Ask Ali: Etiquette in taking pictures of Emirati women

Ali Al Saloom offers advice and tips for living and working in the UAE.

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Dear Ali: I've lived in the UAE for five years, but I'm still unsure of etiquette with regards to taking and publishing pictures of Emirati women. A friend of mine works for a company that is to host Emirati students and they wanted to take a photograph of the group to be used in the press. However, I've heard that a close male relative would have to give his permission for a woman to appear. Please help! SA, Abu Dhabi

Dear SA: I bet you were expecting a long and complicated answer. However, this problem is simple. All the company would have to do is announce that it will be taking photographs. That is all.

Actually, this situation would have been even easier if there were no male students in the equation. With both sexes involved, things are a little bit different. Some might not wish their faces to appear.

You were given some false information; in this context, none of them needs to call anyone to get permission, although some families are more conservative than others.

Here's what to do: ask to take a group shot, and whoever does not want to be in the photograph can simply step out of the shot.

Some female students post their pictures privately on Facebook or even get their photograph published in university magazines and the like. But it's a bit different when they are asked to stand next to men. Some feel uncomfortable and shy, although many do not.

Come to think of it, most people would like to be asked permission to be photographed. Not everyone looks as good as me in front of the camera!

Dear Ali: My husband I have just moved to Abu Dhabi. My question is over the lovely shawarma that our waiter at the Lebanese Flower restaurant told is not served until 6pm anywhere in Abu Dhabi. Why is that? PF, Abu Dhabi

Dear PF: First of all, marhaba, hello and welcome to Abu Dhabi. In terms of being unable to find shawarma for lunch, the explanation is quite simple: it is partly for the same reason why people in other countries would not find omelettes or waffles served at dinner - it just isn't part of the culture. But shawarma is served in the evening mostly because of the time it takes to cook, be taken off the special grills, and be carved up to serve. It is therefore more practical for restaurants to serve the dish at dinner time and later into the night.

Your waiter at Lebanese Flower is offering a general idea of the approximate time when shawarma would be served around town. Some places might dish it up at 6.15pm and others around 5.30pm - but it is more of a light meal anyway, as we usually have a smaller meal for dinner. Lunch is often the big meal of the day, when we go for a bit more than just a sandwich.

Dear Ali: Is it possible to visit Abu Dhabi's Heritage Village without being part of a tour group? MK, Abu Dhabi

Dear MK: Of course, visit by yourself or with friends and family - it is one of the few places in the city that really captures our cultural past. Things to look for include the re-creations of our traditional mudhouses, which our forefathers would use for shelter from the harsh elements, as well as windtowers, the ingenious structures that cool a house by funnelling cooler air inside. The village also has a traditional market and the museum displays fascinating photos and artefacts from our past. The Heritage Village is located next to the giant flag pole near the breakwater. It is open from 9am to 1pm , and from 5pm to 9pm except Sunday. Entrance is free.

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.