Saying Marhaba (Hello) or As salamu alyakum is a way to greet local people here, so please allow me to greet you with a Marhaba!
Our first summer in Abu Dhabi: admiring 123-m flagpole on Marina Island across from Marina Mall.
A bird view of Abu Dhabi City from Grand Millennium Al Wahda Hotel, where we lived happily for almost 4% of our days this year.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque where we learned from a funny tour guide who is also a civil engineer.
Abu Dhabi Mall
Marina Mall has a Carrefour.
Khalidiyah Mall where I attended a worship in a cinema for the first time of my life.
A bird view of Reem Island, where we live in 2014.
The Gate Towers reminds us on Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.
Another view of the Gate Towers and their reflections on the Arc Towers.
Dramatic reflection of sunrise as viewed in Reem Island is always inspiring.
Night view of Reem Island.
Public buses e.g. bus 54 of Abu Dhabi cost only 2 dirhams / passenger.
St Joseph’s Cathedral of Abu Dhabi.
Remember to shake firmly. If you are a man, it is impolite to offer your hand to a local woman. If a local woman offers her hand, it is then OK to reciprocate. Some Arab men will shake non-local women’s hands, some will not (it is ok too)!
Learn some Arabic words. Based on my experience living in Abu Dhabi, one can survive in Abu Dhabi without knowing Arabic, but it is always wonderful to learn some Arabic words.
Yes : Na’am / Aywah
No : Laa
Bon appetit : Bel Aaafiya
My name is : Ana esmi
Congratulation : Mabrook
Thank you : Shukran
Sorry : Asif / Asifa
Respect – a universal value – for each other’s differences requires open-mindedness, tolerance, adaptability and obedience. Although I have not lived long enough to give wise advice, I have found that respecting yourself and other people (regardless of their social, economic, education status) is among the best policies. Ask Ali also highlights that it is “illegal to defame any member of the ruling families of any of the emirates.”
Be thoughtful. “Even if you must compromise, don’t embarrass your Arab colleagues in public.”
Depending on the context, the opposites may be right.
In Arabic culture, it is impolite not to answer a phone call during meetings.
In Western culture, it is impolite to answer a phone call during meetings.
What if you are in a meeting with both Arabic and Western colleagues?
I remember a meeting that I attended in my first week working in Abu Dhabi. Half-way through the meeting, a phone rang. The most important person (who was originally from USA) said, “I’m glad it’s not mine.”
Arab people may raise their voices when they speak, not out of anger, but to emphasize a point.
Trust Arab people like to do business with those they trust (those whom they know or wit whom they have friends in common). Arab people don’t like to do business over the phone or without initially meeting you.
Social media that I follow:
www.emiratweet.com : a virtual majlis of events, news, street talk about Emirati individuals and society.
www.sailemagazine.com : about successful entrepreneurial Emiratis.
The National : an English newspaper of UAE
Things that I add to the bucket list:
- visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the UAE and the eighth largest mosque in the world. It also has a Center library. Gently step on the wool carpet (the most comfortable one I have ever had the blessing to walk on) in the main prayer hall. Admire the Swarovski crystals-decorated chandeliers.
- learn Arabic calligraphy as a way of learning Arabic culture.
- enjoy a cup of coffee sprinkled with gold leaves @ Emirates Palace with classic luxurious stairwell.
- attend exhibitions (and if possible, weddings) @ Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC).
- desert safari / dune bashing @ Liwa Oasis ~ 2 hours drive from Abu Dhabi. Imagine a roller-coaster ride over sand dunes accompanied by sunset.
- ride a camel.
First and finally, please remember the followings:
- Stand up when someone approaches you to say hello.
- Use your right hand to pick things up or accept things.
- Reshuffle your position (at an elevator, a doorway) to place an important person / guest to your right.
- Dress modestly.
- Remove your shoes before entering your host’s home.
- Refer the gulf as Arabian Gulf (not Persian gulf!)
- Send a Ramadan Kareem (Blessed Ramadan) card at the beginning of the Ramadan month or an Eid Mubarak (Happy Mubarak) at the end of Ramadan, to your Muslim friends.
- Wait until after Ramadan to approach Muslim businessmen with new ideas.
- Offer local friends food – a symbol of goodwill and friendship, especially home-cooked food if you know how to cook. Remember to exclude pork or alcohol (even in chocolates)!
- Do not touch anyone of the opposite sex. No gentle pat.
- Do not schedule any meeting / gathering / sport event on Fridays, at least not until after 4 pm because, to respect people’s need of praying.
- Do not leave your host’s home before coffee and Arabic sweets are served (or else they may feel that they have not completed their hospitality duties; hospitality is an important value here, rooted in the harsh desert conditions).
- Do not point your soles / the bottom of your fee towards anyone, especially someone’s face.
- Do not say Mashallah when praising something beautiful to an Arab.
- Do not say swear words.
- Do not post sexually suggesting, politically / religiously controversial material.
- Do not take photographs of a local person (especially women and families) without asking for a permission.
- Do not take photographs of Muslims praying.
- Do not take photographs of military sites, the royal family’s palaces, government buildings (e.g. airports, police headquarters).
- Do not eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum in public during Ramadan.
- Women traveling alone in taxi should sit in the back and not make conversation with the cabbies, as drivers may misinterpret friendliness.
Last updated 20141026