The United Arab Emirates Is Obsessed With Happiness

The oil-rich Gulf state tops the list of Arab countries in the Global Happiness Index for the fourth time in a row

You'd be happy too if your police car was a Ferrari — REUTERS
Mar 20, 2017 at 11:34 AM ET

The United Arab Emirates marks the International Day of Happiness besting other Arab countries on the Global Happiness Index for the fourth time in a row. The oil-rich nation in the Persian Gulf was ranked 21st in 2017’s list, which is topped by Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland. The top ten was rounded out by Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.

The U.S. was 14th, and the United Kingdom was 19th. After the U.A.E, the next Arab nation was Qatar, at 35. The index ranks countries on factors that include GDP, social support, life expectancy and the freedom to make life choices, among others.

Promoting happiness has become part of the official mandate of the Emirati government which last year established its own Ministry for Happiness. Over the weekend, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE announced the establishment of a World Happiness Council “to support international goals to standardise happiness as a measure of development, as we are doing in the UAE.”

According to the Emirates’ News Agency, al Maktoum stressed that “happiness is a good contagion, and we want the peoples of the world to be affected by it, to enjoy its goodness.” The council will receive administrative support from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and would convene twice a year, focusing on “health, education, environment, personal happiness, happy cities and community standards for happiness.”

The hashtags for the International Day of Happiness are the top trending topics in social media across the Emirates, both in Arabic () and English (). Social media accounts posted images showing government institutions holding activities for the occasion with yellow smiley face balloons. Local schools posted pictures of children holding signs of saying “I’m happy,” “I’m cheerful,” and “Happiness is giving.”

Translation: “We searched for the happiness and found it in the smiles of our children. Happiness is a way of life”

Official and unofficial accounts praised Emirati leaders calling them “happiness makers” and said the royal family was “the secret to our happiness.” One tweeted: “Thankful I am in the Emirates.”

Social media users uploaded images showing local authorities had translated the name of one of Dubai’s streets al-Saada (‘happiness’) into English.