New start? No chance: Spruced-down NY party as the ME braces for a sobering 2013
"Happy New Year" felt like a hollow greeting if not a wise-crack on December 31, 2012, for many members of the Arab hemisphere, entering their third year of Arab Spring. The New Year’s celebrations were muted to a minimum in the Arab capitals, as the region let its upheaval roll into another year.
While Lebanese, Iraqis and Jordanians were among those who had ducked the outright 'change' of some of their neighbors in-revolution, they could not avoid the same old problems with plenty of new issues to add to their 2013 scoreboard.
What, you may ask, of the Arab-inspired resolutions? Can the region hope for an end to the bloody conflict in Syria? Will political change sweep the Gulf states? Or will 2013 be an echo of 2012, and be more about surviving and striving for normalcy than pushing for new gains? In such uncertain times making predictions or a wish-list seems senseless.
The party as a result of unrest and economic depression took a distinct back seat. In countries neighboring Syria, many felt in no mood for celebrating on account of their crisis-ridden Arab brothers, and the party spirit took a knock due to financial hardships.
This NY was off to a good start if the skies were lit up with fireworks, as opposed to the missiles or shells usually cluttering the Mideast-scape. Parties were punctuated by habitual power cuts in Iraq and Lebanon; and war-racked Syria's infrastructure could hardly cope with celebrations. In Damascus, few marked the date in the historic Old City, usually a seething hive of activity and decoration. The rattle of gunfire and rumble of explosions replaced the rush of the yearly firework display.
Despite all these problems and more, celebrations went ahead in much of the region, with Dubai hosting one of the world’s largest (and most expensive) parties. More than 1.7 million people watched the fireworks at the Burj Khalifa building, with about 2 billion said to have caught it on television or online.
From Cairo to Cassablanca, Beirut to Baghdad, this NYE was off-color and the ring-tone was barely audible compared to previous New Years rung in. But, 2013 promises no let-up in the push for change, even at the cost of a shindig or two.
Have your say: Should the Middle East have cancelled their New Year party altogether this NY 2013 in view of struggling Arab nations in the throe of civil war? Or should we give the region a break? Perhaps they needed the celebration to lift their fighting spirits to gird them for the battle ahead.