View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Shaikh Mohammad Models Rare Style of Leadership

Leader among the People
In a recent 60 Minutes interview vast numbers of UAE residents and thousands of people around the world got some amazing glimpses of the vision and leadership style of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

What surprised the interviewer, Steve Croft from America’s CBS network, was the way Shaikh Mohammad drove around Dubai, without a chauffeur and an entourage and the down to earth, friendly manner he exhibited with people at offices and at the traffic lights.

The inspirational ruler’s daily practice when in Dubai is to roll up early in the morning at one of his major projects and talk to the leaders and workers. This is not an example of micromanaging but an expression of effective leadership by motivating and problem solving.

Accessible Leader
Just after the January 2008 floods in the Emirates, UAE residents saw some further cameos depicting Shaikh Mohammad’s leadership style. This busy man undertook a tour of the central and eastern regions of the country to assess the damage and to see first hand the situation. In management literature this style is called ‘Management by Walking About’ and most workers in organisations crave to see their CEO getting out of the office to meet people on their level.

Leader that Listens and Learns
The tour to the remote backblocks was not just to inspect property and ascertain an appropriate repair and reconstruction package but to listen to the people spell out their challenges. Shaikh Mohammad was keen to learn from the people the problems they were facing but more than this, a pastoral style of leadership that goes to where people are living, especially when they are in pain and loss, is to give people a wonderful gift.

It was fitting for the Gulf News report that recorded this visit to have as its title, ‘A Ruler who Cares Deeply for the People’.

Dr. Geoff Pound.

Image: Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

UAE Mosque Makes the Top 25 in the World

Top 25
It is interesting to see a web site listing the top twenty-five mosques in the world. What are the criteria? To get into the top 25 they must be ‘amazing’ and be among the ‘largest’. The list includes the largest mosque, the Faisal Masjid in Islamabad, funded like so many mosques, by Saudi Arabia.

It is good to see a range of architecture and the way the styles often reflect the local culture.

One mosque from the UAE is included in the listing (this will change when the new Sheikh Zayed mosque in Abu Dhabi is opened), the Jumeira Mosque in Dubai, which like the best mosques, are open to both genders and the visit of non-Muslims is encouraged.

Open to People Regardless of Gender & Religion
To open more mosques to the public and arrange tours with time for questions is one of the best ways to foster understanding, to break down prejudice and to challenge the many misconceptions that people have about religion and its impact upon society.

The Mosque that Gets My Vote
Of the top twenty-five, my vote goes to the Mezquita in Córdoba, Spain. I like it not only because I have visited it but because it made such a profound effect on me.

It was originally established as a Christian Cathedral in the sixth century, was developed as a Muslim mosque two centuries later and was converted back to a Christian cathedral five centuries later.

It has relics from the Roman times and as it was extended over the centuries it took on Moorish, Baroque and Gothic architecture.

In the changes of ownership and purpose the building realistically records the sad story of violence, forced occupation, intolerance and religious coercion. Today it stands as a place of pilgrimage for Christians and Muslims and perhaps it is a hopeful model for promoting respect, the understanding of different religions, tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

Maintaining Perspective
While the architecture and aesthetic beauty of a building may give a sense of awe and wonder and in doing so evoke worship, it must be remembered that mosques are not designed primarily to win a place on the Top 25 but to be spaces for local worship and places of pilgrimage.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Mezquita, Córdoba.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Sheikh Zayed’s Vision Must Inspire UAE Tourism

Power to Attract
The company FutureBrand has just released its third Country Brand Index (2007) which indicates how a country’s citizens and the world perceive it. Of special importance is how well a country can project its image or brand and attract tourists. The report says, “Travel and tourism is becoming one of the world’s highest priority industries.” In 2007 the public and private sectors combined are expected to spend almost $1.2 trillion on new Travel and Tourism capital investment worldwide, a figure which is expected to double by 2017. It is worth noting that there were 257 million international tourist arrivals from January to April 2007.

Top Ten Countries
The top ten countries (in order) which were judged by FutureBrand to be the most successful in selling their countries to the world were:
1. Australia
2. USA
3. UK
4. France
5. Italy
6. Canada
7. Spain
8. NZ
9. Greece
10. Japan

UAE a Rising Star
Tourists and tourist destinations change in the eyes and estimation of tourists. The UAE (Dubai in brackets!) was regarded as a tourist destination that was in vogue and rising although the report noted countries that were maintaining or on the wane.

