Emirati Tenants Not Welcome

Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram)

Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram)

Column Name: The Words Within
Bahar is a recruiter by profession, an aspiring writer by night, and a mom of toddler twins. She has an unending thirst for learning, as she completed her BComm in Canada, an MA in Dubai, and continues to develop herself with reading and research.
With her column, she shares her journey as she grows and learns more about this crazy beautiful world we live in.
Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram)

Latest posts by Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram) (see all)

The author discusses how being an Emirati can actually be a hindrance when seeking a home to rent in the UAE.

Artwork by Amna Al Saleh (@Tepingi)

Artwork by Amna Al Saleh (@Tepingi)

In 1998, the late Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan was said to have been dismayed that there are UAE Nationals living in rented accommodation. His view was that all citizens should have their own homes. Almost 20 years later, many Emiratis do own homes thanks to the constant support and generosity of the government, yet those who do not are actually struggling to find a place to rent.

It has been observed that Emiratis, despite being citizens of the UAE, are “unwanted” tenants for vacant accommodation. This is true for both expatriate and Emirati homeowners who do not wish to rent out to Emiratis. Through discussions with several homeowners, it has been highlighted that the reason they do not want Emirati tenants is that they find them to be destructive towards the property and do not make payments on time. As a result of these experiences and perceptions, coupled with the fact that it may be more difficult for a homeowner to argue their case against an Emirati in a local court, it has pushed many to stop renting out to Emiratis altogether.

As an individual who has always ensured that I respect and treat any property or item that does not belong to me with care, I find it unfair that I have to be punished for the mistakes of a few bad apples. There has been more than one occasion where I have been unable to rent a home of my liking because of my nationality. In fact, I have noticed that most real estate agents will first ask the nationality before giving any further information about the property they are renting out. This makes it very restrictive for decent tenants to find a home. It is unfair that we cannot find a home based on a preconceived notion that all Emiratis are negligent of others’ properties.

I understand it is every homeowner’s responsibility to ensure that their asset is protected, but I also believe that people should not be judged on nationality alone. I also realize that homeowners may be busy with their jobs and other responsibilities in their lives, but they should devote some time in getting to know interested tenants. They don’t need to be involved with every prospective client, but if there is a serious contender, he/she should take some time out of their lives to schedule a telephone call or meeting. This can provide some reassurance of how their property will be used. It will also reduce the problems of biased selection of tenants, and more importantly, eradicate the stereotyping of individuals based on nationality alone.

There also needs to be a fair system in place to protect homeowners from negligent tenants without too many loops and hurdles. With stricter laws in place that can be easily enforced, homeowners can have the peace of mind, and tenants would also be more responsible knowing that they cannot get away with their carelessness.

Additionally, while the UAE has imposed discrimination laws to curb hatred in the country, this could perhaps be extended to other domains as well. In this case, a tenant should not be turned away for a vacant property without a fair assessment by the homeowner. While this is not a black and white solution, and there may always be certain loopholes, steps should be taken to lessen the reoccurrence of this issue.

In every race, there will be good people and bad people, and we should not be labeling any nation through the actions of only those who choose to do wrong. This will hold us back from feeling the peace and harmony that can arise from having an open mind and breaking down the stereotypes that have been built.


Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi (October 2011). “How Urbanization is Changing Emirati Identity”. Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives Publications. http://www.mbrsg.ae/HOME/PUBLICATIONS/Op-eds/How-Urbanization-is-Changing-Emirati-Identity.aspx

Young Writers, Find Your Voice

Yara Younis (@yaraayounis)

Yara, a 20 years old university graduate, aims to face the world's most pressing issues with the power of words, books, education (and a lot of persuasion). Using all that she's learned as a media student, she hopes to use her skills to produce a positive impact in society. With a passion for literature, politics, and physics, she knows that every great change started out as an idea written on paper.

Latest posts by Yara Younis (@yaraayounis) (see all)

Creative Writing is being promoted more and more in schools around the UAE, what is the impact of having such a strategy in the education system?

