Monday, December 03, 2007

The thirty-something Emirates.

As I write this post at my desk in the office, by pure chance this year's National Day Parade is passing on the Corniche below. Again the pipes are skirling as the band marches past, the camels follow and lead a series of beautifully crafted culture-and-heritage themed floats. Dozens of graceful sailing dhows on the wide, still waterway animate the background.

Wait, I hear you say, there are no boats in the photo! Because it's last year's shot from my office balcony, that's why. Because this year the overall view is disfigured by, yes, a construction site. Just beyond the railings of the breakwater against which waves lapped, they have dredged sand from the seabed and carted yet more in a never-ending convoy of trucks to build an extra hundred yards of beach. Well, something has to be done with the money!

One of the main forms of celebration over the holiday weekend has taken the form of the auto corso. The brand new 4x4 specially decorated for the occasion, flag-waving children permitted to ride even more dangerously than usual. For the young men without families the appropriate behaviour is a patriotic form of StreetRacing. [PHOTO: GULF NEWS]

All splendid, exhilarating stuff - even if I nearly got run down at the corner of Hamdan and Khalifa Streets!

Last year I'd intended my National Day post to be a bit on the snarky side. Who's very rich and in their mid-thirties. Let's see now... Ali G? Yup, and with bling which would not be out of place in the Sandlands.

Lance Armstrong, Michael Dell, Shannon Doherty, Saad Hariri, Denise Richards, William Ding...

The plan was to wax profound about the potential pitfalls of huge wealth at a relatively young age, the perspective of one who will be soon twice as old as those pictured.

The post would then have tenuously offered a few observations about this very young nation, the United Arab Emirates, applauding its youthful vigour, its boundless ambition, expressing some disquiet at the tendency to to take bold decisive action, sometimes involving huge investments, without considering fully the consequences.

And at the time oil was $ 60 the barrel.

A year later I guess the applause and expressions of concern would still be valid. Let me try to factor in, however, some recent developments.

Inflation and the currency peg making life here harder for expats on all levels, middle-management as affected by the rise of the Euro, overalled workers seeing the Rupee exchange rate go against them month by remittance month.

A decree by which Federal Government employees are to be granted a 70% pay hike, which will make the Emiratization of the private sector an even more difficult goal to achieve.

The frequency with which I hear intimations of alarm with regard to the water and energy resources needed to serve the gigantic real estate zones under construction, let alone those now being sold off grandiose plan and supported by elaborate high-resolution 3D CGI fly-throughs.

And oil on the $ 100 threshold.

It is hard to find words sufficient to gather all of this together as a coherent, helpful post. Which is what I want my blog contributions to be, if only to explain to my daughter what thinking, doing, seeing, feeling out here in the Sandlands.

I was touched to read that on the National Day itself Sheikh Maktoum became the father of a baby daughter. Mine, Your Highness, is nineteen.

Fathers have a duty to explain their world to their children.

Sometimes it's far from easy.

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