Detailed Ranking
The UAE did not rank in the top ten countries on these factors:

Authenticity (NZ was #1), History (Egypt #1), Art and Culture (Italy #1), Family (Denmark #1), Outdoor Activities and Sport (Australia #1), Beaches (Maldives #1), Natural Beauty (NZ #1), Environmental Concerns (Sweden #1), Rest/relaxation (Maldives #1), Safety (NZ #1), Value for Money (Thailand #1), Nightlife (Spain #1), Friendly Locals and Staff (Australia #1), Most Like to Live in (Canada #1), Easiest to Do Business in (USA #1), Extending a Business Trip (USA #1).

Featuring the UAE
In terms of Resort and Lodging options the UAE came out #1 with the largest number of new properties and boasting a wide variety of options from family accommodation through to a seven star hotel.

As a shopping destination the UAE was #2 (the USA was #1).

As noted above the UAE scored #3 in the Rising Star stakes (after Croatia and China).

For Fine Dining the UAE was #7 (with France #1).

For Conferences the UAE was #5 (USA was #1).

Observations on the Emirates
The UAE is a ‘rising star’ so it is moving steadily in the right direction.

The perceived safety of a destination is critical and any major flare up near the UAE could easily torpedo the UAE tourist industry.

The UAE is listed as ‘UAE (Dubai)’, which recognizes the pull of Dubai but this is also a negative. Many citizens around the world have heard so much of Dubai that they think the country is Dubai or that there is nothing else apart from Dubai to see. Many see Dubai as a place of glitz and brashness so it will not score highly for those who want a holiday in a place with culture, history and authenticity.

Abu Dhabi is staking its future on the attractiveness of its architecture, in becoming a repository for culture and a place where people can enjoy the arts.

Sheikh Zayed’s Vision is Essential
Many commentators have highlighted the rivalry between Dubai and Abu Dhabi and the different ways that these cities are pitching themselves.

Sheikh Zayed captivated the people living on this land with a vision of a country with emirates that would unite for strength, so that all people might benefit from the wealth that was to come from the different states. This has helped the UAE to grow its industry, education and other important sectors.

The UAE tourism industry must recognize and showcase the different strengths that each emirate offers—whether it be shopping, rest and relaxation, adventure, culture—and maximize these in a powerful brand that represents the entire United Arab Emirates.

There is nothing to be gained in Dubai going gung ho in attracting tourists to its city. Dubai’s tourist future depends as much on highlighting Fujairah’s assets with its mountains, adventure pursuits, the seas, the colours, the natural beauty and the history as on promoting its own shopping malls, hotels and indoor ski fields.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: FutureBrand logo

UAE Cocked for Big Armament Purchase

According to Reuters (3 January 2008), the US Pentagon unveiled a potential $326 million sale to the United Arab Emirates of air-to-air AMRAAM missiles and other arms built by Raytheon and Boeing Co.

The report said that the notice of a potential sale is required by law. It does not mean a deal has been concluded.

Image: An air-to-air AMRAAM missile aimed for its target.

UAE Dirham Appears to Stay Pegged to US Dollar

In a New York Times article (4 January 2008) a decision for the dirham to stay pegged to the US dollar has been announced:

The United Arab Emirates will keep a 30-year link between its currency, the dirham, and the United States dollar, after completing a review of its currency regime, said the central bank governor, Sultan bin Nasser al-Suwaidi, left. “In 12 months I can say to you that the U.A.E. will maintain the peg,” Mr. Suwaidi said. “We have come to the conclusion that the inflation problem does not lie with the peg against the U.S. dollar.” The dirham is fixed to the dollar at 3.6725. “We were studying the causes of inflation, and we came to the conclusion that the causes are not in the dirham/U.S. dollar peg, therefore we need not do anything on that front,” Mr. Suwaidi said.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Bridge between Brazil and the UAE

There is a great story posted on the Brazil-Arab News Agency site about Marcelo and his creation of a blog to forge a connection between his home country and the UAE.

Here is the link to Marcelo’s blog which is written mainly in Portuguese but some in English.

Image: Marcelo and his son Jeremy riding a camel.

UAE Part of the Common Market of Gulf States

The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have moved closer with the formation on 1 January 2008 of a single or common market.

