Kevin in the UAE: Iranians & Metallica


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War Is Boring’s youngest contributor, Kevin Knodell, is on a school trip to the UAE, where he’ll be exploring security topics while no doubt mulling lucrative real-estate deals and working on his tan. You can read about his classmates’ exploits at Pacific Lutheran University’s Sojourner blog.

Photo by Kevin Knodell.


The UAE, just as many other Gulf States, is suspicious of the Iranian government. Tensions with Iran have been an important factor in helping to solidify U.S.-UAE relations. However, though political relations between the two countries are strained, relations with the Iranian private sector thriving. Iranians are a common sight in the Emirates. Iranian companies and expats have been taking full advantage of the economic opportunities that the UAE has to offer, and using it as a refuge from the Iranian regime’s tight regulations on business.

For the past week I’ve been staying at the Sun and Sands hotel in Dubai, an Iranian-owned establishment in an older section of the city. Though the clientele is fairly diverse, it’s no surprise that the vast majority are Iranians. Some come for business, others for pleasure. It is not uncommon to see Iranians enjoying the nightlife, and indulging in activities that would be frowned upon back in Iran (if not illegal altogether). Not long ago, I overheard a band playing Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” in the Iranian night club inside the hotel. Alcohol is also very readily accessible.

The Iranians I’ve met here have been very cordial, and eager to talk to Americans to practice their English. They want to know all about Americans and what American people think about Iran. They are always sure to tell me how much they like Americans. They’ve often encouraged me to visit Iran, saying it’s a beautiful place full of nice people.

An Iranian I met named Amir, working for a travel agency, opened up a Persian magazine to an advertisement for visas to the United States, telling me that this was a huge business. He said Iranians are looking for ways to work, school and travel in the United States. Amir was very open in his deep disgust with the Iranian regime.  However, he too said that he would like more Americans to come to Iran, telling me that it’s a fantastic place to visit … if you ignore the politics.

Kevin in the UAE: Land of Contradictions


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