30 September, 2005

'Blog Bites' in Emirates Today

It looks like the Blog Bites in Emirates Today is a weekly feature (page six, left hand column).
Can't say I wasn't pleased to see my blog being quoted among four others, the publicity helps!
Perhaps this little section will become the blogger's version of getting your photo in Ahlan! except the quality of entries - and the medium - will be much better and we won't crowd ourselves round a photographer at a night club.

EDIT by SD in case people miss it:
Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Click to see the big version

28 September, 2005

"under the garb" - Google Search

"under the garb" - Google Search

I use "under the guise" and not "under the garb." I guess most people do b/c "under the guise" generates almost 2 million google hits while "under the garb" generates 36,000.

At any rate, the use of "under the garb" metaphor seemed particularly jarring as applied by our No. 1 favourite newspaper today: "A controversy has erupted over a Dubai-based women’s Adult Education Centre hiring male teachers under the garb that they were more experienced and competent. . . ."

Spot the real Beckham

Head over to Pixel8's blog for some exclusive pictures of "Posh'n'Becks" at GITEX. Here's a sample, of her pic, with some older ones:




Who can spot which one is the real deal?!

27 September, 2005

Chan'ad Bahraini :: A report on the confiscation of migrant workers' passports

From the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, but applicable throughout the GCC: A report on the confiscation of migrant workers' passports. Worth reading.

Highlights here.

Thank You, HP

I would like to express my gratitude to IT giant HP, who has kindly placed large bright-orange advertising signs around the speed cameras on Sheikh Zayed Road as far as Jebel Ali, meaning I can now see them a mile off.

I wonder if they will remain in place after GITEX has finished?

25 September, 2005

Honest people do exist :: Dubai Consumer Mirror

Link: Dubai Consumer Mirror: Honest People

In case you're down on human nature, read the post and the comments.

23 September, 2005

Hypocrites/Hippocrates

Avoid junk food, smoking doctors tell city residents

Sadly for my pitiful attempt at a pun, it's just another Khaleej Times typo.

Obesity is actually a major problem in the UAE (pdf) , and big pharma is all over the place trying to shift weight-loss drugs.

I think importing the chain-gym concept that has swept OECD countries - tailored to local social mores of course* - would be a sure-fire winner. Anyone want to launch an IPO with me?




*I mean that respectfully, I'm just being a bit tongue in cheek

You are temporary workers, not immigrants

Is there any connection between this and this?

Emirates Today "Blog bites"

Emirates Today ran a little feature today quoting UAE blogs:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
(Click to see big version)


As well as quoting from blog-author entries, they're also quoting comments on entries. It may not be clear to newspaper readers that the remarks represent the voices of several different people, so I am going to write and mention it to them.

Ladyman, cautiously, to Darling: everyone needs a little black box

The Gulf News this morning reports

Following an initiative first adopted by the UAE, the UK is now considering installing black boxes in cars to curb reckless driving.

The smart box will record information regarding the speed of the car and transmit it through a wireless system via satellite.

Britain is also thinking of introducing financial incentives for those willing to install the devices that keep vehicles within the speed limit, as reported in the British media.
The article refers to the 19Mar04 Gulf News coverage of the UAE plan here. See also this 16Apr05 GN article. See also this Khaleej Times article on impletation of the Abu Dhabi plan.

The Telegraph on 19 September reported:

The proposals, regarded by ministers as being at an embryonic stage, are based on a report produced by the Motorists' Forum at the request of Alistair Darling, the Transport Secretary.

They formed part of a wide-ranging package unveiled by Stephen Ladyman, the roads minister, who gave it a cautious endorsement.
. . .
Whitehall believes it can build on technology which is already in use. Many cars have computers providing information to garages about how they have been driven.

Norwich Union has offered motorists pay-as-you-drive insurance based on data collected by a black box it installs in the car.

Similar technology is being used on a far wider scale in the United Arab Emirates, which plans to install black boxes in 700,000 official cars.

