Popular beliefs are an important part of our behavior and character. They’re deep-rooted and we often use them on a daily basis although they are illogical.
We don’t want to eliminate them after we fondly inherited them. This is why many people protect them even though they are irrational. Who hasn’t been to a museum somewhere in the world and saw a painting that reflects a popular belief? Who hasn’t read a popular novel that highlights a culture’s legacy? Or watched a movie or a cartoon that’s based on popular beliefs?
I bring this up today because I am reading an interesting book entitled “Popular beliefs in the UAE.” It was published this year by Emirati researchers Aisha Balkheir and Ibrahim al-Hashemi. They wrote the book together to collect most of our popular beliefs. While reading the book, I realized many of these beliefs have not disappeared.
The book is worth reading because it reminds us of what our predecessors believed in. For example, they believed yawning a lot was a sign of envy, sprinkling salt in the corners of a new house was a must before moving in, noise at the time of sunset is bad because it may lead to grief and that whistling invites snakes.
Who hasn’t been to a museum somewhere in the world and saw a painting that reflects a popular belief? Who hasn’t read a popular novel that highlights a culture’s legacy?Reem Al-Kamali
They also believed in putting kohl on the baby’s eyes so he grows up to have beautiful eyes and that if the baby stutters, it means someone slapped him on the hand and that if someone kissed his hand, he will grow up to be stingy.
When the child’s milk teeth fell out, they’d dump the teeth in the direction of the sun while saying “we’ve given you the donkey’s tooth so grant us the deer’s” in hopes he will grow up to have beautiful tooth.
They also believed popping fingers was a shameful act, that a shoe upside down was a bad luck and that putting henna (natural dye) on the bottom of the foot decreases headaches.
They also thought that if a husband’s stick frequently fell down, it meant his wife was cheating on him, that playing with scissors causes family disputes, that drinking coffee from a broken cup brought poverty, that wearing a gown upside down is bad luck and that sneezing while talking meant honesty.
There are many interesting beliefs that were part of this kind social culture. They’ve now become part of a historical and educational legacy after generations inherited them.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Reem Al-Kamali is an Emirati author and journalist based in the UAE who specializes in history and literature. Her twitter handle is @reemalkamali.