Appreciating the local population
Asmaa Al Hameli | February 28, 2013
Today, I have this strong urge to express my gratitude towards the majority of Emiratis.
I must say that Emiratis are the most generous and kind people I have ever met. I am not exaggerating or promoting my compatriots, I am speaking from my journalistic experience at The National.
My profession – journalism – is a diverse field that keeps me busy and entertained in different activities on daily basis. I am sorry if this hurts anyone who has a boring job, but the truth is, I have a lot of freedom in this place. Freedom to pitch my own stories and freedom to go out and interview people.
Interviews and research are sisters of journalism, and they have given me the opportunities to meet and talk to a large number of Emiratis. My first interview with Dr Suaad Al Oraimi, an Emirati sociologist from UAE University was unforgettable. Her nice words still remain with me. When I called her for an interview, she was not fully prepared, however she said, "Because you are an Emirati journalist, it is my obligation to help you, so go ahead with your questions."
This was my first phone interview and I felt awed after hearing those words. At the end of our conversation, she congratulated me for choosing journalism as my profession and wished me the best. Words are indeed powerful.
The UAE lacks Emirati journalists, especially in the English-language press. Every time I tell people I work for an English newspaper, both Emiratis and expatriates get overwhelmed because they want to read our opinions, too.
Two weeks ago, I teamed up with another reporter to write a story about Saeed, a one-year-old child who underwent heart surgery shortly after he was born. We had to go to Baniyas to interview his mother and ask her few questions. I got my driving licence just three months ago and almost every week I get lost in the middle of nowhere, so I warned my colleague to prepare for the adventure and we set out in my car.
As we neared Baniyas, I called the boy's mother more than three times to help us find our way because I got lost. She took all of my calls with politeness and kindness. When I was about to make my fifth call, my colleague said: "Won't she get angry?" I told her we share the same language, culture and religion, so we understand each other.
When we finally arrived at her house, the family did not welcome us as journalists, but as guests. They served us food and drinks and wore smiles on their faces.
I realised that journalism is not just about making sure you file your story on time and fill the newspaper. It also opens the door to meet new people and tell their stories and make an impact on their lives. Sometimes, their stories make a positive difference in your life, too.
Without a doubt, we have some of the most respectful men. One of my colleagues sent me an email a few days ago asking if I knew any Emirati school dropouts. I found a guy through my friend's help and he agreed to do a phone interview. He was very respectful and helpful. He and other men I have interviewed stuck to the topic we were discussing.
I am aware that many expatriates do not get a chance to make Emirati friends or even have a proper conversation with them. It is also difficult to find comprehensive and detailed information about our lifestyle online (Google failed this time). I humbly advice you to approach Emiratis when you get a chance. Do not be afraid; once you achieve that goal, you'll find how friendly and generous most of us are.
Add "make an Emirati friend before you leave the country" into your To-Do list. I wish you all the best.