I’m sure you’ve all been wondering where the blazes I have been for the last month, no? Oh well, I’ve been on holiday. Whilst travelling between Dublin and the Costa del Thames I decided that I would give my typing fingers a rest. It was in an effort to forget about the UAE and all its delights for a few weeks and concentrate on all that’s right with the world. And now I’m back. Back to the incessant moaning and groaning that we have all come to love and enjoy.
So, my observations? Well, it was 11:30ish in the morning on February 31st 1497 – just before Ski Sunday came on – when Henry VII commissioned a man called John Cabot to go out on a boat and find things. Anything: gold, animals, land, people, diseases, anything at all. He came back thinking he had been somewhere when he had actually been somewhere else so went back again and bang, the British Empire was born. The next 500 years or so were a bit up and down. There were battles, traitors, hand-bagging, murders, colonising and so on. In a nutshell it was all a draft to build a stable British economy that would endure for all time and see to it that Great Britain would remain the rulers of the world until everyone lived happily ever after.
Things were going quite well until in the early 1900’s when Germany and France started slapping each other about and the poor old Archduke of Austro-Hungary – Franz Ferdinand – got shot and killed. Enter The Great War. We won, and 20 years later we were all at it again until we won for a second time. But we were broken and the empire was on its knees. Anthony Eden then decided that he wanted to steal a canal and that heralded the end of the British Empire. The Romans, the ancient Greeks, the ancient Egyptians, the Hittites, they’ve all had a pop at ruling the world but not one has ever been able to hold on to it forever. So why bother trying to rule the world at all if all it will do is bite you on the arse?
Whilst I was back in London – and also in Dublin – I invented a new game. It’s called “how many UAE company logos can you spot in a day?” Sadly I invented the game when I was quite drunk so the results are a little sketchy but I can confirm that it’s a lot; an awful lot. Emirates Airways, Etihad Airways, Mubadala, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and many more. These brand names are all over the place. You couldn’t get on a train or in to a taxi without seeing an Emirates A380 plastered all over the place. Billboards advertising Dubai are everywhere and God forbid if I ever see another picture of Mario Balotelli wearing that ManchesterCity shirt. I first noticed this with Arsenal football club who are sponsored by Emirates, and have their new stadium named after Dubai’s flagship airline. It’s interesting as a lot of people don’t even know what “Emirates” is. Someone I know thought it was a bookmaker.
Indeed if you pay a visit to company house and trace your finger up the ladders and through the glass ceiling, beyond the boardroom and the CEO’s roof-top golf course you will find that most of the time the real investors are Middle Eastern nations, with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE leading the way. Europe is literally being sponsored by the Middle East in every single way.
Are we that broke? I know there is a rather large recession plaguing Europe right now, but I thought that was mainly a joke, something that the media can drag up on a slow news day to scare us. But no, we really are up the creek without a canoe, or a paddle, or even a small tray to hold our Pimms. This, then, is a crisis.
You see, unlike the Romans, the Ottomans and the Brits, the Middle East has not gone in there all guns blazing, firing into the air and shouting “yeehaw” whilst burning villages to the ground and stealing all the gold. What it has done instead is invest in a continent that managed its finances as effectively as a dim-witted Kardashian. By buying up all the big beasts, saving them from bankruptcy and slapping its stickers all over the taxis, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar have saved – across Europe – millions of jobs and billions of currency. In addition to this what they are also doing is attempting to secure their own futures. George Monbiot keeps reminding us all that the oil won’t last forever, and no one will be more aware of that than the people that own it.
I have brought this up with a few of my friends and they scoff with ignorance. “Pah!” they snort, “you wait until the oil runs out”. I understand that to be honest. For a part of the world that only 50 years ago was effectively in the dark ages it is hard for the traditional, established western nations to swallow the truth that they are being outgunned at the very game they invented. Hmm, it’s a bit like the English football team. But you’d miss – and notice the absence of – Middle Eastern investment if it went away, which in our lifetime, isn’t going to happen.
For me it was all summed up perfectly on Sunday afternoon when entering Heathrow airport, the gateway to Great Britain. There, at the roundabout where the famous and iconic Concorde model once stood with pride, is now a model of an Emirates Airways A380.
Maybe the man who built his house on sand will have the last laugh after all?