View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Friday, March 16, 2007

Celebrating the Irish in the U.A.E.

Have you heard the one about the Irishman who was really an Englishman? To be sure, to be sure, Patrick was born in the south of England about 389 A.D. At sixteen he was kidnapped, taken to Ireland and forced to work in harsh conditions as a shepherd.

Six years later Patrick escaped and returned to his family in England but the pull of the Irish led him back to the Emerald Isle. Whereas he had grown up thinking that his family’s faith was a load of blarney, he experienced a change of heart and a calling to work among the Irish. Like many of his compatriots, Patrick had the gift of the gab and he skillfully used images like shamrocks and soldier’s armory to get his point across.

Patrick was a great traveler and ever since the Irish have kept on traveling to every continent and island of the world.

A significant number of people with Irish descent are now living in the United Arab Emirates. There are thriving Irish Societies in Abu Dhabi and Dubai that boast a full calendar of events to foster friendship, develop business ties and inculcate the Irish culture, especially in their children and young people. Clubs like the Dubai Celts promote rugby football, and Irish sports such as Gaelic football (played by men and women) and hurling.

The popular Irish Village in Dubai is a focus for the Irish and those wanting to claim an Irish allegiance. With its Irish cuisine, dancing and music, people gather to experience a taste of home. Tonight (March 16), Irish activist and rock star, Sir Bob Geldof, is performing live in the Irish Village.

It is interesting to note the growing relationship between Ireland and the U.A.E. Last year, Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, visited the Emirates during the celebrations leading up to St. Patrick’s Day. In January 2007, Mary Hanafin, the Irish Minister of Education and Science, was in the U.A.E. to develop partnerships and exchanges between educational institutions in the two countries.

St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) is a time for parades around the world with the largest attendance of approximately two million in the city of New York. On this day people often plant a potato to herald the commencement of Spring, they wear something green or imbibe an Irish drink. The saying is true, “Everyone wants to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.”

Image: A picture from the Gulf Gaelic Games, January 2007.