These tell the driver when the speed limit is being broken. If a warning is ignored, it tips off the nearest police patrol car by text message and alerts a control centre, which issues a speeding ticket.

Such a draconian approach is unlikely, given ministers' reluctance to antagonise motorists or provoke accusations of Big Brother tactics.

The Motorists' Forum, which called for the introduction of the black boxes, said real-time monitoring of the data should not be allowed.
. . .
With the Government keen to encourage rather than coerce motorists, one option would be for drivers to be given an incentive to buy safer cars through the tax or - if it is introduced - road-pricing system. Incentives are already in place for fuel-efficient vehicles.
Regarding UK road pricing proposals, here is a recent article.

From time to time you read that Dubai is planning some form of toll system. Here's one of the more modest concepts, quoting in full:

Three consortia submitted bids to Dubai Municipality on 3rd April for the main contract to install an electronic road toll system in the emirate. The consortia leaders: Austria’s Kapsch, Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation; and the US’ Transco. A fourth bidder - Spain’s Televent - pulled out of the race.

Dubai Municipality plans to fast-track the scheme as part of a wider drive to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion in Dubai. It will also be a major source of revenue for the municipality. The 12 month design and build contract will see the installation of manual and electronic systems in and around Dubai with specific focus on entry from Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.

The municipality is also mulling options to toll drivers on exit routes to neighbouring emirates. Among the streets to be tolled in Dubai are Bank Street, Banias Street and Al-Maktoum Street. The successful consortium will also be required to operate the system for six years.
jbc - http://emirateseconomist.blogspot.com/

22 September, 2005

Autocasting

Here is a fun way for bloggers to make podcasts from their blogs, while maintaining privacy: with Autocasting.

Autocasting is an automated form of podcasting that allows bloggers and blog readers to generate audio versions of text blogs from RSS feeds. Autocasting software uses XML parsers, TTS (text-to-speech) engines, and audio conversion utilities to convert text blogs into audio files that can be placed on a blog for download, synchronized to a portable audio device, or played on a desktop computer.

For Mac OSX, there is some great freeware available to do this:

1. Vox Machina - converts text to speech using Apple's pre-installed system voices. Mac and PC users can try an online version here (and download the resulting files)
2. Orator - converts text to speech using Apple's pre-installed system voices, this one allows easier adjustment of speed.

For extra, high quality voices (Mac, PC and Linux compatible) try Cepstral. It also allows you to do online demos: try selecting Millie (UK English) for a hilarious Jumeirah Jane-style voice. I find the best voices to be Diane, William and Lawrence.

When you've converted your blog into an mp3 or aiff, you can upload it to the internet. One free way is with CC Publisher (Mac and PC versions available). It puts your podcast up at The Internet Archive, but there is a 24-hour delay while they check your file.

Here is an experiment using the text at Secret Dubai: .Ill considered inquiry and the resulting Podcast file (I also used a sound editor with this, so I could mix in different "voices" - but this is optional).

Opinions/votes

A while back, it was agreed that only non-commercial sites would be linked to on UAE community blog. (Obviously Google ads etc are no problem - just not actual business sites).

I received the following site for submission and I think it's fine, but I just wanted to run it past people here in the spirit of democracy:

Computer Consultant - despite the title, the writer appears to be blogging about tech issues in general, and not specifically promoting his business or services.

Assuming no objections, it will be added to the General Blogroll.

On a similar subject: opinion has been expressed that some blogs linked to on here contain offensive/racist content. While freedom of speech is generally encouraged, if there are a significant number of people objecting to a specific blog who make their views known (either in comments or a new blog post here, or privately to me by email) then we will open up discussion about removing those links.

Handbook for bloggers and "cyber-dissidents"

Reporters Without Borders has published a blogging handbook to help bloggers protect themselves from recrimination and censorship:

"Reporters Without Borders has produced this handbook to help them, with handy tips and technical advice on how to to remain anonymous and to get round censorship, by choosing the most suitable method for each situation. It also explains how to set up and make the most of a blog, to publicise it (getting it picked up efficiently by search-engines) and to establish its credibility through observing basic ethical and journalistic principles."

