x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Ask Ali: Gulf-region Arabs respect elders by rubbing noses

Ali Al Saloom offers tips and advice for living and working in the UAE.

Dear Ali: When I visited the UAE last week for a couple of days I noticed some men kissing each other or maybe rubbing noses - not sure exactly - but it was quite shocking for me. Why is this done? Would it be OK if a non-Emirati did it? YT, Geneva

Dear YT: What a lucky visitor you are, eh? In a couple of days you've managed to actually notice men doing that, which means you actually saw Emiratis or Arabs from the region. This is quite good news, since many people think it's too difficult to find us in public.

Rubbing noses is a Bedouin greeting that is known among the people of this region. It is almost a tribal way of greeting that represents the values of respect, pride and Bedouinism. Because the nose is in the centre of the face it is a valuable symbol, so this is the place where you greet someone with respect.

When a young man greets an elder, he will either kiss the top of his head - another gesture of respect - or rub that person's nose. On the other hand, if the elder person wanted to greet a sheikh or a higher-profile person than him, then he would rub that person's nose.

In some tribal families, women practise this custom as well, only between themselves, but it is rarely seen in public. And since this is a tribal custom mostly practised by Arabs in the Gulf region, it would not make sense for people who are not Arab to rub noses. But of course many people who have lived in the region for a long time and developed very good bonding with the people here would definitely be appreciated if they tried it, but it's not necessary nor expected.

Dear Ali: My Emirati colleagues say it's hard to find halal food when they travel; when I asked what that is, they said it has to do with slaughtering the animals in a certain way. What is the significance behind this method? DF, Dubai

Dear DF: Emiratis as Muslims are taught through the holy Quran that all animals should be treated with respect and be well cared for. The goal is to limit the amount of pain the animal will endure when being slaughtered. So when an animal is slaughtered, the jugular vein is cut and the blood is allowed to drain from the animal.

Remember, Muslims are prohibited from consuming animal blood, hence you see many Muslims prefer food - especially beef and chicken - to be cooked well done. But please note: I say many and not all.

Halal in general means permitted or lawful, so halal foods are allowed under Islamic dietary guidelines. According to these guidelines gathered from the holy Quran, Muslim followers cannot consume the following: pork or pork by-products, animals that were dead before slaughtering, animals not slaughtered properly or not slaughtered in the name of Allah, blood and blood by-products, alcohol, carnivorous animals and birds of prey.

And by the way, not only do we believe in such a method, but our brothers and sisters who are Jews also believe in a similar concept - but they refer to it as kosher.

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