The identity crisis of Half Emiratis


Being a mixed Emirati in the UAE is tougher than it looks

Growing up in the UAE, half Emirati and half Russian, there was never a label I used to describe myself. No doubt in who I am and where I’m from. My mixed ethnicity was living simultaneously as one combined identity, with no understanding of the social implications of the Emirati society. 

Learning from experience, my two sides were not seen as one in the eyes of each half. Given the ultimatum on who I wanted to be, who I am, disrupted my puzzle pieces. I felt like I grew up being delusional. I couldn’t just have both sides.

The interactions with some Emirati’s who learned of my Russian and Emirati background caused a state of uncertainty in one’s true identity. It is hard to find the balance of your roots while growing up. Who are you? Where do you fit in? Society plays a massive role in the way we think of ourselves and the way we learn to accept our unique roots. 

Many ‘Half Emiratis’ have gone through challenges with identity and fitting into society. Facing backlash from others, being bullied for being different and being seen as an anomaly. Being half is seen as taboo among some Emiratis. Growing up in the UAE as a half Emirati has been “Difficult, with many years of disdain” says a Dubai men’s college student.   

Being half Emirati is seen as an issue for concern, as it can “affect the population ratio” Said the Federal National Council member, Hamad Al Rahoomi. In 2016, mixed marriages in the Emirati community in Dubai had reached 57%. 

When even the country sees mixed marriages as a concern, it can be hard for mixed Emiratis to find comfort in their identity. However, Hamad Al Rahoomi stressed that this issue is not a rejection towards mixed marriages among Emirati people, but that it is still a concern. As mostly Emirati men marry foreign women, leaving him to beg the question, “Who will Emirati women marry?”

You love both sides to you, but growing up in Dubai, it always felt like society was judging you, pressuring you to choose one side. You’re either all in or nothing.

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