Is it compulsory for women to wear black abaya... and other FAQs you wanted answered

According to research figures, highest number of Europeans staying at Dubai hotels was from UK. (File)

Operating under the banner of “Open Doors, Open Minds,” the Sheikh Mohammad Center for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) strives to remove barriers between people of different nationalities and raise awareness of the local culture, customs and religion of the UAE.

Based on nearly 15 years of experience, the SMCCU listed the Top 10 questions asked, with the answers given of course. In a countdown of sorts, Emirates 24|7 shares the top queries and their answers.

This is the second in the series of questions asked about Emirati lifestyle by expatriates or tourists visiting the UAE, and published on Emirates 24|7. For the first report, read: Why is it so difficult to get to know an Emirati... and other questions you always wanted to ask.
Question 7: Are there still Bedouins living in the UAE?

Answer from SMCCU: Is being a Bedouin more than just living in the desert? Of course!

When we hear the word Bedouin, we think of the nomad, who moves around in the desert looking for water to survive. However, being a Bedouin is not just about living in the desert; it entails a lifestyle with a set of customs, traditions, and values.

Here in the UAE you can say that the Bedouins have settled, while there are many who proudly connect with their Bedouin roots. Bedouins have strong ties of kinship and friendship. This is why they are well known for their generosity and hospitality, two traits that are extended to anyone they come in contact with.

Nowadays, very few people still live as a Bedouin. We go out to the desert to camp in an effort to live like we lived in the old days, but we take our cars, generators, phones, and iPads.

Question 6: Why do we see so many men in the mosques and no women?

Answer from SMCCU: The Lord created us with equality and gave both male and female an equal opportunity to earn the favor of their Lord. Equality is sometimes different as per our nature, however.

It is common knowledge that when a man can hear the Adhan, or call to prayer, he should attend to his prayers in the mosque, where he will receive extra rewards for making the effort. He does not have to but he should try.

Women are given breaks (mercy) according to her circumstances; for instance, in case of pregnancy, menstruation, when she is breastfeeding, etc. They may or may not choose to go to the mosque, but it is up to them, and they will receive an equal reward from their Lord for their prayers when offered at home.

If you think about it, women carry more of the load and responsibilities in life as mothers and wives, so as the saying goes, they are on call 24/7. Therefore, she can attend to her prayers in the comfort of her home or the mosque, whatever is easy on her.

Question 5: Are women forced to wear the black abaya?

The black abaya has become a part of the culture in the southern Arabian Peninsula. But are women forced to wear this dress? The short answer is: not by force really!

While some ladies may feel social pressure to wear the abaya to blend in and be like everyone else rather than to be different and stand out, the dress really serves a practical purpose; in a harsh desert environment you need to cover yourself with loose fitting clothing. This protects the clothes and body from the effects of the sun and sand blown around.

At the same time the abaya is modest sort of dress, which enables women to wear something simple that suits them. The general advice from the Quran is to dress modestly and not to be too show-offish.

Albeit a traditional form of dress that serves many purposes, in the past the abaya was not only black. So, the question remains why black? And isn’t black hot? This is a topic we like to discuss at the SMCCU.

Emirates 24|7 will bring you the next set of questions and answers in the series on Monday, December 30, 2013.

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