Now who’s going to cut that diamond?
“As the taxi was cruising down the main boulevard I craned my neck as far as I can, looked up at the towering skyscrapers. I knew I was somewhere exciting, somewhere vibrant, somewhere where things happen and every day is an adventure”
Classic small town girl goes to the big city. The only change is instead of Smallville to Manhattan, it’s Aleppo to Dubai. That excerpt is my friend describing her first visit.
It’s amazing how many of us are in denial on the effect the Gulf has on our daily lives, an effect that will surely grow exponentially in the near future. Let’s forget all the Foreign Direct Investment funneling our way, or the job opportunities and remittances that keep all our economies afloat. I want to focus on two things that get less media attention, but are much more important.
1- Global Image
Burj Khalifah, Masdar, Sex and the City 2, an apocalyptic Dubai video game… The gulf is one Qatari world cup away from being the first thing the world thinks of when “Arab” is mentioned (An Israeli think-tank recently advised officials to call Palestinians Arabs, since “Palestinian” makes you think refugees, bitterness, poverty, whereas “Arab” make you think oil, SUVs and money).
I know most of us have problems with the irresponsibility, immaturity, the hubris. But if you ask me, I prefer the image they’re drawing for us over the current image we have. They’re also growing, with Qatar visibly leading the way: Al-Jazeera English which gave the Arabs a global voice, Sheikha Mozah’s “College Complex”, even the statement that the enormous football stadiums being designed will have removable benches that will be given as charity to poorer countries once the cup is over suggests a different mindset. The Gulf is steadily becoming more mature, and I like it.
2- The melting pot:
20% of the population of the Emirates only are Emirati citizens. Every community in the Middle East has a significant presence. Add to that Westerners and South Asians, and you have by far the most multi-cultural nation in a region known for its heterogeneous societies.
All the cooking ingredients are there, but no melting is going on. There’s no heat, no stirring. All the “creativity” I’ve heard till now is finding a new slur word for Levantine Arabs (Zalamehs they call us, turns out only we use that word).
But can you deny the potential? With 80% of them connected, how long is it going to take till some Jordanian blogger from Dubai decides to mix Egyptian and Iraqi cuisine, with a dash of Pakistani? How long till an alternative band in Bahrain decides to mix electric guitars with ethnic melodies? Won’t an age come where what the girls in Abu Dhabi wear define fashion in the region as a whole?
Let’s wait and see…