Friday, 23 January 2015

On National Mourning


Today was the first day of official mourning that I have experienced during my time in Dubai. Some TV channels cancelled programming and my favourite radio station began broadcasting nothing but classical music (rather than the 80's and 90's weekend that I so look forward to). Flags on public buildings are flying at half-mast.

If you've not seen the news recently, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has died at the age of 90. In the UK, there are some indignant people wondering why public figures are paying such respects to the late king. Questions about Saudi's human rights records and policies regarding women can make such reverence hard to swallow. But, to my knowledge, British daily life has not been much affected.

In contrast, as one of the UAE's neighbours, Saudi's mourning seems to be the UAE's mourning too. In Dubai, opinions about this shared respect are split. Cancelled brunches and closed public services weigh against issues of respect for monarchy and political alliances.

I have to say I'm torn. In general I love to see patriotism and I have no issue with following the UAE leaders' rulings in whatever way they want to pay their respects. However something doesn't feel right to me about the forced nature of all this. Does the lack of Madonna on the radio make me feel any differently about the passing of a foreign political leader? Would I like party goers to have to cancel plans because I'd died in my old age? I don't know. Its much the same way that I feel about Disney theme parks, all that enforced happiness can begin to grate after a while don't you think?

It almost makes me glad that I don't have nearly enough influence for my opinion on Saudi kings and British politicians to matter, but it's interesting for sure. Life in the middle east continues to amaze me.

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