#IAmEmirati: By opening their home to all, youths immerse tourists in Emirati life
There’s more to the UAE than ritzy skyscrapers, huge malls, and world-famous attractions, they said
With millions of tourists flying into the UAE every year, Ahmed Al Sumaiti and Abdallah Al Obaidy embarked on a mission: To welcome people into their home and give them an authentic Emirati experience.
There’s more to the UAE than ritzy skyscrapers, huge malls, and world-famous attractions, they said. And so they whisk tourists and expatriates away from ultra-popular spots and immerse them in the culture and the golden traditions of the UAE.
True to Arabian hospitality, they invite people to their majlis and show them all things Emirati. Tourists get to learn how to pour coffee, the local way; tie the ghutra (headscarf); and, of course, feast on a sumptuous spread of Emirati cuisine.
Al Sumaiti and Al Obaidy started offering such a distinctive cultural experience when they found out that there were very few Emiratis who work as tour guides.
“We found it unfair that our history, heritage and culture remained unknown to the people of the world who come to the UAE just to visit buildings, malls, and parks,” they told Khaleej Times.
“So, we vowed to let them know about our real heritage and how we have rapidly developed our country to be one of the most advanced nations in the world. We educate them on how the desert and the life of Bedouins have changed through the ages, from desert to oasis.”
The duo takes tourists to a heritage village so they can experience how Emiratis lived in the ancient days.
“Our tours consist of various elements that are part of the Emirati lifestyle — a day in a majlis, Emirati food experience, a workshop on cultural differences, and many more. We also organise custom tours that allow visitors and expatriates to rediscover the Emirates by exploring paths that are less travelled.”
They have also created a leaflet called My Deleel (My Guide), which details all the essential things people have to know about the local culture.
“We let tourists experience the culture and heritage themselves not only to help them enjoy their trip and also to allow them to interact with locals,” they said.
For Al Sumaiti and Al Obaidy, all these experiences are not only services for tourists — but part of their “duty to the nation”.
Local customs and etiquette: The dos and don’ts
Whenever they have guests, Ahmed Al Sumaiti and Abdallah Al Obaidy make it a point to explain the local customs and social etiquette that are rather different from those practised in the West.
- Emiratis are extremely friendly and welcoming, so when they meet friends, they tend to use fairly long greetings, with praises to God, in addition to hugs and kisses.
- However, this is done only between men. When it comes to Emirati women, one should not try to shake their hand unless she puts out her hand first, and hugs and kisses are definitely avoided
- It’s polite to always stand when someone enters a room, other than the help
- Locals also take offence when one sits with the sole of their feet facing them
- Food should never be offered with one’s left hand
- Public displays of affection are not only offensive but are also illegal
- Under no circumstances should one take pictures of an Emirati woman
- It’s considered extremely offensive to stare at a woman in a national dress.
- Any sort of unwelcome physical contact is seen as a form of disrespect
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