Thursday, November 13, 2008
Am about to complete my exile from the seemier side of Dubai to an altogether different gig in Sharjah. Same country (apparently) but its those "little differences". One is the financial association and the historical political connection between Sharjah and the regional big bro. Sources suggest this association was recently terminated as an external debt at least. I had assumed that those big bro loans were softer than those thye made to Iraq. However any rejection by Sharjah of fresh support could only occur if another banker had been found closer to home. This would fit with what one understands happened back in the early '90s when Big Bro was told to butt out by one of Sharjah's neighbouring amirates. The residue of Big Bro is still felt however in terms of the volume of conservative book shops and the high profile focus on Islamic Civilization for which there is a dedicated museums department in Sharjah and a whole host of related museums. Of course this may just be a symbolic balancing with modern art bienales et al. One museum checked out by yours truly of late was an impressive collection from the local ruler, taking in ornate tapestries and artefacts. The building is also currently housing a temporary show from Kuwait consisting of the personal items of one of the sons of that country's ruler, including some exquisitely illustrated Korans.
For the most part my work beat is educational, whether by way of teaching or research. The focus is on the region. My students keep my stimulated most of the time, largely with what they say or with the cultural orientations they have. For example my (relatively numerous) local students are drawn from distinct parts and backgrounds, sometimes taking in the broad region. Others were born in additional parts of the Middle East, and even a few anglo-saxons are also represented. This makes for an interesting discussion on occasions, as much without as in class.