Ask Ali: Ayb! What does this exclamation mean?

Dear Ali: I'm the mother of a 5-year-old girl who I take to the nursery every morning. I've noticed that some Emirati mothers say to their kids something like: "Ayb, don't do that." Can you explain what "ayb" means? FL, Dubai

Dear FL: This is an interesting question. The wide usage of “ayb” in our region happened because of our cultural codes and values, when we need to be cautious about any outrageous behaviour – it literally means “not appropriate”.

For example, if a child is making faces or sticking out their tongue towards others or their teacher, parents can say: “Ayb, don’t do that.”

Also, the teacher may use it in class to their students. The child will immediately understand that their behaviour is not good or acceptable.

Among adults, we also can use this word to say that someone’s behaviour is not appropriate in public, for example when someone is rude or breaks cultural norms by their actions.

We may use it also in a funny, good way. For example, if you tried to ask me something, but you hesitated because you weren’t sure if you should ask me or Google it, I would say: “Ayb, Ali is here, so why ask Google?”

Whether you spell it ayb, aiab or aeib, it’s all the same – the pronunciation is “ai-aaib”.

​Dear Ali: Where can I interact with a falcon? I really admire the Emirati tradition of falconry and want to experience it myself. SO, Dubai

Dear SO: Falconry is a very popular tradition that’s still practised by many Emiratis, but it doesn’t mean that you can easily see falcons flying in the sky like pigeons. We have certain places that protect them and provide all that these birds need for healthy lives.

We care so much about falcons that we even built the Falcon Hospital in Abu Dhabi, which is the biggest in the world.

In Dubai, you can meet a falcon in several places. One of those places is the Souk Madinat Jumeirah. There you can touch a falcon, let it perch on your hand and take some pictures in the traditional-style interior of the Madinat.

For those with a more professional interest, there’s Dubai’s Falcon & Heritage Centre in Nad Al Sheba, where you can learn the history of falconry in the region and see the modern ways of treating the birds. You will see some birds on show and learn secrets from the experienced owners – the centre can satisfy all the needs of a falconer. Its multiple stores sell everything from equipment and dietary supplements to books on the subject. You can even buy a falcon there – it’s the only place in Dubai where it’s legally allowed.

Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow @AskAli on Twitter, and visit to ask him a question.

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