Thursday night in Dubai; far away from the flashy beach parties, bars and restaurants my friends and I were maneuvering our way through the crowded and cavernous expanses of one of Dubai’s most famous malls. Soon we noticed a group of young Emirati women clad in heavily embroidered abayas and towering heels in a heated conversation with a Filipino lady. They seemed angry and their body language was hostile. From the hushed whisperings of the few bystanders we are able to figure out the reason behind all this drama. In this congested corridor, the Filipino lady’s crime was that she happened to bump into the local women!
For the next two to three minutes the gang of affluent youngsters went on a rampage! Charging the poor woman for bumping into them on ‘purpose’ and for living in their country! Just imagine all that fury and rage over something so trivial and trifling. I still cannot get over their pointless and theatrical outburst. Meanwhile the embarrassed and bewildered Filipina continued to apologize repeatedly as she walked away and disappeared into the sea of blasé shoppers.
I’ve read up a bit about how the world perceives Emirati people and there is generous criticism leveled against them for being racist and insensitive but I don’t agree at all. I have met some lovely Emiratis and have gotten to know a few as well. They are loving, sensitive and fun-loving people who acknowledge the contributions of the many other nationalities who have helped make the UAE the Shang-ri-la that it is today. They are largely tolerant and respectful people.
But I do think that there are a considerable number of them (like with any country across the world) that have an acute case of classism with the idea of the Emiratis being a better “class” because they have more money, better lifestyles, more opportunities and can pay for all of these other nationalities to come and work in the UAE and work in they jobs that they would like to sidestep.
It is absolutely true that the UAE is in many ways, a model multicultural nation, where people of varied races and religions live very peacefully. Very few countries in this region of the Arab world or in the entire world actually, can offer the safety, harmony and opportunity the Emirates provide. One would think that in a nation that exposes its people to diverse cultures it would result in its residents being more open-minded, sensitive and understanding – which is true of much of the UAE’s locals.
But then there are incidents like the one I witnessed last night that leaves such a sour taste and so much negativity and reminds us that as human beings we can sometimes be so callous and the most heinous of beings on this planet. In us resides the potential for great good and also great malevolence. It’s really such a pity that far too many times we give into the latter and are indignant towards people and without any real reason at that.