x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 14 December 2017

Ask Ali: how to go dune-bashing responsibly and how to spell Ramadan correctly

Everyone has the right to try, learn and enjoy dune bashing, and I’m sure that many Emiratis would find it fascinating to see non-Arabs doing what they believe they do best.

Dear Ali: Is it OK for me to go dune bashing with my own car? Is it considered illegal and how is it seen from a cultural point of view? I don’t want to offend any Emiratis. FR, Abu Dhabi

Dear FR: I remember a good British friend of mine saying to me: “I have no idea why, out of all the good creative words in our language, we stuck to ‘bashing’? It’s very scary in reality and not as smooth as it is when you actually cruise on the dunes.”

I agreed with him for a minute, but then I couldn’t think of another word – so I guess bashing it is.

Well, my dear dune-bashing fan, you’re very welcome to learn how to dune cruise and bash as you wish. There are some tourism-destination-management companies that actually offer such services and an expert to take care of guiding you until you’re good and able to handle it yourself.

Is it legal? Well that’s tricky, because obviously there isn’t such a thing as a dune-bashing licence, but I’m sure that if you’re at an allocated area where people with the same interest go, then you’re totally fine. If you start dune bashing at dunes that belong to protected or reserved desert areas or an area that is part of an oil- or gasfield or another organisation that manages it, then it’s not considered legal.

From an environmental point of view, I wish that people would understand that dunes actually get affected badly by dune bashing, which means that we as humans interfere with the nature that shapes our dunes – the wind blows the sand for days, weeks and months, and all of that creates a certain shape of the dunes, as well as later affecting the wind directions. So when a car bashes that dune, it actually bashes the whole cycle of nature.

Many people don’t take this seriously, because they simply don’t know how sand could be affected by car tyres, but it’s scientifically proven – research has shown that we shouldn’t allow a lot of dune bashing to take place at all places, and many responsible authorities started to educate society about this.

Today, the UAE has major dune attractions such as the Tal Mureb in Liwa, Awafi in Ras Al Khaimah and many others in each emirate.

But rest assured that no one will be offended – this is considered an activity that is just like any other sport. Everyone has the right to try, learn and enjoy dune bashing, and I’m sure that many Emiratis would find it fascinating to see non-Arabs doing what they believe they do best. A bit of competition is always appreciated, but it’s important to consider the safety steps required to have fun and to stay safe.

Dear Ali: What’s the best way to write the word Ramadan? Is it Ramadan, Ramathan or Ramadhan? Would I upset anyone if I spell it incorrectly? AI, Sharjah

Dear AI: I’m glad you brought this up, as there’s always confusion on how to spell the word Ramadan.

There shouldn’t be a problem if you write in any of those three ways.

Ramadan is the classic way that everyone likes to write it, as they are used to seeing it in the media, on posters and so on.

But I’ve come across many publications that spell it Ramadhan – and that’s the best way from the pronunciation of the word in Arabic!

In Arabic, we use the letter “Dha” – Arabic is the only language in the world that has this letter and sound. It doesn’t exist in the English alphabet, so this is why most international and non-Arabic publications change the way that they spell it, based on their own style: “Ra-ma-dha-an” or “Ra-ma-da-an”.

You would never offend anyone if you spell it in any of those three ways, so long as you are not saying Ramadam with an “m”, as we hear sometimes from some expats.

Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow @AskAli on Twitter, and visit www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question.

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