Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Dispelling myths means getting to know you

Many non-Emirati's hold misconceptions about the UAE's people, the greatest of them being that all Emirati's are rich.

As an Emirati, you rarely hear what non-Emiratis in the country genuinely think of UAE citizens. From fear of offending the natives and suffering some unknown and unjust retribution at the hands of the state, many expatriates opt to hide their negative notions.

But while sporting western clothes with an even more western American accent, thereby assuming the guise of a non-Emirati, I am privy to the many misconceptions some have of citizens.

The most common of these is undoubtedly that all Emiratis are rich. As in all nations, a disparity of wealth among different regions and individuals exists. Abu Dhabi and Dubai, for example, control 83.2 per cent of the UAE's wealth.

Although the less affluent districts are assisted, a quick drive through the northern emirates quickly reveals the discrepancy. I have spoken to struggling Emirati fishermen in Ras Al Khaimah who have difficulties in providing for their families, been approached by an elderly Emirati begging at an Abu Dhabi petrol station and listened to others so far in debt they can't get out.

A study conducted by the Dubai Economic Council found that of the 16.9 per cent of residents considered poor (those who make less than Dh80 a day, or Dh2, 400 a month) 7.2 per cent were Emiratis. The idea that all citizens have more than enough should be dispelled, once and for all.

Another misconception relates to the role of Emirati women in the family and society. Some still believe that UAE women are predominately stay-at-home mums and daughters, subservient to the men of the family. In reality, local women are a cornerstone of the nation's development and aspirations. They are significantly present in the workplace and education system, making up 66 per cent of the public workforce - the UAE boasts the largest number of businesswomen in the region and possesses the highest rate of women in higher education in the world, at 77 per cent. Helping them achieve these great heights is the deep-rooted support and respect they enjoy from Emirati men, the government and society as a whole.

When dressed back in my kandura, a further misreading is made apparent when many expats do not even make eye contact, let alone strike up a conversation with me. This undoubtedly stems from the idea that locals are unapproachable because of a culture or language barrier. This couldn't be further from the truth for many Emiratis, as our people have been living alongside foreigners from across the globe for generations. Through our differences we have not only become familiar with a multicultural setting, but also feel at ease in it. This has also aided in our comprehension of many languages, with many of the older generations able to speak Urdu, Hindi and Farsi and the majority of younger generations being fluent in English.

Many of these false impressions can be dispelled by attempting to learn about the local people and their culture - something one should do in any country. Although the fact that citizens make up less than 20 per cent of the UAE's population can make it arduous, the task of getting to know us is easier than you might think.

Thamer Al Subaihi is a reporter at The National and a returning Emirati who grew up largely in the US.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Thoughtful tailoring at Asudari

The womenswear label Asudari showcased a collection that featured sharp masculine tailoring, but with feminine silhouettes.

Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games.

Designer Lamia Asudari says she was influenced by Delftware ceramics from the 16th century, as well as the imagery of weaponry and artillery. Indeed, pistols, grenades and guns were emblazoned over jackets and dresses.

 Several of Jo Baaklini's pieces featured fruit prints. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: At Starch, watermelon shirts, anyone?

“We need to cultivate our own fashion heroes — our own regional brands,” stressed Fashion Forward’s honcho Bong Guerrero in a press con two weeks ago.

Aptly, the slot for this season’s opening runway show was given to two newbies: Jo Baaklini and Timi Hayek, whose talents were scouted by Starch, a group dedicated to launching emerging Lebanese designers.

Between the two, Mr Baaklini had a stronger showing.

 Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece. Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Jean Louis Sabaji’s debatable debut

Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece, the floral crop top, and the radiant yellow pleated skirt.

But most of the time he went too far. There were bell-bottoms, separates that looked like costumes from The Jetsons, and a yellow dress reminiscent of Bjork’s infamous Oscars swan dress — several disparate elements in one multicoloured, multilayered show.

 Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all.” Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Kage pleases all palates

Did the designers of Kage aim to showcase every type of basic clothing on their latest show?

Because there were skirts, shorts, trousers, off-shoulder tops, short dresses, cocktail dresses, long flowy dresses, spaghetti straps, jackets, hoods — and even pyjamas, which with the incoming summer heat, looked especially appealing.

Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all”, they said in their statement.

 The standout was a grey hooded cape that created a tension between edge and elegance. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Polish, craft (and fur!) at The Emperor 1688

The best show of Day 1 at Fashion Forward was delivered by the three Golkar brothers behind The Emperor 1688.

The coats and capes were the clear winners: they came in all sorts of interesting colours and sizes — and featured exceptionally tailored proportions. There was a lot of volume, but also stiffness.

And whimsy: two favourites were a green double-breasted suit and a blue overcoat with a red clover pattern and gold buttons.

 Midway through Ezra's show, snow started falling from the ceiling. Ian Gavan / Getty Images for Fashion Forward

Fashion Forward: Ezra stuns in snow-covered show

Turns out the Filipino designer Ezra, known for his dreamy couture, still had a few surprises up his sleeve.

Midway through his show, snow started falling from the ceiling.

It created a starkly beautiful atmosphere for his intricately constructed gowns that seemed to be designed for an Ice Queen transported back to the 1950s.

He showed a collection that had a lot of technical firepower behind it: glittering iridescent fabrics paired with head and neckpieces that were moulded and stiffened to stand out in odd angles.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National