Ask Ali: Marriage matters in the UAE

Why a couple must be married in the UAE and where Arabian horses come from.

Dear Ali: Why do I have to be married in order to live here with my boyfriend. JA, Sydney

Dear JA: I would simply say it's our way of putting your partner under pressure to have no choice but to pop the question you've been waiting for! So it should be a good thing. Trust me, I know many ladies who thank the UAE for such a law. Yeah, you guessed it, they are all now wives to their boyfriends.

But anyway, here is the official answer: in the UAE there are certain Sharia laws and according to these, it is indeed illegal for unmarried couples to live together in the UAE. Our Sharia laws value and want to protect intimacy and marriage between couples, and this is why they prohibit behaviour that is contra-marriage. From an Islamic perspective, a relationship between a man and a woman who are interested in each other has to be based on "serious intentions", which should be reflected within marriage.

We take married life seriously and coming here as a "boyfriend-girlfriend" would be rather frowned upon. If you don't pay attention to the UAE laws, there is a chance you you could get into serious trouble, with a fine or possible imprisonment.

Dear Ali: Do Arabian horses come from the UAE? SA, Abu Dhabi

Dear SA: The Arabian horse comes from the Arabian Peninsula and in each part of this region, a certain character of horse has been influenced by the breeders in this part of the world. It certainly is one of my favourite animals of the Arab world for sure.

From research I have undertaken via the Arabian Horse Association, the exact origin of this breed is not clear. However, it is assumed that they come from northern Syria, southern Turkey or the south-west of the Arabian Peninsula.

In our culture, the Arabian horses are indeed special animals because they carry themselves with intelligence, strength, endurance, pride and beauty. They have also appeared in myths, legends, and poems, religious and historical texts, which reflect how important they were, and still are, for us. Back in the Bedouin days, the horse was a strong symbol for status, prestige and admiration. Moreover, the Arabian horse was known to be a faithful companion who helped the men fight in battles, which was not uncommon for desert life.

At the same time, the way the Bedouins were determined to breed the Arabian horses in such a desert environment contributed to them becoming pure blood (Asil) Arabian horses as they exist today. And, by the way, they are very stubborn, as are many of our Arab people. For a long time and even before the UAE was founded, only members of the royal family in the UAE owned Arabian horses. Our beloved Sheikh Zayed, for example, cared a lot about horses and was eager to preserve the Asil Arabian horses in order to maintain a major part of the traditional Arabian heritage. During the 1980s, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, encouraged the Arabian horse to become more popular among other parts of the same society within the UAE by initiating horse breeding as well as horse races across the country and globally as well. If you are interested in knowing more about the history of the horses, why not go visit the House of the Horse Museum in Dubai, located in Al-Shindagha heritage village.

Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow //"> to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.