Dear Ali: I would like to visit Al Ain City but not sure which venues would be the best to visit. I’m taking my family with me so what would you recommend? PL, Sharjah
Dear PL: Al Ain City, the “Green City” as we call it, one of the most beautiful natural areas of the country in the region, definitely worth a visit.
Since the weather is simply gorgeous, I would recommend you visit the outdoor parks. They are free to enter. Since you have the family with you, you can’t go wrong by visiting the Al Ain Zoo. It is considered one of the top zoos in the region.
Also, I would recommend you visit the former home of our country’s founder, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. His palace was once the main political and social hub and it was built around 1910. You will enjoy the visit since it has many different rooms and levels to explore; enjoy the sense of the historic building style. Entry is free, and is open from 8:30am to 7:30pm Tuesday to Sunday and between 2:30pm to 7:30pm on Friday. It’s usually closed on Monday, and you may call them at +971 3 751 7755.
And of course I won’t forget to recommend the great Jabal Hafeet. Rising 1,240 metres, Jebel Hafeet is the emirate’s highest peak, and the UAE’s second-highest. You will be able to view 500 ancient burial tombs dating back 5,000 years. I always recommend to my friends and guests to the country to actually get a bicycle and start biking all the way up from the bottom. Good test for your stamina.
Dear Ali: I work for a media agency and we are trying to develop a strategy to market a new product to Emiratis. Any tips? Everyone I meet keeps advising me to be modest, and I just wonder what type of modesty are they referring to here? EF Dubai
Dear EF: The culture of the UAE and the Arabian Gulf in general is basically linked to Islam. Many conversations here start with: “Assalamu alaikom wa rahamtu allah wa baraktuh,” which means “Peace and blessings be upon you from Allah.”
Whether in ad campaigns or communication, modesty means much more than wearing conservative clothing and refraining from alcohol or swearing. In our culture, it is considered inappropriate to argue out loud or in front of others. Even if you are arguing with your colleagues at work, it should be done in private.
Even when it comes to joking, we tend to tone it down in public. Anything that brings attention in this way is not appreciated. It is important to consider this conservatism in your campaigns.
I wouldn’t advise using someone or something that is related to or associated with something against anyone’s faith. Also, make sure the message is not against the Government or its related associations and organisations.
You might also want to avoid comparing your product with a competitor’s. Knocking a competitor is viewed as rude – not a good way to make friends in the Gulf. Companies still do this type of advertising, but cover the fake product with white paper and call it Brand X. And on a personal level from my side, please make sure whoever is going to be acting as a Gulf man in you advertisements or campaigns is actually from the Gulf region. Using somebody from Lebanon or Iran and making them wear Arabian Gulf clothes wont be bought by the viewers because, believe it or not, we can tell if a person is from the Gulf region or not.
Lastly, consider the elements of a product that are especially prized here: quality and functionality. If you focus on these two elements in your campaign you should be successful.
Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow @AskAli on Twitter, and visit www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.
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