Ask Ali About Brand Loyalty

This headline was a cheap way to combine two subjects under one hopefully mercifully short post.

I went to a presentation put on  by an Emirate who is 35 years old, a graduate of FSU and got an MBA from some school in Canada. His occupation in cultural therapy (that is what I call it) for expat businessmen who come here to try to take back some of the petrobucks that have flooded the UAE. The session was called Ask Ali! and it was interactive. Many reasonable questions, and then there was me.

OK Ali, how do you Arabs mange to keep a 3 day growth of beard?

His answer to my impertinent question was “We shave every 3 days”.

This guy was sharp, and funny, and I learned a few things that might help me while I am here. For instance, I asked him “When I see a woman in a beautifully embroidered Aballa, how do I acknowledge that without sounding like I’m coming on to her?”

His answer, shortly put was “Ignore it”  Either she could take it wrong, or her man might be nearby and not appreciate it. It might just be well received, but it is best to  just “Ignore it”.

Those of you who are still stuck on Fox news impressions about Arab life should hear a couple things about Arab women clothing styles.

Yes, it is important to dress respectfully. What that means is that those girls who walk the streets of Bocas in g-string bathing suits and guy nut bags would simply not be tolerated here. Hell, I could not tolerate them in Bocas, it got old fast.

But, back to the locals. The Abbaya thingie that you Fox news watchers think is some sort of prison for Arab women, is really just a tradition. Besides that, they are very cool in the desert heat, and provide the equivalent of SPF 1000.

Women walking behind men…now I have never personally seen that here in the UAE, but Ali says it comes from the Bedouin culture where men walked in front of women in the desert  to scare up the snakes and such. He asked “Don’t cultured men in Europe and America walk on the street side of the sidewalk when they are with a woman  for safety and to keep slush from spraying on your woman?”  I don’y know about you, but I always do.

Anyway, I learned a few valuable things about the culture, the most valuable is that is just that, the culture, not some religious edict.


Now, the brand loyalty thing. Everyone of you will recognize the following three products in an instant. Marketeers and packaging designers have been here before you or I and they have trained us well.

No problem, right?

I did not buy one to show you, but the only can I find just WRONG is Mountain dew in Arabic. Call me prejudiced, but a cracker beverage in Arabic just seems, well, WRONG.

Soon I will post McDonalds in Arabic, likewise Tasty Freeze, and of all things Colonel Sanders. He must be rolling in his grave.

Stay tuned

About forrestwalker

An expat living overseas, traveling with my wife extensively and sharing the experiences with you!.

Posted on April 4, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. First in line startles the snake, disturbs his snakey business endeavors, and so he bites the second person in line. Betcha the Arab fellows figured this out a long time ago! ;^) Mary

  2. Cynthia Dunne

    Mr. Ali can sugar coat it and make excuses all he wants, it’s still wrong the way they treat there women!!!! Get your head out of the sand Ali, this is the 21st century.

  3. In my old home, Panama, women are treated like breeding stock. Pregnant at 14, grandmothers at 30. The men just split and leave the girls to have the babies and somehow feed, clothe and otherwise care for them. Men have babies with as many different women, out of any type of wedlock, as they can, as a point of pride. I do not see any outrage about that, gringos just wink,grin and accept it. OK, this is a stereotype but it is based upon many concrete examples. I also know indigenous men who are true fathers, concerned about the children they have with one woman. But in every such case that I saw, these men were church goers.
    I have yet to see a woman treated like property here in the UAE. I do not live in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia or Yemen. I would accept the possibility that it is different there, BUT, I would not base my opinion upon what the media spins.
    Separate the Arab culture from the Moslem religion. Only 10% of Moslems in the world are Arab, did you know that? Another couple of factoids to ponder…what is the worlds fastest growing religion? Moslem. What is the second largest religion in the USA, Moslem.
    It is a brave new world out there. It is time we learn to live in harmony.


    Barbara Walters, of 20/20, did a story on gender roles in Kabul, Afghanistan, several years before the Afghan conflict She noted that women customarily walked five paces behind their husbands.
    She recently returned to Kabul and observed that women still walk behind their husbands. Despite the overthrow of the oppressive Taliban regime, the women now seem to, and are happy to, maintain the old custom..

    Ms. Walters approached one of the Afghani women and asked, ‘Why do you now seem happy with an old custom that you once tried so desperately to change?’

    The woman looked Ms. Walters straight in the eyes, and without hesitation said, ‘Land Mines.’

    Moral of the story is (no matter what language you speak or where you go): BEHIND EVERY MAN, THERE’S A SMART WOMAN

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