Archive for category Gulf Land of Atmariar
November 08, 2017
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron will be joining Arab leaders to inaugurate the new Louvre Abu Dhabi in the capital of the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday evening.
The museum marks a major cultural achievement for the UAE after a decade-long wait and questions about conditions that laborers on the project had faced. The artwork on display offers a brief history of the world and its major religions — without shying away from Judaism in a country that officially does not recognize Israel.
Museum officials say it also serves as a cultural bridge between the East and West. However, the conservative mores of Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital that’s more buttoned-up than freewheeling Dubai, can be seen in the relative absence of pieces depicting nudity.
“Here at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, we’ve accomplished history,” Mohamed Khalifa al-Mubarak, the chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, said at a ceremony for journalists on Monday. “This museum is a lot more than just a museum.”
Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the modernist museum sits under a honeycombed dome of eight layers of Arab-style geometric shapes. It draws the lapping waters of the Persian Gulf into its outer corridors, allowing individual beams of light that pass through the roof to strike the surface and cast dancing reflections across the white walls. At night, light inside pours out like tiny little stars from a salt shaker against the city’s skyline.
“I imagine this metaphor of the sky, cosmic, cosmographic, with a random system like the stars itself,” Nouvel told The Associated Press. “I imagine that with not a lot of lighting, just a little bit to create a kind of rain of light.”
That rain has been a long time coming in this desert country, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. Authorities first announced the project in 2007 as Dubai feverishly built the world tallest building and other wonders.
Today, much of Saadiyat Island, envisioned as a cultural district anchored by the museum, is still empty. A planned Middle East outpost of the Guggenheim remains unbuilt, with just a poured foundation on the salt flood plain.
Part of the reason is the drop in global energy prices from over $100 a barrel in 2014 to around $30 in early 2016. Abu Dhabi officials have not disclosed how much it cost to build the museum. What is known is that Abu Dhabi agreed to pay France $525 million for the use of the “Louvre” name for the next 30 years and six months, plus another $750 million to hire French managers to oversee the 300 loaned works of art. A center at Paris’ Louvre now bears the name of the late UAE President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, which was also part of the deal.
During construction, the project faced intense criticism over laborer conditions amid low pay, long hours and the brutal UAE heat. A worker was killed in an accident in 2015 while another died of “natural causes” in 2016, according to Abu Dhabi authorities.
Hundreds working on projects on the island, including the Louvre, also were deported or lost their work visas for launching strikes over their conditions, according to a 2015 Human Rights Watch report. Labor strikes are illegal in the UAE.
Jean-Luc Martinez, the president-director of the Louvre in Paris, contends the museum spoke “very frankly” about laborer conditions. He described the museum as a bridge between Asia, Africa and Europe.
“We are not a European museum,” he told the AP. “It’s a place to see the world from Abu Dhabi.” The museum also makes a point to put the world’s religions side by side. In one exhibit, a Jewish funerary stele from France in 1250 sits next to a Tunisian Muslim’s funerary steel and a Christian archbishop’s stone epitaph from Tyre, Lebanon. A painted French stone statue of Virgin and Child stands by a section of a Syrian Quran dating to around 1250, open to a page recounting the night during the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims believe the holy book was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
In a darkened room, a page from the Blue Quran, one of the oldest ever found, sits near a Gothic Bible, Buddhist sutras and a Torah from Yemen dating to 1498. In a Middle East still torn by religious and sectarian conflict, whether between Sunni and Shiite or Israelis and the Palestinians, simply putting them side by side is a major statement.
For now at least, the museum’s exhibit ends with an installation by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei called “Fountain of Light,” an illuminated work of steel and glass that recalls the museum’s gleam at night.
ABU DHABI – The Louvre Abu Dhabi will finally open its doors to the public in November, bringing to the Gulf Mesopotamian artifacts and post-impressionist masterpieces in the first Louvre-branded museum outside of Paris.
Housing 600 works of art, including 300 loaned by 13 French museums for the inaugural year, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is described as the “first universal museum” in the Arab world.
“At a time when culture is under attack… this is our joint response,” French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen said at a news conference Wednesday in Abu Dhabi to announce the November 11 opening date.
The museum has been a decade in the making and is opening five years behind schedule.
Among the works on loan to Abu Dhabi are Leonardo da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronniere from the Louvre — which houses the world’s largest collection of art — and Vincent van Gogh’s self-portrait from the Musee d’Orsay.
Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel of France, the “museum city” is reminiscent of an Arab medina, enveloped by a part arabesque, part futuristic silvery dome that lets in the light in patterns mimicking leaves of the palm trees of the Gulf.
