Last week, ExWeb ran an interview about the Egypt uprising with First Egyptian Everest summiter Omar Samra. Today, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the situations in Egypt and Tunisia should inspire other governments in the Middle East to enact reforms.
Former Middle East Sales Director for Airbus; Adrian Hayes is UAE based. Known at ExWeb for doing the Three Poles in record time and for the Emirates NBD Greenland Quest - this time ExWeb's Correne Coetzer asked the former Gurkha Officer and Special Forces Soldier for his take on how the protests are viewed by the United Arab Emirates.
Money seem to be a major reason to the protests: the young street vendor in Tunisia who set himself ablaze made around $140 per month. Meanwhile, Egyptian President Mubarak could be perhaps the richest man in the world, reportedly worth up to $70B.
A second big factor is (lack of) freedom: The Economist rank Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Saudi, Jordan, Syria and Sudan very low in it's Democracy Index and also when it comes to happiness and freedom.
In this interview, the two polar explorers jumped straight to the heart of the beast:
ExplorersWeb/Correne: You live in the MiddleEast for many years now; in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that is not known for violence. It is in fact known for the many super rich people. Are there unemployment, food inflation, corruption, freedom of speech, poor living conditions; all these reasons why the protests in Tunisia and Egypt started?
Adrian: The UAE, like the rest of the Gulf states, is not known for its freedom of speech. In fact, it hardly exists. It also has hereditary monarchies and so all the Gulf States are watching the events in Egypt with some concern.
However, whist Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain have large local populations - with subsequent unemployment problems, discontent and even street protests at times - the UAE (plus Qatar and Kuwait) have small local populations/large expatriate numbers. And with the former very well looked after, there is little scope or interest for protest let alone uprisings of the scale of North Africa.
ExplorersWeb: How aware are the people in the UAE of what is going on in Egypt at the moment?
Adrian: Very. Its all over the print media. There is a large Egyptian population here in addition and everyone knows someone from Egypt.
ExplorersWeb: How concerned are they that a peaceful demonstration has turned violent?
Adrian: Any uprising of people against a dynastic rule is liable to cause a degree of discomfort - Kuwaits gift to their citizens (Kuwaiti only, not expatriates) of USD 2500 as an anniversary goodwill gesture can be read in a number of ways.
ExplorersWeb: How closely is the UAE government monitoring the situation in Egypt?
Adrian: They will be
ExplorersWeb: You are very much into sustainability; also with your Greenland expedition two years ago. How would you link sustainability to what is happening in Tunisia and Egypt?
Adrian: Its a classic case of the linkages between our environment, society and the economy.
Surging food prices since the summer global food index is now at an all time high resulting in a Tunisian street vendor setting fire to himself 7 weeks ago in protest were simply the fuse that lit the present crisis.
And whilst the immediate reasons for this surge severe weather and loss of grain production in Russia, El Nino and suchlike are explainable, the underlying causes remain the white elephants that no-one is tackling.
That is an unsustainable rise in Global population of 73m a year; large scale increase in dietary shifts to animal products in Asia requiring 5 kilos of grain feed for every kilo of meat produced; the loss of farmland resulting from Asias growth and so on. The resultant locking up of World grain supplies by vulnerable governments only make the situation worse. Watch out for more unrest and more regimes falling
Adrian Hayes is a British, UAE based, polar adventurer, mountaineer, corporate coach and speaker who holds the record for reaching the Earth's Three Poles in the shortest period of time to date, then becoming only the 15th person ever to achieve the feat.
A former Gurkha Officer and Special Forces Soldier in the British Army, Adrian has had a lifetime of adventures and extreme sports - leading or being a team member on climbing and other expeditions all over the World, adventure racing, triathlon, rock climbing, skiing, diving, parachuting and kayaking to name a few.
He is an experienced jungle and desert operator, having served in the jungles of Borneo and the deserts of Southern Oman during his army career. He has also carried out underwater salvage and explosive operations in the remote islands of the South Pacific and qualified as a Paramedic during his military service.
A former Middle East Sales Director for Airbus, he has lived and worked in 8 countries, visited over 100, and speaks three languages (Arabic, Nepalese and Malay) in addition to English.
During the Emirates NBD Greenland Quest with Devon McDiarmid, Adrian Hayes and Derek Crowe (both Canada) completed a 67 day kite-ski expedition from Narsaq in the South on the Atlantic Ocean to the JP Kocks Fjord in the North on the Arctic Ocean and subsequently MacCormick Fjord near to Qaanaaq (Thule) in NW Greenland app. 3500 km journey with no resupplies that is unassisted, kite-supported. The expedition took place from May to July 2009. The team took food and fuel for 65 days. This is a new route and the longest unassisted, kite-supported attempt on Greenland.
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