Deciding what path to take is no easy task. Ola Salem and Bushra Adel Alkaff al Hashemi talk to eight young Emiratis about their career hopes and aspirations, and shed light on an ambitious generation with deep respect for the past and big dreams for a bright future. As a child, one of the questions you are most frequently asked is what do you want to be when you grow up. Some children and young adults have very fixed notions of training to become something sensibly traditional, such as a doctor or lawyer, while others have more far-fetched hopes of becoming novelists, astronauts or tennis stars. A few have no idea at all. Joseph Heller, the author of Catch-22, said: "When I grow up I want to be a little boy."
In the UAE, which is younger than many readers of this magazine, it is interesting to see how linked to its past the next generation is. In fact, most of the young Emiratis we talked to say they would shun the comfort and luxury of life in the 21st century for the simplicity and tradition of their grandparents' lives. Youth here, in one of the world's younger countries, appears doggedly traditional, citing religion, family and duty as their highest priorities. None said they wanted to be pop stars or ballerinas. They seem a very serious, determined and mature bunch with grounded ambitions (except perhaps for one, who wants to be the Interior Minister, but since his grandfather held that post, maybe it's not so fanciful) that would be the envy of countless young men and women who struggle with choosing a career. M magazine talks to eight young Emiratis, three boys and five girls, to find out who their role models are, how they relate to the past and, most importantly, what they want to be when they grow up.
Alia Mazen Ali Nagi is a 12-year-old Emirati girl with three brothers. She is studying in Abu Dhabi at the Al Reem Model School in grade 7. "I want to be a successful doctor, just like my dad. I want to treat people every day and take away their pain. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak is my role model, she always supports women in the UAE and she has inspired me and motivated me. I enjoy English classes the most and love are swimming and reading.
My favourite place in the Emirates is the Abu Dhabi Corniche because I love the sea, and I love to see how beautiful nature is and to be at peace. I plan to study abroad. It would be good; a new adventure, a new experience. Maybe I will go to France. I also want to learn French insha'Allah in the future. I would love to have lived in the past; these days we are so spoilt. In the past they had to work really hard to get money and so on. The most important thing in my life is my family, and I want to work here when I am older in my country and be close to my family."
Mouza Fares Al Bert is an adventurous 20-year-old studying international business at the HCT in Al Ain. She has three siblings. "I would like to be a success in order to inspire others and motivate them to work towards accomplishing their dreams and aims, maybe in the area of finance. My brother is my role model, as he is the closest person to me and I believe he articulates the real meaning of loving and caring about others as well as respecting humanity. He is a person that lives with pure dignity and transparency. I see him as a leader that has a good and positive influence on my personality as he always supports my thoughts, dreams and values. I don't think that I would be able to do justice, even if I tried, in describing my reasons of considering him as my role model.
My home is my favourite place, as they say; there is no place like home. I like to visit different places such as resorts, theme parks, water parks, malls, those kinds of places. But to me, nothing compares with my house and being surrounded by my family members and my friends. I am relaxed and comfortable there. I enjoy horse riding, swimming, reading, jet skiing, chess, golf and painting. I hope to study abroad to do master's degree in order to experience multiculturalism and to gain more knowledge as well as to become a global citizen. In the future I would like to raise a clever generation, and do any job that I've never experienced before which provides me with more knowledge and enriches me all the while not forgetting the most important things in my life; worshipping God, striving to learn and staying happy and content with myself.
Noor Kamali is a 20-year-old from Al Ain in her third year at the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) where she is studying business. "I would like to set up my own business as it would give me the opportunity to be creative, also to create job opportunities that will support the youth of the UAE and help them to use their skills. Moreover, this would contribute to the growth of the country and its economy.
Our father Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan who once said: "It is my duty as the leader of the young people of this country to encourage them to work and to exert themselves in order to raise their own standards and to be of service to the country. The individual who is healthy and of a sound mind and body but who does not work commits a crime against himself and society." This has encouraged me to work hard and develop myself and work towards creating opportunities for other young people in society.
My grandfather, may he rest in peace, always believed in me when I was younger and was proud of the good grades I got at school. He always told me I need to work hard to reach my dreams and nothing comes easy and always made sure my parents supported me. I love travelling, being introduced to new cultures and different lifestyles. I became president of the student council association at my college recently where I had the opportunity to organise and manage events that helped me develop my skills.
My favourite place in the UAE is Al Ain, it brings me peace of mind and I believe that in the near future Al Ain will be creating many opportunities that will contribute to the economic growth of the Emirates as a whole. I will definitely be doing a master's degree but I have still have not decided whether it should be here or abroad. The experience of travelling gives you a lot of opportunities to develop, but the UAE has a lot to offer too. Once I have achieved my dreams and established my own business and am capable of sharing my experience with others I might look at setting up a training company which would help develop people's skills and knowledge. The most important things in my life are; first and foremost my religion, then my country and family and friends who support me all the way."
Maryam Mohamed Al Qubaisi is a 16-year-old from Al Ain in grade 10 at the Maryam bint Sultan school. She has two sisters. "I want to be an engineer and have my own architectural company. Khalifa tower has really inspired me; we made a miniature model of it out of recycled bottles of water at school. Also my sister is about to graduate in engineering and I would love to be like her. My favourite classes at school are maths and chemistry, because of the teachers who inspire me to love the subjects.
