Heritage Blog

The Heritage of Dubai


United Arab Emirates is a home of cultures & traditions with more than 200 nationalities and well known for its sparkling high rise buildings. However, it has its own captivating history encompassing right from the Iron Age to the times of ancient seafarers.

In the past ages, there had been living two main communities desert dwelling migrants called Bedouins and sea advancing pearls divers & fishermen. Bedouins were the oldest dwellers of the desert of Arabia who go across the sand. These people were known for their ingenuity and generosity, who survives in the severe condition of weather and environment. Therefore they were called “people of the desert”. History and traditions of old Dubai is quite vast and cannot be summarized in a few words however we can overview some Emirati traditions of the past that give you a brief concept about the heritage of Dubai

Traditional Dubai Cuisine
In the past decades, Traditional cuisine of Dubai consisted of rice, cereals, dates, goat meat and fish meat as well as they used to get their food from palm trees. Their food resources were very erratic, they did not import food from other countries. For long journey across the desert, the Bedouins add carbohydrate in their diet. Brokers and merchants who visited Dubai also introduced Indian spices here. The food in the past was very simple then.

Emirati Transportation
In ancient day’s, animals were source of transport. All around the world, UAE is known for its connection with the camel. In summer, they were used to transport families from the tropical coastline to cooler oasis oasies. As well as they also used to transport milk and food from one region to another. Among the Bedouin tribe, camels were also given as a bride’s dowry. This animal is still known as the ship of the desert due to its walk, which is just like the motion of a ship at sea.

Traditional Clothing
Emirati clothing had been evolved to its current form since the time of Bedouin, the traditional clothing also reflects the outfit worn by local residents. As the desert sun was very harshed and required skin covering, Bedouins chose full sleeves and long hemlines. The loose cuts that we see in the traditional dresses put on by Emirati men and women in the UAE were because the climate made it uncomfortable to wear trimmed clothes. The clothing of this region has practiced according to the Islamic values and also designed according to their climatic need and comfort. The men wore a traditional simple white long ankle-length dress called Kandura. The Kandura was worn with Ghutra, a headscarf usually of white or white with red checks that was bound or held in place by a fancy rope called Agal. In the past, the Ghutra protected Bedouin men’s faces against the sand on windy days, while the Agal was used to tie their camels at night
The traditional dress for women was known as ‘Dir’, this light shirt was worn under a more ornamental dress ‘Thawb’. They covered themselves with a dark cloak known as a ʿabāyah and cover their heads with a scarf called a shāl. In the past, women wore a burqa on their wedding that would cover their eyebrow and lips. The Afgan burqa was also very common, which covered the women from head to toe. All these dresses were according to Islamic values.

Mode of Earning in Ancient Dubai
Before oil discovery, in order to endure themselves, the UAE had to depend on trade. They had many trades that made them a building block for the growth of culture and industry in the early days of Dubai. The people relied on pearl diving and agriculture in order to fulfill the basic needs of their families. Pearling was the trade of the Trucial States, with a large percentage of the population relying on it for their incomes. The wooden dhow boats were most commonly associated with Emirati traditions. It was regionally products of the Bedouin people who build them to go fishing and pearl diving off the coasts what is now Dubai Creek.

Architecture of Buildings In Dubai
The Dubai’s traditional architecture of the houses was developed according to their remarkably hot and barren climate. In a harsh climate, they used to live in animal hide tents called Beyt al Sh’ar or House of Hair. It was knitted from goat hair that provided people a cooler environment inside the tent. Palm tree branches were used to build the house roofs, another hut shaped house was named as “Arish”, made up of palm fronds and intertwined more tightly to keep the wind out. People were used to live in Arish during the hot summer months. This had a wind tower to catch breezes. The permanent houses were in the form of Masonry structures. These were built using effective material according to the requirement of the harsh climate. Decorated with different Islamic calligraphy styles. The walls had perforations to allow air circulation. Their courtyard was surrounded by one row of rooms. They used bar-jeel wind towers in order to catch the winds and keep the interiors cool. This has now become one of the most distinctive symbols of UAE’s heritage now.

The heritage of Dubai is best represented in the form of performing an art that we see now and then In the past, the people performed folk dances by linking their arms, holding sticks in their hands and intoning poetry, this was known as Yowla in UAE. The dance steps represented the battle scene as they were celebrating a victory. Now you can also see this dance on their national day that they celebrate their national day by holding camel sticks, chanting poetry and dancing on the beat of the drum.
On the occasion of wedding, the Emirati groom wore a Bisht (a black, brown or gray cloak) over the Kandura. The other male guests also wore Kanduras. In true Emirati form, guests enjoy Qahwa and dates upon their arrival, with a variety of delicious Emirati dishes and desserts served later.

Falconry is the main part of Emirati culture. It was originally used as a hunting tactic among the tribes of the past. A falconer’s competition was arranged every year in Dubai. In a competition, falconer’s race against one another to trap their birds with live prey called tilwa.

Dubai has its cultural roots deepened since long ages, and most of these traditions are still followed by local nationals. Most of these rituals and lifestyles were adopted due to weather conditions and religious beliefs. Although with modern facilities climate conditions have very little influence, but the local nationals still prefer to follow and abide by the traditions of their ancesstors and they are proud of their heritage & culture.

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