sulayem. The Hirah group was an influential 20th-century trio of poets from Sharjah, and consisted of Khalfan Musabah, Sheikh Saqr Al Qasimi (an ex-ruler of Sharjah), and Sultan bin Ali al Owais. Their work was heavily influenced by western Romantic poets. [24] The first Emirati novel, Shahenda, was written by Rashid Abdullah Al Nuaimi. [25]

Contemporary literary figures include Nujoom Al-Ghanem, Ousha Al Sha'er, Khalid Albudoor, and Aisha Al Kaabi.

Music, dance, and film

The United Arab Emirates is a part of the Arab khaleeji tradition. Yowla is a type of music and dance performed mainly in communities of Bantu people from the African Great Lakes region. [24] Many traditional songs and dances, handed down from generation to generation, have survived to the present time. Young girls would dance by swinging their hair, which was traditionally worn long, and swaying their bodies. Men often re-enacted battles or successful hunting expeditions, often symbolically using sticks, swords, or rifles.[ citation needed ]

Hollywood and Bollywood movies are popular in Dubai.

The UAE has an active music scene, with international touring musicians such as Amr Diab, Diana Haddad, Tarkan, Aerosmith, Santana, Mark Knopfler, Elton John, Pink, Bon Jovi, Pink Floyd, Shakira, Celine Dion, Coldplay, Linkin Park, Zayn Malik, Slipknot, Tyga ,50 Cent, Phil Collins and BTS having performed in the country. The Abu Dhabi Festival has been held annually since 2004.


The Dubai Tennis Championships in 2006. DTC1.jpg
The Dubai Tennis Championships in 2006.

Football is the most popular sport in the UAE. Emirati football clubs Al-Ain, Al-Wasl, Al Nasr, Al-Sharjah, Al-Wahda, and Shabab Al-Ahli are the most popular teams and enjoy reputations as long-time regional champions. [26] The UAE national football team qualified for the FIFA World Cup in 1990 along with Egypt. It was the third consecutive World Cup with two Arab nations qualifying, after Kuwait and Algeria in 1982, and Iraq and Algeria again in 1986. [27] The UAE also won the Arabian Gulf Cup held in Abu Dhabi in January 2007. [28]

Cricket is one of the most popular sports in the UAE, largely due to the expatriate population from the Indian subcontinent. In the UAE there are 3 International Cricket stadiums in UAE. They have hosted many international cricket matches such as one T-20, 2014 IPL, and many more.[ clarification needed ]

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is also increasing in popularity within the UAE. Both the adult team and the juvenile team frequently compete and win events both locally and internationally.[ citation needed ] The World Pro Abu Dhabi tournament attracts hundreds of competitors annually and features a large cash prize. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu also features prominently in local Abu Dhabi school curricula.

Other popular sports include camel racing, car racing, falconry, endurance riding, and tennis. [29]

Magazines on Culture in the UAE


Date English Arabic
January 1New Year's DayRa's as-Sana al-meladiah رأس السنة الميلادية
Zil Hajjah 10Day of the Sacrifice Eid-al-Adha عيد الأضحى
Muharram 1 Islamic New YearRa's as-Sana al-Hijria رأس السنة الهجرية
Rajab 27The Night Journey Al-Isra'a wal-Mi'raj الإسراء والمعراج
December 2  National Day Yawm al watani اليوم الوطني
Ramadan 29/30 Shawwal 1End of Ramadan Eid-ul-Fitr عيد الفطر

See also

Related Research Articles

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The United Arab Emirates is a country in the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula located on the southeastern coast of the Persian Gulf and the northwestern coast of the Gulf of Oman. The UAE consists of seven emirates and was founded on 2 December 1971 as a federation. Six of the seven emirates combined on that date. The seventh, Ras al Khaimah, joined the federation on 10 February 1972. The seven sheikdoms were formerly known as the Trucial States, in reference to the treaty relations established with the British in the 19th Century.

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Sharjah is the third-most populous city in the United Arab Emirates, after Dubai and Abu Dhabi, forming part of the Dubai-Sharjah-Ajman metropolitan area. The emirate of Sharjah borders with Dubai to the south, Ajman and Umm Al Quwain to the north and Ras Al Khaimah to the east. It is the only emirate that overlooks the coastline on the Persian Gulf to the west and the Gulf of Oman to the East, with the eastern Sharjah coastal towns of Kalba and Khor Fakkan.

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Emiratis Ethnic group

The Emiratis are the native population and citizens of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Their largest concentration is in the UAE, where there are about 1 million Emiratis.

Following its independence from British occupation in 1971, the United Arab Emirates’ mass media landscape had already started some of its media sectors and continued to develop steadily. Since then, much of the UAE's media outlets fall under government-owned umbrella groups as well as regulation by the National Media Council and its extensions. The major types of UAE media are print press, radio, television, internet and social media.

Indians in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) constitute the largest part of the population of the country. Over 3,420,000 Indian expats are estimated to be living in the UAE, which is over 27 percent of the total population of the UAE. Indian contact with the emirates that now constitute the UAE dates back several centuries, as a result of trade and commerce between the emirates and India. The UAE has experienced a tremendous increase in the population of resident Indians who initially migrated to the country as a result of opportunities in the petroleum. Now, Indians are key to the UAE's construction, retail, financial services, manufacturing sectors transport sectors. A sizeable minority of Indian migrants are involved in professional services and entrepreneurship. Relations between India and the UAE have traditionally been friendly.

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Iraqis in the United Arab Emirates have a population exceeding 100,000, closer estimates report a total of 150,000 Iraqis in the Emirates. Iraqi people form one of the largest community of non-citizen Arabs in the UAE. Most Iraqis are recent immigrants who have fled instability back home; while Syria, Jordan, Iran and Lebanon were ultimate destinations for most refugees, a large influx sought the United Arab Emirates. In addition, an increasing number of Iraqi students seeking education and career opportunities opted for the country in light of its relatively reputable institutions across the Middle East.

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Most expatriates in the United Arab Emirates reside in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. A number of expatriates settled in the country prior to independence. The UAE is home to over 200 nationalities. Emiratis constitute roughly 20% of the total population, making UAE home to one of the world's highest percentage of expatriates. Indians and Pakistanis form the largest expatriate groups in the country, constituting 28% and 12% of the total population respectively. 461,000 Westerners live in the United Arab Emirates, making up 5.1% of its total population.

Lebanese people in the United Arab Emirates have a population exceeding 80,000, closer estimates report a total of 156,000 Lebanese in the Emirates. Lebanese people form one of the largest communities of non-citizen Arabs in the UAE. In addition, an increasing number of Lebanese students seeking education and career opportunities opted for the country in light of its relatively reputable institutions across the Middle East, the case that applies mostly to those born in United Arab Emirates.

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