The UAE, like many other Arabian Gulf States, claims to be home
to a homogenous Arab population. In doing so it assimilates rather
than acknowledges the regions slave past.
'The Sheikh Zayed Grand
Mosque's design and construction "unites the world", using artisans
and materials from many countries including Italy, Germany,
Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia, Iran, China, United Kingdom,
New Zealand, Greece and United Arab Emirates. More than 3,000
workers and 38 renowned contracting companies took part in the
construction of the mosque.' Andrew
A quick glance at the faces of Emirati citizens as I walked down
in a busy shopping mall made me think I could easily be back in
London. The only major outward difference was that all the locals
were wearing the national dress, or rather what has become the
abaya and dishdasha. A more important but less obvious
difference, however, was that despite Dubais creole past and the
ethnic, linguistic and racial diversities within the Dubaian
Emiratis, Emirati national identity has been officially and
popularly racialised as Arab since the founding of the United Arab
Emirates in 1971.
With the aim of cultivating this presumed collective identity,
the regions and its inhabitants links to, and origins from, various
parts of the Indian Ocean, Yemen, Baluchistan, Southern Persia, the
Arabian Gulf, Zanzibar and other parts of Africa has been elided.
Yet for Emirati citizens, there are many clues to determine an
Emiratis ethnic, sectarian, cultural, linguistic, and geographical
origins. These range from surname, accent, and dexterity in spoken
Arabic to physical characteristics, such as skin colour and even
shape of eyebrows, as I was told. For example, Emiratis associate
white skin with Persian origin, and darker skin with those with
Baloch or Zanzibari origin, even though there are great
phenotypical differences within these groups (i.e.
However, one particular group, the Dubaians with slave ancestry,
is surrounded by silence. Awareness of the regions involvement in
Indian Ocean slave trad...