While the Louvre Abu Dhabi will not lack its Rodins and Gaugins, for some, the real heart of the museum is in its narration of ancient civilizations through artifacts acquired by the United Arab Emirates.
– ‘Complex, ambitious’ –
The planned opening comes a decade after France and the UAE agreed a 30-year partnership worth $1.1 billion under which many top French museums will loan art to Abu Dhabi.
French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to attend the inauguration of the museum, which had originally been scheduled to open in 2012.
The “complex, ambitious project”, in the words of museum director Manuel Rabate, has faced delays in funding and construction.
The decision to grant Abu Dhabi the rights to the Louvre name sparked heated debate in France with critics accusing the Louvre of “selling its soul” and questioning the emirate’s record on labor rights.
“Yes, it’s exceptional. Yes, this is the first time a project like this launches in the Middle East. But that’s what’s unique to this project,” Rabate told AFP in response to the critiques.
He sought to allay concerns about the transportation of the art and the conditions in which it will be stored, in a country where temperatures soar well above 40 degrees Celsius (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) in the summer.
“Their protection is vital to us and we have made sure we have the systems in place to protect them against the environmental conditions,” Mohamed Khalifa al-Mubarak, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, said.
“The museum’s galleries are operated by sophisticated climate controls for humidity, temperature and light and during installation, the works are in environmentally protected crates and cases to make sure they are not affected by outside conditions.”
Guarded by Emirati forces, in coordination with French experts, including civil defense and terrorism security forces, the art is protected by “state of the art security systems and procedures, in line with international standards,” said Mubarak.
– ‘Message of tolerance’ –
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is part of “a major cultural strategy” to promote the city as a patron of the arts in a region increasingly focused on soft power.
About five percent of the overall museum will be dedicated to contemporary and modern art. The rest focuses on telling the story of world histories and religions.
In the gallery of world religions, a sixth century Koran, a gothic Bible and a Yemeni Torah face each other, open to verses that give similar accounts.
“To send that message of tolerance is really important for our time,” said Mubarak.
A branch of the Guggenheim, still under development, and the Zayed Museum, the national museum named after the country’s founder, are located on the same island.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi’s opening comes as the UAE, which in April announced the establishment of a Soft Power Council, is locked in a diplomatic battle with neighboring Qatar, accused by its Gulf neighbors of supporting Islamist extremism.
The UAE will also host the global trade fair Expo 2020.
“We’re definitely not this closed-off society that’s putting a massive wall up,” said Mubarak.
“We (the UAE and France) have a goal that is exactly identical: we both want to tell the world how our history is connected. Through culture, the world can become a better place,” he added.
Source: Middle East Online.
August 9, 2017
Dubai’s status as a financial hub for the region is increasingly coming under threat as one of Qatar’s major shipping and logistics firm relocates its regional trans-shipment hub from Dubai to Oman’s Sohar port.
With the Saudi led blockade of Qatar now entering its third month, Milaha Maritime and Logistics, which “delivers a comprehensive range of services to some of the region’s biggest players in the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors”, announced the move that may raise concerns in Dubai over its potential to remain the unrivaled economic hub of the region.
One of the measures taken by the blockading countries was to deny Qatar access to their ports. Typically, cargo for Qatar stopped at the UAE’s massive port in Jebel Ali, Dubai, or in Abu Dhabi, then got put on smaller boats heading to Doha. Following the blockade, international free trade zones like Jebel Ali were off-limits to Qatari companies. Hundreds of containers destined for Qatar were seized by the authorities in clear breach of the provisions and laws of the International Trade Organisation that safeguard the free flow of goods.
Oman was quick to announce its readiness to become the import/export hub of the region. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member was one of the countries that stood to benefit from the Saudi-led blockade after deciding to remain neutral and allowing Qatar-bound ships to use its ports. The country also launched one of its boldest projects; Bayan is the largest electronic system in the Sultanate that allows international traders to obtain government permits and licences quickly and efficiently.
An increasing number of companies have now turned to Oman, and that is likely to have a severe knock-on effect on Dubai. Analysts have warned that the economic embargo on Qatar could hurt Dubai’s status as a financial hub.
Industry analysts believe that both Kuwait and Oman will reap the benefit of trade transactions that used to take place in countries like the UAE. Qatar Petroleum chief Saad Al-Kaabi told Al Jazeera that, as the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) producing up to 77 million tonnes each year, it had to move quickly to mitigate the impact of the blockade and secure alternative routes. While stressing that the blockade has made Qatar much stronger, Doha was in any case unlikely to return to using ports within the blockading countries that previously serviced its global exports.
