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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dubai - more of a 'salad bowl' than a 'melting pot'

Dubai is a big delicious bowl of salad. And a fusion salad at that. Don't you think? While the term 'melting pot' gets used a lot, it's not a 'melting pot' in the strict sense of the concept, in that there hasn't been an assimilation or intermarriage of ethnicities to the extent that the original cultures have been lost and the culture as a whole has become homogeneous. Far from it. Indeed, that's not really a desirable thing anymore anyway, is it? For me, Dubai is more of a 'salad bowl' of cultures, where individuals, families and ethnic groups are all enticingly mixed together but they each retain their own unique identities, and the rich traditions and wonderful customs that make them special. Indeed, Dubai, or rather, the United Arab Emirates, is one of the most multicultural places I know, where alongside the Emiratis, the Iranians, Lebanese, Egyptians, Syrians, Jordanians, Indians, Pakistanis, Filipinos, Russians, French, British, and so on are all able to maintain their own cultures, eat at their own restaurants, shop for the same groceries they might buy back home, worship in their mosques, temples and churches, shop for their own music etc - and those of us who relish the opportunity to consume other cultures are able to thrive by living in such a cosmopolitan society that is as rich as the best of them (Canada? Australia?) in terms of its cultural diversity.

Pictured? Foreign visitors (from the UK, Europe, Australia and North America) waiting to try home-cooked Emirati food at the Cultural Breakfast at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding in Bastakiya, Dubai. This is one the first things I recommend people do when they visit Dubai - it gives them a great insight into the local culture, religion and people, and goes a long way to breaking down stereotypes and misconceptions.

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