Etiquette is an important part of Emirati culture and we found that locals really appreciated it when we adopted some of their customs. For the coffee addicts among us – particularly those who are trying to cut down on their caffeine intake – it is handy to know that if you have a cup of strong Arabica but don’t want a refill, you should shake your empty cup before placing it back on the table. If you just put it down, you automatically get a refill, which can be tempting, but also dangerous as the coffee is quite strong.
Emirati culture and customs are strongly influenced by Muslim tradition. In fact, Islam has grown to be more than a religion today; it is a way of life that permeates all aspects of society from dress to behaviour and language.
One of the quirkier Arab customs we learned about during our stay in the UAE was the use of the word ‘Abu’ or father. If Adnan’s first son is called Odai, friends and relatives will call him Abu Odai as a sign of respect. The term Abu can also be used to describe someone’s habits or profession. In our case, Maarten soon became known as Abu Camera – which probably has something to do with the fact that he never leaves home without his camera!