Culture of Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the capital of United Arab Emirates, and also the second most populous city there; second only to Dubai. While Dubai catches tourists for the wide variety of luxurious services it offers, Abu Dhabi has emerged as more of a business hub centred around oil and infrastructure. Almost two-thirds of the 400 Billion Dollar economy of UAE runs because of Abu Dhabi. This doesn't mean that Abu Dhabi has not catered to tourists, as the people who come here are always left awestruck at attractions such as the beautiful Grand Mosque and the new Ferrari World.

Here are a few things that will help one understand the culture of Abu Dhabi in the quickest time possible.

Traditions and Culture of Abu Dhabi

Islamic influence: Abu Dhabi continues to attract tourists from all around the globe. The government has invested heavily in this sector by providing the tourists with large parks and many facilities, however, all of this is embedded deep within the Islamic culture that prevails in Abu Dhabi. People with multiple nationalities and background come to Abu Dhabi to work and on a vacation, and they're welcomed as long as they don't jeopardize the harmony there.

The Arabic Pride: The Arabs are known to be fierce from historic time. War was glorified in the pre-Islamic period, and as the course of time went on, the wars became extinct. The Arabs still consider themselves the pioneer of swordsmanship and bravery. The sight of Arab youth drifting around their expensive cars is very common in Abu Dhabi, but never at the cost of anyone else's safety. One might judge them to be very extravagant at the hand-sight but they're utterly generous in terms of charity and very religious as well.

Codes of Conduct: It's not very common to see people in Lamborghinis and Ferraris blaring out music in Abu Dhabi because it would be considered rude. At best, the rich ones rev up their engines and that too to communicate with another person in a luxurious car. Arab men avoid touching women so handshakes are often replaced by a Salaam (Islamic salutation), with the hand on their heart.

Cultural heart: Abu Dhabi has been termed as the cultural heart of the United Arab Emirates. Desert Safaris, Belly-Dancing, and Arabic poetry are some of the main points in the culture of UAE. The Arabs have prided themselves to be the best poets of the world in historic times and rightfully so. Arabic Calligraphy is also an art that is extensively taught to anyone who is willing to learn it.

The Dress: Many locals dress traditionally, men in their full-length shirt-dress (dishdasha) with a white or red checkered headdress (Gutra). The women wear a black abaya- a long black robe and a headscarf (Sheyla).

Cuisine of Abu Dhabi

Culture of Abu Dhabi
The cuisines that are offered in Abu Dhabi are virtually limitless: From Italian to Indian. One can have any type of cuisine there and this is an integral part of the culture of Abu Dhabi. While the fancy restaurants are alright and good, but the real fun begins when the local food comes up on the scene. If one is staying in Abu Dhabi for a short period of time, it's best advised to eat the local street food one gets there. Here are a few dishes that are lip-smacking tasty!

This traditional dish is made out of meat, wheat, and salt. The meat completely breaks down and mixes with the wheat when the cooking is over. It's a special dish that's made usually because of some occasion like a wedding or maybe in Ramadan. The fun part is that cooking Harees includes putting the ingredients in a clay pot and burying it in the ground with a hot coal to cook.

Makboos: This dish is simple meat and rice. A blend of spices add to the taste of the dish. The meat here can be that of lamb, chicken, shrimps, Etcetera. Onions, mashed potatoes, and many more ingredients find a place here.

Salona: Salona is basically a meat-soup that combines the nutrition of vegetables and meat together. A lot of vegetables and spices are used in the making. Tomato paste finds an application here too!

Madrooba: Sea-food is one cuisine that is almost endless in Abu Dhabi because of the rich fishing industry there. There are fishes of almost every colour and shape that can be cooked in multiple ways. Madrooba is usually cooked with spices, flour, and the addition of a bit of salt (called Maleh). Maleh is a delicacy and the fish is rinsed thoroughly in the beginning so the dish isn't as salty as one may think. Madrooba is eaten with flat-bread there and the best part about it is that it melts in the mouth.

Luqaimat: Luqaimat are basically fried balls of dough covered in date syrup. Their visuals may fool one into thinking that they're Gulaab Jamun but they're better! Luqaimat uses saffron and rose-water as ingredients too. The Luqaimat are a delicate and light food.

Street food: The street food of Abu Dhabi ranges from Falafel to Shawarma. Every street food there is made in a way that it proves to be a bang for the buck and even the dishes one gets for AED 3 can give a beautiful dash of spices, meat, and mayonnaise.

The Architecture of Abu Dhabi

abu dhabi architecture
Architecture is like a portrayal of what the culture of Abu Dhabi is like. Abu Dhabi flourished with the onset of pearl and oil industry in the United Arab Emirates. The amount of income an average resident of Abu Dhabi earns is a lot more than the average residents of other countries. This money not only fuels the obsession of Arab youth for supercars, but also helps in setting up skyscrapers, malls, mosques, residential areas, and even the renovation of monuments.

