Rewriting history and faking history has become a habit in our native region, especially in the Gulf GCC states. But it is a good thing that ‘facts’ are stubborn, mostly. This week’s political noise about an Al-Jazeera documentary film on the Coast of Oman is a good example.
When we were children growing up on the hot shores of the Gulf (Gulf of Mercenaries? Persian-American Gulf?) we knew about Sahel Oman (ساحل عمان) from readings and from family members. We called the whole coast south of Bahrain and Qatar by one name: Sahel Oman (Coast of Oman). We had student colleagues and friends from what is now the UAE and we called them ‘Omani students’: they did not seem to object. Dubai existed as Dubai, a commercial center, as did Al Sharjah and maybe Ras Al Khaimah. Abu Dhabi existed, but barely. We never heard or read about Abu Dhabi or some of the other emirates. Maybe we were ignorant, but we called the region: Sahel Oman. As did the other Arab media whenever they paid attention to the Arab side of the Gulf beyond Bahrain and Kuwait. In those days Bahrain was were the political action and political news were: even then the people were in constant rebellion against the absolute Al Khalifa clan and their British advisers (how some things never change!). Not much has changed in Bahrain: except for the unwelcome intrusion of Saudi troops and other imported foreign mercenaries shoring up the regime.
Now this recent recent documentary film on Al-Jazeera about Sahel Oman has riled up the UAE (mainly Abu Dhabi), and some of their Saudi allies are also making the right supportive noises. Saudi mouthpiece Asharq Alawsat (owned by Crown Prince Salman) had its obedient chief editor blast the film as a Qatari insult to the United Arab Emirates. The film is reportedly non-political, although the Qataris must have suspected that it would upset up the ruling potentates of the UAE who fancy themselves the heirs of the Greek-Persian-Roman-Babylonian-Umayyad-Abbasid empires (now they can add ancient Egypt through their share of the Gulf investment in Generalisimo Field Marshal Al Sisi).