The United Arab Emirates is at once one of the most conservative societies in the world and one of the most forward-looking. Only a generation ago it was a very poor desert country on the peripheries of the Arab world and part of Britain’s colonial empire. The discovery of oil changed all that, although it took wise leadership to ensure that the blessing of wealth did not become a curse.
Having endeavored to balance tradition and modernity, the UAE is today is a country of contrasts, embracing luxurious hotels and shopping centre while its black-abaya- and shayla-clad women are mostly kept out of sight. The Emirati people embody the combination of past and present in a fascinating way.
Traveling to or living in the UAE can be a challenge. It is likely to involve moving beyond your cultural comfort zone but, having made the effort to bridge the divide, you will find people whose embrace of modernity is exhilarating and whose effort to combine the ancient and the modern is an exceptional example of globalisation.
Combined with the legendary Arabic sense of hospitality and generosity, the UAE can be an extremely rewarding place to visit. This book will introduce you to the history and culture of the Emiratis, tell you what to embrace and what to avoid, and smooth your path toward full enjoyment of a fascinating experience.
Emirati hosts are generous and will encourage guests eat as much as possible. As such, in order to partake in a manner that would please the host, it is not a bad idea to skip a meal beforehand!