Dubai Consumer Mirror

Monday, December 24, 2007

Great Comment by Anonymous: Please read

I don't usually re-post comments, but the one below is a must-read.

It is by an anonymous commenting on a old blog I did on our failure to brand our culture. Copy/pasted as is and without any edits:

I am a western catholic (not much into it though) expat in Dubai so I'm going to give you the non-muslim POV.

I spent the last week wondering. I remember spending Eid in morocco a few years back and it was something else, the spirit was vibrant and you could tell by the way the city atmosphere changed that something big was going on.

Countless neighbors invited me and my friends for teas, meals, even for the sacrifice. We had a wonderful time there, we met countless of people, learned a lot about religion and the kindness of people. And how to kill a sheep.

In Dubai, I heard about it in gulfnews, noticed that most Emiratis where still hanging out at coffee beans and MOE and the mosque weren't much louder than usual.(not that they should, but everything felt like a plain old saturday). Decoration none, aside from the Christmas displays of course.

Oh and funny things, the only e-mail/postcard/oral greetings I received was from a non-muslim German guy trying to "fit into the culture" and wishing happy Eid to his whole address book and from the filipina waitress at the aforementioned coffee beans.

Every time I tried to wish an Happy Eid, in English or in my clumsy Arabic I was received with a blank stare and a little laugher that left me wondering if I totally missed the pronunciation or was off with the date. So I stopped.

As far as a Ramadan is concerned for non-muslim it's just a boring period where you avoid being outside or in public as much as you can. Eat junk food hidden in the crampiest room that was dedicated "for non-muslim" by your company Unless you can afford to eat at one of the "hidden" restaurant of the 5 stars hotel. The upside is the short work day.

As for spirit, It's difficult to feel anything, maybe it's lost between Nakheel and Jumeirah's PR stunt about the biggest tower or the biggest residential units or new villa or the toll gate or the new bridge. I don't know.

I was invited for Iftar/Suhoor by countless of Hotels and Companies myself or my wifes works with but not a single time by an individual.Of course I could have been if I went begging for it at the "Mutual comprehension" (or something) booth that I saw once in a mall, but I really didn't feel like having to ask for it.

People (old timers) told me to prepare some small gifts and candies to give children that would come knocking at the door. A tradition or so I've been told. I didn't see anyone and ate those myself. It was kinda sad.

I had very different experience in Egypt were every other day my coworkers took me for shopping spree of gift basket (dates, oil, sugar, chocolate, ...) that we distributed in the company to the less fortunate than us. (office boys, cleaners, etc..) so they could enjoy a nice Ramadan Iftar without denting their finances. Invitation for Iftar were also flying all over the place, and not a day could pass without having to apologize five or six time because of a prior engagement. And yes, even white catholic expats were organizing Iftar dinners for their friends. Even the huge coptic community there seemed to be enjoying the event and taking part in it.

I was in Kuwait last week and it was mostly identical to Dubai. Big fat Christmas trees everywhere and no sign of Eid or any other Muslim religious holy day coming. And people say Kuwait is supposed to be more conservative. *shrug*

So as kj said it would be great if muslims in Dxb would take their expats co-worker and acquaintance by the hand a let them discover the inner working of a family Iftar dinner or Eid Al Adha lunch.As for the PR and lobby it is badly needed. Maybe internally I don't know but externally that's for sure. Try to put yourself in the shoe I shared with most European (and american are worse off). for a month do not watch any news channel originating from an Arab country. Stick to the BBC, CNN, (and not the "orient" version which has stuff as business middle east and Doha debates). Get the original ones which mostly ignore those countries unless something blows up.

And then just for fun, write down the topic of the news item every time middle east or muslim are mentionned. I can tell you it doesn't look good.

Nowhere to be heard of is Dubai care, the kuwait fund, the red crescent, any other muslim ONG that actually helps people instead of distributing explosive belt. Never is heard the voice of any intellectual or even educated Muslim. Only people grunting in the street, a riffle in one hand, a burning flag, of whichever bad western country of the week, in the other.

Dubai's (was it UAE?) first election last year. Do you think anyone in europe has heard about it? Answers no but here we get news about the French president new love conquest in local papers.

So yes PR, PR, PR. The other, good, face badly needs to be shown. And maybe one day my relatives back home will stop asking me if I am "really sure it's safe to stay in Dubai."

Take care and enjoy the festive season.


  • I lived in Tunis and had the same thoughts about it, but I beleive it is partly due to a cultural difference between North African Arab/Muslims and Khaleejis. Not all Arab/Muslims are the same culturally. Khaleejis may be more conservative, but they also tend to be more private.

    By Anonymous Lulu, at December 25, 2007 at 8:52 AM  

  • This is such a great and honest response, so kudos Anonymous on that!

    It is true, and I think that Dubai and Kuwait are trying their best not to alienate the expat population by focusing on Christmas more than focusing on slaughtering sheep.

    I also find it bewildering that the Arab world (rather, just the Gulf) forbid people from eating in public during Ramadan.

    We do need to wake up the West about our culture because all they see, like Anonymous said, is the bad news they see and several times my expat bosses have reiterated how much they try to convince their families overboard that Dubai is safe and no one with explosive is threatening them

    By Blogger KJ, at December 25, 2007 at 11:28 AM  

  • Very interesting to see it from a totally different point of view...

    Thanks for such an eye opener...

    By Blogger M Kilany, at December 25, 2007 at 4:40 PM  

  • I really appreciate reading this comment but it's sad to hear what I've been fearing - cultural sanitizing for the benefit of Westerners. And we really wonder why other cultures resent our presence and influence in their countries? I hope Dubai has enough cultural uniqueness left to at least partially feel like we're not living in a fancy resort most of the time. I may need to cover up and get my husband to take me and the kids farther afield to experience any real 'arabic' life.
    Thanks for the insight.

    By Anonymous stb expat, at January 14, 2008 at 11:36 PM  

  • I know this is really late, but this is truly a great comment/post.

    I honestly can't say anything more. I just agree with him/her.

    Now i am debating within myself on whether i should repost this on my blog 4 months after the fact :-)

    By Anonymous za3tar, at April 13, 2008 at 1:49 AM  

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