23 October, 2006

Reinforcing the Great Divide

The following news item (copied below in full) illustrates what I see as UAE governmental authorities exasperating the divide between locals and expats:

Aldar Properties will develop a community for middle income UAE nationals, according to WAM. Al Falah city will comprise several villages based around a town centre with shops and civic buildings. The development is expected to have more than 5,000 residential villas of varying size.

Such projects seem to come up in all emirates, but especially Abu Dhabi. Grant it, the government is concerned about the livelihood of nationals. But creating more segregated districts does not seem to be the answer. It suggests that many nationals themselves prefer to live separately from the large numbers of expats or at least this is the wish of the government. Why not introduce mixed developments, even if grants are provided for local residents (including UAE born expats), while non-residents and other expats purchase theirs in full?


marwan said...

Sure, build cheap housing for locals. Y'know, the guys suffering from crippling rents.

There's no point us expats making further connections with each other in a mixed development, we need the locals to join in. But unrealistically, they expect the giant, multicultural, amorphous expat mass to come to them instead. Sure, we'd say. We'd love to. Everytime we move closer though - they move away citing cultural dilution.

Segregation is alive and thriving in the Emirates. Somewhere out there, Rosa Parks is crying.

bartman said...

BD: read Heard-Bey's book on the history or the UAE. In it you will find written evidence of the rulers' desires to segregate the locals from the expats since the 1940s

fellow atheist said...

marwan, I'm not sure what makes Rosa Parks an appropriate name to bring here.

I think it's the government right to enable locals to remain segregated if they so wish. The government however, does not force them to live there.

It is, of course, to the loss of the locals when they don't integrate into the society in their own country. They miss out and their culture never evolves.

blogrosh said...

BD - not all of them prefer to remain grouped within the local community. There are several nationals, some are my very close friends - who do mix with the expat natives and newer expats.

Often, these individuals have had the opportunity to travel abroad, study, live in dorms with folks from other races.

Yes - sadly, there is also the other half, who still chooses to live within their community.

I remember when I was a kid, growing up in Sharjah - some of the national neighbors would bring food whilst breaking fast in Ramadan, however beyond that they seemed sort of shy, conservative and would stay within their homes.

My mom would make her fantastic Christmas cakes and I would take them over to - however, again, that was it - there was no further debate or get together of any sort.

BD said...

I know it makes some sense to segregate so that one's culture is not lost. But while acheiving that one also allows more hostility to fester simply because the two sides never come to know one another.

To offer an anecdote, I was one day sitting in the back of a van with a local beside me--an Omani local in Oman, that is. We chatted. Later that evening he invited me to his home. On another occasion I hired a boat to take me on a long trip off course from a fishing village to the Mutrah corniche. After that unplanned journey the boatsman, an Omani, offered to take me all the way back on the boat to his village to eat with his family. This all happened on a 3-day trip to Oman. In 6 years, however, nothing like this has ever happened in the UAE. I soon found myself facinated with Oman and Omani culture. I even bought a dishdash and wore it. In the UAE I have found very little interest or curiosity about local culture.

marwan said...

Interesting, BD. I too find Omanis to be an exceptionally pleasant bunch to deal with.

I think segregation is an unrealistic goal. Far better to make an effort to protect the local culture, but allow it to evolve naturally.

That's hard though, when it's nigh on impossible to locate representatives of said culture in a social environment.

Anonymous said...

"Somewhere out there, Rosa Parks is crying."


maaa ismak ? roooosa baarks?

pRoUd said...

Oh how pretentious you are. I beg you to come out clearly and put your intentions on the table. Now, if it is the Emirates Palace you want, I'm sure we can arrange a tour for you. Or perhaps Burg Al Arab, our fellows in dubai will surely be able to pull something.

An how presumptuous of you to declare and compare two neighboring cultures and disparage one of them.
I am definite about the Omani's treatment for you, but havent anyone told you? It's the whole gulf region famous for its hospitable attitude and its generosity is known to fly all over the place, unrestricted and unrestrained.

To offer us more insight, i beg you tell what is it you've learnt from the Omani culture? Is it the free ride that got to you, or perhaps the free food? I'm sure its both.

To rest your mind, I have plenty of exposure to westerns, and always treat them as our guests. I know this is true to all locals here. even where language is a barrier (and believe me it is) there seems to be no stoping to the good people of this native land to be generous to their guests, to invite them over and do all sorts of odd things. To offer an anecdote to yours, I remember a western lady infront of me at the cashier in a co-op who was short on a few dirhams and seemed to be stuck. Without thinking I made up the difference and told her it was nothing. She insisted on us going to her home where she wanted to reimburse me, and i refused, they were a few dirhams after all. Anyways, we ended up going my home. I always happen to meet new people when we have guests over, coz they happen to also bring their own guests. we really dont mind that, but would you BD???

