Ask Ali: On launching a business

Ali Al Saloom offers advice on setting up a jewellery line, and holding hands in public.

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Dear Ali: I am planning to test-launch a business featuring limited-edition gold and diamond jewellery pieces. I am not from the field, but last year I came third place in a jewellery design competition at the Dubai World Trade Centre. If I invest from my own pocket and distribute through retail gold outlets, would that be illegal? Do I have to get permission from the municipality or Chamber of Commerce? JD, United Kingdom

Dear JD: I suggest speaking to a few jewellers and get their opinion on whether limited-edition pieces would be well-received. Normally, when something is limited edition, it has to have a special edge, or the brand name needs to be strong for people to consider buying it. Therefore, maybe you should initially test the market with conventional designs before spending time and money on limited editions.

Unless you will be working with a registered goldsmith who imports his diamonds with legal papers, you will need to make sure you have the right documents showing that your diamonds have been extracted and imported legally. In any case get yourself registered as it looks more professional, and jewellers will take you seriously. Also, I suggest you consult a lawyer who specialises in the jewellery industry.

Dear Ali: When my parents visited Dubai, they were criticised for holding hands in the mall - even though they are a professional, married couple in their late 50s. Can you explain? LL, Dubai

Dear LL: Holding hands is not illegal or disrespectful. The main thing is to stay modest in public. So as long as a couple holding hands is not exaggerating the way the hands are displayed, it's fine.

However, this is a Muslim nation that culturally is not used to such an act in public. As much as our devoted Muslim parents care for and love each other, they would save all of their touching for home and specifically for their bedroom. That's how we have been raised, so it becomes natural to criticise when we see couples kiss or touch each other in an immodest way in public.

Dear Ali: I will be teaching in the UAE and I know people there dress modestly. I have heard that many teachers wear abayas, but if I do so I worry that people will think I am Muslim (I'm not) but not a good Muslim because I don't cover my hair. I'm very fair-skinned and have red hair, so maybe it will be obvious. KL, Houston, Texas

Dear KL: Don't worry, you may be required to wear the abaya, but only in the school classroom. Our female Muslim teachers are role models in representing modesty, so we don't want them showing children lots of skin or even cleavage. Also, wearing an abaya ensures that no boys (if you were to teach males) would bother or flirt with you - yes, flirt with you. Trust me, nowadays an 8-year-old might be cheeky enough to ask his teacher for her PIN code to add her to his BlackBerry messenger.

But there will be no pressure on you, and once you arrive and chat with other teachers I am sure they will reassure you even more. Many expat teachers have had such worries but now understand and respect our culture. I wish you a smooth transition.

Language lesson

Arabic: Ehtisham

English: Modesty

If you want to describe a woman who dress and acts modestly, you would call her "mohtashima".