Mishaal Al Gergawi Image Credit: Supplied picture

As the UAE's internet penetration edges up to 60 per cent, the online demographic of bloggers is also slowly changing. Blogging is no longer the exclusive preserve of expatriates. Emiratis are also making a mark in the UAE's blogosphere.

Mishaal Al Gergawi is a young analyst and commentator who started blogging in 2005. He later set up his own blog, which has become one of the most popular blogs by an Emirati. He has over 1,250 followers on Twitter.

Like many other bloggers, Al Gergawi uses his website to express his thoughts and write prose in both Arabic and English. "It [blogging] helps get people's feelings out.

"With traditional media, I can't be published more than once a week," he said. "But when you have your own blog, you can be short or long and you don't have to be edited by anyone else but yourself."

Other local bloggers are also beginning to emerge in the UAE. "We'll see more blogs coming out of the Middle East. It'll become less reactive and more proactive," Al Gergawi said. He calls it the "countdown".

Hind Mezaina is one of those new Emirati bloggers. The 38-year-old Emirati woman works in the digital marketing field, but online she is known as ‘The Culturist.'

Personal space

The Culturist is a blog that Mezaina started not very long ago as a personal space to share her thoughts about cultural events taking place in Dubai.

"I have been wanting to start one but didn't have the time and I had to figure out a name," Mezaina told Gulf News. Close to the Dubai International Film Festival last year and with encouragement from friends and family, she started blogging.

"The objective of the blog is to have a cultural angle and to showcase things from a cultural point of view. It's an opportunity to show things that happen in Dubai and in the region," she said. "People say that nothing happens here, but there's actually a lot going on and I wanted to talk about it."

Mezaina's Facebook and Twitter accounts have helped her get ‘The Culturist' more hits. "I get a few comments, or if it [the post] is very Dubai specific then I get more comments."

When asked about why she was blogging in English rather than in her native Arabic, she said that she feels more confident writing in English. "I speak mostly in English and I work in an environment where mostly English is spoken," she said.

"Not a lot of people can write in Arabic," Al Gergawi said. The education system was changed in 1995 after the need to speak good English was realised. But the flip side is no one can speak or publish in Arabic now, she said.

Al Gergawi, who participates in a lot of panel discussions at universities and seminars, said that there's a major thinking process going on among the generation, which is facing difficulties in expressing themselves in Arabic.

Abdullah and Fahad, 26-year-old Emirati men who manage Al Emarati, a blog on life in the UAE, publish their posts in English because they want to change the misconceptions that many westerners and expatriates have about the UAE, Abdullah wrote in an e-mail to Gulf News.

"We blog in English as that is the idea behind our site, having an English site that is written by Emiratis and contains a real version of the UAE," he wrote. "Especially today, with so many stories and misconceptions about the UAE in the media and online, we decided that having a local home-grown site in English would help even out these misconceptions."

They write about anything from financial issues to movie reviews. "We are trying to get people to think and think outside the norm, outside the box," he added. After publishing one of his posts on Al Emarati, Abdullah said he received about 50 angry comments. "But at least it got people thinking," he said.