It can be bought from bookshops for Eu10, or accessed/downloaded for free online at this page. It is available in English, French, Chinese, Arabic and Persian.

As a disclaimer, it should be observed that some of the information in this guide contravenes UAE law, which UAE community blog does not advocate. However much of the general advice in the guide is both legally acceptable and relevant, such as how to set up a blog, tips on effective writing, ethical guidelines, and information on publicising your blog.

The refugees

There is one aspect of this expat situation that is not taken into account. That is of the religious refugees. There are many, many who come to UAE as well as other Muslim countries not to make money but to hear the call to prayer (Adhan) five times aday, to wear those "oppressive" black cloaks (abayahs) to feel free in niqab, and to learn the dreaded language of Arabic, and to recite that "dangerous book" the Quran. Because in those free democracies, their presence is a nuisance. Thus they are harassed, called names, remain jobless, are forced out of universities, or therir families and friend just don't understand how they could have fallen so low.

And now as the disease of the west has spread like sars, even in this country those who want to practice this way of life, be they local or expat have to be on their best behaviour or they may be, sat down and shut up.

21 September, 2005

Followup: Two-year sentence for rape gives wrong signal, says lawyer

Link to Gulf News article.

A recent post here in our community raised the question of whether a rape sentence was too light. The article provides some insight into the role judges in the UAE have in setting sentences, and we learn that prosecutors can appeal a sentence.

The varied opinions of several persons are reported in the article. Here's one that disappointed me (r.e., middle paragraph):

Dr Fatma Mohammad Al Khumeiri, Head of Pathology at the Department of Forensic Medicine at Dubai police, said: "I cannot comment on the judgment. The judge must have seen different circumstances.

"However, I haven't seen any true rape cases. It is a rare crime in Dubai. I have seen many women claiming that they have been raped. Such incidents have happened with the victim's consent. In general, a rapist is considered socially sick and needs rehabilitation."

Dr Al Khumeiri described the UAE law as adequate in terms of sentencing rapists.

"I'm not sexist" - yes, you are - AND misinformed AND deluded

I’m not sexist - but still say women can’t drive

This letter is regarding the criticism I have been receiving since writing about women being bad drivers. I am not judging female drivers by keeping one incident in mind, as the list is very long.

First of all they drive or should I say they stroll in the overtaking lane without glancing in their mirror.

I agree with one writer saying women are rarely involved in accidents, well if you note women drivers are out numbered so densely by men drivers hence making it a one-sided show.

Keeping in mind the ratio in a day if two ladies are involved in an accident consider it as a catastrophe.

I didn’t seem to understand the logic in Christine Sheppard’s letter as she says, ‘the reason female drivers don’t take accidents lightly because they respect and value their fellow road user, so you think we don’t value any life what so ever.”

Reality check ladies. The reason female drivers are worse than male drivers is simply because male drivers (not all) always keeps a calm head and knows what he is doing behind the wheel.

I am not a sexist or a hypocrite just a person who wants the roads of UAE be a bit safer and traffic free. I apologise if I offended any one.


What a complete and utter tit.

The fact that women in countries worldwide get cheaper insurance than men ought to give this cretin a clue.

The sooner a (male!) driver rearends some sense into him the better.

20 September, 2005

Smoking and its "Non"

No Smoking apparently is the new religion that binds people. My frustration stems from the total inconsideration of smokers' rights. Mainly at the Dubai Technology & Media Freezone Authority.

Why? Well it is now an official no smoking environment in the buildings i.e. one cannot even smoke during their lunch break and one must leave the premises to go smoke outside the building.I am all for not smoking in offices, but not in cafes nor restaurants!?!

My colleagues' argument is that it harms others too; driving kills more people annually than smoking! I don't see that banned! Especially driving in the UAE.

