10 Abu Dhabi’s Traditions You Should Know

10 Abu Dhabi’s Traditions You Should Know. The emirate’s culture is awash with fascinating stories, crafts and traditions. Horses, camels, salukis and falcons have been crucial to Bedouins’ survival in the harsh desert environment.

Tours of many of Abu Dhabi’s cultural attractions, and an array of heritage-inspired experiences give visitors a unique insight into UAE traditions and customs.

1| Abu Dhabi’s Tradition: Henna painting

10 Abu Dhabi’s Traditions You Should Know
Henna painting
Using henna to decorate the skin is very popular with female visitors to Abu Dhabi. Henna is a plant dye that has been used throughout Arabia for centuries. It is used on women's hands, feet and hair. Generally, Arabic henna features large, floral patterns and these ‘tattoos' are painless and wash off in a week.

The dye comes from the leaves of the henna tree, which are dried and ground. Water is then added to form a paste. Henna's decorative purpose varies from culture to culture, but its most popular use is as make-up for bridal parties.

2| Abu Dhabi’s Tradition: Taghrouda

10 Abu Dhabi’s Traditions You Should Know
This is an authentic Bedouin art based on the eloquence and rhetoric of meaning. Al Taghrouda comprises chanted poetry during which the vocalist tries to raise his voice while enjoying his own warble chants with a group of listeners.

Taghrouda includes a poetry duel when one contestant starts with a poetry line, prompting the other to respond with a line similar in rhyme. These exchanged lines hold meanings, creating a new poem full of linguistic creativity, praise and satire.

This art was often used in rural areas when two or three people searched for a lost camel or horse to hasten their search. Al-Taghrouda, which is popular at weddings, is also performed on horseback to urge horses to speed up. The equestrian taghrouda is usually about courage, bravery and magnanimity.

3| Abu Dhabi’s Tradition: Majlis

10 Abu Dhabi’s Traditions You Should Know
Majlis is Arabic for a top level meeting place and in Abu Dhabi; the traditional majlis - a tented meeting place where hospitality abounded before negotiations began - has been the setting for business meetings from the heyday of the silk route.

4| Abu Dhabi’s Tradition: Coffee & dates

10 Abu Dhabi’s Traditions You Should Know
Coffee & dates
The serving of traditional Arabic coffee (ghahwa) is a social ritual. Local coffee comes blended with cardamom and saffron, served in tiny, handle-less cups.

5| Abu Dhabi’s Tradition: Ayala Dancing

10 Abu Dhabi’s Traditions You Should Know
Ayala Dancing
Generally known as the ‘stick dance’, this traditional fascinating UAE folk dance is accompanied by drumming and performed by two rows of dancers facing one another. Dancers are positioned close together in rows, signifying the unity and co-operation amongst tribal people. The dance is usually performed at top events, national ceremonies and weddings in the UAE.

6| Abu Dhabi’s Tradition: Salukis

10 Abu Dhabi’s Traditions You Should Know
A traditional part of Bedouin culture, Salukis are a distinctive breed of dog found in desert regions and famed for their hunting prowess. One of the oldest known breeds of domesticated dog, salukis come in two varieties, smooth and feathered.

Bedouins hunt with Salukis in packs of two to six hounds, and they train their dogs to hunt with falcons as part of a team. Falcons usually spot and hover over their prey, whilst Salukis speed off towards the target - often kilometres away- as the hunters follow on their horses or camels.

7| Abu Dhabi’s Tradition: Arabian horses

10 Abu Dhabi’s Traditions You Should Know
Arabian horses
Horses are of great heritage significance in Abu Dhabi, which has a wealth of equestrian talent. Famous for their wide, flat forehead, soulful eyes, broad muzzle, erect ears, slender neck and flowing shining mane, and renowned for their beauty, loyalty, strength and intelligence, Arabian horses are an intrinsic part of Abu Dhabi’s traditions.

8| Abu Dhabi’s Tradition: Camel racing

10 Abu Dhabi’s Traditions You Should Know
Camel racing
This is a spectacular sport and a trip to the races can be one of the most memorable highlights of a visit to Abu Dhabi. Cheer on the camels as they gallop around a specially made track, and marvel at how these seemingly ungainly creatures can reach such high speeds. Races normally take place on weekend mornings, with additional races on public holidays.

9| Abu Dhabi’s Tradition: Falconry

10 Abu Dhabi’s Traditions You Should Know
This is a traditional Emirati sport practised for more than 2,000 years with skills being passed down through generations. Falconry requires patience and co-operation between the falconer and his bird. By treating his bird gently and with empathy, the falconer gains its trust and obedience. Emirati falconers developed special breeding and rearing methods.

10| Abu Dhabi’s Tradition: Al Sadu

10 Abu Dhabi’s Traditions You Should Know
Al Sadu
This is a traditional form of weaving practised by Bedouin women in rural communities. Traditionally men shear goats and camels, and the wool is cleaned and prepared by the women. The yarn is spun on a drop spindle, then dyed using local plant extracts (such as henna or saffron), and then woven on a floor loom using a warp-faced plain weave.

The traditional colours are black, white, brown, beige and red, with distinctive patterns in the form of narrow bands of geometric designs. The result is colourful products - clothing, camel and horse decorations, Bedouin tents, majlis floor pillows, carpets and mats.

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