Ask Ali: Say hello to Bedouin traditions to welcome guests

Ali Al Saloom offers tips and advice for living and working in the UAE.

Dear Ali: Can you please highlight some of the Bedouin traditions related to hospitality, especially when it comes to welcoming others? ZA, Ajman

Dear ZA: The relation between our traditions and hospitality varied from tribe to tribe back in the day, but they're very much the same when it comes to how to make sure that you welcome strangers and guests well.

Serving dates and Arabic coffee is a tradition across the region. Some would add more cardamom or saffron than others, for example, and this was an indication of generosity, since these goods were difficult to acquire in the region.

This has carried over to today's time, since wherever we visit, be it homes, offices or elsewhere, the host always offers us coffee or tea.

Another way that we welcome guests is by offering rose water, so that they can wash their hands in it and smell good.

We also have bukhoor, the beautiful-smelling Arabic perfume or incense that comes from burning oud over hot coals.

The host will give it to guests to spread the nice smell over their ghutras or kanduras, or their abayas, as a sign of welcoming, as well as a proper way of saying goodbye before the guests leave.

On the other hand, men will rub noses to greet one another. Everyone in the region, whether they are Bedouins, or people living on the islands or in the mountains, value these acts of Arab hospitality.

Dear Ali: We just moved to the UAE and we will soon be based in Al Ain city. We're planning to get a car, but should we buy or rent? JK, Abu Dhabi

Dear JK: Welcome to the UAE. I hope that you're enjoying your stay and new life here.

I'm assuming that you're speaking on behalf of either a couple or a family - so my suggestions will be based on this.

As you may have already experienced, summer really is summer in this region, and the humidity level is really high at this time of the year.

Our public transportation isn't similar to the European, American or Asian transport systems. On the other hand, the procedures and laws, plus cost, to rent or own a car are not really too taxing for anyone who has a valid residence visa. So renting or owning a car, especially in Abu Dhabi emirate and Al Ain city, is a wise choice without a doubt!

If you're staying for less than six months, then I'd suggest renting, since you don't have to worry about searching for a car and buying it, then, before leaving the country, going to the trouble of having to sell it. You might lose a big margin on your investment, too.

In terms of buying a car, this is without doubt the best option if you're staying for more than six months. And since you are in Al Ain, buying a decent, family four-wheel-drive car would be wise. Having a big four-wheel-drive is great for visiting the desert dunes, and having a nice picnic at desert camps.

Remember, the car is king on the roads here in the UAE and the whole region, so if you're able to afford it then go for it.

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.


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