As I was celebrating the United Arab Emirates flag day this week, in true colorful spirits with the waving of the UAE flag and wearing green pants, my friends and family in the USA are cringing with anticipation of the presidential elections. With the UAE celebration of flag day on November 3rd coinciding so closely with the USA presidential elections on November 8th, it naturally occurred for me this past week to reflect on my life in the UAE versus life in the USA, politically (yes it's my second blog post and I'm already speaking politics, such an American thing to do, just living up to stereotypes).
So what's the whole flag day in the UAE thing about?
Quick history lesson; flag day is celebrated every year on the 3rd of November to signify the anniversary of the inauguration of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan as ruler of the UAE in 2004 (did you get that name alright?). Not to confuse 2004 as the founding year of the UAE as a country, but as a date to specifically signify the Sheikh. On this day people of the UAE reflect on the efforts of the founders of the emirates who "sacrificed everything for the sake of their nation." This is the quote recited at flag day celebrations and the raising of the flag ceremonies throughout the country, that's not just my opinion.
If you're not only trying to pronounce the word sheikh but also wondering what that means, I'm here to help, well with the later part, you may have to consult with google voice to get your pronunciation right because I can't insert my recorded voice here, this is a blog, not a vlog.
A sheikh is a leader, it is an Arab word and stems from being termed the leader of a tribe or a village. The locals of the United Arab Emirates, called Emiratis, are tribal people. This term was used throughout history amongst Arab people and is used to signify today the leaders of the countries as well as the founding fathers of this country.
History lesson recap: Flag day is to celebrate the sheikh and founding fathers of the UAE, Sheikh is an Arab word for leader, an Emirati person is a person from the United Arab Emirates and Rachel wore green pants on November 3, 2016.
Take a trip with me now to the other side of the globe; growing up in the USA, democracy, is a word that I know and value. We as a nation in general are encouraged to stand up for what we believe in, speak out, vote for our presidents and take action in making the change that we want to see in our world (whether that world be just the USA for some people or on a more global level for others).
In the UAE, I do not get to vote, people do not have a say so in decision making, and this huge movement of protesting that we see in many countries all over the world, is illegal in the UAE. So how does a girl who grew up in a country that prides itself in being privileged to be a democracy, move to a country that is run as a monarchy?
Not knowing what to expect when I arrived here, this has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of living in the UAE, a monarchy. People do not talk politics here, and quite simply, there is no need to. Imagine conversations without politics, without people feeling the need to argue a point or criticize a person or a party, I know, it was hard to do so for me until I moved here.
The biggest thing at stake when we think of a government whether a democracy or a monarchy, is how does the governing body impact the way people live? Coming from a democracy, I have thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated living in a monarchy. Through a little time spent with none other then google (cause who else would I be hanging with), I learned that all of the countries listed on the top lists for living standards, personal freedoms and political freedoms are monarchies. There are no promises to be made, there are no agendas to be considered, there is no trust to be earned or lost, no emotionally strenuous period of time to go through wondering what the state of the nation will be. The agenda is point blank in a monarchy, it is made very clear to the people.
When I am playing bingo with my girlfriends as a senior citizen and making fun of each other's orthopedic shoes, I know that I will have appreciated the experience of living in both, because living in a monarchy has never felt so peaceful, and being able to easily speak up for myself and my beliefs as a result of growing up in a democracy are two things to be thankful for.
Cheers to the future ahead for both the USA after the presidential election and the UAE as it strives to keep building the biggest and the best of everything!
Sheikhs - Emirates 24/7
Flagss - uae-embassy.org