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Indians in UAE: The largest expat community

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Image source: newindianexpress.com

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UAE: Don’t know Arabic or fluent English? You’ll still get by in the UAE if you know Hindi or Malayalam- a line often repeated in jest here. But mind you, there’s a whole lot of truth in that. The UAE is home to 2.6 million Indian expats, the largest expat community constituting 30 percent of the total population.

Little wonder that an overwhelming 48,000 Indians signed up to see and hear Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday at the Dubai Cricket Stadium despite the scorching heat. The excitement is palpable with Modi being the first Indian prime minister to visit this Gulf nation in 34 years.

Modi’s visit primarily seeks to enhance cooperation in energy and trade and reach out to investors. The India-UAE trade totals around $60 billion. This makes the UAE India’s third largest trading partner for 2013-14 after China and the US.

India is the top receiver of remittances from its worldwide diaspora at $70.4 billion in 2014. Indians living and working in the UAE are the biggest source of remittances to India, contributing $12.6 billion, according to the World Bank. In comparison, about $11.2 billion of remittances for India originated in the US, which has a larger Indian origin population with much higher incomes.

And the contribution of Indians to the UAE growth story too has been immense, whether it is the hard work of thousands of unskilled laborers, those in the service sector or the contribution of Indian businessmen and professionals in fields like health, retail, education or real estate.

Indians emerged as the leading professional migrants to the UAE in 2014, representing 28 percent, according to a global study by professional networking site LinkedIn.

The demographics are interesting. According to the Indian embassy, in the 1970s and 1980s, when the principal requirement was for blue-collar workers, 85-90 percent of them were Indians. In the 1990s, the profile of the community changed. Today, 15-20 percent of Indians are professionally qualified personnel.

Known as the playground of the rich, the UAE is home to six Indians named in the Forbes’ 2015 Billionaires List: businessmen Mickey Jagtiani, M A Yusuff Ali, real estate tycoon Ravi Pillai, educationist Sunny Varkey, healthcare and foreign exchange czar B R Shetty and pioneering healthcare tycoon Azad Moopen.

The UAE has seen a rapid increase in Indian schools and colleges. Earlier, NRIs in the UAE had no choice but to send their children back to India or abroad elsewhere for higher education. It’s a different story now with the presence of well-known institutes offering graduate and post-graduate courses at campuses in the Dubai International Academic City.

What makes the Indian in the UAE unique from those settled elsewhere in the world is they know they have to go back to India eventually as expats don’t get citizenship or permanent residency. So they are Indian at heart and Indian by passport!

At the same time, Indians are top investors in UAE’s real estate now. According to a Dubai Land Department report, foreign investment in Dubai’s realty market by Indians amounted to AED 18.12 billion ($5 billion) last year.

Malayalis form nearly 40 percent of the 2.6 million Indians in the UAE, making Kerala the biggest benefactor of the remittances. The country is also home to diverse Indian communities.

Sindhis and Gujaratis dominate most family-run businesses. There are also a sizeable number of Punjabis, Tamils and Goans.

Where Indians go, they are bound to take their food along. The bustling locality of Karama in the heart of Dubai, nicknamed “Little India,” is dotted with enticing eateries offering menus from nearly 15 Indian states, including Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Rajasthan.

For an average Indian, religion is an important part of life. And Dubai shines as a beacon of religious tolerance in the Gulf. In 1958, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al Maktoum, father of Dubai’s current ruler, permitted a Hindu temple to be built on the first floor of a bylane in Bur Dubai.

The 50,000 Sikhs in the UAE got their own grand Gurdwara in 2012, thanks to land donated by Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The UAE also hosts several churches frequented by the Malayali Syrian Christians.

The most glamorous business is of course show business. The UAE is a huge source of box office revenue for Bollywood and the Malayalam film industry. Generations of Emiratis grew up watching Hindi movies as staple entertainment, idolizing Amitabh Bachchan and, later, Shah Rukh Khan.

Indian movie stars fly down to the UAE for film premieres a day before it releases even in India. Not to forget the routine store inaugurations and stage shows, one can say that the chances of running into an Indian film star are more in Dubai than in India!

(The article was first published in littleindia.com)

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Modi to lay foundation stone for Abu Dhabi’s first Indian temple

The temple compound will include a visitors' centre, prayer halls, exhibition centre, learning areas, sports area for children and youths, thematic gardens, water features, a food court, books and gift shop and other facilities

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will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community. Wikimedia Commons
will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community. Wikimedia Commons
  • This is Modi’s second visit to the UAE after August 2015
  • Modi was scheduled to arrive here in the evening
  • The temple’s construction will be completed by 2020, and open to people of all religious backgrounds

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Sunday laid the foundation stone for the first Hindu temple in the United Arab Emirates’ capital, which is home to a huge Indian diaspora.

This is Modi’s second visit to the UAE after August 2015. He was scheduled to arrive here in the evening.

“The first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi will come up on 55,000 square metres of land and the groundbreaking ceremony on Sunday will be a historic event,” said Indian Ambassador to the UAE Navdeep Singh Suri.

The Indian leader will be laying the foundation stone for the temple from the Dubai Opera House via video conferencing. He will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community.

“The occasion is going to be historic… because it will also see the commencement of the first Hindu Temple in Abu Dhabi. We are very pleased that we have received 55,000 square metres of land near Al Rahba off the Dubai-Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Highway,” said Suri.

The temple’s construction will be completed by 2020, and open to people of all religious backgrounds.

It will be the first traditional Hindu stone temple in the Middle East, said a spokesperson from the BAPS Swaminarayanan Sanstha that is entrusted with the design, construction and management of the temple.

Also Read: Kerala Tourism to organise promotion event in Abu Dhabi to attract cash-rich Arab travellers

The temple will be hand-carved by Indian temple artisans and assembled in the UAE, said the BAPS spokesperson.

The UAE has two Hindu temples which are located in Dubai. Devotees from Abu Dhabi and other emirates have to drive to Dubai for prayers and offerings.

The temple compound will include a visitors’ centre, prayer halls, exhibition centre, learning areas, sports area for children and youths, thematic gardens, water features, a food court, books and gift shop and other facilities.

Sadhu Brahmaviharidas, the chief spokesperson of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, said the generous gift of land for a Hindu temple by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, “was a strong and sound message to the world that cultural and spiritual inclusiveness is the way forward for global harmony”.

It will replicate the BAPS temple in New Delhi and the one under construction in New Jersey, a trust member told the Khaleej Times.

BAPS manages 1,200 temples in India, UK, the US, Australia, Canada and Africa.

Also Read: Abu Dhabi keeps the Smart City dream alive

Meanwhile, the UAE’s iconic buildings like the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Frame, Adnoc building and the Emirates Palace were lit up in colours of India’s flag ahead of Modi’s visit to the country.

Modi’s high-level engagements here include bilateral meetings with top UAE leaders and a keynote address at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Sunday, in which India is the guest country.

Earlier in the day, Modi was in Ramallah where he received a rousing welcome on the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Palestine. (IANS)