How does one express their sense of nationalism? Does it have to be with excessive exterior ways or can one express their nationalism pride in other ways?
“What are you going to wear for the national day, Meera?”, a girl at work asked while we were typing on our laptops with minimal eye contact.
“You’re not going to wear an abaya with the colors of the flag?”
“No, but, I’ll come in wearing bright red eye shadow and green lipstick.”
“What do you do on national day then?”
“Yeah, I mean, I’ll post something on my Instagram and that’s about it.”
From my conversation with my friend at work you can easily tell that I’m not amongst the many groups of people who celebrate on the roads, honking their car horns and embellishing their cars with colors of the flag. Nor do I celebrate by wearing the colors of the flag and painting my nails white, green, red or black or all those colors. I love seeing it, but I don’t love being it. Does that mean I don’t love my country? It sure doesn’t. I love it. I just don’t express it the same; the way I do it is subtler. I wouldn’t say I particularly do this on the national day only, it’s something I do throughout the year. What I do is to really admire the little things that make me feel Emirati. I’ll share a few things that I admire about our Emirati culture.
I admire the way the fenyal (the small traditional Arabic coffee cup) looks with coffee in it; it looks like a mini hot tub to me. I admire the way we shake the fenyal to say that we’ve had enough of coffee. I used to dislike the taste of Arabic coffee, as I like my coffee sweet while Arabic coffee was too bitter for my taste. But I started drinking it because I wanted to experience that little shake at the end. Maybe it’s the psychologist in me paying attention to nonverbal communication, but I actually ended up really liking Arabic coffee.
I admire the smell of Oud, especially “the old Dihn Oud” (Dihin Oud kadeem) and mixing it with my favorite perfume. I absolutely love placing the ‘midkan’ (the traditional incense burner) on the floor and standing above it and letting the smoke from the burning oud dance its way up. I don’t, however, enjoy being suffocated by it and having to run to another room to gasp for air.
I admire the fluttering sound of the men’s kandooras with every step they take and how men greet each other with their noses delicately touching (in most cases at least). I admire seeing the standing ovation when the national anthem is played. I admire the use of old Arabic words that aren’t used often by people of my generation, like saying “Chaih?” (why) instead of “laish?” or expressions like “wabooyaaih” (which literally translates to oh father) that are often used by our parents or older generations. If I use that lingo with people of my generation I would be laughed at and asked why I spoke like an old Emirati woman.
I admire eating balaleet (Arabic noodles) with white sugar. Yes, I know, very unhealthy, but in my opinion it only tastes good with white sugar. I admire listening to the silence that fills the room when a video of the late Sheikh Zayed is played.
All those micro things add up to a bigger thing to me, they add up to my national identity. What makes you feel like an Emirati?