Don't worry: The Arab world's first Minister for Happiness has been appointed

The World
The United Arab Emirates has some of the world's tallest and most expensive buildings, including the Burj Khalifa (pictured). But does such luxury bring happiness?

The United Arab Emirates has some of the world's tallest and most expensive buildings, including the Burj Khalifa (pictured). But does such luxury bring happiness? 

Jumana El-Heloue

When the United Arab Emirates officially swore in a new set of government ministers last week, one of them was wearing some unconventional jewellery.

Newly appointed Ohood Al-Roumi wore a necklace shaped to spell out the English word "happy." The reason? Al-Roumi is the UAE's first Minister for Happiness, one of three new posts created, alongside the Minister for Tolerance and the Minister for Youth.

The new Happiness Ministry has attracted a great deal of (sometimes derisive) attention across the Arab world, according to the BBC’s Dooa Soliman, who monitors social media from Cairo. “Social media went crazy over the notion of a Minister of Happiness,” she says. “You name it — we had it. Some were saying [if I were Happiness Minister] I would distribute chocolates, flowers. One lady said the secret to happiness is free nail polish — nail polish will cheer anyone up.”

Dooa noted more than 30,000 uses of the hashtag ‘If I were the Happiness Minister" in Arabic.  

There was a satirical side to the some of the responses. Some Egyptians shared a post suggesting that their country was better prepared for a Minister of Depression and a Minister of Despair. Some Jordanians asked for a Sadness Minister. 

In spite of the attention that the Happiness Minister has attracted, the appointment of a Tolerance Minister may in fact be more significant, according to Dooa.

More than 80 percent of the population of the UAE are foreign workers, many living with limited legal rights.

“People are asking will [the new ministries] make a difference for non-nationals? Or only citizens?” Dooa says.

According to Dooa, it is still too early to say. But it may be notable that the creation of the new ministries was described in terms of making society happier and more tolerant, rather than citizens or the people of the Emirates themselves.