Artwork by Aalaa Albastaki (Instagram:@lalaa_albastaki, Twitter: @AalaaAlbastaki)

Artwork by Aalaa Albastaki (Instagram:@lalaa_albastaki, Twitter: @AalaaAlbastaki)

Diving into the magical world of books and stories, you have probably always dreamed of publishing your own book someday. (I mean, who hasn’t?) Yet, these thoughts always remain fantasies, and writing becomes just a hobby you do when you’re not busy with other stuff.

That was, until recently, when the UAE’s Ministry of Education launched a creative writing program that turned 25 students’ writing dreams into reality[1]. These students dreamed of becoming authors, and now, they are holding their published books in their hands. Along with the supporting initiatives of the ‘Year of Reading’ for the UAE, this creative writing program will further promote a normalized culture of reading and writing among the youth of the UAE.

This program was part of the “Aqdar” initiative, to empower creative, young minds as part of the Year of Reading and literacy promotion efforts. Aiming to help children and young adults improve their writing skills and by widening their imagination, they have unraveled talented local writers.

At the start of the program, the students never pictured themselves writing a single poem or story, let alone a book full of poems, but with this addition to the curriculum, teachers were guiding these young visionaries on the skills they needed to express their thoughts and feelings into words.

Wrapping up the first round of the program, the published books were sold at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2016. Each of the authors autographed their very first copies, making for an unforgettable moment. The ministry hopes to expand the creative writing scheme to include more students and teachers in the coming year. This means more undiscovered talents!

Lesson of the day: Don’t toss your writing dreams into a corner, seek the motivation and support that will open doors to the wonderful world of imagination, self-expression, and authorship.

[1] http://www.thenational.ae/uae/education/creative-writing-scheme-helps-uae-students-realise-publishing-dreams

Will The English Language Ever Lose It’s Imperial Label?

Fatma AlSahoul (@Fatmalsahoul)

Fatma is a nineteen-year-old student who’s currently pursuing her undergraduate studies in Finance at Zayed University in Dubai. Fatma has always dreamed to be a successful entrepreneur one day with countless innovative ideas that will help make a positive difference. She also wouldn’t mind to pursue a career involving her passions, writing and public-speaking. Conversations around topics like history, politics, and religion fascinates and interests her. Fatma’s column titled “A 90's Kid Perspective” includes this 19 years old’s perspective regarding different current affairs. This column is a safe place where all opinions are welcomed and respected.

Latest posts by Fatma AlSahoul (@Fatmalsahoul) (see all)

With the English language becoming common between all communities, what does really mean for the other languages?

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

English has clearly become the dominant international language of this era, our lingua franca.

Being able to speak English fluently has become an important asset when it comes to applying for a university, finding a job, or even travelling abroad. English is the world’s second largest native language, spoken by approximately 1.75 billion people worldwide. It is understood by almost all people, as the ‘operating system’ of the global conversation, and the language of mainstream media, film, and music. Is the spread of the English language a positive thing, or a negative thing that is slowly undermining our mother language? Let’s find out!

The existence of a global language encourages the spread of knowledge in several ways. First of all, the internet is today’s main global communication channel. People tend to mainly reach for the internet to enrich themselves with any kind of information, and that information is usually written in English in the form of articles, web pages, and eBooks. Thus, English is the language of information technology (British Council, 2013)[i]. Furthermore, the English language made studying abroad so much easier and more beneficial to students than it was ever before. And getting an education abroad can provide the person with knowledge that can easily be used to improve different aspects of the workforce in their hometowns. In addition, having a common language enables the sharing of views and ideas in an easy and efficient manner, especially among people within the same profession. For instance, doctors from around the world can interact with each other easily in English as a common mean of communication. Thus, doctors can exchange ideas efficiently and learn from each other’s experiences and medical creations in order to avoid fatal accidents in medicine.

