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

Friday, May 30, 2008

Ajman Emirate Rivals Dubai, Abu Dhabi

Seen the television ads promoting the emirate of Ajman? There is a new campaign, at least in the UK, designed to lure visitors away from the glitzy towers of Dubai to the quieter beaches and laid-back atmosphere of Ajman—one of the least known of the seven emirates.

Check out: Move over Dubai, Ajman is the New Emirate on the Block, Times Online, 30 May 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Ajman Beach. By the way Ajman also has one of the best hotels in the Emirates—the Kempinski.

Football World Club Cup in UAE

FIFA Chief Wants..Fast-Track 2022 World Cup Decision, Reuters, 30 May 2008
Club World Cup More than a Game to UAE, Business 24-7, 30 May 2008
Club World Cup Big Boost for UAE, Khaleej Times, 29 May 2008.
New Feather in the Cap of Football-Loving Nation, GN, 28 May 2008.
Successful UAE Bid Keeps Blatter Buoyant, GN, 28 May 2008.
UAE Wins Right to Host Football’s World Club Cup, Kipp Report, 27 May 2008.
UAE to Host Club World Cup, The National, 27 May 2008
The World’s Best Teams in UAE, The National, 27 May 2008.
FIFA Moves Soccer World Cup to UAE, Reuters, 27 May 2008.
The World Cup is Next on List, The National, 14 May 2008.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Looking Back on Old Dubai

Khadija Ahmad and her family are the only residents left in Dubai's old Bastakiya quarter, her house little changed since she arrived as a new bride more than 70 years ago.

Nestled among mushrooming skyscrapers and multi-lane highways, the rabbit warren of streets dating from the 1890s is one of the few reminders left of Dubai's past as a sleepy village where people earned money by diving for pearls.

In the 1990s, the government bought out most homeowners in Bastakiya to protect the run-down district from developers. Today, the area beside Dubai creek is home to galleries, cafes and restaurants, and to Ahmad and her family who declined the state's offer to buy them out.

To read the entire interesting article, follow this link:

Amran Abocar, Old Dubai Clings to Life as a New City Rises, El, 28 May 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound
Image: Restored building in Dubai's old Bastakiya quarter.

What’s the Time in the UAE?

What is the time?
The UAE is 4 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

All regions and emirates (states) are in the same time zone.

There is no time change throughout the year for Daylight Saving.

Asking the Time in Arabic
The key words in asking the time in Arabic are:
What time is it?--Kam al sa'ah? (literally ‘What is the hour?)

Emirati Time
“When may I have an appointment?” I asked my dentist.

He said, “Come next Wednesday morning.”

“But at what time will you make my appointment?” I asked.

He said, “I don’t make appointments. Nobody sticks to them.”

Not all medical and commercial services run like this as there is an increasing move towards the making of appointments.

Emirati (Arab) notions of time are fluid, less structured and not as precise as in Western cultures. Punctuality is not an important Emirati value. The advantage of this is that this keeps the options open and gives more flexibility to accommodate unforeseen circumstances. For clients it can be frustrating and involve lots of waiting.

If you make an appointment for Emiratis to see you, don’t expect them to be there right on the dot.

While meetings times may be fluid the five times of prayer for a Muslim are not as flexible. It might pay to make an appointment that is not close to prayer time.

Time Travel Tips
Here are a few more pointers (provided by an educational marketing group):

It is essential for business visitors to arrange appointments well in advance and to be punctual. However, as elsewhere in the Middle East, it is usual to expect to be kept waiting and for meetings to be interrupted by incoming telephone calls, visitors etc. The concept of time is rather fluid in the Middle East and people are often late for meetings. Be patient if your host is delayed as this can easily be due to an unexpected (and possibly more important) other visitor.

Early morning appointments are not a good idea.

If you are late for an appointment ring and tell them you are held up. Generally they will wait for you.

It is recommended that you do not come to the region on business in summer (July/August) as most people are on holiday.

Similarly, coming to the region during Ramadan is not advisable. Muslims are not permitted to eat, drink or smoke between dawn and dusk during the month of Ramadan. It is not recommended to do business in the UAE during Ramadan as the business hours are short.

Time Out in the UAE
Check the working hours of a business and remember that many of them still close down for lunch and siesta. The advantage of this is that businesses will often stay open longer in the evening.

‘Don’t they know it’s Friday’ (by Jeremy Williams) is the title of a good book on cross-cultural considerations for business and life in the Gulf. Before 2006 the weekend was Thursday and Friday but now it is Friday and Saturday.

Time for Education
An ELT newsletter (November 2001) includes an article for expatriate teachers of adult Emiratis and is worth quoting:

“The issue of time is a controversial topic in Arab adult education because of its ambiguous nature and perception in this part of the world. The Ministry of Education states that attendance in class is mandatory. Almost all public and private institutions mandate a strict policy of attendance. However, in an attempt to find a midpoint on the issue of time, a late penalty for up to 10 minutes is incorporated into most adult education programs.”

