Understanding Cultural Sensitivity
The world has evolved to the point where every open-minded individual acknowledges and respects the tapestry of diverse cultures that dot its landscape. It makes the world vibrant, interesting, and perpetually engaging. Whether it's trying out a new curry or finding new music, the experience of embracing cultural diversity is a rich resource for learning and growing. The question does arise, however, when exactly does appreciation cross the boundary and become appropriation, specifically; is it offensive for a foreigner to wear a Kandura in the UAE?
Before we get into the heart of this discussion, it is important to clarify that this is just my perspective. Everyone has different viewpoints, and that's what makes such discussions rich and respectful. Ayesha, my wonderful partner, and I have frequently engaged in heated debates on this very topic. She sticks to the conviction that cultural appropriation is somewhat of a misunderstood term. However, we both agree on one point - the importance of respecting differences while celebrating our commonalities.
Respecting The Attire: The Kandura
The Kandura - an ankle-length garment, traditionally white, is a prevalent male attire in the United Arab Emirates. It's a symbol of cultural identity and respect. The Kandura is eloquent in its simplicity and functional in its design, bearing testimony to the elegance of modest attire. Worn with a Ghutra (headscarf), it completes a customary ensemble which most Emirati men adorn on a daily basis. And why wouldn't they? It's suave, it's graceful, and it does a great job keeping you cool in the sweltering desert heat.
Now, I recollect visiting the UAE a few years ago for a business trip. Like a greenhorn globetrotter, I was slightly anxious about respecting the local customs and fit in. I remember walking into one of their traditional Souqs (marketplaces), watching the locals in their Kanduras, and being genuinely intrigued by the attire. It felt strange, yet, there was a sense of respect and uniformity that caught my attention.
Wearing The Kandura: A Cultural Faux Pas?
So, is it really inappropriate for a non-Emirati to wear a Kandura? Well, the answer isn’t that straightforward. Entertaining the thought of wearing one was a nerve-wracking experience, I must say. My mind was teeming with a million questions – from simple ones like "Where do I buy it?" to more pressing concerns like "What if I wear it incorrectly and unintentionally disrespect their customs?"
After a substantial amount of internet searching and inquiries with local vendors and hotel staff, my fears were assuaged. The UAE is an incredibly cosmopolitan country, with a population that is over 80% expatriates. The country has always been welcoming to foreign cultures, and in that same vein, they have been fairly accepting when foreigners adopt elements of theirs.
Having said that, it doesn’t mean one can casually don a Kandura. Effort needs to be invested into understanding the finer nuances of the attire, its traditions and the proper etiquette when wearing it. I was advised to wear it with a sense of respect and understanding for the norms associated with it. This meant maintaining its cleanliness, ensuring it's properly fitted and wearing the Kandura and Ghutra together, as that signifies respect for their cultural traditions.
Wearing The Kandura: A Mark Of Respect?
I wore it. There were awkward moments initially – like getting into the Kandura without mussing up my hair, but those moments felt trivial compared to the sense of connectivity it evoked. I felt embraced by their culture and developed a newfound respect for the Emirati men who wore this attire with such effortless grace. The locals seemed to appreciate my effort too, greeting me with warm smiles and approving nods. From being a hesitant tourist, I was a part of the local crowd - one of them, if only temporarily.
When my son, Zahid, asked if he could wear one on his school’s international day, I encouraged him. It was important for me to teach him about cultural appreciation and to respect and acknowledge different traditions. I shared my experience of wearing a Kandura, and the sense of belonging it provided. Zahid went to school wearing a finely-tailored Kandura, aware of the quiet pride associated with it.
For foreigners considering wearing a Kandura, it's important to remember that this isn't merely an aesthetically pleasing attire; it's a piece of someone's cultural identity. Wear it with understanding, humility, and respect. In doing so, you aren't just adopting a new style; you're also making a statement of cultural appreciation and understanding. Life is too short to live in cultural monochrome. Let's celebrate the vibrant hues with which this world is painted.