UAE | General

Emirati launches website on UAE etiquette

Mohammad clarifies what is acceptable after he sees foreign couple kissing in mall

  • By Nada Al Taher, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 20:00 August 21, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News
  • Mohammad Al Qubaisi is a manager at a semi-government institute in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi: After his eight-year-old daughter asked him if what the foreign couple was doing was allowed in the UAE, an Emirati man made it his mission to clarify what is considered permissible and prohibited in the country.

Walking in a mall, 40-year-old Mohammad Al Qubaisi was shocked when he saw a Western couple kissing in public.

“My daughter then came up to me and asked me whether this was allowed. I immediately told her that it wasn’t. She then proceeded to ask me were they not aware of this before they came to the country,” he said.

On approaching the pair to alert them to the fact that what they were doing is wrong, he was surprised to find out that they knew nothing of the country’s norms and traditions.

“They told me ‘We did not read this on the websites we visited before we got here’. So I set up a platform that allows foreigners and tourists to familiarise themselves with both the formal and informal laws on acceptable social behaviour in the country,” he added.

This is when he set up ‘Before You Go To The UAE’, a website that covers a range of dos and don’ts from society’s perspective on mall-wear to the rules of touching the Quran.

“I did face challenges when compiling the information because while there are websites and online sources on UAE culture, much of what I found was not credible and some of it was even untrue. So I sought to redirect my search towards Emiratis and library books which spoke about the topic,” Al Qubaisi told Gulf News.

This is not the first time he has made a bid to spread awareness. In 2000 he wrote a booklet for distribution at embassies and airlines but no one seemed interested in his project.

“Since then many incidents have taken place where a simple matter of miscommunication and lack of understanding of UAE norms has led to disputes and even jail time,” he said.

Having lived abroad for many years, Al Qubaisi has heard a variety of misconceptions that people have towards both Arab traditions and Islamic practices. Positive light

“Some might mistake group prayers for exercise, or the call to prayer [athan] for some sort of alarm, especially if they hear it at dawn. Additionally, when asking for directions, men should speak to husbands instead of their wives, and tourists must also accept that even swimwear may differ from country to country,” he said.

At the same time, the website’s founder also says that he does not wish to frighten visitors or make the UAE seem daunting.

“I have tried as much as possible to showcase the UAE in a positive light, all the while giving those abroad realistic expectations of this great country and its people,” he said.

Currently a manager at a semi-government entity, the father of five is working with his 17-year-old daughter on the website’s content development. He is also seeking to find if an official UAE authority is willing to adopt this non-profit project.

“I am currently working with an artist who has volunteered to sketch illustrations that will better explain some of the ideas mentioned on the website,” he added.

Al Qubaisi soon plans to open a forum on his website where UAE residents and even tourists can share their experiences via photographs and videos which can be uploaded onto www.beforeyougotouae.com

Comments (15)

  1. Added 16:48 August 22, 2013

    It's a great initiative, to raise awareness of local Emirati culture and help newcomers and visitors to a better understanding of the social codes of the society. However, I'm not sure if a dos and dont's is the right way to raise this awareness. Grown-up people like to know why they sould act in a certain way and therefore I feel, a bit more of background info would be more helpful and appreciated. Actualy the ask.ali.com portal and the cultural guide-books Ask Ali - A Guide to Dubai and Ask-Ali - A guide to Abu Dhabi provide exactly this background info, since it not that black and white. It goes without saying, that the dresscode-sings on the doors of Malls are a waste, if mall staff could not care less about enforcing it and set with some of the uniforms even a bad example.

    Heike M'ckel, Chemnitz, Germany

  2. Added 15:23 August 22, 2013

    MABROOK Mohammed so happy to be associted with this project and you. It is indeed important to have accuracy and is not only for expats but for all peoples of this world we live in RESEPECT IS ESSENTIAL EVERYWHERE Fabulous that your childrena re involved in making this happen and supporting you or vice versa Keep it moving and funding will come because you believe in what you are doing

    nicola, abu dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 13:29 August 22, 2013

    Unnecessary and factually incorrect. "Do not touch a quran if you are not Muslim"? There is much debate over this and not one correct answer - many would argue that it is the best way for non-Muslims to read and understand the Quran and Islam so why not distribute the Quran as widely as possible and have them read? In fact you will note that in many Dubai prisons the Quran is widely available and many inmates are taught the Quran after which they embrace Islam (meaning they were non-Muslim before they read these Quran).

    James, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 13:23 August 22, 2013

    People need to take it easy and realize there are bigger problems to deal with then two people holding hands while walking around. Holding hands? Plenty of couples even walk around holding hands - nothing even in Islam prevents this from married couples. Dubai has positioned itself as a global city and needs to be tolerant of people from all over the world. While there are certain red lines that shouldn't be crossed in public (as in all places all over the world), making people apprehensive about visiting here because they'll have to "cover up" is not the right way to go about it. If you have an issue with someone doing something that you believed was indecent (such as holding hands), then go and speak to them about it politely. Explain to them your rationale behind why holding hands is such a serious offence to you.

    Ahmad, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 12:18 August 22, 2013

    the link of the website www.beforeyougotouae.com

    saeed, abudhabi, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 11:59 August 22, 2013

    As a newly arrived expat I will look at this website with interest, as I am keen to respect the culture and customs of the country that I have moved to, and have received lots of conflicting advice. The web address doesn't seem to be working at present, but I shall keep checking.

    Peter Chambers, Abu Dhabi, United Kingdom

  7. Added 11:55 August 22, 2013

    sorry folks to join late!!!! in mirdif city centre they have written and posted on main doors that wear respectable clothes in different languages but no USE. NOBODY CARES. i my self once asked , to someboady to be civilized then she replied ,YOU KNOW I AM FROM WHICH COUNTRY????

    EHTISHAM, DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 11:28 August 22, 2013

    Very good move. He should sync/post/integrate this information/link on all embassy websites for foreigners who would want to apply for a visa to come to visit or work in UAE.

    Kitchil, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 11:12 August 22, 2013

    It would be helpful to have the website address as part of the article.

    Patrick, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 11:07 August 22, 2013

    Kindly provide a proper dress code for foreigner about revealing outfits(especially including tight pants and trousers). It is very common.

    Mirobaid, Abu dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  11. View more comments

Gulf News