“Late policies and attendance can often be more difficult to enforce as adult students returning to school are often juggling serious commitments from families, private businesses, and at times their workplace. Because family obligations to relatives and businesses take precedence over all other obligations, it often is one of the biggest contentions faced in adult educational contexts. Therefore, adult learners see the concept of time, timelines, and time frames as being subjective references in comparison to the programs, which view them as objective policies to be adhered to.”

“The concept of time affects the adult learner, who at times finds it difficult to understand the differences between missing 5 minutes versus 25 minutes of class instruction. Perhaps, it is because the UAE is considered a "present time" society, as the past is unchangeable and the future is the will of God.”

Understanding Time in the UAE
Jeremy Williams in Don’t they Know it’s Friday? provides these notes to help expatriates and visitors to the Emirates understand the cultural differences towards time:

“Westerners normally have no concept of the absolute duty that Gulf Arabs have towards family situations which are, in general, far greater than those undertaken, or expected, in Western society. ‘My brother telephoned and asked to see me, so I had to go to him; I am sorry I had to miss our meeting’ is typical of the remark a Gulf Arab might make to a Westerner after a failed meeting i.e. genuinely believing that the explanation - because it involved a family member - would be understood, and failing to comprehend that for the Westerner such a reason would not be good enough. The Westerner would have been far less bothered if a phone call rearranging the meeting had been received, but the experience of almost all Westerners is that most Gulf Arabs do not reschedule meetings beforehand - they simply fail to appear when expected. 'Time' is therefore a major area of culture clash.” (p39)

“For the Muslim, and others, God alone controls the future and therefore any attempt to lay down what shall happen in the future, such as agreeing a date or time, is presumptuous and, for the very religious, borders on the blasphemous. In historical terms, life in the desert or at sea was without watches and diaries and `time' was dictated by the sun and the call to prayer. There was no need for, or inclination towards, more precise arrangements. ‘Speak to me after the dawn prayer tomorrow’ was a sufficient remark in terms of planning.”

“The more cynical Westerner will observe that when a Gulf Arab wishes to be on time, then perfect time-keeping is the norm. Gulf Arabs are always 'sensible' about their interests, as are most people, anywhere.” (p43)

“Westerners are usually hopelessly unaware of the personal relationships and general local undercurrents which dominate Arab decision-taking in the Gulf. They are therefore well advised to be patient. But they should always be ready to act very quickly once an Arab decision to proceed has been taken. This can occur quite without warning and usually follows the gaining of access to an important, and normally very busy, decision-taker. As a rough guide, 95% of time spent in Gulf business activity will be spent waiting, followed by a 5% period of intense work against impossible deadlines.” (p44-45)

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: What is the time? The cartoon is from Don’t they know it’s Friday?

UAE National Identity Articles

The Tricky Business of Integrating UAE Nationals, KippReport, 16 June 2008.
Abu Dhabi …to Protect Culture from Expat Influence, Arab. Bus., 1 June 2008.
Prevent Being Side-Lined, Gulf News, 29 May 2008.
Rapid Growth Threatens Identity, Gulf News, 28 May 2008
Identity in the Balance, GN, 28 May 2008.
The Debate on National Identity, GN, 27 May 2008.
How Can We Maintain National Identity? GN, 27 May 2008
Bid to Promote National identity, GN, 27 May 2008.
Is National Identity being Threatened? GN, 26 May 2008.
Key Elements of National Identity, GN, 26 May 2008.
UAE Society Needs…Central Culture, GN, 26 May 2008.
The Horse: American Museum of Natural History, 17 May 2008-4 January 2009.
Emiratis Fear Being Minority in Own Country, AFP, 19 April 2008.
Identity Call: ‘I am an Emirati’, Xpress, 17 April 2008.
Our National Identity Must Begin at Home, Zawya-WAM, 17 April 2008.
Arabic Key to National Identity, GN, 17 April 2008.
Age of Glorifying officials Over, GN, 17 April, 2008.
Dubai Shaikh Mohammed…On National Identity, GN, 14 April 2008.
In UAE, National Identity is a Wedding Guest, IHT 25 May 2006
Here Comes the Bride (but not from afar, Emirates Hope), NYT, 26 May 2006.
Television Helps to Preserve UAE’s Cultural Traditions, UAEInter., 2 April 2006.
Preserving Cultural identity in the 21st Century-Emirati Youth, College H&SS, nd.
Film explores Fight for UAE Identity, Al Jaz., 22 September 2005.

Masdar Looks to the Sun

It is pleasing to read the development of Abu Dhabi’s experimental city Masdar in the direction of solar power plants.

Article: R Hughes, Masdar to Build Solar Plants, The National, 29 May 2008.

Some recent articles on Masdar:
Masdarize the Entire UAE, ETE, 20 May 2008.
Masdar Model City is Environmental Extravagance, ETE, 20 February 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: One form of solar power plants.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Man Jumps off Burj Dubai World’s Tallest Tower

A Dubai court charged a British man on Wednesday with creeping into the world's tallest building under cover of darkness and parachuting off the 150th floor without consent, in an effort to set a new world record.

