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The People of the United Arab Emirates, Way of Life

dishdasha, camel racing, wider role, spiced rice, government posts

The culture and society of the UAE are a blend of traditional and modern elements. The religion of Islam and the heritage of a traditional, tribal society form the basis of a stable and essentially conservative social structure. There is, however, a decidedly tolerant and cosmopolitan atmosphere—most notable in the emirate of Dubai—that gives resident non-Emiris opportunities to enjoy their own cultural and religious organizations. For most older women the home remains the sphere of activity; younger women, benefiting from their access to modern education, are playing an ever-wider role in society. An estimated 15 percent of the UAE’s labor force is female and women are increasingly represented in government posts.

Reflecting the mix of modern and traditional influences, clothing styles are both Western and indigenous. Most Emiri men wear the dishdasha, a white, loose-fitting garment that is comfortable in hot weather. Most women wear the enveloping black abayah and a face mask called the burka, although this tradition is beginning to be abandoned by younger, educated women. Most of the population enjoys modern air-conditioned housing, either in apartments or villa-style houses. The small rural population lives in a more traditional style, and a few Bedouins still live nomadically in tents. Similarly, cuisine represents a blend of traditional Arab dishes, such as grilled lamb with spiced rice, with increasingly popular American and European fast foods. Even though such traditional sports as falconry and camel racing remain popular, newer sports, particularly soccer, have been enthusiastically embraced. Most Emiris enjoy family-centered entertainment, including television-viewing at home. Movie theaters exist but are chiefly patronized by expatriates.

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