Monday, February 23, 2009

13th Inteview: Dubai a Tribal Society

1st order: The 13th interview was held with the general manager of a Dubai commercial bank. My interview partner is a local Emirate by birth and citizenship higher educated abroad.

Guiding distinctions by tribes and religion
I was told that in order to understand nowadays UAE society two distinctions are helpful. The organisation and logic of society is still based on tribal systems. The sub organisation of tribes follows along the families. Tribes can be distinguished between traders and Bedouin, e.g. the Abu Dhabi ruling family follows a Bedouin background. The tribes are highly interrelated through marriages, however a tendency is observable that tribes marry more frequently within their realms to stabilise its structures.
A second distinction which is especially of future importance is the difference between Shiites and Sunnis, the latter can be predominantly found in government.
Frictions between generations
Especially the generations 40+ tends to be more and more alienated from the rest of society, I have been told. The generations up to 40 years old can be distinguished weather they studied abroad or in the UAE. The ones who studied abroad tend to have a stronger western lifestyle. In general globalisation leads to a danger of identity loss.
Property ownership within the Free-Zones
If property is bought within the Free-Zones the owner get the right to obtain a 99 year visa.
Citizenship as a delicate issue
Giving out citizenships is not just a delicate issue because of the rentier-system and possible loss of stakes in it, but also because of the fear of fundamentalism, I have been told. Still there is a huge number of “Bedun” (stateless) people, which live in the 2nd or 3rd generation in the UAE. These often Indian, but also Arabic people don’t have an official citizenship and passport.
Short-term tendencies
More and more people have difficulties to sustain their living in Dubai. Additionally Dubai is lacking the ability to form a shared identity. Almost all people who recently came to Dubai don’t want to stay long term. Even the people who live in Dubai for 10 to 15 years have difficulties to stay under the current circumstances.

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