United Arab Emirates



Urban structure of Doha until the 1960s; Source: Scharfenort 2012 (Exhibition in Msheireb Enrichment Center)

The second issue of the new journal Arabian Humanities, with selections in both English and French, is now available online here.

The table of contents is reproduced below:

Juliette Honvault
Éditorial
Villes et dynamiques urbaines en péninsule Arabique
Cities and Urban Dynamics in the Arabian Peninsula

Claire Beaugrand, Amélie Le Renard et Roman Stadnicki
Au-delà de la Skyline : des villes en transformation dans la péninsule Arabique [Texte intégral]
Beyond the Skyline: Cities in Transformation in the Arabian Peninsula [Texte intégral | traduction]

Nelida Fuccaro
Preface: Urban Studies in the Arabian Peninsula: 6 Thoughts on the Field [Texte intégral]
Préface : Les études urbaines en péninsule Arabique
1. Croissances, politiques et projets
Growth paths, politics and projects

Brigitte Dumortier
Ras al‑Khaïmah, l’essor récent d’une ville moyenne du Golfe [Texte intégral]
Ras al‑Khaimah : the recent dynamics of a middle size city of the Arab‑Persian Gulf

Steffen Wippel
Développement et fragmentation d’une ville moyenne en cours de mondialisation : le cas de Salalah (Oman) [Texte intégral]
Development and Fragmentation of a Globalizing Secondary City: The Case of Salalah (Oman)

Sebastian Maisel
The Transformation of ‘Unayza: Where is the “Paris of Najd” today? [Texte intégral]
La transformation de ‘Unayza : où en est le « Paris du Najd » ?
Philippe Cadène
Koweït City : planification urbaine et stratégie régionale [Texte intégral]
Kuwait City: Urban Planning and Regional Strategy (more…)

Perhaps it is boring to be rich, especially for the super rich in a traditional cultural setting. Take the Emirates, for example, with the ultra modern business hub of Dubai and the fabulous new buildings that oil money funds in Abu Dhabi. The Emirates is an unusual oasis in the heartland of the Islamic faith. What makes it unusual is that some 88% of the population here is foreign. So it is not surprising that there should be a murmur of culture clash under the glitz. So when Western pop stars like Snoop Dog, Jay Z, Justin Bieber and Rihanna role into one of the Emirates, you can expect some culture clash talk. Al Jazeera reports that several recent Western superstars have raised eyebrows by their language and behavior. Did the organizers really think that Jay Z would forget how to swear or call women by demeaning terms? This is his bread and butter.

There is a famous biblical saying that Jesus once said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Jesus, theologians tell us, was referring to a narrow gate in Jerusalem that made it very hard for camels to enter, but the sentiment is apt. Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad are respected prophets, but none of them squandered riches or lived in opulence or built huge pyramids. This is not just a problem for Muslims, but for all the major monotheisms which preach about helping the poor. Islam is exemplary in this regard with its principle of sadaqa, but Judaism and Christianity also stress helping the unfortunate. For that matter, even concerned atheists care about their fellow humans. But there is something about wealth (the love of money being the root of all evil) that strains religious behavior. Jay Z and Snoop Dog went to the Emirates, where the money flows, not Yemen, though I suspect young Yemenis have heard them as well in the global pop music market.

My point is not to disparage pop music, nor to defend those who would place a Muslim in a 7th century cultural bubble, but simply to note that defining one’s personal faith is not made easier in a context of vast wealth. Even a cursory reading of the Arabian Nights shows that this is not a modern problem. But if you invite Jay Z, don’t expect a sermon.


Image: Rihanna’s Instagram

by Fatimah Jackson-Best, Aquila Style, October 28, 2013

International pop icon Rihanna recently made the news after being asked to leave the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. According to a statement issued by the mosque, the singer’s removal from the grounds was based on several reasons, which include attempting to enter the mosque through a gate that was not allowed for visitors, failing to get the proper permission to visit and tour the mosque, and failing to behave in a way that was in accordance with the sanctity of the mosque.[i] Instagram photos of the singer posing in front of the mosque also sparked reactions from Muslims and non-Muslims around the world.

I learnt that she had been barred from entering the mosque on my Facebook wall, from a friend who jokingly reminded me that I could relate to the story, because I had also been prevented from visiting a mosque here in Barbados – twice. (more…)


Mackintosh-Smith in China

One of the most celebrated Arab travelers was the 14th century Ibn Battuta. For a book on the travels of Ibn Battuta, Timothy Mackintosh-Smith literally followed in the footsteps that the Arab savant had taken some seven centuries earlier. In addition to the book, a documentary film was made. An excerpt of the film on Tim’s experience int he Chinese city of Zaytun is available on Youtube and well worth watching. Other Youtube excerpts are on an Ibn Battuta shopping mall in Dubai and on Turkey. Vimeo provides access to the entire first part of the three-part series. For more information on the work of Mackintosh-Smith, check out his website. An earlier documentary on the English Sheikh and the Arab Gentleman by Bader Ben Hirsi is available in its entirely on Youtube.


Yemeni artist Ziad Nasser al-Ansi, who won fourth place at the Dubai Cultural Innovation Awards, blends Yemeni architecture with local decoration and patterns. Above, al-Ansi’s painting that won the President’s Award in 2006.

