Text source: Joshua Project
Introduction / History
The Arab culture was developed by tribes of nomads and villagers who lived in the Arabian Desert. It was from there that Arab migrations throughout the Middle East and northern Africa began, leading to the expansion of the Arab world. Today, the region is home to a number of different types of Arabs. Gulf Arabs (also known as Saudi Arabs) live primarily along southern edges of the Arabian Desert. They speak Arabiya, or, as it is more commonly known, Gulf Arabic.
All Gulf Arabs in U.A.E., commonly called Emiratis, share a recent Bedouin Heritage, but their lifestyles have changed drastically since the oil boom started in the 1950’s. The Sheiks and their families share the same heritage as all Emiratis, but are extremely wealthy, making their livings in international business or high government positions. Many elements of their material lifestyles are western. The majority of government positions are held by Emiratis. There is also, however, a large segment of Emiratis that are not well off; they have not transitioned as well from their Bedouin heritage, and see construction or service jobs, mostly held by immigrants, as beneath them. Due to a strong welfare system, these Emiratis often don’t work, and do not take advantage of free higher education. The U.A.E. government is actively working to recruit young Emiratis into the workforce. The ruling families of the U.A.E. have done much to share oil wealth; Emiratis have more government benefits (education, wedding payments, retirement, housing, for instance) then almost any other country.
As U.A.E.’s economy boomed, they had to import large numbers of expatriates to build their economy. Only roughly 12% of U.A.E.’s population is Emirati, the rest are from South Asia (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Nepali), other Arab nations, and a smaller percentage from the west. These immigrants do not generally hold citizenship. The South Asians generally work in construction or are domestic laborers; westerners generally hold high paying professional positions. U.A.E. society is one of the most diverse in the world, with workers from over 200 countries. Emiratis work in the oil industry more than any other industry, but the U.A.E. has made great strides in diversifying their economy, so that many Emiratis also work in tourism, manufacturing, international business, the information industry and other careers common in developed countries.
What are their lives like?
drunk fresh or made into yogurt and a kind of butter called ghee. A typical Arab meal consists of a bowl of milk or yogurt, or rice covered with ghee. Round loaves of unleavened bread are also eaten. Dates, which can be found in desert oases, serve as desserts after meals. Meat was traditionally eaten only on occasions such as wedding feasts, special ceremonies, or when entertaining guests. Though Emiratis still value these traditional foods, their diets have become as cosmopolitan as has all Emirati life.
Despite the wealth and western influences, there is also much in Emirati culture, especially social customs and values, that has not changed. In accordance with their Muslim religion, Gulf Arab marriages are typically endogamous, which means that they only marry within a small social circle. Marrying a non-Emirati is still discouraged by the government. Inheritance is patrilineal (passed down from fathers to their sons). Gulf Arab clothing is designed for the harsh desert climate. It is made of lightweight, light-colored fabric and is also loose-fitting, allowing for the circulation of air.
With the influx of immigrants to U.A.E., and the rapid changes in society, Emiratis have felt a strong need to preserve their traditional culture and values. Falconing, camel races and camel beauty contests, and winter camping trips to the desert, as well as regular visits to the desert for those who live on its edge, are national pastimes. Emiratis still have a high value for generosity and hospitality. With the exception of roughly 190,000 Bedouins, no Emiratis continue to live in tents or make their living from camels, sheep or cattle as was the case before the 50’s. Even a good percentage of the Bedouins (Bedu) now live in government settlements.
What are their beliefs?
Half of the Gulf Arab are Shafi'ite Muslim; many are Hanbalite (Wahhabite) Muslim; and the rest are Malikite Muslim. As Muslims, they follow the teachings of the prophet Mohammed. They believe that the only way to God is through following the teachings of their holy book, the Koran. Their religion is one of works based on these five "pillars": (1) A Muslim must affirm that "there is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet." (2) Five times a day he must pray while facing Mecca. (3) He must give an obligatory percentage (very similar to tithes) on an annual basis. (4) He must fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim year. (5) He must try to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his lifetime. Alongside their Islamic faith, wealth and westernization has also gained a role in the lives of many Emiratis. As a nation, U.A.E. has taken a moderate view toward Islam, and pride themselves in their cosmopolitan society, where Hindus, Christians and people of other faiths are permitted to worship.
What are their needs?
A profession of faith in Jesus may cost a person his family, his honor, his job, or even his life. Evangelization of this people group will be challenging due to the nature of the Arabs' lifestyle and belief system. Prayer is the key to reaching them with the Gospel.
Prayer PointsView Arab, Emirati in all countries.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to open the doors of the region to the preaching of the Gospel.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to call people who are willing to go and share the love of Christ with Gulf Arabs.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among Gulf Arabs.
* Pray for completion of Bible translation in this people group's primary language.