If you're a Middle Eastern ruler who needs to fight a war (or at least cultivate the appearance of readiness), weapons exhibitions give you an opportunity to see what instruments of destruction are currently on the open market. The International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) is the sine qua non of weapons shows in the region. The first conference was held on Feb. 14, 1993, and featured more than 350 companies, representing 34 countries. And IDEX has grown steadily since then. The last exhibition, held in February 2009, included 897 exhibitors from over 50 countries and saw more than 50,000 visitors pass through its halls. The next IDEX is scheduled for Feb. 20 - 24, 2011.
But the conference is not only big business -- it is a point of national pride. Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who was greeted by "sash-waving Abu Dhabi schoolchildren," oversaw the official opening ceremony of the conference, which included military exercises performed by UAE fighter jets, military vehicles, and parachutists. After all, it is a well-known fact that the sheikh with the biggest guns also has ... well, the most regional influence.