Curious foreigners get rare chance to sample Emirati culture

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Rashid Al Tamimi, a Senior Cultural Presenter, talks to the foreign visitors and residents in the UAE about Ramadan and Emirati culture during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, at the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) in Dubai, UAE. (Reuters)
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Foreign visitors and residents in the UAE learn about Ramadan and Emirati culture during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan at Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai, UAE. (Reuters)
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Japanese tourists talk to an Emirati woman volunteer to learn about Ramadan and Emirati culture during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, at the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) in Dubai, UAE. (Reuters)
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Foreign visitors and residents in the UAE eat an Emirati Iftar meal during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, at Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) in Dubai, UAE. (Reuters)
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Foreign visitors and residents in the UAE eat an Emirati Iftar meal during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, at Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) in Dubai, UAE. (Reuters)
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Rashid Al Tamimi, a Senior Cultural Presenter, talks to the foreign visitors and residents in the UAE about Ramadan and Emirati culture during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, at the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) in Dubai, UAE. (Reuters)
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An Emirati woman volunteer helps a foreign visitor to wear a headscarf during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, at Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai, UAE. (Reuters)
Updated 19 May 2019

Curious foreigners get rare chance to sample Emirati culture

DUBAI: No question was off limits for curious tourists and foreign residents of Dubai wanting to learn more about Emirati culture and the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Emiratis make up less than 10% of those living in Dubai, the most populated emirate in the seven-emirate United Arab Emirates federation, making it hard for foreigners to meet them.
Dubai goes to great lengths to market itself as open to different cultures and faiths as the Middle East’s financial, trade and leisure center, and a government cultural center is inviting visitors to find out more about Emirati life.
“There are no offending questions,” said Emirati Rashid Al-Tamimi from the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding.
“How do you worship, what is the mosque, why do you wear white, why do women wear black ... is everybody rich in this country?“
Emirati volunteers gathered at a majlis — the traditional sitting room where the end-of-fast iftar meal is served at floor-level — were asked about dating and marriage, what they think of Dubai’s comparatively liberal dress codes for foreigners, and aspects of the Muslim faith.
“We learn from them, they learn from us. (Foreigners) have been here a long time and I feel they see themselves as Emiratis, and we are proud that they do so,” said Majida Al-Gharib a student volunteer.
Visitors broke the day’s fast with dates and water, before sampling Emirati cuisine, including biryani and machboos rice and meat dishes.
Seven-year-old Anthony from Poland, who goes to school in Dubai, said he came to find out more about the breaking of the fast meal because many of his friends at school do it.
2019 has been designated the Year of Tolerance in the United Arab Emirates and there is a minister of state for tolerance.


‘People who love life and music’ — dance parties return to Baghdad

Updated 18 min 44 sec ago

‘People who love life and music’ — dance parties return to Baghdad

  • The Mongols Motorcycle Club dance circle was one of several at the Riot Gear Summer Rush event
  • Friday’s was the first open to the public

BAGHDAD: Members of rival Iraqi biker gangs, clad in studded leather and black berets, burst out of their semi-circles to break dance, their tattoo-covered arms waving neon glowsticks.
The Mongols Motorcycle Club dance circle was one of several at the Riot Gear Summer Rush event, a car show and concert held at a sports stadium in the heart of Baghdad.
The scene was a far cry from the usual images broadcast from the city of violence and mayhem. But nearly two years since Iraq declared victory over the
Daesh, the capital has been quietly remaking its image.
Since the blast walls — a feature of the capital since a US-led invasion in 2003 toppled Saddam Hussein — started coming down, a less restrictive way of life has emerged.
“We held this party so people can know that Iraq has this kind of culture, and has these kinds of people who love life and music,” said Arshad Haybat, a 30-year-old film director who founded the Riot Gear events company.
Riot Gear has thrown similar parties in Iraq before, but Friday’s was the first open to the public.
The day started with young men showing off imported muscle cars and motorcycles. By nightfall, it had turned into a pulsating electronic dance music (EDM) show.
Iraqi hip-hop collective Tribe of Monsters played a mix of EDM and Trap music as young men, clasping elaborate vape pens, danced through strobe lights and smoke machines, livestreaming their moves on Snapchat and Instagram.
It was a heady mix of Baghdad’s burgeoning subcultures: bikers, gamers, EDM enthusiasts. What most had in common was they’d never been to a party like this in Iraq.
“We have only ever seen this kind of concert on TV and films,” said 21-year-old Mustafa Osama. “I can’t describe my feelings to see such a thing in Iraq.”
Though dominated by young men, lots of women attended, with some dancing near the main stage. But event organizers ensured a “family section” was available, so groups of women, families and couples out on dates could dance, away from the lively crowd.
“All the young people are happy here,” said Ain, one of the female partygoers who declined to give her last name. “I hope there will be more and more of these events in Iraq.”