Sykes-Picot Agreement - Original Map - English (1916). Sykes, M. and Georges-Picot, F. (1916) "Map of Eastern Turkey in Asia, Syria and Western Persia." UNISPAL
Much of the modern-day Middle East as we know it was drawn up in the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, seen in this map of "Eastern Turkey in Asia, Syria and Western Persia" / Unispal

Why do we still use the term Middle East when West Asia is more relevant to Arab nations?

Neuroscientists and linguists have demonstrated that the language we speak and the words we use shape how we think. Terminology certainly matters in geopolitics as well, conditioning how we view entire regions of the world. Crucially, our geographic vocabulary evolves to suit the times. The Cold War, for example, was often referred to as the "East-West conflict" but today nobody thinks of Russia as representative of the "East" – when it is China that is clearly the eastern superpower. Unfortunately, when it comes to the Arab, Turkic and Persian realms, the catch-all term "Middle East" continues to hold sway among English speakers. Subsuming any of the geographic distinctions and nuance contained in the Arabic terms Maghreb, Khaleej and Mashriq, the vague "Middle East" continues to represent so much –even as it increasingly means nothing at all. Isn't it time for our vocabulary to adapt to reality?

At its most obtuse, Middle East connotes everything from Morocco to Afghanistan, spanning a melange of sub-regions stretching from North Africa to Central Asia. But North African countries from Egypt westwards have little relevance to Asia, even though they are mostly Arab-populated. It makes far more sense to refer to West Asia and Southwest Asia to capture Turkey, Iran, the Gulf states, and the nations lying between them. Neutral geographic labels are ultimately much more revealing than colonial artefacts. Of course we can blame colonialism and the Cold War for fragmenting what was once a far more fluid and integrated picture of relations across Asia’s Silk Roads. But it has been nearly three decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, more than enough time for Arab leaders to come to terms with the new global circumstances.

Since that time, East and South Asia’s rise has compelled West Asia to rediscover its Asian geography. The energy “supercycle” that kicked off in the 1990s rapidly tied the Gulf’s fortunes to Asians – especially China, Japan and South Korea, and now also energy-thirsty India – rather than to the West. The Gulf states’ trade with all other sub-regions of Asia is intensifying. The GCC exports petroleum and gold to India and imports jewellery and textiles amounting to nearly $200 billion per year. China also has nearly $170 billion in trade with GCC countries and its growing use of the renminbi is rekindling plans for a free-trade agreement. In the past decade, Japan and South Korea have also increased their trade with the Gulf states and Japan is pursuing a free-trade agreement with the GCC. Meanwhile, Asean exports of meat, fruit, tea and other agricultural goods to the Gulf states have doubled in less than a decade, contributing to their $130 billion in annual trade. Asean energy consumption is expected to double between 2015 and 2030, with much of the additional supply coming from the Gulf.


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Fresh investments spanning the breadth of this new maritime Silk Road from the Strait of Hormuz to the Strait of Malacca – the world’s most significant energy passageways – are further evidence of the Asianisation pulling all corners of the region together. In early 2017, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman spent one month travelling to Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, and China, inaugurating new petrochemical refineries for their oil imports from the kingdom. Many of his generation studied in India, and now thousands of young Saudis are returning to Indian universities as King Abdullah Scholarship recipients. All Gulf states have launched eastward-facing campaigns. Kuwait and Qatar have invested in large new refineries in Indonesia, while Mubadala Petroleum is underwriting gas exploration in Thailand and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

In the reverse direction, China has bought into the UAE’s oil fields by acquiring a stake in Adnoc’s onshore drilling operations, while both the Jiangsu Province Overseas Cooperation and Investment Company and Cosco have signed 35-year and 50-year leases, respectively, on facilities at Abu Dhabi’s Khalifa Port. Across the Arab world, China invested $26 billion in 2016 alone. Arabic is the fastest-growing language at Beijing’s Foreign Studies University. Cross-Asian investment growth is inspiring plans for a great decoupling between oil and the dollar, with many experts predicting the imminent establishment of petro-RMB oil pricing.

