Ask Ali: Freedom can be influenced by cultural values and how to run a business through social media

Dear Ali: How do Emiratis perceive the word "freedom"? Does it carry the same meaning as it does for the Europeans? AK, Denmark

Dear AK: In the western mentality, "freedom" is understood to mean the ability to do whatever you want without limits, but in many countries, this is ruled by what is allowed by law. For most Arabs, especially in the Gulf, freedom is about being able to do anything that doesn't go against the values of our culture or religion, or interfere in the privacy of others – let's call it social codes. They're not necessarily written down, but often reflected in the laws.

Our culture determines certain etiquette that relates to almost all aspects of daily life, and breaking it can be dramatic. For instance, taking pictures of people to publish online without their approval or filming two people fighting in the street then publishing it on the internet isn’t allowed here and will be punished. A video like this can compromise and destroy the reputation of those involved. Reputation is a major thing for Arabs when it comes to public behaviour.

Another example is showing a middle finger to others. This isn’t accepted here, nor are expletives. Even if they are done or said in jest, they can hurt the feelings of others. Our culture teaches us to respect each other.

I believe the concept of freedom varies from culture to culture. It all goes back to what we perceive to be the real meaning of freedom. In most Arab countries, we believe that we have a great deal of freedom, and that’s why we attract more than eight million expats to the UAE, all of whom practise their own religions and hold cultural events, and none of us have a problem with it.

Dear Ali: I have noticed that many people here run businesses solely through Instagram accounts. Because my wife is very good at cooking cakes and brownies, we will open an online homemade cakes shop. Do you think we can make a successful business through social media? And how will it be received culturally? SJ, Dubai

Dear SJ: You're absolutely right, Instagram is a great platform for starting a business for a young entrepreneur, but remember that in the UAE all businesses must be registered legally.

Social media can definitely promote your home business, and there’s nothing to worry about from a cultural point of view, so long as your business isn’t promoting anything illegally. However, you should keep in mind that there are strict requirements by law, especially where food is involved.

I would advise you to go to the Department of Economic Development to find out what those requirements are. Hence, you will be protected by the law, and will avoid any problems in the future. Next, when you open a social-media account, start marketing your business in your own language or English, so that different nationalities living in the UAE can become your clients. And if you want Arab clients, publish this information in Arabic as well. For the latter, make sure you have an Arabic-speaking person who can handle such a task.

There are thousands of businesses offering their products via social media, and some have taken it to the next level by opening a store, while others still simply run it via social media. It’s the reality of the power of social media. Good luck.

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

At a glance

- 20,000 new jobs for Emiratis over three years

- Dh300 million set aside to train 18,000 jobseekers in new skills

- Managerial jobs in government restricted to Emiratis

- Emiratis to get priority for 160 types of job in private sector

- Portion of VAT revenues will fund more graduate programmes

- 8,000 Emirati graduates to do 6-12 month replacements in public or private sector on a Dh10,000 monthly wage - 40 per cent of which will be paid by government

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).

Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).


Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures





India cancels school-leaving examinations
The National in Davos

We are bringing you the inside story from the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos, a gathering of hundreds of world leaders, top executives and billionaires.


Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

Australia men's Test cricket fixtures 2021/22

One-off Test v Afghanistan:
Nov 27-Dec 1: Blundstone Arena, Hobart

The Ashes v England:
Dec 8-12: 1st Test, Gabba, Brisbane
Dec 16-20: 2nd Test, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide (day/night)
Dec 26-30: 3rd Test, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne
Jan 5-9, 2022: 4th Test, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
Jan 14-18: 5th Test, Optus Stadium, Perth

Our legal columnist

Name: Yousef Al Bahar

Advocate at Al Bahar & Associate Advocates and Legal Consultants, established in 1994

Education: Mr Al Bahar was born in 1979 and graduated in 2008 from the Judicial Institute. He took after his father, who was one of the first Emirati lawyers


Director: Khalid Fahad

Starring: Shaima Al Tayeb, Wafa Muhamad, Hamss Bandar

Rating: 3/5


An “energy profits levy” to raise about £5 billion in a year. The temporary one-off tax will hit oil and gas firms by 25 per cent on extraordinary profits. An 80 per cent investment allowance should calm Conservative nerves that the move will dent North Sea firms’ investment to save them 91p for every £1 they spend.
A universal grant
Energy bills discount, which was effectively a £200 loan, has doubled to a £400 discount on bills for all households from October that will not need to be paid back.
Targeted measures
More than eight million of the lowest income households will receive a £650 one-off payment. It will apply to households on Universal Credit, Tax Credits, Pension Credit and legacy benefits.
Separate one-off payments of £300 will go to pensioners and £150 for those receiving disability benefits.


Saturday (UAE kick-off times)

Watford v Leicester City (3.30pm)

Brighton v Arsenal (6pm)

West Ham v Wolves (8.30pm)

Bournemouth v Crystal Palace (10.45pm)


Newcastle United v Sheffield United (5pm)

Aston Villa v Chelsea (7.15pm)

Everton v Liverpool (10pm)


Manchester City v Burnley (11pm)

Company Profile

Name: Neo Mobility
Started: February 2023
Co-founders: Abhishek Shah and Anish Garg
Based: Dubai
Industry: Logistics
Funding: $10 million
Investors: Delta Corp, Pyse Sustainability Fund, angel investors

Know before you go
  • Jebel Akhdar is a two-hour drive from Muscat airport or a six-hour drive from Dubai. It’s impossible to visit by car unless you have a 4x4. Phone ahead to the hotel to arrange a transfer.
  • If you’re driving, make sure your insurance covers Oman.
  • By air: Budget airlines Air Arabia, Flydubai and SalamAir offer direct routes to Muscat from the UAE.
  • Tourists from the Emirates (UAE nationals not included) must apply for an Omani visa online before arrival at The process typically takes several days.
  • Flash floods are probable due to the terrain and a lack of drainage. Always check the weather before venturing into any canyons or other remote areas and identify a plan of escape that includes high ground, shelter and parking where your car won’t be overtaken by sudden downpours.


Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – Rally schedule:

Saturday: Super Special Spectator Stage – Yas Marina Circuit – start 3.30pm.
Sunday: Yas Marina Circuit Stage 1 (276.01km)
Monday: Nissan Stage 2 (287.92km)
Tuesday: Al Ain Water Stage 3 (281.38km)
Wednesday: ADNOC Stage 4 (244.49km)
Thursday: Abu Dhabi Aviation Stage 5 (218.57km) Finish: Yas Marina Circuit – 4.30pm.