United Arab Emirates: Emirate Hospitality

Submitted by Erin Potter on the 2022 winter session program in the United Arab Emirates sponsored by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering…

One of the most exciting things we did this week was visiting the Sheik Muhammed Center for Cultural Understanding (SMCC). Since being in Dubai I have seen super modern cities filled with foods and shops from around the world. However, I have been wanting to learn more about Emirati culture which is why I was excited to hear we were visiting the SMCC. We started out the day sitting in a traditional Emirati home; the main gathering space consisted of a large rug surrounded by thirty pillows for us to sit on. I learned that sitting on the floor for meals is often done due to the amount of people eating. Typically, an Emirati home could hold as many as 30 people so it is much easier to eat on the floor rather than having a table to hold that many people.

We also got to visit a mosque on the tour and learn about the Islamic religion. We had to cover our hair by wearing a hijab and wear modest clothes. We learned about the five pillars of Islam including Ramadan and the five prayers conducted every day. It was a great opportunity to ask any questions we had about being Muslim; the tour guides were encouraging us to ask a lot of questions and were eager to teach us. The tour finished off with a typical Emirati meal where we ate things like vegetable saloona and lugaimat. Lugaimat is a desert dish consisting of fried dough balls with date syrup drizzled on top. After the meal, we were served Arabic coffee and we learned that if you want more coffee, you hold out your glass and if you do not want any more, you shake your glass. It is traditional that the youngest member of the household serves the coffee. We also learned that you are not supposed to fill up the coffee cup all the way to the top; since the cups do not have handles, if it is filled to the top it will spill on the guest and is a sign that you want them to finish quickly and leave. It was a really amazing day learning about traditional Emirati culture, and I cannot wait to learn more throughout the program!

A windcatcher which is an architectural element used to naturally cool a house
Exterior of the mosque
Lunch spread