Furthermore, with the spread of English as a world language, huge multinational companies are able to sell their products worldwide. For example, many global businesses write their products instructions and guidelines in English, confident that people from all over the world are capable of understanding the instructions and would eventually want to purchase the product. Also, when starting a business, a person needs to be capable of communicating with a wide variety of consumers, colleagues, and providers that might speak different languages. Adopting a global language policy to overcome language barriers is an important route organizations could take in order to thrive in a global economy.

English made travelling to explore different countries as tourists so much simpler. Thus, knowing that the English language holds together the international conversation, this encourages people to travel more. English offered people an opportunity to do what they want for a living and live in any place they want.

On the other hand, English threatens local languages and cultures, it led to the replacement of many unique local cultures. It also completely destroyed what was left of world diversity. Also, a lot of people tend to believe that studying English is vital for a successful life; however, extreme focusing on English undermines multilingualism and language education opportunities.

To conclude, there are positives and negatives to having English as a global language. Yes, it encourages the spread of extremely knowledgeable information, but we cannot deny the fact that English is slowly making us loose what represents us, and makes us unique, our mother tongue language.

Let a global language in, but do not let it imperialize people linguistically.

[i] https://www.britishcouncil.org/organisation/policy-insight-research/research/the-english-effect

Life. Rebooted.

Sarah Al Marashi (@Sarah888)

Sarah Al Marashi (@Sarah888)

Column: LOL – Living Out Loud
Sarah is an award-winning entrepreneur, business development specialist, life coach, writer, banking and investments professional with over 15 years of experience. She is the co-founder of the award-winning firm Infin8Ventures. Through her column, she hopes to re-ignite the dreamer in all of us and inspire us to make those dreams a reality.
Sarah Al Marashi (@Sarah888)

Latest posts by Sarah Al Marashi (@Sarah888) (see all)

The writer discusses starting over and picking up the pieces after a challenging time or a major change such as being made redundant, losing a loved one or going through health issues. What happens to an individual at this time and what are the physical, mental and emotional changes that might occur.

Artwork by Farah Al Balooshi (Instagram: @SenoritaFarah, Twitter: @FarahAlBalooshi)

Artwork by Farah Al Balooshi (Instagram: @SenoritaFarah, Twitter: @FarahAlBalooshi)

Oprah Winfrey once said “Go ahead. Fall down. The world looks different from the ground.” And fall down I did, crashed and burned too.

It’s been a year since I’ve written an article for my Live Out Loud column; in the past year I went through almost every life changing event a person could go through. My biggest loss was losing my mother, who passed away a year ago this May after a five years battle with cancer, followed by the end of my seven years marriage, and the loss of a business venture which left me in debt and unable to meet my financial obligations.

As I grieved the loss of my mother, my relationship, and business I felt like a ship lost at sea, floating aimlessly, lulled by the sound of waves crashing against my sides, with no sense of direction or purpose. Like many people faced with extreme personal challenges and tragedies, I shut down. I cut myself off from the world with the exception of a few close family members and my best friends. I buried my head in the sand like an ostrich, I slept a lot like a bear hibernating in the winter, and I did nothing.

Well, it turns out that I instinctively did the right thing. My soul, mourning the loss of my mother and the end of my marriage, my brain overwhelmed by the debts that had piled up and no solution in sight; my body exhausted from a build-up of stress and sleep deprivation from spending months by my mother’s hospital bedside; instinctively protected me by shutting down and numbing my feelings. Sort of like what we do when our PC get’s stuck or the screen jams and the program we were using doesn’t respond; what do we do? We do a hard shutdown and reboot the system.

According to psychologists, this behavior is quite normal and is the first stage of the grieving process followed by bargaining, depression, anger and acceptance. Personally, I didn’t experience them in that order, and often times I found myself going back and forth between different stages, but what I did do was shut down. (Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-coping-with-grief)

I didn’t do much, I slept a lot, prayed, ate, slept, watched mind numbing television, slept some more and allowed myself to go through the process. I didn’t care what anyone thought was right nor felt the need to be “doing” something. I just knew “it will pass” because my mama always said that, and that I would make it through somehow because one of her favorite words of wisdom was “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

I knew that my temporary shutdown was a “reboot” and that my life would start up again in its own time. I had hope and I could see the light, having hit the ground, demolished all that was built, I now had a clearer view of the landscape and could start over.