This decision means that the nations of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are now seen as equal economically which ever country people choose to live. They will be able to work, buy houses and companies, trade shares, go to school and receive medical treatment in all Gulf States.

The common market only applies to nationals and will not affect the rights of migrant workers in the Gulf.

Positive Benefits
This decision is a great boon to citizens who can travel for work and education with greater freedom and flexibility. It opens up the options for people.

Negatives and Queries
The common market, by the flow and possible flooding of migration, may well put pressure on employment, housing, infrastructure, schools and medical services, particularly in the boom cities of Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai.

Further details of this Common Market in the Gulf States can be found at:

Arab Times Online

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Logo for the G.C.C.

Shaikh Mohammed’s Leadership is Honoured

Gulf News has posted a special article marking the second anniversary of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE Ruler of Dubai who came into these positions in January 2006.

A timeline of significant events has been included along with various honours he has received.

Link: “Mohammed’s Dynamic Leadership ‘worth emulating.’”, Gulf News, 3 January 2008.

Image: Visionary, Strategist, Team Builder and Pastoral Leader—Shaikh Mohammed is seen here visiting and consoling Bilawal, son of slain leader, Benazir Bhutto.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

United Arab Emirates on YouTube

There are an increasing number of videos with a UAE flavour on YouTube. They vary greatly in quality. It is simply a matter of searching for ‘UAE’ or narrowing it more sharply according to city or activity.

Here are a few categories and samples to get you going.

Songs of the UAE
Life in the Emirates words in English with slide show background. This is one of the most recent postings. If you can’t work out the words, they have been posted here.

Camel Racing with robots not young jockeys

Cars and Car Plates
Amazing Cars of the UAE
Cars and Car Plates the modern day camel

Camel Trek Crossing the UAE Desert 10 day journey across desert
Liwa Desert Trip Abu Dhabi

Burj al Arab Professional promotional video
Burj Dubai Construction of tallest tower in the world
Dubai Images of Dubai (2007) and song track
Fastest Growing City in the World Bruce Fenton-seen on 60 Minutes
The World—‘The Most Innovative Real Estate in the World’—promotional

UAE National Anthem
National Anthem with the tune and scenes of the Emirates
National Anthem with tune and still images
National Anthem with tune and words
National Music and Dance

Dr. Geoff Pound

Abu Dhabi’s Attention-Grabbing Architecture

Abu Dhabi-Dubai Rivalry
A recent article (13 December 2007) in Business Week entitled ‘Abu Dhabi Builds Architectural Cred’ has surveyed the emerging architectural designs in Abu Dhabi.

Reena Jana believes that architecture in the Emirati capital rivals anything that Dubai has erected but she is swift to highlight some of the distinguishing features of Abu Dhabi architecture.

Abu Dhabi Going Greener
AD is marking itself as an environmentally friendly city as it is undertaking an analysis of how it squares up against international green building procedures, it is establishing its own government-backed Green Building Guidelines and it is creating Masdar to be the first zero-carbon city in the world.

Abu Dhabi Going Solar
Jana reflects on the paradox of the oil-rich city investing heavily in solar-powered technologies. Is this a genuine commitment to going green or a long term plan to prepare for life when the oil wells are dry?

Abu Dhabi Attention-Grabbing
Abu Dhabi is making great strides to attract investors and tourists and, with such projects as its branch of the Louvre and a Guggenheim Museum, Abu Dhabi is staking its future on culture and the architectural feats that will house the treasures.

Not all commentators are convinced of the rightness of this strategy of importing treasures and hiring western architects to design buildings for the Middle East.

See Reena Jana’s article further for detail.

Abu Dhabi Architecture in Pictures
Check out the slide show of new and upcoming architecture in Abu Dhabi.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Zaha Hadid, the Middle East-born, London-based architect, has designed this 62-meter-tall Performing Arts Center that promises to be larger than London's Royal Albert Hall—by more than 1,000 seats. Hadid designed the space with another Saadiyat Island destination due to open within five years. It will hold five theaters created to appear like fruit on a vine.

UAE Takes Part in Weight Management Global Survey

Participants in the Study
The UAE took part in a global survey that looked at weight management among more than 9,000 respondents across 13 countries on five continents.

The participants in the project led by Synovate included United Kingdom, France, Czech Republic, Romania, United States, Canada, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.

