People in the US capital were America's most curious web searchers for information about the UAE this year, according to Google. The place in the US that was second-most hungry for details on the Emirates was the state of Illinois, home of Barack Obama, the president-elect. The number of internet searches spiked in late September, when turmoil hit the world's financial markets, and surged briefly again in November.
But the volume of searches at the time of the US election was still half that recorded at the start of 2006, when Dubai-based DP World's bid to take over operations in some US ports foundered because of congressional opposition. The nation with the most searches for information about the UAE on Google was the UAE itself, followed by Nigeria, Kenya, Lebanon, the Philippines, Pakistan, South Africa, Jordan and Kuwait and New Zealand.
Google has also verified reports that professionals in recession-hit nations are looking at job prospects in the UAE. After the Emirates itself, the UK and US are second and third for the search term: "United Arab Emirates jobs". The fourth nation is Zimbabwe. Analysis of Google searches from the UAE show popular culture dominated the year. In 2008, the fastest-rising search term has been about the soap opera Nour, followed by YouTube, Jumeirah Moon, Jumeirah and Facebook. The top five search terms were in Arabic.
But bureaucracy has caught up with popular culture, and by far the fastest-growing search term within the UAE in the past three months has been "Emirates ID". The result was 21 times the previous number of searches. The authorities have advised that all expatriate professionals and Government workers will need to register for identity cards by the end of February 2009. Other recently popular searches include variations on the Atlantis, The Palm hotel. The Pakistan and England cricket teams' stays in Abu Dhabi have seen a surge of searches on cricket-related phrases in the past three months.