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‘You say Persian, I say Arabian…’

‘You say Persian, I say Arabian…’

Which term do you use for the Gulf waterway? Sometimes, it all depends on how much money is at stake, says Jay Akasie.

April 11, 2010 4:26 by

“You say tomato, I say to-mah-to/You say Persian Gulf, I say Arabian Gulf / Tomato, to-mah-to. Persian Gulf, Arabian Gulf/Let’s call the whole thing off!”

With sincere apologies to Cole Porter for butchering the lyrics to his song, the point we’re attempting to make with this little number is that the once friendly disagreement over what to call the body of water between Saudi Arabia and Iran has become a lot more serious.

Indeed, the ongoing debate has put paid to a number of events, not the least of which was the 2009 Islamic Solidarity Games. It seems that the host country of the Olympics-style games, Iran, placed the name “Persian Gulf” on promotional materials and even medals to be awarded to participants. Some of the Arab countries set to send athletes to the games objected to the name, insisting that the body of water is called the “Arabian Gulf.” Ultimately, the Islamic Solidarity Games were cancelled.

Then, just weeks ago, Iran announced that airlines flying to the country – especially from the Arab states on the other side of the Gulf – must use the name Persian Gulf on their instrument panel display screens and during on-board announcements. A stewardess working for an Iranian airline was reportedly fired for arguing about the Persian/Arabian name discrepancy with a passenger.

“Iran’s latest move is steeped in Persian nationalism,” an associate professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the American University in Dubai, Feras Hamza, D.Phil., said. “It’s telling the Arab world that there is a Persian presence that has to be dealt with.”

The brouhaha has also left businessmen wondering which side to take. The emirate of Dubai, for instance, has long enjoyed close commercial ties to Iran. In fact, some of Dubai’s oldest and most distinguished families are of Iranian origin.

“In geopolitics, it’s good to know which side is right. But in business, it’s good to know why each side calls it the name it does,” a colleague of Hamza’s at the university, William Gueraiche, Ph.D., said. “When it comes to commerce, it’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s about which name makes the best business sense.”

What the professors are saying is that, as career diplomats argue over technicalities as to what the Gulf should be called, the private sector is quietly going about its business and using whichever term helps grease the wheels of commerce.

Might an Arab be found calling it the Persian Gulf and vice versa? It all depends on how much money is at stake.

- Trends magazine


More wrangling over the Arabian/Persian Gulf

Let’s play together – not

Iran trade ties not easily broken

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  1. George on April 12, 2010 6:53 am

    ISLAMIC GULF can be used as a neutral and more meaningful name that must satisfy both sides avoiding a conflict in the name of Persia and Arabia.

  2. Aquilles Catiempo on April 12, 2010 7:32 am

    As Juliet kept on wondering, “What’s in the name?”, let’s put it this way, what if China Sea will be named Vietnam Sea? or Thailand Sea? How about calling Indian Ocean into Ceylonese Ocean? Or Arabian Ocean? or African Ocean?

    I can understand the sentiment of each, but I used to call it Persian Gulf and known it as Persian Gulf and was surprised that it was callle laater in the 70s as Arabian Gulf… says who?

  3. Miss Anne Thropic on April 12, 2010 10:34 am

    Islamic Gulf a neutral name? Not for all the Christians, Jews, Hindus and atheists who live by it…

  4. taha on April 12, 2010 1:48 pm

    During my school days, in my History subject, all I learned was about Persian Gulf……
    Now I believe its about superemancy…but history knows all the realities

  5. George on April 12, 2010 9:36 pm

    Major countries lying on both sides of Persian gulf or Arabian gulf are islamic. So Islamic gulf or Gulf of islam can be more ideal to all concerned to reduce tension and avoid conflicts.

  6. Andrew on April 13, 2010 6:33 am

    You like potato and I like potahto, You like tomato and I like tomahto. Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto, let’s call the whole thing off.

  7. Miss Anne Thropic on April 13, 2010 8:51 am

    So would that be the Sunni Islamic gulf or a Shi’ite Islamic gulf? What about those who believe in Sufism? They might feel left out too…

  8. Andrew on April 13, 2010 9:59 am

    We could just name it The Puddle?

  9. Miss Anne Thropic on April 13, 2010 1:08 pm

    Or go for an ironic name: The Gulf of Salaam…

  10. George on April 13, 2010 5:44 pm

    Puddle or the Gulf of Salaam are not at all relevant names and not at all understandable to common man of the Gulf. Either Sunni or Shithe – both are basically one. Therefore, Gulf of Muscellman is also an appropriate and modern substitute name that can be acceptable to all countries involved. What is sufism?

  11. Miss Anne Thropic on April 15, 2010 8:09 am

    I’m pretty sure most people in the Gulf, whether they are Muslim or not, whether they speak Arabic or not, know that Salaam means “peace”.

    Google Sufism, I am assuming you have a computer…


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