Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Fri, Dec 8th, 2017

Bedouins on Mars

A recent video posted on youtube by the UAE for the World Government Summit of 2017 announced the Emerati version of Star Trek. Given its recent entry into the space race, the oil-fluent UAE appears to be planning to build the first city on Mars. The seven-minute video, guided by a digital astronaut named Sayid, shows what this city might look like in another century. This city, billed as the United Government of Mars, is designed to be independent of earthly politics.

For the time being the Mars Science City will exist as a $136,000,000 simulation center in the desert outside Dubai. This futuristic showcase will include a biome simulating the surface of Mars and a museum, not to be confused with the new Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi. Part of the planning is to use 3D printers for the construction, even for the sand walls. The UAE is planning a probe to Mars in 2020, making it the Arab World’s first outer space mission to another planet. Since the UAE already boasts a ski resort in the desert, why not go all out and leave the planet?

The video of the planned Mars government notes that the harsh environment can be tamed, just as the Bedouins managed to live in the Arabian desert. But they will be herding robots, not camels, in the unfriendly Mars atmosphere. One thing noticeably absent from the video is any reference to religion. If the UAE does establish a base on Mars, will it be under shari’a law? Will anyone from the Muslim Brotherhood be denied entry? Will it also include a new ski resort to match the one back home in Dubai? Is Mars, the Roman god of war, a target because of the UAE’s militaristic goals?

It is hard to decide if this is meant to be a serious effort or just the whim of a bored autocrat. The total cost of such an effort, which would require cooperation of many countries with the needed resources, would be, appropriately enough, “astronomical.” “Dubai may boast the tallest building in the world (the Burj Khalifa at 2,717 feet), the world’s largest indoor theme park, and soon the world’s first rotating skyscraper, but most impressive are the city’s man-made archipelagos,” describes a travel site. Nevermind that one day the oil will run dry, and the new Palm Islands will be inundated as sea level rises from global warming. Perhaps this is why the UAE is looking to resettle on Mars. And could the current war in Yemen be to take charge of the claim to own Mars made by Yemenis in the past?

As Jim once said in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, “Mars Tom, I’s willin’ to tackle mos’ anything ’at ain’t onreasonable…” If only Twain was around today to comment on the race for Mars.

About the Author

- Anthropologist and historian with 40 years of experience researching and working in Yemen. Varisco is currently the President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, Senior Fellow at the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg of Bonn University, and an expert advisor to MENA Tidningen.