Hamad Saeed Al Ketbi does not know how old he is, but thinks he is about 80. One thing the tour guide is certain of, however, is that his country’s heritage must be preserved and he is working with young Emiratis to do just that. Reem Mohammed / The National
Hamad Saeed Al Ketbi does not know how old he is, but thinks he is about 80. One thing the tour guide is certain of, however, is that his country’s heritage must be preserved and he is working with yoShow more

Elderly Emirati wants younger generation to preserve UAE’s traditions

DUBAI // The number of Emiratis who can recall life before oil, motorways and air conditioning is decreasing with each passing year. As the UAE moves forward on the international stage, the older generation is fearful the stories and traditions that sustained them are in danger of being lost forever.

Hamad Saeed Al Ketbi was a child when Dubai started on the path to modernity. The grandfather, who does not know his exact age but is “around 80”, spends his days regaling tourists at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve with tales of his life as a Bedouin.

Mr Al Ketbi loves keeping the history of his tribespeople alive, but fears few younger Emiratis will be as keen to step into his shoes.

“People don’t see this life, so I’m happy to talk about it,” he said. “The young have let go of the traditions. They’ve become too accustomed to studies of the book rather than the majlis.

“School and education has taken over, but the community is a school, too. These traditions you only learn by gathering with people, sitting and learning from each other. Not from schools.”

Encouraging Emiratis to work in tourism is a challenge across the emirates. Mr Al Ketbi is one of a handful of elderly citizens regularly interacting with visitors.

“I don’t think there are people in the young generation who can do what I do,” he said. “Many know more than me but I don’t think they have the patience to do this. They’re the ones who take the government jobs.”

Ahmad Al Minhali and Ismail Al Hajj, both 23, perform the Yola dance at the reserve, which is operated by Platinum Heritage. Although acknowledged as an important tradition among their community, such roles are not seen as “proper jobs”.

“I wanted to do something to help keep the traditions alive,” said Mr Al Minhali, a student at Al Ghurair University. “Really, I only do this because of the culture. We’re presenting our history.”

Mr Al Hajj agrees: “I do this to showcase my culture. It makes us feel proud.”Both men were discouraged by friends and family from working at the reserve.

“Our families are proud of us for doing this but, of course, they advise us to find something better in the future,” Mr Al Minhali said. “For example, in the police force there is a clear promotion path which we don’t have here.”

Both men agreed that long hours and low pay deters Emiratis from entering the tourism industry.

Emirati cultural ambassador Nasif Kayed, director of the Sheikh Mohammed Centre For Cultural Understanding, said attitudes must change. “When students graduate, firstly they’re looking for compensation, then lower workloads and finally a job that benefits the country and society. This we need to flip to make the last the first.”

He said pay is a major issue in attracting Emiratis to work at the centre.

“My biggest challenge is to pay them a competitive salary. You need someone intelligent, well spoken, fluent in English, I’m not going to get that for Dh10,000 a month.”


THE BIO: Mohammed Ashiq Ali

Proudest achievement: “I came to a new country and started this shop”

Favourite TV programme: the news

Favourite place in Dubai: Al Fahidi. “They started the metro in 2009 and I didn’t take it yet.”

Family: six sons in Dubai and a daughter in Faisalabad


The flights: You can fly from the UAE to Iceland with one stop in Europe with a variety of airlines. Return flights with Emirates from Dubai to Stockholm, then Icelandair to Reykjavik, cost from Dh4,153 return. The whole trip takes 11 hours. British Airways flies from Abu Dhabi and Dubai to Reykjavik, via London, with return flights taking 12 hours and costing from Dh2,490 return, including taxes. 
The activities: A half-day Silfra snorkelling trip costs 14,990 Icelandic kronur (Dh544) with Dive.is. Inside the Volcano also takes half a day and costs 42,000 kronur (Dh1,524). The Jokulsarlon small-boat cruise lasts about an hour and costs 9,800 kronur (Dh356). Into the Glacier costs 19,500 kronur (Dh708). It lasts three to four hours.
The tours: It’s often better to book a tailor-made trip through a specialist operator. UK-based Discover the World offers seven nights, self-driving, across the island from £892 (Dh4,505) per person. This includes three nights’ accommodation at Hotel Husafell near Into the Glacier, two nights at Hotel Ranga and two nights at the Icelandair Hotel Klaustur. It includes car rental, plus an iPad with itinerary and tourist information pre-loaded onto it, while activities can be booked as optional extras. More information inspiredbyiceland.com


Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

Dengue fever symptoms
  • High fever
  • Intense pain behind your eyes
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle and joint pains
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen glands
  • Rash

If symptoms occur, they usually last for two-seven days

Fines for littering

In Dubai:

Dh200 for littering or spitting in the Dubai Metro

Dh500 for throwing cigarette butts or chewing gum on the floor, or littering from a vehicle. 
Dh1,000 for littering on a beach, spitting in public places, throwing a cigarette butt from a vehicle

In Sharjah and other emirates
Dh500 for littering - including cigarette butts and chewing gum - in public places and beaches in Sharjah
Dh2,000 for littering in Sharjah deserts
Dh500 for littering from a vehicle in Ras Al Khaimah
Dh1,000 for littering from a car in Abu Dhabi
Dh1,000 to Dh100,000 for dumping waste in residential or public areas in Al Ain
Dh10,000 for littering at Ajman's beaches 

Most Read
Top Videos

The UAE Today

The latest news and analysis from the Emirates

      By signing up, I agree to The National's privacy policy
      The UAE Today