The past decade has been a time of tumult and transition for the Middle East and the Gulf - a time of instability and war in the region but also of unprecedented economic growth and transformation in the Emirates. The population of the region continues to grow at a rapid rate. While in Europe and America less than 20 per cent of residents are under 15, that number is as high as 40 per cent in some Gulf states.
Over the summer we asked teenagers coming of age in the UAE to tell us about their experiences, and today we look at their hopes - and fears - for the future. There are worries that teenagers here share with their peers around the world, fears of the unknown and uncharted. As one young woman wrote, "It's only a matter of time before I leave the security of my home. Every day people around me ask what I plan to do in the future. I really have no idea." But there are other concerns unique to the experience of growing up in one of the fastest-changing societies on earth. One young man wrote of his anxieties about globalisation and the changes it brings, and his fears about "the pace of development of my country", while an expatriate student in Dubai said he wanted to "show people in the West that you can travel to the Middle East without getting blown up by a suicide bomber".
Kritika Arya 17 years old Dubai In a year I will be finishing school, ready to embark into uncharted (at least for me) territory popularly known as college! No one can prepare you for what lies ahead, one can only hope for the best. Millions of teenagers are probably obsessing over the choices they have to make. A decision like this almost always leaves you in excruciating pain. All of a sudden we are expected to be mature young adults sitting for our SATs and waiting to be accepted into college. The SATs themselves seem like Everest but then you add the pressure of college and you have a whole mountain range.
Let's just say that you ace the test and enter college - your problems don't end there. You quickly realise that the life you have become accustomed to is snatched away from you in one fleeting moment. You are suddenly all alone with nothing but your SAT score, a college acceptance letter and the bare necessities. Teenagers do this every day; my parents did it too and they survived, which gives me hope that everything could turn out the way it should.
Charles Rollet 15 years old Dubai As a teenager in Dubai, my hopes and fears for the ever-approaching future have changed from what they would have been had I stayed living in my home country. Of course, I still want to go to Harvard, like everyone does, get rich and get interviewed by Oprah. But I do have a whole new set of hopes and fears aside from the usual clichés. My fears are few. I'm pretty sure I will graduate from high school, so all the rest is temporary. My only real fear is a vision: it takes place 100 years from now, and is of a huge construction site with unfinished skyscrapers lying in the sand, once known by millions but now forgotten. As for hopes, I'd like to show people in the West that you can travel to the Middle East without being blown up by a suicide bomber or run over by a mad camel.
Upasna Chakravarty 15 years old Dubai After completing my first year of high school, I've realised that it's only a matter of time before I leave the security of my home. Every day, people around me ask what I plan to do in the future. I really have no idea. Obviously I hope to be successful in my profession. I wish to be an influential person in society. I hope to have a great family with amazing kids (just like me!). I want the world to be a safer, conflict-free utopia. I wish for changing someone's life. I like to believe that I already am. Money and huge mansions are obvious things I wouldn't mind having. As long as I can be truly happy even if all my wealth disappears, then I will truly have a successful and happy life.
The greatest thing I fear is not being able to achieve all my hopes. I'm scared of not knowing what I want. I'm terrified of losing my goals, and straying from the path to a successful future. I fear the world ending sooner, due to the destruction by mankind. I'm afraid of disappointing the people that I love because they've never let me down.
Marina Khan 13 years old Today I am living a spectacular life without any tension (except for school results). Most of the times I think many things about the future. Actually, I want to be a doctor but apart from that there are many other things in which I want to be victorious. Like, I want to get black belt in kung fu, be the best swimmer in the world and be the best guitarist in the world - there are many other things you can't even think of. Inshallah, may be I will do all that stuff, I really hope. I just hope that I'll be the most successful and the most famous doctor in the whole world. I don't want to rule the world, I just want to be successful, that's all. And last but not least, I want to be an honourable Muslim and a daughter. I just hope that all this happens to me.
Although there are many hopes in my future, there are some fears as well. Sometimes I keep thinking, what if I don't become a swimmer, or a kung fu master or a musician, then what? Starting thinking of that really freaks me out, it gives me goosebumps. But I still hope that all of my dreams don't happen in a negative way, but I think oppositely that my future instead of being dark would be bright. Really bright.
Mehak Alam 19 years old As I look out of my window, I could see no more children playing as there are no open spaces left, no more people walking on the sidewalks because of the pollution. There aren't any more beautiful landscapes left to view. What I could see is myself, caged between the world's tallest buildings. For others these might be wonders, but for me they are a threat. My fear for the future is the pace of development in my country. Instead of the betterment, this overdevelopment is making the country look worse. We are living in a globalised world. What kind of globalisation is it when we don't know what is going on in our own neighbourhood?
