5 Things That Surprised Me in The United Arab Emirates

photo-1437815488172-dc7cba4334a7Scandinavian living shapes you as much as living in any other place. You get used to a certain way that people behave and to your surroundings. The familiarity of people’s manners and the places around you creates the world that you identify with. This makes travel more fun because immediately when you go somewhere new you start noticing the ordinary and mundane that is different from your own ordinary and mundane.

Here are some of the things that surprised me in United Arab Emirates:

-You don’t really walk much when you are in the Emirates. The cars definitely rule the streets. And the surprising thing is that most cars are white or off-white shades. I would say 90% of them.

-I live in Finland where the temperatures in winter drop below -15 Celsius frequently, and yet it does not stop people from cycling everywhere. In the United Arab Emirates I have not seen bicycles, cycling lanes, cycle parking lots and similar. Of course, the climate doesn’t allow for this type of activity.

-Many parents take their nannies with them when they go on a family walk. Family walks happen in their numerous shopping malls.

Dried fish, Market, Al Ain
Dried fish in Al Ain market

-If you go to one of the local markets you will not be surprised that dates are omnipresent, but what surprised me is that one of the most present items in the markets stalls is dried fish. Having in mind the harsh climate, this way of preserving food is more than logical. The smell of dried fish definitely dominates the market.

-As UAE is a Muslim country the most common outfit for women is an abaya, although there are many women who also wear a face veil. But what I saw for the first time in Al Ain was that some women were wearing a leather mask over their face instead of a veil. I saw this type of “masks”several times and some of them were decorated with metallic/gold ornamentation. Later on I found out that this is “batula“, traditional head-wear worn by women in the Gulf, nowadays only worn by elderly women.

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