Ras Al Khaimah, is a United Arab Emirate destination where vacationers relax on gulf beaches and engage in outdoor adventures.  An Emirate known for its rich culture and heritage, visitors to Ras Al Khaimah will find that traditional Emirati social customs are still very much alive and well.  If you are planning a vacation to Ras Al Khaimah or any of their neighboring Emirates, here are a few traditional customs you should learn.

Learn everything from traditional Emirati dress codes, how to greet friends with lengthy pleasantries, or show respect for elders. Get prepared before you embark on your vacation.

Ras Al Khaimah is a place where you can truly immerse yourself in Emirati culture and learn about the traditions passed down for generations. Below we’ve gathered just a few of the Emirati social customs you should be aware of when visiting.

Greetings

One of the most important things to remember is that, because Emiratis are incredibly warm and inviting, they frequently utilize lengthy pleasantries while greeting friends, including thanks to God in addition to hugs and kisses. 

This is a typical greeting exchange between men. One should avoid embracing or kissing Emirati ladies and never try to shake their hands unless she extends her hand first. 

Whether foreigners or residents of the UAE, women should not attempt to shake an Emirati man’s hand if he is fasting, such as during the holy month of Ramadan. 

Expats are expected to shake guests’ hands as they enter social and cultural centers, also known as the Majlis. Majlis is an Arabic term meaning “sitting room” and is commonly used to describe a place of social, religious or administrative gathering. The traditional way to shake hands is by beginning on the right and moving left. However, greetings are given the first precedence to anyone well-known or elderly and present in the Majlis.

Welcome to the UAE

The UAE is a welcoming nation, so if you are new to the UAE or visiting for the first time, be sure to remember these essential social customs. When staying in a hotel, be sure to be extra careful with how you behave and how you treat the staff members. 

Hotels are often where travelers stay when first arriving in the UAE, so it’s crucial to observe the local customs and traditions. The same rules apply to staying with a host family or renting a furnished apartment. If you’re staying with a host family, you should also respect their customs and rules.

Visiting a Home

Ras Al Khaimah is one of the United Arab Emirates’ seven emirate. Ras Al Khaimah is the northernmost Emirate, bordered by Oman to the northeast.

Ras Al Khaimah has a rich culture and heritage that is based on Bedouin tradition and combines elements of Arab and African cultures. Ras Al Khaimah is welcoming and its people are known for their hospitality. However, there are some things to keep in mind when visiting an Emirati home:

 

  • Visitors must take off their shoes and extend a handshake to the host.
  • Visitors must shake hands with the host before departing from their Majlis or residence in the UAE to express their gratitude for their gracious hospitality.
  • Avoid sitting on the floor in a squat position or crossing your knees in a majlis; both are considered arrogant postures.
  • Every time they have guests, Emiratis traditionally welcome them with dates and coffee.

 

Accepting coffee is considered polite, and after one has had enough, shaking their cup side to side is the traditional custom. However, it could come across as rude to decline coffee or snacks.

Body Language

If you find yourself in the company of an Emirati, it’s essential to be mindful of your body language. Around an Emirati, public displays of affection are generally considered rude. This includes things like hugging, kissing, and holding hands. In some cases, it may even be against the law. 

Using your left hand to offer someone food is also considered impolite. Instead, use your right hand or both hands. When someone enters the room, it’s considered polite to stand up. This applies to Emiratis and guests, regardless of whether they need assistance. 

Finally, turning your feet toward a resident of the UAE is considered a sign of disrespect. So try to avoid doing that.

Clothing

Emiratis are proud and traditional people and have strong views about dress codes. It is typically regarded as insulting and offensive for foreigners to wear the Emirati national attire outside of desert safaris and events where locals and guests are asked to try on the cultural UAE dress. Likewise, men from other countries are urged not to appear in public wearing national attire.

They caution women from abroad and tourists to dress modestly and in an unprovocative way when near Emiratis. However, some Emiratis are more lenient regarding the local dress code. In general, it is best to err on the side of caution and be respectful of Emirati culture by dressing modestly. A good rule of thumb is to pack modest clothing you would wear in a professional work environment. This does not mean your clothing has to be professional business attire but styles like extremely short shorts, shirts with plunging necklines and tops with bare midriffs are not considered modest.

Ramadan

Muslims worldwide don’t eat and drink from dawn to dusk during Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. The date of Ramadan changes each year according to the lunar calendar.

In the United Arab Emirates, non-Muslims should be aware that it is offensive to consume food or beverages, smoke, or even chew gum in public during Ramadan.

Public places include touristed areas such as Dubai Mall and Abu Dhabi Mall. Not only is it impolite to those who are fasting, but it is also against the law in the UAE. 

Therefore, it’s essential to be respectful of local customs and traditions when traveling, so please check your summer travel visit to see if it coincides with Ramadan. 

Local Women

When traveling to the United Arab Emirates, it’s essential to be aware of the social customs of Emiratis. One group of people to be particularly mindful of are Emirati women. 

Photographing an Emirati woman is strictly forbidden, as it’s considered highly insulting. You could face severe consequences if they catch you taking a photo of a woman wearing a national dress. 

Additionally, Emiratis consider it rude to look directly at an Emirati woman, even if you’re simply curious about her outfit. 

Any physical contact is also forbidden. In general, it’s best to err on the side of caution when interacting with Emirati women and avoid any actions that could be construed as disrespectful.

Food and Drink

Ras Al Khaimah is a popular destination for travelers wanting to escape the bustle of the city and relax in the outdoors while sampling traditional cuisine. The Emirate is home to pristine beaches, towering mountains, and endless desert landscapes. Ras Al Khaimah is also a great place to sample the local cuisine. Dates and camel milk are a couple of the more widely consumed delicacies among Emiratis. 

When a host offers coffee, they start serving from right to left. When serving, the server gives preference to elders.

In a group of Emirati women, the lady who serves coffee may sit while making the drinks for the other ladies. If a man is serving the visitors, he should stand while doing so if he is offering coffee. 

It is customary to express sincere gratitude for the food prepared and provided when dining at an Emirati’s home. Both of these rules also apply to meals taken outside the host’s home: if you are serving food, don’t use your left hand, and guests must accept and return cups with their right hands.

Please don’t wait for the Emirati host to begin eating; traditionally, the local host must wait for the guest to start eating before they can also begin eating. Therefore, a host from the Emirate won’t also get up from the table before the visitor does.

Music and Dance

Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven Emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, has a rich history and culture reflected in its music and dance. Ras Al Khaimah was once home to the Bedouins, known for camel herding and pearl diving. 

Today, Ras Al Khaimah is a popular tourist destination, and its music and dance are essential to its cultural heritage. The music is characterized by its use of traditional instruments, such as the oud and the rabab, and its lyrics often tell stories of the Emirate’s history and culture. 

The dance is also unique; men and women perform them while dressed in traditional Emirati clothing. Emirati’s music and dance are sure to delight and entertain tourists from all over the world.

Final Thoughts

When visiting the UAE, it is essential to be aware of the traditional social customs. By knowing how to greet people, what foods and drinks to avoid, and which music and dances are popular, you will make a great impression and have a more enjoyable experience. We hope this article has helped prepare you for your upcoming trip!

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