x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Ask Ali: understanding Middle Eastern marriage

How to attract Emiratis into tourism careers, and marriage explained.

Dear Ali: What does the tourism industry need to do to encourage young Arabs (particularly Emiratis) to enter careers in travel and tourism? FK, Dubai

Dear FK: The industry needs to realise the problems that challenge the growth of Emiratis in this sector. The industry is unfortunately stereotyped as a sector that deals with alcohol - in addition to challenging work hours and low income level - so it is not always in line with our religious values and is not encouraged by families.

Knowledge of tourism and language skills are crucial. Fluency in English is a must and in the private sector, an additional two languages are usually a prerequsite to being hired. And nowhere in the world are tourism and hospitality careers 9-to-5 jobs. Whoever is not ready to work in the evenings and during holidays and festive seasons should look for a different career.

It is vital to get the message across that nobody can host and welcome our guests better than skilled Emiratis. If we want our country to be portrayed the way we see it, we have to do it ourselves. The starting point is to develop a career path for each position in the hospitality industry where Emiratis can understand and believe they can succeed.

These difficulties can be overcome by offering young Emiratis internships, so they can see the realities and the career opportunities. It is a waste of resources to train tourism professionals who come with misconceptions to the job market.

Using role models - perhaps, ahem, like yours truly - is another strategy. Youth need a representative figure they can rely on and look up to. A tourist guide should be knowledgeable in geography, history and culture; must be an enthusiastic public speaker; be able to manage groups of people; have great customer service skills; and must be flexible and able to deal with different clients and cultures. Mostly, he must be able to recreate his service again and againfor a lasting impression. Smiling is not enough.


Dear Ali: I am intrigued by the subject of marriage in the Middle East and how it comes about. Is a woman to this day obliged to marry whoever her parents accept? PL, London

Dear PL: You must understand that "forcing" marriage on anyone is not what we do as a society. Many people call it arranged marriage but if you want to be politically correct, it is "recommended" marriage.

In our culture, parents are usually major participants in our decision making, and we highly respect and appreciate their opinion.

When it comes to marriage, what would normally happen is that a potential groom would decide to look for a wife, so he'd tell the female members in his family and they would suggest some women (if they had any in mind).

Of course, people don't blindly ask for anyone's hand in marriage without finding out more about them; therefore, we ask about them from friends and families, kind of like a background check. If the man is satisfied with what he learns about the woman and her family, then he proposes. The same background check process repeats itself with the woman's family, and so all that would be left is for her to accept the man's hand in marriage. Most times, if the parents are satisfied, they would advise their daughter to accept - but they don't force.

While marriage is important for every Muslim, it does not call upon forcing two people to get married against their will.

Language lesson

Arabic: Safar

English: Travel

If you want to suggest travelling with your friends or family, you would say "Yalla nsafer fel ijaza", which means "Come on, let's travel during the holidays".