Dubai: Emirati citizens have agreed that wearing the traditional Emirati dress outside the Middle East is not a smart choice, given an escalation in negative prejudices about it in certain parts of the world.
Following an incident in the American city of Avon, Ohio involving Emirati businessman Ahmad Al Menhali, 41, who was wearing the traditional dress when he was arrested, Emiratis have found the government’s advisory timely and apt and also advised their countrymen to follow the order.
Gulf News spoke to Emiratis about the recent incident and whether they wear their national dress when travelling abroad. All agreed that cultural ignorance and also certain misconceptions about the national dress could attract harm, and therefore, it was not a good idea to wear it when travelling.
Talal Salem, Emirati writer, said the national dress is every Emirati’s cultural identity, but not everyone is ready to accept it abroad. “Wearing the Kandoura abroad can attract the wrong attention in public places and also at times threat from robbers. When I travel abroad I choose to wear what the majority would wear in that place.”
Salem said people in the west easily become suspicious when a person wears such clothing, “but we should not blame them for their ignorance because they do not put the effort to learn about other cultures and nations.”
Salem said Emiratis must not only refrain from wearing the Kandoura but also avoid wearing expensive clothing and accessories of famous luxury brands because that could also attract attention and harm.
Hassan Al Najjar, Emirati poet, said he only wears the Kandoura when he travels around the GCC and believes majority of Emiratis of all ages also do the same.
“It has long been my choice. I think it’s better for me because in certain countries, it gives people the impression that I’m wealthy just because I come from the GCC. I avoid wearing it when I visit Europe, America and certain Asian countries.”
After the recent incident in Ohio, Al Najjar said the news which went viral could help clear misconceptions about the national dress which is worn by millions of people: “It’s a chance to take it positively and hope that people would get to know our national dress, get used to it and accept it as any other form of clothing. We hope they no longer link it with being a terrorist.”
Another Emirati, Mohammad Ahmad Abdullah, 45, said he has been travelling in Europe every year, but never had any bitter experience. “I never had any problem because of my clothes or language”
However, Arabs are facing negative prejudices in the west because of certain circumstances. “The world is becoming racist towards Arabs and Muslims due to the political situation in the Middle East. Therefore I do agree with the government’s directive on wearing the traditional dress,” Abdullah said.
“Not wearing our Emirati dress in the US or Europe does not mean we are insulting our culture.”
He said the media can play important role in raising awareness about this issue.
Adel Al Hammadi, 36, a semi-government employee, supported the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ instruction to avoid wearing traditional dress while travelling abroad. He said all should follow such instructions for their own benefit. “Actually, as soon as we reach any foreign country, all Emiratis receive an SMS with all useful and emergency numbers. This shows the government is working hard to protect us.”
He said not wearing the dishdasha abroad does not undermine Arab traditions and customs. “Instead, it protects us from any dangers and threats,” Al Hammadi said.
Khalid Al Hammadi, 38, an H.R professional in the private sector also feels that not wearing traditional dress abroad is a good option in the wake of the Ohio incident. “In Europe, everyone is afraid of a terrorist attack, as well as any person who looks like an Arab.”
Therefore it is better to follow the instructions of the government while travelling abroad, he said.
— Omnia Fahim is a trainee at Gulf News