Salem Al-Qassimi


With the influx of foreign cultures and economic globalization, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is undergoing a major identity transformation. While many feel the threat of this transformation on the Emirati identity, some use it as an inevitable process to be embraced.

I believe that the UAE is not losing its identity, it is creating a vivid new one. This new identity is Arabish. Arabish, initially known as a hybrid form of text messaging—where Latin characters are used to replace Arabic pronunciation—is now more than just that. It is a way of speaking and a way of life, especially for the mainstream Emirati youth.

As a designer, I address this emerging Arabish culture from a personal and global perspective. Graphic design is a powerful method of research and communication. I use it as a means to comment on hybrid cultural elements—dress, language, and urban landscape. It is my vehicle, helping me and others better understand the UAE identity and its emerging Arabish culture.