Tag Archives: Islam

The More You Know: “Forbidden” Foods

Pork and alcohol. No no, not together (at least not typically), but pork and liquor are the two items that are tough to find here in the UAE due to Muslim beliefs – the UAE is an Islamic country (rulers and all).

I happen to love both, pork and alcohol that is, so I was really worried (#whitegirlproblems) that I wouldnt be able to find them here and would need to have visitors smuggle in bacon and wine 😉 Not the case, thankfully! Here’s a bit of background:

Alcohol in the Gulf

Alcohol rules in the Gulf by country

Alcohol in the gulf is not fully or strictly forbidden, as indicated in the little map above; the rules really vary from country to country. Thankfully, we live in one of the dark green countries and can buy alcohol, meaning we can purchase alcohol at duty free in the airport, in limited liquor stores with a special license, or in hotels.  Phew! We just applied for our liquor license where we essentially had to show proof of our residency, our religion (no Muslims need apply), and our salary – hopefully we should be receiving that in the next few days!

Now some brief background as to why alcohol is haraam (forbidden) in Islam; truly, the abstinence form alcohol is a command from Allah (dictated in the Qur’ran), which is the law that governs Islamic nations, Dubai included. Alcohol is haraam for the reasons you would anticipate (and understandably so): it impairs judgement (and could cloud prayer) and it could be viewed as addictive. To each his own, and while we’re here, I definitely want to respect the rules and customs here in the UAE (though, selfishly I am glad we live in one of those dark green countries!) 🙂

Pork section at the grocery store

Pork section at the grocery store

So that brings me to the other item: pork. Above is a photo that I snapped in the grocery earlier today of the pork section – non-Muslims only! In there, there are the pork lunch meats, pork chops, pork and beans…you name something with even trace amounts of pork in it, you will find it in this section; and each grocery store I’ve encountered here so far has one of these special areas.

As with Jewish law, Islamic law similarly states that “…for the consumption of pork, that the land animal must have split hooves and chew its cud and it cannot have one and not the other…the pig has split hooves but does not chew its cud.” (per Wikipedia). THEREFORE, no pork for Muslims. That’s okay, more bacon for us 🙂 (Side note: turkey bacon is really good!)

So there you have it: two forbidden food/drink items here in Dubai. If you have any interest, you can read more about halal here – the more you know, right? Until next time….



Open Doors; Open Minds

Have you ever either felt like or actually been the overwhelming minority somewhere? Be it gender, race, religion or something else entirely? Dubai, although a very global and multi-cultural city (actually, more so than I have perhaps seen anywhere else in my life thus far), is a predominantly Muslim country. As mentioned in a previous post, the veil for many women here is ubiquitous and at certain times of the day, you can hear the call to prayer either in shopping centers, airport, or faintly from a nearby mosque (approximately noon, 3PM, 6PM and 730PM – I can assure you I am never up/hear the 4:51AM call to prayer).

Given my minority, visitor, and student of continual curiosity status here in Dubai, I wanted to learn more; Barr, our relocation agent, and other expat blogs from Dubai had all encouraged visitors to visit the Sheikh Monhammad bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding (their motto is the title of this post) to gain a bit of knowledge and perspective about Dubai. Obviously, I now wholeheartedly agree or else I wouldn’t be writing this post!

My visit (this time – there are quite a few different tours you can take, and I will be hopefully trying each of them!) included a trip to the Jumeira Mosque, a demonstration and explanation of the prayer, and an overview of the Islamic faith. The guide made a disclaimer from the onset that there were no stupid or offensive questions – she wanted everyone to understand their traditions and beliefs in a pure and honest way. Yall, I really appreciated this openness and candor – she can’t have had some easy questions over the past few years about Islam and Muslims, and to be 100% prepared to kindly and honestly answer anything that may come her way, takes a lot of poise, grace and faith. I’ll give you a little peak into a few things I learned during my time at the mosque, some shots I took (selfie!), and my recommendation, if you’re so inclined, to read No God but God by Reza Aslan (I am only about 1/3 of the way through so far, but have learned so much so far – and he writes non fiction in a very readable manner).

  • There are 5 calls to prayer each day: Fajr: dawn, Dhuhr: noontime, Asr: late afternoon Maghrib: sunset/twilight, Isha’: evening
  • The veil and abaya and how/if you want to wear it, as well as the color, is completely up to you as a woman; typically, this is culturally dictated (by how your ancestors wore theirs, where in the world you practice Islam, etc)
  • The Imam is similar to a priest/rabbi, and calls the prayers and delivers a “talk” at the Friday worship
  • The 5 pillars of Islam are: declaring there is no god by God (monotheism) with Muhammand as God’s messenger, ritual prayer 5 times a day, fasting/self control during Ramadan, charity (giving 2.5% of one’s yearly savings to the needy), and Hajj, which is the pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in a lifetime if you are physically and monetarily able.
  • Mecca is in Saudi Arabia, the black “box” in Mecca is the Kaaba – and there is nothing inside of it – this is where Muslims go on their Hajj
  • Muslims believe in Jesus’ existence as a prophet of God, as well as Adam, Abraham, David, and the like

In other news, we are FINALLY moving into our new apartment today! It was a marathon afternoon of Ikea-ing and packing, but we’re ready – I think? I hope! These past few weeks in hotels has been lovely, but I know Barr and I are both ready to have a place to call “home” again (though no place could really be home without our little furry baby, Dash!) There may be some radio silence until we get internet on Sunday, but until next time…have great weekends!

The beautiful Jumeira Mosque

The beautiful Jumeira Mosque


Our guide explaining the veils – she wore various versions and encouraged us to take pictures


Rocking an abaya and hair scarf (thanks, JCrew – so multi functional!)


I loved the covers and colors of the different Qur’rans

Ikea haul - 1/4 of it anyway

Ikea haul – 1/4 of it anyway!

The fur baby, Dash! Our new place won't be the same without him :)

The fur baby, Dash! Our new place won’t be the same without him 🙂