His lawyers say he faces up to a year in jail or a 5,000 dirham (690 pound) fine if convicted of trespass and jumping off the building without the permission of the owner, the United Arab Emirates' biggest developer Emaar Properties.

"The Burj Dubai is the world's tallest building and is a marvel of the world. I wanted to honour it, Emaar and Dubai by jumping safely from it," the man told the local 7 DAYS tabloid. "I'm a sportsman, not a criminal."

BASE jumping -- the acronym stands for Building, Antenna, Span, Earth -- is a dangerous sport in which individuals parachute off fixed objects such as tall buildings.

Full article: Briton Leaps off Tallest Tower and Lands in Dubai Court, Reuters, 28 May 2008.

Burj Dubai Official Web Site

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Burj Dubai

Diving Guide for Dubai

TimeOut Dubai has a guide to the diving scene around Dubai at this link:

To Dive For, TimeOut Dubai.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Home Loans Up for Abu Dhabi Nationals

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi (and President of the UAE) has increased by two-thirds the amount that United Arab Emirates nationals in the emirate can borrow free of interest to finance buying or building their homes, to 2 million dirhams ($544,700).

Nationals had been allowed to borrow as much as 1.2 million dirhams from the emirate's Private Loans Authority for as much as 30 years.

Source: Abu Dhabi Ups Interest-Free Loans, Reuters, 28 May 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Dubai Salik Toll Articles

Salik Web Site
More Salik Ahead! Khaleej Times, 28 May 2008.
New Salik Toll Gates by September, Gulf News, 27 May 2008
New Toll Gates, Xpress, 27 May 2008
New Tolls to Ease Traffic Chaos, The National, 27 May 2008
Salik: Fair Tax or another Burden? The National, 27 May 2008.
How the Dubai Toll Works, GN, 2 July 2007

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Britain Launches Inter-Faith Game Show

Muslim leaders last October (2007) wrote to Christian leaders seeking dialogue but an Islamic TV Channel in Britain is seeking to foster good relations between different faiths with a game show.

Called a ‘Faith Off’, it will have the flashing lights, buzzers, puns and prizes that are common to ordinary game shows. The only difference is that contestants will be expected to demonstrate their religious knowledge.

Producers must think there is a market and an audience for such a competition even as this new God show runs up against the Idol juggernaut.

A faith quiz may be helpful as a means of education. It could just as easily be counterproductive as it breeds a spirit of competition (them and us) and provides an opportunity for different faith groups to take pot shots at the other.

To learn more about 'Faith Off' follow this link:
Aislinn Simpson, 'Britain’s first interfaith game show launched by Islam Channel', Telegraph, 27 May 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “‘Faith Off’ will have the flashing lights, buzzers, puns and prizes that are common to ordinary game shows.”

Christians and Churches in the UAE, ETE, 23 May 2008
UAE: No. One for Inter-Faith Relationships, ETE, 22 October 2007.
The links for the Inter-Faith Dialogue:
The full text of the letter referred to seeking dialogue is ‘A Common Word between Us and You’ and it is found at these links in Arabic and in English.

Fish, Fishing & Fish Farming in the UAE

Fishing is one of the most popular recreational sports in the UAE but it is an ancient business for others.

Check out some fish stories, some description of the fish that are frequently caught in UAE waters, some mouth-watering cooking tips and some sensational fishing fotographs.

Two recent articles appear on the Fujairah in Focus (FIF) web site entitled:

Fishing, Fish Farming & Eating Fish in UAE, FIF, 25 May 2008.

Fishing: Quintessentially Fujairah, FIF, 26 May 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: One of the fantastic photos of fishing on a Fujairah beach taken by Hans Mast. Check out his Fujairah fishing photos at HansMast.Com.

UAE not Attracting ‘Green’ Tourists

The UAE and other Gulf countries are missing out on the lucrative ‘responsible traveler’ sector that attracts tourists who choose holidays that keep environmental and cultural impact to a minimum, support local conservation and social projects and enable local people to earn a fairer share of tourism income. So says Michael Aston in his analysis of the tourists who are coming and not coming to the UAE and the Gulf in, ‘Gulf Failing to Attract ‘Nature’ Tourism’.

Link: Kipp Report, 26 May 2006.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Most Popular Article on Experiencing the Emirates

What topic is written into the search engines more than any others that causes people around the world to land on the Experiencing the Emirates site?

I thought it might be an article about the UAE economy, a profile of Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai, a post on the adventurous architecture of the Emirates, a look at the lavish Emirates Palace, skiing on snow while it is 45 degrees outside, the oil boom or a reflection on some environmental issue.

No, the most popular enquiry is, ‘What should I wear in the UAE?

This is a humbling discovery and a lesson for all blog writers.

