The National's culture columnist answers questions on the special meanings of certain colours, food costs versus those of the UK, and starting a business.
Ask Ali: On the meaning of colours in the UAE
Dear Ali: Do colours have special meanings or connotations in the UAE? EU, Buenos Aires
Dear EU: In general, colours in our society don't have special meaning but could have symbolic meaning. For example:
• Red - blood or war and love.
• Black - the dark days our ancestors faced to survive; also represents mourning, and a sign of Satan as in a black cat.
• White - purity, a new beginning and spirits and ghosts.
• Green - gardens, life and linked to Islam as seen on mosques.
I see I have mentioned the UAE flag colours without meaning to do so. I remember some time ago that the black in our UAE flag was believed to represent the discovery of oil.
Brown or gold will always represent our desert and our beautiful sand dunes, and is linked to our traditions and culture.
Violet also is seen as cultural and traditional in some parts of the country such as the city of Al Ain. The burqa (face mask) that was commonly worn by elderly women there was made of a fabric that appears inky or violet.
Dear Ali: What are the costs in Abu Dhabi for items such as food etc, compared to the UK's? SI, UK
Dear SI: I would need to visit you maybe for a few months in order to understand pricing levels in the UK. But let me give you some general observations.
There is no income tax here, and employees do not pay for medical insurance or into a pension fund or an unemployment fund. However, they don't have medical coverage for long if they get ill, don't have a pension system and have no backup if they lose a job. Children can get a good education here but it will need to be paid for.
A huge chunk of expats' income goes towards their accommodation because of the high prices, although some companies offer accommodation or an allowance to staff.
Foodstuffs are reasonably priced, and most items are probably cheaper than in Europe. But if you insist on having special imported British brands, you will likely find them at much higher prices than regional products.
Other products tend to cost about the same as in Europe. Cars tend to be cheaper.
A big advantage here is the variety - you can find everything from luxury goods at the malls to real bargains in the markets, and there is always a special sale going on somewhere as a result of the competition. If you are good at bargaining, the traditional souqs will be fun and a great place to shop.
Dear Ali: What would your advice be if I want to open a business in Abu Dhabi? CC, Huntington Park, California
Dear CC: The UAE is a growing country with a positive business outlook, but it is also highly competitive and highly developed. If you want to be successful here, you need to be really good at what you do, and to study the market in your field.
You will find lots of information online. For the development strategy of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, for instance, go to www.adced.ae, the site of the Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development, where you will find our Abu Dhabi 2030 Vision. You might discover a field where your knowledge and experience best fit in.
In my opinion, the tourism, events, concierge and education sectors are major areas of opportunity.
This word is more in the Emirati dialect than in other Arabic dialects. You might use it this way: "Oh, Ali, your car is so garamba'a", meaning it is old, ugly, dirty and broken. You may use it about any object you see or even about events, such as "That party was so garamba'a".