Tag: United Arab Emirates

Pot luck at the Iranian souk in Abu Dhabi

Tuesday, 5 January, 2016 0 Comments

The coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stretches for more than 650 km along the southern shore of the Persian Gulf. It’s a tough neighbourhood, as current headlines prove, but despite their Sunni/Shi’a differences, the UAE and Iran have a working relationship because of their economic ties across the Strait of Hormuz.

One can see this cross-border trade in action in the “Iranian souk” at Mina Port in Abu Dhabi. Here, the bargain hunter will find carpets (frequently from Pakistan), pottery, plastic stuff (mostly from China) and kitchen utensils, especially pots. Some of these could hold a sheep, comfortably, and they evoke visions of meals for families where “extended” takes on a completely new meaning. Two rules: Shoppers are expected to haggle before buying and women should not visit on their own.

The Iranian souk in Abu Dhabi


There will be a drone for that

Monday, 19 October, 2015 0 Comments

Imagine you’re a well-off citizen of the United Arab Emirates and you’re planning a shopping trip to London. You may be looking for a bargain apartment in the “golden postcodes” of Belgravia or Knightsbridge or just some hummus at Fortnum and Mason, grocer to the Queen. There’s a problem, though. The UAE has advised its citizens to stay away from “hazardous” parts of London, including Oxford Street, after two incidents in which Arab visitors were robbed by thugs brandishing guns, knives and hammers.

Solution? A personal drone that could follow a tourist through the city’s “unsafe” neighbourhoods and alert private minders or the police about an impending threat. And there’s a startup for that. Gofor was founded in San Francisco by Alex Cornell and Phil Mills and they envisage a future where drones are affordable and abundant. The sky’s pretty much the limit they believe when it comes to what personal drones that can do: “location scouting, HD documentation, personal security, telepresence, internet range extension.”

The optimistic Gofor vision is based on human kindness, but evil does exist and bad people might be thinking about the usefulness of drones for their purposes, too. Would it possible to equip a drone with a high-powered rifle, shoot a target and then crash the perp into the Thames Estuary? No sign of killer or weapon; the perfect crime. Sounds like pulp fiction but drones do have a history when it comes to negative headlines.

Inevitably, there will be calls to ban personal drones. First, however, comes the registration. The US Transportation Department is announcing today that it will soon require registration for all unmanned aircraft. Will drone sellers be required to collect customer information? This is a developing story.


The cruelty and inhumanity of the “brothers”

Friday, 4 September, 2015 1 Comment

The image of Aylan Kurdi dead on a Turkish beach is being portrayed as Europe’s disgrace. What it really illustrates, in fact, is the cruelty and inhumanity the wealthy Gulf Arab states that are refusing to help Syria’s refugees. On Wednesday, Amira Fathalla of BBC Monitoring sought to explain “Why Syrians do not flee to Gulf states.” The harsh reality is that “Without a visa, Syrians are not currently allowed to enter Arab countries except for Algeria, Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen,” she wrote. One cannot imagine that there’s a long line of refugees waiting to enter Sudan and Yemen.

Today, in the Washington Post, Ishaan Tharoor follows up and spells out the inhumanity of the neighbours: “The Arab world’s wealthiest nations are doing next to nothing for Syria’s refugees.” Here, he names and shames: “six Gulf countries — Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain — have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.” Shame be upon them.

Arab states