The Things People Tell Me
The United Arab Emirates as a country was founded today, 2 December, exactly 50 years ago, when Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ajman, and Umm-al-Quwain joined forces. Ras-al-Khaimah, the 7th emirate making up this confederation, joined a couple of months later on 10 February 1972.
I remember very well when I first arrived in the UAE late in October 2011, how the build-up to the 40th National Day celebrations unfolded. Flags could be seen everywhere, and the red, green, white, and black colours found themselves on cars in creative swirls the closer time creeped to the 2nd of December. The signwriting shops all did brisk business, as people were marking their pride on the cars they drove – from the smallest city car to the biggest SUV.
The air fizzled with an exuberant joy, as festivities reached a climax. People descended on the Corniche to show off their vehicles and party spirit, slowly driving loops around the corniche in Ras-al-Khaimah. Revving engines and incessant hooting were interspersed with laughter and shrieks, as revelers both on foot and in the cars used water guns and shaving foam on those who didn’t pay attention. Party poppers sprayed glitter and streamers into the night sky, like some sort of harbinger to the fireworks that later filled the it.
The apartment hotel we lived in was in the middle of the celebratory joy, hence it is an impression of the country and its people that is ingrained in my memory.
The Saturday morning after the celebrations the empty streets were littered with the remnants of a communal exuberance. Bleary eyed and tired, I looked down on cleaning crews doing their best to scoop up the glitter that would sparkle in dark corners for weeks to come. But what stuck with me most, was the many cars who stopped to hand these men some money in what I came to understand as a trademark of generosity and kindness of most Emiratis.
I doubt that this will be the spirit of celebration tonight, as over the last ten years, laws prohibiting the decoration of cars shaved off the last remains of some of the rough edges that marked the celebrations ten years ago. My guess is that a more sedate, although not less proud, atmosphere will mark events.
In my heart I will celebrate with this country I have a deep love for from the quiet of the land where I now live in Portugal. The nine years I’ve lived in the UAE gave me a deep respect for all that was achieved since the discovery of oil in 1958. The leaders have worked hard to better the lives of their people so that everyone can benefit. Half a century ago most buildings in the country were palm frond houses. Today, it is filled with some of the most iconic buildings in the world. Life could not be more different than what it was then.
One of the most curious things I’ve experienced and still do, is the reaction of people when I mention that I’ve lived in the UAE for nine years. Most often than not, I get a lecture or long monologue of their impression. It often turns out that they have either passed through the airport as a transit passenger, had a short stopover in Dubai, or like a recent tirade I had to listen to in which the person simply read an article in a British newspaper. Her punchline, proving that everything her view is based on is true, was that the reporter “went there himself”!
I’ve learned through these encounters that it doesn’t help to contradict these people, as, even though it riles me, they have no interest in listening to my lived experiences. I’ve been pitied that I had to live in a country where I ‘wasn’t allowed to drive, where women are treated like secondhand citizens, and migrant workers are nothing more than slaves.’
The reality is so vastly different that it is almost impossible to know even where to begin to dispel these myths. Yet, spurred on by my curiosity and respect for a country, which has achieved so much in a mere 50 years, I’ve created an e-book that takes the form of a 14-day journey through the country to explore the cultural, historical, and physical landscapes as they intertwine to create a place steeped in beauty and culture often overlooked by visitors and critics alike.
If you are curious about different cultures, love to travel, are planning a trip to the UAE, or even are a resident, you may find this interactive journey eye-opening. Written from my own intimate experience with the country and culture, I will guide you through all seven emirates with immersive writing, photographs, facts, as well as embedded links to articles, videos, and websites to create an intimate and personal experience in the form of a virtual journey.
Until 7 December 2021 you can buy it at a Special Introductory Price of €1.99
Simply click on the link above, or at the bottom of the image to purchase your copy.
Format: Pdf with embedded links
Print Length: 221 pages
File size: 83,346 KB
Publication date: 5 November 2021
Congratulations on producing your ebook. With your wealth of personal experience of the country I’ve no doubt it’s a treasure. Well done 🙏
Thank you, Miriam.
Oh wow, what a great effort. Congratulations. I don’t have an e-reader, but I’ll see if John can download a copy.
Thank you, Peggy. It is a pdf file, as I couldn’t include the amount of colour photographs I did and embedded links otherwise, so you can download and read it on your computer. Or I should rather say, experience it on your computer. I will be curious to know what you think of the format as an immersive experience.
Is this the same as or similar to the mini-course you did before? Thanks for reminding people that lived experiences are vastly different from stereotypes; as a transplant into the state of Texas, I get a lot of snarky comments, and much of what people think about Texas is exaggerated or just plain inaccurate. I always felt your affection for your life in the UAE, and I’m sure your e-book reflects that!
It is that same virtual journey you did with me last year, Lex. I’ve just linked it up to create one document, did a light edit, and double checked all the links. I thought I can lose nothing to put it out there instead of it gathering dust on my computer, so to speak.
You clearly understand what I’m on about. It really irks me, when people stops a conversation with these inaccurate attitudes, instead of engaging in a conversation that has the potential to enlighten and charm.
Ahh, most excellent, Jolandi! Congratulations! I know barely anything about this country so I will read your book with interest. This country is younger than me! 😮
Thank you, I just got mine! All 221 glorious pages of it. Happy!
