Wanderlust…

The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

Archive for the ‘United Arab Emirates’ Category

Rolling Out the Red Carpet: Arab Gulf States Embrace Egypt’s Coup

Posted by vmsalama on July 11, 2013

by Vivian Salama

Vocativ

A year ago, as stragglers in the streets of Cairo continued to celebrate Mohamed Morsi’s presidential inauguration, Dubai’s Chief of Police, Dahi Khalfan, lashed out at Egypt’s president and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters, calling them “thugs” who had threatened his life.

“The number of phone threats I have received demonstrates that we are facing a criminal organization,” Khalfan tweeted, claiming in separate posts that he had received as many as 2,000 calls over a 72-hour period. “[Morsi] will come crawling to the Gulf, and we will not receive him on a red carpet.”

Fast forward to the present, and roughly a week after the Egyptian military deposed Morsi in a controversial coup that was precipitated by mass protests, both the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have, figuratively at least, rolled out the red carpet for the new Egyptian government. This week, as the military engaged in a bloody face off with thousands of Morsi supporters looking to reinstate the fallen leader, the U.A.E pledged to give $3 billion in grants and loans to the cash-strapped country, while Saudi Arabia committed $2 billion in central bank deposits, $2 billion in energy products, and $1 billion in cash—a significant jump from the $2 billion promised last year when Morsi was elected president.

“The U.A.E. intended to send a…signal that it will not accommodate the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, be it at home or abroad,” said Ayham Kamel, Persian Gulf analyst for the Eurasia Group, a New York-based research and consulting firm.

The reasons go well beyond the alleged threats made to Khalfan. The rocky relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and the two Gulf states dates back to the 1950s and 1960s, when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser cracked down on political dissent, forcing a number of Islamists to flee. Many settled in Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., where they found jobs and assimilated, but along the way, imparted their religious ideologies on the surrounding community. (click here to read more)

Female supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shout slogans as they rally at the Raba El-Adwyia square where they are camping in Cairo

Posted in Abu Dhabi, Al Jazeera, al-Sisi, Arab, Arab League, Bahrain, Constitution, Coptic, corruption, Coup, dictatorship, Dubai, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Islam, Kuwait, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, North Africa, Oman, Protests, Qatar, Religion, Salafi, Saudi Arabia, State of Emergency, Terrorism, United Arab Emirates, United States, Washington | Leave a Comment »

Middle East Activists Muzzled and Arrested in Arab Gulf States

Posted by vmsalama on April 5, 2013

April 4, 2013

The Daily Beast (click here for original link)

By Vivian Salama

Within hours of being handed a two-year jail term for allegedly insulting the ruler of Kuwait, 27-year old Hamed Al Khalidi turned to Twitter– the very apparatus that got him into trouble—with a poem:

“I said: why prison?

I’m not a thief; I’m not a criminal…

neither deliberate nor accidental.

But when I realized my sentence serves my country,

I began to enjoy prison as though it is paradise.”

gulf activismAl Khalidi is part of a growing list of young activists in Kuwait and across the Arab Gulf being targeted for “electronic crimes”—for voicing the very same longing for freedom, justice, and opportunity as those in countries like Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, where online activism catalyzed mass street protests. Days before Al Khalidi’s sentencing, the Kuwaiti appeals court extended the jail term of another opposition Twitterer, Bader al-Rashidi, from two to five years on charges that he attempted to instigate a coup and insulted the country’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah. Kuwait, home to the most dynamic political system in the Gulf, has already sentenced some 10 online activists to various prison terms on charges ranging from insulting members of parliament (or the Emir) to inciting protests.

