x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Emirati Life: Getting to know where you are is a duty - and delight - for all

In his last column for Arts&Life, Thamer explains why it's so important to get to know the place you live in, and the people of the country.

When I first approached The National about my discovering the UAE as an Emirati who had mostly lived abroad, I had little notion that the journey would turn into a weekly column. What I had dubbed as a “self-Emiratisation” process was still in its infancy at the time I wrote my first column about experiencing the nation’s 40th anniversary, the event which kick-started my curiosity.

Seeing the UAE’s citizens and residents outwardly and emphatically express their genuine patriotic pride for the nation had me hooked, and started a voyage which I have since shared on a weekly basis.

But like all good things, after more than 50 columns, my Emirati Life contributions are coming to an end.

During the time I have had the pleasure to write these pieces, I have touched on a variety of subjects.

Covering topics such as Emirati majlises, hospitality, travelling, farming, nature and religion have all given me a better perspective on local life in the UAE.

Also aiding in my continued comprehension of UAE life were the more controversial issues of intra-family marriages, racism in the UAE, dangers on the road and gun use in the country. While some experiences offered more insight than others, each played an important part in enhancing my conception of the UAE.

The central and most important theme throughout all my articles has been to find out what Emirati life is and to learn about it; that is what I want to encourage citizens and residents alike to continue to undertake with this last column.

Many UAE expatriates have told me they would love to understand Emirati culture more but feel the chances are limited or nonexistent due to Emiratis being a minority in the country and finding it hard to approach them.

A common perception among these residents is that I have it much easier as an Emirati.

What I tell them is that although my citizenship undoubtedly helps, my different language and culture still makes me an outsider.

In spite of these differences, I found Emirati hospitality and openness second to none. Emirati communities are more than willing to share their traditions and heritage with those who seek it out.

In the past two years my Emirati identity has gone from strength to strength, with the sense of finally finding a community I am happy to be a part of becoming a reality.

But my “self-Emiratisation” development is far from over, as there are endless paths of discovery still waiting. No matter what stage of understanding or discovery of the local culture you are at, I cannot encourage you too strongly to continue or begin this pursuit.

To actively seek a better understanding of the local culture of the country you live in should be the priority of every visitor and traveller.

This endeavour not only enriches the individual with a greater sense of their surroundings – past and present – but also benefits the community as a whole through a stronger bond between its communities.

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


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