Kevin in the UAE: The Emirate System


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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.

Emirati. Photo by Kevin Knodell.


The UAE is not a democracy. It’s important to remember this. Though the Emirates are in many ways a beacon for liberal values and is freer than many nations in the region, there are still restrictions on speech and expression. For instance, I quickly learned that Flickr is banned by the Emirati government. The government can also be incredibly secretive.

Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the leader of Abu Dhabi Emirate and is president of the UAE. Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the leader of Dubai Emirate while serving as both vice president and prime minister. Ministerial posts are handed out to members of the Emirati elite.

In the aftermath of the credit crunch, Dubai — and to a lesser extent, the rest of the UAE — has been at the center of international criticism. Francis Matthew, an editor at Gulf News, recently urged for more transparency on the part of Dubai’s government and financial institutions. “[Dubai] needs to rebuild its international reputation by releasing a steady flow of solid facts, and allowing anyone who is interested to make up their own minds,” Matthews said.

In talking with people living and working in the UAE, while there is a level of criticism directed at the Emirati ruling class, there is still a great deal of respect as well. There is a sense that while the Emirati can be decadent, they are also pragmatic rulers who think carefully about the business of leading and managing the country. However, people almost unanimously said that they would like more accountability and more engagement with government.

Kevin in the UAE: The Union Defense Force
Kevin in the UAE: Multiculturalism in Dubai
Kevin in the UAE: Expats
Kevin in the UAE: Port Whine
Kevin in the UAE: Iranians & Metallica
Kevin in the UAE: Land of Contradictions


2 Responses to “Kevin in the UAE: The Emirate System”

  1. Sean McLain says:

    The picture on the left is Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince

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