Ask Ali: Cooking pork in shared accommodation

The etiquette of cooking pork in a mixed houseshare.

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Dear Ali: In shared accommodation in Dubai with Muslims and non-Muslims, what are the rules regarding the cooking of pork? I have heard that one cannot use the same cooking crockery and utensils, and that if one cooks pork, then the Muslim can't enter the home for 40 days? Can you confirm? LC, Dubai

Dear LC: Good question. It's good to know people from different religious backgrounds are living together. The 40 days that you mention actually only refer to your prayers not being accepted for 40 days after consuming alcohol, and has nothing to do with the consumption of pork.

Many Muslims who share accommodation with non-Muslims will probably know already that there could be unlawful items to them that might be in the shared kitchen, such as alcohol and pork.

A non-Muslim may find it hard to understand that we don't eat pork because he has been used to eating it in his culture and doesn't see anything bad about it.

Another concern many Muslims have is that utensils have come into contact with pork and this is what makes them uncomfortable. Don't take it too personally, and buy some extra utensils that are kept for the Muslims' cuisine.

Dear Ali: Am I allowed to express my own culture without disturbing the host country? UA, Dubai

Dear UA: I can assure you that every foreigner who comes to work and live here is appreciated.

All are welcome to express their culture and practise their religion. Of course, do bear in mind that if doing something that goes against the values and safety of the host country then it's always best to avoid it. I like to believe that every expat visiting and living in our country brings something valuable to our society and economy at the same time; whether it is a new cultural aspect, new technology or new work techniques. Whatever it is, all of that is welcome as long as it adds value to us and does not hurt us as humans or our faith and culture.

Just like how we welcome people from around the world to come and help us build our nation we also welcome their different cultures and backgrounds. Again, it's always a good idea to stay respectful towards our culture that believes in different values. To give a small example: dress code. Thus, if you are used to dressing less in your country, try to dress a little more conservative when you are here. That way, a cultural clash based on different dress codes can be avoided and living together peacefully becomes possible.

Dear Ali: How did oud become the most common type of scent in the UAE? LB, Al Ain

Dear LB: Well, it became common after most people in the Gulf region came to love and appreciate its smell. When they discovered it lingers on the body and inside clothing, they starting using it.

In earlier times, oud was discovered via the pearling trading era between us and India. When our forefathers started importing it they found their women enjoyed it, and begun to ask for more. Slowly, the pieces of oud bought as a cheap, wooden incense became more expensive than some medicines.

Now, oud is a huge, global business. We use it almost anywhere, in our home majlises, offices and cars etc.

Nowadays, we still follow the tradition of burning incense. We like to hand the incense holder to our guests before they leave as a sign of our appreciation of their company. Oud symbolises our sense of hospitality and generosity.

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.