The U.A.E. media laws and free speech

The media law in the U.A.E. just got broader, and stricter.

Matt J. Duffy, a former journalism professor at Zayed University who has personal experience with the difficult balancing act regarding free speech in this part of the world, gave a good summary of the change here: “The revision, published in full in Gulf News, criminalizes anyone who uses a electronic means to ‘deride or to damage the reputation or the stature of the state or any of its institutions, its President, the Vice President, any of the Rulers of the emirates, their Crown Princes, the Deputy Rulers, the national flag, the national anthem, the emblem of the state or any of its symbols.

The decree also offers penalties ‘of imprisonment on any person publishing any information, news, caricatures or any other kind of pictures that would pose threats to the security of the state and to its highest interests or violate its public order.”

In short, Duffy writes, these restrictions, of course, are incredibly broad and will surely lead to even more self-censorship in the United Arab Emirates. Any legitimate criticism of the government could conceivably violate ‘public order.’ Better to just stay quiet while on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube lest one step across this nebulous line set up by the new law.

A friend posted on Facebook asking if comments against Du or Etisalat, the country’s two telecom providers which have inspired many a social media rant over poor service, would also count as forbidden speech. I think it might be – both are government entities.

The new provisions came out just as state media issued an edict updating media laws just as the Abu Dhabi Federal Appeals Court upheld a decision by the U.A.E. Ministry of Interior to strip seven Emiratis of their citizenship earlier this year.

The men had been agitating on Twitter and other online sites calling for greater political participation. Nearly 70 Emiratis have been detained by authorities since the start of the year and many of them are members of Al Islah, an Emirati Islamist group that seeks to have Islam play a more dominant role in everyday life in the U.A.E., which has long aimed to be a crossroads of East and West.

You can read my coverage for The New York Times on the detentions here, here, here and here.

 

The crackdown expands

My latest story in The New York Times about an escalation this week in arrests of Emiratis who are calling for more political freedoms and free speech rights. U.A.E. state security authorities say the men are a threat to the country’s stability.

 

 

Detentions of activists are reported in U.A.E.

DUBAI

By ANGELA SHAH

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Mohamed al-Roken drove toward his local police station here to report that his son and son-in-law were missing. Along the way, he found himself surrounded by plainclothes security officers and detained, according to his family.

Mr. Roken, along with his son, Rashid, and son-in-law, Abdulla al-Hajeri, are 3 of at least 14 Emiratis who have been arrested since Monday morning by the United Arab Emirates state security apparatus, human rights advocates and family members said. Nearly two dozen activists are now being held by the authorities.

The arrests are part of a widening crackdown on U.A.E. citizens, some of them Islamists but also academics and stateless people known as bidoon.

“This may be a way to frighten opposition on all sides,” said Christopher Davidson, an expert on Gulf issues at Durham University in England.

This week’s crackdown comes days before the expected start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and highlights an increasingly public conflict in the Emirates.

Unlike many Arab countries, the Emirates have emerged largely unscathed from the unrest that has spread across the region from the Arab Spring that began 18 months ago.

But a debate on free speech and political freedom among Emiratis has emerged, as the leaders here try to maintain a balance between the more conservative character of their neighbors and a desire to preserve their status as a Western-style business hub.

While the trend among natives is still to keep quiet and enjoy the comfortable life provided by the rulers, a small group of activists is agitating for greater political participation — and drawing the attention of the authorities.

Bushra al-Roken, Mohamed al-Roken’s daughter, said the family received a phone call from her father at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

“We couldn’t understand that much,” she said, “but we could hear voices and my father saying, ‘They’re taking me.”’

On Sunday, the state media issued a statement saying the authorities were investigating “a group of people who established and ran an organization which aims to commit crimes against the security and constitution of the country.” Members of this group have “connections with foreign organizations and agendas,” the statement added.

Mr. Roken, a lawyer, was defending several Emiratis who had been arrested on charges of threatening state security. Many of those arrested are members of Al Islah Reform and Social Guidance Association, which holds beliefs similar to those of the Muslim Brotherhood, the mainstream Islamic organization.

Many of these activists say they would like to see Islam play a more prominent role in everyday life in the Emirates, and they have also called for a more democratic political system in the country, a group of seven principalities ruled by hereditary emirs.

The authorities regard Al Islah as a homegrown proxy for the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that they see as gaining influence in the region — especially after the recent election of a Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi, as Egypt’s president.