It is not always the profound and deep reflections that people are keen to read. They often want to learn something basic, something practical and something that is relevant to them, like when they are packing their suitcase getting ready to experience the Emirates.

Dr. Geoff Pound

VAT Coming to UAE

The introduction of the value added tax (VAT) in the UAE, is expected early in 2009.

A Gulf News article reports that the introduction has been pushed back from late 2008 to early 2009. It also says, “The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) states entered into a common customs union in 2003, after standardising the import duties largely at five per cent. Initially, VAT is expected to replace the customs duty and start at a very low tax level.”

‘Initially’ is the operative word.

‘UAE Residents Get Time to Prepare for VAT’, Gulf News, 27 May 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Monday, May 26, 2008

Picasso Exhibition in Abu Dhabi, UAE

The Arab world’s first exhibition of the works of Pablo Picasso, spanning all periods and styles in the career of the 20th century’s signature artist, is to open in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, this week under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

The retrospective Picasso Abu Dhabi: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris, featuring 186 paintings, sculptures and drawings, will run in Gallery One of Emirates Palace from May 27 through September 4, 2008.

For article and more details: Albawaba.Com, 25 May 2008.

Picasso Holds Court in Emirates Palace, The National, 26 May 2008.

Online Interactive Picasso Exhibit, The National, 26 May 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Bust of a Woman with a Hat (Dora), 1939 by Pablo Picasso

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Labor, Poverty, Protest in UAE

Recent Articles:
Tough New Health Laws to Protect Labourers, Arabian Bus., 24 May 2008.
Dubai’s Gleaming Skyscrapers Conceal City’s Labor Abuse, IHT, 25 May 2008
Poverty & Lack of Work at Home Send Indians to Persian Gulf, IHT, 25 May 2008
Sonapur: Dubai’s Underbelly, ETE, 23 February 2008.
Unjust Labor Laws Leave Domestic Workers Exploited, ETE, 28 November 2007.
Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Party to Exploitation and Injustice? ETE, 21 November 2007
Strike Prompts UAE to Consider Minimum Wage, CNN, 8 November 2007.
Asian Workers’ Strike Prompts…Minimum Wage, IHT, 5 November 2007.
Labour Ministry told to Protect Workers, Gulf News, 4 November 2007.
Falling Dollar+Rising Costs=Protesting Laborers, ETE, 3 November 2007.
Thousands of Striking Workers Released from Jail, IHT, 31 October, 2007.
Eye Witness Report on Dubai, ETE, 23 September 2007.
UAE’s Changing Work Culture, ETE, 16 April 2007.
UAE’s Success at Human Cost, ETE, 2 March 2007.

Teaching, Education in United Arab Emirates

Recent Articles:
Effects of Low wages on Teachers Worry Parents, Gulf News, 25 May 2008
UAE and US in Deal to Improve Education in Emirates, Gulf News, 20 May 2008
Education Pact Spurs Teacher Exchange, The National, 21 May 2008.
You Only Get What You Pay For, Gulf News, 19 May 2008.
UAE School Teachers See Red over Stagnant Salaries, Gulf News, 18 May 2008
If Education is to Improve, the Teachers will have to improve, 8 May 2008, The National, 8 May 2008.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

New Zealanders Attracted to UAE

Kia ora!

The latest news is that recruitment drives in New Zealand are cranking up to attract Kiwis to Dubai.

Tax-free salaries look tempting and they are being told it costs less than $20 to fill your petrol tank!

An article in the New Zealand Herald (25 May 2008) says:

“Last year, more than 700 Kiwis left for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), permanently or long term.”

“Each day, about 700 people from around the globe arrive in Dubai and apply for work permits, which are granted to all who find employment. But the handful of New Zealand workers is dwarfed by the thousands of British and Australian expatriates turning up to make their fortune - or at least build up their savings.”

“Compared with Sydney and London, Dubai rates low as a destination for Kiwis' great overseas experience or cash injection, says Jason Walker, regional director of Hays New Zealand, the international recruitment company hosting the expo.”

“He says the UAE is desperately seeking Kiwi workers to help turn it into a sustainable economy by 2015 when the oil is expected to run out.”

The article by Jacqueline Smith entitled ‘Desert Jewel a Rough Diamond’ comes with many warnings about the toughness of living in Dubai and the UAE.

Steve Livesay who worked in Dubai as an engineer says he would recommend Dubai to Kiwis, but with a warning. "They have to be prepared - it's not all sweet and light. The rewards are there but it is challenging."

“A mother of a toddler, who would not be named for fear of jeopardising her husband's position in Dubai, told the Herald on Sunday there was not enough information available to wives following their husbands to Dubai. She spoke of internet censorship (parts of her social networking Facebook page were banned) excessive traffic jams, scorpions and the obvious racial hierarchy.”

“Being a 20-hour flight from home, she felt isolated, as she often avoided leaving the house because of the traffic, the 42C heat and the jumble of construction.”

“She warns all wives to check the place out before blindly following their husbands.”