Yemenis take home top awards at Dubai cultural competition

by Faisal Darem, Al-Shorfa, September 6, 2013

Yemeni Bassam Shamseddine was taken by surprise when his wife told him she had submitted his novel, “Laanat al-Waqif” (The Curse of the Stander), to the 2013 Dubai Cultural Innovation Awards without his knowledge.

A bigger surprise awaited him when his book placed fifth in the novel category, he told Al-Shorfa.

Shamseddine is one of three Yemenis who placed at the eighth edition of the awards.

Khaled Abdul Haleem al-Absi placed second in the short story category for his collection, “Wa Alam Adhaat Sihruha” (And the Pains Have Lost Their Magic), while Ziad Nasser al-Ansi placed fourth in the fine arts category.

The winners’ names were published in the September issue of the Dubai Cultural Magazine.

Awards were distributed across eight categories, including UAE cultural personality of the year, poetry, short story, novel, fine arts, dialogue with the West, theatre writing and documentary film.

“This is the first time I have taken part in a literary competition, and the award is a significant moral support for me to continue writing novels and stories,” Shamseddine said. (more…)


Shops in Crater in the 1960s

[This is the second part of a reflective essay on the author’s upbringing. For part one, click here.]

by Samira Ali BinDaair

Back to the roots

The return to Yemen came sooner than we expected in the last phases of British rule in South Yemen. Being young, my brothers and I managed to adjust quickly to our new life and whereas I had enjoyed riding bicycles and climbing trees in Africa we found new forms of entertainment like riding gari gamal (camel carts) and others. Quite often when we went shopping in Crater we were suddenly told to get to the floor as the bullets passed over our heads and while my mother looked worried, to us it seemed like a cowboy film. It was the exchange of fire between British soldiers and what they called “Snipers” but what the Yemenis called “freedom fighters,” There were many checkpoints then especially at the “Aqaba” and the golden highlanders with their Scottish kilts and red caps were a common sight in those days.

As adolescents we were filled with nationalistic ideas of independence, although I dare say without necessarily understanding the historical antecedents of British rule nor all the political implications of the struggle then. As soon as we went to Abyan beach in Khormaksar, we became children again as we played with the waves collecting seashells and chasing the sea gulls, forgetting all about revolution. Alas we had weaved dreams bigger than the half pennies in our pockets.

The convent school I went to in Crater Aden was a completely different version of Yemen and I still remember the kind sister Serena who had taught me how to play the piano,contrasting with the life within my grandfather’s cousin’s stone house in Sheikh Abdulla street in Crater with its old fashioned structure. His wife would sit in the afternoon in her elaborate sitting room, chew qat and smoke the mada’a (waterpipe). In those days it was shameful for young girls to chew qat or smoke in contrast to what is the case today when qat chewing has crossed the age barrier across the board. (more…)

All eyes and ears are focused on Egypt with the ouster of President Morsi after massive street demonstrations and with the direct removal from office by the Egyptian military. Euphemisms and wishful political spin aside, this was a coup. The heads of state in the United States and Europe are now doubt breathing a sigh of relief, although watching a democratically elected leader pushed aside without ballots is not something to discuss very loudly in public. The pundits are weighing in on the failure of Morsi, that he failed to represent all Egyptians and was pushing too hard and too singularly for a Muslim Brotherhood agenda that would unravel decades of Egypt’s secular dynamics. Nathan Brown has an astute analysis at The New Republic. But missing from the headlines are two other coups that can be excused as non-coups. Last week the emir of Qatar, Shaykh Hamad, resigned and handed over control of the wealthy emirate to his son, Tamim, who has been well groomed for the job. Given that Hamad had come to power in a bloodless palace coup while his father was out of the country, this could be seen as coup avoidance. Obviously, father and son get along together quite well. But the third case was announcement of an attempted coup in the seemingly stable United Arab Emirates. On Tuesday, while crowds were milling in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and chanting for the end of Morsi’s regime, the Federal Supreme Court of the UAE announced that 94 Emiratis had been accused of plotting a coup. Some 56 were given jail terms of 3-10 years and 26 were acquitted.

Three coup scenarios in just a little over a week! Is this the eternal Arab Spring or just an “Indian summer” for the Middle East? Or should we rename the political tsunami that began in Tunisia and has spread across the region the “Arab springboard”? (more…)


The Al-Ain-based Rock Band “Random Stars”

Where there is youthful fire, there is Smoke on the Water. I remember the first Deep Purple record I bought: Machine Head from 1972. The cover featured a blurry, almost metallic image of the long-haired heads of the band. The song that has since been immortalized describes a fire that destroyed a recording studio in Geneva. Where were these Deep Purple-ites to stay, since Frank Zappa was at the best place in town and the “Rolling truck Stones” were outside the Grand Hotel, which was empty and bare, but obviously full enough to record one of the classics of Rock.

Rock is about as Western as a person can get: sound tracks that serve as neoliberal commercialized crumbs that feed rebellious young people the idea that songs can substitute for real protest. And sex and drugs, of course. It is hard to imagine the band without the groupies, who at least in those days flocked like moths to a flame at every concert. Fundamentalist Christians were appalled, warned by their pastors that Rock songs played backwards held secret Satanic messages. The 1960s auto de fe had already consumed Beatles albums in Alabama. Janis Joplin was dead in 1970; the Lord finally gave her a Mercedes Benz as a hearse. Jimi Hendrix joined her the same year. Jim Morrison walked out of the door of life in 1971. (more…)

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