Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Emirati Life: Hospitality runs deep in UAE culture

Acts of kindness toward strangers are the fabric of Emirati culture, stemming from the incomparable hospitality of Bedouins, writes Tamer Al Subaihi.

When choosing where to vacation, I always prefer visiting family and friends.

I favour this option not solely because of the lure of discounted accommodation - although this perk is welcomed by a budget traveller such as myself - but rather to experience the destination through the eyes of a knowledgeable local instead of a clueless tourist.

This preference recently whisked me away to the European continent, where I enjoyed the hospitality of three friends in three cities. And although I was treated with endless generosity and provided with appreciated comfort by each friend, it was the hospitality of two strangers in Brussels that took me aback while reminding me of my own country's generosity.

My decision to fly on a cut-price flight (did I mention I was a budget traveller?) had me on a waiting list for the return to Abu Dhabi from Brussels. Unfortunately, as the Etihad employee explained, I had gambled on a weekend flight during the high season.

Bad bet.

Unable to board, I was stranded without a means of communication as a dexterous pickpocket had relieved me of my phone in Barcelona. No contacts, no friends and a potential two-day wait for a ride home, I was resigned to spending the night in a random hotel. I was then advised to take the last train to what I would later discover was a seedy part of town.

Fortunately, I stumbled upon a kind-hearted French couple who came to my rescue.

Upon explaining to them my dire situation and inquiring about the dodgy neighbourhood I was setting out to, they unhesitatingly offered to take me in.

These complete strangers who I had spoken to for no more than a minute put me up in their humble apartment, offered me food and drink and gave me access to their phone and internet.

They topped off their unconditional kindness the next morning by going out of their way to escort me all the way to the train station's ticket counter.

That this unselfish act was taking place in modern Western Europe, where such gestures are a rarity rather than the norm, made it all the more astonishing. And yet had the same occurred in the UAE, I would not have been as surprised.

Acts of kindness toward strangers are in the fabric of Emirati culture, stemming from the incomparable hospitality of Bedouins.

Bedouins ritually offer at least three days of food, drink, shelter and protection to any stranger encountered, no questions asked.

This tradition continues today among many UAE citizens. A Qatari in Doha recently confessed to me how moved he was when an Emirati work associate dragged him out of his Abu Dhabi hotel room, paid the bill and insisted he spend the rest of his visit with him. "Although we are a giving people, I experienced kindness on another level in Abu Dhabi," said the young Qatari.

I have also been witness to family members bringing home random people from airports who were stranded for one reason or another.

Although I was a recipient of such unconditional charity in Europe, knowing it is part of my country's foundation is another reason I am glad to be back home.

Follow Arts & Life on Twitter to keep up with all the latest news and events @LifeNationalUAE

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Cityscape Abu Dhabi 2014 will run until April 24, 2014. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National.

In pictures: Cityscape Abu Dhabi 2014 opens
at Adnec

Key developments and master plans are being unveiled at this year’s property exhibition in the capital.

 A plane flies overhead with a banner criticising former Manchester United manager David Moyes during United's Premier League match against Aston Villa at Old Trafford on March 29, 2014 in Manchester, England. Alex Livesey / Getty Images

Manchester United must now search for the ‘anti-Moyes’

'The requirement is for a manager who does not exhibit any of the failings that made Moyes' reign at Old Trafford so painful' writes Richard Jolly on Manchester United's next managerial hire.

 From left, Mansoor Nabil Abdul Ghafar, Mohammed Al Tamimi and Marwan Nabil Abdul Ghafar, three co-owners of Code CrossFit, Abu Dhabi's first CrossFit gym. Ann Marie McQueen / The National / April 2014

Abu Dhabi gets its first CrossFit gym, Code CrossFit, thanks to four Emirati friends

Four Emirati friends have joined forces to open Abu Dhabi's first CrossFit gym, Code CrossFit.

 Salil Ankola, left, and Achint Kaur in a scene from the Hindi film Riwayat (2012). Courtesy Riwayat

The love affair between cricket and cinema in India

We take a look at cricketers who struck gold on the pitch before venturing into Bollywood. Did their success carry over to the silver screen?

 Former Manchester United manager David Moyes, right, speaks to Manchester United's Welsh midfielder Ryan Giggs during a training session at the team's Carrington training complex in Manchester, north-west England on April 22, 2014. Andrew Yates / AFP

Giggs a better fit for Manchester United than Moyes

The winger, who has played 962 games for the club, has been placed in interim charge of the first team and will be assisted by his former Manchester United teammate Nicky Butt.

 Brazilians play altinha, a spin-off of football played on the beach, as others gather on Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Altinha is Portuguese for “a little higher” and involves players attempting to keep the ball in the air without using their hands. Brazilians play many spin-offs of football including altinha, footvolley and futsal. Brazil is gearing up to host the 2014 Fifa World Cup in June. Mario Tama / Getty

Best photography from around the world, April 22

The National View's photo editors pick the best images of the day from around the world.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National