Dear Ali: I come from France but work for an international law firm in the UAE. What fascinates me is how tolerant the UAE is towards people coming from western countries. I was wondering where that tolerance comes from? YG, Dubai
Dear YG: You are right; we Emiratis are very tolerant people. It's in our nature. We understand that different cultures have different lifestyles and respect those cultural differences.
The main reason behind this is that our government encourages us to travel around the world and receive an international education, for example, to learn from the great abilities of other cultures. This is how we enrich our knowledge of the world and build sophisticated relationships. But also it's the philosophy of our founder, the late Sheikh Zayed, who taught us to respect each other, inspired from our religious teachings of Islam.
We understand the western norms and values based on our experiences abroad. Therefore, we don't take offence if someone who isn't familiar with our way of life doesn't act the way we do, in particular in terms of social behaviour. But we would always appreciate it if they would make an effort to show respect and embrace our culture so we all can live in harmony.
Our culture has always placed a great value on hospitality, which leads us to being tolerant towards everyone who comes from a different cultural background.
Dear Ali: I have visited many places in the UAE and am curious if the UAE economy only relies on oil exports? KH, Abu Dhabi
Dear KH: Well, it might seem as if our country only relies on oil exports but in reality, 60 per cent to 70 per cent of our economy depends on the oil and gas supply. Most of our country's oil can be found in Abu Dhabi.
However, there are also many other sectors that have a great impact on our economy - finance, real estate, energy and the hospitality / tourism sector.
Our country wants to prosper on an international level, and for that to happen our government is taking many steps towards diversifying the economy. Our Vision 2020 and 2030 includes this specific aim and I hope it will be successful and make our multifaceted country more visible in the near future.
Dear Ali: My friends and I are visiting the UAE for a couple of weeks. We didn't find out until we got here that you need a license for purchasing alcohol. Why? AK, Dubai
Dear AK: Yes, you are right, purchasing alcohol isn't easy but if you are a non-Muslim it is permissible with certain limitations. In our society, alcohol is only allowed to be sold in certain places, such as official shops or in bars and clubs, which are usually found in our hotels.
Since you and your friends are only visiting, you can only buy liquor at the duty free shops at the airport or in the hotel. You are only eligible for the liquor license if you work here and earn more than Dh3,000.
However, I do want to advise you to remain respectful towards our culture. Our Islamic religion forbids alcohol for a reason but we allow it in our country for guests so they feel more welcome. Another thing that you would need to pay attention to is that we have laws against public drunkenness.
So if you decide to drink, try to drink in moderation and make sure that you organise a safe way to get back home. If you drink while driving, trust me this can get you in a lot of trouble because it is illegal and you could end up in jail for doing so.
Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE.
Follow him on www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.
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