People speak of the rights of non-smokers. How about the rights of smokers. If non-smokers wanted fresh air why can't they go outside? I mean why polute the environment, rather have the smoking indoors with appropriate ventillation and filters. This way the harmful smoke is filtered and the environment won't be polluted nor will others be harmed.

This reminded me of the regulations in Ontario, Canada where smoking is banned in all buildings including clubs and bars, so most Ottawans drive to Hull, Quebec to go clubbing as it is permitted to smoke in clubs over there!

Alcohol kills and harms others, I don't see that banned anywhere (some drunks do lose control of their senses and cause harm).

Advanced nations kill, I don't see anyone stopping them.When are we going to wake up to all the hype that we are sold for the sake of distraction. Till when are smokers going to keep being made to feel guilty, show me ONE Adult without a vice.

Smoking kills, yeah well ignorance kills, stupidity kills, driving kills, the sun kills, salt kills, sugar kills, coffee kills, food kills, water kills, air kills.EVERYTHING thing KILLS in excess.

Another Ode to a Cigarette

pass me our breath
Let my mind rush
In a fervent hush
As I write you,

burn, for your life is in your embers
A silent glow
Of red, white, and grey
As I take you,

Come through and fill me
And hurry! As you thrill me
Surround me with your aroma
As I breathe you,

Crushed, slowly but surely
Between my forefinger and thumb
In your own suffocation
You lie numb
As I kill you,

A temporary existence, of a similar pleasure
In a short need of your breath against mine
Not temporary
As I want you,


Circa May 2005

19 September, 2005

Dubai to have world's largest cruise ship

Link

Because they so obviously won't print it...

Dear Khaleej Times,

Please stop continually describing yourself as "Your Favourite No 1 newspaper".

You are not my favourite UAE newspaper by any measure: rather something I only read when all other material is exhausted, including the Arabic papers which I can't even understand.

You are also not the "No 1" newspaper here. I note from your website that your circulation is 87,000, whereas the Gulf News reports a circulation of 91,000.

I look forward to the prompt removal of this mendacious and boastful phrase from your paper.

Yours sincerely,

JJ
Jumeirah

Suggestion from strangeloops

Excellent suggestion from strangeloops in their latest blog entry:

"If we’re going to complain, let’s try to elevate it to an artform. Let’s try to be more creative, more subtle, more constructive and less hurtful."

It would certainly make many blogs more readable and interesting. Perhaps we'll soon see some exquisitely written "poetry of moan and whinge".

UAEU mathematics department is empty of male students

Khaleej Times report: (quoting)

The UAE University (UAEU) has decided not to accept new male students in the Department of Mathematical Science of the Science College, as there are just three students in this division.

Dr Mohammed Ali Al Azzab, Deputy Dean at the College of Science said that the UAEU stopped accepting male students until such time that the needs of the UAE job market for mathematics graduates are studied. He pointed out that local students have refrained from applying to this branch because there are no specific openings for mathematics graduates.

"Most of math graduates work as teachers whether in government or private schools but teaching is not an attractive job for locals," noted Dr Al Azzab.

The Department of Mathematics at the UAEU has only 200 female students and last year, only 10 male students graduated from it to face an uncertain future.

Writing up urban legends as news is lazy reporting

Police dismiss 'dead baby' drug video
A senior law official has rubbished rumours that drugs are being smuggled in baby’s bodies.

Story here.

Urban legend about ready to celebrate its 20th birthday here.

The Caring Face of Abu Dhabi’s Oil Companies

The oil and gas operating companies which make up the Abu Dhabi National Oil company really do need to work on their customer service.

Calling the front desk of these major oil and gas companies would often be the stuff of comedy, were they not major oil and gas companies. It is not uncommon for the phone to go unanswered when you call the main switchboard, the call ending with a helpful message telling you there is no answer. Or you get the engaged tone, as if you've called your friend and his teenage sister is hogging the line. Either way, this is pretty poor for any company, never mind the headquarters of a national oil and gas company on which a good portion of the nation's prosperity relies. Try calling the main switchboard of Shell in The Hague during business hours and see if you get an answer.

