For the past few weeks, the media has been full of the turmoil in the Middle East. But references to the Middle East, as if it were some homogenous entity, have always been misleading. The region - even if you exclude North Africa - takes in a diverse swathe of the Arab (and non-Arab, when you include Israel and Iran) world. It extends from poverty- and conflict-striven Palestine and Yemen and natural resource-starved Jordan to oil-rich Saudi Arabia, flamboyant Dubai and Qatar, with one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world.
Even when you narrow the scope down to the Gulf, the contrasts are huge. Despite its wealth, conservative Saudi Arabia has simmering political tensions and a restless Shia minority. Neighbouring Bahrain, with a thriving, open economy and one of the most liberal political cultures in the region, succumbed to the groundswell of demand for political change that started in Tunisia and Egypt and the heavy-handed reaction of its government will have tarnished the reputation of the small, relaxed island for decades.
I've just been to probably the only two countries in the entire region that have not been in some way affected by popular revolts of some sort in recent weeks: Qatar and the UAE. What both have in common is that, though technically autocracies under the rule of hereditary rulers, they are prosperous, benignly-administered with a fair degree of political freedom and relatively corruption-free and without the religious/cultural divides that you find in many other states in the region, including Bahrain, Yemen and of course Lebanon.
Both countries have become major aviation players in the past decade, with the UAE's Dubai-based Emirates leading the charge. Dubai airport, of course, has become one of the chief crossroads of the world and Emirates getting on for the biggest connector. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad has also emerged on the scene in the past seven years and the UAE capital is also keen to establish itself in the aerospace manufacturing and services sector. Qatar is some way behind, but the small Gulf state is building an international airport to rival Dubai's and its flag-carrier is about to add its 100th aircraft to its fleet.
I was in the region to research our Middle East Careers Guide. The wider region, but especially these two countries, are desperate for expatriate professionals to come to work there, as they look longer-term to develop the competencies of their own citizens. The guide will be published with Flight International on 26 April, and this year, for the second time, we will also have an interactive version available on flightglobal.com, with articles on working in the region and video interviews with many of the leading recruiters.
Here's last year's interactive edition and here's the full version that appeared in print.