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Virtually any country has a symbol, and this is not merely something that is drawn on its flag or coat of arms but a meaningful representation of what a given nation values about its history and culture. For example, each of the four parts of the United Kingdom has its own plant symbol (“Emblems of Britain,” n.d.): the English red and white rose symbolizes the union between two dynasties that had been at war before.
The Scottish thistle, with its pricks and flowers, shows that Scotland is beautiful but can harsh. The Welsh daffodil is associated with the country’s patron saint. The Northern Irish shamrock was used by the country’s patron saint to explain the concept of Trinity. Symbols can be interpreted differently, but there are normally initial meanings in them. The shield of my culture displays the coat of arms of the United Arab Emirates. The symbols—the falcon, the flag, and the parchment—are on the shield of the UAE because they highlight strength and freedom, national colors, and the national pride of the country.
The first thing that one immediately sees when looking at the UAE coat of arms is the golden and white bird. This bird is a falcon (“Fact sheet,” n.d.), and the seven feathers in its tail represent the seven Emirates of the Federation. In heraldry, falcons are used due to the fact that they have been not only observed but also used by humankind since ancient history (“Armorial gold heraldry,” n.d.).
Falconry is the practice of training falcons to hunt and then using them for hunting. However, it is noteworthy that falcons, unlike other animals that hunters have been using for centuries, such as dogs, were never fully domesticated, and they are still rather wild birds. I think that this fact is important in understanding the falcon as a symbol of freedom; falcons are independent birds, and independence is an important value of every UAE citizen.
Another aspect of the symbol to which I can relate as a representative of the UAE culture is the fact that falcons are highly skillful. They can fly very fast and follow complicated trajectories because they can also change the direction of their motion rapidly. Falcons have been appreciated for these qualities and even worshipped in many cultures; for example, in the Egyptian culture, in which falcons symbolized the sun god named Ra, who was often depicted with a falcon’s head.
The golden color of the falcon symbolizes wealth, as gold is traditionally associated with it. In my culture, the well-being of a person and his or her family is strongly connected to prosperity, and precious things made of gold specifically are often given as presents to show respect and appreciation. This is why the fact that the falcon is golden is relevant to my culture.
It should be noted that the falcon’s wings are displayed. In heraldry, there is the notion of attitude, i.e., the position of an animal demonstrating a certain intention or feeling. Some researchers say that displayed wings symbolize strength and confidence (Ælfwald, n.d.). While some other researchers also say that there is no difference between elevated (tips up) and inverted (tips down) wings in heraldry, I think that elevated wings rather show aggression, while inverted ones indicate peacefulness. This combination of powerfulness and peaceful intention should be an important cultural aspect, too.
On the falcon, there is a disk with a distorted UAE flag on it surrounded by seven stars. Like the falcon’s feathers, the stars represent the seven Emirates. Each of the four colors of the flag has its own meaning (Zaki, 2017). The green color traditionally represents prosperity and hope. In deserts, which constitute a large part of the UAE territory, seeing this color on the horizon means that there is water, which is why green can also symbolize joy and new life. The white color represents purity and honesty. Many traditional clothes in my culture are white, and this is not only because of the color of clothes in good in hot weather (since white surfaces reflect more light than surfaces of other colors) but also because white is traditionally seen as the symbol of cleanliness.
The line at the base is black, and many people think that it represents oil, which is one of the main sources of the country’s prosperity today (Zaki, 2017). However, the symbolism of the black color in the Muslim world is an ancient phenomenon that developed long before oil was discovered. Opposite to the white color in the physical sense, the black color does not necessarily mean the opposite things or always symbolizes death; on the UAE flag, black represents the defeat of enemies and strength of mind. Finally, there is a red line that is vertical and unites all other colors and themes represented by them (“Fact sheet,” n.d.).
Red is primarily the color of blood, which not only makes life possible but also is shed in battles. From this perspective, red is the color of courage. In my culture, being brave and protecting what you believe in without fear are important qualities.
Finally, the falcon holds a red parchment that has the name of the country on it written in a calligraphic Arabic script. The color of the parchment, similar to the color of the vertical line on the flag, represents courage. Also, it can be argued that the red color may mean strength and hardiness (Zaki, 2017); being ready to shed one’s blood shows not only a fearless warrior but also one who is extremely committed to certain values. I believe that this image of someone who is ready to fight for the right cause and defeat enemies has largely affected my culture, in which determination and moral strength are still highly appreciated characteristics.
The falcon holds the parchment firmly with its talons, which reminded me of the tradition (which is found in virtually any culture, not only mine), according to which national symbols must be protected rigorously. The parchment with the country’s name on it should never be dropped and should be defended by the citizens.
Based on the symbols-related analysis of the shield of my culture, it can be said that the nation demonstrates its determination to the values of freedom, independence, strength, purity, wealth, and courage. However, there is a certain symbol that is not part of my culture, but I would like it to be: the peace sign. It was originally designed as a symbol of nuclear disarmament (Sinclair, 2014), but later became an internationally recognized symbol of peace and nonviolence. I think it is important for my culture to combine the values of bravery and resistance with the values of peacefulness and pacification, and this combination should be represented by a more explicit symbol than the falcon with inverted wings.
Ælfwald, E. (n.d.). Blazoning of creatures. Web.
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Armorial gold heraldry symbolism library: F. (n.d.). Web.
Emblems of Britain. (n.d.). Web.
Fact sheet. (n.d.). Web.
Sinclair, M. (2014). The untold story of the peace sign. Web.
Zaki, Y. (2017). What does the UAE flag mean? Gulf News. Web.