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Hiatus 28, July 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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Many apologies for the current hiatus in posting. Innumerable conferences and other deadlines plus a small holiday preclude posting. It’s not as if anything happens in the summer in any case…

thegulfblog.com will return to its usual fine fettle…err…soon ish. Inshallah.

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The Iranians are a comin’ 18, July 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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No commentary needed.

Hat tip: Suq al Mal

Tourism in the Kingdom 18, July 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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For some time now there have been vaguely official rumours that Saudi Arabia will start issuing ordinary tourist visas. Whilst a typical tourist visa (i.e. individual) may still be some time away, The National reports that there are numerous tourism companies which have been taking tourists to Saudi for some time now.

There must be a minimum of 4 people in a group before the companies will seek to issue visas. Women must be 30 years or older if they are not travelling with a man and must wear Abayas.

There is a lot to see in Saudi. Jeddah is reputedly a very attractive sea-side city. Nearby there are, like in Petra, spectacular Nabatean archeological sites. Diving too is sure to be a growth industry. Across the water from Jeddah there are countless bustling dive-orientated tourist destinations like the delightful Dahab. The reefs surely have to be on both sides of the world-famous Red Sea offering relatively unspoiled climbs. If they so choose, there’s quite the opportunity here.

Saudi are adamant, however, that they do not want to replicate the tourism of Dubai or Bahrain. Both cities have largely deserved reputation for – how to put this nicely – egregiously licentious behavior.

Gulfies in London 18, July 2010

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An interesting article on the typically absurd extravagances of Gulfies in London.

Saudi: we want more polygamy 15, July 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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Seemingly there’s a new campaign being launched in Saudi by amorous young men promoting the virtues of polygamy. This is reacting to an increasing amount of young women who are rejecting the opportunity to enter into polygamous marriages in the Kingdom. I’m sure women will come a-flocking.

Hat tip: The Windy City Imam

Iran’s weakness: its ports 15, July 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, The Emirates.
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There’s a very interesting article written by Meir Javedanfar in The Diplomat discussing a strategic weakness of Iran. Javedanfar notes that Iran’s southern ports are not able to accommodate +100,000 ton ships. [Presumably they don’t have any such ports in the north…] Any larger ships must dock in the UAE are the goods reexported. This is problematic, Javendanfar, suggests for a few reasons.

  • Given the increase in 250,000 ton ships plying the Gulf, Iran is increasingly losing out on economies of scale.
  • Relying on another country for transit of such an amount of goods is a dangerous tactic. Particularly given the UAE’s increasing proclivities towards siding with American sanctions, this could well bode ill for Iran.
  • Iran is paying hundreds of millions of dollars (perhaps billions, he suggests) to the UAE in port fees.

Qatar to mediate (again) in Yemen 15, July 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar, Yemen.
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Qatar is to attempt to mediate in the Yemeni conflict once more.

Back in 2006-7 Qatari mediators (including the Emir, the Foreign Minister and the Crown Prince) sought to mediate a solution to the Houthi Yemeni conflict. They suggested that the Houthi leaders relocate to Doha (with a nice house and a stipend) and refrain from making any public statements as part of their proposed solution. The Qatari attempts failed. Whilst I had simply assumed that Saudi had, in some way, shape or form, interfered and scuppered the deal, apparently, the Yemeni authorities (and their advisors) thought that Qatar was trying to pursue a line of mediation overly ‘kind’ to the Houthis.

Qatar have a mixed record in mediation. They succeeded in securing a very important medium term solution in Lebanon and are in the midst of mediating (with severe difficulty) in Darfur. Unlike many regional mediators (such as Saudi and Egypt, for example) Qatar can bring a high degree of neutrality to most of their mediations. Additionally, they are relatively cash rich and are willing to use their money to facilitate mediation.

If, therefore, the conflict in Yemen is approaching something that might be described as a ‘ripe moment’ then Qatar may well have the attributes to bring the parties closer.

I look forward to some comments from knowledgeable Yemen people…

Hat tip: Mari

Israelis to sue Al Jazeera 15, July 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Al-Jazeera, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
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AP reports that a group of Israelis are suing Al Jazeera for $1.2 billion in New York for aiding Hezbollah. These 91 Israelis were wounded by Hezbollah’s rockets in the 2006 war. They suggest that Al Jazeera intentionally broke Israel’s military censorship rules and reported specific locations of rocket attacks in Israel allowing Hezbollah to more accurately aim their rockets.

I don’t like their chances.

Alcohol consumption up in UAE and Saudi 15, July 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia, The Emirates.
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Alcohol consumption in the U.A.E. has risen some 30% in the last five years. As the article in Arabian Business notes, this is despite increasingly more difficult restrictions on alcohol sales. The same study stated that alcohol consumption in Saudi Arabia has almost doubled since 2004. This statistic obviously makes no mistakes as everyone knows that there is no alcohol in the holy Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Hat Tip: Sultan Al Qasseimi

Jailed for ‘blasphemy’ 15, July 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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A Lebanese expatriate living in Doha has been jailed for seven years for blaspheming whilst being stretchered to a waiting ambulance. Apparently, he uttered two curse words directed at the ambulance men.

Whilst he will not serve anything like seven years, this is surely not the point. Firstly, I find it difficult to fathom the justice, sense, decency or maturity in a justice system that sentences someone to jail for seven years for uttering two words – whatever they may be. Secondly, I am equally in awe of someone who will call the police and prosecute someone for, again, uttering two words – whatever they may be. Not forgetting, of course, that the man was on a stretcher on the way to an ambulance. Amazing.