The combination of international influences and a strong commitment to local heritage has created an intriguing mix of new and old.
Abu Dhabi's culture is firmly rooted in Arabia's Islamic traditions. Islam is more than a religion; it is a way of life that governs everyday events from what to wear to what to eat and drink. The UAE's culture and heritage is inextricably linked to its religion, and it is a shining example of Islam's true commitment to tolerance and hospitality.
Foreigners are free to practise their own religion and the dress code is liberal. Women are able to drive and walk around unescorted. Among the most highly prized virtues are courtesy and hospitality, and visitors are sure to be charmed by the genuine friendliness of the people. Despite the speed of economic development over the last 30 years, Abu Dhabi continues to promote traditional cultural and sporting events, such as falconry, camel racing and traditional dhow sailing.
UAE nationals usually wear traditional dress in public. For men, this is the kandura - a white full length shirt-like garment, which is worn with a white or red checkered headdress, known as a ghutra. This is secured with a black cord (agal).
Sheikhs and important businessmen may also wear a thin, gold-trimmed robe (bisht) over their kandura at important events.
In public, women wear a long, loose black robe (abaya) that covers their normal clothes - plus a headscarf (sheyla).
The abaya is often of very sheer, flowing fabric with intricate embroidery and beadwork along the wrists and hemline.
Sheylas are also becoming more elaborate and a statement of individuality, particularly among the young. Headwear varies with some women wearing a thin black veil covering their face and others, generally older women, wearing a leather veil (burka), which covers the nose, brow, cheekbones and lips.
While normal tourist photography is acceptable, it is polite to ask permission before taking photos of people, particularly women. Photographs of government buildings, military installations and ports and airports should not be taken. Also, cameras may be banned in public areas designated for women and children only.
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