On Monday, Qatar’s transport ministry said three new direct shipping lines are being opened with Malaysia, Pakistan and Taiwan. These countries, along with Oman and Kuwait, are expected to benefit financially from doing trade with the countries affected by the boycott.
Source: Middle East Monitor.
August 04, 2017
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Firefighters brought under control a blaze that broke out early Friday in one of the world’s tallest residential towers in Dubai, engulfing part of the skyscraper and sending chunks of debris plummeting below, the city authorities announced.
More than 40 floors of the 86-story Torch Tower were burning on one side of the building, an Associated Press journalist near the scene of the blaze said. Building residents could be seen on the street outside crying with several saying the fire broke out just after 1 a.m.
Dubai’s Civil Defense announced at about 3:30 a.m. that firefighters had brought the blaze under control and that no injuries had been reported. “Cooling operations are underway,” Dubai’s official media office said on Twitter.
It was the second time in 2 ½ years that the more than 1,100-foot-tall (335 meters) tower has been ravaged by fire. The tower, located in the popular waterfront Marina district, caught fire in February 2015, but there were no major casualties reported in that blaze.
Early Friday, authorities shared a photo of the charred and blackened tower but it was no longer visibly in flames. Officials said they were now working on providing shelter for those affected. Dubai police cordoned off several blocks around the building, keeping people away from the fire’s falling debris.
Several skyscrapers in the United Arab Emirates have caught fire in recent years, including a towering inferno that engulfed a 63-story luxury hotel in Dubai on New Year’s Eve in 2016. In that blaze, as in others in Dubai in recent years, residents escaped without major injury.
Earlier this year, Dubai passed new fire safety rules requiring buildings with quick-burning side paneling to replace it with more fire-resistant siding. Authorities have previously acknowledged that at least 30,000 buildings across the UAE have cladding or paneling that safety experts have said accelerates the rapid spread of fires.
A devastating tower fire in London in June killed at least 80 people and prompted Britain to order more thorough testing on the cladding systems of its towers.
May 11, 2017
The US State Department has approved the possible sale of 160 missiles to the United Arab Emirates for an estimated $2.0 billion, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
The UAE government has requested the possible sale of 60 Patriot missiles with canisters and 100 Patriot guidance enhanced missiles, among other military equipment, according to a Department of Defense statement.
“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of an important ally which has been, and continues to be, a force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East,” it said.
Source: Space War.
January 11, 2017
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban say they did not plant the bomb in southern Afghanistan that wounded the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador and other diplomats the day before. They issued a short statement on Wednesday, blaming an “internal local rivalry” for the attack at the Kandahar governor’s guesthouse that killed five people and wounded 12.
The Taliban claimed attacks earlier on Tuesday in Kabul that killed at least 38 people and wounded dozens. The Taliban have denied some attacks in the past — attacks that diplomats and security forces later attributed to the group.
Tuesday’s Kandahar assault wounded Gov. Homayun Azizia, as well as UAE Ambassador Juma Mohammed Abdullah al-Kaabi and what Emirati officials described as “a number of Emirati diplomats.” Emirati officials did not respond to a request for comment.
DUBAI – Dubai has tested a Chinese prototype of a self-driving hover-taxi, its transport authority said on Monday, with the aim of introducing the aerial vehicle in the emirate by July.
The test of the one-man electric vehicle comes as the city state in the United Arab Emirates seeks to ensure a quarter of its means of transport are self-driving by 2030.
The EHang 184 can travel on a programmed course at 100 kilometers an hour (60 mph) at an altitude of 300 meters (1,000 feet), the authority said in a statement.
A passenger simply needs to select a destination for the autonomous taxi to take off, fly the route and touch down in the chosen spot monitored by a ground control center, it said.
The vehicle, made by Chinese drone manufacturer EHang, can recharge in two hours and make trips of up to 30 minutes.
“The autonomous aerial vehicle exhibited at the World Government Summit is not just a model,” authority head Mattar al-Tayer said on Monday.
“We have already experimented (with) the vehicle in a flight in (the) Dubai sky,” he said in English.
The authority was “making every effort to start the operation of the autonomous aerial vehicle in July 2017” to help reduce traffic congestion, Tayer said.
The quadcopter is powered by eight propellers, the authority said.
It has highly accurate sensors and can resist extreme temperatures, it said. The emirate is known for its scorching summers.
In November, Dubai agreed a deal with US startup Hyperloop One to study the construction of a near-supersonic transport link to the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi.
Home to Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, Dubai is a leading tourist destination in the Gulf, attracting a record 14.9 million visitors in 2016.
Source: Middle East Online.