Home' Abu Dhabi Tourism : Explore Abu Dhabi Contents CULTURE & LIFESTYLE
Local culture is rooted in Islamic traditions.
Islam is more than a religion here. It is a way
of life that affects everything from what to
wear to what to eat. Abu Dhabi’s culture and
heritage is deeply linked to Islam and
its commitment to tolerance and hospitality.
Foreigners are free to practise their own
religion, and women are able to drive and
walk around unescorted.
Arabic is the official language of the UAE,
although English is widely spoken and written.
UAE nationals typically wear traditional
clothing in public. For men, this is the kandura
- a full length, white shirt-like garment worn
with a white or red chequered head-dress,
known as a ghutra secured with a black cord
(agal). In public, women wear a long, loose
black robe (abaya) that covers their usually
Western clothes - plus a headscarf (sheyla).
The abaya is often very sheer with fine
embroidery and beadwork along the wrists
and hemline. Sheylas are becoming more
elaborate and a statement of individuality,
particularly among young women.
Islam is the official religion of the UAE, and
is widely practised. The country’s Constitution
upholds freedom of religion in accordance
with established customs. Non-Muslims can
get an insight into Islam through complimentary
guided tours of the spectacular Sheikh Zayed
Grand Mosque. A strict dress code applies at
the Mosque: Long, loose fitting, ankle length
trousers or skirts for women and men. Women
must wear a headscarf. Abayas and kanduras
are provided for women and men respectively
if necessary. For many visitors, wearing the
traditional dress adds to the experience.
Ramadan is Islam’s holy month, the dates of
which vary each year in accordance with the
Islamic lunar calendar. It’s a time of fasting
during which Muslims abstain from all food,
drink, even smoking from dawn to dusk.
At sunset the fast is broken with an Iftar feast.
All over Abu Dhabi, lively Iftar tents buzz with
people of all nationalities and religions enjoying
traditional Arabic fare. Shops vary their hours
of operation during Ramadan by closing
during the day, re-opening after sunset, and
staying open late into the night. Food outlets
and restaurants generally remain closed
during the day, opening at sunset for Iftar.
Non-Muslims are respectfully required to
refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in
public places in daylight hours during
Ramadan. You are, however, permitted to
eat, drink and smoke in private.
Supermarkets remain open, takeaway food
can be delivered, and major hotels will have
a restaurant available where non-fasters can
dine. Hotel room services will also operate.
In offices and at work, companies will
typically provide an eating room away from
those fasting. Ramadan ends with a three-
day celebration and holiday called Eid Al
Fitr, celebrated with gifts being exchanged
amongst families, friends, neighbours
EATING AND DRINKING
There’s a huge diversity of dining right across
Abu Dhabi where global cuisines mingle on
menus also offering a vibrant mix of local
flavours. International hotel F&B outlets are
typically licensed to serve alcohol, although
some locally owned operations may not.
Alcohol can be purchased on Yas Island
at restaurants and bars not connected to
hotels. Non-Muslims can enjoy pork in certain
restaurants. Dishes using pork ingredients will
be prepared separately from non-pork dishes
and clearly marked on menus.
While regular tourist photography is
acceptable, it is polite to ask permission
before taking photos of people, particularly
women, as it is in most parts of the world.
Photographs of government buildings,
military installations and ports and airports
should not be taken. Also, cameras may not
be permitted in public areas designated for
women and children only.
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
The emergency services phone number in
Abu Dhabi is 999. Calls are free. Abu Dhabi
Police operates a dedicated Tourism Police
section. They can be contacted on;
+971 2 800 2626 and +971 2 512 7777,
or visit www.hr.adpolice.gov.ae/tourismpolice
AT A GLANCE
EXPLORE ABU DHABI 35
Israa & Miaraj Night* 24 April
Ramadan expected to begin* 27 May
Eid Al Fitr* 25-27 June
Arafat Day* 31 Aug
Eid Al Adha* 1-3 Sep
Hijri New Year’s Day* 22 Sep
Martyr’s Day 30 Nov
Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday* 30 Nov
UAE National Day 2-3 Dec
*Islamic holiday exact dates are subject to
moon sighting and may differ from date given.
Header: Rooftop, Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara.
Image provided by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority
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