Some people might make this out to be naïve disillusionment, but science has in fact proved that hope is not only the vehicle to success but also a pre-requisite for continued effort. Hope is the light that keeps us holding on. It has taken me a year to get to where I am today, but that’s okay because I can tell you that I have come back stronger, I am fearless because what I thought was the worst thing that could happen to me already has happened, and I survived. Today, I am writing again, I have restarted my business and opportunities are opening up everywhere, I am reconnecting with wonderful people and I am in a new relationship.


But First, Let’s Tackle Mental Health

Yara Younis (@yaraayounis)

Yara, a 20 years old university graduate, aims to face the world's most pressing issues with the power of words, books, education (and a lot of persuasion). Using all that she's learned as a media student, she hopes to use her skills to produce a positive impact in society. With a passion for literature, politics, and physics, she knows that every great change started out as an idea written on paper.

Latest posts by Yara Younis (@yaraayounis) (see all)

What is mental health wellbeing, and is it for certain ages and not for others? and how can we manage it?

Artwork by Farah Al Balooshi (Instagram: @SenoritaFarah, Twitter: @FarahAlBalooshi)

Artwork by Farah Al Balooshi (Instagram: @SenoritaFarah, Twitter: @FarahAlBalooshi)

Wellbeing research has been undergoing major breakthroughs in the Middle East. Day by day, the national agenda is moving closer to happiness policies that aim to improve the quality of life for every one here in the United Arab Emirates. A recent initiative is the ‘Mental Health’ scheme, an educational policy that hopes to ease the invisible struggles we face from a very young age.

Having a Mental health scheme is crucial as the topic is usually uncomfortable to talk about, especially here in the Arab World. This means that many people who deal with anxiety, stress and depression, feel that they should deal with it on their own. There is not enough encouragement to appropriately handle such negative feelings.

Wellbeing professionals around the country hope to change this by providing that encouragement. They are forming a counseling and workshop program that will tackle mental health issues starting from school, working its way up to universities. The main purpose is to provide help to those who seek it. And ideally, more people will be encouraged to talk about it, bringing it out into the open so that mental health issues can be accepted and managed.

So, how does wellbeing improve mental health? It isn’t enough to simply manage mental health issues. Wellbeing focuses on ways to improve it and your overall quality of life as you tackle the increasingly stressful daily tasks. The importance of enough sleep, frequent exercise, and eating well are not just a trendy routine; they are proven ways of taking care of your body mentally, physically, and emotionally. Hence, it seems fitting that wellbeing is being used as the foundation of this national scheme.

However, these positive habits need to be learned and practiced. Which is why, well-being and mental health must be taught to children at school, and to their parents. An additional part of this agenda is to have psychiatric services readily available in every clinic and that well-being skills are taught in schools, with counselors in universities as well.

Many students will benefit from these new services because they have challenges that go beyond the classroom, whether it is about their family and the pressure they feel. There is a generation gap between modern children and traditional parents, who also don’t fully grasp the extent of mental health issues.

To bridge that gap, having specialized people for social support is a key to overcoming the social stigma associated with seeking help. Surely, this is the next step to a refined well-being policy to improve mental health.

A Glimpse Into The First Official Youth Cirlce (@EmiratesYouth)

Omar Al Owais (@OMSAlowais)

Omar Al Owais (@OMSAlowais)

Omar is an International Relations Student at the American University of Sharjah, with a passion towards politics and a devotion towards the rhythmic arts of poetry and prose.
Omar Al Owais (@OMSAlowais)

Latest posts by Omar Al Owais (@OMSAlowais) (see all)

The UAE’s Minister of State for Youth Affairs has launched last week her main initiative for the year as The Youth Circles. We interviewed two of the attendees to know their perspective of it.