The families of those detained are scrambling to find them. Asma al-Siddiq said her husband, Omran al-Redhwan, was arrested Monday morning at the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank in Sharjah, where he works as a legal consultant. Ms. Siddiq said she had not heard from the authorities about the reason for her husband’s arrest or where he was being held.

“I am looking at social media sites, Twitter to try to find information,” she said.

The arrests followed the deportation to Thailand on Monday morning of Ahmed Abdul Khaleq, a resident of Ajman, the smallest of the emirates, who was one of the original activists arrested and tried last year.

The men, who were convicted in November of threatening state security and insulting the country’s leaders, were sentenced to three years in prison before being pardoned days after the verdict.

Mr. Khaleq was born in the Emirates, but he is a bidoon, or stateless Arab.

Estimates of the number of bidoon range from 10,000 to 100,000, human-rights advocates say. They belong to families with ties to other parts of the Gulf or Iran, or that failed to obtain citizenship when the United Arab Emirates was formed in 1971. They say they are cut out of the Emirates’ generous social welfare system and complain of discrimination in jobs.

Last month, Mr. Khaleq was given a choice of where to be deported — Bangladesh, India, Iran, Pakistan or Thailand. He chose Thailand, though he had no relations there, said Ahmed Mansoor, a human rights activist and blogger who was among the group arrested with Mr. Abdul Khaleq last year.

Dog days

You’d think that having hit summer #4 that I would at least be used to it. But I’m not.

My car’s temperature gauge at 10:30 a.m. one recent morning.

“Summer” as in the season known to be hot essentially starts here in April when it stops being comfortable to sit outdoors and generally lasts until early November. But last week meant the real start of summer around here; temperatures hitting 115 degrees and humidity levels at 60 percent and upwards. I’m sucking down water but I’m still constantly dehydrated.

I’m certainly not trying to dismiss the pain of the heatwave engulfing the U.S. right now. Hot is hot and losing your AC because the power’s out is pure misery. Thankfully, the power is steady here. They know what the temps are like here and at least the Dubai electricity company has made sure the grid can handle it. (Not so lucky in neighboring Sharjah which regularly suffers power cuts during the summer.)

It’s not like I’m some tenderfoot. I grew up in Texas. I’m used to hot summers. But Gulf heat is something else. It’s hard to explain how hot 115 degrees is. And, no, it’s not a dry heat. The U.A.E. may be desert but it does not skimp when it comes to providing you the fullest extent of hell come summertime. It’s humid here in a way that would make Florida and Houston blush.

Really, at this end of the thermometer, does it matter? Sure it’s dry in Kuwait. But it’s also 123 degrees. Misery is misery.

To cope, you hide indoors all day, closing the blinds against the sun. In the Gulf, you get cabin fever in the summer. Living here really shows you how merciless and deadly the sun can be. Step outside and you’re immediately blinded. (A good pair of sunglasses is key to living here. Of course it’s so humid that as soon as you put them on, they fog up, rendering you blind anyway.)

There is no longer a cold water spigot. Oh, sure, it’s there, taunting you on the right side of the faucet. But it does not release cool, refreshing water. You don’t bother turning on the hot spigot because the cold water is hot enough, thank you! I’ve not had the hot water heater on in my bathroom for four days. Shower is still scalding hot.

I’m lucky. What about the workers at construction sites or in neighborhoods, making deliveries or hauling gas canisters with a paltry midday break? They don’t even have the luxury of complaining, I suppose.

The heat won’t subside until October, when the temperatures will consistently drop below 100 degrees. At least in the U.S., the areas affected by the heatwave will have their power restored soon and temperatures will begin dipping out of the danger zone well before October. When they do, please spare me — and, more importantly, these workers — a thought.

Crackdown

My latest story in The New York Times looks at the continuing struggle between U.A.E. authorities and some of their citizens who are pushing for reforms.

 

 

Emirates Step Up Efforts to Counter Dissent

By ANGELA SHAH

ABU DHABI — The United Arab Emirates have intensified their effort to quell political dissent, with 15 men now being detained by the security forces, according to human rights groups and family members.

All but two are members of Al Islah Reform and Social Guidance Association, which holds beliefs similar to those of the Muslim Brotherhood, the mainstream Islamic organization. The men have called for a more democratic political system in the country, a group of seven principalities ruled by hereditary emirs.