“The government of Kuwait and other Gulf governments have begun to feel the danger of Twitter that toppled presidents and governments in the Arab countries and it is clear from the way they are abusing many Twitter users with these false charges,” said Mohammed Al Humaidi, a lawyer and director of the Kuwait Society for Human Rights. “Most of the Gulf governments don’t have a law specifically linked to electronic crimes, and so this is unconstitutional.” (more…)

Posted in Abu Dhabi, Algeria, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Bahrain, Bloggers, Censorship, corruption, dictatorship, discrimination, Dubai, Economy, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Hosni Mubarak, Internet, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Journalism, Khalidi, Media, Middle East, Mohamed Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood, Oman, Persian Gulf, Politics, Protests, Qatar, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Skype, Social Media, Television, Tunisia, Twitter, United Arab Emirates, Viber, Whatsapp | Leave a Comment »

Saudi Arabia: The Internet’s Enemy Cracks Down on Skype, Whatsapp, and Viber

Posted by vmsalama on March 29, 2013

by Vivian Salama

Mar 29, 2013

The Daily Beast 

Infamous for the severe measures it uses to crack down on alleged security threats, Saudi Arabia is now picking on web-based communication apps, which teens rely on heavily for daily contact. Vivian Salama reports.

Photo by HASSAN AMMARSkype, Whatsapp and Viber are subject to a ban in Saudi Arabia, as it demands the rights to monitor all communications via these web-based communications apps.

Despite a medley of applications now available to help Internet users avert such a ban, the kingdom declared that it would block the services within its borders unless the operators grant the government surveillance rights. The companies have until Saturday—the start of the Saudi workweek— to respond to Saudi Arabia’s Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), local news reports said.

While Saudi Arabia is infamous for taking authoritarian measures to crack down on perceived security threats, it has increasingly shifted its attention toward the telecommunications sector in recent months. The CITC announced in September that all pre-paid SIM card users must enter a personal identification number when recharging their accounts and the number must match the one registered with their mobile operator when the SIM is purchased. The country’s second-largest telecom company, known as Mobily, was temporarily banned from selling its pay-as-you-go SIM cards after it failed to comply with the new regulations.

“A proposal for a ban would be driven by political and security concerns as opposed to economic concerns,” said Aiyah Saihati, a Saudi businesswoman and writer. “The Saudi government is refraining from taking an extremely authoritarian style dealing with its critical youth population. Saudi may try, without censorship, to find ways to monitor communications.”

As revolution gripped much of the Arab world in 2011, Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, spearheaded a counterrevolution—working to appease its critics with monetary and political concessions, while suppressing protests via brutal crackdowns. Reporters Without Borders lists Saudi Arabia as an “Enemy of the Internet,” saying last year that “its rigid opposition to the simmering unrest on the Web caused it to tighten its Internet stranglehold even more to stifle all political and social protests.” (click here to read more…)

 

Posted in Abu Dhabi, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Bahrain, Blackberry, Bloggers, Business, Censorship, dictatorship, Dubai, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Film, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Google, Human Rights, Internet, Islam, Israel, Jihad, Journalism, Kuwait, Libya, Media, Middle East, Oman, Politics, Protests, Qatar, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Sexuality, Shi'ite, Skype, Social Media, Television, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Viber, Whatsapp, Women, YouTube | Leave a Comment »

Bahrain Comes Back to the Streets at Saudi Forces’ Anniversary

Posted by vmsalama on March 17, 2013

(I LOVE the photo linked to this article — courtesy: Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty)

By Vivian Salama

Mar 17, 2013

The Daily Beast (click here for original link)

Two years after the Arab Spring’s protests and Saudi intervention, opposition groups are again clashing with security forces in the fragile kingdom. Are the king’s reforms too little too late?

Pearl Roundabout was once the pulse of the Bahraini opposition—like Cairo’s Tahrir Square or Mohammad Bouazizi Square in Tunis. In the earliest days of the Arab Spring uprisings, it was a vibrant center for self-expression, and saw a wave of protests—and bloodshed—as Bahrainis joined in a regional call for democracy and freedom.

Bahrain picTwo years later, Bahrain’s iconic square is lifeless—sealed off by security forces and torn apart by bulldozers. The pearl monument that once stood majestically at its center is gone, demolished and paved over, with the government saying it was “desecrated” by “vile” protesters. It was even renamed Al Farooq Junction—a tribute to Omar ibn Al Khattab, a historical figure viewed negatively by Shias, the sect of Islam to which the majority of Bahrainis belong.

Despite efforts by the government to erase evidence of any challenge to its authority, Bahrainis spilled into the streets to mark the second anniversary of Saudi-led Gulf forces entering Bahrain to help their ally, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah, suppress a wave of dissent. Dozens were reportedly injured in clashes with security forces Thursday, according to Al Wefaq, the country’s leading opposition party. Police fired tear gas at protesters as a group of youths confronted them with Molotov cocktails. Protests dubbed “Never Surrender” kicked off again Friday.

