The United Arab Emirates (UAE) constitutes of Umm Al-Qaiwain, Dubai, Ras Al-Khaimah Fujairah, Sharjah, Ajman, and Abu Dhabi. The aforementioned states got united in the 1970.
The Emirates were nomads before the establishment of the oil economy. Initially, these countries were economically, politically, and socially autonomous. They were governed by the same beliefs, and values, thus, they had a common culture. It is also important to mention that, UAE shares some of its cultural values and aspects with some of the Arab countries especially those neighboring them.
The UAE was initially a sparsely populated nation. Later, with the invention of the oil economy, the population increased. The oil economy created job opportunities for many Emiratis and the immigrants. The UAE is also a multi-ethnic community as there are immigrants from other nations such as Bangladesh, America, Iran, India, Philippine and Pakistan just to mention a few.
Family and marriage are the cultural aspects that have changed over the last 10 years. In UAE, family is the core of life, and it is highly respected by both young and old people. It is the source of social security for the sick, elderly and disabled. It also provides economic support for children and the elderly.
Marriage in the Arab society is both a society and a community affair. Marriage is prestigious among the Emiratis. The young men and women are allowed to choose their own spouses. Marriage binds the two families and they help each other in times of need. Marriage is also defined as the way of passage to legal, socially and culturally acceptable relationship. It is also a rite of the passageway to a socially, culturally, and legally acceptable sexual relationship (Rashad et al, 2003).
The Muslim religious beliefs dominate all aspects of Emiratis. Marriage, divorce, economics and politics, as well as personal character are determined by the Islamic laws (Sharia). Islam is the belief that there is only one God and that Prophet Mohammed is his messenger. The Profession of faith, prayer, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage are the five pillars of the Islamic religion. Muslims must adhere to these pillars with great discipline. In addition to this, a Muslim is required to pray five times a day.
Traditionally, marriage and family in the Middle East have been greatly based on the beliefs and values of Islamic religion (Geoff, 2009). Over the last decade, it has been noticed that the younger people experience a change of attitude with regard to the family and marriage system.
In the Arab world, women are defined by their roles as mothers and wives (Mernissi, 1987). According to the UAE demographic survey, the trend has changed. The successful women escape the traditional stereotype because they have found self-satisfaction in other jobs, rather than being wives and daughters. In the past, early marriage was common, but recently the age has tremendously increased.
According to (United Nations, 2004, p.1) in the early 1970s, the percentage of women between the age of 15 and 19 who were married was 57 percent, and by the year 1995, the percentage had dropped to 8 percent. There were few single women in the past. Today, more women are staying single or not getting married at all. The percentage of women aged 35-39 who never married in UAE ranges from 15 percent to 21 percent (United Nations, 2004, p.1)
According to, 2004 UAE demography, the percentage of marriages in which both the husband is uneducated has decreased over the recent decade. In contrast, many couples in Arab world represent similar or higher levels of education compared to their husbands.
“In neighboring countries such as Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon as well as among the Palestinians, less than one-half of recent marriages fit the traditional pattern, in which the husband is more educated compared to the wife” (Mernissi, 1987). Consanguineous marriages were common in the past in Arab societies; however, the trend has changed. The Emiratis are discouraged from marrying non-nationals.
The liberal Muslims are on the rise over the last decade. They link Islamic laws with governance and human rights since they do not fully abide by the Sharia laws (Nigosi, 2004, p.2).
The Arab world, being a technologically advanced nation has employed the use of internet to convey the message of Islam. In the past, there was little access of information because there was little or no internet technology for example the use of loudspeakers to communicate with the Muslims in their houses. The electronic Quran is also accessible, thanks to the technology.
This has led to an increase in Muslim population in UAE as compared to the past.
In addition, there has been use of Muslim organizations to preach the Islamic teachings, for example, the organization of Islamic corporation.
Lastly, few Muslims exercised piety in the past (Harun, n.d, p.1). Over the last decade, piety is more practiced by the Muslims in UAE and all over the world.
According to research done, the dynamic economic and social forces affect the life of a nation’s citizens by a great deal. From the study, it was concluded that media, dynamics labor force, are the major causes of sociocultural changes. It is believed that the family structure was changing at a fast rate and that more was going to happen to the system. In addition, the current leadership has put a lot of emphasis on educating its citizen.
Several learning institutions have been established during the last decade. For example, in Dubai, Zayed University was established in 1998, which admits women nationals from any Arab country. English is the language used as it ensures mutual understanding between lectures and students. The university is well guarded for security purposes, and this encourages young women from other nations to join the campus. Generally, globalization has had great impacts on family and marriage system.
The electronic access of Islamic information is because of the technological advancement in the UAE. The emergence of life style diseases has prompted the UAE population to change its eating habits. The Muslim fraternity has also increased because of the job opportunities in the state. Another reason is that many people from different countries migrate to Dubai to do business or work.
The family and marriage changes that have taken place in UAE have had a great impact on the economy. The women’s economic status has improved greatly (Schvaneveldt and Kerpelman, 2005). It has also led to many women getting education thus, improving their general status in their society. However, it has led to a big generational gap, as brought forward by the ideological differences of old and the younger generations.
These changes have enhanced freedom to worship and people of UAE can express religious views without problems, as long as they do not infringe other people’ rights. However, these changes cause generational gap, especially with the issues introduced by the liberal Muslim. The radical Muslims introduce controversies to the traditional Islamic religion.
Being a culturally diversified region, there is the need to preserve the Arab culture. As earlier mentioned that many people go to UAE for various reasons, the inhabitant’s culture could be endangered. The Arab countries use various methods to preserve their culture.
The support for the arts should be enforced by government institutions like the ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development. Use of oral tradition, storytelling and poetry and written literature should be highly promoted. Performing arts, which entail the theater and television productions, should be also enhanced.
Establishing architectural buildings like mosques that are symbolic to the UAE cultures should also be considered. The children’s socialization should also be considered, as children are the future custodians of the Arab culture. Incorporating cultural aspect of Arab world in the education syllabus and Islam teaching will also help preserve the culture.
Geoff, P. (2009), Experiencing the Emirates. Retrieved September 26, 2011 from http://experiencingtheemirates.blogspot.com/2008/09/uae-law-about-muslims-leaving-faith.html
Harun Y. (n.d). Quran 2:168-169: Learning from the Quran. Retrieved September 26, 2011 from http://www.harunyahya.com/learning14.php
Mernissi, F. (1987). Beyond the veil: male-female in Modern Muslim society. Indiana University Press. Print.
Nigosi, (2004). From Ancient Writings to Sacred Texts. Retrieved September 26, 2011 from http://www.ebay.com/itm/Ancient-Writings-Sacred-Texts-S-A-Nigosi-/300582351280
Rashad, H. et al. (2003). Marriage in the Arab world.’ Washington: Population Reference Bureau. Retrieved September 26, 2011 from http://www.prb.org/pdf05/MarriageInArabWorld_Eng.pdf.
Schvaneveldt, L, and Kerpelman, L. (2005). Generational and cultural changes in family life in the United Arab Emirates: a comparison of mothers and daughters. Journal of Comparative Family Studies.
United Nations. (2004). World Fertility Report 2003. Retrieved September 26, 2011 from http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/worldfertility/Preface_Contents.pdf