The Emirate of Kabat

18 Dec

A setting for the coup story.  Any thoughts?


Kabat is a fictional middle east country, located to the east of Saudi Arabia and bordering Qatar and the UAE.


Kabat is centred on Kabat City, which covers two islands and a growing settlement on the mainland. (Originally, the Emirs were worried about defending the mainland and chose to build their permanent settlements on the islands.) Now, there are multiple bridges and other links between the three parts of the city.

Outside the city, there are a handful of smaller settlements further down the coastline, with modern roads running into Qatar and the UAE. Suspicion of Saudi influence led to a refusal to build a road leading directly to Saudi Arabia, although the border is barely patrolled and tribesmen have been known to cross it without giving a damn.


Officially, Kabat has a population of 2 million; unofficially, people-smuggling is rife and the exact figure may be considerably higher. The population is divided into Kabaties, Expats (Western and Arab) and Guest Workers (mainly East Asian).

Kabaties themselves (basically, everyone who can claim descent from the original owners of the land) are entitled to a wide range of benefits, including free education and a major government stipend. The quid pro quo of this arrangement is that they’re not allowed any real say in government policy. Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in problems; the average Kabati graduate is completely unsuited for the position he may have been led to expect, so youth unemployment is alarmingly high.

Expats have few rights, but as the government values both their presence and their money, they’re welcome. Most of them tend to be hired experts who discovered they liked the country enough to stay (or businessmen taking advantage of the low tax rate).

Guest Workers have effectively no rights at all and, to all intents and purposes, they’re slaves. Their passports are confiscated, they’re put to work at once (which may not be what they were promised) and they’re generally treated poorly. Beatings and sexual harassment are far from uncommon. Unsurprisingly, they remain a sullen mass on the edge of society.

There is no legal requirement for women to remain veiled, or in the home. (A woman is expected to have the permission of her menfolk to marry, but not for anything else.) Kabati women are often educated (although they are denied access to some educational streams); however, there are few jobs for them at any level. (High-class families or strict religious families might insist on the veil, regardless of the law.) An increasing number of young women are remaining unmarried, as finding suitable husbands is quite difficult.


Roughly a third of Kabat’s revenues comes from oil. The remainder comes from taxes levied on foreigners and foreign-owned businesses. Given the lack of regulations, it is unsurprising just how much passes through Kabat on a daily basis.


Officially, Kabat is Sunni Muslim. Unofficially, other faiths are tolerated as long as they stay out of sight and out of mind.

The country has a somewhat schizophrenic attitude to religion. On one hand, there has been an increasing growth in fundamentalism, with the rise of a Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (religious police; a concept borrowed from Saudi Arabia), but on the other hand commercialised religious festivals (including Christmas) have been growing in popularity.

The secret police closely monitor most of the larger mosques within the country. Preachers have freedom, as long as they don’t attack the government, the emir or do anything else calculated to cause trouble. Most of the major mullahs receive additional government payments in exchange for keeping the sermons free of controversy. This has not, however, found favour among the younger generation, who regard such preachers as hired shrills.


Kabat is ruled solely by the Al-Kabat Family. There is no pretence at any form of democracy. By law, high-ranking posts in the civil service and military are reserved for Kabaties, who are often selected through ties to patronage networks.


Kabat started life as a British protectorate in 1850, under the rule of the first Al-Kabat Emir. Kabat rapidly made a name for itself as a trading and shipbuilding hub, allowing its traders to join the shipping networks that fuelled the British Empire. Disputes between Britain and the Ottoman Empire (and later with Saudi Arabia) ensured that Kabat remained important up until 1960, when the British started to withdraw from the region. Although there was still a treaty obligation to defend Kabat, Britain lost interest in manipulating local affairs.

Fortunately for Kabat, Emir Abdullah I was a match for the challenges facing his tiny state. The discovery of oil in 1961 gave him an influx of both cash and expertise, which he invested heavily. Kabat not only modernised; it fought hard to lure both international trading firms and corporate bankers to its shores. This growing wealth attracted envious eyes, mainly in Saudi Arabia (which had seen an outflow of Saudis attracted by political and economic freedom) and so Kabat looked for a new foreign protector. Although Kabat lacked the value of Kuwait, the US was quite happy to add its might to the British protection.

The war on terror, however, seriously upset relations between Kabat and America (and, to a lesser extent, Britain). While the Emir would have been quite happy to watch the US destroy Saddam’s regime, it caused a series of major upheavals within Kabat itself. The Emir responded to this with a mixture of bribes and threats, removing outspoken Islamists with one hand while upping his population’s living stipend with the other. However, the pressure of ruling (and at least two coup attempts by his older children) finally overcame the old man. He died in 2015, bequeathing his country to his sole surviving son, Emir Abdullah II.

Law and Order

Kabat has a very laid-back attitude to anything, as long as it takes place in private. For example, homosexuality and prostitution are both strictly forbidden within the country, but Kabat has a thriving gay scene and uncounted thousands of prostitutes.

Minor crimes committed by outsiders have only one punishment; immediate expulsion.


On paper, Kabat has a formidable military machine;

7000-strong Royal Army (Royal Kabat Army)

5000-strong National Guard (Royal National Kabat Guard)

500-strong Royal Guard

The military is well-equipped, with 200 tanks and various other armoured vehicles (mostly former British or American gear.) However, it has major internal problems, in common with most other Arab states. In particular, senior officers are selected for loyalty and family connections, rather than competence, while the general training and morale levels of the average soldier are depressingly low. The National Guard is charged with supervising the Royal Army, which causes major problems for anything requiring coordination. In some ways, the only thing keeping them together are the presence of a cadre of Western advisors serving in the ranks.

Kabat provided a battalion of troops to support the US mission in Afghanistan, 2007-2009. However, it was not a great success by any reasonable standard. Troops showed low morale, particularly when they felt deserted by their officers; the advantages they should have brought to the field were neglected by poor planning and preparation. The only Kabati unit to cover itself in glory (or something resembling it) was the 1st Special Forces unit (the Black Daggers), which earned grudging respect from its American liaison officers. However, the Black Daggers were implicated in Prince Ali’s attempt to overthrow his father the following year and were disbanded.

The air force of Kabat (Royal Kabati Air Force) is composed of two squadrons of helicopters and a single squadron of ex-RAF Tornado jets. In theory, Kabat can call on American or British airpower at short notice, if necessary. This hasn’t actually been tested in practice.

The navy (Royal Kabati Navy) consists of five patrol boats and one old ex-RN frigate.

The Royal Guard is not composed of Kabati soldiers. Instead, troops are hired from Pakistan to serve one-year terms within the country, in exchange for a high rate of pay. The Royal Guardsmen are bitterly resented within the country, largely because they are not only paid more, but seen as interlopers.

7 Responses to “The Emirate of Kabat”

  1. Bob Walters December 18, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    Too bad it does not border on India, Pakistan, or Turkey as those countries tend to finance the worst sort of insurgentcy groups in order to distract what they perceive, in their paranoia, as their “natural” enemies.

  2. Clarke December 19, 2014 at 1:47 am #

    Why is finding suitable husbands difficult? Is there a m/f imbalance? If passports of guest workers are confiscated, why would they let themselves get hired to work there when other countries are less abusive? It isn’t like you could keep such practices secret with the Internet, mobile phones and tens of thousands of people dropping off the map… Doesn’t sound believable in today’s world. Heck their “master” could leave his cell phone on the charger overnight and the slave could use it to send email, webmail, texts or phone calls “don’t come – it’s a trap!”


    • Daniel Silver December 19, 2014 at 4:28 am #

      However unbelievable it might seem this is a reality in the Gulf States:

      Christopher’s words could be ripped right from this Human Rights Watch report on conditions in Qatar.

    • chrishanger December 19, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

      There isn’t an imbalance, in the sense that there are more women than men.

      They want educated and employed men, not layabouts. There’s a job shortage, so many young men of the right age are unemployed, so fathers are reluctant to agree to any marriages. (There are also problems with interracial children, even though wealthy foreigners might be more than capable of taking care of the kids.)


      Date: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 01:47:07 +0000 To:

  3. Lindsay December 24, 2014 at 1:52 am #

    Hi Chris, Re: the military, are the officers all incompetent appointees with family connections or might there be a small core of well trained and competent officers, possibly trained at Sandhurst or West Point, who yearn for a chance to improve the armed forces. Given this is a story about a coup the position of the armed forces would seem to be an important ingredient.



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