Friday, March 20, 2009

Manly Men

The national Emirati dress for men in the UAE is the Dishdasha or Kandura. It's a long, (usually) white or ivory gown that ends just above the ankles with a long V stitched in the front and the back. The formal dishdasha is crisp and fresh and lends a certain aura of dignity to the person wearing it... Men wearing dishdashas don't run, they walk in a stately manner, with shoulders thrown back and belly tucked in. And in the hot desert climate, it's comfortable and provides natural air-conditioning.

But the new generation of Emiratis is more adventurous. The other day at the mall, I saw a young man wearing a burberry-print dishdasha and some in beige or blue. It does seem a little impractical though... I wonder how they manage to keep them spotlessly clean and avoid food or coffee spills and stains.

Also witnessed first-hand, the traditional Emirati nose greeting. A group of Emirati guys was standing and chatting when another guy came up and shook hands with one of the fellas along with a nose rub/kiss- the sequence is: handshake, nose rub (with kissing sounds) and man-hug, repeat with next guy...

P.S. Not to be practiced on a member of the opposite gender!


  1. Men wearing dishdashas don't run
    avoid food or coffee spills and stains

    this is too difficult to maintain, almost beyond me at least :P
    and the traditional Emirati nose greeting, is it often practiced too formally with alot of people or only with close ones ?

    P.S. I am adding your blog to my blog roll list :)

  2. I think it's practiced among Emiratis only; I'm pretty certain they wouldn't nose-kiss an expat.

    I like your blog too :) What are you getting a DPhil in?

  3. I am doing a Dphil in Biomedical Engineering (have an undergrad in electronics engineering)..Whats your field :)?

  4. I guess anything you want to do well and with quality gets kinda intense...Ahan, so you are also an engineer...coool!

  5. I am about to embark on a similar journey like your from US of A to Abu Dhabi for work. Strangely enough I live near Princeton University NJ (Monmouth Junction) near Route 1 mosque or ISCJ and take the NJ transit train everyday from Princeton Junction to Manhattan. I work directly across from Macys on 34th Street and from my office window I get a great view of 34th Street.
    I was approached by one of my friends who work for the newly formed Abu Dhabi DOT to come and work here. The work is actually in a remote rural town (If you blink you will miss it) called Madinat Zayd in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know why anyone young would want to live there.
    I went there for an interview approximately 4 weeks ago from 8” of snow to 90 Degrees blistering heat. After the interview I was asked to actually attend a meeting with 5 other international consultants which went really well. The best part was when in the middle of the meeting the door opened and two young men walked in with a huge tray of teacups. These were real ceramic china not the Styrofoam crap and they were giving everyone a cup and asking for sugar. I got a big kick out of that. After you finish just leave the cup there and someone else will pickup after you. This will certainly take some getting used to.
    The money is really great but I am extremely scared because of the cultural shock and several other things. I have to decide real soon. I started looking for Abu Dhabi blogs and came across yours. Mind you I am an American Muslim so the religious aspect is not the scary part.
    The blogs did help but I am still very very scared (not the threat due to lack of safety or such but just the butterflies in your stomach)

  6. Hi Gridlock,

    I've been to Madinat Zayed several times and it's actually in the center of the city... I'm in Mohammad bin Zayed city which is right outside Abu Dhabi so your location is actually pretty decent.

    Why would anyone want to live here? Well, it's very peaceful, safe and clean, the economy is developing really quickly, and there are lots of exciting career opportunities. I also like the workplace diversity and the proximity to Dubai (a bit like NJ and NJ). The lifestyle is pretty lavish but I think I got used to that :)

    If you're moving with your family, it'll probably be easier to settle down. Otherwise, there isn't a whole lot to do here but the Corniche area is beautiful and there's a thriving expat community.

    It's normal to get butterflies :) I'd say, give it a try and if you don't like it, you can always move back to the US. If you have more questions, feel free to email me.

    Good luck with your decision!

  7. Thank you for your response, however small correction, this is NOT the Madinat Zayd in the middle of the town. This is out in the boonies, way the hell away from the town or any town or civilization. Just Google it. There are actually two Madinat Zayd , one in the city where all the gold is sold and the other where you go to …. I guess to meditate and repent or in exile. This is where I am heading so the great view of 34th Street is about to be changed by the sand and wilderness of Madinat Zayd.
    Do you feel the people in AD follow procedures, protocols and rules and everything is structured or do you feel when it comes to locals anything goes and the rules and procedures are for outsiders only. As an Engineer I love procedure, protocols, and design standards for everyone and in everything. That is my element without which everything is chaotic and haphazard crapshoot.
    I have been told you may be singled out if someone in your organization does not like your face. Forget your work ethics and efficiency. Do you feel that way? Would I become a racist in the end due to a distinct class system or a boot licker to stay in business?. My hard work, ethics and intelligence is all I have, If I am not valued or judged on this then being a slick Wiley is not my cup of tea. Do you feel that happens there a lot? Things like these do happen in US (more on Wall Street scenarios) but not significantly but are recognized and discussed as an issue. Very confused and anxious but confident. Reply if you feel like or let it go as a rant.

  8. Ok... so I went to the Madinat Zayed Souk... haven't been to the other one yet!

    So basically, there are two kinds of people in AD- the local Emiratis and the expats. The locals make the rules and the expats are expected to follow them (and mostly do). The locals will come in late, leave early and show up to work 3 days a week (some, not all!) but if an expat were to do that, he/she would be booted out.

    If you have an American/European passport, you will generally be treated better than someone from the Philippines, Bangladesh, India or Pakistan. And yes, there is racism here (but then, there's racism in the US as well). Americans/Europeans(white people in general) also get paid more than non-white people). Such issues are generally not discussed openly- the media is censored and the rulers are absolute (political humor is NOT appreciated). You might have noticed the portraits of the rulers everywhere :)

    BUT, I have met some locals (mostly the younger generation) who are very open-minded, friendly, welcoming and fair and want to change the current mentality.

    If the organization where you will be working has more expats than locals, it'll probably be a lot easier for you to adjust (we have a lot of diversity where I work).

    Abu Dhabi is a good place to meditate...