Sometimes you don't even get this far. I called one of the national operating companies this morning, on the main switchboard number displayed on their website, to find myself connected to a fax machine.

Getting your call answered is only a minor hurdle, however. Things are not usually straightforward from thereon. For starters, the call - at the main switchboard in the headquarters of a national oil and gas company - is often answered with:

"Ullo"

In fact, this seems to be the standard method of answering a call from almost every telephone in the organisation. When you have made your request to the main switchboard, there is no "Just connecting you now, sir" confirmation, just an abrubt change in sound on the line. And where they actually connect you to is a lottery in itself. Asking the main switchboard to put me through to the Commercial Department has landed me in the Mail Room on several occasions, where the helpful mailing clerk has suggested I try the main switchboard if I want the Commercial Department. It usually takes about 10-15 minutes of being bounced around between unanswered phones and unhelpful employees before you actually get to somebody who might know a person who can help you. Once you find such a person, you cling to their direct number for dear life.

Visiting in person isn't much better. The receptionists vary between operating companies, and some are indeed pretty good. Others, however, are on their mobile to a mate when you approach the reception desk, and if they don't ignore you entirely they attempt to find out what you want whilst continuing their conversation. They are also not too good at listening. When you visit a company, you get a slip of paper with the person's name and location on which forms part of your visitor's pass. Half the time I end up with a stranger's name on the slip of paper, whose name may or may not have vaguely resembled the chap I was going to meet. Which then leaves me with the problem that I do not know his location, and have to ask around. This leads to more hilarity as people who sit next door to the chap I'm trying to visit deny all knowledge of his existence, or read the incorrect name on my visitor pass and tell me I'm on the wrong floor.

In short, it is an utter shambles. It really needs to be sorted out.

18 September, 2005

Sharing the Dream

I bought tickets to see "The Dream" today, the locally-made movie about Emarati culture. My wife and I entered the theatre, and made two important observations:

1. The room was completely empty, except for the two of us.
2. The movie was in Arabic, with NO SUBTITLES.

Could there be a connection between the two?
I'm very, very disappointed. There is no shortage of young Emaratis who speak perfect English, not to mention all the other bilingual Arabs of the city. Surely it could have been subtitled for just a few Dirhams more.

Did it cross anybody's mind that non-Arabs might be interested in seeing it?

World's largest carpet

Of course it has to be "world's largest" :-)
The Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque, opening here in early 2007, will have the world's largest carpet, an official said on Saturday.

It's 5700 square meters and will use up 45 tonnes of wool and cotton - how would you like to take that outside for a good spring cleaning?

17 September, 2005

Contact help - BSAk Rants

I just found this interesting UAE blog, BSAk Rants, which will be added to the Blogroll.

However I can't see a way to invite the writer(s) to this place, as there's no email and comments appear to be turned off.

If anyone knows of a way to contact them, do email me - or if it's a friend of yours, do email them first to get their permission. Obviously please don't "out" the person or anything - UAE community is very much about respecting privacy!

16 September, 2005

Censorship

Gulf News recently wrote an article about a report claiming that "the UAE's policy of blocking offensive websites is strongly supported by the country's residents." The footnotes of the report in question said that "60% of [Etisalat's] 14,000 domestic subscribers [responding to questions in a poll] favored retaining filtering." The source for that statement was the Ministry of Information. One of the ministry's other jobs, coincidentally, is to block access to websites it considers "inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates."

An unscientific poll of 30 people I once conducted here suggested a distinct lack of support for censorship, a finding that has been consistent with anecdotal evidence I have come across. However, I would like to see the opinions of a slightly broader spectrum of Internet users in the country before I judge the truth of the statement on support for censorship.

With that in mind, I would be grateful if you, the bloggers of the UAE, could write about your views on the following:
1) How often, if ever, have you had trouble accessing material you would consider legitimate to view?
2) Do you support the current degree of censorship of the Internet? That is, do you feel it is just about right? Do you think it should be stricter? Less strict? Should it be done away with altogether?
3) What would you think of a system in which individual users got to choose whether they wanted their access to the net censored, as opposed to the current one where everyone's access to certain sites is blocked?

