UAE build 'Zayed residential city' on Yemen's Socotra island

UAE build 'Zayed residential city' on Yemen's Socotra island
The UAE is constructing a new residential city on the stunning Socotra island, but questions continue to be raised about Abu Dhabi's presence on the Yemeni islands.
2 min read
08 January, 2017
Figures show 37 percent of plant life on the island are rare [Getty]

While the governor of Yemen's Socotra has praised the UAE for the construction of a new residential city on the Arabian Sea island, many Yemenis fear the intentions of the Gulf state in the country.

Major General Salim al-Socotri thanked the UAE for its role in the Zayed Residential City 1 - a project funded by Emirates Red Crescent to shelter families affected by 2015's Cyclone Chapala and Cyclone Megh, Yemen News Agency reported.

The UAE is heavily involved Saudi-led military coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, and has contributed billions in aid to help rebuild the country after more than two years of war.

For years, concerns have been raised regarding the UAE's intentions for in Yemen, with many accusing the Gulf state of attempting to "occupy" Socotra island.

"Anti-Gulf voices in Yemen are suspicious of the Emirati activities in the south including Socotra. This suspicion is politically motivated," Yemeni journalist Khalid al-Karimi told The New Arab.

But to accuse the Gulf state of occupation is an "exaggeration", he said.

"The UAE is only implementing business ideas to create better development in this exotic tourist destination," he added.

"The Zayed residential city is one project of several others UAE has launched in Yemen's south... it can be said the presence of UAE is a matter of business partnership, not occupation.

But this partnership will "undoubtedly give a boost to the Emirati influence in the island and Yemen's south in general".

Socotra is a small archipelago of four Indian Ocean islands that lies some 240 kilometres (150 miles) east of the Horn of Africa and 380 kilometres (240 miles) south of the Arabian Peninsula.

The almost-untouched island was recognised as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2008 for its unique plant life.

Botanical field survey results by the Centre for Middle Eastern Plants show 307 of the 825 plant species on Socotra (37 percent) are found nowhere else on the earth.

Last year, Yemen's minister of tourism said the government would work towards establishing the unique island as a tourist hotspot.

Moammar al-Eryani said the ministry will set up a company to run tourism investments in the island, in partnership with business people from members of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC).