By Emma Rawlings Smith.

Cultural homogenisation is a process which is happening across the commercial sectors of Abu Dhabi. As the income of individuals increases so too does the desire to buy the top spec cars and yachts, designer goods and other associated paraphernalia. The transformation or Americanisation of Abu Dhabi can be seen in the malls as Anglo-American firms such as Marks and Spencers, Gap, Next and Zara set up next door to local jewellery, scent and chocolate shops. Ferrari World opened in 2010 on Yas Island, and it certainly will not be the lone transnational theme park to be created in the city.


Abu Dhabi is often seen in the shadows of its larger, brasher, more well-known neighbour Dubai; although it is actually the capital of the United Arab Emirates and the emirate with the largest oil reserves and wealth. Both cities have seen the need to economically diversify and both have focused on the tourism industry. Abu Dhabi has focused on high-end hotels such as Emirates Palace, those interested in Formula 1 at Yas Marina Circuit and those with money. Bringing tourists into the city can be seen as controversial, due to the affect on local cultures. All women in Abu Dhabi should dress respectfully, covering shoulders and knees. However, this does not always happen and the impact of such behaviour is difficult to measure. Whether the cultural acceptability of western dress will alter with time is an unknown. In order to encourage tourism, it is likely that greater tolerance will prevail. The local women will no doubt still continue the tradition of wearing long black abayas and the men their white kanduras.

Female tourists who visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the largest mosque in the UAE, must wear an abaya in order to see inside the beautifully crafted building and walk on the largest carpet in the world.

Although only a fifth of inhabitants of the city are locals, the Arabic language is spoken by many more. Expatriate workers arrive from England, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Philippines with their own native languages, but they also enter from other Arabic speaking GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia and Oman. In the classrooms of the city, children of many languages learn Arabic as non-native speakers. Such an education is invaluable for young people as it gives them both access and understanding of the people and culture of the city they live in. During the 40thAnniversary celebrations of the birth of the nation, my daughter won the hearts of many locals by singing traditional Arabic songs. This behaviour helps our family feel that we have been accepted into this city that we call home.