Dear Ali: I'm returning to the United States after having lived in the UAE for more than six years. I got so used to the food here that I'm worried I won't find the same dishes in the US or be able to find Arabic food or restaurants at all. Any tips on what I should do? ZC, Dubai
Dear ZC: I'm glad you have enjoyed the food in this part of the world. It's something to be missed if you leave the country.
From what I remember when I lived in America, in almost every part of the States you would be able to find a Middle Eastern grocer or restaurant within driving distance - and sometimes both in one store.
Check the Yellow Pages under "Ethnic grocers", "Gourmet food" or "Speciality food". Again, some of the Arabic restaurants in the US are grocery stores as well.
You also can search online by entering "Middle Eastern food stores" or "Arabic food stores" in any search engine, with the name of your city and state included.
Finally, ask around. If you dine at an Arabic or a Middle Eastern or even a Greek restaurant, ask your server. He might know of another place locally.
Dear Ali: My family and I have recently relocated from Dubai to a much smaller emirate and my children are attending a school where more than half the children are Emiratis. While the children are very friendly with each other, the parents are polite but not overly friendly. My son has made some very good friends in his new school, but I have been unable to arrange for them to play at our house. With his birthday coming up he is expecting a party with all his school friends. What is the norm with regards to Emirati children and western expat children socialising? I have heard from a few long-term expats in this region that play dates and birthday parties with Emirati children will never happen and that Emiratis socialise only with their own family. Is this the norm? I would like to know, and wish to answer my son correctly when he asks. BB, Ras Al Khaimah
Dear BB: It is sad to read this stereotype again, that we Emiratis socialise only with each other. But there is a bit of a truth in it - we are rather picky. Since we tend to be a bit conservative in our social lifestyle, we try our best to bring up our children in the same tradition. So we are rather over-protective, and, yes, some families are concerned that our kids could get exposed to improper things or acts.
In our traditional neighbourhoods, we know that all the families share a similar lifestyle, and that kids will not come across things we would consider unsuitable.
So, yes, Emirati parents might fear their kids would encounter things we would not like - this might be a picture in your apartment, immodest standards of dress or something else. So we need to know you before we entrust our kids to you. And I guess you would do the same - your kids would visit only those friends' houses where you are convinced they would be well looked after and where they would not run across anything objectionable.
My advice: try to get in touch with the Emirati parents, and try to become their friends and gain their trust. Then you can be sure the kids will take care of the rest.
When a person is envious and can't be happy for you, in Arabic he would be described as "hasood"; for females, "hasooda".