Anyhow, to eclipse that I am also not ready to put up with someone who will not respect my culture and values. I once had a friend at school, and invited her home, she came wearing "undecent" clothes by our standards. the shock i veiled. but then she started disrespecting the culture and islam. everyone gaped! I of course could only tolerate her coz she was in my house, but as soon as we were at school I explained to her why what she said was inappropriate and if she insisted on her behaviour that we can only be civil to each other. needless to say, she insisted and i insisted and that was the end. So you see BD, i will also not tolerate being hospitable to someone who will only go and insult me in other ways behind my back, like the bickering I see on this blog. There are few good people out there, it's not hard to know them..

BD said...

I'd like to offer only a few short comments, so as not to get into a long debate. I'll admit that anecdotes can be misleading because they may just as well represent the odd occurance as the norm. But I must add that I encounter countless other expats who share my sentiment about the UAE. The cultural divide that exists cannot be denied--and that is my main point here, that there is this divide which seems to be exasperated by government moves to build exclusive communities for nationals.

I'll also suggest that we are both at fault to a large extent, both the expats and the locals--though I expect you'll find a way to put most of the blame on the ungrateful expat.

fellow atheist said...

proud, oh how generous of you. Look buddy, the generous and hospitable don't sit here and brag about it.

BD's point is simple and yet you have missed it. It's not that locals in the UAE are not 'as generous' or as 'nice' as Omanis. The point is, they are not as available to interact with in order to find out such information.

Don't get too fired up over little things. I know quite a few Emaratis and I can certainly attest that they are just as hospitable as any group of Arabs... and not just to 'western expats'.

marwan said...

I'm waiting for my invitation to these fabled Emirati oasises of hospitality and splendour. The only one I've ever been to is my sponsor's and then, only as far as peeking through the crack in the gate. Just wide enough to slip in the envelopes containing sponsorship fees.

Maybe I should wear a dress; I reckon that'd get me into Proud's house, at least.

blogrosh said...

Proud - I think you misunderstood/misread BD's post. He shares similar sentiments which most expats feel about a large segment of the Emiratis, unfortunately.

I grew up in the UAE and I know several Emirati's who do socialize with expats (and vice versa) - however the majority of them do not. Just look at Sharjah - for the most part most Emirati families live on the outskirts of Sharjah, towards the Airport or Ajman or other suburban locations. How many live, say around the town center or around the corniche or Al Wahda/King Faisal streets?

I am not saying ALL Emirati's are this way. Ahmed, an Emirati, I grew up with is a pilot with Emirates. He visits me if we happen to be in the same cities in Europe. We constantly stay in touch. Every year I visit home for Christmas I visit Ahmed's home. I know his parents, his dad is a man of few words, however he acknowldges me with smile - to me the smile is an immense acknowledgement. The hospitality at his home fills your heart.

I am sure BD is aware of Arabian hospitality - nobody is questioning or challenging the hospitality factor (well for the most part). There are stories on Arabian hospitality I chat with my friends here in NYC. It is harder for newer expat folks to seek & mingle with Emiratis, unless you make friends at work. The Emirati culture is conservative, hence most folks I know head straight for home after work, during weekdays and on weekend to a Emirati friend or relatives homes, for prayers or the mall.

This is not about finding "fault" with any group, but a debate to help identify best ways to know one another.

pRoUd said...

of course, I am wrong, nothing new here.

Blogrosh: Thank you for the clarfication, I did read the post correct the first time. The implication and intention are very clear. It's not about finding fault, But then, we're seeing things from different perspectives i think.

marwan: ur color is screaming at me.

fellow: i simply offered an example to the example given, I could have spoken of what a relative or friend have done, but then words will be twisted...in anycase, i dont need your attestation to what lenghts and heights an Emirati will go to welcome his guests, i know, period.

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

blogrosh said...

"of course, I am wrong, nothing new here."

The "of course" link doesn't work?

marwan said...

"marwan: ur color is screaming at me."

Please to be explaining.

BD said...

One thing I like about the UAE Community Blog is that we do get to interact a bit across cultures here. Even though we do disagree at times and offend one another, wheteher intentionally or not, at least, this is one place we're talking to each other.

fellow atheist said...


I can definitely tell you that you are one of the worst and most arrogant Emiratis I've ever seen (read).

If all Emiratis were like you, I would have packed up and left long before the plane touched down at DXB.

What a cocky bastard.

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