Thank you for your support, Manja. I hope you enjoy it. Please let me know what you think when you finished your journey.
Its also younger than me. 😆 Incredible isn’t it?
What many of us often forget is how a government can be so different from the people, and how what is portrayed in the media does not always tell the whole story. It would be naive to think that the entire United States is like Trump, or that all Canadians are polite. Traveling helps us in a way that it provides us with a more wholesome picture of what a place and its society are like, only if we invest enough time to do that. Speaking of the National Day of the UAE, last night when I was taking a walk around my apartment I realized that the tallest building in Jakarta (whose round restaurant at the top of the structure is covered with LEDs) put on a display of the Emirati flag. (They have done this before on the national days of Ukraine and Mexico as well.)
Congratulations on the e-book, Jolandi!
Bama, that is so cool to hear about: the Jakarta building that celebrates other countries’ national days. Thanks for telling us.
Thank you, Bama. And how lovely to think that the UAE’s National Day is recognised like that.
You hit the nail on its head, which is why it is so important to travel. I’ve always loved how it challenged my preconceptions of people and places.
looks to be a neat book, a labor of love, and a resource for a topic not frequently covered.
It is indeed a labour of love. A good way for me to celebrate and honour the nine years I lived there.
I know your frustration about uninformed perceptions of both UAE and in my case Oman.
I lived in Oman for 30 years and found nothing but (in almost all cases) a most hospitable, safe!! and enjoyable country to live and work in.
When I tell people here in UK that they have totally the wrong idea of life in Oman, I get the look or even the comment ‘you’re making this up or it’s lying’ “we’ve seen it on TV or in the newspaper so you can’t be right”. There is no helping some people, so I gave up and now just challenge those who really annoyed me.
It is so lovely to hear your version David. Like you say, it is very annoying. I find it so strange how dismissive and judgemental people are. It is sad when we choose to cling to our version of reality, instead of being open to other possibilities and realities.
I have my copy on my desktop and I look forward to my education. Your photographs are outstanding, Jolandi. Some of them I even recognize from your blog! I love all the links to other things, and now I know what you mean by interactive. This publication is an accomplishment, and it was a good idea to do this while your love is still strong. You can look through it in 10 years to bring all the emotions back.
Thank you for your kind words and support, Crystal. It warms my heart. 💜 I hope you enjoy your trip through the UAE. I have many warm memories of a country that has so much more to offer than the superficial layer most people see. Enjoy, and let me know what you think when you are done.
I will let you know for sure.
What a brilliant response to your experiences. Most of our understandings are based on what we’ve heard or read — and fear the person who had a stopover at the airport! 😛
Unfortunately, we live in a time where information is ubiquitous and quick to obtain, and opinion is the holy truth. But not everyone wants to speak rather than listen, so I suppose we must take heart in that.
Congrats on your book. I will purchase soon! xo
So true, Lani. 😆
And thanks for your support. 💓
What a wonderful post. Everyone has already commented so eloquently – so please allow me to add that I just purchased and downloaded my copy of your book, and look forward to reading it 🙂
Thank you for your kind words and support, Takami. I appreciate it very much ❣️ I hope you enjoy the virtual journey, and would love to hear what you think when you are done.
Thank you Jolandi 🙂 I sincerely look forward to letting you know after I have read your wonderful book.
Apologies for the multiple comments – just wanted to let you know I have been following your updates on your other website, but some of my comments may be lost in cyberspace. Take care always❤️
Hi Takami. Sorry, yes I’ve just read your comment on the other blog, and will respond there. As it is a paid website, I have to approve each comment, as there is a lot of spam I have to contend with. I haven’t checked it for a couple of days, as Michael decided to come for a quick visit. Yay!
Hello dear Jolandi, please don’t ever feel pressed to reply! I just wanted to say that I loyally follow your adventures and send my best wishes always. I am so glad Michael came for a visit – that’s wonderful 🙂
Congratulations, Jolandi! I will return here tomorrow (it’s very late) and buy your e-book.
Thanks, Clare. Hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think.
I bought the book earlier and have just finished the first tour and had to let you know how much I am enjoying it! It is a fabulous book!
I am so thrilled to hear that, Clare❣️ My intention was to create a format that would simulate the experience of a real journey. Thank you again for your support. It means so much.
The Middle East was one of the largest and most important markets for my previous employer Ricegrowers Australia. Our representative for that area was always full of praise for the people and culture he encountered in the various countries. And when I met the Iraqi grain board representatives I found that out for myself. I still regret having to curtail our plans to tour Abu Dhabi. As you say, a transfer in an international airport hardly cuts the mustard as experiencing the actual country.
Congratulations on this publication!
Thank you, Gwen. I am so glad to hear that your own experience, and that of your colleague reflect my own.
A fantastic write up, Jolandi, and what an amazing experience it must have been to have seen the United Arab Emirates evolve over the nice years you lived there. There is such beauty in your writing about the people and culture, which is the important depth needed to be shared to the outside world. I agree fully that the clever sound-bites that have traction of misunderstanding is what is often mentioned about this part of the world. Beautiful, and I look forward to reading your book ~ cheers to past adventures and the new one you are on 🙂
Thank you, Randall. It had a huge impact on my life and the person I am today. Exposure to other cultures can have such a huge impact on us if we allow ourselves to be open, instead of being judgemental. And I guess, apart from the fact that Michael still lives there, part of me will always reside in that part of the world.