In the early days of developing our new regional product, which includes Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates states of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, we referred to the area collectively as the “Persian Gulf.” Other than the assertion that Oman does not border the “Persian Gulf” (except by the tiny annex of Musandam, separated from the bulk of the country and surrounded by the UAE) by one pedantic member of our ranks, the term seemed an appropriate, concise way to refer to four neighbor countries. The lone stickler for geographical correctness pushed for use of the “Arabian Peninsula” but the greater momentum was behind “Persian Gulf.”
Then one day, the term “Persian Gulf” was used in correspondence with our ground operator partner in Dubai, an actual resident of said region. He politely, but in no uncertain terms, informed us that the correct name for the body of water and, by extension, its surrounding states, is the “Arabian Gulf.” This was news to us but, as we proceeded to learn, common knowledge in the Arab world.
The body of water between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula has been known as the Persian Gulf for thousands of years, at least since the Persian Empire was one of the world’s great powers and controlled much of the land surrounding the gulf. Ancient Greek maps use the name. The name changed a few times over the centuries with shifting political influence in the region. The Ottomans called it Gulf of Basra after the northern port city and Turkey still uses that name today. However, most of the world always came back to the use of Persian Gulf.
With the rise of Arab Nationalism in the 1960s, Arab states began using the term Arabian Gulf. Some contend that, historically, Arabs have occupied the region longer than Persians. Iran stands by the name Persian Gulf. Outsiders are left in the rather awkward position of seeming to choose sides, whatever name they use. When Google Maps used no name at all and National Geographic used both names, Iran took offense, deeming these attempts at compromise as support of the Arab claim.
At Ya’lla Tours, to use the term Persian Gulf is now out of the question, and although we wholeheartedly support our Arab partners, referring to the area as the Arabian Gulf is not practical for marketing purposes, since most people outside the region will not recognize the name. And so it was that Ya’lla’s Persian Gulf became Ya’lla’s Arabian Peninsula, not for the sake of geographical exactitude as originally proposed, but as a way to present our product in familiar terms while showing respect and solidarity to our Arab colleagues.