Sunday, 27 February 2011

And now Oman...

2 protesters killed in the industrial town of Sohar when police opened fire with rubber bullets. Sohar is about 200 kms from Muscat the capital of Oman.

The 'monsters' are being taken care of.

Adverts for houses to rent in Qatar which teach us all NOT to rely on Google Translate or BabelFish:

  • Villas for rent in Beni Hajar 6 rooms and a hall and the Council of the monsters required large R. 9500. BC Tel:
  • Rent Villa for staff behind the university city required slavery 8500 Tel:
  • Villa for rent 5 rooms and bliss halls and the Council of extension and external monsters 10.000
Its good to know the 'monsters' are being taken care of isn't it?

Q for Qatar

Doha, Qatar
Like  many people in the construction industry we are joining the steady trickle of people who are heading to Doha, Qatar to live and work.
I've been in Doha, Qatar for the last few days. Its hard to believe but the driving there really is worse than Dubai and the roundabouts in Doha are lethal, its a complete free for all and the red stop light is just a suggestion!

Apparently a Facebook page "Freedom Revolution March 16 Qatar" has been set up demanding the removal of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.  The page was approved or in FB-speak, 'liked', by about 1,600 people.  Before we see another Egypt looming let's put that number in perspective as there are over 4 million people who 'like' the Facebook page entitled 'Flipping the pillow over to get the cold side'.
As background, Qatar's natural gas reserves have made the country incredibly rick, and the Qatari nationals, who number about 350,000, have the world's highest per capita income.  What's that saying 'Civilization is four meals away from anarchy'. The rest of the population are expats from all over the world.
Sheika Mouza, the Qatari Emir's wife, is a woman with education and opinions who plays an active public role in Qatar. She also acts as a representative of her country overseas. As a result, she attracts criticism from conservatives and one of the demands on the FB page is that she should play no further public role.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Kia Kaha Christchurch

Rolling online coverage on ABC (Australia) through TVNZ of the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Tragically at least 65 confirmed fatalities to date.

The colonel shows himself

We pick up several Libyan tv stations here in Dubai. Col. Gaddafi's made a bizarre appearance on Libyan state tv interupting the usual 24/7 'We are great/Everything's fine' programming. His message to the people lasted for around 20 seconds. Filmed while he sat in the back of a small vehicle, like a past-its-use-by-date tuk tuk, he held an umbrella to protect himself from the rain. He said he wanted to show himself to the people so they could see he was still in Libya and 'in control' then he moved the umbrella down so nobody could see him.
Does anyone else think he looks remarkably like Phil Spector?
As I mentioned on another thread, Western companies are moving to evacuate expat staff, but Libyan government rules require exit visas for any foreigner leaving the country. Some French oil workers have 'just up and left' w/o the exit visas and flown to Malta.  Also flying to Malta were a couple of Libyan air force pilots who defected in their jet fighters rather than follow orders to fire on protesters.  The Libyan government says the pilots were ordered to fire on ammunition dumps.....

Monday, 21 February 2011

Leaving on a jetplane if they can...

Seif al-Islam Gaddafi offered a tiny olive branch in his tv appearance last night which he then snatched away. He raised the spector of Libya being carved up by unspecified separatists, while threatening the West with disruption of oil supplies (Libya supplies 79% of the EU's oil) then threatening the Libyans with 'the West is coming to get you'. He seems to attempting to rattle all the cages at the same time.

Western firms are mobilising to get their staff out of Libya and two helicopter loads of French oil workers have already arrived in Malta.  As an exit visa is required for a foreigner to leave Libya this is, naturally, proving problematic and it seems many people will attempt to leave without the government stamp in their passport.  Benghazi airport is shut but Tripoli is currently still open.

The latest rumours are:

a) Gadaffi has left Libya and is heading to Venezuela; or

b) Gaddafi's left Tripoli and is heading to the centre of the country to direct operations when the army moves in...time will tell.

Meanwhile the Libyan tv channel which we can pick up here in Dubai, continues to show pro-Gaddaffi rallies with a soundtrack of 'patriotic' songs.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Al Jazeera signal in the UAE

I turned on the tv yesterday to find that Al Jazeera English and Arabic had disappeared from the screen to be replaced with a 'Scrambled signal' message.   The Guardian in the UK reports that Al-Jazeera television is investigating reports that its signal has been disrupted in countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.  A spokesman said: "We are not sure of the cause but we are looking into it."   It seemed odd at the time that I couldn't get AJE or AJA, as the seemingly endless channels showing soap operas in every language you can think of were still there loud and clear.  