Picture from http://circles.youth.gov.ae

Picture from http://circles.youth.gov.ae

With the country’s focus shifting on the youth, placing trust in their talents and capabilities, came the appointment of the Minister of State for Youth Affairs, Her Excellency Shamma Al Mazrui. Shamma is an Economics graduate from NYUAD, and an Oxford MA graduate in Public Diplomacy as a Rhodes Scholar.

Alongside trusting the youth was the creation of many initiatives, one of which was the Youth Circles, which held its first session last month. It involved individuals from various fields, between the ages of 15 to 30, to discuss their aspirations and challenges, and to brainstorm ideas and solutions. Sail interviewed two of the first Youth Circle session attendees Asma Al Janahi, (social media specialist, @AlJanaahi), and Hessa Al Jasmi (entrepreneur, @HessaKJ) to know what they think about the youth and the initiative.

1) The youth are generally viewed as inexperienced, self-entitled and un-motivated to achieve goals, do you agree with this statement?


I disagree with this statement, as I believe that today’s youth can achieve three times what the previous generation could, thanks to the opportunities and technologies available to them. However, what they need is passion, because without it, their work wouldn’t reach its full potential.


This ideology might be perceived by many people, especially those from the older generations. However, I personally think that with all the developments in the country, the new technologies, the media platforms, and the increasing opportunities that are provided by the country, people are becoming more open to the world and to the endless things they can do, they can basically learn anything, anywhere & anytime. We are noticing all those new talents and innovations which have been developed by many of the country’s youth, a lot of brands, technologies, & art in different forms have been developed at a very high speed.

Therefore, I disagree with the idea because I believe that things are becoming efficient by time, and the independence and responsibility levels have increased which gives our youth the ability to be creative and achieve their goals successfully.

2) Today’s youth live in a prosperous nation with vast resources and the trust of our leadership, how do you suggest they take advantage of these opportunities?


I believe that as long as they are diligent with what they do, the benefits will soon return to the country and themselves. They should also take initiative in pursuing their dreams and developing their characters; while the country offers countless opportunities, nobody will knock on your door to take part, you must keep an open eye and take every suitable opportunity.


I suggest people start with developing their own self-discipline, self-reliance, and self-motivation to establish their goals and develop plans and actions to achieve them. With such a distinguished leadership that motivates people to learn and grow and provides them with the best resources, people should be more able to keep track of their progress towards achieving their goals. All they need to have to have is the desire, the hope, and to set clear goals for their lives in order to achieve them and give back to their country, community, and family.

3) Having attended the first Youth Circle session, what was the overall trend noticed among the attendees?


I have noticed that most of them own their own projects and initiatives. A challenge that many faced was how they could maintain their success; they were all confident, however. What I especially liked was their outlook for their future and preparedness for future challenges; as many of them are involved in specialized fields that weren’t widespread in the country until recently.


What I particularly appreciated about the Youth Circles was that it involved a great collection of the youth, in one place, where they discussed mutual aspirations and challenges, and planned solutions accordingly.

The Arab World Is Launching Into Orbit

Yara Younis (@yaraayounis)

Yara, a 20 years old university graduate, aims to face the world's most pressing issues with the power of words, books, education (and a lot of persuasion). Using all that she's learned as a media student, she hopes to use her skills to produce a positive impact in society. With a passion for literature, politics, and physics, she knows that every great change started out as an idea written on paper.

Latest posts by Yara Younis (@yaraayounis) (see all)

The focus on space sciences in the UAE has been growing tremendously recently, here are some of the benefits of that.

Picture provided by Nasa

Picture provided by Nasa

The simplest things always amazed us as children. As we get older, we get so busy with every day responsibilities so much that we forget about the hours spent wondering, trying to understand stars and our tiny place in the universe. Many often neglect this childlike curiosity; but others become scientists, researchers, and academics. Without them, our understanding of the world would never grow, and we would know nothing about our complex existence.

But every future scientist needs an opportunity to explore, and this is exactly what the United Arab Emirates hopes to achieve with the new agreement signed between Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and Sharjah Centre for Astronomy and Space Sciences (SCASS).

What does this mean for the UAE?

