The September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. immediately cast doubt on the viability of next month’s Dubai Air Show in the United Arab Emirates (November 4 to 8). However, at press time show organizer Fairs & Exhibitions said no consideration had yet been given to postponing or canceling the event.
A September 16 meeting of the airshow steering committee was to consider the implications of the security crisis but no immediate announcement was expected. The meeting was to be chaired by the president of Dubai’s Department of Civil Aviation, HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum. On September 13–just 48 hr after the attacks–Fairs & Exhibitions chief executive Clive Richardson told AIN that no exhibiting company had yet canceled its participation in the Dubai show or had even called to express concern.
Nonetheless, with a U.S. military reprisal seeming inevitable it is hard to imagine that security and political concerns will not overshadow the buildup to the show. In 1991 the Dubai show had to be postponed from February to November because of the Gulf War, and many Western visitors expressed concern about traveling to the Middle East at a time of heightened international tension. In the event of military action during the next few months, it is very probable–on past experience–that foreign governments will caution their citizens against traveling to the region.
Though widely viewed as one of the Arab states with the closest links to Western nations, the UAE is in fact one of only three countries to have recognized the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, where Saudi Arabian terrorist Osama bin Laden is based. The other two states holding diplomatic relations with the Islamic fundamentalist government are Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
The UAE has also been rocked by U.S. reports that two suspected terrorists who boarded one of the airliners used to attack New York’s World Trade Center carried UAE passports.