A couple of years ago in Dubai we interviewed the Green Sheikh – a beloved figure in the United Arab Emirates who is a devoted father and husband, hyper productive activist, and a faith leader. Plus he is smart- PhD smart.
Referencing the many expatriates living (and generating wealth) in the country, he said something I’ve never forgotten: “In my own country, when I speak to people in Arabic, they answer me in English. Everywhere I go. Can you imagine? We are a minority in our own country.” Now, nearly two years later, the Al Ain Zoo reports that Emiratis make up 33 percent of their workforce. That’s 160 young Arabs working for a zoo.
Gone are the days of the typical “lazy Arab.” They exist. For sure they exist (and this is a universal condition), but a relatively small minority is chasing not just their individual dreams, but the dreams of their families and their tribe as well.
They completed their studies in Europe or the United States, or – increasingly – back home, and now they are doing the hard work of undoing mistakes accumulated over the last fifty years since discovering oil in 1960. And they’re doing it in their own culturally-relevant style.
It’s a beautiful thing. But more beautiful still:
UAE Social Transformation
For years we’ve reported terrible stories about the treatment of both domestic and wild animals (read about how this Dubai resident walks around with a cheetah on a leash), and they continue to manifest in disturbing ways, but it is clear that the UAE in particular has undergone a radical transformation when 16,000 young people are striving towards the singular goal of saving endangered species.
“Al Ain Zoo’s Emirati employees play a vital role in the zoo’s overall strategy, delivering our message of conservation with unique insight into the UAE’s natural environment and history,” said Ghanim Al Hajeri, director General of the Zoo.
“The career opportunities are endless – whether in animal care, tourism or administrative roles – and UAE National employees act as ambassadors for our nation, allowing visitors to experience our culture from a different perspective.”
Honing skills of each unique contributor corresponds with Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 which sets out a program “to lay the foundations for a socially cohesive and economically sustainable community that preserves the Emirate’s unique cultural heritage,” Mariam Al Shamsi, Director Human Resources and Strategy said in a recent statement.
Hey, if it gets kids off the couch and moving their feet in nature, that’s fine by us.