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…

Explore posts in the same categories: Arabs

5 Comments on “Now who’s going to cut that diamond?”

  1. Maysaloon Says:

    A very interesting post…thanks for sharing.

  2. Rand Says:

    I agree with the part about the Gulf having an effect on our daily lives, and this image that you prefer over the current one, but why can’t this image be altered, in a way that won’t make you think “lavishness and excessive extravaganza” every time the Arab Gulf is mentioned?
    Every Sheikh there is coming up with huge projects that, according to a friend of mine who works in Abu Dhabi as a business analyst, would never break even, they still consult companies and do feasibility studies, only to throw them in the trash can later, and say that [they] “don’t care, because this will put Abu Dhabi on the map”. We can be modern and civilized without throwing our money away can’t we?

    Plus, if you’re gonna do that then maybe the best place to put that money is the Arab world, instead of buying English football clubs or building stadiums, invest in a local one, buy the star players and make something out of nothing, now every business in the west that is threatened or at risk of bankruptcy seems to have its eyes on one of the Sheikhs of the Gulf, he’ll buy it and save the business. I guess what I’m talking about can only come true in an ideal Arab world where the word corruption is never heard and where the business environment attracts investors, after all it’s business whether they’re Arabs or not.

    • seleucid Says:

      Rand.
      The first paragraph is exactly why many of us are not comfortable with the Gulf being our face to the world. It’s childish, you might even say embarrassing. But the way I see it, many of the attitudes are changing, and people are running after good content instead of just bells and whistles. They won’t lead us until they learn how to be responsible, and when they do, there’s no stopping us.
      I don’t know. I see Gulfies doing plenty of projects in this region (I mean it makes business sense). I say let them buy the foreign shares for now, and when we can put the money to good use, we will attract it.

  3. Anas Qtiesh Says:

    I have to agree with Rand on this one, the financial impact on neighboring country is remarkable. However, the image that you’re praising is an image of a wealthy brat that’s got too much money to spend and ends up spending it on trying to look “cool” than investing it in any world class research or serious manufacturing. The world thinks of Dubai as being built on slave labor, where the laws give employers complete control over the lives and livelihoods of the workers. It is not an image to be proud of.

    • seleucid Says:

      Thank you Anas for your contribution, I’m flattered.

      I do not praise in my post the Gulf of now, I praise the potential it has. I try to show my vision of the Gulf of the future. Sure we all hate Dubai and what it represents, but we seem to forget that they are no different than any other Arab country. We haven’t found our identity yet, we haven’t figured out anything in our society, we are at best, still embryonic. The only difference between us and Dubai is that they have money, and we don’t. The mindset is the same. The human rights violations are rampant everywhere. However, the multi-cultural critical mass I fantasize about, they will have the power to change this, and the cultural hegemony to spread it all over the Arab world.

      Be sure to read this wonderful post by Hashahji on the same point (kind of): http://hashashji.wordpress.com/2009/06/23/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AE%D9%84%D9%81/


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