Sunday, March 2, 2008

This Parking Lot Brought to You by the Crown Prince of Dubai

A few weeks ago Sheikh Mohammad announced that his third son Hamdan would succeed him, and that his second son Maktoum would be deputy ruler. Hamdan is also known as Faza'a (very rough translation; cool guy. He sort of chose this nickname when he started publishing poems under it, but the real origins before that are less clear. Maybe he chose it, maybe it was given to him, maybe a PR team did, I've heard different versions).

I suspected he was running for political office, so to speak, when large billboards with his face and website started popping up over town over a year ago (maybe earlier, but that's when I first noticed them), officially in connection to a traditional sports competition (they didn't mention the sports and they stay up a lot longer as well). The old site was even more dramatic, with Haman on a large horse, rearing up over the sand. The new one just has photos of the crown prince looking alternatively visionary (in a pose similar to that of father on the latter's book, My Vision) and cool, yet traditional. It also plays inspirational music that sounds a bit like second half of the finale in the Daniel Day-Lewis version of Last of the Mohicans. You can also vote on what you think of the new site design; good or wonderful.

Sheikh Hamdan also has a logo, which is on the photos below, based on his nickname Faza'a and the tendency of Arabic writers to write the letter غ(with or without the dot, which changes the pronunciation in Arabic) as 3 when typing in Latin characters. It's actually a pretty good logo; it incorporates the colors of the UAE, uses his nickname, connecting him to common appeal, and uses a combination of Latin, Arabic and transliterated characters, showing inclusiveness yet hipness and a it of tech savvy. The designers earned their fee on that one, in my opinion anyway.

It, and him, have been even more prevalent since his new role was announced. Although I'm in Moscow until the end of March, I went to Sana'a' very briefly (and in a lack of forethought, used up my last entry on my visa), which was amazing, and stopped in Dubai on the way back. For all the years they've been having it, I never went out to the Global Village, so I went to check it out.

The festival itself was mixed (some of the stores and salespeople were very interesting, a lot were not, and I avoided the rides section, as it reminded me more of the time I played a polo exhibition match at the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair than anything else), but that is another post. Another interesting point was how heavily the entrance was covered with Hamdan and his logo. Sheikh Mohammed's image was present, but it was Faza'a (and that was the name that was everywhere, not Hamdan), who was really omnipresent. His logo was on the parking signs, one of the main buildings and there was an entire Faza'a gift shop where you could buy hats, T-Shirts, and even a Faza'a alarm clock. I bought the alarm clock, because I couldn't resist, and a hat for Diana. I'm not sure if I'll give it to her though; I think Faza'a was ripped off by his suppliers, as the quality is pretty poor. The resolution of the small printed logo on my alarm clock also isn't good, and a basic ink jet could take care of that. Anyway, I left with the impression that they really wanted me to feel grateful to Hamdan for proving all these wonderful things, as well as buy and show my support later throughout the UAE, plus reinforce my own support by doing so. It's not a new tactic, and in the UAE it is common to see events as under the patronage of one dignitary or another (both to give the even legitimacy, even more importantly to remind you that everything good stems from the current establishment) but it is still noteworthy because of how strongly it's being executed.

This parking lot brought to you by the Crown Prince, Our Guy Faza'a

This early morning alarm also brought to you by His Highness, Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai

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