  1. Education Many choose to study abroad to pursue space science, since they think the field is not fully developed in the UAE. This agreement is the latest in promoting astronomical education in the Arab world. SCASS will be open to all teachers, students, researchers and family members of all ages.
  2. Tourism It will improve tourist experiences, as the UAE will become one of the first Arab countries to offer visitors insight into the world of space science and astronomy.
  3. Innovation How can we forget about all the awesome discoveries? Having this facility and agreement will make the UAE shine as the new scientific arena for developments of astronomy, cosmology, astrophysics and all space science related fields.
  4. Research It opens doors to transform Sharjah, and the UAE, into a hub for scientific research, strengthening the credibility and progressiveness of the country on an international level. More research means more content, highlighting the need to have more publications from the UAE.

Why does it matter?

Whether you know this or not, most of the progress done in space science and astronomy has been heavily based in the West (mainly Europe and the United States). Yes, they do collaborate with scientists from every part of the world but you will rarely see Emiratis, and Arabs alike, getting that exposure.

This agreement, along with the initiatives being done by the Emirates Space Agency and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center, will change the face of the Arab world completely. So many more opportunities will arise for Emiratis and residents to pursue unconventional passions of science, and lead the way to new discoveries. It would also promote international cooperation of the Middle East, inviting partners from all walks of life, as the love for discovery, and human curiosity, have never failed to bring humanity together.

Be Honest, Don’t Be An April Fool

Salma Bin Faqqas (@SalmaOA_)

Salma Bin Faqqas, an aspiring 17 years old chemical engineering student that took a leap of faith into the unknown where she found out what she is truly capable of becoming. She believes that people too weak to pursue their own dreams will always find a way to discourage hers. An official addict to positivity and spreading joy. Through her column: "To a better tomorrow" she focuses on common problems found in our society and psychologically analyses them. It also gives simple solutions to the raised issues in order to make the community a better place to live in.

Latest posts by Salma Bin Faqqas (@SalmaOA_) (see all)

As we have just passed April Fools’ Day, people had been trying to come up with the most believable lies out there to fool their friends and family. Have you ever asked yourself how do we come up with those lies? And what happens in our bodies when we do lie?

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

In the early days of the sixteenth century back in Europe, the Europeans took April 1st to be the first day of their New Year calendar. It was changed later on to January 1st, which is why not many people knew about. So, when April 1st came along, many people went out to the streets of Europe to celebrate the beginning of a new year to only find people making fun of them and calling them “April Fools”. And from that day onwards, April 1st became a day that people took to pull pranks and white lies on other people, making them look like fools. But have you ever thought to yourself, how do they come up with those lies?

There are three main parts in our brains that get activated and are put on alert when we lie: the frontal lobe that is responsible in helping us hide the truth, the limbic system which makes us become more anxious as we talk, and the temporal lobe that is responsible for memory and mental imagery. Since our brains do not except missing information and incomplete stories, it simply just creates its own connections even if between thoughts that are not actually connected in reality, like a baby, a dragon, and a volcano. Your brain creates some sort of connection between those three factors making you feel the urge to say it out loud; “I once saw a baby fighting a dragon at a volcano.” And that connection is how a lie is created.

After you’re done lying, your brain sends messages that command the adrenaline hormone to be released causing other stress hormones to also be put on the loose. With the increasing production of stress and fight-and-flight hormones, your blood pressure will increase, so your heart will start beating faster causing more sweat to flow out of your body. Also, the production of white blood cells reduces drastically causing, in some cases, increased levels of back pain and headaches.

As science advances and people’s understanding of body language widens, liars can be spotted easily by just taking a close look at the movement of their eyes, mouths, and the way their voice changes as they talk. Therefore, the human brains are starting to cope with those changes day by day to make the lies they create seem more and more believable by reducing the amount of hormones secreted.

What you just read is exactly what will happen to your body when you decide to prank your friend on April Fools. Don’t forget to always be honest and truthful. Lies get detected easily and honesty will give you a life of good health and improve things for you in the long run.