I'd also like to remind all of you to keep any discussion civil, and to remember and respect the boundaries of the UAE.

Mother of the nation

Anyone remember Papermoon and their Sheikh Zayed song?

First, it turns out that they are Austrian, not German.

Second, it transpires that they have also written a song for Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak. Sadly no demo or lyrics are online, but here is a sample:

Mother of the nation
You're a light that shines on me
Mother of the nation
You're the wind beneath our wings
All your lifetime you would care for all of us
Like for your family

[...]

As the mother of the nation we will praise you
Straight from the heart
As the mother for us all we celebrate you
You shine like a star

For your loving, and for your endless care
When someone needed you, your helping hand was there
When someone needs you, your helping hand is there
Mother


It's high time some quality tribute songs were written by UAEans.

15 September, 2005

Evacuating UAE=nightmare?

When I was reading about the recent catastrophe exercise at the Dubai airport, I thought back on the Katrina disaster in the US and what's been said about the failures to evacuate enough people out of the path of the hurricane. Could you even imagine evacuating Adu Dhabi or Dubai in the event of a natural disaster of that magnitude? We live in Abu Dhabi and I imagine that we'd be best off ditching everything and trying to swim to the mainland. There's only two bridges tying AD to the mainland so driving off the island is probably out of the question.

Camel Power

To everyone stuck in Dubai for the weekend, there is method to the madness. According to the Khaleej Tribune:

An angry mob of motorists were forced to turn back from Sheikh Zayed road yesterday as three thousand camels gathered on the highway to stage a sit-in. They have blocked all traffic from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, since Wednesday 19:00. According to their spokescamelperson, “We demand compensation for being forced out of the transport market by foreign imports from Japan.”

I’m thinking compensation is unlikely, and the camels are just taking advantage of the media attention to state their case:

“We have been providing environment-friendly transport for millennia, and our total cost of ownership does not fluctuate with the oil market. With a top speed of 30 km/h, children can drive us, and our collision fatality rates approach zero. Heck, we even generate our own replacement models for free, if you’ll just give us a chance.”
While city officials negotiate, police are doing the needful and advising motirists to take Emirates road and be prepared for delays.


The campaign seems to be working, judging from this photo on the Religious Policeman’s blog.

Typo of the day

Link to Khaleej Times article

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Reverse Swing

A business delegation led by the Dubai's Department of Tourism and Marketing conducted a Business Roadshow 2005 in Hyderabad on Wednesday.

The third in a series of five city roadshows, it aims to acclimatise Indian businesses to the opportunities available in the free zones in Dubai and thereby attract investment.

The delegation comprises senior representatives from various government organisations that include Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dubai Silicon Oasis, Dubai Outsource Zone, Dubai Ports, Customs & Zone Corporation (JAFZA-Dubai Business Hub) and Emirates, the national carrier.

Speaking to mediapersons, Khalifa Ali Buamaim, manager (overseas promotion), DTCM, said, "The Business Roadshow 2005 started in Delhi with an MoU signed between the DTCM and the Confederation of Indian Industry that will bridge any existing gaps and assist Indian companies seeking to invest in Dubai."

James Adams, marketing communications manager, Dubai Silicon Oasis, said, "The DSO is targeting companies that fit into the semi-conductor supply chain. At the front-end, we are looking for companies into electronic design automation tools for end-user applications like mobile, PCs, plasma TVs and at the back-end looking for application companies that are interested in manufacturing."

The delegation seeks to address 1,100 key organisations from five cities – Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mumbai – and from various sectors such as IT, BPO, FMCG, pharma, aviation, logistics and gem and jewellery.

Rapist Gets 2 Years For Bad Behaviour!

Article in Gulf News: A drunken UAE national has been jailed for 2 years for kidnapping an 18-year old Pakistani girl and raping her five times. Simply appalling!

