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The official religion of the UAE is Islam, and the official language is Arabic. Both of these elements are intrinsic to the culture of the national population. The indigenous culture has also been shaped by the Bedouin life style, as well as centuries of fishing, pearling, and sea trade. The country is, however, thoroughly globalized, and other lifestyles, including Western, are readily visible. In most of the main cities, English is the language commonly spoken between different groups, and it is common to see Western dress and ways, including restaurants and fast-food chains, shopping malls, and night clubs.

The UAE celebrates the traditional Islamic holidays, including the feasts following the month of Ramadan and the annual pilgrimage, and the Islamic new year (according to the Hijra calendar) and the al-Isra wa-al-Miraj (the Prophet Muhammad’s night journey and ascension to heaven). One of the most celebrated days marked by the UAE is its National Day of Independence on 2 December, the anniversary of the formation of the federation, in 1971.

The UAE is an open and liberal country in many ways, showing considerable tolerance of other cultures and beliefs. Expatriate groups can follow their own lifestyles, with few restrictions. Non-national special occasions and holidays, such as Christmas and Diwali, are not observed officially but are celebrated by some groups. New Year (according to the Gregorian calendar) is the one non-Islamic holiday observed officially in the UAE. The UAE has a cultural life that combines Emirati traditional heritage and international traditions in arts, music, sport, and entertainment. Local folk dancing, falconry, and horse- and camel-racing are among cherished local arts and sports. The country is becoming an international centre for film festivals, modern art, architecture, and high-profile athletic competitions, making the UAE’s visible culture more open and diverse than that of many other countries in the region.

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