Gulf economies cannot achieve their goal of economic diversification without support from East Asia. In 2015, Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) purchased a 38 per cent stake in South Korea's Posco Engineering and Construction, after which Saudi Aramco turned to Korea's Hyundai to construct the Gulf's largest shipyard. Bahrain and Oman are turning ever more to East Asian banks for trade financing and joint investments. Both Japan and South Korea have been crucial in providing the high-end industrial machinery and electronics necessary for the Gulf states' ambitions for economic transformation.


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Asia’s SWFs and financial conglomerates are also working with high-growth Asian countries on crucial infrastructure projects. Mubadala Investment Company together with its partners in China has committed $1 billion towards opportunities there, while Dubai Ports World has a $3 billion fund that is targeting investments across India’s rapidly growing logistics sector. Asian tech companies are also leading the drive to capture the Arab world’s 400 million customers, half of whom are regular internet users. Alibaba has begun a $600 million investment into a “tech town” near Jebel Ali that will house robotics and mobile app companies. Tencent is launching WeChat services across the region, facilitating payments and remittances for the millions of migrant labourers from South Asia, while Xiaomi has begun selling an $88 smartphone targeting low-wage workers.

For the past quarter of a century, the most fragile part of the Arab world has been the West’s purview, with Asians free riding on western military involvement and financial contributions. But now that most of the significant long-term energy contracts, infrastructure projects and diplomatic initiatives are tied to Asian powers, the Asian-Arab nexus will determine West Asia’s future more than any diktats from Washington or London. China and India are already the largest purchasers of Iraqi oil. The Iraqi army used Chinese-made killer drones in its successful 2017 assault on ISIS, and China’s Huawei outbid European bidders to win the contract to build Iraq’s telecom infrastructure, which it rolled out in just 12 months.

Other Arab countries that have failed to build meaningful postcolonial identities are also seizing the chance to deepen strategic ties with the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies. Jordan is trying to stop relying on Arab and western aid by inviting in Asian investors to help build its economic base. Jordan also became a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), rewarded with immediate approval of financing to construct new shale-oil and renewable-energy power plants, a special economic zone for manufacturing and logistics near the strategic port of Aqaba, and a $3 billion deal for China to build a national railway network. Within a decade, the old Ottoman-era Hejaz Railway will become part of the new Asian Silk Road network. Syrians used to proudly call themselves “eastern Mediterranean”. Now they know their future is Arab-Asian.

Dr Parag Khanna is managing partner of FutureMap, a strategic advisory firm, and author of The Future is Asian: Commerce, Conflict, and Culture in the 21st Century published by Hachette, from which this essay is adapted. The book is available from today in the UAE and across the Gulf region

Match info:

Wolves 1
Boly (57')

Manchester City 1
Laporte (69')

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

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Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through and

French Touch

Carla Bruni


Meydan race card

6.30pm: Maiden Dh 165,000 1,600m
7.05pm: Handicap Dh 185,000 2,000m
7.40pm: Maiden Dh 165,000 1,600m
8.15pm: Handicap Dh 190,000 1,400m
8.50pm: Handicap Dh 175,000 1,600m
9.25pm: Handicap Dh 175,000 1,200m
10pm: Handicap Dh 165,000 1,600m

How I connect with my kids when working or travelling

Little notes: My girls often find a letter from me, with a joke, task or some instructions for the afternoon, and saying what I’m excited for when I get home.
Phone call check-in: My kids know that at 3.30pm I’ll be free for a quick chat.
Highs and lows: Instead of a “how was your day?”, at dinner or at bathtime we share three highlights; one thing that didn’t go so well; and something we’re looking forward to.
I start, you next: In the morning, I often start a little Lego project or drawing, and ask them to work on it while I’m gone, then we’ll finish it together.
Bedtime connection: Wake up and sleep time are important moments. A snuggle, some proud words, listening, a story. I can’t be there every night, but I can start the day with them.
Undivided attention: Putting the phone away when I get home often means sitting in the car to send a last email, but leaving it out of sight between home time and bedtime means you can connect properly.
Demystify, don’t demonise your job: Help them understand what you do, where and why. Show them your workplace if you can, then it’s not so abstract when you’re away - they’ll picture you there. Invite them into your “other” world so they know more about the different roles you have.


Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

Story behind the UAE flag

The UAE flag was first unveiled on December 2, 1971, the day the UAE was formed. 

