The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is located in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, the vision of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. His excellency’s heart’s desire was to establish a structure that would unite the cultural diversity of the Islamic world, with the historical and modern values of architecture and art.
UAE a Melting Pot
Read on to get an insider’s view of UAE before travelling to this incredible country.
The UAE is a fantastic place to visit. It’s full of history, culture, tradition and modernity. The best time to visit in order to enjoy the outdoors is November through to about April.
From May through to October the temperatures and humidity can be brutal and venturing outside almost impossible.
The UAE is more than just Dubai though. Take time to visit other emirates, each with its own charm.
Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world
A Resident’s Perspective
When travelling it’s valuable to get a an insider’s view from someone who has lived or is living in the country or region you plan to visit. We lived in UAE; Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain for 11 years . Here we share some insider knowledge of this oft maligned part of the world.
The experience of either visiting, or coming to live permanently as an expat in any foreign country brings with it responsibilities. Those responsibilities include ensuring adherence to the laws of that country, and respect for its religion and culture.
Demographics and Customs
UAE is a Muslim country with a population of 9.2M of which only 11% are Emirati, with 76% Muslim. The country has developed exponentially since it’s establishment in 1971 . Formally composed of seven independent emirates, UAE is credit to its leaders, people and the expat community. All of whom have had a hand in it’s creation.
Arab customs are quite different to anything we had experienced before. We suggest before travelling you spend some time researching expectations and “do’s and don’t’s”, in order to have a wonderful experience.
We are all visitors in this country and expected to adapt to local customs and social behaviours. Acquainting yourself with local traditions before arrival will ensure a welcome.
Having said that it is our experience that the local Arab people are understanding, welcoming and hospitable. If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in the company of a local then your experience will be enhanced.
Culture and Religion
Surprisingly, we found UAE fairly liberal and accepting when it comes to dress code. Be sensible and respectful, dressing modestly at all times and you’ll be fine.
If you get the chance to visit a mosque – take it. There are only two in the UAE which are open to the public. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and the Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai.
Remember to dress modestly. Check the websites from the links below for information of cultural expectations on site.
The stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi – a must visit.
Jumeirah Mosque at sunrise – organized tours are available here along with the opportunity to have direct contact with local Emiratis.
Communication and Language
I don’t know about you but wherever we travel to we love to learn enough of the local language to be able to converse on the simplest level.
The most common greeting in Arabic is Salam alaykum (Peace be upon you) to which the response should be Wa alaykum as–salam (And upon you be peace). You’ll always get a lovely response from a local in a hotel elevator if you greet him in this way. Local women are more conservative but a smile goes a long way.
Arabic, obviously is ubiquitous and there are some common words which will come in handy and are cool to learn.
Thank you is shukran and you’re welcome afwan. Goodbye masallama. Hello Ahlan wa sahlan. Please Min fad lik. Taxi sayarat ajruh.
Eating out UAE Style
There are literally thousands of incredible places to eat and drink in the Emirates. Every conceivable cuisine is catered to but the must dos from our perspective are:
- Eat out in a small local cafe restaurant. Downtown Deira close to the creek and Al Ain are great options. The food in these places is so tasty and fresh and cheap as chips. The service is always top-notch.
- Friday Brunch is an institution in this country. You’ll never have experienced anything like it anywhere else in the world. Endless five-star food and free-flowing drinks of your choice. Obviously price is dependent on the package you choose.
Amazing array of delicious food in a local Moroccan restaurant in Al Ain which we paid around 100dhs for.
There is a lot of press around alcohol and its availability. For accurate information head to the UAE Government portal https://government.ae/
The UAE is one of the safest countries in the world. Take the usual precautions you would take anywhere in the world.
Must do Dubai
- Burj Khalifa – At the Top
- Dubai Mall and Aquarium
- Ras Al Khor Wildlife Park to see the Pink Flamingoes
- Walk “The Walk” at JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residences
- Ride an Abra on Dubai Creek
- Visit the Old Souk and the Gold Souk and haggle
- Have a cultural experience at Jumeirah Mosque
- Ski Dubai
- If you’re planning to be here on a weekend then experience a “Friday Brunch” – you’ll need to book in advance
Must do Abu Dhabi
- Visit Al Ain and see the Oasis, Al Ain Zoo and Camel Market
- Eat at a local restaurant in the Town Centre Al Ain
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
- Manarat Al Saadyat
- Ferrari World
- Yas Waterworld
- Kayak the Mangroves
- Qasr Al Hosn
- Desert Safari
- Falcon Hospital
- Abu Dhabi also has equally amazing Friday Brunch options.
Go and experience the wonder of a diverse and amazing country. UAE has grown from a desert camp to one of the most developed countries in the world in just 46 short years.
Go on a desert safari and experience the wonder of sunset in the desert
Weekend getaway – where to go?
The announcement of any public holiday in the Middle East is based on the lunar cycle. The Prophet Mohammed’s birthday was once again short notice opportunity for a weekend getaway. It’s always a race against time finding somewhere to fly to which is within four hours flying time and being offered as a good deal for flights and hotel travel. This time we chose Bahrain for our weekend getaway.