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Can Qatar, Saudi Arabia ease tensions at Gulf Cooperation Council? 24, August 2014

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, The Emirates.
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It’s the gravest diplomatic crisis the Gulf Cooperation Council has ever faced — but as leaders from the six-member Arab alliance prepare to meet in Jeddah, are things about to get even worse?

The root of the current problem? Qatar simply will not do as it’s told by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who have spent months trying to force the energy-rich nation to fundamentally alter its foreign policy. Bahrain, the UAE and the Saudis withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in March, and have kept up the pressure ever since.

Read the rest of the article on CNN.COM

Emirati women: modernity and modesty 4, September 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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Salon has a (vaguely) interesting slide show of pictures of Emirati women. To anyone who remotely knows the region, it will show you nothing remotely new. It is mostly, I think, for Americans who don’t know the Gulf to snigger at Emirati women buying or making dresses but not wearing them in public…but by far the most interesting picture is the one below.

Trying as I am to rack my brain now, I really don’t think that I’ve ever come across pictures of Gulfy women toting weapons. Nor, for that matter, does one see photos of disdahas toting guns. Curious (or not…).


Hat tip: Sultan Al Qasseimi

Gulf Research Centre Dubai ‘restructures’ 1, June 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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There have been rumours circulating for some time now that the various think tanks based in the Emirates were coming under severe pressure from the authorities. Now there is proof.

The Gulf Research Centre based in Dubai is, as it wistfully calls it, ‘restructuring’. Its permit to operate in Dubai expired after ten years in 2010 and it has not been renewed. Clearly, they are doing something right.

This is another nail in the coffin of the liberal dream of the UAE.

Curiously, GRC is relocating its staff to Jeddah(!) and also to Geneva and Cambridge. Best of luck to them.

The UAE’s curious relations with Pacific Islands 4, July 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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In a spectacularly random article in The National, Peter Hellyer discusses the UAE’s emerging relations with practically microscopic Pacific Islands thousands of miles from the Gulf.

Aside from setting up links with the Marshall Islands, Abu Dhabi sponsored a conference  recently attended by foreign ministers of 14 of these small island states under the aegis of the Pacific Small Islands Developing States group. This meeting followed on from the UAE Foreign Minister’s visit to the Pacific Islands in February.

The UAE pledged to contribute $50 million to a Pacific Islands Partnership Programme to invest across sectors, notably in the areas of renewable energy and education. Such a sum on money – given the tiny populations – will go a long way.

Heller offered two reasons for this initiative.

  • It followed logically from Sheikh Zayed’s stated vision of using the UAE’s largesse to help less fortunate countries around the world.
  • Both countries are threatened by climate change…

A couple of other reasons leap to mind too.

  • I would be surprised if some Emirati Sheikh did not buy an atoll soon.
  • As Israel has discovered, having support in such Island states can be useful. They have, after all, a vote in the UN. Who knows when such good will when come in useful?

As small island-states, the Pacific islands can comprehend – in a way that other, larger, countries cannot – how important our three islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs are to us. The Marshall Islands, still suffering from the impact of those US nuclear tests over 50 years ago, can certainly understand our concerns about a proliferation of nuclear weapons in our region.

I hope that other Arab countries will follow the UAE’s lead in paying attention to these far-off micro-states. The UAE’s initiative is one of which we should all be proud.

Israeli minister visits UAE for conference 2, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, The Emirates.
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Israeli infrastructure Uzi Landau is pictured at the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi. Special arrangements had to be made to facilitate the Israeli Minister’s visit to the Emirates who have no formal relations with Israel. Previously, the UAE had denied entry to Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer for an international tournament hosted in Dubai for which they were fined $300,000.

Mastercard does the Burj Khalifah 12, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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Hat tip: UAE Community Blog

Burj Khalifah will be late to open 8, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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The National reports that not even a third of all the available office space in the Burj Khalifah will actually be ready in time for tenants to move in in March. More generally, the developers are pessimistic as to its final occupancy rates. They estimate that only 70-80% will be occupied in the next 12-16 months, a direct result of Dubai’s property crash.

Dubai metro contractors owed $3bn 8, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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Days after the opening of the world’s tallest building in Dubai, the spendaholic Emirate has been brought firmly back to earth by threats to the completion of its new, highly publicised and much vaunted metro system. Essentially, it appears that the Dubai government has not paid its Japanese contractors almost $3bn and they are – understandably – slowing down construction work on the remaining unopened stations as a negotiating tactic.

The FT reports that part of the problem stems from the spiraling costs of the development, doubling to more than $7.6bn.

Al Jazeera’s cheeky Burj Khalifah headline 5, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Al-Jazeera.
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Al Jazeera’s headline on a lead article discussing the opening of the world’s tallest building in Dubai is, I believe, an example of the type of journalism that angers various people around the region.

دبي تتجاهل الديون وتفتتح برجها

Dubai ignores the debt and opens its tower

My translation is, I think it’s fair to say, a kind one. The root of the verb that they use for ignore  VI جهل means, according to the universally recognised most authoritative arabic-english dictionary:

to ignore; to refuse to have anything to do; shut one’s eyes, disregard; to affect ignorance, pretend to know nothing

Whilst my arabic is in no way, shape or form good enough to pronounce something to be the case, I really would suggest that this is a really rather cheeky headline. This word has well-known connotations and other meanings that are rather negative. There is, incidentally, no way of knowing what the author really was trying to get at: he could have been meaning to say ‘Dubai pretends to know nothing about its debt and opens its tower’; both are written exactly the same in the Arabic language but mean, of course, different things. This kind of naughty quasi-double entendre is par for the course for many journalists as an interesting headline to attract attention. I doubt, however, whether the powers that be in Dubai would be quite as forgiving.


Poor form, I forgot the Hat tip: Abstract JK and his tip-top blog http://alajnabi.blogspot.com/

Iranian-UAE relations 27, October 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, The Emirates.
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The Iran in the Gulf blog highlights an interesting example showing just how interlinked the Iranian and the UAE are. This article nicely encapsulate just how much a decision made in one country can potentially significantly affect, for example, the economy in another.


Trade in basmati has suffered a setback after Iran stopped importing the rice.

Dhows carrying several tonnes of Indian and Pakistani basmati are stranded in Dubai and Sharjah after buyers in Iran backed out of agreements to take delivery.

Some traders in the UAE are now offering huge quantities of the rice at half the price. Traders said the departure of Iranian buyers from the market has impacted demand and brought down the price.

“Boats loaded with Indian and Pakistani basmati have been waiting to leave for Iran for some time now,” said the marketing manager of a food trading company in Dubai.

He said: “Boats filled with basmati have been lying idle in Dubai and at Sharjah Cornice. Iran used to be a good market for UAE re-exporters and the fall in demand there will definitely hurt the UAE market.”

He said prices of many premium basmati rice varieties have fallen by 30 per cent to 40 per cent.