food / travel

Fishermen, Bullfights And The Emirates' Economic Boom

In Fujairah
In Fujairah
Helge Sobik

FUJAIRAH — Once they’ve finished, the fishermen of Fujairah, in the United Arab Emirates, drag their boats up onto the beach, sit in the shade to mend their nets, and begin to chat: about Allah, about the world, about soccer and bullfights.

But talk also turns to how the pace of life has sped up so much recently, and how nice it would be to turn back the clock.

Early tomorrow morning, it will all begin again. Fishing for marlin and snapper out in the Indian Ocean is as it has always been, but these days, when the boats get back to Fujairah, the fish traders must transport their catch on four-lane highways. There are already a few skyscrapers springing up in the emirate, and mobile phone signals are good even out at sea. Sometimes the traders even call to ask where the boats are. These are people who don’t understand wind and currents, or the fact that fish are not always waiting in the same place to be caught.

In other words, times have changed even here, the most isolated of the seven United Arab Emirates. Because it doesn’t have its own oil reserves, Fujairah has always been dependent on the ocean and oases. Its main exports have traditionally been fish, oranges, lemons, mangoes and watermelons.

Fujairah is home to the oldest and holiest mosque in the Emirates, a simple clay structure built in the 15th century. Until recently, the people here were the last in the UAE who could still be seen wearing traditional daggers on their belts. And they were the last to have their dust paths replaced by a paved road built through the mountains to their sheikhdom, financed by their rich cousins in Abu Dhabi.

Al Bidya mosque in Fujairah — Photo: Bobak Ha'Eri

Oil tankers in place of mangroves

The first road through the mountains was built in the 1970s, and in 2012 a second route was added to ease congestion. The new motorway from Dubai was necessary because Fujairah is standing on the brink of an economic boom.

Soon the $3 billion oil pipeline from Abu Dhabi will be finished and will bring with it huge tankers lining the coast where mangroves used to stand. The pipeline is the largest construction project the UAE has seen for a long time — larger than the land reclamation in the Gulf, the record-breaking skyscrapers and the golden palaces. When it’s finished, up to 70% of daily oil production will pass through the pipeline and be transported from Fujairah across the world, bypassing the 40-kilometer-wide Strait of Hormuz, which Iran has repeatedly threatened to blockade.

The road from Dubai to Fujairah — Photo: GeniusDevil

The population of Fujairah has risen from 100,000 to 180,000, and experts estimate that growth will continue at more than 10% a year as engineers, businessmen, masons, estate agents and hoteliers flock in. The number of tourists is also rising, and the newly renovated Hilton, built in the 1970s in a tourist wasteland, will soon face stiff competition.

Traditional bullfights may be dying out

Those who want a taste of traditional Fujairah will have to hurry. Soon the sandpits at the roadside may well become scarce, and visitors won’t be able to see the bullfights that take place in the open air on Fridays. Cars park chaotically around the site and behind the bars, and men in traditional white robes spur on the bulls while a voice over a loudspeaker referees from afar.

Four to six keepers lead the bulls into the middle of the improvised arena, and the animals charge at each other with lowered heads. They brace themselves in the sand, lock horns and try to push one another backwards, grunting. It’s all over in less than a minute — sooner if there’s any sign of blood. The goal is for neither of the animals to get injured, and there is no one brandishing a dagger to spur them on.

Life has sped up

Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi moved to a new palace long ago, finding it more comfortable than the clay fort built by his forefathers on a hill in the center of town. The palace was supposed to be restored and reopened as a museum, but the transformation hasn’t taken place, as the sheikh still sees it as his home.

Fujairah's Sheikh Zayed mosque — Photo: Steven Straiton

This evening a few locals are having a picnic under a tree across from the fort, looking out over the ocean as the sun slips below the horizon somewhere between Oman and Yemen. A Korean tourist takes a picture of her friend in the fading light, and the lights in the windows of the apartment block start to flicker on.

“Life has become faster. And shorter,” says one fisherman, as others nod in agreement. Because the modern world has finally managed to find its way here.

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Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.



• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.


Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.


Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

➡️


"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."


Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

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471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!!

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