The United Arab Emirates newspaper The National has an article about a UAE librarian who feels that the Internet is “killing” the Arabic language, making people too lazy to find information in a book rather than on-line. One of few librarians in the UAE, 57-year-old Abdul Razak Al Khumairi works at the new UAE and Arabian Gulf library that opened this month with 15,000 books, including 5,000 in English.
Although the article is headlined with Al Khumairi’s complaint against the Internet, it actually makes up relatively little of the article, which seems more directed toward discussing his life and examining his attitude toward libraries and books in general. Nonetheless, I found it interesting to read about how libraries work in the UAE.
I wonder what Al Khumairi thinks of e-books? They’re probably pretty rare yet in the UAE (though as we noted in January they have started to appear over there), given how concentrated they seem to be in the English-speaking world. It’s interesting to see someone complaining that printed books’ decline is due to the Internet rather than their electronic brethren.
Mr. Al Khumairi is not representative of Emiratis. I highly respect his self education by reading, however he is the exception, not the rule. Emirati culture is in rapid transition, but it was an oral tradition culture. Very little reading and writing was done outside of religious or business purposes. Now, the country is more than 80% non-Emirati. The common language is English. I know several Emiratis for whom English is their first language. They may be able to speak the local dialect of Arabic, but not read or write Arabic. This is not caused by the internet. Reading print has not been valued in the culture. Parents have not sat down to read (in either Arabic or English) to their children. Reading is usually done only in school and is considered a misery by most students. E-books are not a threat to print reading here, because few are reading anything.