The History of the U.A.E
In the pre-20th century, the United Arab Emirates was a land of desert that was inhabited by nomadic Bedouin tribes, fishing villages and date farms. The capital Abu Dhabi back then was consisted of thousands palm huts, few coral building and the ruler’s fort. At that time, the Bedouin tribe was the most important constituent of the United Arab Emirates society. They were famous for being independent and resourceful in coming up against the harsh environment they used to live in. They were also known for their generosity and hospitality which continues to be seen up until the modern Emirati population when they have guests.
In the 20th century, Abu Dhabi continued to be one of the poorest emirates, while AL Sharjah was the most populated and powerful. The income of the country relied on the fishing villages, pearling, camel herding and farming in the oasis. However, in the 1930’s the pearl industry was wrecked when the Japanese invented the artificial pearl. This devastated the local population who lost one of the main sources of their earnings. Fortunately, this has changed with the discovery of oil.
In 1939, the first oil concessions were granted by Sheikh Shakhbut Al Nahyan, but the oil was not found until after fourteen years later. In Abu Dhabi, a number of low-rise concrete buildings were constructed and the first paved road was completed in 1961. Sheikh shakhbut was questioning if the oil will last so he was not taking advantage of this the black gold. He did not invest the income in the development of the country and he was caustious when spending it on construction. On the other hand, his brother sheikh Zayed Al Nahayan, thought that this wealth is what will transform the poorest Emirates and make a changing point. The ruling Al Nahayan family decided to replace sheikh shakhbut with sheikh Zayed to carry out his vision that turned Abu Dhabi to one of the richest emirates. On the meantime, Dubai was building its reputation as one of the busiest trading post. That was until it found its own oil, then it started to build reputations in different aspects such as tourism.
In 1971, six of the emirates agreed on a federal constitution for achieving independence as the United Arab Emirates. Those six emirates are Abdu Dhabi, Al Sharjh, Umm Al Qaiwain, Ajman and Fujairah. The United Arab Emirate became independent on the 2nd of December, 1971 and in February, 1971, Ras Al Khaimah and Sheikhdom joined the UAE. Today, the UAE is one of the most open and modern countries in the world that is known for its contemporary buildings and luxurious lifestyle. It is a major international tourist and business center that does not rely solely oil and gas revenues, but also on trade, tourism, real-estate, and construction as major incomes.
Leaving the U.A.E to the U.S. and the challenges faced
There are many reasons that makes people immigrate from their countries to live in the U.S. However, Emiratis rarely immigrate permanently to the U.S. They usually come as tourists or to study at some of the prestigious Universities in order to get back with the best education and experience possible and serve in their country. When I interviewed the two Emiratis, they seem to be very proud of their country and they speak very highly of their leaders. In fact, they cannot wait to have a break from school to get back to it.
Of course, moving to a different country comes with many challenges. One of the main challenges faced by Emiratis is the language barrier. Emiratis’ first mother tongue is Arabic. They learn English in their schools back home but it is difficult when you are required to speak with the language for almost all the day. The second challenge is practicing their religion. Most Emiratis are Muslims. Sometimes it is difficult to find a mosque where they can pray at in comparison to their country where they can find more than two in each neighborhood. The younger students might also be tempted to try new things that are forbidden in Islam. For example, drinking alcohol, pork or going to clubs. Those three things do exist in the U.A.E, however, if religion hasn’t been strong enough to prevent them from drinking, clubbing or eating pork, the family and culture pressure would do so. The third challenged that is faced by Emiratis is missing their family and friends. The Emiratis show no individualism at all. They are a collectivism culture that values family relationships and traditions. In one of the interviews, I have been told that the one that does not care about those relationships is not considered as and Emirati. Another challenge is that some Emiratis are unfamiliar with the local legal processes and its requirements. They might misunderstand the law and as a result get in trouble or go to jail since the U.S has many restricted laws.
Educational experiences in the country
There are two educational systems in the U.A.E which are, Private and governmental. In the private system, the student have seven periods a day and the school start from 8 -3:30 and within this there is a cocurricular class. A period of 45 min where you can go and join any club or thing of your interest. Something where you can develop your own personality or skill. There is a music club, geology club, swimming club… etc. the school tries to integrate the curricular and extracurricular activities. The environment in those private schools are very multi-cultural and the Emirates are outnumbered.
The government system is moving fast forward, it tries to get the best of the best in terms of the curriculum. The students attend seven periods. There is balance between the usage of English and Arabic. All students must identify themselves with a group. They should go clubs where everyone can feel free to join an activity that they are good at. The teaching techniques are still very traditional but there is a vision to change that into a more contemporary method. The minister of education wants to integrate a new system that gets the best of all global experiences however, the Emiratis feel that this would cause some trouble since this might not be culturally fit. In one of the interviews I was given an example that highlights that issue. Ebtisam, A PHD student in USD, tells me about a book that they used to study back home. It is a book that should speak about the history of Emirates and emphasizes on their values and tradition, also the the identity of Emiratis. However, the book says that Emiratis are going to extinct in 2020 and will be seen in exhibits, foreigners have written this book. This is not something that Emiratis want to promote in their national education. “We are not promoting our identity we are promoting the identity of the people that are taking on” says Ebtisam.