Christopher Davidson, a lecturer at Durham University in Britain who is an expert on Gulf issues, said the Emirates were following the example of Bahrain, which has cracked down harshly on dissidents. Leaders of the Emirates are “emboldened” by the Bahrain government’s actions against protesters “and the lack of any significant condemnation of the Bahrain regime by the international community,” he said.

“The U.A.E. authorities want to govern over a nonpolitical country and a depoliticized population,” he said. “They want to be guardians of an economy that makes money for everyone.”

One stick that the U.A.E. government is using against dissidents is the threat of taking away their citizenship. In December, a group of seven Emiratis, all of whom are members of Al Islah, were stripped of their citizenship. They were arrested in March when they refused to seek out alternative nationalities, their families say. A court ruling on the authorities’ actions is imminent.

“This is aggressive in nature and so vicious in a way that has never been done before,” said Ahmed Mansoor, a human rights activist and blogger. He was among the first group of Emiratis arrested and put on trial last year for calling for democratic reforms.

Continue reading “Crackdown”

Islamists and the U.A.E.

I’ve written before how and why the Arab Spring has largely passed by the U.A.E. In fact, what protests there have been were against the group who became known as the #UAE5, men who were calling for a more direct democracy in the Emirates. My latest story for The New York Times is about members of Al Islah, an Islamist group, who were stripped of their Emirati citizenship last December and the questions that action raises about due process, free speech and a government’s right to preserve its security.

 

 

Emirates keeping tight rein on activists

By ANGELA SHAH

SHARJAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — More than a year after the Arab Spring first convulsed the ruling order of the Arab world, its effects have come home to roost for Shaheen al-Hosani.

He and six other men were stripped of Emirati citizenship in December after being deemed threats to national security. “There has been no court, no trial, not even a single meeting” to explain the reason, he said.

Three months later, the men are now waiting for an answer to a court case they filed in January alleging that the government had illegally revoked their citizenship. “This has really damaged our life,” Mr. Hosani said.

Last March, as protests and violence began to spread from Tunisia to Libya, Egypt and elsewhere, including the neighboring Gulf emirate of Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates remained largely quiet. The Emirates’ wealth has served as a shield against the economic pressures that have provoked unrest in the Arab world, and leaders here further expanded generous social welfare programs that provide housing, education and medical care for free for citizens.

Still, within that stability, cracks emerged.

Last November, after a six-month trial, five Emiratis were sentenced to three-year prison terms for insulting the U.A.E.’s rulers and threatening state security. The men were pardoned days later. Then, late last year, the government announced the revocation of the citizenship of Mr. Hosani and the six others, all members of Al Islah, or Reform, an Islamist group.

The conflict between these men and the government illustrates a debate about free speech in the Gulf as the Emirates tries to maintain a balance between the more conservative nature of their neighbors and a desire to preserve their status as a Western-facing business hub. In the Gulf, the overwhelming tendency has been toward preserving the collective societal fabric, one that does not tolerate unfettered dissent.

“Security can trump free speech in the U.A.E.,” said Matt J. Duffy, a journalism professor at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. “This is a huge debate everywhere: What is the appropriate balance between individualism and society?”

The political rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in post-revolution elections — especially in Egypt, where it has been a dominant force — has raised red flags about related Islamist groups in the U.A.E.

“The worry is these guys are extremist, and it’s the duty of the government to protect the citizens from extremists,” said Mr. Duffy, who is writing a book on media law in the Emirates.

That was the sense in the state news media when Saleh al-Dhufairi, general manager of the Holy Koran Foundation in the northern emirate of Ras al-Khaimah, was arrested this month at his home and accused of using Twitter to “stir sedition and abuse religion to instigate members of the public to perpetrate acts that pose threats to state security.”

Mr. Dhufairi had repeatedly criticized rulers’ decisions, including one to deport about 30 Syrian expatriates who had staged a protest outside the Syrian Consulate in Dubai without a permit.

An article in The National, a state-owned newspaper, juxtaposed a report about Mr. Dhufairi’s arrest with a quotation from the Dubai chief of police, Dahi Khalfan Tamim, that “some in the U.A.E.” — not identified — “are in direct contact with the Muslim Brotherhood and are being controlled by them.”

