Tuesday, 7 September 2010

I must have been blind the 13 years I lived in UAE

I am going to let my heart go now and do not care if I offend, because what I say is the truth.
Going back to UAE was a real eye opener for me.
How could I have been so blind to the many things that are so wrong in the country I once loved and thought I would live in until I died.

Maybe it was because of the privileged life I had. I can honestly say virtually all my social circle at that point in time was an Emirati VIP in one way of the other. "O" used to be an ex Minister of Labour, then add a few Shiekhs and government people such as a Director of Civil Defence (now ex) etc etc to the list. I was kind of oblivious to the things there that in other countries would be classed as corruption and a violation of human rights.

I used to sit daily and watch "O" help so many people who all wanted "Wasta" in one form or the other. When I first arrived in UAE I used to recieve endless calls from people looking for him to help them, it used to drive me mad.
"O" once told me that when he was Minister of Labour and his close friend "A" was Minister of Immigration that they were treated like Kings by the expat community and locals alike. Without Labour and Immigration you could not really do anything in UAE. Even when he left that position and became something else (which I cant really mention), people still continued to ask him to cut corners and do things for them that had been refused by the powers that be.

In my 13 years in UAE I never once used my connections to benefit myself. "O" was adament that I did everything the right way. When I went to take my driving test he told me all he had to do was arrange it so I passed even if my driving was totally crap, but he refused to do that. He said I had to sit the test like anyone else and if I failed I had to try again. I did fail first time but when I passed the second time I knew I had done it on my own merits without any "Wasta" or backdoor dealings.

So like "O" I detest people that try to use "Wasta" to get what they want and even worse is people who brag that they got something via "Wasta". To me using "Wasta" is nothing more than corruption. Sorry but that is my personal opinion. And it still continues today and I saw some of it while I was there this time, but instead of being annoyed like I was when I lived there, I actually found it totally disgusted me this time.

If "O" was still alive today I know he would have helped my husbands family get their UAE Nationality and get their UAE passports back, he would have done it because he had the connections and power to do it and because he would have felt they had been badly treated. I would have never asked him but he would have done it for them because of me. But because my husbands family do not have a connection to "Wasta" in the UAE, they continue to suffer. Some may ask, if "O" disliked people who asked him to use "Wasta" then why did he do it? He did it because that was what was expected of him, his reputation ment a lot to him, but I know what he really thought of each and everyone of the people he helped and its too rude to say here.

My husbands family are Palestinian, they have lived in UAE about 40 years. They were UAE locals for many years, had the UAE passport. The late Sheikh of Sharjah even gave my father-in-law a large piece of land where the large family house was built. But all of a sudden my in-laws along with many others who had been given UAE passport, ended up stateless. The government refused to renew their UAE passports and hundreds like them ended up stateless with no Passport except an expired UAE one. What country gives something to someone and then takes it away for no reason other than they decided to just stop renewing it. Thus leaving hundreds of families without the ability to travel or to lead a normal life?
Every year they are told "Yes we will renew, just wait" but each year these promises fail to materialise.
My husband got sick of being unable to travel or being treated like a second class citizen because his status was "No Passport", that he handed back his expired one and applied for a Palestinian one even though he can never go to Palestine thanks to the Isreali government. It was the only way he could leave UAE to come to UK to study at University. Now his brother who is a very high up manager in a well known UAE company has just handed his back and applied for a Palestinian one because he wants more for his family and hopes to eventually emigrate abroad. Now he no longer holds an expired UAE passport his salary has had 8,000 dirhams a month knocked off it because he is no longer classed as local and because he now holds a Palestinian passport. IS THIS FAIR, damn right its not fair, its disgusting. In UK we do not judge you, pay you different salaries or treat you differently in a job, because of the passport/nationality you hold.

However the Palestinian family next door to my in-laws licked some butt, used "Wasta" and they had their UAE passports renewed and are now fully fledged UAE nationals. So this is another BIG reason why "Wasta" is so very very wrong.

The other thing I really noticed in UAE was the way Asians are treated. I always knew it went on but it never affected me, my life was such that I really had no time or desire to notice. But being back in the UK for the past 6 years I really noticed it on my trip back.
For a start, the terrible salaries they are paid. Please dont use the excuse that 300dirhams in India is worth a lot to them. How can some companies pay their staff so little because they do not hold something like a UK or USA passport.
My brother-in-laws office boy gets paid just 300 dirhams a month for a 45 hour week. That is slavery..
UAE needs to remember that the country was built by these poor Asian people by their blood, sweat and tears, yet they are looked down on with distate, treated like dogs and thought of as such especially by the western expats.
I remember a British woman told me that she sat next to someone in her office who did exactly the same job as her yet the Brit womans salary was 12,000 dirhams a month and the Indian womans salary was just 1,200 dirhams per month. The Brit got a one bedroomed apartment fully furnished and the Indian got bedspace in a grotty apartment in Karama with a ton of other women. I am guessing this situation still exists and its wrong.

