Photo Credit: Panoramas via Flickr
Maintenance workers at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, March 20, 2010.

The United Arab Emirates Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship will no longer be issuing new visas to citizens of 13 Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, Syria, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Lebanon, Somalia, Yemen, and Algeria, Reuters reported Wednesday.

A source inside the UAE government told Reuters the UAE had temporarily stopped issuing the visas because of security concerns. The news media in Israel have speculated that the ban has to do with the need to protect Israeli tourists.


The Muslim countries on the list are the UAE’s source of cheap labor, and according to a document issued by the UAE state-owned business park and sent to companies operating in the park, beginning November 18, applications for new employment and visit visas were suspended until further notice for nationals from those thirteen countries.

Eleven million tourists visited Abu Dhabi in 2019, six million of whom were day tourists, stopping on their way to or from home, and five million who spent at least one night. The UAE is eagerly awaiting a new source of tourism, the Israelis, who will be having their vacations exploring Abu Dhabi’s tourist attractions. Ali Alshaiba, Executive Director of Tourism and Marketing at Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism, told Globes in late October that “the excitement is mutual, and we are happy to be taking part in history and showing to the world a successful model of peace between countries. We are here not just to open the door to business, but also to people who want to be exposed to the culture and knowledge of the countries.”

“Israel is a nearby destination,” Alshaiba noyed, “and that’s a big advantage: just three and a quarter hours flying time separate us.”

“We’ll market Abu Dhabi as a perfect destination for a weekend getaway for two or three nights. Our advantage is the variety you can get out of a vacation in a short time. You can spend the morning on the beach, and then go to an entertainment park, and in the evening set out for a star-gazing trip in the desert. I know of no other destination that offers such variety, and we’ll provide free shuttles from everywhere to everywhere, at the level of luxury that tourists find in Abu Dhabi,” he said.

The United Arab Emirates Armed Forces play an active role in the US-led War on Terrorism and have been nicknamed by former Defense Secretary James Mattis as “Little Sparta” for being America’s right-hand ally in its War on Terrorism, and for conducting operations effectively against terrorists in the Middle East. The Cabinet of the UAE, following the implementation of the country’s Federal Law No. 7 in November 2014, designated a list of 83 organizations and entities including the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Hezbollah, Houthis, and the Islamic State as terrorist organizations.

On December 1, 2014, a lone wolf terrorist attack committed by a woman wearing black gloves and a veiled niqab stabbed to death a Hungarian-American kindergarten teacher in Abu Dhabi and failed to plant a home-made bomb at the home of an Arab–American physician. However, it should be noted that acts of terrorism in Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates are an extremely rare event.

And they are extremely adamant in making sure it stays that way.


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