Check out this article in its entirety, especially if you’re a kiwi contemplating flying to the UAE.

Link: Jacqueline Smith, ‘Desert Jewel a Rough Diamond’, New Zealand Herald, 25 May 2008.

Extra Information on the UAE

The NZ-UAE Connection
UAE Information: Essential Guide for New Residents to the Emirates
Drug Laws in the UAE—Beware!
The UAE and the Law
Christians and Churches in the Emirates
Setting up Business in Dubai and the UAE
Fujairah Information
Human Rights in the UAE
What to Wear in the UAE
UAE Tax Rates
UAE Pollution
Safe and Secure in the Emirates?
How Peaceful is the UAE?
Education in the UAE
Falling Dollar+Rising Costs=Protesting Laborers
Freedom of the Press
Rising Cost of Living
Quality of Living in the UAE

Or think of a subject and put it in the Search space for this site.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: NZ and UAE—contrasting countries.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Christians and Churches in the Emirates

This article entitled ‘In Dubai Christians Pray Side by Side but Not Always Together’, written by Annegret Kapp and posted at EarnedMedia (19 May 2008), is an interesting read. Thanks for permission to reproduce it here.

On Fridays, the Holy Trinity church compound in Dubai is abuzz with worshipers from early morning till after nightfall. Some 10 - 11 thousand members of more than 120 different Christian groups and congregations come here on the Emirates' weekly day of rest.

Services in more than a dozen tongues - including English and Arabic, but most of them South Asian such as Urdu, Tagalog, Tamil or Malayam - fill not only the main church from 6 am to 11 pm but the 25 other halls built around a central courtyard adorned with a Canterbury cross.

A vibrant church life may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the Gulf region, which is primarily Muslim. But in a way, the 3-4 million Christians in the region, almost all of whom came in search of work from around the globe, present a microcosm of Christianity and the challenges of church unity.

At the Holy Trinity compound the Christian testimony is one of diversity in worship, from the solemnity of song to happy clapping. As one services ends, worshippers quickly rearrange what was a sober Protestant worship facility into an Orthodox sanctuary with icons and incense. Glory to God is proclaimed throughout the day in a variety of liturgies.

In Dubai, as throughout the United Arab Emirates, Christians are free to practice their faith, but only within the limits of their church compounds or in the privacy of their homes. The foundation stone of Holy Trinity Church was laid in 1969 by Sheikh Rashid bin Said Al Maktoum, then ruler of Dubai, who had graciously granted the land to the Christians living in his sheikdom.

A chaplain was appointed to care for the spiritual welfare of the expatriate Christians living in Dubai, Sharjah and the northern Trucial States, as the state entity which preceded the UAE was called. The following year, Holy Trinity was dedicated as an inter-denominational church building.

The Chaplaincy of Dubai and Sharjah has strong ties to the Anglican tradition. But it also lives up to its inter-denominational vocation and "the Anglican emphasis on hospitality", as the current chaplain Rev. John Weir underlines, by accommodating more than a hundred congregations of other traditions in the Holy Trinity compound - be they Evangelical, Pentecostal or Orthodox.

The challenge of Christian unity
The intimate coexistence in which churches of all stripes and colours find themselves in the Emirates is both a challenge and a chance to develop a deeper sense of belonging to one ecumenical community. "So far, the first thing churches build when they are allotted territory in a new church compound often is a wall separating their plot from the neighbour congregations," said Rev. Rolf Pearson, who used to work in the UAE as Gulf liaison officer for the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC).

"It is sad that churches [in compounds jointly granted to several denominations] are often built facing away from one another," acknowledged Weir, the Anglican chaplain, "when in fact, each church could encourage the other." He added that, in the planning meetings for the next compound to be built, he would like to work with the other church leaders involved to find a more ecumenically oriented approach.

Since Christians are such a small minority in the country, the Emirate society sees them as one community. "We need a dialogue among Christians in the Gulf on what it means to be the church here," Catherine Graham, a committed volunteer with both the Anglican congregation and the Mission to Seafarers in Dubai, said at a meeting in April between a delegation from the World Council of Churches (WCC) and Christians from several Gulf countries.

One area in which churches can do good work together is their care for the needs of migrant workers. That this can earn them appreciation and support from the mainstream society has been proven by the case of the Mission to Seafarers.

The charity, which is part of an international Christian organization caring for seafarers of any race or religion in over 300 ports around the world, was able to raise the necessary 3,650,000 dirhams (some 99,000 U.S. dollars or 64,000 euros) to built a boat for outreach to the crews of vessels lying off Dubai's busy port.

During its first year of service, the "Flying Angel" has provided 3,000 seafarers with the services and counsel of a paramedic and a chaplain. An onboard internet café allows the sailors, who often have no other contact with their families for weeks or months, to get in touch with their loved ones. Much funding came from Muslim Emirates who saw the need for such a service and the capacity of the Christian charity with its long experience in the Gulf to deliver it.

