There is no single teenage experience that defines the life of young people in the UAE - they have come from many countries and their trajectories in the Emirates vary widely; some are just passing through, a year or two in a new school with new friends; others, even those whose family are expatriates, have called this country home since birth.
We asked teenagers to tell us their perspectives on life as a young person in the UAE. Do adolescents pass their time in Dubai just as they do in other places? When asked about their social lives, the majority of the teenagers cited the mall and the cinema as their favourite places to go with friends. Agata Augulevich told us that she enjoyed the fact that her social life in Dubai was cosmopolitan. Natasha Khan too, wrote that she enjoyed mixing with people from different backgrounds. On the downside, Ahmed Sakr from Dubai, who likes to spend his spare time rapping, complained that fights in the mall are a blight on his social life, while Zerrin D Erdogan wrote that "movies and bumper cars just don't do it for teenagers anymore" and pointed out that pocket money can't keep pace with price rises.
Agata Augulevich 17 years old Dubai I love the social aspect of Dubai because it is so cosmopolitan. With most of the inhabitants being expats, the diversity and open-mindedness of the Dubai population is amazing. Personally, each one of my friends is from a different continent. People are friendly and tolerate all backgrounds and races with minimum discrimination. Wherever teenagers go, they are always treated equally to adults and are not blown off or thought to be inferior to elders. The services, from coffee shops to boutiques to cinemas, are welcoming and are nice places to chill after a day of hard work. There are so many options for outings that are appropriate for us and we take advantage of them wisely.
I think that Dubai is a great place to grow up and spend the adolescent years because it's safe and fun with the appropriate restrictions that still allow teenagers to enjoy this city. It's nice to know that you can have fun without having to be paranoid about your safety. Dubai is like a worldly bubble that protects and spoils its inhabitants with hundreds of activities and places to visit and offers an awesome social life to all students.
Zerrin D Erdogan Abu Dhabi As a student who has lived in Abu Dhabi for two years now, I have often been faced with a question that has led to many weekend debates, "Is it possible to have a good time in Abu Dhabi without going broke?" The reality is that movies and bumper cars just don't do it for most teenagers anymore. Unless you have one of those fake IDs that are increasing in number, you won't be partying or clubbing anytime soon.
How are we, as young adults, expected to maintain acceptable and healthy social lives with average allowances and no job opportunities? I do not mean to sound spoiled and I am not trying to say that allowances should be raised. Clearly, not having enough money is not the issue here in Abu Dhabi but prices around the city are continually increasing and students cannot keep up. Sure, we will soon have our own indoor ski facility, but it isn't opening for business soon. The very popular Hilton Beach Club (Hiltonia) is sometimes the only choice people have when it comes to going to the beach, since being ogled at by obvious onlookers at the public beaches isn't anyone's idea of a good time.
Even though I love this city to pieces, I believe that it is ridiculous for adults to criticise those teenagers out there that graffiti and go to shisha cafes from time to time. Don't expect a 17-year-old to willingly go to summer camp or a 15-year-old to appreciate art at the cultural foundation. Be realistic and try to put yourself in our shoes.
Natasha Khan 16 years old Dubai Having lived in Dubai for 10 years, I have a rough idea of the social life here. My social life has its own personal ups and downs. Firstly, one of the best things about Dubai is the diverse culture. Dubai is multicultural, so as a young person you learn so much about other cultures, nationalities and religions because you have the chance to mix socially with different kinds of people. Another thing I like is that Dubai has such a small community, so you know everyone and are constantly bumping into people in public places. Moving onto the negative things about my social life in Dubai, I think I speak for all teenagers when I say we don't have enough places to "chill". The options are limited and we usually end up at the mall on weekends. The worst part of my social life is never being able to get to a meeting place because of transport. Walking is a great option if you want to get fried in the heat and our parents aren't always present to drop us by car. Even taxis are now being dubbed as "unsafe". To sum it all up, those who are fortunate enough to have a social life in Dubai will find it rewarding with advantages and disadvantages.
Shegufta Reina Alam 16 years old Dubai "Regret for yesterday and fear for tomorrow are the two main tragedies of life" - a quote which sums up the main issue with today's youth. What we don't understand, we fear. And what we fear, we hate. This leads to a dreadfulness for the future and depression when the desired result is not achieved. So the time wasted on grievance of the past and dreadfulness of the future does not give us the opportunity to appreciate reality.
Furthermore, the constant need of getting accepted by peers in the society only adds more to the stress. My biggest fear in this situation is that someday there might be lack of originality. Given the chance, we usually tend to follow the herd. But everyone has the right of expression and that right should be appreciated because when we are afraid, we say we are cautious, but when others are, we call them cowards.
Regardless of the pessimism, the one very important factor that enthrals me the most is that every youngster now has the ability and urge to strive and struggle and accept criticism as it comes by. There is always scope for improvement and youngsters today have a lot of sportsmanship that enables them to understand mistakes and rectify them. To conclude, I will say nothing more than quote, which I hope should make a difference in people's lives. "The art of living is knowing how far to go - then to go a little further."
Ahmed Sakr 14 years old Dubai What I love is that I am a rapper. I like what I do and I like who I am. I really like all my friends, and specially the close ones. I love where I live, because there are a lot of people my age over there. I only have two problems in my life as a teenager, fights and school. Let me tell you what I mean by fights. Every time I head to the mall, there is always a fight over there, and it always has more than two of my friends involved in it. So what do you expect me to do, stand and watch, or get there back and stand with them? There are a lot of haters in Dubai. The fact that I am a rapper, yes, I get a lot of haters because of that. Sometimes they call me or my friends and tell us when they want to fight. A lot of teenagers in the mall fight for fun. They just pick on you and get you when they find you, even if you did not do anything. That is why I have a lot of my teenage friends carrying pocket knives and brace knuckles with them wherever they go.
Now about school. School just sucks for me. I have never met a teenager saying he likes school. All my friends hate school more than anything in the world, just like me. I hate it because of the teachers. Sometimes they just put so much pressure on you with work, and in my school if you get caught doing anything, no matter what it is, you're suspended, even expelled. My friends once got caught play fighting. They got suspended. In a real fight, people get expelled. How could that be? Fights happen every day no matter where you are.
One more thing I do not like about my school is that it is really hard. I don't like going to a hard school like that. I've never been to a school that serious in my entire life. That's my teenage life.