It was designed by Abdullah Mohammed Al Maainah, 19, an Emirati from Abu Dhabi. 

Mr Al Maainah said in an interview with The National in 2011 he chose the colours for local reasons. 

The black represents the oil riches that transformed the UAE, green stands for fertility and the red and white colours were drawn from those found in existing emirate flags.

If you go

The flights
There are various ways of getting to the southern Serengeti in Tanzania from the UAE. The exact route and airstrip depends on your overall trip itinerary and which camp you’re staying at. 
Flydubai flies direct from Dubai to Kilimanjaro International Airport from Dh1,350 return, including taxes; this can be followed by a short flight from Kilimanjaro to the Serengeti with Coastal Aviation from about US$700 (Dh2,500) return, including taxes. Kenya Airways, Emirates and Etihad offer flights via Nairobi or Dar es Salaam.   


Multan Sultans v Peshawar Zalmi
8pm, Thursday
Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi

The years Ramadan fell in May






Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others


Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

'The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting up a Generation for Failure' ​​​​
Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, Penguin Randomhouse

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5

The specs: McLaren 600LT

Price, base: Dh914,000

Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic

Power: 600hp @ 7,500rpm

Torque: 620Nm @ 5,500rpm

Fuel economy 12.2.L / 100km

Fight card
  • Aliu Bamidele Lasisi (Nigeria) beat Artid Vamrungauea (Thailand) POINTS
  • Julaidah Abdulfatah (Saudi Arabia) beat Martin Kabrhel (Czech Rep) POINTS
  • Kem Ljungquist (Denmark) beat Mourad Omar (Egypt) TKO
  • Michael Lawal (UK) beat Tamas Kozma (Hungary) KO​​​​​​​
  • Zuhayr Al Qahtani (Saudi Arabia) beat Mohammed Mahmoud (UK) POINTS
  • Darren Surtees (UK) beat Kane Baker (UK) KO
  • Chris Eubank Jr (UK) beat JJ McDonagh (Ireland) TKO
  • Callum Smith (UK) beat George Groves (UK) KO

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside


Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000


Argentina 0 Croatia 3
Rebic (53'), Modric (80'), Rakitic (90'+1)

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices


Engine: 2-litre 4-cylinder turbo and 3.6-litre V6
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Power: 235hp and 310hp
Torque: 258Nm and 271Nm
Price: From Dh185,100

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

Read part four: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

The Cairo Statement

1: Commit to countering all types of terrorism and extremism in all their manifestations

2: Denounce violence and the rhetoric of hatred

3: Adhere to the full compliance with the Riyadh accord of 2014 and the subsequent meeting and executive procedures approved in 2014 by the GCC

4: Comply with all recommendations of the Summit between the US and Muslim countries held in May 2017 in Saudi Arabia.

5: Refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of countries and of supporting rogue entities.

6: Carry out the responsibility of all the countries with the international community to counter all manifestations of extremism and terrorism that threaten international peace and security


Kolkata Knight Riders 169-7 (20 ovs)
Rajasthan Royals 144-4 (20 ovs)

Kolkata win by 25 runs

Next match

Sunrisers Hyderabad v Kolkata Knight Riders, Friday, 5.30pm


Developer: SCE Studio Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation, PlayStation 4 and 5
Rating: 3.5/5


Asian Champions League, last 16, first leg:

Al Jazira 3 Persepolis 2

Second leg:

Monday, Azizi Stadium, Tehran. Kick off 7pm


Goalkeepers: Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope 
Defenders: John Stones, Harry Maguire, Phil Jones, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Gary Cahill, Ashley Young, Danny Rose, Trent Alexander-Arnold 
Midfielders: Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson, Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard, Raheem Sterling, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Fabian Delph 
Forwards: Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Marcus Rashford, Danny Welbeck


Directors: Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson
Stars: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Oscar Isaac
Rating: 4/5

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★


Sharjah Wanderers 20 Dubai Tigers 25 (After extra-time)

Tries: Gormley, Penalty
cons: Flaherty
Pens: Flaherty 2

Tries: O’Donnell, Gibbons, Kelly
Cons: Caldwell 2
Pens: Caldwell, Cross