You can also read “Take a look and reveal the lies” to know more about the body language of a lying person in http://sailemagazine.com/2014/04/take-look-reveal-lies/#.VuqEf9J95dg


Religious Harmony in History

Abdulla Alwahedi (@Alwahedi)

Abdulla Alwahedi (@Alwahedi)

Column: Emirati Reflections
Abdulla holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and a Master’s in Business Administration. His abstract passion for history and literature with a hint of photography adds to his noble enduring quality. Abdulla enjoys visiting museums, art exhibitions and likes to spend his spare time in the outdoors. His column “Emirati Reflections” is a mixture of stories from the past and insights of the present, which blend together and formulate his understanding of the UAE’s culture.
Abdulla Alwahedi (@Alwahedi)

Latest posts by Abdulla Alwahedi (@Alwahedi) (see all)

How a church in Budapest inspired the writer that tolerance and acceptance are key in safeguarding the society from sectarian war.

Artwork by Amna Al Saleh (@Tepingi)

Artwork by Amna Al Saleh (@Tepingi)

During my recent visit to Budapest, I visited Matthias Church the oldest church in Budapest. It was built in the 11th century, but was destroyed by the Mongol in the 12th century, and finally was rebuilt in the 15th century. I was amazed with the architecture and the design of the church. Its tower stands as a landmark in the city.

The area around the Church was busy with tour guides talking to tourists about the history of the church and the old city. However, one tour guide caught my attention as he was talking to a group of children around the age of five years old.

While talking to them I heard him say “Islam”. I was a bit surprised and was not sure why would he talk about Islam with the kids. I couldn’t stop myself from getting closer to the group to hear what he was telling them, specially that my visit to Budapest was a week after the bombing in Brussels airport. I had mixed feelings and I thought he will be talking negatively about Islam. However, I was wrong!

The guide was talking to them about the design of the church and influence of Ottoman Empire on it as they ruled the country for 160 years. He said: “Although the Church is a Christian place of worship, you will see a crescent and other Islamic symbols which were added by the Ottomans.” One of the kids asked him why those Islamic effects were not removed when the Ottomans lost power. He said: “Those are artistic pieces, it would be shameful to lose them.” The conversation ended here and the kids along with their guide started walking towards the Church.

His words came as a surprise to me and I wished that we had many people like him in the Arab world. In the recent years many historical sites in Mali, Tunisia, Iraq and Syria were destroyed and the excuse was “defending the faith”. I’m not sure how they came up with this idea, but because of this idea we have lost valuable treasures.

In a society where people come from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, tolerance and acceptance are essential for the protection and development of a society. The UAE has been successful in that prospective and its efforts have been hailed by international organizations. One of the oldest examples of religious tolerance in the UAE can be found in Bur Dubai. The oldest Hindu Temple built in 1902 is located behind a mosque near the ruler’s court. It fascinates me, every time I visit the area, to see people from different backgrounds walking side by side, either going to the mosque or the temple without being worried about being judged or discriminated against.

changes in the region and the rise of sectarian conflicts require a collaborative effort by the government and society. Both citizens and residents of the UAE have a role to play in supporting government initiatives. The introduction of intercultural centre such as Sheikh Mohammed Centre of Cultural understanding can support the society in increasing awareness and education about the importance of tolerance and acceptance. In addition, the criminalization of intolerance and discrimination are also needed.

Accepting all the good and bad about someone. It’s a great thing to aspire to. The hard part is actually doing it.
Sarah Dessen – What happened to Goodbye

What You Need To Know About The UAE’s National Reading Policy In Less Than 25 Points

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah, founder of Sail Publishing, a digital publishing house for online magazines and ebooks, and editor in chief of the Emirati Sail Magazine, an online magazine about community and culture written in English by Emirati columnists. Iman is a multi award winner in digital publishing, entrepreneurship, and literature. Iman has also completed the Leadership Strategies in Magazine Media Course in Yale University. Besides her work in publishing, she also lectures in Canadian University in Dubai.
Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

We’ve all heard about the National Reading Policy, the National Reading Strategy, Reading Law, and we heard about tons of initiatives initiated by almost everyone. But what are the actual initiatives announced and by who? Here is all what you need to know summarized in direct 22 points.

