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United Arab EmiratesThe
United Arab Emirates got its name when seven emirates united in 1971 (an emirate
is a Muslim state ruled by a monarch). The seven emirates are: Abu Dhabi, Ajman,
Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain.
Today in the United Arab Emirates the culture
seems quite modern and to some, may even seem sterile. However, the country is extremely
varied as moving from the large cities of Dubai or Abu Dhabi to a desert oasis reveals
substantial cultural differences. Their cultural base remains in the desert though.
Today, as in the past, the people's culture is based on the nomadic desert lifestyle
of the Bedouin people. They survived the difficult conditions by eating dates and
camel milk, but little else. Their lives were simple and social contact was both
sought and feared as there was a need for knowledge, but fear of unknown people
and enemies. In the country's deserts today there remains a simple lifestyle,
with simple foods and clothing. The people also remain curious, but skeptical of
outsiders although their kindness always seems to be more powerful. The one similarity
among all these desert towns and villages is that they are all centered around an
In the 600s and 700s Islam arrived to the region and the people accepted this religion.
It didn't alter their diets or even their architecture (as a primarily nomadic
people there was little), but their lifestyles changed to meet the restrictions
and rules of the new religion. Since this time the people have had greater outside
contacts as new foods were introduced and their language became more uniform with
the rest of the Arab world.
From a visual perspective in the villages, little has changed in the
U.A.E. as the people continue to dress in their "National Dress,"
their homes remain traditional, and their foods are heavily influenced by the Lebanese
cuisine. However both here and in the cities the culture is changing, and at a very
With the discovery of oil in the U.A.E.
in the 1900s the country became a rich and highly influential country. As the government
controlled these resources and the income derived from it, they modernized their
country quickly by building modern buildings, roads, transportation hubs, and introducing
computers, televisions, and other technology. Today, the people have accepted these
items while retaining traditional aspects of their culture, most notably in the
form of dress and religion. Despite this, most locals own cars, have high-paying
jobs, and have access to, and the resources to afford, the world's best technology.
Much of the U.A.E.'s economic success
comes from free trade, oil, and foreign workers. As foreign workers arrive, the
locals receive the higher paying jobs and if there is a smaller demand for jobs,
the government simply lets fewer immigrant workers into the country to guarantee
the locals have jobs. This essentially makes the local population the upper class
in a multi-classed society.
The foreigners have changed the culture to a substantial degree. These people, from
every part of the world, have brought with them new dress, foods, religions, and
a new way of life. Despite clinging to their traditional roots, the local Emirati
people, at least in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, have grown accustomed to Italian, Indian,
and American food as they have grown extremely tolerant of religious, ethnic, and
cultural differences. With this comes constant pressure as the local people (most
particularly the sheiks) feel obligated to cater to the foreign population, who
is truly running their economy. This has led to a difficult balance of maintaining
the traditional, while integrating the foreign; it has also led to pride in being
Emirati by some, but encourages resent among others.
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