Arabs lament Dubai woes as UAE stock markets slump in debt crash

Sunset for Dubai? Picture by Britrob.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi saw their main stock markets fall sharply this week as they opened for the first time since a state-owned company in Dubai asked for extra time to repay its debt.

For many in the Middle East, the specter of Dubai's towering promise tumbling down is a deep affront to regional pride.

"Oh Proud Emirates, with your golden sands and high sky," said a reader on Emirat Al-Youm, "your men, women, children, elderly and wise people will not bow down or be humiliated. It will remain the country of good, a generous land for all. We, as Arab diaspora, stand in one row as loyal soldiers to this country, the truth will unfold and those who are unfair to you will know that the Emirates will remain the country of pride and generosity."

'شامخة يا امارات برمالك الذهبية وسماءك العاليه, برجالك , بنساءك , باطفالك بشيوخك وحكامك , لا تنحني ولا تذل , باذن الله , وستظل بلد الخير , وارض العطاء للجميع , ونحن كمغتربين عرب نقف صفا متراصا واحدا , لنكون الجند الاوفياء لهذا البلد , وسوف تنجلي الحقيقة وسوف يعرف المغرضين ان الامارات ستبقى بلد الشموخ والعطاء

Another Emirat Al-Youm reader said: "The whole world nowadays is going through difficult financial crises. However, many of those who once benefited from the Emirate of Dubai in its heyday are now turning their backs on it.

"God Willing, Dubai will be back on its feet. This is an opportunity to reconsider the situation and to prepare for stronger foundations next time.

"The whole world should benefit from the mistakes that led it to this abyss. Thank God for everything.

"This world is fleeting and a money crisis is much better than an ethical or a moral crisis."

العالم جميعا يمر هذه الفترة بأزمات مالية ضخمة ولكن للأسف الكثير ممن استفادوا من إمارة دبي في عز أوجها يتنكرون الآن لكل شيء، دبي ستعود بإذن الله وهذه فرصة لإعادة ترتيب الأوضاع لانطلاقة مستقبلية أقوى والعالم أجمع عليه أن يستفيد من الأخطاء التي أوقعته في هاوية هذه الأزمة. الحمد لله على كل شيء وفي النهاية الدنيا فانية وأزمة في المال افضل من أزمة في الضمير والأخلاق

Attesting trust in God and suspicion of the role of western media was a consistent refrain for Emirat Al-Youm readers:

"Everybody knows that Dubai and the UAE in general are able to get past this crisis. It's just that the media (especially the Western media) is so envious that it wants to make a mountain out of a mole hill. This crisis, too, shall pass. Just keep your hope in God alive."

الكل عارف ان دبي او الامارات بشكل عام قادره انها تتخطى الازمه انشاء الله بس وسائل الاعلام وخاصه الغربيه من الغيره والحسد تحاول تلعب وتخرب وتتكلم بأي شيء بس ازمه وتعدي انشاء الله خلو الامل بالله كبير

Readers of the Qatari based felt much the same sense of hurt pride. But here there was a stronger anger towards foreign interests:

"Dubai was, is and always will be the best, cleanest and most developed city in the Middle East. God is capable of salvaging it from this crisis. And to those who are green with envy towards all beautiful things: it's time for you to shut up."

دبي كانت ولازالت و ستبقي افضل و انظف و ارقي مدينة في الشرق الاوسط. والله قادر أن يخرجها من ازمتها. و الاخوة الحاقدون علي كل شئ جميل آن الاوان أن يصموتوا

Despite the sensitivity towards Dubai's problems, there was no shortage of analysis as to how the situation got so bad.

Writing in the pan-Arab Saudi-owned daily Al-Hayat, Houssam Aitani said: "Despite its success occupying an important position in global and regional commerce, the Emirate was a model of economic adventure not to be followed which weakened the foundations of the "real" economy depending heavily on commercial and real estate projects."

فعلى رغم النجاح في احتلال موقع مهم في الوساطة التجارية على المستويين الإقليمي والعالمي، إلا أن الإمارة كانت نموذجا لا يُحتذى للمغامرة الاقتصادية لناحية ضعف أسس الاقتصاد «الحقيقي» الذي يتعين عليه إسناد المشاريع التجارية والعقارية

Also in Al-Hayat, Daoud Al-Shariyan called for greater transparency in Dubai to calm nerves and reassure investors.

He said: "His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE vice president, UAE Prime Minister and ruler of Dubai, should have expected this media coverage of his country when he spoke in front of the second conference of investment companies and international investors in Dubai, being careful to clarify two points which Dubai has suffered from since the beginning of the global economic crisis.

"The first is that Dubai is not alone, and its success is an extension of the success of Abu Dhabi.

"The second: the recognition that silence has created an information vacuum that has allowed rumors to spread; he called for this to be avoided in the future."

كأنَّ الشيخ محمد بن راشد، نائب رئيس دولة الإمارات رئيس مجلس الوزراء حاكم دبي، كان يتوقع السلوك الإعلامي تجاه بلاده وهو يتحدث أمام المؤتمر الثاني للشركات الاستثمارية والمستثمرين العالميين في دبي، فحرص على توضيح نقطتين عانت منهما دبي مع بداية الأزمة الاقتصادية العالمية. الأولى: أن دبي ليست وحدها، ونجاحها هو امتداد لنجاح أبو ظبي. والثانية: الاعتراف بأن الصمت خلق فراغاً معلوماتياً وسمح للشائعات بالرواج، داعياً إلى عدم تكرار ذلك في المستقبل

The question of transparency was raised by bloggers within UAE too. An Emirati's Thoughts said:

"What we need is action by our Minister of Economy, Lubna Al Qasimi. Lubna, instead of recieving dignitatries, why not take a step forward and set up an independent division in the ministry of economy, something along the lines of the "Department of Economic Transparency and Statistics" ? Something that will pool together all information drawn from all the emirates and release it so that investors can assess how bad the situation really is and we can start to address the situation more properly."
But there was what many in the region would consider a silver lining to Dubai's debt crisis: the possibility that Israelis might have suffered in the crash, along with Arabs.

Writing in the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, Helmi Moussa reported:

"Israeli officials tried to asses the damage in recent days. They said that, luckily, there is an Arab boycott in which Dubai is partly involved, which prevented Israelis from directly working there, an issue which has reduced the damage to direct exports (with the exception of diamonds). But this did not prevent Israelis from partnering with the investment arm of the Emirate in the world, known as Dubai World."

وفي الأيام الأخيرة حاول المسؤولون في إسرائيل تقدير الضرر، وقالوا إنه لحسن الحظ هناك مقاطعة عربية كانت دبي تشارك جزئيا فيها ما منع الإسرائيليين من العمل مباشرة فيها الأمر الذي يقلص ضرر الصادرات المباشرة (ما عدا الماس. ولكن هذا لم يمنع إسرائيليين من الشراكة مع الذراع الاستثماري للأمارة في العالم والمسمى دبي العالمية

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Thanks to Ghaydaa, Rebecca, and Nouran for help with translations.