The lack of health and safety...I almost screamed when I saw the dangerous conditions the construction workers were working in when we drove along the Dubai/Sharjah Road, metal poles sticking out of a 20th floor window hole with planks of wood to stand on, as the workers balanced dangerously finishing building an apartment block. Do the powers that be not care that these poor workers could plummet to their death at any moment, that the workers need proper scaffolding and harnesses to keep them safe. I did not drive past one building being built that would have met proper health and safety regulations.

Now let me think of some things in UAE that really made me laugh out loud.
Ok when I lived there I wore Hijab, I also wore traditional Emirati dress. Back in those days the Abaya and Shayla was simple. Of course we wore them with decoration such as crystals, tassles etc, but it was simple.
I actually cried with laughter when I saw some of the outfits on display in the shopping malls. What is it with those hideous growth things women now wear under their shayla. Ok if kept at a reasonable size, they look ok, but one woman walked past me and it looked like she had a parking cone on top of her head. It looked STUPID. Also her abaya was flapping open and she looked like a 2dirham hooker underneath it. She was wearing the most revealing outfit you can imagine and not bothered in the slightest that as she walked everyone got an eyeful.

The next thing I found so annoying was the western women dressed in pretty abaya's and shayla's, their eyes caked in Kohl, who sat in coffee shops talking as loud as possible and then whipping off their shayla's and shaking out their freshly washed and blow dryed hair if a group of UAE local men sat near them. What they heck are they doing bothering to cover their hair for and then whipping it off for the attention factor when men sat near them. I witnessed this a few times and my sister-in-laws and I used to sit and joke about it as it was just so obvious these women were "wannabe local wives".

When I left UAE my heart literaly broke in half, I have been unable to watch anything about UAE on the TV since I left, as the pain of leaving was so bad. But this trip back has stopped that pain, I no longer have a longing to return. Things are so different now, its no longer the beautiful UAE I remember with the simple life style. Virtually all the old stuff has gone, in its place is all the trappings and ugliness of the western world.
When I lived there the main western expat community was British...now it is full to the brim of just about every nationality. Maybe to those that have only been there since 2004 and onwards, my post will not make sense, but those like me who moved out to UAE 20 years ago and before will know what I am talking about, regarding the changes.
I no longer wish to return to UAE to live, my home now is UK, where human rights reign, where health and safety matter, where you are paid a salary based on the job you do not the passport you hold, that if you are granted citizenship it wont be taken away from you unless your caught spying and putting the countries security at risk. Where the UK citizen is not treated more highly than anyone else who has rights to live and work in the UK.

Also why is everyone (female) so obssessed with finding themselves a local husband??, is it that they believe the myth that all locals are amazingly rich (and that is the reason they want one). I know this to be totally untrue, many live the life of a rich man but in reality have so much debt they probably find it hard to sleep at night. I have seen in the past so many ads by women on muslims matrimonial sites specifically stating they want UAE man only. Most I bet have never even set foot in the UAE. I have even seen Christian women advertising putting their ideal match as UAE local. As for women already married to locals who boast that everyone is jelous of them. NO NO NO, please get over yourself, only the shallow minded who are looking for the glitzy life they believe they will have, will be jelous of you.
HOWEVER
Most expat women already married to locals fell in love at college or university or out and about in the host country the locals were studying/visiting, they did not go out and specifically search for a local, did not advertise somewhere for a local man only, they met under normal circumstances, fell in love and got married, it did not matter to them if they were UAE local or from Planet Zongo. They gave up their home country and life because of real love, not because they saw a program on UAE and thought "Oh yes, I'll find myself one of them".

I had a wonderful life in UAE, I saw the most amazing things, was priviledged to experience things most expats would never get a chance to see or do. I met some amazing people, but sadly I was blinded to some of the not so good things. I left just at the right time, I left as change began to take place. My memories of UAE are of the real UAE, not the plastic city version. Dont get me wrong, I love the UAE people, the person I loved more than I have ever loved anyone "O" was Emirati but I just do not agree or accept the lack of human rights and the corruption that continues to go on there and in my opinion it is totally Haram and very unislamic.

Going back was the best thing I ever did, it let me heart finally be at peace as the love for the old UAE will always remain but the new UAE only leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

The longing to return and the tears of being forced to leave have now left me. I have my memories that no one can take away from me and that is how I will always remember UAE. The evenings of driving off the Dubai/Sharjah road to fish when there were no apartment buildings at all...my weekends in Fujeriah and Kalba where one of the the only hotels was the Hilton, virtually empty at weekends except for the odd German tourist group. Of only really finding western expats (virtually all British) in Jumeriah. Evenings at the Country Club, Offshore Sailing Club, Aviation Club which were virtually empty most nights except for a few Brits and a handful of locals. I also remember a time when one of the only hotels in Jumeriah was the Chicargo Beach Hotel which I used to visit daily. The beach was empty, I loved it. Nightclubs were virtually non existant unlike today where its a haven for people who think the only way to enjoy is to get totally blasted with as little on as possible.