For the higher Education, most universities are Americanized. Examples of are United Arab Emirates, one of the highest-ranking universities that is highly westernized and the presidents are American. All courses are in English and there is no usage of Arabic.
When speaking about teachers, I have been told that the teachers are not respected enough in schools and that the student has indirect power that can turn the table against the teacher. That is because the U.A.E. has a tribal system where the teacher fears the students’ parents. The parents have the right to complain about the teacher and the school would do what is necessary to please the parents. If the student complains to the authority, the leaders of the U.A.E might give the school a visit to check on the students as well. For the homework, the teacher gives the student the tasks needed to be done at home and they usually do it together in the next class assigned.
English-language learning is highly important in the U.A.E and most people begin taking English classes in primary school. Private schools often offer bilingual or programs and many universities use English as the language of instruction. Since the U.A.E is a multinational country, English is an absolute necessity that is useful for the working environment. In this country, the Emiratis represent only about ten per cent of the population. The rest is a mix of other nationalities, who use English as a common language and as the international business language.
English presents a number of challenges for Arabic speakers. When teaching English to Arabic speakers, teachers will face many challenges, starting from the completely different writing system to the problems caused by differences in the grammatical systems of English and Arabic. Those challenges are going to addressed in this section.
One is the different alphabet used. In Arabic, the writing starts from the right to the left, and English might look backwards to Arabic speakers. This makes the process of learning very overwhelming to some students. In addition, Arabic does not have upper- and lower-case letters, thus, it is common to find Arabic learners mixing big and small letters within sentences. To help the students overcome this problem, the teacher should give the students more time to practice their writing and reading in class. The second challenge is the different grammar that makes English confusing. There are two grammatical points that Arabic speakers often struggle with, those are the verb ‘to be’ and the present perfect aspect. The verb ‘to be’ is not used as frequently in Arabic as in English. It can be used when talking about the past but is not necessary when describing things in the present.
Examples of such errors are: ‘He happy’* ‘He coming’*
The present perfect confuses the Arabic speakers. It is very common to hear even very competent speakers of English using the present perfect to talk about things that happened at a specific time in the past. For example, ‘I have seen him yesterday’*. The third challenge has to do with the English sounds that are difficult to pronounce. The sound /p/ for example, does not exist in Arabic so it is often to here Arabic speakers pronounce it as /b/. Another common difficulty is consonant clusters where two or more consonants occur together without a vowel sound in between. Arabic speakers tend to add in an extra small vowel sound (a ‘schwa’); for example, *’espeak’ instead of ‘speak’. These pronunciation errors don’t tend to cause major communication problems, however. Misunderstandings can sometimes arise from intonation patterns that can come across to native speakers as rude.
Values and Beliefs
In the U.A.E 89 percent of the country’s residents are noncitizens. Of the citizens, more than 85 percent are Sunni Muslim and an estimated 15 percent or fewer are Shia Muslims. Noncitizen residents predominantly come from South and Southeast Asia, although there are substantial numbers from the Middle East, Europe, Central Asia, and North America. 76 percent of the total population is Muslim, 9 percent is Christian, and 15 percent is “other.”
The world Economic forum’s 2014 Global Gender Gap report has announced the U.A.E. as a leader in gender equality in the region. That is because this country believes that women are equal partners in the society and that they can play a strong role in economy, military and government.
Women enjoy the same legal status as men, along with an access to employment, health, and family welfare facilities. The U.A.E has given leadership to women and day by day the number of female leaders in this country is arising.
The citizens of the U.A.E highly respect their leaders and trust their judgments. The leaders of this country tend to take tours around the country on a daily basis to see if the citizens and residents doing well. They go to their schools, the hospitals and sometimes they enjoy the day between the people in public places even without guards to protect them.
Lunch is the main family meal and is eaten at home at around two o’clock. It usually consists of fish, rice, meat, and a vegetable dish. Many Emiratis eat with the right hand. There are strict Muslim taboos against pork and alcohol, and meat must be slaughtered according to the Islamic halal method.
Emiratis are known for their hospitality and generosity; they feel honored when having guests and socializing with friends and relatives. Guests are welcomed with coffee and fresh dates. Incense is passed around so that guests can catch the fragrance in their headwear. With the immigrant population have come restaurants offering a wide variety of ethnic foods, and fast-food restaurants have also become popular.
The national holiday in the United Arab Emirates is on the 2nd of December. Emiratis celebrate this day in memory of The United Arab Emirate’s flag that was also adopted on 2 December 1971 and hoisted by the first president to formally declare the establishment of the United Arab Emirates as an independent country.
Eid Al-Fitr holiday which consists of 5 days that follow Ramadan month. All Muslims around the world celebrates this holiday. The reason Muslims celebrate this Eid is because it marks the end of Ramadan which is the month that Muslims fast in.
People usually greet one another by saying the Islamic greeting “al salam alikum” which means peace be upon you. Women would say that and give one kiss on each side of the cheek. Men usually greet one another by a nose kiss, which is to knock the noses softly for less than seconds.
Men wear the dishdash also referred to as dish-dasha or even gandoora, gandurah or even tawb or taub (long white robe) and the headscarf (keffiyeh).
Women wear the abaya, a long black robe with a hijab (the head-scarf which covers the neck and part of the head). Some women may add a niqab which cover the mouth and nose and only leaves the eyes exposed.