NAME THAT COUNTRY

In the industrial Al Quoz quarter of our mystery country’s largest city, the thriving Alserkal Avenue arts district showcases, nurtures and supports contemporary regional, multi-discipline arts and artists. Twenty renovated warehouses and other buildings house galleries, artists’ studios, food, drink, artist residencies, workshops, theater, cinema, public spaces, and programs. A full and diverse calendar of talks and festivals bring together artists, city residents and visitors in appreciation of the vital place of the arts in society.

 

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NAME THAT COUNTRY

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque pictured above is named for the founder and first president of our mystery country. The country, composed of seven united principalities boarding the Arabian Gulf, is known for its oil wealth and shiny modern cities. Sheikh Zayed, who died in 2004, is locally revered and widely respected for wise stewardship of the considerable natural resources within his borders.

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Abu Dhabi: from Sandy Village to Manhattan-Skyline in 40 Years

Only forty years ago, the gleaming metropolis of Abu Dhabi that we know today was a hungry, mud-brick speck on the edge of the desert. Most people lived as their ancestors had done, scrapping a meager living from the sea and inland oases.

In 1761, a hunting party of Bedouins followed a gazelle out of the desert to a pool of fresh water near the coast, a miraculous find in that place. (Abu Dhabi means “a place with lots of gazelles.”) They built a well and a watch tower out of coral, sea stone and crushed sea shells to protect and control the water, at that time the greatest form of wealth they knew. The ruling sheikh moved into the fort and Qasr al-Hosn (which means “palace fort”)  remained the residence of the local rulers for 200 years there after. Today, Qasr al-Hosn still stands, the cornerstone of Abu Dhabi, now in the shadow of glass and steel skyscrapers, watch towers of another kind built by liquid wealth of another kind.

A settlement grew up around the fort and pearling, fishing and trading industries developed. Piracy also developed and the coast around Abu Dhabi became known as the Pirate Coast by the British, who were passing by regularly on their way to and from India. In the 19th century, the pirate problem led to a series of treaties or truces between the British and area sheikhs. Hence the next British name for the area – Trucial Coast. British influence lasted until 1971. Some contend that the British used piracy as a pretext to get a foothold in the Arabian Gulf ahead of other European powers.

The pearl harvest and trade made Abu Dhabi economically vital through the 19th century and into the 20th. The development of cultured pearls in the 1920s and the global depression of the 1930s all but ended the natural pearl industry, leaving Abu Dhabi pretty much destitute. They fished, grew dates and herded camels and got by, barely. Then came oil.

Oil was discovered in Abu Dhabi in 1958 and exports began in 1962. In 1966, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan sent his older brother Shakhbut into exile and took control. Shakhbut was stuck in the past and making no real effort to put his new wealth to good use. It was a bloodless coup. Sheikh Zayed began right away to invest the new oil wealth in Abu Dhabi and to share it with his neighbors. He built roads, an airport, schools, hospitals, all the infrastructure that a society needs to prosper and progress.

In December 1971, Abu Dhabi joined with five other emirates – Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Sharjah, Umm al-Quwain – to form the United Arab Emirates. The seventh emirate, Ras al-Khaimah, joined in February of 1972. Abu Dhabi became the capital of the UAE and Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan its first president.

Since independence, and oil, Abu Dhabi has become an economic powerhouse, with a per capita GDP in line with countries like Germany, France and the UK. Besides crude oil, natural gas contributes significantly to Abu Dhabi’s wealth and the emirate is actively working to diversify its economy, with steady growth in real estate, banking, tourism and manufacturing. The UAE as a whole is listed in the Very High category of the Human Development Index, which tracks life expectancy, literacy, education, standards of living and quality of life.

Click to see tours of Abu Dhabi on our web site.

Dubai Shopping Festival

You know Dubai does nothing halfway, and that certainly applies to the annual Dubai Shopping Festival, which rolls out its 22nd installment December 26, 2016-January 28, 2017. Last year, over 3.5 million people attended this shopping and entertainment extravaganza.

Year-round, Dubai is one of the world’s top destinations for shopping and for one month each year the Dubai Shopping Festival magnifies that appeal exponentially. Retail sectors around the city, including world-class malls and traditional souks, slash prices, offer special festival products, sponsor raffle drawings, activities, and live entertainment. Dubai-sized raffle prizes include luxury cars, gold, diamonds, homes, and cash.

The festival chooses a different theme each year, but topnotch entertainment and activities for the entire family always line-up to complement the shop-til-you-drop frenzy at the heart of the event.

Visit http://www.visitdubai.com/en/discover/festivals/dubai-shopping-festival#press-centre for shopping and entertainment details, not yet published. There’s also a Dubai Festivals App to help attendees plot a plan of action and make the most of festival experiences and deals.

NAME THAT COUNTRY Episode 114

The opera house and performing arts center pictured above opened on August 31, 2016, with a performance by Placido Domingo. The city in question is well known for brash, record-breaking innovation, not so much for arts appreciation. With this beautiful, state-of-the-art facility, the city reveals that it does indeed have a taste for high culture. The design was inspired by the traditional sailing vessel of the region, the dhow.
The opera house stands in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

photo credit: the Washington Post

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NAME THAT COUNTRY Episode 105

Falconry is a centuries-old tradition in our mystery country, and in the wider region. Trained falcons are used to hunt small animals for their keepers. Today it’s a popular sport but some Bedouins still use falcons to put food on the table. Above, a pampered falcon visits the renowned falcon hospital in Abu Dhabi for a check-up and a bit of grooming. Tourists are welcome to visit the falcon hospital, where they can learn about falconry, observe routine procedures and meet some falcons.

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