Dear Ali: What are the national symbols of the UAE and how did they become the national symbols of the country? FO, Sharjah
Dear FO: Every nation has its own symbols that have a special meaning for the country and its people but most of all represent its individual identity. Our main national symbols can always be found on our banknotes and coins: some carry the coffee pot, falcon, camel, dhow and the date palm tree. All of these symbols have become part of our rich cultural heritage that we still carry today, and have served different purposes in history.
While the falcon was used for hunting, the camel was a means of transportation and a source of food, the dhow was important for the sea trade and pearl diving and the date palm trees were essential for food and shelter. The coffee pot represents our Arabian hospitality. Our nation is based on these elements that helped us survive the difficult times of our history and made us strong and proud of our ancestors.
Dear Ali: I would like to go swimming on the UAE coastline. Is this permissible or are they part of the natural reserves? And can I wear a bikini? ME, Dubai
Dear ME: Well, you are right. There are some areas along the UAE coast, especially around Abu Dhabi, where we have a lot of islands that belong to the protected environmental regions of our country. Some visitors don't pay attention to this factor which can cause a lot of difficulties. However, this is not the case in Dubai, so feel free to swim wherever you like. Luckily, in Dubai the laws for swimming in public are more open than in other parts of the country. You can go swimming on the beaches but maybe the beach clubs or hotel pools would be a better option. There are also special places to swim and enjoy the atmosphere of a spa where only women go to. Regarding the swimsuit, it might be a better idea to get a one-piece instead of wearing a bikini that reveals too much skin. Wearing something is better than wearing nothing. But that is up to you to decide. After all, the areas where the bikini is acceptable are the places that we believe could welcome such a dress code. I believe that's totally fine, especially when we are always welcoming people from around the world to visit us and enjoy our beaches. At the end of the day, it's all about how someone carries themselves properly with the right dress code at the right place.
Dear Ali: What is the Vision 2021 all about? SA, Abu Dhabi
Dear SA: The Vision 2021 is a governmental initiative that aims to transform the UAE into "one of the best countries in the world by 2021". In 2021, it will be 50 years since our country was founded as a federation. This vision addresses us as a nation because we are encouraged to face the future challenges with more optimism as well as a strong and productive work ethic.
The Vision 2021 includes four components for Emiratis to fulfil their duty towards their nation: 1) to guarantee that UAE nationals show more ambition and responsibility for the future by actively participating in the socio-economic development of the UAE. 2) To guarantee a strong union that pursues the same destiny as a source of protection. 3) To develop an economy based on knowledge and expertise that is still diverse but led by skilled Emiratis. 4) To guarantee that Emiratis can prosper by granting them good health conditions, a great education and the privilege to benefit from other services offered by the government.
If you want to know more about it, I recommend you to visit www.vision2021.ae for more information.
Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow //www.ask-ali.com">www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.