Reading Policy Feature Image

From right to left: HE Afra AlSabri (Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture and the Development of Knowledge), HE Dr. Sultan AlJaber (Minister of State, and chairman of NMC), HE Hussein AlHammadi (Minister of Education), HE Mohammed AlGergawi (Minister of Cabinet Affairs and Future), AbdulRahman AlOwais (Minister of Health and Prevention), HE Najla bint Mohammed Al Awar (Minister of Community Development), and HE Saeed Al Eter (Director General of the Public Diplomacy Office).


The National Reading Policy was announced yesterday by a panel of UAE Ministers in a press conference held at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The policy includes the 10-year strategy to implement a strong reading culture across the country, with initiatives undertaken on the National level, the Ministerial level (Education, Health and Prevention, Culture and Knowledge Development, Community Development), and on the Media level by the National Media Council.

Reading lifestyle 2026_

The National Level Initiatives:

  1. Initiate a 100 million Dirhams fund, backed by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to support all reading activities.
  2. March will be declared as the UAE’s Month of Reading each year starting from 2017, with October 2016 being the first UAE Month of Reading.

Ministry of Education Initiatives:

  1. Link the curricula with extracurricular activities that support a culture of reading.
  2. Shape school libraries into innovative centres that offer an encouraging environment to spread the culture of reading among students.
  3. An annual reading festival will be initiated – the first of these will be held in October 2016.
  4. Identify reading ambassadors in each school.
  5. A special corner will be dedicated to reading in schools as part of a reading club initiative.
  6. The ‘Aqdar Writing’ initiative has been launched in cooperation with the ‘Aqdar Writing’ program to train 50 writers annually, including students and teachers, who will become authors and contribute to the local literary landscape.

Ministry of Health Initiatives:

  1. The Knowledge Bag project for newborn children throughout the UAE, which helps parents read to their children in three age groups: after birth, at the age of two when vaccinating, and at the age of four years during nursery.
  2. The Family Knowledge Awareness project, which focuses on persuading couples starting a family on the value of reading from pregnancy and during visits to the family doctors, through vaccination programs, as well as by educating visitors to primary health centres, and encouraging individuals to use reading as an effective means to enjoy a healthy life with a reduction in psychological pressures and tensions.
  3. The Reading for Patients project, with volunteers providing relief and mental engagement for long-term patients in hospitals.

National Media Council Initiatives:

  1. Media outlets to promote content that boosts the culture of reading.
  2. Assign leading national personalities as reading ambassadors.
  3. Launch a program that enhances the content and re-evaluates government policies in the publishing industry in the UAE.
  4. Classify children’s books in Arabic by age and content to make it easier for parents to find appropriate reading material for their young ones.

Ministry of Community Development Initiatives:

  1. Create a base for reading volunteers from the educational system graduates, housewives and retirees, and even workers who are interested in community service in their spare time in order to carry out a real role in spreading reading for all.
  2. Coordinate with institutions and companies wishing to promote their CSR to participate in ongoing initiatives for volunteer reading, including reading in incubators and kindergartens to increase linguistic inventory for children, and reading to patients in hospitals to improve their mental state, collective and individual reading for the elderly in neighbourhood councils and centres.
  3. Focus on people with special needs through the provision of more books in Braille, and the promotion of reading activities for them to improve their skills in social communication, mental health, and reintegration into society.

Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development Initiatives:

  1. Focus on the development of reading in government workplaces, provide digital content to employees and promote reading and research skills in the workplace.
  2. Turn public libraries and cultural centres to places of entertainment to attract different age groups across the day through providing a fun and modern atmosphere filled with activities and attractive reading content.
  3. Promote book cafés through the establishment of branches of public libraries in shopping malls. These would contain a section for children, which includes interesting books, games, and reading corners.
  4. Launch a “Preparing Young Authors” project where there will be training courses in writing, writing contests and publishing of the best winning books.

Artwork provided by the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and Future.