Revealing Finds
The Synovate study uncovered the number one fast food nation. When asked to agree or disagree with the statement 'I like the taste of fast food too much to give it up', the most addicted nation was the United Kingdom with 45% agreeing.

Britons love their fish and chips, but only beat the Americans to the punch on fast food addiction by a small margin of one percent. A hefty 44% of Americans cannot give up burgers, pizza and wings, with the next most addicted nation Canada at 37%.

Obesity is a global issue. It is reaching epidemic proportions in developed nations and many developing countries now also have problems.

Reducing Weight in the UAE
The study asked respondents whether they were using a series of measures to either reduce or maintain their weight. Despite the growing girth of many nations, the most popular choice was using none of these measures at all at 40%.

Tackling exercise at home was most prevalent in the United States and United Arab Emirates (one third of all people say they use home equipment), Canada (31%) and United Kingdom (30%).

Trying Everything
People from the Middle East seem to throw everything at weight problems. Saudi Arabians, and those from UAE were among the top users for low-fat food products, herbs and supplements, meal replacements, weight loss courses, low-carbohydrate foods, diet plans, diet books, gym memberships, as well as home exercise equipment.

Andreas Zachariou, Managing Director of Synovate in UAE and Acting Managing Director of Saudi Arabia, said this was not surprising with more than half the population now classified as overweight or obese.

The entire article can be found at this link:

‘Global Weight Survey Looks at Scale Obsessions’, Synovate, 2 January 2008.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Panama Canal, Suez Canal and now the Arabian Canal

Check out the plans for a Dubai to Fujairah Canal.
(September 2008)

According to an AFP report, work has commenced on Dubai’s new canal.

It is being billed as the “largest canal project post-Suez and …the largest canal project in the Middle East for more than a century.”

The government-owned real estate developer Limitless this week started excavation work on the 11 billion dollar canal, 75-kilometre (47-mile)-long canal.

The "Arabian Canal" will be the biggest project undertaken in the region since work started on the 163-kilometre (101-mile) Suez Canal in 1859.

The canal will be "the largest, most complex civil engineering project ever undertaken in the Middle East," the developers said on their website, adding that construction of the 150-metre (495-feet)-wide canal will take three years.

At six metres (20 feet) deep, it will be able to accommodate vessels up to 40 metres (132 feet) long.

The canal will link two huge artificial palm-shaped islands, currently under construction. The waterway will also pass by the new Al-Maktoum International Airport, which aims to become the world's largest upon completion.

This canal and associated development is another dream of Sheikh Mohammed, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai.

Check out the Dubai Waterfront web site to see the emerging housing developments and to view the video that gives the concept of how the new canal is being envisaged by its promoters.

Image: Photo depicting the location and the linkages that the Arabian Canal will create.

UAE Information: Essential Guide for New Residents to the Emirates

For the increasing number of people who are exploring the possibility of living and working in the United Arab Emirates, the Gulf News Resident’s Guide is a mine of valuable information.

Have a look at this sample of the sections and subjects listed (this is being constantly updated):

Getting Started in the UAE
Dubai guide for tourists
Buying property
Schooling in the UAE
Opening a bank account
Vehicle Insurance
How to learn Arabic
Bringing pets to the Emirates
Visa rules and regs.

Family Life
Guardianship of children
Sponsoring parents
Visa for stepchild
Getting married in the UAE
Having a baby

Legal Issues
Making a will
Blood money rules
Banned drugs list
Sharia Law—this is important for ex-pats as it is forbidden for unmarried people to share an apartment or be in the same space alone with each other. Not knowing about this law is not a valid excuse.

UAE Society
UAE Fact File
Driving in the desert
Alcohol licences
Age limits
How Salik works

Working Life
Sponsorship transfer
Working after retirement
Losing your passport
Settling labour issues

And much more…

The full index of topics is at:
Gulf News Resident’s Guide

See also: Gulf News: Ask the Law—Guide to the UAE Legal System

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Driving in the desert.

Old Black and White Pictures of Abu Dhabi and the UAE

The Blog Sheikh has capped off 2007 with a terrific posting of old (pre-1970) black and white photos from Abu Dhabi.

Here is the link and an encouragement to take a look:

United Blogging Emirates

Image: A sample from a wonderful collection.