Despite the development and progress of Dubai during the last 30 years into one of the most urbanised and modern cities in the world, the local population remains firmly conscious of their heritage, legacy and culture. The late President of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan once famously said, ‘A country that knows not its past has neither present nor future’ and that phrase adequately describes the Emirates of today.
The people of the UAE are familiar with and extremely proud of their history and therefore it is a solid base on which to build their future. Arabic qualities of traditional family values and respect, hospitality to all, religious tolerance, and pride in their ancestral traditions remain among the most prized assets among local people in all spheres of Emirati society.
Tourists visiting Dubai cannot fail to be other than impressed with the overwhelming and friendly welcome they will receive. Rulers of all seven Emirates have gone to great lengths to ensure that local heritage and Bedouin traditions and skills remain in evidence. Revitalisation of ancient and skilled handicrafts such asthe makingof household utensils, palm fibre bags, handmade jewellery and fabric has been re-established. One of the most recognisable forms of Arabic culture within the Gulf region is the dhow and today craftsmen still build working and racing dhows as well as pleasure boats, therefore keeping old traditions alive and preserving the heritage of the UAE.
The building of dhows serves to remind us all of past times when these graceful sailing craft were the only link with India, Africa and other Gulf states, traversing the old spice trade routes, their holds laden with incense, gold, pearls and spice. Numerous museums have been opened to the public in recent times; however overshadowing all the revived museums and sites is the completely restored Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House in Old Dubai.
The landmark wind towers are a unique feature in this region and create air circulation within a room. The shape of the towers, with their four triangular shafts, caught any passing breeze channeling the cool air down one side of the tower and forcing warm air up again through another.
The national dress for men is the spotlessly clean and cool white dishdasha or kandoura and is worn with a headdress, known as a ghuttra, which is normally white for Emirati nationals although a warmer red and white checked headdress is used during the winter months. The ghuttra is secured around the head with a black cord or agal which is not just for decorative purposes; its original use was for tethering camel’s feet at night time.
Local Emirati ladies wear a traditional black silk abaya often decorated with beads; the headscarf is called a sheyla. Some older women will wear a mask, called a burkha.