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The UAE’s Tribal Society and Traditional Economy Essay (Article)

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Updated: Mar 25th, 2021

In a bid to understand the socio-economic organization of the UAE, one has to study its past. Tribes are distinct, and they only come together in times of general welfare. Marrying from the same family was practiced, and leaders could marry from families of fellow leaders. Married women, after moving from their father’s households, still kept ties with their families. Women controlled socio-economic activities when men were away from home. Cultural practices, such as naming amongst the people of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, were associated with their tribe affiliation. The structure of the region was subject to the tribes who lived there.

People migrated in large numbers from Yemen and Northern Arabia, shifting the Arab tribes to their current location. The use of a common language was a key factor in existence since the region was intolerable and other similar social practices. The long process of adaptation derailed the growth of their economy. The UAE experiences uniform climatic conditions throughout the year, with summer temperatures rising up to 50 degrees, with minimal rains during winter.

Despite the climatic challenges experienced throughout the year, the Emiratis have learned to make the best out of the land for a sustainable economy. The pastoralist communities moved long distances over long periods to graze their camels. The date palm provided fruits, which were important for the survival of the people living in the desert. Even though the supply of dates was not sufficient throughout the year, they enriched the Arabs with vitamins to take them across the desert.

The camels provided the Bedouin with solutions to most of their needs in the desert. The animal is well suited for the desert climate, as it provides transport across terrains were no other means can access. Fishing was another source of livelihood, and it provided food for the tribes. In addition, dried fish was used as fodder for the animals. People living on the Arabian coast mostly benefited from the sale of pearls. Money from pearling improved the socio-economic status of the entire society.

Due to the minimal resources across the desert, mountains, and the coast, nomadism was preferably the best lifestyle in order to benefit the maximum from the meager resources. Overcrowding decreased survival chances for both people and available food sources. This continued movement led to increased intermarriages. Ownership of land in the oases emerged, thus creating class distinction where the Bedouin property owners were at the top of the social structure. The basic pattern of their lives did not change despite the influence in the socio-economic and political dynamics of the UAE. They continued to practice the same religious beliefs, language, ate the same foods, and wore common clothes.

Urbanization emerged as pearling reached a boom. Tribes mixed within the coastal towns, thus leading to intermarriages. However, as the pearl trade flourished, local merchants, who made good money, started seeking political influence on the running of the cities. Most traditional practices still exist today for the sake of the new generation; for instance, camel racing and traditional boating. Heritage villages and museums with ethnological collections are established. These cultural practices are the defining factors for the economy of the UAE. Due to intermarrying, the assimilation of new practices occurs, and thus changing the original beliefs of this society is inevitable.

Works Cited

Heard-Bey, Frauke. “The Tribal Society of the UAE and Its Traditional Economy.” 2001.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "The UAE's Tribal Society and Traditional Economy." March 25, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-uaes-tribal-society-and-traditional-economy/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'The UAE's Tribal Society and Traditional Economy'. 25 March.

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