The lessons to be learnt from the London attacks

Sometimes we don't realise the danger in the outside world precisely because we live in a country that is relatively safe, contends Ayesha Almazroui

Many Emiratis, as well as Arabs from other Gulf states travelling abroad need to need to learn how to blend with the local population. Silvia Razgova / The National
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The solidarity evident in Emirati society is something I constantly find fascinating. We are fiercely protective when one of us is hurt or in danger.

Emirati society has been deeply shocked by the two recent attacks in London – first, when three Emirati sisters were attacked in their hotel room by a man with a hammer (one is still in a critical condition) and second, after an Emirati family was threatened at gunpoint in their flat by a seven-member gang, who also stole money, jewellery and credit cards.

Those involved in the two ordeals were left traumatised.

What happened to them provoked many to voice their anger and concerns on social media via Twitter hashtags, such as #london_is_not_safe and a few Arabic hashtags, including #bye_bye_london (the name of a popular Kuwaiti play), #london_the_city_of_thieves, #london_assault, among others.

While many Emiratis expressed legitimate concerns about security in London, some comments fancifully suggested the attacks were part of some sort of political retaliation or that “London does not protect the people of the UAE in particular”. But, as the police in London have been at pains to point out, there is no evidence that the two cases were connected.

Chief superintendent Paul Rickett, the officer in charge of investigating into the attacks, said in an exclusive interview with The National that in "no way, shape or form" are UAE nationals being deliberately targeted in London and that there was no link between the two crimes.

While we all agree that the two incidents are horrific and strenuous efforts should be exerted to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice, there are, perhaps, a few lessons to be learnt here for Emiratis when they next travel overseas.

Because of the relatively safe environment that is the UAE, we tend to forget to take appropriate precautions when we travel.

A diplomat from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spoke to a public diplomacy class I attended recently about the important role citizens play when travelling overseas. He told us that UAE embassies receive regular complaints from Emiratis who get robbed in countries around the world, especially in Europe.

This made me think about the way many people from the UAE or other Gulf countries dress when travelling abroad and how their clothes can attract attention.

I’ve seen it in London and other places. People from this country and other Gulf states wearing high-end clothes, watches, shoes and bags that can make them an easy target for opportunistic thieves. Even so, these two recent incidents could have happened in any country, since no place in the world is absolutely safe. The lesson here is that we need to be street smart on our travels – know the neighbourhoods we’re staying in, dress to blend in and stay alert to potential trouble spots.

We also need to make sure we follow police guidelines inside hotels. We need to avoid leaving valuables unattended in hotel rooms, and make sure doors are locked. We should also remember that hotel lobbies and reception areas are open to the public and avoid leaving bags or valuables unattended.

Unfortunately, I know that not many Emiratis keep that in mind while travelling abroad.

Sometimes I feel we don’t realise the danger in the outside world precisely because we live in a country that is relatively safe. If the London attacks have taught us one thing, it is that we cannot always take that safety for granted when we travel.

On Twitter: @AyeshaAlmazroui