“Since Muslim Brotherhood has become a state, anyone advocating its cause is considered a foreign agent,” Mr. Tamim was quoted as saying. The article further said, without citing any evidence, that Mr. Dhufairi was “believed to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Mr. Dhufairi has not been publicly heard from since his arrest. The newspaper 7Days quoted his brother-in-law, Dr. Mohammed al-Mansouri, as saying Mr. Dhufairi “does not believe he did any bad things.”

Ali al-Hammadi, who also lost his citizenship in December, denied that he or other members of Al Islah were taking orders from groups outside the country. “The Islamic movement here in the Emirates is different than the Brotherhood in Egypt or Tunis,” he said.

Mr. Hammadi, a lecturer and owner of training centers, said Al Islah’s activities were peaceful. “We don’t believe in anything that is terrorism,” he said. “We are a very peaceful people. We don’t believe we have to change our government.”

“We don’t want to change as what’s happened in Egypt and Tunis,” he said. “We want reforming, not changing.”

For example, he said, the men from Al Islah want to see Islam play a more prominent role in everyday life in the Emirates. Mr. Hammadi also said it was unfair that Islamists were shut out of the electoral process in the U.A.E. last year, in which only a small portion of Emiratis were approved to vote and run for office.

These sorts of sentiments have resulted in an outcry, including some physical threats, on social media Web sites. Many Emiratis see such dissent as an affront to the tribal system and the hereditary rulers who govern life in the Gulf. The relatively small number of citizens — about 10 percent of the population here — has resulted in a close-knit community that is very loyal to the ruling families.

“This is a monarchy — it doesn’t claim to be a democracy,” said Mishaal al-Gergawi, a prominent Emirati commentator who said he felt free to offer opinions in his columns in U.A.E. newspapers. “I don’t think we have an issue of criticism, but there are certain criticisms and certain positions that are outlawed.”

For now, the Islah members have the same status as the bidoon, residents of the U.A.E. who have not been granted citizenship and are thus stateless. “This means you cannot travel,” Mr. Hammadi said. “You cannot drive your car.”

Mr. Hosani said that he had been fired from his university job and that his children were being turned down for positions for which they were qualified. Without his documents, “I can’t even renew the health insurance card for my wife and children,” he said.

Ahmed Mansoor is one of those pardoned in November after being convicted of insulting the U.A.E.’s rulers, and he said the authorities had yet to return his passport. Fired from his engineering job after his arrest, he is focusing on law school classes he had been taking on the side while working, he said.

“The threats keep coming on Twitter,” he said. “Not just defamation, but threats of physical abuses.”

Mr. Mansoor said he did not agree with the Islamists’ philosophy but agreed that taking their citizenship in this way was a violation of their human rights. He said he had no regrets for pushing for more direct democracy. “It’s the price we pay for our legitimate demands for reforms,” he said.

Arab Voices Before the ‘Spring’

For many people, 2011 was the year of an awakened Arabia, whose voices served as the catalyst for the oft-mentioned “Spring.” Sultan Al Qassemi, who writes the Felix Arabia blog, gained a measure of fame himself during this season of Arab discontent and revolution. Still, as powerful as these voices are, Al Qassemi recently wrote in Jadaliyya, an online publication produced by the Arab Studies Institute, about the voices who came before tweets and Facebook status updates.

Today the number of Twitter and Facebook users in the Gulf is estimated to be in the millions. Many are outspoken and critical of Gulf Arab regime policies, religious establishments, and the stagnation of social and political reform. There is no doubt that this space for online peaceful dissent would be even narrower and less tolerated than it is today had it not been for the courageous activism of the Arab and Gulf blogging pioneers. A majority of these social media pioneers have incorporated new mediums into their activism, but a few chose to stop blogging altogether. Some are no longer with us today, while others have gone into hiding in fear of being jailed.

The story introduces readers to many of these pioneer Arab voices, some of whom are now silent — willingly or unwillingly. As we look forward to 2012, which will likely reveal further change in the Arab world, it’s worth keeping in mind those who spoke out even when the world’s spotlight wasn’t shining on them.

Putting the Emirates to work

 

 

Helping Emiratis Succeed in the Private Sector

By ANGELA SHAH

DUBAI — Fatma al-Falasi’s excitement about her new job with a global chemical company evaporated by the end of her first day.

“I was underestimated and unappreciated,” she said. “I was there to fill a quota and I could see it in everyone’s faces.”

