The Gulf States: Bon voyage!

9 February 2019 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: Editorial, General, UNESCO World Heritage

© Hégésippe Cormier/cc-by-sa-3.0

© Hégésippe Cormier/cc-by-sa-3.0

The Arabian Gulf (the Arab states call the west side of the Persian Gulf Arabian Gulf) is a mediterranean sea in Western Asia. The body of water is an extension of the Indian Ocean (Gulf of Oman) through the Strait of Hormuz and lies between Iran to the northeast and the Arabian Peninsula to the southwest. The Shatt al-Arab river delta forms the northwest shoreline. The gulf has many fishing grounds, extensive reefs (mostly rocky, but also coral), and abundant pearl oysters. The body of water is historically and internationally known as the Persian Gulf. Some Arab governments refer to it as the Arabian Gulf. About 200 million people are living in the Gulf States, with Iran being the most populous country with 80 million inhabitants, followed by Iraq (38.7 million), Saudi Arabia (32 million), Yemen (38 million), United Arab Emirates (9.4 million), Oman (4.4 million), Kuwait (4.1 million), Qatar (2.6 million) and Bahrain (1.5 million). Tourism is an increasingly important factor for the smaller countries of the region, but Iran and Saudi Arabia are developing this sector more and more either. While the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain are suitable for less experienced travelers, traveling to other countries in the region requires quite a few preparations. Relevant links to the U.S. Department of State can be found at the end of each country portrait. With the exception of Yemen and Iraq because of travel warnings for EU citizens (there are additional travel warnings for other Gulf States for US citizens), all Gulf States can be visited without difficulties, as far as the rules, way of living and habits of the respective host country are respected.   read more…

Transatlantic relations

2 June 2018 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: Editorial, European Union, General

Atlantic Ocean © NOAA -

Atlantic Ocean © NOAA –

(Latest update: 16 September 2019) Transatlantic relations refer to the historic, cultural, political, economic and social relations between countries on both side of the Atlantic Ocean. Sometimes specifically those between the United States, Canada and the countries in Europe, although other meanings are possible. There are a number of issues over which the United States and Europe generally disagree. Some of these are cultural, such as the U.S. use of the death penalty, some are international issues such as the Middle East peace process where the United States is often seen as pro-Israel and where Europe is often seen as pro-Arab (Arab–Israeli conflict), and many others are trade related. The current U.S. policies are often described as being unilateral in nature, whereas the European Union and Canada are often said to take a more multilateral approach, relying more on the United Nations and other international institutions to help solve issues. There are many other issues upon which they agree. This article refers to the relations between the EU (Culture of Europe, Economy of the European Union, History of Europe, and Politics of the European Union) and the USA (Culture of the United States, Economy of the United States, History of the United States, and Politics of the United States).   read more…

Arab–Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflict

6 January 2018 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: Editorial, General, Union for the Mediterranean

© Oncenawhile

© Oncenawhile

(Latest update: 16 September 2019) The Arab–Israeli conflict is the political tension, military conflicts and disputes between a number of Arab countries and Israel. The roots (European colonial period, Ottoman Empire, widespread Antisemitism in Europe, Jews in the Russian Empire, Baron Edmond James de Rothschild (Jewish land purchase in Palestine), Theodor Herzl, Jewish National Fund, timeline of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, World War I, Sykes–Picot Agreement (San Remo conference, Mandate for Palestine, UN Charter, Chapter XII – International Trusteeship System, Article 80 (commonly known as the “Palestine Article” used by both conflict parties, Israel and Palestine, to create the wildest interpretations, speculations and conspiracy theories to assert the respective alleged right to the total land area), McMahon–Hussein Correspondence), Balfour Declaration, World War II, The Holocaust (International Holocaust Remembrance Day), Évian Conference, Mandatory Palestine, Forced displacement, and United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine) of the modern Arab–Israeli conflict (or the history of collective failure) are bound in the rise of Zionism and Arab nationalism towards the end of the 19th century. Territory regarded by the Jewish people as their historical homeland is also regarded by the Pan-Arab movement as historically and currently belonging to the Palestinians, and in the Pan-Islamic context, as Muslim lands. The sectarian conflict between Palestinian Jews and Arabs emerged in the early 20th century, peaking into a full-scale civil war in 1947 and transforming into the First Arab–Israeli War in May 1948 following the Israeli Declaration of Independence (Nakba). Large-scale hostilities mostly ended with the cease-fire agreements after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Ramadan War, or October War. Peace agreements were signed between Israel and Egypt in 1979, resulting in Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula and abolishment of the military governance system in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in favor of Israeli Civil Administration and consequent unilateral, internationally not recognized, annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. Even when the text is about 97 pages long, it is just a summary. The multitude of links point out that there is a lot more to learn in detail. At first, it is a timeline of the major developments in the region and it leads to today’s challenges. The starting point is the view of the international community, especially the European Union and North America, on the conflict, enriched with excursions into the ideas, convictions, believes, and thoughts of the direct and indirect involved parties to the conflict.   read more…

