Why is there a ladies section on beaches?... Questions about Emirati lifestyle answered

Are there still Bedouins living in the UAE? Are women forced to wear the black abaya? And why is it so difficult to meet an Emirati? These were some of the question answered by the Sheikh Mohammad Center for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) on this website last week.

Since its inception in 1998, the SMCCU answered hundreds of questions about Emirati lifestyle.

Established with the very purpose of identifying, explaining, and promoting Emirati lifestyle, it organises heritage tours, cultural meals, educational programmes or mosque visits, where participants are able to ask questions about anything that keeps them wondering.

“People from all over the world come to us with questions about local lifestyle,” said Debbie Jaunich, Technical Specialist and Presenter at the Center.

Sometimes, the questions are somewhat odd, such as ‘what do you wear under your traditional dresses?’ or ‘Why is there a water sprayer in the toilet?’ However, no question is strange enough for the centre.

In 2012 alone the SMCCU held 1,237 activities, with an average of 25-30 questions asked per session. Based on 15 years of experience, it has created a list of the ten questions most asked.

In a countdown of sorts, Emirates 24|7 shares the top queries and their answers. Int his week’s story questions 4-2 are revealed, leaving the top question for Thursday.

Question 4: Do Emiratis divorce, and is there a stigma over divorce?

Answer by SMCCU:

The answer is yes. At the same time, statistics show that divorce rates in the UAE are far lower than global divorce rates. The society is still based on traditional family values and marriage is a big part of adult life and encouraged in Islam.

However, Prophet Mohammed’s [Peace Be Upon Him] first wife was a widow, and he also married a divorced women. As he is the perfect example for Muslims, divorce should not have a stigma according to our religion.

In any society divorce can be seen as a failure of sorts, and with that we make prejudgments. But, many people here do marry with people who have been divorced, just like in any other population.

Question 3: What does the average Emirati think about being a minority in his/her own country? And how does (s)he feel about  all this modernization?

Question by SMCCU:

The people of this nation have lived in a multi-cultural environment for centuries.  Traders and travellers have always been a welcome part of the scenery, one which truly makes Dubai special.

Today, some of the older crowd might feel a bit overwhelmed by contemporary Dubai; there is simply more hustle and bustle, and nothing is the same.  Meanwhile, the middle-aged Emirati may enjoy this life of the big city and live well in comparison to his parents, although some are working hard to hold up the torch of our hard-working forefathers to keep up with the high demands of our new nation and its placement in the world. The youth do not know any better or cannot imagine how we could have lived with so little in the past.

There are side effects of growth and modernity, like the fast-paced life and traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road. And yes, there are sometimes influences from outside the country that are in conflict with our culture, tradition, and religion. Each individual has his own way of dealing with this, which is very positive over all.

Question 2: Why do we find women-only or family sections in restaurants and even on beaches?

Answer by SMCCU:

Women are given special places on beaches and in malls and restaurants for their own comfort.  Muslims in general have a certain protocol or way of life that reflects a more conservative society.   This is why there are ladies’ clubs, ladies’ day at the beach, a ladies’ carriage on the metro, ladies’ taxis and separate sections in restaurants for families or ladies only.

Women can choose to go to the public beach, or have a day that is just for them. It is the same when women gather in the restroom during a party; they are having a girls’ talk.

 In the end, individuals make their own choice whether to take advantage of this or not. Most importantly, we should understand that men and women are on earth to complement and complete each other, not to compete. In other words; what suits a lady does not necessarily suit a man.

(Home page image courtesy Shutterstock)

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