Ask Ali: On finding your destiny

Ask Ali: On finding your destiny and what you should expect at an Emirati wedding.

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Dear Ali: I'm a creative person, much like you. Being creative is my passion and identity. I like to inspire people and the environment around me. But how do I pursue these ambitions, something you have managed to do? I want to follow my dream and become famous. BM, Abu Dhabi

Dear BM: Thank you for your kind words.. All I can say is that you must believe in yourself and your talent and try to understand and appreciate your skills.

And something I learned from my faith and culture that is so crucial is to make sure you have a pure and good intention. Intention is everything. Do this and God will support you all the way. If you believe in something strongly enough, which you clearly do, then it can become your destiny. Just never give up. Ask yourself: Who are you? What are you? What can you do? Where are you going? What do you want to be remembered as?

I wish you good luck.

Dear Ali: I am invited to the wedding of an Emirati - lucky me! The sister of a woman I work with is getting married and, as this is a first for me, I don't want to get anything wrong. I want to be a good guest and get the most I can out of this experience. LK, Abu Dhabi

Dear LK: The first thing I have to tell you is to expect a big crowd. We don't do small weddings here.

I can understand you wanting not to offend, so you should ask your friends about the dress code. Depending on the background of the family and where the wedding takes place, the women, even when they are just among each other, might wear sheilas and abayas. If so, then don't show up in a revealing cocktail dress. Choose something a bit conservative. Try not to reveal too much skin.

However, it could be that the women turn up in the latest designer outfits. Then you can dress up as much as possible to match them. My tip then would be that there is never too much bling.

So what can you expect that differs from other weddings you have attended?

The female relatives of the couple will greet the guests and help you to find a place at one of the big tables. Trust their hospitality; they will seat you with other guests with whom you will fit in. Introduce yourself to the women at your table and tell them how you know the bride and the groom. They will be happy to talk, especially about children.

The bride usually comes in after the starters are served, and receives well-wishers from her extended family and inner circle of friends. How well you know her determines whether you are included in this.

There will be a lot of music and dancing - real Arab dancing.

Towards the end of the party, you will see all the women putting up their sheilas and abayas. This means the groom is about to come in, accompanied by the male guardians of the bride. Now the official wedding pictures will be taken. It also means the party is coming to an end.

Nobody expects you to bring any gifts. You can visit the bride later when she has settled in her house and bring her something then.

Oh, and one thing I just have to emphasise - leave your own camera at home. No pictures!

The most important thing is to enjoy yourself. It's going to be a nice experience that not too many Westerners have.

Language lesson

Arabic: Khashuga


"Khashuga" means "spoon". If you were invited to a friend's majlis gathering or for dinner at somebody's house and they were all having the meal with their fingers, and you felt like you prefer having the meal with a spoon, you may say to them, "Mumkin ta'teeni khashuga", meaning, "Can you give me a spoon?"