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Choppy water in the Kingdom of Two Seas

Map courtesty of
Its a pity they can't spell 'Arabia' though. They also
use the term 'Persian Gulf'  but in this part of the world
its called the Arabian Gulf.
SMS  from a friend in Bahrain: "...its complete madness here! We r home bound and embassy's have advised us to stay indoors. Never seen anything like it. There was a run on the banks and ppl panic buying from the shops. Tanks on the streets and choppers flying past 24-7. If things continue I may get a flight out!"

Many of the non-Middle East based readers of this blog may be asking "So where is Bahrain anyway?' Others may know the kingdom as Michael Jackson's home in 2005, albeit briefly, after his US trial.  Geography 101: Bahrain is a group of thirty-three islands located 24kms from the coast of Saudi Arabia and 28kms from Qatar and is connected to KSA by the King Fahd Causeway.  The word Bahrain/Bahrayn is derived from the Arabic words "itnain bahr" meaning "two seas' and is the name of the largest island in the group.  The nation's 'full name' is 'Mamlakat al-BaŠł•rayn', Kingdom of the Two Seas.
While Bahrain is an Islamic country, the ruling family belongs to the Sunni minority of the population while the majority of the population is Shia. For those unfamiliar with Islam, the Pew Research Center reported in 2009 that the majority of Muslims in the world are Sunni with only 10%-13% being Shia. The largest Shia country is Iran which has, in the past, laid claim to Bahrain.  This claim was tit-for-tat following Bahrain's support of the United Arab Emirates in a squabble with Iran over 3 small islands no bigger than a sneeze.
The current ruler of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa ('bin' means 'son of'') is a member of the Al Khalifa family that has ruled Bahrain since 1782.  King Hamad came to the throne in 1999 instituting a programme of political and social reform which has gone some way towards reconciliation with the Shia majority.  He restored the Bahraini parliament which had been suspended in 1975 giving a public forum for the opposition Shia Wefaq party to voice its opinions.  

The current protests in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, started as a demand for equality for all citizens, The military have moved in to confront the protestors, bullets are flying, people are dying, and the 'if we don't look they'll go away' divisions in Bahraini society are deepening by the hour.  However, the largely nationalistic nature of the protests gives a glimmer of hope to the government that 'outside influences' will not prevail (let's not be coy, they mean Iran). However, the actions of the military also signal the likelihood of a power struggle within the ruling family stemming from the 'dissatifaction' of the Prime Minister (the King's uncle) at being passed over for the role of Crown Prince in favour of the current King's son.  King Hamad has shown himself open to dialogue whereas his uncle the Prime Minister supports a hard line response.  If the actions of the military are a guideline, then it would appear that the PM has prevailed, initially at least. 

Sky News reports that UK Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt has revoked 44 individual and open licences for the export of hundreds of cartridges of tear gas and other riot control equipment to Bahrain.    Bahrain, as one of the Trucial States, was originally within the British 'sphere of influence' and a close relationship remains.  The US also has a vested interest in ongoing stability in Bahrain due to its strategic location and the extensive US military facilities in the country. The Fifth Fleet has a large facility  in Manama now something like 62 acres onshore plus offshore.  This is centred around what was originally the British naval installation, HMS Juffair, which dates from 1935.  The British left Bahrain in 1971 following the granting of independence, the Americans leased part of HMS Juffair and renaming it 'Administrative Support Unit Bahrain'.  An agreement was signed between Bahrain and US in 1991 granting US forces access to Bahraini facilities and air space to 'ensure the right to pre-position material for future crises' though the US Navy has been a permanent fixture in the Gulf since around 1949. 

With continuing protests in Bahrain, Yemen and Jordan and escalating violence in Libya the old curse 'May you live in interesting times' has never seemed more appropriate.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

World domination using coffee and bikkies.

Resistance is futile.
New Zealand has a plan for world domination and the fern shape in the froth is the clue. First we lure them in with coffee:

Then the coup de grace, the biscuits.

At last we can ask for a 'flat white' in at least one coffee shop in Dubai (Costas) and not get an uncomprehending stare in response. The biscuits are from the Lime Tree Cafe - where else?