The service of the Mission to Seafarers is a perfect example of the biblical mandate for Christians to seek the welfare of the city where God has sent them which the WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia evoked in a sermon at Holy Trinity church during the visit in Dubai: " We must learn to welcome the stranger, every stranger, in a spirit of love and solidarity; to open up our relationships so that we may move from being strangers to being neighbours".

The churches in the Gulf may still have some way to go in order to fully live up to the particular challenges of their situation. But the ecumenical encounters witnessed by the WCC delegation bore evidence of a heartening enthusiasm and the readiness to pull their forces together. The very morning the WCC delegation left Dubai, the local ecumenical group who had prepared the visit met to set up task groups for a better coordination of their activities. A first fruit of their efforts will be a training programme for volunteers in a Christian charity in Oman in autumn.

Annegret Kapp, WCC web editor, is a member of the Evangelical Church in Württemberg, Germany.

Christianity in the Gulf - Facts and Figures
An estimated three to four million Christians live in Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Omar and Saudi Arabia today. While many Arab countries have historic Christian minorities, the Christian presence in the Gulf is a very recent phenomenon, closely linked to these countries enormous need for foreign labour. In fact, prior to some missionaries arriving from North America at the beginning of the 19th century, for an entire millennium, there is practically no historic record of Christians in the region, even though Christian traders from India were probably present there before.

According to tradition, Christianity was brought to Arabia by the apostle Bartholomew. Archaeological finds and records in ancient church annals indicate a widespread Christian presence on the whole Arabian Peninsula in pre-Islamic times, that was eventually supplanted by the dominant new faith.

Since the sudden increase in oil revenues starting in 1973 rapidly turned the oil-exporting sparsely populated dessert nations into the richest countries of the Middle East, millions of workers from abroad have met the demand of their booming economies. The migrants today vastly outnumber some local populations. The most extreme example are the UAE, where just about a fifth of all residents are nationals according to the 2005 census.

Though many immigrants to the Gulf are Muslims themselves, the influx of mainly South Asian workers has significantly increased the religious diversity in the region. Regarding the UAE for instance, the U.S. state department's International Religious Freedom Report 2007 indicates that Christians officially account for nine percent of the total population, while Hindus are estimated to make up 15 percent, Buddhists 5 percent, and 5 percent are said to belong to other religious groups, including Parsi, Bahá'í, and Sikh.

Only Kuwait and Bahrain have small Christian communities with a national identity and all Gulf states are governed by Islamic law. However, laws concerning the practice of religion vary from country to country.

In the UAE, the constitution guarantees freedom of religion in accordance with established customs, and Christians can indeed practice their religion freely within designated church compounds. Land and permission to build such compounds are granted by the local ruler in each emirate.

Because an orthodox interpretation of Islam considers Christians to be "people of the book" (monotheists practicing an Abrahamic religion), facilities for Christian congregations are far greater in number and size than those for other non-Muslim communities, despite the fact that Christians are estimated to represent less than a quarter of the UAE's non-Muslim population. Even so, the continuing influx of Christian migrants, combined with a building boom i.e. in the thriving metropolis Dubai make the provision of sufficient worship spaces a continuous concern.

Some churches enjoy particularly good relations with the indigenous society and local rulers. Roman Catholics, Anglicans, due to the emirates' historic ties to Britain, and Indian Orthodox, who have been a backbone of development in the Gulf, have managed to build trust over the years. So has the Reformed Church in America, whose missionaries had provided medical care and education in the region long before oil was found. Church compounds in the UAE are usually run by these mainline churches, but also accommodate less established Christian groups.


The UAE: No. One for Inter-Faith Relationships

Religious Freedom in the UAE: Commendable Advances, Significant Challenges

Image: People outside the Holy Trinity Church, Dubai.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

UAE Managers Treating Staff like Mushrooms

It is an ominous sign when many people email the following article to friends, as if to say that the behaviour of the leaders of their organization is reflected in this Gulf News article by Nadia Saleem, ‘Why managers love keeping staff in the dark,’ 16 May 2008. It says:

“More than half of the managers in UAE firms are afraid of communicating with their staff about job details, a study has found.”

“Of the 500 managers surveyed, 52 per cent believe that taking decisions increases their chances of being blamed if something goes wrong.”

“Thirty-two per cent said they make decisions without thinking of the consequences, and 36 per cent felt job security is ensured if they keep a low profile.”

“‘Communication is a key issue for corporate managers in the region. Companies are under pressure to lift productivity and it is becoming harder to attract and retain top talent,’ said Fran McElwaine, director of change and organisational communications at Hill & Knowlton Middle East, which carried out the survey.”

“The study found that while 77 per cent of UAE managers believe they adequately explain their organisation’s strategic objectives to staff, only 54 per cent of the employees agreed on this.”

“Mathew Mathai, deputy general manager of corporate and marketing communications at Sony Gulf, said the findings could be a reflection of the transient nature of working in the UAE.”

