How the Gulf States have preserved their Arabic heritage

Iconic Arabia. Arabic tea and dates (Photo by Shutterstock)

The Gulf States have succeeded in preserving their Arabic heritage, while moving towards modernity, prosperity, and diversifying their economies, writes Ahmad Abdul-Rahman.

The Arabian Gulf is a region that extends south from the Indian Ocean to the borders of Turkey and northern Iran. The population of the Gulf States comprises well-known Arab clans and tribes that inhabited these areas through the ages. When oil was found in this region, it became a center of the global economy, leading to the arrival of millions of people from different countries. It started from India and Pakistan, then Iran and Afghanistan, and the Arab Mashreq, Egypt and Morocco. Hence, this region has become a melting pot of different cultures who came to this region in search of a livelihood, job opportunities and a better life. Many feared that that the Gulf Arabs would lose their national identity. This has not happened. The following must be noted:

First: Even though some people in the Arabian Peninsula left to different regions in Iraq and the Levant and to Asia, these people are still Arab. According to Dr. Mustafa El-Feqi, a prominent researcher and writer: "This does not detract, of course, from our saying that the Arab is everyone whose first language was the Arabic language. Therefore, the Arabism of the Gulf is unequivocal. This is confirmed by the history of that region and migration. Arabism in this sense is clear. It restores the inhabitants of those areas to their true origins and their first roots, and always makes them more deserving of the Arab component in terms of lineages, races, and origins (which are) determined by anthropological studies."

Second: The discovery of oil at the beginning of the second quarter of the twentieth century led to a huge qualitative shift for the population of the Arab Gulf. The emergence of oil had several negative and positive results. Negatively, it has opened up the region to the West which has a huge appetite for oil. There is a scramble. On the positive side, the Arabian Gulf has attracted capital and major companies.

Third: The Persian-Arab neighborhood, as pointed out by Al-Feqi, remains closely knit because of the geographical overlap and religious and sectarian similarities. Iran and Turkey remain the two powers that historically compete for cultural influence, not only in the Arab Gulf, but also among the countries of the Arab Mashreq. Moreover, if Turkey's ambitions in the Arab Gulf are primarily economic, Iran's dreams of political control and turning the Gulf into an area of Iranian influence. The clash between the West, especially the US and Israel on one side, and Iran on the other, has led to a state of permanent tension.

Fourth: The culture of the Gulf Arabs depends on openness and tolerance. Al Feqi says: "Indeed, I think that this is one of the main components on which the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) relied as the most successful experiment among contemporary Arab organisations after World War II, in addition to the decline in the role of the Arab League."

Fifth: Those who visit the Arab Gulf countries are surprised by the degree of progress that has been achieved and the Gulf specialists who hold higher degrees from Europe and the US. This progress has been achieved because most of these countries have moved beyond their reliance on energy revenues to a more diversified economy. Tourism and revenue from logistics, for example, are a source of national income. The Gulf States are moving towards modernity and prosperity and presenting themselves as independent countries,  despite the similarity of population and way of living.

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Saturday, 30 September 2023