The most important values in Arab culture are the ones based on Islam. Islam is the center of life in the Middle East. Values based on Islam are omnipresent and won´t be replaced by new ones. But following I will explain how old and new values accompany each other, using the example of sustainability.
I would like to highlight four important values in Middle Eastern culture.
Family is a very central point in Arab life and thus the most important value. In most Arab households several generations are living under one roof. Even when a family member is far away, frequent contact is very normal. Family provides protection in exchange to lifelong loyalty. Nobody will ever be alone.
Charity is another important part of Islam and usually people are contributing to help others. Being involved in the community is much more important than it is in other cultures.
Honor and respect are also very significant. It can be quite easy to accidently offend somebody or even worse damage his honor. People in the Middle East for example do not criticize people in public. Furthermore most Arabs consider privacy to be an important value. They rarely talk about anything that is personal. Family issues are expected to remain in the family and are not discussed with others. It is considered to be rude to ask too many personal questions although asking about somebody’s family is generally considered to be good manners.
So how would you explain the integration of new values into society? I will use the example of sustainability to do so:
Sustainability is a central new value arising in a globalized world. Although sustainability is a new value and not yet an important part of Middle Eastern societies, it is not contradictory to the old values at all. Respect and being part of the community are – as mentioned above – central values of Islam and the Arab culture. That also applies for sustainability. Individual actions are affecting other environments and individuals in other parts of the world. Only by respecting each other in a globalized world and by respecting the needs of future generations, we can achieve a better, sustainable, tomorrow!
Nowadays the Middle East is still underdeveloped in regards to sustainability compared to other countries. This development is very surprising for me, as people in the past had to live very sustainable in this region. They lived in the desert and coped to this hostile to life area only by balancing their needs with what was offered by mother nature: little water, date palms, fish and camels.
When oil was discovered and oil dollars enriched the region, people could afford everything in abundance and sustainability wasn´t a topic anymore. Modern cities popped up and population started to grow. Due to higher education and lacking future scenarios, a rethinking started and money is being invested for sustainability projects.
One of these projects is Masdar City near Abu Dhabi in the UAE. Masdar City has the vision to provide the highest quality of life and work environment with the lowest environmental footprint – and to do so in a commercial viable manner. Masdar means “the source” in Arabic and refers to source for many things: economic diversification in the region as well as knowledge-economy jobs for Abu Dhabi. But it will also be a source for expertise in sustainable urban development and design.
Siemens is one of the strongest supporters of Masdar City. The Headquarter of the region will move into the new office buildings in Masdar by the end of 2013. During my assignment in Dubai I was favored by fortune to attend the World Future Energy Summit 2013 in Abu Dhabi. Speakers at the summit were for example Francois Hollande and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, but also our Siemens CEO Peter Loescher. On the photo below you can see him with the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Masdar Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber.
By further developing old values, the region is pioneering in many regards and getting back to its roots. By the way…green was the favorite colour of The Prophet. Is this coincidence? ;-)
“The new values build upon the old ones”.
Just like in the picture I took of a mosque in Bur Dubai: the mosque in the front and the highest building of the world “Burj Khalifa” in the back:
Hey followers – do you know the values of Siemens? How do they relate to projects like Masdar City? I´m looking forward to your interesting discussions!
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