Ask Ali: On alcohol being served at the Officers Club

The National's cultural columnist answers questions about the Akoun campaign and appropriate mixed-gender business greetings.

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Dear Ali: Can you tell me why alcohol is served at the many restaurants within the UAE Armed Forces Officers Club? I am not referring to the hotel next door, but to the restaurants housed within the club. AB, Abu Dhabi

Dear AB: I understand your being puzzled. But the club and the hotel are one commercial complex and as such are considered in terms of licensing like a five-star-hotel. This includes the opportunity to obtain permission to serve alcohol.

The club not only serves the UAE Armed Forces, but also hosts many international events and conferences and it is in this context that the alcohol licence is considered.

Dear Ali: I’ve heard about an initiative that empowers Emiratis to win a grant and become business owners. Can you tell me more about it? S?A, Abu Dhabi

Dear S?A: You are talking about Akoun ("To be"), which is run by the Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development (ADCED) and is the organisation's first entrepreneurial campaign. Check out the website to register to participate in the Akoun competition, which invites Emirati students in Abu Dhabi to write and submit a short business plan for the chance of winning up to Dh50,000 and full funding and training support from the Khalifa Fund.

I had been approached by ADCED two years ago to participate as an Emirati entrepreneur. Somehow I must have been etertaining and able to share some of my knowledge with students as ADCED did me the honour of inviting me to join the second and third Akouns at Zayed University.

The other Akoun partners were representatives of the Khalifa Fund, the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce, the Western Region Development Council and twofour54. I and other entrepreneurs spoke about financing, training and supporting students and how to make their business ideas come true – all in a programme created and delivered entirely by Emiratis.

Dear Ali: What is the proper greeting between men and women in an employment interview situation? SD, Sinton, Texas

Dear SD: In an interview situation things tend to be formal and the applicant would be the one to greet the interviewer first.

When it comes to shaking hands, the usual rule is that a handshake should be initiated by the person "higher in rank" - in this case, the interviewer.

In this scenario, gender is of no significance. So if the greeting is between two men or two women, the one in "higher rank" would offer his or her hand first. It would also be correct etiquette for a male interviewer to offer a handshake to a female candidate.

But if the greeting is between an Arab and a westerner of different genders, it's best for westerners to play it safe and not initiate a handshake, even if etiquette would allow you to. Arab women would commonly avoid shaking hands with a man, and Arab men may avoid the ritual with a woman.

True, many Arabs are used to western business etiquette and shaking hands has become less of an issue. But if you're meeting someone for the first time, a nice "Good morning" and a friendly smile should do it.

Language lesson

Arabic: Fedha


Fedha means silver, referring to jewellery. You might say "Eshtereet khatim fedha", which means "I bought a silver ring". But it also can be used as a person's name, mainly for women.