“Almost half of all UAE employees surveyed felt that they do not receive the information they need to do their job well while 33 per cent of them felt they were not recognised for the contribution they make to their company.”

It was President George Bush Snr., who was criticised for treating his Vice President like mushrooms—he kept him in the dark and every so often he’d throw manure over him.

Unfortunately, it looks like the mushroom policy is still popular among UAE managers.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “The mushroom policy is still popular…”

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Expats in the Emirates

There are two reports flying around the airwaves today that appear to have some conflicting themes:

Beware the Brits!
The Select Property site warns (21 May 2008) that the Brits are coming to the UAE in an article entitled, ‘British Expatriates flock to the United Arab Emirates’. It says:

“The British community of expatriates in the United Arab Emirates are at the head of an exodus of two million from the UK in the last decade.”

“The population of British expatriates in the United Arab Emirates has doubled to about 120,000 residents this year, compared to 60,000 residents in 2006. The booming economy and increase in tourism in places like Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah is attracting the British in huge numbers and the country is becoming the world's fastest growing community of British expatriates.”

Beware the Costs!
An article at Emirates Business 24/7 entitled, ‘Expatriates in U.A.E. Spend Less as Prices Surge’ says:

“Expatriates in the United Arab Emirates are spending less as concern over inflation prompts them to save more, citing the regional director for Zurich International Life.”

“About one-third of foreigners working in the country said in a survey that savings and investment are their top financial priorities, according to the newspaper. Two- thirds of expatriates said economic conditions are prompting them to reconsider their financial priorities.”

Dr. Geoff Pound

Gulf Holds World Record for Oil Spills

Further to the many articles of concern about oil being dumped into UAE waters, an Emirates Business 24-7 article (21 May 2008) makes the claim that the Gulf accounts for 75% of the world’s oil spills.

Here is a taster of Nissar Hoath’s report:

“Seventy-five per cent of the world's oil spills happen in the Gulf, and most are easily preventable, according to a United Nations official tasked with protecting the environment.”

“‘Such environmental disasters cost the energy sector billions of dollars to clean up, on top of the toll they take on fragile marine communities,’ said Dr Benno Boer, ecological sciences adviser to the Arab World at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

“And he said tankers that move through the Gulf routinely leave oil in their wake.”

Follow this link to read the important article:
Nissar Hoath, ‘Gulf Accounts for 75% of World’s Oil Spills,’ Emirates Business 24-7, 21 May 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Other Recent Articles on Oil Spills in UAE Waters
‘Oil Draining’ in Fujairah Waters not ‘Oil Spills’, 11 March 2008

Oil Damages Fujairah beaches, Marine Life and Tourism, 20 February 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

UAE Report on Combating Human Trafficking 2007

The full text of the UAE 2007 Annual report on Combating Human Trafficking has been posted 20 May 2008 on the UAE Interact site.

Links to earlier articles and the UAE’s support for the international campaign to combat human trafficking can be found at this February 2008 posting.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Extra—Recent Articles at Fujairah in Focus

Fujairah: ‘So Much to See!’, says a journo at The National

New Steel Plant for Fujairah See what they’re making.

Fujairah Growth at Expense of Fujairah Environment

Masdarize the Entire UAE

“Coals to Newcastle is one thing, but energy being exported to the Middle East?” That is the question asked by Keith Johnson writing for the Wall Street Journal as he reflects on a new report in the Times of London. This report looks at how the UAE and other Gulf countries are attempting to satisfy their voracious appetite for electricity.

The rush in the region to join the nuclear power club will not translate into electrical currents in our homes and factories for another decade. What’s more, contracts are soon to be finalised for the big Qatar—Abu Dhabi—Fujairah Gas pipeline but this will take time to kick in. So what will make up the shortfall? Carl Mortished of the Times says that Abu Dhabi and Dubai are turning to coal!

In most of the reports on the UAE’s long term energy planning there is a noticeable silence on the sun. The UAE White Paper that proposed (April 2008) a move to the nuclear power option was quick to discount solar power plants on the basis that they could not produce enough energy.

It is interesting, however, to see the way giant oil producer and neighbour, Saudi Arabia, has recently announced (February 2008), that it will be developing its solar power production. The country's oil minister, Ali al-Nuaimi, said:

“For a country like Saudi Arabia ... one of the most important sources of energy to look at and develop is solar energy.”

He added: “One of the research efforts that we are going to undertake is to see how we make Saudi Arabia a centre for solar energy research and hopefully over the next 30 to 50 years we will be a major megawatt exporter.”

Saudi Arabia is pursuing the wisdom of a diversified approach to electricity generation and the green, clean approach to harnessing the energy of the sun blazing down on the Arabian Peninsula has important lessons for the UAE.

The Masdar Project announced on 21 January 2008 represents a commitment of $15 billion to alternative energy sources and clean technology including solar energy.

Furthermore, on 23 March the Masdar initiative reported that it was working with a Spanish engineering company to design, build and operate concentrating solar power plants (CSP) in the world’s sun belt regions.

