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July 24th, 2007
The Sand Castle
The United Arab Emirates Trends

Before oil was discovered in Abu Dhabi in the 1950s, the region was known for fishing, the pearl trade, agriculture and herding. Following the expansion of the oil industry, the United Arab Emirates has vastly changed. Once a region predominantly inhabited by nomadic Bedouin tribes, the country has become a global hub for trade and tourism. Expatriates and migrant workers now make up 80 percent of the country’s population. Inspired by the Singapore model, the UAE has introduced special tax incentives, which have attracted thousands of companies from over 120 countries.


Sources: Human Rights Watch; The Times of India; Al Jazeera English; DubaiCamelJockeys.org; UAEinteract.com.

Renewable Energy: Abu Dhabi

Decades of drilling oil in the desert have made Abu Dhabi very wealthy, but also one of the places in the world with the largest per-capita environmental footprint — the measure of a person’s effect on water, soil and sky. The UAE’s footprint is estimated at nearly 12 hectares per person, which is about six times the global average. In 2006 the government of Abu Dhabi launched the Masdar Initiative — an economic development program devoted to sustainability that seeks to create the first zero emissions, zero waste city in the world.

When completed in 2015, the city will include housing for 47,000 people to live in a network of pedestrian streets with rooftops covered by energy-producing solar panels. The Masdar Initiative, which means “source” in Arabic, will also include a new university that will offer doctoral and masters degree programs in sustainable design.

Some of the world’s biggest energy companies are involved in the initiative, including Shell, BP, General Electric, and Occidental Petroleum. The initiative involves the commercialization of technology in carbon management, water usage, renewable energy, and desalination, all of which the UAE depends on as it continues to grow and consume energy. This multi-million dollar effort is only a first step in the UAE’s series of plans toward cleaner energy implementation.

Education: Al-Sharjah

It is compulsory that all UAE citizens receive primary school education. Currently the UAE provides
its citizens with education from kindergarten to the university level, although thousands of
students pursue degrees in higher education abroad at the government’s expense, a common practice
in Gulf Countries.

The government tries to provide a staff to student ratio of 1 to 20 at the kindergarten and primary
levels, and 1 to 15 at the intermediate and secondary levels.

The United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) is the nation’s top university for higher education, but schools such as Zayed University, which
was established in 1998 to help advance women’s role in society, are becoming increasingly popular.

Migrant Workers: Dubai

Dubai’s construction boom in the 1990s attracted hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and the Philippines. Now the 2.5 million migrant workers represent 95 percent of the UAE’s workforce.

These blue-collar workers are an exploited underclass with few rights. According to a recent Human Rights Watch Report, serious labor violations include extremely low wages, withholding pay and passports, and hazardous working conditions that lead to death and injury. The workers live in labor camps and seedy apartments, sometimes up to 20 in a room that is 40 square feet in size. In their off hours they are restricted to certain parts of the city.

During the past year, migrant workers have increasingly resorted to strikes in an attempt to improve working conditions. As a result, the UAE has taken certain measures such as hiring 2,000 labor inspectors and forcing companies to pay $52 million in unpaid wages. Employers, however, are not held accountable and continue to build, and break the law.

Sources: Human Rights Watch

Ras Al-Khaimah

As Ras al-Khaimah rapidly transforms into an internationally renowned getaway destination, it is steadily unveiling new tourism and real estate projects. One expansion plan is the Al Marjan Island, an offshore development consisting of five man-made, coral-shaped islands extending one mile into the Persian Gulf.

Vast artificial islands are being created throughout the Emirates to fashion additional coastlines, building resorts, theme parks, and shopping malls. Ras al-Khaimah’s neighboring state, Dubai, has already built islands in the shape of palm trees, Arabic poems, and maps of the world — adding 900 miles to its original coastline.

Developers of these man-made islands are increasingly coming under fire from environmental organizations, who say that the islands upset the entire ecology of the western Persian Gulf. They argue that as a result of these developments beaches are slowly starting to erode, coral reefs and turtle nesting grounds have been damaged, and natural currents have been rerouted. The developers insist that new sea life will thrive on the islands’ artificial reefs.

Sweihan

Camel racing is a deep-rooted tradition in the UAE. For many years, children as young as four were used as jockeys because of their relatively light weight. But in 2005, in partnership with UNICEF, the UAE banned the practice and sent approximately 1,100 underage camel jockeys back home to Asia and Africa.

In July 2007, the story appeared in the news again as a Miami couple filed a lawsuit against Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed al-Maktoum alleging he had kidnapped and enslaved children for the purpose of racing camels. The couple seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for the alleged abuse of their children. The Dubai ruler sought help from President George Bush in dismissing the complaint, and threatened that this could affect ties between the two countries.

Source: Al Jazeera English, DubaiCamelJockeys.org

Environment: Umm Al Quwain

As Ras al-Khaimah rapidly transforms into an internationally renowned getaway destination, it is steadily unveiling new tourism and real estate projects. One expansion plan is the Al Marjan Island, an offshore development consisting of five man-made coral-shaped islands extending one mile into the Persian Gulf.

Vast artificial islands are being created throughout the emirates to fashion additional coastlines to build resorts, theme parks, and shopping malls. Ras al-KhaimahÕs neighboring state, Dubai, has already built islands in the shape of palm trees, Arabic poems, and maps of the world, adding 900 miles to its original coastline.

Developers of these man-made islands are increasingly coming under fire from environmental organizations, who say that the islands upset the entire ecology of the western Persian Gulf. They argue that as a result of these developments beaches are slowly starting to erode, coral reefs and turtle nesting grounds have been damaged, and natural currents have been rerouted. The developers insist that new sea life will thrive on the islands’ artificial reefs.

Sources: BBC

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