Instead of indulging ourselves in making the world a single home, we are deliberately involved in creating our own worlds within it. My hope is to see my country as developed as others. But I hope that while developing, my country doesn't lose its heritage, its culture and overall its natural greenery.
Noar Shuaib 17 years old Al Ain Everyone has different hopes for their future. Dreams of becoming the person they have always wanted to become. As for me, I have no idea of what I want to do with my future. Everyone seems to have theirs planned out. The range of professions to choose from just seems too huge. However, I do have hopes. I've always wished to help others and try to make their world a better place to live in. All these wars around us have taken a great influence on me. It just hurts so badly feeling so helpless that there is nothing I can do to help. I want to be able to change people's lives for the better and make a difference on the face of this earth. Another far-fetched dream is that I would like to find a way to drain all pain and hatred out of this world. Although I know it's impossible, it doesn't hurt to imagine. Along with all this dreaming comes the possibility of failing. My hopes usually seem to end up disappointing me. Later in life I don't want to look back and regret the things I've done. So I'll try to live my life to the extreme and bring out the best in me. Life is all about living the moment, isn't it? So that is exactly what I'll do and I hope it will lead me to the right place.
Jinan Ashraft 14 years old Dubai In the fast-paced life of today, when time flies with four wings rather than two, I aspire to have a reputation of a writer. People think it's just one of those dreams that I would abandon as I age year after year, but I don't live in plain reality. It is said that "All men who have achieved great things have been great dreamers". Despite the fact that I believe in the truth of these words, I am inclined to think that my fear of taking risks is what inhabits my mind at large. Once I put pen to paper, I compare my writing to JK Rowling and shake the idea away.
The future is full of possibilities. But the probability that I will end up the laughing stock at the critics' desk makes me shudder. Often, teenagers such as myself lose all hope and mould into the kind of people who don't realise the beauty of their dreams: pessimists. Most of the time life seems to offer me a lemon; I refuse to make lemonade out of it, fearing that it would taste ghastly. Fear makes me a wimp, and staying a wimp gets me practically nowhere.
When I think of the future, I want to think of it as a roller coaster. It's going to be one heck of a bumpy ride, and at the end, my hair will take after Einstein, and I would be thinking how fear is something to laugh the night away.
Syeda Nawab Fathima 17 years old Abu Dhabi When I was 10 years old I read a story about a girl, Pandora, who lived long ago when the world was caring, loving and sharing. Nobody quarrelled, trees grew everything (even clothes) and everybody was happy. Until Pandora opened the box of troubles, out of which came a swarm of insects carrying the stings of jealousy, conceit, greed, selfishness, hatred and many other evils. Pandora started crying. She knew that now nothing could be done to stop these insects. Once all the insects were out a tiny creature like a fairy came out. She told Pandora that she was Hope. No matter how evil this world gets, when there is Hope no one will cry. This story remains etched in my mind. "Can I make it?" I ask myself when I think about my future. Then my hope fairy tells me, "Let's hope for the best". Everyone tells me that this world is a mean and ugly place, but then I remember that weren't Gandhi, Lincoln, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr and many others like them a part of this world? If they were ready to serve the world without the slightest regret, then why should we fear?
So I believe my future, my dreams will be mine and if someone is mean and ugly, let them be. My picture of the future is too pleasant to be destroyed. As APJ Abdul Kalam says in his book Ignited Minds, "Dream, dream, dream". Dreams transform into thoughts, and thoughts into action.
Megha Karatela 15 years old Abu Dhabi When I think of the future, I think of what I want to be when I become older. A typical high student's hopes would be to go to university and get a job to earn money. Other than educational achievements, I want to learn to be an individual, to become a worthy student, daughter, friend and ultimately a sincere human being. How? I aspire to aid those who are not as fortunate around the world, whether it be because of poverty or any other reason. But the future also brings me fear. The thoughts of the deteriorating environment make me tremble. How will we save our scarce resources for our planet? How will we manage them? We should be thankful for the precious land which we live on and for the water we drink. Another fear which strikes me is when I hear about terror and destruction. This makes me wonder why everyone cannot live peacefully on this wonderful planet. I hope that the earth becomes cleaner and even more beautiful, terror comes to an end and peace spreads everywhere. We can always help make earth a better place for the future.