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The Gulf States: Bon appétit!

31 October 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: Editorial, General

© Hégésippe Cormier/cc-by-sa-3.0

© Hégésippe Cormier/cc-by-sa-3.0

The Persian Gulf is a mediterranean sea in Western Asia. The body of water is an extension of the Indian Ocean (Gulf of Oman) through the Strait of Hormuz and lies between Iran to the northeast and the Arabian Peninsula to the southwest. The Shatt al-Arab river delta forms the northwest shoreline. The gulf has many fishing grounds, extensive reefs (mostly rocky, but also coral), and abundant pearl oysters. The body of water is historically and internationally known as the Persian Gulf. Some Arab governments refer to it as the Arabian Gulf. Arab cuisine is a cuisine defined as the various regional cuisines spanning the Arab world, from the Maghreb to the Mashriq or Levant and the Persian Gulf. The cuisines are often centuries old and resemble and culture of great trading in spices, herbs, and foods. The three main regions, also known as the Maghreb, the Mashriq, and the Khaleej have many similarities, but also many unique traditions. These kitchens have been influenced by the climate, cultivating possibilities, as well as trading possibilities. The kitchens of the Maghreb and Levant are relatively young kitchens which were developed over the past centuries. The kitchen from the Khaleej region is a very old kitchen. The kitchens can be divided into the urban and rural kitchens. For devout Muslims, there are corresponding dietary rules that are similar to those of the Jewish dietary rules, but not so far-reaching.   read more…

Abraj Al Bait Towers in Mecca

10 July 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General

Abraj Al Bait Towers © King Eliot/cc-by-sa-3.0

Abraj Al Bait Towers © King Eliot/cc-by-sa-3.0

The Abraj Al-Bait is a government-owned megatall complex of seven skyscraper hotels in Mecca. These towers are a part of the King Abdulaziz Endowment Project that strives to modernize the city in catering to its pilgrims. The central hotel tower, the Makkah Royal Clock Tower, A Fairmont Hotel, has the world’s largest clock face and is the third tallest building and fourth tallest freestanding structure in the world. The building complex is metres away from the world’s largest mosque and Islam‘s most sacred site, the Masjid al-Haram.   read more…

