Breaking Dubai Stereotypes
Many expats and tourists never expect Dubai to be such a melting pot where all sorts of cultures blend. To many it comes as a surprise that the local Emirati form only about 10% of the population, and the rest is from all over the world. But, once settled here, we all discover new things about each other, and that’s the beauty of living in Dubai. This blend of cultures and nationalities gave me an idea to start a series of short articles on ethnic groups that live in UAE- their differences, their similarities, and something that makes them unique.
Farsi Is Not Arabic.
I would like to start this series with one of the Dubai expat majorities: people from Iran. An average Western citizen probably does not even know that Iranians are not Arabs, but we, the residents of Dubai, are all familiar with a large group of Persians living here. In fact, if you open the Wikipedia, you will find out that the UAE is now home to half million expats from Iran, most of whom live in Dubai. Also, we know that Iranians speak Farsi, not Arabic, which by some miraculous linguistic fate is more similar to English than to Arabic, even though both Arabic and Farsi share the alphabet. That’s almost all they share, despite the close geographical proximity. Linguistics and history sometimes can have a strange sense of humor.
Indeed, Farsi belongs to Indo-European family while Arabic is a Semitic language, so don’t expect your new acquaintance from Iran to speak Arabic fluently, though many do. I discovered that many Iranians are educated people speaking fluently a few languages, which puts people from the democratic societies to shame. Meanwhile, remember that Iran is a sanctioned country. With no real freedoms and democracies. That’s what they say.
The Cradle of Civilization or the Nose Job Capital of the World?
Not many people also know that Iran is just across the gulf from the UAE so the scary sanctioned monster is being separated from the modern USA supported civilization only by a thin strip of water. However, people in Dubai all know that you can go to Iran on a short holiday and most countries’ citizens can get a visa on arrival. We also know that the beaches in Iran are divine and its rich history and culture make Persia a cradle of civilization.
If history is not something that interests you, Persian carpets will definitely grab your attention. On an average, a real Persian carpet takes anywhere between four to five years to be completed – depending on the detailing and finishing. Each region of Iran produces different threads of history. Kerman carpets are made of carmania wool and produced in South Central Iran. A collectors’ item, they are known for their broad palette, use of natural dyes, and amazing tensile strength. Qom rugs and floor coverings are made in the Qom province of Iran and are quite expensive because of their high quality wool.
And of course everyone knows a very important thing- you must go to Iran to get the very best rhinoplasty, or at least find an Iranian plastic surgeon in Dubai. For some reason, Iranian women all have a nose job done, and if a woman’s nose doesn’t really need a nose job, she will wear a patch on it anyway for a few weeks because having this surgery is prestigious. In fact, Iran was named the nose job capital of the world with seven times more procedure than in the US! White skin and thin Michael Jackson type nose are Persian women “thing”. If your Iranian acquaintance is going to Iran on holiday, be prepared that she will come back with a different nose and a few other minor changes.
Apart from that, Persian women are well-read and modern, and educated and they love the freedom that their new home gives them. Many of them wear hijab but many choose not to, a choice they do not have back home in Iran. Although, based on a popular Instagram profile the Rich Kids of Tehran, Iran is not that bad.
Samovar and Baklava
As for the Iranian food, it’s very similar to Arabic, more similar than the vocabulary. They say Persian food is influenced by Caucasian, Turkish, Levantine, Greek, and Russian cuisines and it’s an exciting experience trying to figure out which dish comes from where (kebab, polow, pirozhki, dolme, salad olivieh, and baqlava).
The meals include hot and cold items with the home cooks laying an emphasis on creating a perfect balance between the two. Yoghurt is a staple item in an Iranian home and many Iranians prefer to make their own dairy products including cheese. Nuts are an important cooking ingredient, especially almonds, walnuts and pistachios – they’re added to not only desserts but also to mains like rice, meats, etc. Of course, there are many Iranian restaurants in Dubai, where you can try the food. Just google Iranian restaurants in Dubai and you will have dozens of places to choose from.
This was just a short summary of all things Iranian in Dubai. I could write more but that would be a too in-depth piece, while my goal is to bring different cultures closer to my readers and leave them wanting for more.