Our culture columnist takes readers' questions on pet ownership by women, clubs for German expatriates and the traditional watercraft that used to rule Dubai Creek.
Ask Ali: On animal owners, homesick Germans and water transport
Dear Ali: Did Emirati women historically own falcons, salukis or any other animals, or did that right belong exclusively to men? IN, Dubai
Dear IN: Women have always been able to own animals. A woman might inherit a falcon from her father, for example, even though it's unlikely she would have hunted with it and would not have taken care of it in the same way as she would have, say, sheep.
Historically, chickens, goats, sheep, camels and donkeys were the main animals that women cared for; hunting animals were mainly tended by men.
Falconry, for example, requires a man to walk for long distances in the desert, while speed and strength are required to handle a saluki as it runs after rabbits, gazelles or even other salukis. Such physical exertion would not have been considered proper or healthy for a woman.
In the old days on the farm and continuing in the modern UAE, it has not been the woman's duty to secure food for the family - that was the man's job - so women were rarely involved in falconry or saluki raising.
Dear Ali: Is there a community of German expats in the UAE? HM, Germany
Dear HM: Thank you very much for your question, und herzlich willkommen to the UAE.
With more than 10,000 Germans living in the UAE, I am sure you will find it easy to make contact with your fellow countrymen.
As far as I know, Germans tend to be organised and so you might not be surprised to find a number of German social circles here.
If you are looking for business contacts, the business and social events of the German-Emirati chamber of commerce could be an interesting place to start. (www.vae.ahk.de)
If you are fine with online networking, you could have a look at the active and friendly Facebook-group German-Emirates-Club-Dubai, where social gatherings are organised on a regular basis and newcomers can obtain tips and advice from those who have already been living here for a while. A relatively new German speaking business network is the XING Abu Dhabi Business Club, that is active on XING and organises regular informal networking gatherings.
For ladies in Dubai I recommend the "Frauenkreis" (www.frauenkreis-dubai.de) and in Abu Dhabi, the "German speaking Ladies GLAD" (www.gladies.de).
And last but not least, I would recommend my friends and partners in many activities, Discover Middle East (www.discover-middleeast.com), who are also doing a lot to connect the German communities in the region.
I wish you a great time in the UAE and, if you feel homesick, a real German dinner at Brauhaus in the Beach Rotana in Abu Dhabi might help.
Dear Ali: What is an abra? SC, Lebanon
Dear SC: An abra is a traditional, wooden boat used in the UAE to transport people across Dubai Creek or other bodies of water. It is a medium-sized, single-engined craft that holds about 20 people. The driver sits in the centre of the boat, and passengers sit facing out, circling the driver.
The abra was once a primary means of transportation - the journey across the Creek takes only 10 munutes, which beats bridge traffic any day.
Hopping on an abra is also a unique way to see the city, especially in the cooler months. While at least 15,000 people use abras daily to cross the Creek, the boats can also be hired for around Dh60 an hour for a private cruise. The best part is that they are open air, unlike other tour boats, so you'll feel the breeze on your face.