I dont know when I will return again, maybe next year, but only to visit my in-laws, if they were not there I doubt I would ever choose to go back again.

10 comments:

Hijabis On Ranting Tour. said...

Hey well im saudi (my dads side) and Somali my mothers side, and my grandmother is emirati so i could say im a quarter emirati born in the UAE,never considered a national but i didnt mind i also came to the same conclusions as you about the unjustice and you were not offensive at all the goverment needs 2 review these things you can read my post at http://somalianarab.blogspot.com/2010/08/home-is-where-heart-is.html i grew up in the Uk and somethings "back home" shock me i love this country for its respect of all nationalities
take care
xx
naz May allah hep ur husbands family in my duas :)

My Sky said...

I'm not offended,, I'm only hurt. Not because you have brought up ugly facts about my land that I'm fully aware of, but because I know that we have lost a lot. I can't bear remembering anything from the past, I don't look at old photographs nor do I join such conversations. Instead I silently withdraw because it's honestly too much for me to handle. All the changes you have mentioned, from development to people and morals. A friend always tells me "don't be sad because it's gone, be happy because it happened". Places are no longer the same, people have changed... While I'm living on my land holding on to morals and traditions that once made the Emarati identity .
Um Imane, you have a wonderful blog... You keep reminding me of days that almost seem like a dream! .. and that what hurts me the most... almost a dream :(

Imanes Mama said...

My Sky
I am sorry if it made you sad, and your sentiments are the same that I have heared from many Emirati's. Your right that those old days just seem like a beautiful dream these days.

Thank you Naz
I will have a read of the link you sent me.

UmmKhaled said...

Aww I am happy you stared blogging again... I totally agree. I am a Canadian married to a local Emirati. And true...we met here in Canada while he was studying 10 years ago and he is still here studying. First time I went was in 2003 with our toddler son, I didn't know what was this UAE place and really knew NOTHING about it, never even heared of it. Nothing. I was in culture shock but it was still different than today. And I did not meet his family at the time but I was in a dream bubble for 7 YEARS...UAE UAE UAEEEEE is all I wanted and though of. But I went again in 2007 after meeting the family and have been back 3 times for long periods of time. 2 months, 2 months, 4.5 months...and before that my inlaws came here for 2 months. But after becoming Muslim and then going back. I see it totally different. But my hubby is from Al Ain and it is still very conservative...I do love AD though. It really has changed...my husband who is Emirati himself...he HATES DUbai...really hates it...hates driving there...going there...everything. But we do go for some things. I will move there anytime from now until June...I got sick of it while I was there for 4.5 months...I was ready to come back to Canada...I have been here 2 months and I wanna go back. I do love it! I love the lifestyle. Some things I don't like but one thing I hate the MOST is how they are so materialistic...selfish...they are jealous and wish the worst for others...you can tell...they ask ask ask about you but NEVER ever talk about their personal lives...I do love the shayla and abayyas...I doHATE the thing on the top of the head...a little one is fine but soem are laughable! JUST ridiculous! But I love having a maid...hate the way THEY think of the maids...I treat mine good but they do take advantage. Ahhh I could say so much! I should write all my experiences and share my pics but I just don't want THEM to come across it...but I tell ya..I could write a BOOK! LOL

Imanes Mama said...

Thanks Umm Khaled
I am so glad I am not the only one who feels as they do.
I love Al Ain, I am told its hardly changed since I left UAE.
Good luck when you move there btw and I totally agree with your hubby about Dubai. I especially hated the metro, its made Dubai look something out of a SyFi film lol.

UmmKhaled said...

Ohhh yes Al Ain is the same...hardly changed...people didn't change. It is the same since 2003 but now they have a really nice mall I am thankful for...it is called Bawadi Mall and I love it! Got to have something to do in the heat besides staying home :) I actually moved there..stayed for 45 months and then decided to move back here for a bit and then go back because I would have been there alone with the kids and my husband here in Canada...and only see him for 2 weeks every 3-3 months and for 1 year I cold not imagine with 3 kids! So I came back last minute decision :) Good thing because I gained 23 pounds while I was there LOL!

UmmKhaled said...

I mean 4.5 months!

Imanes Mama said...

I put on tons of weight while there also.
I blamed it on the traditional emirati dresses I used to wear lol. It used to hide all the extra weight and I never really realised how big I got until I put some western clothes on and looked at my behind in the mirror.

But the bad habit of eating and then having a nice lil sleep which is part of life there also did not help with the weight gain.

UmmKhaled said...

Yes the jalabiyas they can help you creep on pounds...I ate way too much sweets and sweetened coffee and tea! And the cocktails which I miss! My fave is avocado! Ohhhhhh I love it...I miss it and I can't wait to go back after I lose this weight! Yikes!

Bradly Jones said...

Lovely blog. Travelling has always been my passion and dream. Haven't been here. Yet. Although I am a big fan of the UAE, I feel out-dated when reading interesting posts like this.




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