The Daily Q

Home, where I don’t belong, anymore

By Syed Owais Ali

U.A.E. celebrated its 41st year of independence on December 2, 2012.
Photo retrieved from


On United Arab Emirates national day, I found myself in a dilemma of mixed feelings. I had been celebrating this day for the past 10 years, but should I anymore? 

It has been almost three months since I left my home in U.A.E. to pursue higher education at NU-Q. I have come to realize I don’t belong there since I travelled outside the country to study.

My family moved from Pakistan to the U.A.E. back in 2002. After spending 10 years of my life in this place I called home, now I’m treated like a tourist, just because I don’t study there anymore. According to the U.A.E. law, once a male expat turns 18, he has to either study in the country or work in order to get a residence visa. Otherwise, he has to leave the country and can only visit on a tourist visa. However unmarried female expats can stay with their family until they get married according to Ministry of Interior UAE’s Article 31(e) of the Executive Regulations of Entry and Residence of Foreigners law and its Amendments.

My one-year residence visa expired this November but I still couldn’t plan a trip back home for the winter break. I had to apply for a cancellation of residence first. Once my father did that for me, he got a tourist visa, from a travel agency, for his son who had spent more than half of his life in the country.

I don’t mind these rules and regulations. Neither am I asking for Emirati citizenship. I just feel sad. I find myself in a situation where I can’t visit my family without worrying about these visa issues, or without bypassing all these bureaucratic procedures. It is just a pity to be labeled as a tourist in a place I have more memories of than my own country. I guess now I can only visit my childhood streets as a tourist.

Maybe this year, I should pretend I had nothing to do with the U.A.E. national day.


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Student newspaper at NU-Q
Home, where I don’t belong, anymore