I have taken it upon myself to learn about where I live at the moment, that is a good idea at the best of times. Usually this is done by growing up in the country of your birth and studying in school. I had that experience in Canada – although school never taught us about the horrors the Canadian government inflicted upon its Indigenous peoples – not over sixty years ago but probably such atrocities are still being kept a secret.
Now I am residing in the UAE and I am not exactly of school age. Fortunately the Internet has been invented so I can go on line and learn a great deal. I do admit to utilizing the ease of Wikipedia at the moment – it is viewed by some as lazy research but it does get one started on a long and difficult journey. I flashed on Wikipedia and immediately discovered several important facts about my ‘new’ faith. It is not new to most of its adherents but it is new to Alexis McBride.
“Islam is the largest and the official state religion of the UAE. The government follows a policy of tolerance toward other religions and rarely interferes in the religious activities of non-Muslims.” But then I learned two or three more facts about Islam never before revealed to me.
“Islam ”submission [to God]”) is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that Muhammad is a messenger of God. It is the world’s second-largest religion with 1.9 billion followers, or 24.9% of the world’s population, known as Muslims. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 47 countries. Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, and unique,and has guided humanity through prophets, revealed scriptures, and natural signs. The primary scriptures of Islam are the Quran, believed to be the verbatim word of God, as well as the teachings and normative examples (called the sunnah, composed of accounts called hadith) of Muhammad (c. 570 – 632 CE).”
I did not know that Muslims make up a majority of the population in 47 countries. So I have many places to choose between as experience has taught me that I need to live in a country where the majority of its people are Muslim. Did know it was the fastest growing faith but did not know that it had 1.9 billion followers. I guess I am not unique after all. Knowledge it is sometimes said, to be a dangerous thing. I find knowledge to be is an enlightening thing.
Next I learned how the Islamic faith first came to this region. “The spread of Islam to the North Eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula is thought to have followed directly from a letter sent by the Islamic Prophet, Muhammad, to the rulers of Oman in 630 CE, nine years after the hijrah. This led to a group of rulers travelling to Medina, converting to Islam and subsequently driving a successful uprising against the unpopular Sasanids, who dominated the Northern coasts at the time. Following the death of Muhammad, the new Islamic communities south of the Persian Gulf threatened to disintegrate, with insurrections against the Muslim leaders. The Caliph Abu Bakr sent an army from the capital Medina which completed its reconquest of the territory (the Ridda Wars) with the Battle of Dibba in which 10,000 lives are thought to have been lost. This assured the integrity of the Caliphate and the unification of the Arabian Peninsula under the newly emerging Rashidun Caliphate.”
The loss of 10,000 lives must have been catastrophic but it did ensure integrity and unification.
This region is rich in history – it could be called the cradle of civilization. By the way: “A cradle of civilization is any location where civilization is understood to have independently emerged. According to current thinking, there was no single “cradle” of civilization; instead, several cradles of civilization developed independently.” However, the area did lack natural resources, lots of sand and hot weather but that was long before it was stylish to take expensive vacations in foreign lands. Instead the region found itself victim of colonization, most notably by the Portuguese and British, approximately three or four hundred years ago. They took over the region with treaties and stuff like that. But then along came independence in 1971, which was celebrated grandly last week.
First of all, the British, who had taken over from other Europeans, went bye-bye. “By 1966, it had become clear the British government could no longer afford to administer and protect what is now the United Arab Emirates.” The area had reason to fear the lack of protection as almost immediately Iran swept in and took over an island (which was then leased to them for 3 mil a year) and then along came Saudi Arabia laying claim to swathes of Abu Dhabi. Qatar scrambled for its independence and then “on 2 December 1971, at the Dubai Guesthouse (now known as Union House) six of the emirates (Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain) agreed to enter into a union called the United Arab Emirates. Ras al-Khaimah joined it later, on 10 January 1972.” They had been working on it for some time but with people invading them (left and right and center) it put great impetus in the process.
We all know what happened next – this is a super rich area because of the discovery of oil, which is a natural resource but is under the ground and not visible. It was originally discovered in about 1950; here is a little history about that.
“PDTC continued its onshore exploration away from the disputed area, drilling five more bore holes that were also dry. However, on 27 October 1960, the company discovered oil in commercial quantities at the Murban No. 3 well on the coast near Tarif.In 1962, PDTC became the Abu Dhabi Petroleum Company. As oil revenues increased, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, undertook a massive construction program, building schools, housing, hospitals and roads. When Dubai’s oil exports commenced in 1969, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, was able to invest the revenues from the limited reserves found to spark the diversification drive that would create the modern global city of Dubai.”
The Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Hayhan, was a truly marvelous man – he took the massive amounts of oil money and gave it to his people by building schools, housing, hospitals and roads. He was so strong. He said: “If a leader does not treat his children and his people well, he will not succeed.” He also designed and built the Grand Mosque, which I had the privilege to visit on the one year anniversary of my conversion to the faith, October 20, 2021.
Along came a change in leadership from those 1971 days. “On 2 November 2004, the UAE’s first president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, died. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan was elected as the President of the UAE. In accordance with the constitution, the UAE’s Supreme Council of Rulers elected Khalifa as president. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan succeeded Khalifa as Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. In January 2006, Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the prime minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai, died, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum assumed both roles.”
So for the time being your history lesson is almost over. A huge sigh of relief is being heard the world over. But there is a little big more to learn. “A 19-year-old Emirati from Abu Dhabi, Abdullah Mohammed Al Maainah, designed the UAE flag in 1971. The four colours of the flag are the Pan-Arab colours of red, green, white, and black, and represent the unity of the Arab nations. It was adopted on 2 December 1971. Al Maainah went on to serve as the UAE
ambassador to Chile and currently serves as the UAE ambassador to the Czech Republic.”
I am forced to admit that I am not too fond of the UAE flag, the colors are not ‘my’ colors and there are too many stripes. Therefore, neither I, nor anyone, has painted my face in the likeliness of the UAE flag. Originally, in 2017, I painted my face like the Canadian flag to celebrate Canada Day and my return (fifty years later) to the country of my birth.(I had stopped into San Francisco in 1967, and stayed for awhile.) Subsequent to that event I have borne the flags of Qatar and Scotland upon my personage.
Photographs of my Canadian, Qatar and Scottish flag face shall accompany this history lesson. It should liven this up a little bit.
Also photographed is the flowers received the other day. I have been in seclusion now for about four days – my room is cleaned daily by MUD, mini bar refills brought by two different men, one from Kenya, the other the Philippines and the other day a wonderful young man brought flowers and slippers. The flowers are still alive and well as are the slippers and me. This self isolation has proven most beneficial and enlightening. Moreover, I have gotten so much writing done. It has been a blessing!