Ms. Falasi wanted to work in the private sector because the more multicultural environment, which she felt better reflected society at large, would allow her to gain experience and skills she could not get in a homogeneous Emirati government organization.

Instead, she was given make-work that “required no creativity or intelligence,” she recalled. She left the yearlong “Emirati Development Program” after five months and now works for a Dubai government entity.

“I always assumed I would fit in better in a multinational environment, but after that experience, and given the great work family I have now, I realized that is not true,” she said.

As many as 15 percent of Emiratis leave private-sector jobs because of cultural differences. Emiratis make up only about 20,000 of the total 3.8 million workers in the private sector in the U.A.E., according to the country’s Ministry of Labor.

“We have a lack of leaders in the region — we have managers, not leaders,” said Jasim Al Ali, director of human resources at the Department of Economic Development in Dubai. “There is no clear career path. This is the responsibility of the manager to explain to them exactly what they need to do” to progress at a company.

Encouraging citizens to not only enter, but to also thrive in the private sector is key for Gulf governments, whose populations are growing beyond the ability of the public-sector work force to accommodate. Saqr Ghobash, the U.A.E. minister of labor, said recently that integrating Emiratis into the private sector was a bigger challenge than the global economic crisis.

Emiratis, like their Gulf counterparts, have traditionally flocked to government jobs, which have higher salaries and lighter working hours. But with more than half of its population below the age of 30, the private sector must be a viable option. Currently, expatriates, who comprise nearly 90 percent of the U.A.E. population, fill the ranks in the private sector.

“The luxury of relying on cheap expatriate labor is fading as the demographic reality becomes clear,” said Farouk Soussa, chief economist for the Middle East at Citi. “It’s not sustainable. You can’t build your country based on guest labor. You need to employ your own people.”

Continue reading “Putting the Emirates to work”

No gas but a lot of hot air

Remember last April when the gas stations in Dubai and neighboring emirate, Sharjah, suddenly dried up? Drivers would pull into fuel stations only to be greeted by attendants with sheepish looks and no answers. Suddenly, in one of the world’s largest producers of crude, gasoline became scarce, at least in Dubai and the northern emirates.

The fuel shortages have continued to the point where the Sharjah Executive Council gave two of the Dubai-owned companies, Enoc and Eppco, a month to get their business in gear or face closure. Well, the deadline came and went this week and sure enough barriers were put up, stations are closed and workers are worried about their jobs.

(via Emirates 24/7)

When this first started, the official word for the shortages was that the stations were undergoing some sort of maintenance. No one really bought that. As the shortages continued and the frustration flared, the spokesman just stopped returning calls for comment, it seemed from the coverage in local newspapers.

Essentially, cash-strapped Dubai no longer wants to pay for below-market priced gas for the northern emirates. And the shortages were a sort of passive-aggressive way to get both Abu Dhabi’s attention (and subsequent help) and get out of supplying the money-losing fuel.

Emirates National Oil Co., a Dubai government-owned refiner and operator of service stations, closed filling points in neighboring Sharjah and restricted supplies to other northern emirates last week. … The emirate plans to cut ‘subsidies and transfers’ by 50 percent to 2.67 billion dirhams in 2011 from a year ago, according to a government forecast.

‘Below-market retail prices — without a way to make up the losses — is an unsustainable situation,’ Rachel Ziemba, a Middle East analyst at Roubini Global Economics LLC in London told Bloomberg News. ‘The Dubai government continues to be cash-strapped, and this is one of the reminders that just because its companies are restructuring, it doesn’t mean that Dubai Inc. is out of the woods yet.’

Only the federal government can approve a hike in the price of gas. Given all the Arab Spring action all around us, it’s not likely the U.A.E. will take away such a key subsidy at this time.

Beyond the economics or political calculation of subsidy or the randomness of the world’s fourth largest producer of oil suddenly having empty stations, what’s striking about this entire episode is either sheer genius or ineptness of the Dubai P.R. machine. Certainly, we’ve seen this passive-aggressive approach before.

Finally, this week, under questioning from a Gulf News reporter, a Enoc Group spokesperson said he couldn’t comment.

I cannot give a statement now, don’t ask me questions I cannot answer,’ he said. ‘I agree that we should be more transparent, I agree 150 per cent, but we have directives not to talk about this issue now.’

