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In the formation of the United Arab Emirates relations between Emiratis and the British were close and proved fundamental for the development of the small, emerging oil country.
A good number of amusing stories are told among personages of both countries and one in particular reflects the total ignorance of the British in relation to Muslim culture. It happened in the seventies when business executives were enjoying strong relationships, so mutual invitations between both countries were customary.
On one occasion, as a goodwill gesture, some British executives invited a delegation of Emiratis business managers to spend a few days in London and enjoy the great capital and English hospitality.
On a humid summer night, the hosts organized a surprise dinner party for the distinguished guests and insisted on not ruining their appetites eating something, as there would be plenty of wonderful dishes, especially prepared for them.
The elegant room for the event was nicely decorated and the dishes remained covered with beautiful shiny lids. The head of the Emirati delegation was granted the honor of uncovering the first dish and, in doing so, the surprised dinner was finally shown for the first time. It consisted of -¡oh SURPRISE! – ¡Pork!, food that a Muslim would never eat as it is prohibited by Islam.
People still remember how the catastrophic faux pas enlivened parties and meetings in the UK during those years.
The embarrassing experience should make us reflect on the importance of having prior cultural knowledge when we deal with people from foreign countries.
The story does not mention what happened next.The eagerly awaited and sumptuous dinner was very likely to have ended up in a fast food restaurant on a near corner. The Emiratis were starving to death.
Marcelino Torrecilla N (email@example.com)
Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates ) July, 2015.