Thinking of travelling to Dubai? Here are some interesting cultural facts about the Emirati city

Tourism in Dubai offers a glimpse to the rich culture of the city, with interesting tales for travelers.

Dubai Tourism: Dubai is one of the most preferred international destinations for travellers from India and the rich diverse culture of the city is a part of what attracts tourists in such high numbers. Now, Dubai has announced relaxations for incoming passengers, including those from India. Even though at present only those Indians having a valid residence visa can travel to the city upon having received two doses of UAE-approved COVID-19 vaccines and a negative RT-PCR test, if the conditions continue to improve in India, the city might soon allow other passengers to travel for tourism purposes as well.

Tourism in Dubai offers a glimpse to the rich culture of the city, with interesting tales for travelers. Financial Express Online’s Bulbul Dhawan reached out to Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) Protocol Manager Ahmed Al Jafflah to understand some of these interesting cultural aspects.

The tale of the windtower

Back when ACs did not exist, dealing with the heat, especially in the hot desert, was quite difficult. What Dubai came up with then was an elegant solution – one which is now rendered useless due to ACs. This windtower was called ‘barjeel’ in the city. Explaining more, Ahmed said, “The barjeel was a windtower made from coral, mud and limestone and the sticks that could be seen in the structure were from a wood called chendall from Africa, Zanzibar. People climbed on those sticks in order to enter the structure for maintenance work and for the cleaning of the tower. The wind tower worked by attracting the wind from any direction to be sucked in and flown into the master bedroom, with the stale air escaping from the opposite direction.”

While the barjeel is not constructed anymore, it can still be found in older structures. The barjeel was usually present over the master bedroom, and one house had one or a maximum of two of these wind towers, as any more than these and the flow of air would be disrupted. The barjeel, Ahmed said, could reduce temperatures by 10 degrees Celsius.

Evening coffee ritual

The evening coffee ritual is very luxurious in Dubai, and it involves the Gahwa coffee. “Gahwa is the Arabic coffee we serve all day and night. It is served piping hot in small cups called ‘finyal’ and the cup is only a quarter full. It is served by the host as many times as the guest requires. The coffee beans come from Yemen and we roast them fresh, grind the beans and add to the boiling water along with cardamom and saffron. Some people also like cloves. The gahwa is served in a coffee pot known as a ‘della’ and is served to guests as a sign of hospitality to welcome guests,” Ahmed said.

“Businesses, homes and government departments will always have gahwa ready to welcome travelers, guests and dignitaries. Gahwa is the first drink served to welcome the guests, and it is always served at weddings and celebrations on arrival and before guests leave. It is refreshing and a tradition that dates back thousands of years,” he added.

Filling the cup completely is a sign of the host not welcoming the guests.

The mixing smells of perfume

The ladies of Dubai come up with their own specific smells by mixing perfumes to get the scent they like.

“Every local lady in the UAE makes her own perfume by mixing different perfumes she likes to make a scent exclusively to her taste. She acquires the perfumes and ingredients from the perfume souk and ingredients from home to make a unique scent, applying it to other ladies to judge if it is appealing or not and get advice from them. She mixes and adds ingredients and perfumes as per her wishes, and once she finds the scent she likes, she records the ingredients and measurements like a recipe. This scent is usually so unique that people recognize her by this scent. I remember my mother’s scent and I could smell it on her garments and in the house, especially as these scents are oil based,” Ahmed told FE Online.

“Women also perfume their clothes and hair by burning oud chips, have a special oil for the hair called mukamariya and their own oil-based perfume that they apply behind the ears, on the tip of the nose and on the pulse area of the wrist. They mix mahaleb, which is a herb, with saffron and a little rose water and apply around the hairline and behind the ears to keep cool and smell nice, especially when it is hot outside. Offering perfumes to your guests and perfuming your home, workplace and wedding hall is an absolute must as it reflects the hospitality of the host,” he added.

“Guests receive perfumes and oud chips placed on charcoal at homes and at weddings, perfuming oneself is important as ladies kiss cheek to cheek and men kiss nose to nose. Perfumes play a very important role in an Emirati’s life, and homes will have trays of French perfumes, local perfume and especially oud,” Ahmed explained.

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