Dr Jaber proclaimed on 9 February 2008, “Masdar City will become the world’s hub for future energy.” He added, “By taking sustainable development and living to a new level, it will lead the world in understanding how all future cities should be built.”

It would be good to Masdarize the United Arab Emirates by applying the best creativity and technology developed in this new hub to the entire country. The transformation of the country will make for a more powerful model to its citizens and to the world than the creation of a new, small city.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: New Mexico—the largest solar power farm in the world.

Extra—Recent Articles at Fujairah in Focus

Fujairah: ‘So Much to See!’, says a journo at The National

New Steel Plant for Fujairah See what they’re making.

Fujairah Growth at Expense of Fujairah Environment

Monday, May 19, 2008

UAE Doctor’s Advice: “Get out in the Sun”

An article in The National (18 May 2008) entitled ‘Public Health Risk as Diet and Lack of Sun Take Toll’, has important implications for people living in the UAE.

The article by Melanie Swan says:
“A vitamin deficiency linked to cancer and organ failure has been discovered in the majority of patients undergoing general health screening at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.”

“The centre is launching a major education programme after discovering that 95 per cent of its female Emirati patients and 50 per cent of male nationals suffered from a lack of vitamin D, which is usually caused by poor diet or a lack of exposure to sunlight.”

“Doctors are urging people to spend short periods of time outdoors while partially uncovered – a recommendation that one doctor acknowledges is culturally sensitive in a region where many woman wear the abaya.”

The problem is caused not only by the cultural conditioning to cover up but by widespread medical advice to get out of the sun’s glare in an effort to stave off skin cancer. Furthermore at this time of the year in the UAE the mercury climbs so high that people move from their air-conditioned house to their air-conditioned car (with tinted windows) to the air-conditioned mall, thus escaping the light as well as the heat.

To read the full article, follow this link: The National, 18 May 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Explosion in Internet Usage in Middle East

Arabian Business has an interesting article (19 May 2008) containing the thoughts of Wikipedia founder who believes that one of the results of the current explosion of Internet users in the Middle East is that people around the world will increasingly hear the views of ordinary people, not just extremists.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “current explosion of Internet users…”

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Road: The Most Dangerous Place in the Emirates

Travel writer and foreign correspondent, George Negus, has made several observations about the United Arab Emirates. In his book, The World from Islam, his harshest criticisms are directed towards drivers on the roads of the Emirates. Negus calls drivers in the UAE reckless and other colourful words and this he says in a country where there is, at least officially, no alcohol-drinking culture!

Surveys on the reasons for the UAE having one of the highest road accident rates in the world have been conducted regularly and have usually pinpointed carelessness and excessive speed as the greatest factors. Many articles have been written about the UAE propensity for tail-gating and the failure of drivers to stop for pedestrians at a crossing. Now rental car companies are offering relaxation workshops to drivers and petrol companies are running road safe campaigns that seek to change behaviour by giving cash rewards.

The Gulf News (18 May 2008) has come up with yet another poll in which they ask their readers to recommend ways to make the UAE roads safer. While there are helpful recommendations about U turns, street design and installing traffic lights, the poll concludes that impatience, the need to be first and the ‘king of the road’ mentality are the primary matters needing correction.

One positive step is that the bar is being raised dramatically at the point when people undertake their test to get their driving license.

While teacher’s should not always be held responsible for the actions of their pupils the frequent flouting by driving instructor cars of the international law on ‘Stop’ signs (interpreting these as ‘Give Way’ or ‘Yield’) suggests that UAE driving instructors need to undergo a more rigorous retraining.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “UAE driving instructors need to undergo a more rigorous retraining.”

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What Do a Billion Muslims Really Think?

The Gallup Poll of the Muslim World is the most comprehensive study ever done of this group. Many key results counter conventional wisdom.

Since the momentous events of Sept. 11, 2001, countless news stories, TV commentaries, and books have speculated on the causes of terrorism, the attitudes of Muslims, and a purported clash of civilizations between Islamic societies and the West.

What has not been available is any reliable measure of the viewpoints of ordinary Muslims, who constitute 20 percent of the global population.

That is no longer the case. Through an ambitious six-year project that involved hour-long, face-to-face interviews with residents in nearly 40 nations, Gallup has plumbed the perspectives of Muslim men and women – urban and rural, educated and illiterate, young and old.

The Gallup Poll of the Muslim World surveyed a representative sample of 90 percent of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims, the most comprehensive study ever done. The findings are explored in the new book "Who Speaks for Islam?" by John Esposito, Islamic studies professor at Georgetown University; and Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies in Washington.

Check out this link in the Christian Science Monitor (15 May 2008) for some of the key results, which frequently counter conventional wisdom:

Image: The book’s findings.

Further information is available at Gallup—Who Speaks for Islam?

Dr. Geoff Pound

A new review of a book for children entitled I am a Little Moslem by Mennah Bakkar can be found at: