The temperature is rising and summer is approaching. And most of us, like the gentleman in this photograph, are reaching for a cool drink. But there could be another reason for this man’s choice of Pepsi aside from personal taste.
The year is 1980, somewhere in the UAE, and an Arab League boycott of Pepsi rival Coca-Cola is in effect. The blacklisting was introduced in 1968 as a way of punishing the American company for doing business with Israel.
Pepsi was not on sale in Israel at this time. And, as a result, sales of Pepsi surged across the Middle East.
Coca-Cola was taken off the blacklist in 1991 but the ban had quietly been removed by some countries a few years before. The LA Times reported in 1988 that Coca-Cola bottling plants had opened in some Arabian Gulf states and a TV campaign to launch the soft drink in Bahrain had begun.
Coca-Cola is now available here of course. But to this day, some restaurants in the UAE still only offer Pepsi. A fading reminder of another tumultuous time in this region’s history.
* John Dennehy