Notes from an arms fair (Abu Dhabi)


By Martin Parr

Un-named Sheikhs browsing the arms fair. Credit: Martin Parr / Magnum photos

I have photographed many fairs in my time, but this is the strangest of them all. I am at IDEX (International Defence Exhibition), at the Exhibition Centre in Abu Dhabi, one of the biggest arms fairs on the planet. It is strategically important because Middle Eastern countries are big buyers of arms, but also because the fair is so well positioned to attract delegations from around the world. One is aware of the volatility in the region, hastening defence spending up the agenda of these oil rich States. Over 150 delegations have come here with one thing in mind: to spend their defence budgets on the latest technology.

Un-named Sheikhs browsing the arms fair. Credit: Martin Parr/ Magnum photos

However unlike most fairs I have attended, not one price is displayed. I imagine these prices are very negotiable, depending on quantity ordered and scale of commitment. One thing is certain: everything is expensive. During IDEX 2007, (the fair is biannual) $545 million changed hands. This year however there are reports that contracts of over 20 Billion US dollars are being negotiated.

Defence is riding the economic gloom very well. Not only were the budgets set well in advance
of the credit crunch, but spending on "homeland security" and anti-terrorism is on the increase.

For full story go to


Add new comment