Censorship, PDA, Hand-holding, Nose touching and possibly kissing?

Dubai Travel Blog

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So okay, I had been very fascinated about the Dubai culture (as to not generalize the entire Arab region) since getting here a week and a half ago. My residence is mostly populated by men in a full Thawb/Dishdasha and women in full Abayas. I observed every detail of proper Middle Eastern conduct I read online and from what people have told me before getting to Dubai. I didn’t shake hands until they extended their hand to mine and shook it. I didn’t look at the women to show disrespect nor did I look at the men. I didn’t take photos of men and women in traditional clothing intentionally unless they walked in front of my camera by accident. I avoided those cases so most times I waited until they have passed. I ate Middle Eastern food and liked it, but I didn’t eat with my hands.

Don't know what the ad says, but this is that nose-kissing thing.
They do that over here, but its not like you think. It is very different than just grabbing food with your hands and putting it into their mouths. They have a certain way of eating. I listened to calls to prayer in the early evenings and didn’t make light of it. I did everything to specifications, I thought, and followed the rules. And then I watched TV.

On censorship ��" I was watching a re-run of FRIENDS (for the lack of English channels: CNN, BBC World, & Fox). It was an episode I knew well. As expected, the scenes where Ross & Rachel would have kissed was cut, and the scene just goes right into another scene. Then I was watching a movie on FOX ��" The American President, with Michael Douglas and Annette Benning. There was a scene where clearly he was about to kiss her in the China room and that scene was cut. The next scene spliced in was them pulling away from each other. Then it referenced it on the next scene when Annette Benning’s character was talking to her sister about the kiss. No biggie I thought. Then the movie got more interesting, in the bedroom when they were about to have sex, that scene was cut too, and yet, when Michael Douglas says the F-word, that wasn’t bleeped. I watched more movies to test my theory that you can censor the sex but you don’t have to censor the bad words. The next movie the following night was The Fugitive. Swear words everywhere (F-word, Sh#t, Mother-F, and so on) and none of those were bleeped. Yet the word penis is bleeped (was mentioned in one of the other movies I watched). So I thought, WTF mate…? If you are going to censor one, censor it all.

On PDA ��" clearly this is a good rule in general. There is nothing more annoying than PDA. A more liberal Arab (not in a dishdasha) may walk with his wife holding hands, but not really. He will certainly not kiss her. He will actually walk ahead of her in most cases. I didn’t even see Western expats in these parts do it ��" which is good I thought. Then I saw a jaw dropping scene. I see two men holding hands and walking. Again WTF? With all the rules about PDA and homosexuality (punishable by death) in this region, what made this okay? I didn’t open the conversation but my western expat host told me about the traditions in Dubai. He said that Arab men are allowed to hold hands or put their arms around other men. Clearly was a shock to me.

Then he went on to say that Arabs also kiss on the lips. Not a Dubai thing he said, but a very Riyadh thing. I said I didn’t believe it…then there it was, I was on a Safari tour and our driver ran into some friends of his (I'm guessing) in the Safari. And yes they did it. They actually touched noses and it appears as if they are kissing. And they probably are (who knows). So apparently, they do this as is tradition that you and your friends can kiss/touch nose like that and it is acceptable. I thought the three peck on the cheeks was too much but hey, each is to his own.

So there you have it. Little traditions and restrictions that somehow gets lost in translation. With the many rules in the air, one is always on guard in order to follow through. I know I followed rules so I have nothing to be afraid of. I respected their domain the way I expect them to respect mine. I am still truly fascinated with this culture and I hope to travel to this region again soon and learn more about their ways.

Disclaimer: I didn't take the photo above nor do I take credit for it. It is from a website that explains this Arab culture in detail. www.promoseven.com/new/story3.html. You can go to the webiste if you think I am making this up.

toddster184 says:
Thanks for your post Muna_Poca. Very interesting indeed...Still fascinated by Dubai and the Middle East. My Muslim friends and I are planning on a tour of the Middle East...hopefully soon. I'll let you know if we are ever in the area. ;0)
Posted on: Dec 10, 2011
muna_poca says:
Guys... come on :) ... i am from Dubai .. so a few notes here :

1- Men do not kiss on the lips, what they do is a nose rub goes to the sides . This is a traditional way of showing respect to others. ... and hey, every country has its culture ... nothing wrong with that ..

2- holding hands is a show of gratitude and friendship. it is also a transitional temporary move (as in moving from place to another , holding hands is a suggestion of "let's go there" ) .. in terms of putting the arm on another man shoulder, thats also a show of friendship (only happens between close friends) .. and man, this happens everywhere... so easy now :)

3- we have tones of English channels on TV , i don't know where you stayed but channels like CNN , bbc, mbc and so on are all there

4- in terms of the censorship .. dude u had so much time in hand ;) .. i should check that and report back to you

5- the reference to Arab men walking a head of women. this is a sign of respect in the Emirati culture. it reference back to the old days when men used to walk ahead of their family and women in the desert to block any possible danger that might reveal. this practice remained to this date as it shows care and respect.

6- one of the statements annoyed me a bit: " A more liberal Arab (not in a dishdasha) " .. the term liberal has no relation in no way with what a person is wearing... men wearing dishdasha are educated liberal open minded people who respect the culture - each in his own way.

7- to dahling , this statement : "I guess you have not stumbled across the fact that mothers fondle their infants penis to put them to sleep yet? " is absolutely not true ... and never in my life heard anyone do this here

toddster184 , thank you for your post.. its very interesting to see how people reflect on a city like Dubai. i hope my points cleared some of the thoughts you had and please feel free to drop me a line if u ever to come back.

Posted on: Dec 03, 2011
free08 says:
Learning, indeed it is!
Posted on: Mar 14, 2009
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