Dubai: An Extraordinary Cultural Consciousness

Posted on: November 14th, 2022 by Sawsan Abbadi

My name is Winta Girmai, and I am majoring in Global Studies with a minor in Arabic Language and Culture. This Summer my family and I were lucky enough to visit back home in Eritrea in East Africa. We went to celebrate my uncle’s wedding and visit my family which I haven’t seen in over sixteen years.

On my journey to Eritrea, I was able to stop in Dubai for a couple of days. This opportunity allowed me to get a glimpse of understanding of the people and what makes up this poly-diverse city. I’m interested in diversity and the hybrid body of people from a variety of linguistic, socio-cultural, and religious backgrounds. In my first day, we went exploring an area known as “Dubai City of Gold”. My family and I looked around at the different shops and even went to a shop where the workers spoke my native language Tigrinya. It was so interesting to observe how the workers have learned some vocabulary in my language since majority of their customers were Eritrean. As we would pass by other shops trying to sell their products, I was bewildered because I could understand what they were saying. In my language purse/bag is called ‘Borsa” and gold/jewelry is called “wereki”. I have never been to a place where I was able to meet people who could speak, understand, and recognize where I was from. It was refreshing to see so many different nationalities, ethnics, and cultures intermingled in such a big city. You would think it would be hard to find in a big city, but everybody cohabits so beautifully. Through being part of this multiliteracies and hybridity of resources, one can acquire global awareness and gain exposure to a variety of cultures.

Everywhere you go around the city there is these stores with bright lights. I saw shops that had different types of spices, pots, and candy. As I was passing one of those shops the owner was outside and noticed me taking a picture. He referred to me as his “daughter” and really wanted me to go inside and take a picture. My interactions with him just solidified my love for the people and culture of Dubai. I believe my experience in Dubai would have been different if I wasn’t learning about Arabic and a language and its rich culture. My family and I also stopped at the Dubai Mall, and I saw stores that were American written in Arabic and thought it was the funniest thing to see. I ended up stopping at the McDonald’s to see how different it is to the one in the US. The menu itself also showed how they blended American and Middle Eastern food.

The city was always booming whether it was night or morning. There were so many tall modern buildings, but you are still able to see how they integrated their traditions throughout the city. I saw this while passing by the Museum of the Future and some of the Mosques around the city. I want to return, and this time try to speak more Arabic. I think that would enhance and really change my experience visiting this culturally diverse city!

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