The government described the unrest as “acts of domestic terror, including the theft and torching of cars, and the street blockades,” according to an Interior Ministry statement. Several policemen were injured in the clashes, the government said.

Bahrain, a staunch American ally and home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, has lent a unique story in the Arab Spring narrative. King Hamad, a Sunni in the Arab Gulf’s only Shia-majority nation, maintains his authority, often through harsh crackdowns, with the solid support of the West and surrounding Gulf states, which assert that Iran is using Bahraini Shias to infiltrate the Arab world. Saudi Arabia, which is connected to Bahrain via a causeway, has been especially fearful, as it is home to a restive Shia population in its Eastern province. Bahrain, a tiny island in the Persian Gulf, is not wealthy from natural resources like fellow Gulf Cooperation Council nations Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates; it has had to rely on aid from its neighbors since turmoil began in 2011. (click here to read more…)

Posted in Allies, Arab, Arab Spring, Bahrain, discrimination, Dubai, Economy, Education, Employment, Foreign Policy, Iran, Islam, Middle East, military, Mohamed Bouazizi, Politics, Protests, Qatar, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Shi'ite, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United States, Yemen | Leave a Comment »

The Dashed Revolution: The Cost of the Arab Spring

Posted by vmsalama on January 25, 2013

Vivian Salama

Newsweek Magazine (click here for original link)

January 25, 2013

Ismail Ahmed passes much of the day sitting on a small wooden chair outside his grocery–cum–souvenir shop in Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, watching the cars drive by while smoking Cleopatra cigarettes, which crackle loudly with each drag. Gone are the days when busloads of tourists would pour into his shop near the Pyramids to pick up bottled water and $3 statues of the Sphinx. Since his fellow countrymen rose up against President Hosni Mubarak in January 2011, Ahmed’s business has dwindled. Gone are his hopeful expansion plans for the tiny shop, and his son Mohammed, who used to work alongside him, is looking for other jobs, because income from the store has become but a trickle. “Now if I see two tourists in a day, it means it’s a good day,” Ahmed says as he lights another cigarette. “The tourists are too scared to come to Egypt now. My store is not receiving enough income to support the family.”

Dashed RevolutionTwo years after revolutions unsettled and redrew the political map of the Arab world, the hope that inspired so many has not brought the desired change. Across the region, economies are unraveling, opposition groups splintering, and promises for establishing democratic secular governments now seem like a pipe dream.

War rages on in Syria, with more than 60,000 people killed so far. On one single day recently, more than 100 people were shot, killed, stabbed, or burned to death by the brutal security forces taking orders from President Bashar al-Assad. Many Syrians lucky enough to have survived the fighting are on the run, and with no end in sight, the 22-month-old conflict threatens to reshape the region. Some 2 million people—more than half of them children—have already fled Syria for Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and beyond. Already there has been trouble in Lebanon, which has its own bloody history, easily recalled and ignited, and regional observers fear political and sectarian grievances will follow the flow of refugees.

Gomaa, a 35-year-old restaurant owner who prefers to go by one name for security reasons, believes his country was better off before the uprising, and certainly his family was. His hometown of Idlib, an opposition stronghold, has been battered hard by the government, and after snipers moved into his apartment building, his family’s life turned into a nightmare punctuated by volleys of gunshots. Fleeing to Egypt with his wife and two young boys, he found that work was scarce and impossible to come by for a foreigner, though eventually he found a lead on a job as a restaurant busboy in Morocco, where he’ll be living with a large group of men in an apartment in Rabat. With little money to his name, he has arranged for his wife and kids to stay for free with family friends in Algeria. “Of course, I wish to be with my family, but I thank Allah that we are alive.”