Theme Week Saudi Arabia – Medina

29 April 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General

Al-Masjid al-Nabawi - Mosque of the Prophet © Aymanzaid2/cc-by-sa-4.0

Al-Masjid al-Nabawi – Mosque of the Prophet © Aymanzaid2/cc-by-sa-4.0

Medina, also transliterated as Madīnah, is a city in the Hejaz region of Saudi Arabia that is also the capital of the Al Madinah Region. The city contains al-Masjid an-Nabawi (“the Prophet’s Mosque”), which is the burial place of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and is the second-holiest city in Islam after Mecca. Medina was Muhammad’s destination after his Hijrah from Mecca, and became the capital of a rapidly increasing Muslim Empire, first under Muhammad’s leadership, and then under the first four Rashidun caliphs, Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali. It served as the power base of Islam in its first century where the early Muslim community developed. Medina is home to the three oldest mosques, namely the Quba Mosque, al-Masjid an-Nabawi, and Masjid al-Qiblatayn (“the mosque of the two qiblas“). Muslims believe that the chronologically final surahs of the Quran were revealed to Muhammad in Medina, and are called Medinan surahs in contrast to the earlier Meccan surahs. Similar to Mecca, non-Muslims are forbidden from entering the sacred core of Medina (but not the entire city) or the city centre by the national government. Today, Medina (“Madinah” officially in Saudi documents), in addition to being the second most important Islamic pilgrimage destination after Mecca, is an important regional capital of the western Saudi Arabian province of Al Madinah. In addition to the sacred core of the old city, which is off limits to non-Muslims, Medina is a modern, multi-ethnic city inhabited by Saudi Arabs and an increasing number of Muslim and non-Muslim expatriate workers: other Arab nationalities (Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese, etc.), South Asians (Bangladeshis, Indians, Pakistanis, etc.), and Filipinos.   read more…

Theme Week Saudi Arabia – Jeddah

28 April 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General

Jeddah Montage © MrJoker07/cc-by-sa-4.0

Jeddah Montage © MrJoker07/cc-by-sa-4.0

Jeddah is a city in the Hijaz Tihamah region on the coast of the Red Sea and is the major urban center of western Saudi Arabia. It is the largest city in Makkah Province, the largest sea port on the Red Sea, and the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia after the capital city, Riyadh. With a population currently at 4.2 million people, Jeddah is an important commercial hub in Saudi Arabia. Jeddah is the principal gateway to Mecca, Islam‘s holiest city, which able-bodied Muslims are required to visit at least once in their lifetime. It is also a gateway to Medina, the second holiest place in Islam. Historically, Jeddah has been well known for its legendary money changers. The largest of said money changers at the time (the late Sheikh Salem Bin Mahfouz) eventually founded Saudi Arabia’s first bank, the National Commercial Bank (NCB).   read more…

Theme Week Saudi Arabia – Ta’if

27 April 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General

Historic Shubra Palace © Mmasudtu/cc-by-sa-4.0

Historic Shubra Palace © Mmasudtu/cc-by-sa-4.0

Ta’if is a city in Mecca Province of Saudi Arabia at an elevation of 1,879 m (6,165 ft) on the slopes of Sarawat Mountains (Al-Sarawat Mountains). It has a population of 1,200,000 people and is the unofficial summer capital. The city is the center of an agricultural area known for its grapes, pomegranate, figs, roses and honey. Ta’if was still little more than a medieval city when the Saudis took control of it. However, they later embarked on a project of modernizing the city. Saudi Arabia’s first public power generator was set up in Ta’if in the late 1940s. In terms of building roads to the isolated city, in 1965 the then King Faisal inaugurated the 54 mi (87 km) mountain highway between Mecca and Ta’if, and in 1974 the 400 mile Ta’if-AbhaJizan highway was started. By the 1991 Gulf War, Ta’if was such a modern city in terms of communications that it was chosen as the site of the Rendon Group‘s television and radio network, which used to feed the news to Kuwait during the occupation of Kuwait by Iraq.   read more…

Theme Week Saudi Arabia – Hofuf

26 April 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General

Al Hasa Oasis © Shijan Kaakkara/cc-by-sa-3.0

Al Hasa Oasis © Shijan Kaakkara/cc-by-sa-3.0

Al-Hofuf is the major urban center in the Al-Ahsa Oasis in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. It is also very well known for being one of the largest date producers in the world, and for its old souks and palaces. Historically, Hofuf made textiles out of wool, silk, and cotton. The town was also renowned for its fruit of the date palm, the Arabs considering the khalasi variety of dates, grown in Hofuf, as also the fardh variety of Oman, among the best. As of 1920, the city was known for making coffee pots from silver and brass.   read more…

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