Ask Ali: Is anyone allowed to visit public majlises?

In this week's Ask Ali we learn if anyone is allowed to visit public majlises and whether national ladies' dress is comfortable to wear.

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Dear Ali: Some of my local friends love gathering in a majlis located in Al Bateen. Is it a special place or just a common venue for traditional gatherings, and who is allowed to visit it? KA, Abu Dhabi

Dear KA: Social gatherings are one of the best traditions we have. We usually build a majlis in our home, where men gather with men, while ladies gather in the main room hall, or in a separate majlis area. However, let’s say the event is big and the family does not have the facilities to invite all neighbours, relatives and friends, they probably will gather in one of the city majlises like the one in Al Bateen.

All city majlises are well-known places that are open to the public. They may have been built by people living in that particular area who were given special permission or, in the case of the one in Bateen, built by the government to provide a gathering place for people to host major events.

When it comes to who is allowed to visit the majlis, usually it is for men only and we do invite everyone, even strangers. Once you know there is a certain gathering, you can join in even if you don’t know anyone. I can promise that you will be greeted and welcomed the same way as others. But, don’t forget when entering any majlis, it’s polite to say “assalamu alaykum” which means “peace be upon you”. It is a form of greeting and remember, if you shake hands, start from the right side and go all the way to the end.

Dear Ali: Is national ladies’ dress comfortable to wear? AV, Ukraine

Dear AV: This is one of the most asked questions, but I don’t really know. However, when I ask the female members of my family or colleagues who have worn it daily since their teenage years, they always say it is the most comfortable dress ever. What is worn underneath the abaya varies from a traditional dress to a pair of trousers and a shirt.

But, if you’re referring mainly to the abaya, the secret of its comfort lies in two things. First of all, the abaya’s cut is loose and covers the entire body. Secondly, it is dark in colour, so ladies do not need to worry much about what they wear under it. Nowadays, women try to dress up the basic abaya, experimenting with prints, colours and styles.

Truthfully, if the abaya was not comfortable enough to wear, it would have been got rid of long ago. Now the abaya is a part of our traditional dress and our national identity.

Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow @AskAli on Twitter, and visit to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.