Luxury: The Emirates Palace Hotel is a good example of luxury in the realm of architecture. 

Glass buildings: Glass buildings have taken over Abu Dhabi. The corporate giants now prefer the usage of Glass buildings because of their seamless view and posh design. A good example of glass building is Yas Viceroy, the first hotel built over an F1 circuit. This 12 storeyed hotel features a glass bridge and the glass has LED lights, making the observers marvel at its beauty at night.

Islamic architecture: The United Arab Emirates is predominantly an Islamic country so Islamic architecture taken from the Arab world is quite common to see here. The mosques are beautifully built, sometimes with the engravings of the verses from the Holy Qur'an, the holy book of Muslims. The mosques usually hold a water body (Hawz) at its centre for the Muslims to perform Wudhu (Ablution) from its water. The grandest mosque of Abu Dhabi is the Sheikh Zayed Mosque which has chandeliers made out of Swarovski crystals.

Historic architecture: The forts in Abu Dhabi showcase the historical and rich heritage of the United Arab Emirates.  

Folk Dance and Music

Abu Dhabi Culture
The music and dance traditions of UAE are based on the Khaliji style of music, native and popular to that region. To sum it up loosely, the Khaliji style involves the usage of a drum, a flute, and a violin. A type of lute is also used in this style of music. The Bedouin Folk Music, the courtesy of the Bedouins of the area, involves the usage of drums and tambourines.

Tell-a-tale: The music in the UAE usually tells a story. The story might be about the rise of the UAE or about the valiant Arab warriors that fought in wars.

Genders and Dance: To uphold religious modesty, the males and females dance separately. The dances are a formation rather than people dancing alone or in an unorganized group. The formation may be that of a line or a circle. Again, the dances tell the story of warriors or celebrate a happy occasion occuring at hand or something that has happened in the past.

The Ayyalah: The Ayyalah is probably the most famous war dance of United Arab Emirates where men holding swords (sticks, nowadays) clash their weapons to the rhythm of the tune while standing in the formation of two lines; facing each other. Sometimes, women dance in colourful clothes at a distance in Ayyalah. The tune is that of poetry recited over the scene. The Arabs pride themselves with poetic finesse and Abu Dhabi misses no opportunity to flaunt it in any way.

Harbiya: Harbiya is the same kind of dance as Ayyalah. The difference between Ayyalah and Harbiya is that instead of poetry, it's the phrases which are recited again and again in case of Harbiya.

Liwa: Liwa is a war dance in the culture of Abu Dhabi. It was performed to get the troops? spirit up before or after a war.

Mated: Mated is a form of dance that commemorates the birth of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him.)

Work music: In an attempt to get the morale of workers and labourers soaring, a singing leader may start to sing a song as other labourers join him. This kind of music was prevalent in the labourers who dived or worked around wells.

Belly dancing: What started as a fertility ritual, thanks to its abilities to strengthen the abdominal muscles used for childbirth, became the dance form that many would associate the Arab world with. Belly dancing has been around in the Arab world for a really long time and has attracted people from all over the world. There are classes run by professionals around UAE that teach Belly-Dancing.

Art and Craft

Abu Dhabi
The Art Shops: The art shops that have recently cropped up in Abu Dhabi over the past few years stock their stores with paints, canvases, palettes, and whatnot! These shops cater to the creativity inside the minds of the kids and adults trying to rediscover their passion for art. From spray-paints to different sizes of paintbrushes, Abu Dhabi provides it all

L'atelier Des Arts: The name might sound like something straight out of some French movie but actually it's a shop in Abu Dhabi founded by a Lebanese artist, Shirine Saleh. What's interesting to note is that art lessons are offered here. From the more traditional oil painting and sketching to the region-specific Arabic calligraphy courses, or the hands-on decoupage and porcelain painting lessons, there's plenty to try. Plus there is a dedicated evening class schedule, for those who work full-time.

Pottery: There are shops in Abu Dhabi that specialise in the art of pottery. The pottery classes aim at teaching the participants the art of creating ceramics. The classes can be attended by beginners and one can make one's own ceramics! 

Art Beat: Art beat is a shop in Abu Dhabi that specialise in areas such as clay artistry, shirt painting, and offers classes to Adults to refine their art skills.

Festivals in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Festivals
The festivals that take place in Abu Dhabi are a blend of the classic and traditional Islamic festivals and the ones which aren't bound to any religion such as music and film festivals. The popular festivals here are Eid, Abu Dhabi Festival, the Abu Dhabi Film Festival and the National Day celebrations.

Read the full list of the festivals in Abu Dhabi along with its dates, venues and more.

Due to the diverse culture of Abu Dhabi, the city is a playground for those who want to bag the opportunity and the market is willing to recognise the victory if one is good enough to have a victory regardless of all the labels that the person prefers. The Arab culture is tolerant towards other cultures as long as they don't threaten it. Abu Dhabi is the land where opportunities are endless.

Written by Abdullah Haider

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