When I lived there I took life for what it was, it was not always easy and because virtually my entire time there was spent with the Emirati people I got to experience what I like to call the real Emirati life. Looking back now I had quite a privileged life, virtually everyone I knew was a government VIP or something similar, but that had no importance to me, I did not even think anything of it. To me they were just friends who treated me kindly, and who created wonderful memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life and never once back then did I open my mouth and boast about who I knew or use any of my friends to break the rules of UAE and get me things I wanted or to sort something out much faster than the procedure set in place by the UAE government. To do that just never entered my head.
My late partner Omran used to be the Minister of Labour (before I came out to UAE) and one of his best friends Ali was the Minister of Immigration at the same time. Without labour and immigration you just could not function in UAE as an expat. So you can imagine how popular O and A were back then. Omran told me many people befriended him and then later expected him to use "Wasta" to get them what they wanted.
Omran always told me to never use Wasta to get something done governement or legal wise, he told me to always stick by the rules of the country and wait to get things done in the proper time, to not show to others that you know people of importance and can break the rules because of who you know. He also once told me that even some of his own people claimed to be more important than they really were but in reality no one had any real power unless they were the rulers and the others that used who they knew to break the rules were just idiots who liked to pretend they were something of importance.
I remember a conversation with Omran when I failed my first driving test in UAE, he told me "I can go now and get your license without you re-sitting your driving test, you know the chief of police and he knows of you, but why should you not have to sit your test because your know people who can break the rules if asked when others do not and have to re-sit 4, 5 or 6 times?, what makes you more special than them? Because you know people of importance? I can do it now loulou, but I want you to hold your head high when you decide to leave UAE and know everything you did you did it the right way and did not abuse the power fo the people around you". His words stayed with me my entire time in UAE.
Let me give you a couple of examples of how Wasta is used in the incorrect way.
- A woman who is married to a local of a Gulf country ends her marraige for whatever valid reasons and then goes to court and ends up loosing her child even though she plans to stay in the Gulf. The child is a baby, according the the law of Islam that child should stay with its mother. Yet the judge goes totally against Islam and gives full rights to its father. How so??? I am 100% sure because of Wasta. Because he knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone who could swing it in his favour despite what Islam says. Thats is wrong 100%
- A family from Palestine who have lived in the Gulf and UAE most of their life, who were given UAE passport for years, then someone changed the rules and thousands did not have their passport renewed thus leaving them stateless. This particular head of the family had contacts years ago even one of his best friends being the ruler of one of the emirates. That ruler died, as did most of his contacts and he was left with no one to help him. However the Palestinian neighbour next door, in UAE half the length of time did have a contact, who knew someone, who knew someone, who used Wasta to get the passport back for the family. How is that fair??? Its wrong 100%.
Using Wasta to break the rules set by a government in my opinion is nothing but corruption unless its used to reverse a decision initially made using Wasta ie: if the mother of a lost child used Wasta to get the corrupted court order reversed to get her child back.
We all complain about the corrupt leaders of Islamic countries such as Syria, Egypt and Libya, but if you like to get your stuff done outside of the rules set by the governement because of who you know, then your using corruption to break the law/rules even if its something as simple as getting your visa fines removed because it was your fault you overstayed.So in all the years I lived there never once did I rush through my visa, get my driving license without sitting my test or anything else that made life easier because I knew people who could get it done for me, and I am very proud of that. I am also proud of the fact that when my life changed and became like hell and I was faced with having to run away because of my baby daughter I never once went to anyone I knew and asked for help especially financially and despite coming back to UK to zero and not even a place to sleep that night, I can hold my head high and say I never abused or used a friendship in all those years.
End of Wasta rant lol.
One of my favorite things to do in UAE was go into the mountains of Fujeriah and Dibba in long convoys of 4x4's loaded up with wood and mountains of spiced chicken and lamb and we would all sit in the moonlight in the dirt, rocks and sand and BBQ all night, listen to friends recite poetry, play oud and drums and sing until the sun began to rise. I was not into shopping and buying luxury goods or dressing up and trying to impress people at mundane parties. I liked to be out there in the natural expances of UAE doing all the things I would not normally do in UK.
Omran's cousin H, taught me how to hunt with falcons one weekend, he used to train Sheikh Zayed's falcons years ago and travelled with him when he went hunting so he had immense experience and knowledge. I loved going into the desert and hunting for the local mushrooms that grow under the sand, to find the plants in the desert you can eat. My friends taught me so much about the old local life and those events will stay forever in my memory bank.
Sometimes we would drive to Abu Dhabi which took forever because the road was so terrible. We did not go too often in the early days so my visual memories of Abu Dhabi are not very good as to how it was compared to how it started changing late 1990's
Occasionally we would go to Nad Al Sheba (the old one not the new one) and watch the horse racing. We were always lucky enough to get to sit in the royal box and I was once spotted on tv as the camera's panned on Sheikh Mohammed who was sitting about 5 rows in front of me shoving a sandwich into my mouth like I had never eaten before. Very embarresing to see that pop up on the news later that evening lol.
Thats enough of my memories today, I have so many more but the majority I will never share with anyone because its not the right thing to do.
Workman walking up SZR
A view of SZR as if your coming from Abu Dhabi Virtually NO buildings at all
SZR view coming from Abu Dhabi
The tallest building in Dubai at the time and view of start of SZR
View of SZR mid 1990's when they began to build apartment blocks
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