Inside the Middle East
July 14, 2009
Posted: 917 GMT

Jieun Lee
Intern, CNN Dubai.

Dubai, UAE -  Just a few weeks ago, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the Vice President of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, joined the global social networking site Facebook. With close to 50,000 fans, Sheikh Mohammed is one of a growing number of public figures, celebrities and politicians who have recently tapped the worldwide web to communicate with the public.

He has turned his “wall”, a space usually used between friends to leave tongue-in-cheek messages to each other, into a discussion forum on issues of public interest.

Recently Sheikh Mohammed asked "Should the new academic year start during Ramadan or after the Eid holiday?" After surveying the multiple Facebook comments and consulting other experts, the Ministry of Education decided to postpone the start of the 2009-10 school year, until after Eid. Sheikh Mohammed then updated his Facebook status thanking the public for their opinions.

While Sheikh Mohammed’s page also serves a more traditional purpose – carrying personal details about his family, hobbies and interests – as with most things in Dubai, his page isn't really about him. Rather, it signals the Emirate’s continued support for creative modern approaches to improved communication. It's another way to foster dialogue and promote a sense of community in this diverse, cosmopolitan place. And it's also a step toward a more accessible leader. One person commented "Wow-my first friend who is a leader of a nation!".

Facebook is not the only social networking site that Sheikh Mohammed has joined. Like Queen Rania of Jordan before him, he has set up a twitter account. In keeping with his facebook page his most recent tweet says "will be able to confirm in 10 days time, the date when Private and British schools will be reopening in the UAE."

I now wonder if Sheikh Mohammed also skypes?

Before starting her internship at CNN Dubai, Jieun worked for Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong and the United States. She graduated from Brown University with a degree in International Relations.

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Filed under: Dubai •Science & Technology •UAE

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G.   July 14th, 2009 2:04 pm ET

I admire Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid, coming from a person, female, in the U.S., so whatever that's worth to him. Communication is a wonderful tool to understanding the world and each other. It's very tough sometimes. Sadly. Computers are powerful, as word processors and spreadsheets and I've used them for decades in that way.. The internet, unfortunately, has bad buys with spyware and adware, I think that I have something popping in now. Irritating. I'm not very patient with it. When I figure that out and get it fixed, I will try to join Facebook to read his words. Or I may just quit the internet. I really dislike it basically for that reason. Bad guys (or gals) aren't my cup of tea, I keep getting pop-ups which has never happened before. And I don't like it. So I may be writing my final times on any site.

I do admire this man, as a female. He sounds like someone who is open and progressive and moving forward to me which always requires time and patience and tolerance. I like forward. It's also impossible at this time for some, so that has to be addressed also, but I like to think that people are moving always forward.

Lisa   July 16th, 2009 2:13 pm ET

I think CNN is doing a huge disservice to Iran and the people fighting for their freedom. How can CNN STOP reporting when there is still people fighting? Yes, you can not confirm/deny what is actually going on, but the people there NEED CNN to bring attention to the urgency of this matter. I am an American and I believe the US news outlets have a great impact on what is happening over there! If you stop your reporting then it silences the Iranian people.
MJ dying is very sad, but THOUSANDS of people are dying in Iran. This is supposed to be CNN, not E! news, right?

G.   July 17th, 2009 4:27 pm ET

MJ was important in the U.S. because his legacy was that he brought the races together in some way. That's a huge issue in this country – one we are still figuring out and have problems solving. I think that Iran is more important though. I think it should not be about about a foreign country, us – the U.S. – or anyone, trying to stamp our beliefs on other people. We all know good and bad. It's simple. If people have freedom, are happy, move forward in all ways learning, have the freedom to learn, and have joy in life combined with safety – you have a perfect place. Lacking any one element, and all of us lack at least one, then we need to fix ourselves. There is always going to be a hierarchy of sorts, people need that to process info I think, a President, his secretary, whatever, and rich, high medium income people, medium income people, whatever. Hopefully it never comes down to the rulers and the ruled.

G.   July 18th, 2009 2:45 am ET

The Iranian election is over, and foreign powers need to let the people decide their fate. I guess. That is tough stuff. I feel bad for the people in Iran, especially the young people, but moving from one cleric to another doesn't seem the answer. Democracy is a costly thing to find. Freedom has never been free. People are still backwards in general. Most places just can't handle it.

G.   July 27th, 2009 3:32 pm ET

I've not read about the Iranian election lately. Which cleric has control? I guess it probably doesn't matter. No one votes on them anyway, in the general public.

G.   July 27th, 2009 3:42 pm ET

Basically, explain the Iran system to me. There is some kind of council, all guys, who pick a cleric person, also male. Then he picks a few candidates, also male, and people vote. The vote is flawed. The big deal?? It is flawed from the beginning. Another voted in person won't matter a lot. None are female. The base, the cleric, is not voted on by the general perople either., I don't know about this council, all men who are alike. In the U.S., none of ruling people are a like. It's very weird to me from here. It's all just figured out ahead anyway to exclude women or anyone different anyway. No Mexicans, no Canadians, no women, no anyone much except all the same.

Dennis Junior   August 10th, 2009 2:15 am ET

I will be checking him out on Facebook...

~Dennis Junior~

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