Pressed for answers, he made casual comments on the weather to change the subject.”

Pressed for answers, he resorted to chatting about the weather! Brilliant. Especially considering there’s only one way to describe the weather this time of year: Hell.

(OK, I’m sure he was just following his marching orders. The poke is more at his company, the entity that decides to do this and then not be prepared to respond to the inevitable media inquiries.) Still, his quote inspired a string of tweets from a former colleague of mine, Tom Gara. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Tom Gara
tomgara Tom Gara
Enoc PR guy smooth moves: Why ask me this? The Libyan people are in charge of this company, all the answers can be found in the Green Book.
Tom Gara
tomgara Tom Gara

Enoc PR guy smooth moves: that’s a good question and I’d love to answer it, but the real question, as Descartes asked, is do we even exist?
Tom Gara
tomgara Tom Gara
Enoc PR guy smooth moves: Sorry, I’d love to answer that, but I lost my voice singing in my screamcore death metal band on the weekend.
Tom Gara
tomgara Tom Gara
Enoc PR guy smooth moves: Turns up volume to max on laptop, puts mobile next to speakers, shouts “sorry, am in a crowded nightclub.”
Tom Gara
tomgara Tom Gara
Enoc PR guy smooth moves: *in fake Italian accent* “Sorry, no speaka the English”

U.A.E. Wildlife

No, I’m not talking about the designer-clad nightclub-goers in the Armani Hotel or the less, um, well-heeled patrons in Bur Dubai or Deira.

For a country that’s 100 percent desert, there sure are a lot of exotic animals running around. Saturday night, residents in the Al Karama neighborhood in Abu Dhabi reported a young cheetah on the loose. This is akin to suddenly running across a big kitty prowling around the M Streets in Dallas.

(Gulf News via AP)

He was caught Sunday. The 11-moth-old cheetah was injured and had a chain around his neck. People at the Abu Dhabi Wildlife Centre said it looked like he escaped from a “private zoo.”

A cheetah? There are scores of homeless kitties around Abu Dhabi that would love the chance to spend this summer indoors curled up in your lap.

I suppose in a place that’s still growing into itself — I think the U.A.E. is in that teenager phase, rebelling to be different but conflicted by ties to tradition, on the way to full self-realization. So, perhaps, this is all part of the one-upsmanship. The tallest building in the world. The biggest indoor amusement park. You have a house cat. I have a tiger!

We saw a U.A.E. tie to this illegal exotic-animal trade earlier this month when an Emirati was stopped at the Bangkok airport. In one of his suitcases were two sedated leopard cubs. Another bag contained two other leopard cubs, a Sun bear, a gibbon and a marmoset. Media reports said each of the animals, which might have been bound for Saudi Arabia, were estimated to be less than three months old.

To be sure, the Middle East is not the only place that likes exotic pets — Russia is apparently another. But this seems to happen often enough here to have an Abu Dhabi Wildlife Centre, for which, at least, I’m glad.

Thanks to Margaret Coker for providing this handy rundown of wildlife sitings in the U.A.E. since 2005.

Life in the UAE — Animals roam streets

* May 29, 2011: An injured cheetah is found roaming the streets of Abu Dhabi.

* March 8: A young monkey, believed to be a baboon, was spotted running between parked cars at a petrol station in Silicon Oasis, Dubai.

* January 11: A pupil was bitten by a snake in Dubai while on a school trip.

* December 7, 2010: Cheetah spotted roaming the streets of Sharjah near Radisson SAS Hotel.

* March 2: A snake was spotted in a public school in Ras Al Khaimah, causing chaos.

* December 27, 2009: A python measuring more than a metre spread panic in Sharjah.

* January 14, 2007: A runaway baby crocodile spotted by an Emirati boy on the beach.

* November 15, 2005: Dubai resident reports seeing a tiger inside a 4X4 vehicle car near the Mall of the E

Union Railways becomes Etihad

Last fall, I wrote a small story about the starting efforts of Union Railway, the Abu Dhabi government-owned company which was building the first-ever rail system in the country. For Gulf Business magazine this month, I wrote a larger story about updating the project both here and in other parts of the Gulf. Union renamed itself: “Etihad” is Arabic for “union.” (Yes, that’s also the name of Abu Dhabi’s airline. I wonder what branding executives would say. Consistent or confusing?)

Continue reading “Union Railways becomes Etihad”