Maher Sharifi, a citizen of the United Arab Emirates, born in Iran, tells us about the attitude of Arabs to Europeans, picnics in the desert and deadly car rallies in isolated Arab districts.
– I have been living in Poland for many years – says Maher Sharifi. – Combining the Arab culture and European culture is something very obvious to me. However, this is not obvious to many Europeans who often think that the Arab world is a world from another planet. Yes, our habits are different, sometimes we look at one another with distance, sometimes with curiosity, but very often we forget how many things we have in common.
How do Arabs see Europeans?
– In Arab countries, Europe is seen as a continent in which life functions at a higher level. People eat better, healthier, they lead an active lifestyle, they are calmer (they can naturally control their temperament) and have easier access to education, which is at a really high level. For Arabs, studying at European universities is undoubtedly a great prestige. Europe is also a continent filled with culture and a place with a legal order. Europeans? They are generally tolerant and well-mannered people, but still very distant towards other ethnic or racial groups. Traces of racism are still felt and it is something that Europeans do not even try to hide. Getting to know an Arab, they are often not interested in getting to know each other better. What’s more, they are very direct and they tell us to go back from where we came from. It is sad, but true. Another sad thing is that while staying in Arab countries, Europeans ridicule local culture and customs: the way the Arabs dress, the way they greet one another and the way they pray. To Europeans it is something funny and something they do not even try to respect. In such situations, the figure of an educated and well-mannered European totally loses its value.
– Times are changing – Maher points out. – Once Europeans who came to Arab countries felt like gods. They had better education, they were familiar with their work, they were skilled and knew a lot about the world. Now they often forget that Arabs who gain education at European universities are just as educated and prepared for the profession as they are. Europeans are no longer gods on Arab soil.
What are the relationships in a typical Arab family? How are children raised?
– The family in Arab countries has a very high value. In this case, there have also been many changes. Having many wives is a thing of the past. This element of culture exists only in older generations. Young people have their own lives and their own values. Personally, I do not know any man from my generation who would have two wives or more. Life is different now. Comparing the Arab family and the European family, separations and divorces are definitely less common in Arab countries. Husband and wife make every effort to stay together and come to an agreement. They do not separate for trivial reasons, which in European culture is already becoming a standard. In a typical Arab family, especially in the presence of children, no dirty words are used. It is considered very unethical. There are no problems with alcohol in the family, because drinking alcohol is forbidden.
Is there any other problem?
– There is – Maher admits. – Rally. In the Arab countries, fuel is cheap, streets are good, cars are fast and expensive. Car rallies in more isolated districts of the city are something normal. Unfortunately, it is a form of spending free time, which often results in death. Many of my family members have been killed in this way.
We also organize camel races – adds Maher. – A camel is considered livestock, like a horse in European countries. People raise camels for business, also for meat, whose consumption in Arab countries is a standard.
And what about free time?
We love picnics in the desert. In Europe people have plots outside the city, but we have plots in the desert. We have properly prepared rooms (kitchen, bathroom), but we spend time doing barbecue and singing. Picnics in the desert are organized mainly in winter, at night.
And is it hot (especially for women) to be fully covered with clothes?
– It is – Maher admits. – It’s hot. But it is worth remembering that in Arab countries people are mainly in air-conditioned rooms. They go from home to the car, from the car to the office or from the car to the store. Nobody walks around the city or runs on the beach at noon. Life is concentrated mainly in enclosed spaces, which, of course, is strictly connected to the climate.
And on religious matters? Who’s right?
– Everyone – Maher replies. – Europeans look at life from their perspective, the Arabs from theirs, and in the end everyone is a little bit right.
Now take a look at some amazing pictures of Dubai!