What is life like for elderly Emirati people?
Updated on 03 October 2017

The elderly Emirati are the heads of our households. For many Emirati families, there is a chair or space on a carpet we are used to finding an elder member of the family; a grandfather or grandmother. Out of habit they relax in that location and it becomes the axis to which the family gravitates towards, no matter how far they wonder. The elderly are always to be respected, listened to and made to feel they are accompanied in this life and not alone. They are a vast source of traditional knowledge. How are we in 2017 supposed to know how to keep cool if the electricity goes out, except from talking to them? How do we feed a family of six on five dirhams at the end of the month without their practical advice from experience?  How do we understand what are priorities, except from those who lived without much of what we have today? Therefore, some of their children and spouses will either stay living in their parents’ house or bring them to one of theirs. Either way they are the crown jewel of the house; always attended to and beloved.

I will never forget the funniest morning I ever had in Al Ain. My elderly relatives were nearly ninety years old when they passed on, now enjoying their view of the hereafter, but a few years ago, it was quite a different story. Busy and loud, our elderly relatives were the soul of our family. One morning I was sitting in the main majlis building, awaiting family members as they woke.  A car came through the gate and out stepped our grandfathers older brother, who had come from a few streets away, driven by his driver. In his unique voice that seemed to crackle with happiness no matter the subject, he asked me to get his brother quickly. I offered him coffee as is tradition, but no, he only wanted his brother. Off I went to the main house, down to the special, private apartment grandfather enjoyed at the end of the balcony. I could hear his voice reciting poetry; a constant from his lips during his happy mornings but water was pouring out of his room.

In local Arabic mixed with Yasi – the language of the tribe, I told grandfather his brother was waiting for him. Not amused his recitation was interrupted, he said he would go later. While trying to be diplomatic, I explained I had been asked to hurry, so perhaps it was urgent. The source of the flood was a kandoora, the long white national dress of men, had been rinsing in a sink with the faucet left on but the fabric had covered the drain. There was no doubt this was an attempt to take care of his daily tasks himself. With the sink cleared and a maid on her way, I helped him over the water but again he got distracted with something in the main house. Off I ran to alert his brother, they would be together shortly, but I found him asleep snoring in the majlis. Assuming grandfather was on his way, I went to our maternal grandmother’s apartment, who isn’t related to my grandfather, and out of modesty lives on the opposite side of the main house. There she was sitting wondering about her lost camels. I assured her, the camels were no longer lost. They had not been lost for roughly seventy years. Sometimes we needed a driver to call in saying the camels were indeed in their pens, while he was carrying out errands with no connection whatsoever to the camels. Once she was comfortable, I concluded my circle, by going back to the majlis inside the house to get some tea, only to find grandfather napping on the couch, in the completely wrong section of the compound than where his sleeping brother lay. I sat down at his feet thinking, this was a crazy morning, but perfect.

Later in the day, lunch would be served to them, and at least one man from the family would come home from work to eat with grandfather. On a rare day that did not happen, the late afternoon was never as content as it should feel. The elderly should be cared for, but in a respectful way so they still feel as head of the family. Decisions are deferred to them about many subjects. They are to be greeted first by visitors. They are our beloved kings and queens of the compounds you see scattered across the towns and cities.

With thanks to Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. Call 04-3536666 or visit

Share this page!
MORE ON general info

Young Arabs have named the UAE as their top country of choice to live in for the ninth consecutive year.

UAE residents, whose visas expired between 1 March and 11 July, must renew their visas and Emirates IDs before the grace period ends on 10 October.

Dubai property developer Nakheel announced that it has achieved more than AED 1.2 billion from the sales of ready-to-occupy family homes since March, according in a statement released on Monday.

The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) has announced that employment visas can now be issued for vital government and semi-government sectors, including entry permits for domestic workers, in the UAE.

UAE’s national airline, Etihad Airways, has announced that tickets for flights departing from the Abu Dhabi International Airport will include the price of the COVID-19 test, until the end of the year. 

Teachers and administrative staff of private schools in the capital will have to undergo COVID-19 test once in every two weeks, according to authorities. 

Expo 2020 will be hosting a two-day virtual event bringing together renowned figures from the field of space travel and exploration. 

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has begun the installation of solar-powered smart screens at bus stops across the emirate. 

One of Abu Dhabi’s most popular tourist spots, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, reopened to visitors on Sunday, 4 October.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, shared pictures and videos on his Twitter account as he witnessed the installation of the final panel of the Museum of the Future. 

First Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  ... Next Last 
A 'must do' when in Dubai.
The Dubai Fountain was designed by California-based WET, the creators of the Bellagio Fountain in Las Vegas, and is 275 metres long with five circles and two central arcs. Over
Unveiled in February 2010, the Burj Khalifa stands 828 metres high - 320 metres taller than Taipei 101 which held the record since 2004. The Burj Khalifa currently holds seven records, including the highest occupied
Since its opening in December 1999, the Burj Al Arab has been one of the most photographed structures in the world. Sometimes referred to as "the world's most luxurious hotel
The UAE is surrounded by two bodies of water, both offering different diving experiences. Dubai is good for shipwrecks, which are home to Barracuda, Snappers and Jacks, with common
Take a magic carpet ride across rolling red sand dunes, with an amazing bird's eye view of the untouched desert below.
Now that Iris Dubai will be moving back to its Meydan location tonight, 5 October, we can tell you for sure that you wouldn’t be running out of things to do anytime soon.
Dubai’s longest-running comedy night has announced a new lineup for October with three international acts taking the stage at different venues across the city. 
The award-winning actor and comedian will be performing at Dubai Opera on Saturday, 7 November from 8pm onwards, and early bird tickets are available until Monday, 12 October.
As we observe the International Day of Sign Languages today, we’ve rounded up a few places in the UAE that teach sign language, so you can learn a new skill while opening yourself up to a whole new world.
Cricket fans in Dubai have a lot to look forward to now that the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has kicked off in the UAE. So, if you were still wondering where to catch the big matches in Dubai, we’ve found you just the right spots
Are you missing travelling and exploring new places? Even with us being confined to our homes, you can still keep discovering new places through complimentary virtual tours arranged by digital platform Google Arts and Culture.
If you are expecting a quiet month with not much else to do other than some me-time, then think again. The calendar this month is packed full of things for everyone to do. There are things for everyone from music lovers, fitness fans, foodies, art.
Do you love food and more food? Then this is for you. Etisalat Beach Canteen, part of Dubai Food Festival, is back for daily from 8pm onwards until 14 March. The food carnival is on Jumeriah Beach
Top things to do in Dubailand, Motor City, Sport City and Green Community
Top things to do in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT), Emirates Living, Jebel Ali, Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR)
Top things to do in Al Barsha, Barsha Heights and Al Quoz
Top things to do in Downtown Dubai, DIFC, Business Bay, Al Meydan and Dubai Design District
Top things to do in Jumeirah 1,2,3, Beach Road, Al Wasl Road, Umm Suqeim, Al Sufouh, Palm Jumeirah
Top things to do in Sheikh Zayed Road, 2nd of December Street and Al Satwa
Top things to do in Bur Dubai, Karama, Al Mankhool, Al Jaddaf and Oud Metha
Top things to do in Deira, Garhoud and Al Muteena.
Dubai stands in line with cities like Paris, Milan, London and New York, so you can never be bored of this city. There are a million of things to see, try, and taste!
And you won't be disappointed.
Your little ones will thank you.
Discover Dubai
Stay Connected - Drop us your email.