In Tunisia, where, in despair over government injustice, vegetable seller Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself, inspiring the wave of protests that came to be known as the Arab Spring, demonstrators flooded into the streets earlier this month. Marking the two-year anniversary of the ouster of former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, this was no celebratory gathering, but rather a show of frustration by people who fear their new government is corrupt, religious, and self-serving. “Where is the constitution? Where is democracy?” they chanted, as police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds. Tunisia has recently been rocked by a scandal dubbed Sheratongate, which centers on allegations that Tunisia’s foreign minister, Rafik Abdessalem, abused public funds to pay for rooms at the five-star Sheraton hotel in Tunis, where he would meet his mistress for illicit trysts. “There are fewer jobs, and corruption and crime is worse than before,” complained Yazid Ouerfelli, 19, a university student from Tunis. “The country is also more divided now because of religion—it didn’t used to be like that.” (click here to read more…)

Posted in Algeria, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Arab, Arab Spring, Bashar Al Assad, corruption, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Europe, Foreign Policy, Hosni Mubarak, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Jihad, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Bouazizi, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Newsweek, North Africa, Oman, Persian Gulf, Politics, Protests, Qatar, Religion, Salafi, Saudi Arabia, State of Emergency, Succession, Syria, Tourism, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Nations, War, Yemen, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali | Leave a Comment »

Arab-Americans Set to Play Key Role in US Election

Posted by vmsalama on November 4, 2012

By Vivian Salama

Al-Monitor (click here for original link)

Arab-Americans are poised to play a critical role in the US presidential election.   Numbering about 4 million, they’re heavily concentrated in several battleground states — including Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia — where every vote will count in a race that many consider too close to call.

A mid-September survey of 400 voters conducted by the Arab American Institute revealed that President Barack Obama leads Republican candidate Mitt Romney among Arab-Americans, 52% to 28%, with 16 percent of Arab Americans still undecided. This compares to the 67% to 28% lead Obama held over John McCain among Arab Americans in 2008, signaling a potential loss of some 100,000 voters for Obama, according to AAI.

A substantial drop in Arab-American support for Obama, relative to 2008, accompanied by the large number of undecided voters, especially in key swing states, could be a signal to the present and future candidates.

The Arab-American political community had its challenges following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Patriot Act, arrests, detentions and deportations targeted members of the community. A New York Police Department surveillance program and opposition to building mosques and Islamic community centers, like the Park51 center near Ground Zero, preoccupied the community’s political leaders. Instead of campaigning for broader national and international issues, Arab-Americans found themselves fighting as much, or more than ever, for their civil liberties. (more…)

 

Posted in Abu Dhabi, Algeria, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Bahrain, Christian, Culture, discrimination, Dubai, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Gaza, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Lobby, Media, Middle East, New York, NYPD, Palestinians, Politics, Qatar, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Social Media, Sudan, Terrorism, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United States, Yemen | Leave a Comment »

Kingdom of Discontent: Prince Nayef’s Death and Saudi Arabia’s Unhappy Youth

Posted by vmsalama on June 17, 2012

took a five minute break from the Egyptian revolution to write about the passing of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Nayef and what it means for the kingdom…. enjoy!

Prince Nayef’s Death and Saudi Arabia’s Unhappy Youth

Jun 17, 2012 

by Vivian Salama

Daily Beast (click here for original link)

For Saudi Arabia, Prince Nayef’s death couldn’t come at a worse time. Vivian Salama on how the octogenarian leadership has struggled to meet the demands of its youth and minorities.

The death of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz al-Saud, who assumed the role less than eight months ago following the death of his brother, forces the kingdom to grapple with another shuffle in its top leadership at a time when regional instability is at a peak. Television and radio stations based in the Arab Gulf have suspended all regularly scheduled programming for wall-to-wall Quranic prayers or televised tributes during a period of mourning.

Nayef, who was about 77, was said to be in “good heath” by the deputy interior minister earlier this month and was scheduled to return after leaving to Switzerland in May for medical tests and a private vacation. Known to be more conservative than his half-brother King Abdullah, Nayef controlled the Interior Ministry since 1975 and has repeatedly frowned upon reforms he deemed too liberal for the kingdom, such as granting women the right to drive. He pioneered Saudi counterterrorism efforts and was intensely involved in police and intelligence activities. The 89-year-old king is likely to select recently appointed Minister of Defense Prince Salman as successor.

Mideast Saudi Arabia

Salman, who is only a year younger than Nayef, formerly served as governor of Riyadh, the capital. “He is not healthy either,” notes Sultan al-Qassimi, an independent analyst based in the neighboring United Arab Emirates. “He has suffered from a stroke and has in gone for extensive medical tests.”

