x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Ask Ali: Why do Emiratis like to keep their children up late?

Ali Al Saloom, the UAE cultural adviser and public speaker, offers advice for living and working in the Emirates.

Dear Ali: Why do Emiratis keep their children up so late? In my apartment block my ears are constantly assailed by the sound of screaming children, and this can be as late as 10 or 11pm. Shouldn't children around the age of 2 or 3 be in bed by 8pm? KJ, Abu Dhabi

Dear KJ: You are right. Most Arabic kids stay up with the family much later that most Western kids would.

But rest assured, once our children are of school age and have to get up early in the morning, parents will ensure that their little ones get enough sleep and go to bed at an appropriate time. On the other hand, the concept of being so family-oriented means we often run on a different schedule than, for instance, families in Europe. The family environment of parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles means our homes are buzzing all the time.

Of course, there are other cultural reasons why we are a bit relaxed when it comes to keeping kids up. If we are having dinner or coffee with some guests at our house, they like to bring their children with them because often it's the only chance they get to socialise.

Dear Ali: Why is it acceptable for western women to wear the abaya, but not for western men to wear a kandura? I've heard that for a western man to wear a kandura in public is regarded as disrespectful. But why? If a western man likes wearing one, and feels comfortable in it and is respectful of Arabic culture, why can't he wear it? CD, Dubai

Dear CD: It is as acceptable for a man to wear a kandura as it is for a lady to wear an abaya. I have some western friends who have embraced Islam and wear the kandura when they go to mosque for their prayers, and nobody minds this in the least.

On the other hand, most companies have a certain dress code in place and GCC nationals would be expected to wear the kandura while, for westerners, business attire would be expected.

Really, nobody has an issue with westerners wearing kanduras. Any hesitation is based on the fact that ill-fitting garments look a bit unflattering. What people don't know is that even a simple garment such as the kandura should fit perfectly and therefore we should get them made to measure.

Of course, how you conduct yourself while wearing it is very important as well, and this has nothing to do with traditions or heritage. We all know how the great British explorer Wilfred Thesiger became so enamoured with his travels, the people he met and their traditions he became known as Mubarak bin London. This shows you how it's actually very much accepted and respected when somebody embraces our culture. What we don't like to see is someone wearing a kandura who is behaving in an unseemly fashion. It doesn't mean every Emirati wearing a kandura is an angel but you get the point.

Dear Ali: White seems to be the colour of choice for cars here, especially with Emiratis. Why is that? AS, Abu Dhabi

Dear AS: Good observation. Well, we love the bright, white look, since it matches our bright, white kanduras! No, just kidding.

Yes, black vehicles come with air conditioning but a lighter coloured car will not heat up as much as a darker coloured one. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about. No matter how much I like my dark-blue vehicle, when I go to the farm or out in the desert, I miss my old, white one.

By the way, we associate cars that come in black to be rather classy - the shade of kings. That's why there are quite a few Range Rovers and Mercedes in black here.

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.