Anwar Gargash: Emirati values can help forge new perspectives about Arab culture

Diplomatic adviser’s speech at Culture Summit Abu Dhabi focuses on importance of UAE identity and integrity

Dr Anwar Gargash speaking at the final day of Culture Summit Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National
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The UAE is in a unique position to produce a modern perspective on Arab culture, Dr Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the President, said during his speech at the Culture Summit Abu Dhabi.

“By virtue of the more than two million Arabs living here and our country's growing soft power we should also aim to make use of our rich diversity beyond national or Arab cultural aspirations," Dr Gargash said while discussing the importance of conserving and harnessing Emirati identity and culture.

“The UAE is a nation built on exchanges, tolerance and open mindedness toward different people and cultures. These are powerful elements of our national identity. Even before unification, our society embraced people from diverse backgrounds with a genuine desire to exchange knowledge so that we could harness the best of everyone's talents and appreciate points of commonality.”

Speaking on Tuesday at the summit held at Manarat Al Saadiyat, Dr Gargash noted that with the recent celebration of the country’s 50th anniversary and Expo 2020 Dubai last year, the UAE has achieved plenty to be proud of for a country so young. He said that while a contemporary UAE has a distinct Emirati identity, it also has a cosmopolitan outlook and is a melting pot of cultures.

“The UAE is home to people from all over the world,” he said.

“Our nation continues to be shaped and strengthened by the strong culture we have collectively which has propelled us to global influence in areas like education, trade and technology.”

The art world was used as an example of the UAE’s regional and global perspective that still maintains close ties to its heritage and links to the Arab world.

“If a visitor goes to Cairo, Beirut or Baghdad, they will most likely be exposed to the modern national art for those countries,” he said.

“Yet in the UAE, modern Arab art has a wider lens that includes whole countries I’ve mentioned and others.”

Scroll through the gallery below to see more photos from the Culture Summit Abu Dhabi

Dr Gargash suggested that as a nation, the UAE should harness its unique diverse fabric and continue to strive towards forming a distinctive cultural identity, one that is strongly rooted in its values and the region, but one that is open to the world and has international appeal and lasting influence.

While addressing the many feats the UAE has achieved over the last 50 years, which include a commitment to the well-being of the diverse population, innovation, women’s empowerment, economic development and tolerance of other religions and cultures, Dr Gargash asserted these achievements were rooted in Emirati values and will carry the country through future challenges.

He spoke not only of the complexities of living through a global economic fallout owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, but of other transnational challenges such as food security, health and climate change.

He emphasised that understanding other countries, cultures and people, as well as forging alliances on political economic issues through open dialogue, was the only way forward.

“To overcome these challenges, we must expand our capacity for cooperative behaviour,” he said.

“As societies and individuals, we are stronger working together and there is much we can learn from one another. And we must recognise these challenges as opportunities to use our abilities to the fullest and take charge of our future.”

Dr Gargash made special mention of the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference (Cop 28), scheduled to take place in Dubai next year, where countries can address these challenges together.

“Climate change is an issue where all countries have an interest in finding a practical solution,” he said.

“And where the road to success lies in building trust, cooperation and understanding between nations, respecting each other's perspective, but forging a common way forward. This is why the UAE is so well placed to make the success of this so vitally important.”

The Emirati values of openness, tolerance, innovation and hospitality, Dr Gargash noted in his speech, have also been embodied and materialised into form with the Abrahamic Family House on Saadiyat Island, which will include a mosque, church and synagogue. Architect Sir David Adjaye was also in attendance.

While still under construction, Dr Gargash noted the significance of the site, saying it will “serve as a powerful representation of shared histories and values, and the power of dialogue over division".

Echoed throughout his speech was the message that, while the UAE has evolved over the last 50 years and is forging a path as a nation with a vital voice in the international community, it must always remain in touch with its culture and identity.

“We may have traded pearls and spices for modern day technologies but we must never forget our roots, as they have made us who we are today," he said.

Updated: October 25, 2022, 5:45 PM