In a city/nation-state with a native population comprising of only ten percent of the population, can there be nationalistic sentiment? Emirati’s have been the minority on their own land since before the UAE was even formed in 1971. When the sheikhdoms were part of Trucial Oman in the 1900s, already there was an influx of immigrants and workers from India and beyond that diluted the population.  In fact, the influx of immigrants strengthened the sense of nationalism among the locals, who referred to themselves ‘Dubayyans’.[1]

In the 1980s land policies under the Structural Plan allocated 15,000 SF lots to all nationals above the age of 20. This was part of what is referred to as “planned suburbanization”. Nationals, who at the time lived in the historic districts of Satwa and Bastakiy’ya, abandoned their homes for the expansive plots on the periphery, away from the rapidly urbanizing city and ever-increasing population of expatriates. Therefore the land policies of the Structural Plan lead directly to the unhealthy trend of alienating the Nationals from their own city.[2] In addition to their alienation, the historic district began to deteriorate

In 2006, some 20 years later, the same “suburbanization of nationals” was continuing forward. The article, “Booming Dubai Alienating Natives” discusses the Mizher 1 & 2 develops on the edge of the desert, just north-east of the new airport. The expansion is estimated to cost $4.1 billion dollars and is built to house Emiratis only. The residents speak about why they moved out of the historic district to get away from the expatriates who they see as threatening their tribal and family values. The city center is becoming westernized, with not a mosque in sight. In contrast, if you travel out to the Emirati suburbs you will find upwards of 20 mosques in a development. [3]

The concerns by the government about the Emirati people becoming 1% is a major factor in the labeling of foreign laborers as “temporary workers”, as discussed in the transient blog.[4] Many of the laws being implemented to restrict immigrants from permanently residing in Dubai is part of the plan to increase the Emirati population and generate a stronger nationalism amongst the ten percent. The article mentions a marriage fund offers financial incentives to Emirati to marry Emirati women to maintain a clean blood line.[5]

The entire situation is quite the paradox. The government continues to give free plots of land to Emiratis to build homes in the Mizher developments so that they can build a strong nationalism together but struggles with the idea that the city is slowly becoming entirely Emirati free. Additionally, there are concerns about the architectural language of the city losing its historical image and beginning to resemble India.[6]  Yet because the government has encouraged Emirati migration to the suburbs, the historic districts are inhabited by the transient population who are slowly making it their own.

Another question that arose from this investigation into Dubai nationalism was whether or not nationalism could exist without the tendency to segregate. In Dubai, both the past and present nationalism was support by the segregation of Emirati’s from the expatriates as a way of preserving their culture. However, the unique situation in Dubai is most likely the driving factor for this extreme notion of segregation. In a country where the native population is in the majority, there is most likely less anxiety about the disappearance of one’s race.


[1] Yasser Elsheshtawy, Dubai: Behind an Urban Spectacle (New York: Routledge, 2010) 65.

[2] Yasser Elsheshtawy, 115.

[3] “Booming Dubai Alienating Natives.”

[4] Yasser Elsheshtawy, 213.

[5] “Booming Dubai Alienating Natives.”

[6] Yasser Elsheshtawy, 213.

Works Cited

“Booming Dubai Alienating Natives.” Aljazeera. 31 May 2006. Web. 8 Nov 2011. <;

Elsheshtawy, Yasser. Dubai: Behind an Urban Spectacle. New York: Routledge, 2010


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