Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is tribalism alive and well in the UAE?

For an outsider living in the UAE it is very difficult to get an intimation of what goes on behind the scenes in local culture. And I'm not a social anthropologist, so I'm not skilled at teasing these things out. But a story in The National gives some insights:
Abu Dhabi TV takes tribes series off air
...
Abu Dhabi TV has taken the controversial Ramadan television miniseries Sadoun Al Awaji off the air by order of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, after prominent Arab tribes portrayed in the show raised serious complaints about their depiction.

The 30-episode nightly drama about the historic figure Sheikh Sadoun Al Awaji was pulled following its Sunday night broadcast after Sheikh Khalifa received appeals from the Anazah and Shammar tribes. Abu Dhabi TV, which aired the show, is owned by Abu Dhabi Media Company, which also publishes The National.

Officials at Abu Dhabi TV declined to comment about the show’s cancellation, but sources at the station said they had received a number of calls about the fate of the soap. The Saudi press has reported that members of the two influential tribes had protested about the broadcasting of both series.
...
A second soap opera, Finjan al Dam, which was also due to air over the month of Ramadan on Saudi Arabia’s MBC channel, was cancelled last week as well. Set in the 19th century, the show’s plot revolves around tribal conflict and also features the old tribes.

Dr Ali al Matroushi, a historian and an expert on tribal lineage, said: “All of this proves that even after hundreds of years, the tribal traditions and their feuds are still strong.”

He said the story of Al Awaji was very popular, with many books written about it. But he added that portraying the story in a big-budget TV production during Ramadan, “when everyone is watching”, may have been too much.

“The descendants of the tribes pay close attention to every detail about their tribes,” he said.
Thanks to Memri for the pointer.

Addendum: Leo Americanus evidently knows much more than me about the tribes of the Arab peninsula. Thanks to him for this comment to my post:

The tribes in question here, the Shammar and Aniza, are found primarily in Saudi and Iraq, not UAE. I read elsewhere that it was actually Saudi officials who requested that Abu Dhabi cancel the series. The Saudi government's legitimation rests more squarely on tribal manipulation than does the UAE's, if only because Saudi is much larger and contains much larger (and maybe more troublesome) tribes. In any case, some tribesmen in the Shammar and Aniza may be moved to "thar" or feud by the series, but I've met a number of members of both tribes who are friends and laugh at the old tensions. It seems to me that it really depends on whether or not there is something else to fight over in certain, probably rural, areas.
Check out Leo Americanus' blog for more posts about the Arab world. I affiliate with Leo's self-description: "An American traveler of sorts, currently in the U.S. and looking forward to the next adventure."

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1 Comments:

Blogger Leo Americanus said...

The tribes in question here, the Shammar and Aniza, are found primarily in Saudi and Iraq, not UAE. I read elsewhere that it was actually Saudi officials who requested that Abu Dhabi cancel the series. The Saudi government's legitimation rests more squarely on tribal manipulation than does the UAE's, if only because Saudi is much larger and contains much larger (and maybe more troublesome) tribes. In any case, some tribesmen in the Shammar and Aniza may be moved to "thar" or feud by the series, but I've met a number of members of both tribes who are friends and laugh at the old tensions. It seems to me that it really depends on whether or not there is something else to fight over in certain, probably rural, areas.

9:10 AM  

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