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Iceland volcano shuts down European air travel 16, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in UK.
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As you have probably seen a volcanic eruption in Iceland spewing ash into the atmosphere across Northern Europe has caused practically all flights to and from the UK as well as most other northern European countries to be cancelled. Quite amazing stuff. But – and here’s the million dollar questions – what is the name of the volcano? I’m just betting that it’ll be on the next pub quiz…

Mount Eyjafjallajoekull

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Map of Arabic dialects 16, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East, Random.
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Here’s a fascinating map of the various Arabic dialects found throughout the Middle East. Being far from an expert or even someone overly proficient at Arabic I’ll just make two quick comments.

1) It must not be forgotten that this map does not at all account for the differences in Arabic. Whilst, for example, Iraqi and Gulf Arabic might not be that dissimilar, Gulf and Moroccan Arabic are, I believe, hugely and almost incomprehensibly different.

2) This map also significantly underestimates the importance, spread and general dissemination of Egyptian Arabic. Whilst the map shows that this dialect is spoken only along the Nile and in its delta, Egyptian Arabic is, so to speak, the lingua franca/arabica of the Arabic speaking world and will be understood essentially everywhere. This is due to the profusion and ubiquity of Egyptian media (notably films and music) throughout the latter half of the 20th century. Though to some degree this is changing today, with Lebanese film and music coming to the fore, Egyptian Arabic is still entrenched and widely understood.

Hat tip: Simon Kerr

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Qatar’s National Museum plans unveiled 16, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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Qatar is to get another architectural gem in the form of its National Museum. Already bulging with numerous examples of bold and innovative design, Doha’s latest addition will be situated on the Corniche near the Islamic Art Museum and will span some 1.2 million square feet. Read more about the design at Interior Design.

Iran unvails new drones 16, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
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Iran’s military has announced that they have produced unmanned aeriel vehicles (UAVs) that can both gather intelligence and strike hostile targets. Whilst they will be no where near as advanced as the US’ predator and reaper drones used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, they will nevertheless cause some consternation. UPI reports that the US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates voiced concerns that Iran’s new drones could “create difficulty” for the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. He even put forward the much-loved US hypothetical of such technologies falling into the hands of terrorists.

It seems more likely that whilst these drones will certainly have some tactical use for Iran’s military, given that the Israelis recently officially announced that they had produced a drone that could reach Iran, they simply had no choice but maintain parity with their chosen enemy of recent times.

Iran’s indigenous defence industry has been progressing for years now since US sanctions forced them to look inward to meet their needs. However, whilst aspects of this industry are thought to be well-funded, in reality Iran simply cannot match the level of technological sophistication of Western powers or even of their Arab neighbours who buy top-class Western kit. I would be surprised, therefore, despite the Iranian fan-fare, if these drones really posed that much of a new threat. However, being no Iranian military expert, I stand ready to be corrected…

As a brief aside it is interesting to note that Iran’s desperation for spare parts for their air force during the 1980s and their Iraq war, led them to deal intimately with the Israelis. Back then both Israel and Iran were united despite their ideological differences by an all-consuming fear of Iraq. Whatever Khomeini’s rhetoric towards Tel Aviv, his trading of oil for spare parts is a perfect example of realpolitik.