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Oil Spill - The UAE and the USA

As the oil leak continues 5000 feet into the Gulf of Mexico for over 40 days, and BP, the company responsible for the environmental disaster shamelessly giving excuses for the catastrophe, an offer to help has come from an unlikely source – the Middle East.

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According to CNN, a team of oil spill experts were on standby in the United Arab Emirates, ready to help in the Gulf of Mexico cleanup efforts if called to do so. "The United Arab Emirates originally made the offer two weeks ago. The offer is still on the table to the U.S. government through their embassy here. Basically, it's an offer made on behalf of the government of the UAE in recognition of this environmental issue. It is an offer of support. We have people and supplies if they wish it. It's on the table. We're ready to go. We're just waiting for their call," said Craig Buckingham of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

Unfortunately, most Americans do not know anything about the Middle East. The general feeling in the USA towards the Middle East is a backward, undeveloped region full of terrorists. Just a little over two decades ago, a trip from the USA to any country outside Europe would feel like stepping into a developing country. Starting with dirty airport terminals, poor hygienic conditions, beggars on the road, unfriendly staff, unsafe neighborhoods, lack of professional services, dangerous roads, poor public transportation, ugly buildings like shacks, to unending corruption at all levels; every step of the way, one can feel how poor people around the world live and how lucky to live in America.

Times have changed. Don’t get me wrong. America is still the place everyone wants to be. Despite serious problems facing our country, America is still is a beacon of hope for most people in the world. However, a trip from the UAE to the USA would be a rude awakening for all Americans. The tables have turned. Coming to America from the UAE will be an unmistakable feeling of stepping into a third world country.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi, two major cities of the Unites Arab Emirates, are probably the most developed and best maintained cities in the world. The airports in these cities are simply no comparison to our aging airports that look run down and are unable to handle traffic. The roads in these cities are wide with several lanes comfortable to drive on. There is no nightmarish traffic. Beginning with one storey concrete buildings in 50s, today, Dubai’s skyline is filled with beautiful high-rise buildings. These are not just boxy, tall structures that fill our American cities, but each building is an architectural wonder in their own way. The Burj Khalifa, the latest addition to Dubai skyline, is the tallest tower in the world. It stands 2717 feet high, over half a mile into the air. The malls and departmental stores will give you the best shopping experience in the world. Grocery stores are well-stocked with fruits and vegetables from all over the world, even though none of these luxury items other than dates grow in the desert land. The UAE, despite being oil rich, is now focusing on developing alternate energy sources. This may puzzle Americans, but the rulers in the UAE seem to know what they are doing: building infrastructure, developing their country as a world business, cultural center, and tourist attraction. Even more interesting, is the fact is that everyone speaks English. Schools offer International programs that meet US standards. Over 75% of the population of approximately 5 million people are immigrants, coming from over 120 countries. Construction workers, airline crew, restaurant waiters, store employees, teachers, bus drivers, bank employees, engineers, are all immigrants. To top it off, there are no income taxes or sales taxes.

Some may argue that UAE is making progress because it is an oil rich country, this argument is void when you consider there are many oil rich countries such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The truth is, oil rich countries with easy money flowing from abroad are usually complacent. Their rulers enrich themselves and ignore their country. With no good opportunities to grow, youth get frustrated and readily fed by extremist ideas blaming the West for their problems. But not the UAE. The UAE has transformed so drastically in the last two decades that it is now considered a developed nation.

Our politicians have a choice: Rest in past glory and watch other nations pass by, or stop bickering and focus on rebuilding our aging infrastructure, developing clean energy and improving education. In the mean time, the US government and BP should accept the UAE’s offer to help stop the oil spill disaster. We sure haven’t been able to.

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