The Emirates celebrates its 46th anniversary with a sense of togetherness and camaraderie and readies itself to welcome the world. If one had to package the UAE, there would be no hesitation in writing:”Handle with care. Precious cargo.”
For, indeed, that is what it is. A very precious land to live in, one that has, over the past almost five decades made both, residence and visit, a privilege. There are few other countries in the world that have been able to create such a durable equation between the cultural legacies of heritage and history and wed them with exquisite delicacy to the futuristic infrastructures of high technology. The highest standards of living in the world are still bed-rocked in traditionalism. The resultant ambience is not only original it is unique and for this grand, high voltage, melting pot of peoples, a truly wonderful place to live in, to work in and to thrive in.
It may sound clichéd, but a first-time visitor to Dubai would be forgiven for imagining he has been fast-forwarded into a modern-day version of the fabled land of the Arabian Nights. It is a city of surprises, with gleaming skyscrapers of glass, concrete and steel piercing the skies in defiance, its undulating desert dunes manicured green with grass, trees and flowering shrubs, and its beaches of glistening white sand stretching into the azure waters of the Arabian Gulf.
So, well into the second decade of this rapidly passing new century we must ask ourselves what role do expats play, both as individuals and as a vibrant and diverse community. It does not say much for the expat mindset if 72 per cent of the 200 odd nationalities represented in the UAE melting pot are largely unaware of the country or its rich and diverse heritage. If the first-time visitor were to stand on a busy Dubai street, he would see a steady stream of Indians, Pakistanis, Filipinos, Bangladeshis and a smattering of Arabs and Europeans pass by. The percentage of Arabs and Europeans would be a little higher if he were to glance into the cars pausing at the traffic lights. At last count, there were over 200 different nationalities in the emirate, and it is this potpourri of cultures that constitutes its labour force and gives a new meaning to the word ‘cosmopolitan’.
Although we enjoy the delights of living the way we do most of those who are non-citizens continue to live in ethnic enclaves echoing their lifestyle values back home and doing little to imbibe knowledge about the traditions and customs of their adopted home. This is a flaw that has to be corrected. As much as it is a flaw to ‘forget’ that it is an Islamic country and certain norms and courtesies must be followed. If there is an issue it is that far too many of us who are ‘guests’ tend to take undue advantage of the freedoms granted and then are surprised because there are consequences.