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Curious foreigners get rare chance to sample Emirati culture

By Reuters - May 19,2019 - Last updated at May 19,2019

Tourists talk to an Emirati woman volunteer to learn about Ramadan and Emirati culture during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding in Dubai, UAE, on Friday (Reuters photo)

DUBAI — No question was off limits for curious tourists and foreign residents of Dubai wanting to learn more about Emirati culture and the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. 

Emiratis make up less than 10 per cent of those living in Dubai, the most populated emirate in the seven-emirate United Arab Emirates federation, making it hard for foreigners to meet them. 

Dubai goes to great lengths to market itself as open to different cultures and faiths as the Middle East's financial, trade and leisure centre, and a government cultural centre is inviting visitors to find out more about Emirati life. 

"There are no offending questions," said Emirati Rashid Al Tamimi from the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. 

"How do you worship, what is the mosque, why do you wear white, why do women wear black... is everybody rich in this country?"

Emirati volunteers gathered at a majlis — the traditional sitting room where the end-of-fast iftar meal is served at floor-level — were asked about dating and marriage, what they think of Dubai's comparatively liberal dress codes for foreigners, and aspects of the Muslim faith.

"We learn from them, they learn from us. [Foreigners] have been here for a long time and I feel they see themselves as Emiratis, and we are proud that they do so," said Majida Al Gharib a student volunteer.

Visitors broke the day's fast with dates and water, before sampling Emirati cuisine, including biryani and machboos rice and meat dishes.

Seven-year-old Anthony from Poland, who goes to school in Dubai, said he came to find out more about the breaking of the fast meal because many of his friends at school do it. 

This year has been designated the Year of Tolerance in the United Arab Emirates and there is a minister of state for tolerance. 

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