Dubai Dragon Boating

The 2013 Dragon Boat Festival was far from being just a spectacle. Competition was as fierce as the name would suggest, as Noni Edwards reports.

This year’s event at Festival City was the seventh time it’s been held in Dubai and its popularity is gaining.

It’s no wonder, with its combination of fun, sunshine and the all important team spirit.

Courtesy of Dubai Calendar

“It’s very fun because it’s a team sport. It’s the ultimate team sport, says one competitor. “It’s synchronized, it has to be together, you have to play with the whole team. One stroke, one sound.”

57 teams are competing this year over the two days, for titles in 200, 500 and 1,000 meter races.

Globally, organisers say it’s the second most popular team participation sport in the world, with over 50 million participants.

“Dragon boating has been around for the last two and a half thousand years. Originating from China, and here it is now in the UAE, says one team member. “It brings together different nationalities, different people of all ages, different abilities, and we’re having fun on the water.”

The UAE Dragon Boat Association was founded in 2006 but organisers say the sport has been practised in the UAE for about 80 years.

Originally broadcast on Emirates News, 13 April 2013

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Barack Is Back: A lighter look from the UAE

How did the UAE react to news of Barack Obama’s victory over Mitt Romney in the US elections? I took a trawl of the local web to have a look.

Starting with an example of our mainstream media, the Dubai-based Gulf News summarised the reactions of local residents with a top line that Obama was “viewed as the lesser of two evils”. They continue to say that their responses were mixed, but there’s not that much evidence of that from the three (yes, three) vox pops they included.

A 40-year-old Jordanian-American teacher in Abu Dhabi said Obama was the better choice as Mitt Romney is too conservative.

A 22-year-old Emirati student in Dubai is said to believe Romney would have turned out to be another George W. Bush if he’d won.

Finally, a 22-year-old Syrian-American who said she’s ‘happy’ with the result but says she didn’t vote because she missed the deadline but admits she doesn’t follow US politics and only hopes Obama does something about Syria because things seem to be getting worse and worse.

I would’ve stopped interviewing the general public then and there as well.

The Twittersphere was rife with reaction, however. Dubai’s Al Wasl Football Club for one were barracking for Obama according to Twitter.

@Al_Wasl tweeted:

Congratulations: #AlWasl’s Fan, Barck [sic] Hussain Obama (@BarackObama) wins the US Presidential Elections again

They post a link to this article from 2009 in the Daily Mail, claiming Obama had ditched West Ham in favour of Al Wasl after a fan sent him a Wasl shirt.

Laura, a Dubai-based Brit known for her shopping blog Buy Now, Blog Later, also tweeted:

Had stressful dreams about the US election. Romney got in, Iran was invaded and I had to evacuate Dubai. Fingers crossed for Obama then!

A straw poll by 7Days, in the lead-up to the election looked a little deeper. They quoted Dubai-based Middle East security expert Dr Theodore Karasik’s analysis:

…Romney’s staff has already come out and claimed that China is an enemy and Russia is an enemy and Venezuela’s an enemy and Iran is an enemy. We could see a lot of America flexing its muscles all over the place and creating a lot of tensions.

With the Obama people, they believe a bit more in the diplomatic process but that diplomatic process, I believe, is also going to take a turn to the right.

And snippets of other views from UAE-resident US-citizens:

Obama voter focused on foreign policy: “I think my biggest concern right now is Iran. I look back at what happened in the Bush era” 

Swinging voter who switched to Romney: “I was prepared to give Obama four years but there is little improving in the economy.”

Reluctant Obama voter: “Myself and several Americans I know are so fed up with the childish antics of both parties that we don’t want to associate ourselves with either and wish there were a viable third party.”

Ohio-registered voter who lacks confidence in Romney: “I can’t trust anyone who hides their tax returns.”

The US Consulate in Dubai estimated there were around 40,000 Americans in the UAE, but the number who voted was unknown because ballots were sent directly to individual state offices.

Australia and GCC sign MoU

Australia has signed a memorandum of understanding with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations on the sidelines of the 118th GCC Ministerial Council meeting in Abu Dhabi.

Australia was represented at the First Joint Ministerial Meeting on GCC-Australia Strategic Dialogue by Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd, and the GCC group was headed by the UAE Foreign Minsiter and chair of the meeting, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in the presence of the outgoing GCC Secretary-General Abdul Rahman bin Hamad Al Attiyah.

The official Emirates News Agency (WAM) says “Sheikh Abdullah stressed the importance of strategic dialogue with Australia as a key country that maintains strong political and economic ties with the GCC countries”.

In a joint statement signed at the end of the meeting, the two sides said the MoU is an undertaking to further strategic dialogue between the sides.

A statement from the Australian Foreign Affairs Ministry elaborates, saying “Australia and the GCC welcomed the growth in relations and cooperation in the political, economic, education and other fields.”

“The two sides shared important and growing economic and strategic interests and people to people links, reinforced by hundreds of thousands of Australians of Arab descent who have made an important contribution to Australian society, tens of thousands of Australians living in GCC countries, and thousands of GCC nationals studying in Australia.”

The MoU details a commitment to holding annual meetings between Foreign Ministers with a focus on enhancing friendly relations; boosting trade and investment links; and to finalise discussions on a Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the GCC.

Rudd hopes for quick successes in GCC FTA negotiations

As he prepared for a round of talks today in Abu Dhabi, the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd, was hoping for speedy resolutions on the question of a free trade agreement with Gulf nations.

A statement released by Mr Rudd’s office said he will “push for an early conclusion of the FTA when he meets with his Gulf Cooperation Council counterparts at the inaugural Australia-GCC Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue in Abu Dhabi later today.”

The Minister’s office recognises the importance of the Gulf trading bloc to Australia saying “the GCC FTA would help to consolidate other important trade and investment ties between Australia and the Gulf.”

“Merchandise trade between Australia and the GCC countries amounted to A$8.7 billion in 2010, and there are growing investment and services links that could benefit from the conclusion of the FTA.”

Mr Rudd will meet with GCC Foreign Ministers following the 118th session of the GCC Ministerial Council, held yesterday in the UAE capital, under the chairmanship of His Highness, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE Foreign Minister.

Earlier today in Abu Dhabi, Mr Rudd was received by the Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, according to the Bahrain News Agency.