x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Ask Ali: On traditional Emirati dress and visa limits

Why Emirati men wear white while abayas are traditionally black, plus limits on visit visas.

Dear Ali: I would like to know the significance of your traditional dress. Why is it black for abayas and white for kanduras? Thank you. DB, Abu Dhabi.

Dear DB: Our Emirati dress hails from the traditional clothes people in the region have been wearing for centuries. Our harsh climate made people choose light materials to cover as much of the body as possible, protecting it from sun and sand. The loose fit of the garment allows air to circulate and gives it a modest character. The light colour of the men's kandura comes from the natural hue of cotton.

In the past, natural dyes were made with items such as pomegranates. White kanduras are relatively recent as Bedouins did not have bleach. Now, we can choose different materials and add a personal touch with some discreet colours. Practicality and what resources were available shaped our clothes. The kandura has been a wardrobe staple for centuries; there is no practical reason to change it.

Trust me, jeans will make you perspire. Wear shorts and you will burn your legs, and you will suffer heatstroke if you don't put something on your head.

Our ladies like to wear colourful dresses from a light cotton or silk, with trousers of the same material underneath. In public, they cover their outfits with a light black coat - the abaya - and use a matching black headscarf.

The shade of black allows the use of very light material that filters harmful UV rays from intense sunlight. Historically, black was used to distinguish women from the rest of the tribe when rival tribes would confront one another. In the case of an attack, the women would gather their children and shelter, and could be easily spotted and distinguished from a distance, and subsequently left alone. Battles of honour protocol dictated that women and children should not be harmed. In addition, the black shade enabled women to walk around without being bothered, as they could be recognised easily.

Nowadays, our ladies are much more involved in public life and many have a career. Most seem to want to give a personal touch to their abayas. Don't ask me why some women want to build Eiffel Tower creations on their heads though. I suppose some fashion victims have embarrassing habits the world over.


Dear Ali: How many times can a person come in a year on a visit visa? Is there any age limit? Thanks. KA, Abu Dhabi

Dear KA: Each and every visa application is treated individually and each case will be assessed by the authorities. When it comes to applying for a visit visa, there is no age limit and there are not any formal restrictions in how often someone can apply for one. However, do bear in mind there is no such thing as a "right" to obtain a visa. Even those who own property in the UAE but who do not work are obliged to prove evidence of income and health insurance. Immigration officials might wish to determine the purpose of visits. If the nature of the visits are business trips, for instance, then it might be more practical to apply for a multiple entry visa. Check out http://www. abudhabi.ae for further details.


Language lesson

Arabic: Haintain

English: Two (of something)

"Haintain" is an Emirati dialect word said when referring to something in pair, so if you want to buy two of the same items in a store, you would say: "May I have haintain of it, please?"

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 and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.