A young girl's life is ruined and he only gets 2 years? That's like a slap on the wrist and "Don't do it again!" I believe in the UAE justice system, but news like this really makes my blood boil! I don't think sentences for rape cases are lax, but they are biased. The situation, and the court sentence, would have been very different if:
1. Subcontinent expat kidnaps and rapes UAE national
2. UAE national kidnaps and rapes Western expat
and so on...

A crime is a crime no matter where it happens. Race, creed and nationality should never be a criteria in sentencing criminals. This is great dilemma for the country's justice system, especially one that is promoting itself as a tourist destination, a business hub and prides itself as a safe and crime free nation.

---------edit: note from secretdubai----------
While everyone would agree that light sentences for rapists are inappropriate, or that nationality shoud never be an issue in sentencing, please remember that there are people of all nationalities posting here, including UAE nationals. Bear this in mind if you comment below, because if this becomes an Emirati-bashing discussion, it will be deleted.

We also don't have the full facts of this case. Nor - no matter how much anecdotal evidence you may have, or how many newspaper stories you have collected - do we have any firm evidence or research into whether the UAE judiciary discriminates between nationalities when sentencing.

Depressingly Familiar

Yet another pedestrian is killed on the roads in Dubai, this time an Aisha Mohammad Ebrahim, a 50-year-old Pakistani.

No doubt there were several factors involved, speed more than likely being one of them. Now I don't know the specifics of this incident to comment on it in particular, but as a more general observation it must be said that not only are the drivers in Dubai pretty daft, the actions of some pedestrians border on suicidal.

Anyone driving in Dubai for more than a day or two has had to slam on the brakes to avoid ploughing into somebody who has stepped out into the road with gay abandon, seemingly oblivious to the approaching traffic. These people seem to fall into two categories: the Stupid and the Arrogant. The Stupid do not even bother looking and step out into the road, normally when crossing a T-junction where they have failed to spot a car turning into the road they are attempting to cross. The Arrogant spot the car, but wander into the road anyway forcing the car to slow down or move over, a tactic which depends on the rather shaky assumption that the driver has spotted them and his brakes are working.

Then you get those who simply cannot judge speed and distance. Having believed they can make it across the road with a pushchair and four kids in tow before an oncoming car reaches them, they break into an ungainly sprint when they realise they have mistimed badly. For this inability to judge speed and distance, I blame a lack of playing cricket in their youth.

There are also those pedestrians who are not actually trying to cross a road, but are simply ambling along the tarmac as if they are on a quiet stroll in the Creek Park. This does not tend to happen on the main roads, but in the still busy minor roads this is all too common. Blaring the horn at such people usually generates a look of surprise as if they had witnessed the Second Coming, and an outrage akin to the wrath a father feels when he reads his teenage daughter's secret diary. It is not unusual for such pedestrians to carry out this bizarre activity at night whilst wearing dark clothing.

The death of Aisha Mohammad Ebrahim is tragic, and should not be trivialised. But any attempts to reduce the numbers of such incidents is going to take a concerted effort to educate pedestrians, not just drivers.

A revamp for Emirati

Emirati has redesigned his blog: formerly An Emirati's Thoughts, it's now called EmiRaTeS MeMoirS and comes with a brand new colour scheme.

He has also added a new blogger, Moona, to add "a bit more positivity and lightheartedness" - hopefully Moona will be a member here as well soon.

You can read more about his changes here.

'We are defending our identity and our being in this place'

7DAYS - Film asks questions

Quote:

This week the country's first full-length feature film goes on general release. Its makers hope it will help strengthen Emiratis' besieged sense of self in a land many worry is no longer their own.
. . .
"This building, it's a building in a UAE-style. But if you walk inside maybe you will be the only UAE man walking there, and that's very strange. After a while you will raise the question, who am I? Is it my country or am I a tourist?"
. . .
"I haven't made anything up, it already exists," Shaibani said, denying he was promoting a more liberal aesthetic for women. "Most women here are different..the story includes women who are free.”

