Dhofar, Oman – Tucked into the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula, the nation of Oman sits in a tumultuous space – sharing land borders with Yemen and an expansive southern coast with the occasional Somali pirates.
But while adjacent Yemen struggles to rein in violence across multiple provinces – including attacks on the military in the east and south as well as clashes with rebels in the north – Oman largely operates without the burden of either the domestic unrest or armed groups that plagues its neighbour.
With the lingering fear that turmoil or fighting could spill into its peaceful terrain, however, Oman has discreetly begun preliminary surveys on a proposed security fence spanning the length of its border with Yemen. But a group of regional conservationists is concerned that the ecological consequences of the 290km-long fence are not being considered.
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Last week, I published a story for VICE on Pehlwani, an ancient wrestling tradition fading away in its South Asian homeland but still enthusiastically practiced by an eclectic group of Pakistani, Indian, and Bangladeshi migrant workers along the shores of Dubai. Unfortunately, four weeks of fieldwork and interviews with these fascinating men could not fit into one 1500 word article. So here, I present a window into some of that time: a written and photographic journey through an afternoon of unguarded conversations on life, sex, and the importance of almonds with the men at the very center of a heated international debate on migrant labor in the United Arab Emirates.
The world has come to recognize Dubai – that gleaming metropolis of artificial islands jutting proudly into the Persian Gulf – for its precipitous climb onto the international stage and its notorious social stratifications. In the media, the city is regarded mostly for its half-century transformation from humble fishing village to Vegas-like Middle Eastern playground for the jet-setting class. Or noted for its chasm between the privileged local population and the migrant workers who built the city. Or maligned as a vapid tourist destination devoid of any significant cultural landscape or identity. But for both the diverse participants and spectators of Pehlwani wrestling, Dubai is a place of exchange – just as it has been for centuries.
Here in the early 19th century – long before Dubai became synonymous with oil wealth in the West – the East encountered the village as a burgeoning port critical to its various maritime industries. All along its nine-mile creek, wooden dhow boats carried merchants from Africa, India, and the Far East, creating an international community of transient seafarers in pearling, fishing, and trade. Though skyscrapers pierce through the clouds further in the distance today, an amalgam of nationalities still buzz in the labyrinthine marketplaces hugging the creek’s shoreline, and many still make a beeline each Friday afternoon to nearly the exact sandlot where Pehlwani matches have been contested for almost fifty years. Screw what you’ve read about a strictly sanitized city: this rowdy international crowd in Dubai typifies a type of exchange that has been happening here for centuries.
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If you’ve never been there, you probably have a preconceived idea of what Dubai looks like. And I’d imagine it involves lots of tourists walking over silk Louis Vuitton scarves so they don’t burn their feet on the sand, before popping vintage Veuve over domesticated lion cubs—a purified Disneyland of opulence devoid of any genuine culture.
But from where I’m standing, staring across a sandlot buzzing with Indians, Emiratis, and other Arabs who’ve gathered to watch a bunch of barrel-chested South Asian laborers in brightly colored pants throw each other around in the sand, Dubai doesn’t look all that cut and dried.
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In 2010, a bitter fight over a 4-acre plot of land embroiled unassuming Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, in a national controversy on race and religion covered by The New York Times, TIME Magazine, and pundits across the nation. Three years later, I return to the place where I grew up and meet the men whose application to convert a former health food store into a mosque spurred an examination into the Islamophobia and paranoia surrounding the changing face of small town America.
The first thing to know about Sheboygan is that it’s the Bratwurst Capital of the World. The title might sound like a boastful, self-proclaimed nickname, but it’s also a legal proclamation – in 1970, Sheboygan brought a court injunctionagainst a city in Ohio for attempting to use it. Each summer, the sedate, 50,000-resident town along the shores of Lake Michigan stages Brat Days, a massive three-day festival that’s as much a salute to Sheboygan’s legendary pork-and-beef sausages as it is a celebration of its extensive German heritage.
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NASHIK, India—Late last month, LVMH—the French luxury conglomerate responsible for Louis Vuitton, Fendi, and Bulgari—threw a major, booze-soaked high fashion event. But instead of the customary champagne-filled soiree in a European castle, LVMH gathered Bollywood’s best to celebrate their subsidiary, famed champagne house Moët & Chandon, in a lavish Mumbai hotel. The unusual occasion—a launch party for their foray into the fledgling world of Indian wine…
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NASHIK, India—Late last month, LVMH—the French luxury conglomerate responsible for Louis Vuitton, Fendi, and Bulgari—threw a major, booze-soaked high fashion event. But instead of the customary champagne-filled soiree in a European castle, LVMH gathered Bollywood’s best to celebrate their subsidiary, famed champagne house Moët & Chandon, in a lavish Mumbai hotel. The unusual occasion—a launch party for their foray into the fledgling world of Indian wine.
Read more here.
Gymnastics is a sport of dynasties — for over half a century, only Japan, China, and the Soviet Union have stood atop the podium as world champions in the men’s team event (The sole exception? Belarus in 2001, with a team consisting of members who once competed in the Soviet Union’s junior ranks before the country’s dissolution.) For a quarter century between 1978 and 2003, a Romanian woman tumbled her way onto the floor exercise podium at every world championships save for only three odd occasions. And for the past eight Worlds, the United States has medaled in the prestigious women’s all-around competition each year – winning gold five of those times and achieving the feat of winning both gold and silver an astounding three times…