I consider both of my sisters as role models along with my mother and Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid, who took Dubai from nothing to everything. The past seems like a simple but difficult time, there was no electricity and it was hard to get water. Now it is more complicated than before, but easier at the same time. I would like to do my bachelor's degree here and then go abroad to complete a master's degree maybe in Jordan; I went to Jordan last year and fell in love with it. It is very different from here. I hope to accomplish my goals to please my mother and father who has passed away, and to please myself."
Jinan Rashid Zayed Rashid Mohamed Al Zeyoudi is a 13-year-old at the Abu Dhabi International school. She has two sisters. "I want to be an interior designer; I like to decorate things and rooms. I helped my mum to decorate our house. My grandparents would share stories with me about how my dad used to study and how schools were and how hard it was. They would tell me stories about my dad's childhood, which was very different to mine. When they used to go to school, some teachers used to hit them and when they did their homework they had no electricity, they only had candles. I love art and singing and listening to music. The most important thing to me is my family, which is why I love Fujairah; it is my favourite place, because there I can be with all the family. I am originally from there but then we moved to Abu Dhabi."
Maktoum Fares Maktoum al Mazroui is an 11-year-old boy from Abu Dhabi, studying at grade 6 at the Al Rabeea Private school. Maktoum lives in the Al Meshref area, has three brothers and two sisters. "I want to be an officer when I grow up, just like my uncles. When I finish school enshallah, I want to graduate from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in England then to come back and serve my country. The Prophet Mohammed and Sheikh Zayed are my role models because they were both known for their generosity, humility, and people's love of them. I was told a lot about ayam lawal- the olden days by my grandfather Maktoum. He speaks of his days as a child and compares his life to ours; how he used to carry out men's duties at a young age while boys now just go to malls. My grandfather tells us about his father and brothers about their stories when they go hunting in Pakistan. The past was riddled with difficulties like crossing the desert by camel or the sea in ships. I think pearl diving must have been very difficult too; men leaving their families for two months at a time, sometimes three. But if I were to choose between the past, present or future, I would still go for the past. Life was simpler then with less complications. Now we have to deal with traffic, crowded places, and schools. To be a real man, you have to have certain qualities like bravery, honestly, generosity, co-operation, love of people, and humility. You shouldn't associate with any man unless you see in him these qualities. My favourite place is Liwa because I can play on desert bikes with my cousins there. In the summer I collect dates with the Indian workers, we go early and stay for the day and come back at dusk. I liked the Yas circuit and I went to the practice day, and the final day of the race. I think it made UAE well known. When we used to travel abroad and be asked where we are from, people hadn't heard of the UAE, but not any more. My priorities in life are praying, studying the Quraan and learning elbdawa [the life of the Beduoins] from my grandfather"
Sheikh Mubarak Nahyan bin Mubarak al Nahyan is an 11-year-old boy from Abu Dhabi, studying in grade 6 at the Al Rabeea Private School. Mubarak lives in Al Bateen. He has three brothers and five sisters. "I want to be a minister, an interior minister, like my grandfather Mubarak, and work to sustain the country's safety and prosperity. I wear a khandoura and sefra and like the olden days. I love to collect antiques and anything vintage or old I just buy it. My role models in life are the Prophet Mohammed for bringing us to the light, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan for the love of his people, Sayyedna Ali Bin Abi Talib for his strength and for being the fount of all knowledge and my father for I am his son. I am aware of the past from pictures I have seen and heard all the stories we hear from our grandmothers. Life was difficult especially travelling from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi on camels and later by Land Rover before the building of roads here. If I were to choose a time to live in, I would want to see both the past to experience what I have seen in pictures and heard in stories, and the future for all the technological possibilities; will a car ever fly? What will they achieve with computers and mobiles? I don't usually have much free time; after school and homework I go to the Majless every day, and then I either go to my riding or my shooting classes. To be a real man you have to learn from your elders and prove yourself by your actions. I love to visit Al Ain because I can be with my family there and I enjoy the nature and the desert. My prayers, parent's satisfaction and my family are my ultimate priority."
Mohammed Fares al Mazroui is a 10-year-old boy from Abu Dhabi, studying in grade 4 at the Abu Dhabi International School. Mohammed has three brothers and two sisters. "I want to be an architect, like my father, and build houses. There are many new different shapes and buildings coming up, and I want to have my own. Prophet Mohammed, Sheikh Zayed and my father are my role models. I know that my ancestors lived in the desert in Liwa; they bought and sold their livestock, camels and sheep, and lived in tents. My mother says that in the olden days they used to dig holes in the ground to create a well to find water. Air conditioning in the form of a little cool breeze would make them happy. There were a lot of difficulties in the past but I can't imagine how they lived without cars; only travelling with camels or by walking from one place to another. I think a man should imitate his father and grandfather and listen well to the stories of men. My favourite thing is holidaying in Madinat Zayed in Al Garbia with my cousins, in Abu Dhabi I usually stay at home but in the desert I am free to go out as much as I like and visit our neighbours and their farms. I love Valdivia the football player. I support Al Ain football team. The most important thing to me in life is to be like the Prophet Mohammed; to pray, fast, give charity, and when I get older to make my pilgrimage to Mecca."