x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

'The dream is here for everyone,' says sheikha

Out of a deeply ingrained Bedouin respect for others the UAE has created its own version of the American dream, says Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi.

Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi.
Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi.

ABU DHABI // Out of a deeply ingrained Bedouin respect for others the UAE has created its own version of the American dream, says Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi. "People talk about the American dream but this here too is a dream," said the Minister of Foreign Trade. "The dream is there for everyone, no matter where you come from."

As the UAE prepared for today's National Day celebrations, Sheikha Lubna spoke about how the UAE had drawn on its Bedouin spirit to build a tolerant, multicultural society. "It's wisdom. Sheikh Zayed is a Bedouin at heart. His soul and mind are Bedouin," she said, referring to the late founder of the nation. The Sheikha recalled life in the early days of the UAE. For her parents, during her childhood, there was not much, even for royalty. People depended heavily on their community.

"Bedouins are nomads so their mutual respect and reciprocity in terms of generosity and kindness towards their neighbours has always been part of their genetic formation," she said. "It's not new. People think we imported strategists to build today's UAE but it's not like that." It is a "tough call" said Sheikha Lubna, embracing so many societies and keeping everyone happy. But the UAE has such a small population it has no other choice.

"We need the contribution of people who come to live here and we are grateful for it," she said. "The UAE has become a global player thanks to the contribution of all of us together." Sheikha Lubna acknowledged people do not move to the UAE to do "spiritual and charity work for us". Instead they move for the personal opportunities available here, and they need to live in a good environment while pursuing them.

"But tomorrow if they have a better opportunity somewhere else they will leave, which means I have to work harder to maintain them and sustain them here," she said. "It's not easy." She spoke of the Arabic word tassameh, which means forgiveness and taking relationships with other people as seriously as those with family. "If you have a dispute you overcome it based on the idea that person is part of you," she said. "The relationship matters more than any differences between you."

Sheikha Lubna said it was up to Emiratis and Arabs in general to ensure that the Arabic language flourished at home rather than waging a fruitless battle against globalisation and its lingua franca, English. "Firstly I think speaking two languages means you are smarter than anyone else," she said. "To me it's a credit. But this is not about the UAE - it's about globalisation, access to satellite TV, music, internet. The internet was led by the English language. You go to China and Malaysia and you find the same things happening."

The new generation can use English to gain access to the rest of the world, but the responsibility to keep Arabic alive rests with everyone, she said. "You can't accuse the schools or accuse the system. A language is spoken from home." @Email:tspender@thenational.ae