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Culture, Shopping & Recreation in the UAE

The UAE may be neither the oldest, nor the biggest nation out there, but it still has a lot to offer in terms of culture and recreation! Gigantic shopping malls, famous skyscrapers reaching up high into the sky, stuffed camels, colorful souks, traditional sports, and more are awaiting exploration!

Relocating to another country also brings with it plenty of opportunities to experience, explore, and get to know a new culture. In the United Arab Emirates, as elsewhere, this can be done in many ways, be it by joining in on popular sports, sampling local dishes and drinks, simply soaking up the atmosphere at a traditional souk, or marveling at local attractions and sights. Of the latter, there are too many to list, from record-holding skyscrapers and man-made islands to old mosques and fascinating museums — you’ll be hard pressed to visit and see them all.

Wasta and Islam — Cornerstones of Emirati Culture

It’s a good thing then, that there are also a number of public holidays to be had in the UAE, giving you time to explore the country more and join in on local festivities. Most of the holidays are Islamic ones, based on the lunar calendar, so make sure to take their changing dates into account when planning any trips or vacations. As the national religion, Islam in general plays an important role in daily life, from dress code and dietary restrictions (for non-Muslims to be observed at least in public during Ramadan) to the calls for prayer that you’ll hear five times a day. The local concept of wasta, on the other hand, stems more from the tribal history of the Arabian world and can be loosely described as the power or influence you have, be it through connections or your own social standing.

Shopping as the Ultimate, but Far from the Only Experience

Luckily, you won’t need any wasta to enjoy the shopping in the UAE. The super malls of Dubai and Abu Dhabi are famous the world over and have long left the concept of just being a place where you can only buy things behind. Instead, they nowadays include aquariums, skiing halls, ice-skating rinks, and much more. If large malls are not particularly your cup of tea and you prefer a smaller, more authentic Arabian market experience, then do not fear, there are souks to be found across the Emirates, from the old textile market in Dubai to a camel souk near Al Ain. Those who have grown tired of the Emirates’ most popular exercise, i.e. shopping, can always fall back on a broad offering of alternative sporting opportunities: traditional sports such as camel racing as well as more modern disciplines (e.g. football) all have their place in the UAE.

InterNations Expat Magazine