In the midst of sweeping calls for reform across the Arab world, Saudi Arabia’s octogenarian leadership has struggled to meet the demands of its youth and minorities, while adhering to the conservative ideals expected from the religious center for 1 billion Muslims. Regional instability has caused a spike in crude prices—a blessing for some oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest—which were forced to boost spending last year to placate protesters. Demonstrations in Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s biggest economy, failed to materialize last year as citizens were offered pay increases and $67 billion for housing and funds for military and religious groups. It fearfully announced a $36 billion handout within days of the resignation of Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak. (click here to read more…)

Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Islam, Middle East, military, Muslim Brotherhood, Persian Gulf, Politics, Qatar, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism, United Arab Emirates | Leave a Comment »

Egypt’s Historic Vote is Underway!

Posted by vmsalama on May 24, 2012

At long last, voting is underway in Egypt!!! Citizens queued from early hours to vote for the first president since overthrowing Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. It’s been a tumultuous road to get to this day, but even from thousands of miles away I can sense the excitement of my Egyptian friends and family, many of whom voted today for the first time in their lives. I happen to be a junkie of political cartoons and have been collecting many along the way to Election Day.

Here are a couple I wanted to share. (I will be writing an editorial on the election in a few days when we have a better indication of how the people voted).

Which one is your favorite?!! (I think the one of Obama is my favorite!)

 

Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, Bahrain, Bloggers, burqa, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Freedom of Speech, halal, Human Rights, Internet, Islam, Lebanon, Libya, Media, Middle East, military, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Obama, Persian Gulf, Politics, Protests, Religion, Salafi, Saudi Arabia, State of Emergency, Succession, Syria, Television, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates | Leave a Comment »

Al Jazeera’s (R)Evolution?

Posted by vmsalama on May 20, 2012

Here’s a study I was pleased to contribute to a new-ish e-zine called Jadaliyya which focuses on Arab affairs.

by Vivian Salama

Jadaliyya (click here for original link)

In March of 2011, an unusually forthright editorial by an anonymous writer made its way into The Peninsula Qatar, an English language daily bankrolled by a member of the emirate’s ruling family. At the time of publication, protesters had already toppled the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt, uprisings were in full swing in Libya and Yemen, and in the Persian Gulf, Bahrainis were gearing up for what would prove to be a bloody battle, only days after the op-ed ran.

“Businesses and institutions are treated as ‘holy cows,’” the author wrote in the editorial, entitled “Why are we so timid?”

“What essentially ails the Qatari media (English and Arabic-language newspapers) is the absence of a comprehensive law that specifies its role in a clear-cut way and seeks to protect it against the people and interests opposed to free expression or those who cannot appreciate criticism,” the op-ed read.

It was at about the same time that this editorial ran that Al-Jazeera Arabic, the renowned television network that essentially put Qatar on the map, started facing a dilemma. The network has found it increasingly difficult to distance itself from the growing political ambitions of its patron, Qatar, particularly as it is kept alive by the one hundred million dollars it receives annually from the Qatari government. Moreover, the wave of information now available to the masses via the Internet and satellite television has exposed the gaps in its reporting of issues that do not fall in line with the government’s agenda, while also highlighting its biases in the various uprisings. (more…)

Posted in Al Jazeera, American, Arab, Arab Media & Society, Arab Spring, Arabic, dictatorship, discrimination, Dubai, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Film, Hosni Mubarak, Internet, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Journalism, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Middle East, military, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinians, Politics, Qatar, Saddam Hussein, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Television, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United States, Yemen | Leave a Comment »

The U.A.E.: 40 and Fabulous?

Posted by vmsalama on December 2, 2011

Abu Dhabi at 40 //Photo by my homegirl Tala Al Ramahi (@journalist_tala)

Abu Dhabi at 40 //Photo by Tala Al Ramahi (@journalist_tala)

 As some of you may know I just moved back to New York last week after living in the Middle East for much of the last 10 years, most recently in the United Arab Emirates, which is today celebrating its 40th anniversary. There is no doubt that the UAE has accomplished pretty spectacular things in 40 years, fueled greatly by the abundant oil wealth of Abu Dhabi, which holds more than 90 percent of the crude in the country, and about 7 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, according to BP data.

