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Culture, Society and ReligionBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
United Arab Emirates (UAE) - Culture, Society and Religion
The Emerati culture has been shaped through the centuries by two distinct communities. Along the coast the pearling industry and sea trading were the biggest influences in the way the people lived, while inland the Bedouins carried on with farming and looking after the date palms. Although the two subcultures were involved in vastly different industries they shared political, social and economical views and this brought them together.
The lifestyle of the Arab tribes was dictated to according to the terrain they lived in but whether it was desert or coast it was a harsh environment. The people had to be resilient and resourceful and learn to make the best of what they had.
Unlike nowadays when families scatter far and wide across the globe the traditions of family obligations were strong. Families lived and worked together with the more able bodied looking after an extended family of young, old and infirm relatives. A selfless individual in the tribe was seen to have pride and honour.
With such a cosmopolitan mix of people the UAE has an incredibly diverse culture but still retains strong Arab and Islamic influences. This is reflected everywhere in the music, cuisine, attire and architecture.
To keep the heritage and culture of the UAE alive in this fast changing world there are different events throughout the year such as camel races, dhow races and longboat races organised by the Emirates Heritage Club. Other events such as lectures, exhibitions and theatrical displays are all arranged to encourage an interest in this young country with a very ancient history.
The 2nd of December is National Day and every year this holiday celebrates the formation of the United Arab Emirates.
Emirati nationals account for about 11% of the population of around 8 million. The largest group to make up the UAE society are South Asians from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan who outnumber other Arabs by nearly two to one. Western expats only make up a very small proportion of the population.
UAE society has changed to keep up with the needs of this mix of nationalities that have arrived over the years and international schools, themed restaurants and shops selling western clothing are to be found in certain areas throughout the country.
In 2010 government figures revealed that men outnumber woman by seven to one. This is great news for women but not so good for the men who want to settle down and start families.
The most obvious change to society in the UAE has been brought about by the sudden wealth to the country and the effects of expat culture. The more positive aspects of better schooling, hospitals, work and education for women are just a few of the major changes that the Arabs have benefited from in recent times. As with all good things there are some downsides. The divorce rates are higher, obesity is becoming a problem and some of the traditional family values are being lost in this mad whirlwind of advancement and technology.
Introduced to the area in 640 AD Islam is the main religion but there are Hindu temples, mosques, churches and Sikh Gurdwara as the Emiratis are very tolerant of other religions. One place of worship you will not find is a Jewish synagogue.
The holiest day of the week for Muslims is Friday and it is always part of their weekend. The weekend in the UAE begins on a Friday but around the world the days can be different, Thursday – Friday or Friday - Saturday.
The scattering of mosques round the country means the Muslims are called to prayer five times a day by the sound of the adhan coming from the minarets. Originally the muezzin would make the call from high above the rooftops but in modern times the sound more often than not comes from a pre-programmed loud speaker system.
The end of Ramadan is celebrated by a national holiday called Eid ul-Fitr or Feast of Breaking the Fast. After 29 or 30 days of fasting from dawn to sunset a special Eid prayer is said and then visits are made to friends and family to wish them well.
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