Burj Dubai // Photo by Vivian Salama

Burj Khalifa // Photo by Vivian Salama

The country is home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, one of the world’s biggest malls, the world’s largest dancing fountains (I must confess, the fountain is rather amazing), the only manmade island visible from space and one of two gold vending machines in the world!

Dubai dancing fountain // Photo by Vivian Salama

Dubai dancing fountain // Photo by Vivian Salama

It is, undeniably, a remarkable accomplishment given that just 40 years ago the emirates, prior to unification and the discovery of oil, earned much of their income from pearl diving and exporting dates.

The pride of its citizens is something to be admired, and for weeks (even before I departed for the US), skycrapers were covered from top to bottom in lights of white, green, red and black, the colors of the UAE flag. Emiratis, the citizens of the UAE, wore scarves and jewelry with the colors of the flag, and cars were covered, literally, in photos of leaders past and present.

But a challenging road lies ahead for the UAE, particularly after this year’s events in the Middle East, where longtime dictators were forced out by popular uprisings. There is one clear advantage the UAE has over countries like Egypt, Syria, Libya and Yemen: it’s citizens are not poor. There are parts of the country that are in great need for updated infrastructure – roads, power lines, etc – but citizens are, at worst, comfortable thanks to lifetime handouts by the government. (Click here for my story Abu Dhabi’s Spending on Soccer and Skyscrapers Masks Slower Times at Home)

But citizens of the UAE are hungry for one thing: opportunities. Currently, foreigners make up about 85 percent of the country’s population – the majority hailing from countries on the Indian subcontinent. British/Western European, Canadian, Australian and South African expats hold many of the high paying white-collar positions, in SOME cases because they are better trained to do so, leaving few high profile jobs for the locals.

Emiratization, a policy now enforced by the government in many workplaces, seeks to boost Emirati employment whether by providing training and education for Emiratis, or setting quotas in certain sectors for Emirati employment. Ultimately the government is trying to prevent their own talented citizens from being lured to the West. But many critics believe that the UAE cannot afford to lose its foreign workers as they may have been the driving force for the country’s speedy success in the first place. In the meantime there is growing resentment among foreigners who, despite making up the majority of the population,  have few rights. There is no legal protection on property rights, and police, in practice, do not need a reason to stop, question or even detain people.

Another challenge is maintaining the “vision” set by the country’s founders some 40 years ago. Seldom was there a day in the UAE that I did not hear someone refer to the “vision.” Abu Dhabi and Dubai have set urban planning roadmaps for diversifying their economies away from oil and expanding certain sectors (services, real estate, alternative energy, etc). However, the global economic crisis dealt a massive blow to the once seemingly invincible UAE and its seemingly invincible real estate market. Slowly we’ve seen the country scale back, but its officials still maintain that the overall “vision” is intact and on track. We shall see.

Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama

Finally, a problem facing many of the Gulf sheikhdoms: succession. The country’s founder Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan has been dead for 7 years now but his legacy undeniably lives on. The question is whether his sons, the current President Sheikh Khalifa and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed, can continue the vision he laid out for the country 40 years ago. Many experts I’ve spoken with believe that the vision of the two brothers has grown less cohesive, and the two have developed mini “kingdoms” – investing money in projects that are too different, both from each other and from that envisioned by their father.

The government is so private in nature (painfully so) that it’s always hard to know exactly what is going on behind the scenes. But given Dubai’s economic disaster and, more recently, Abu Dhabi’s problems, it raises a lot of questions as to who is calling the shots. The country enjoys making a splash, and it’s served them well, but if it genuinely wants to keep out of the spotlight during tougher times, it may want to adopt a more humbled approach over the next 40 years. (ie, no more $20 million hotel debut parties, ok?)

Dubai Atlantis Hotel Opening Show - December 2008

Dubai Atlantis Hotel Opening Show - December 2008

Good luck UAE. I am excited and eager to see what you have up your sleeve for the next 40 years!!

Posted in Abu Dhabi, Aldar, Arab, Arab Spring, dictatorship, Dubai, Economy, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Libya, Media, Middle East, Mubarak, Politics, Recession, Succession, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen | 1 Comment »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.