Show times

14 September, 2005

Google's blogsearch - let the games begin!

I know this is a bit 'meta' in that it's another post about blogging, rather than blathering on about life in the sand, but this is just too geeky to resist.

Google has just launched its blog search engine and, unsurprisingly, it's a belter:


And because this is Google, there's all sorts of behind-the-scenes info crunching going on to serve up the most revelent links. So, before the actual search results are listed there is a short selection of "Related blogs" which Google deems to be...well, who knows? The most influential? Most traffic? Funniest?



As of this evening, Google's recommended reading for those searching for 'dubai' are:

- the dubai chronicles - The saga of Jeff Vergara living in the City of Gold. Presently living in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, unravel his journey throughout the city...
- Secret Dubai diary - Intrigue and adventure in the United Arab Emirates
- Dubai, US embassy medical examination - جراح زبردست و سرشناس ایرانی در سال...
- From Dubai directly to your heart - http://henseldogg.nomadlife.org/
- Dubai Daze - http://jumeirah.blogspot.com/

So there you go - a Top Five chart of Dubai blogs. Well, according to Google.

Shameless Plug

Hello all,

I'm a Brit expat who has been living in Dubai for about 15 months, prior to that I spent 8 months in Kuwait. I've been blogging nearly two and a half years at www.wetheundersigned.co.uk, but last week finally got round to updating my blog with a new name, new software, and a new direction: White Sun of the Desert is where I post from now.

I didn't realise the Dubai blogosphere (excuse the vomit-inducing term) was so established, and it was only yesterday that I came across the superb Secret Dubai Diary quite by chance, and this led me to what has been under my nose all along.

So, glad to be aboard and I look forward to reading and writing about Dubai on the web in future.

Dubai and the Asian Games

Over at LiveJournal's UAE community, a poster is asking for opinions on Dubai hosting the 2016 Asian games for a university project:

"I'm a university student in Singapore, and for one of my geography modules, we have to do a project on an Asian city that would be a good choice to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, and my groups has chosen Dubai. :) I was just wondering how local Dubai-ites would feel about this - whether all the development and crowds would be welcomed. I just need to know you think you would react if your city got chosen to host the olympics. Aside from the glory and the economic benefits, I need answers at a more individual level. How would you feel about all the problems that such a large influx of people into the country would bring? Do you think that Dubai is (or will be) capable of hosting such a large scale event in the next ten years? My research shows that it is planning to bid, but it hasn't officially been approved or something."

If anyone would like to contribute a view, do drop by there and reply, or if you don't have a LiveJournal login, just reply below.

Internet Filtering in the United Arab Emirates in 2004-2005 :: opennetinitiative

Link: Internet Filtering in the United Arab Emirates in 2004-2005

Link posted here for information and discussion by the UAE community blog writers and readers.

13 September, 2005

How Lame...

Wouldn't it be better to use the $5.5 billion, that is going into the (stupid) Falcon City project, on improving roads, law enforcement, education and healthcare?

Why do they think that it is necessary to build stuff that is (or had been) already built? Did they run out of "the tallest (input some crap here)" ideas?

I nearly puked from frustration when I read the paper on this project.

To those project people; "There's already an Eiffel Tower. It's in Paris. There's already a Great Wall. It's in China. Why don't you guys travel a bit and get educated?"

Life in these United Emirates blog

Just started my blog a couple of days ago. It's basically just my radicalized views on the society we live in here. Have wanted an outlet for my frustrations for ever, glad SDD got banned (temporarily) 'coz it brought this community to me attention.

I'm a 3rd generation UAE national but it can be hard to tell sometimes in my posts (i hope). Mid to late twenties, British educated (if that's any help) and generally argumentative and confrontational.

--------
Edit by secret dubai:
Here is a link to TDA's blog

Skype gobbled up by eBay

Ebay, the auction giant, has bought Skype for $2.6bn. Most of us love and use Skype to keep in touch with families and friends back home, and I hope eBay will keep it as a general-purpose VoIP tool, and not just make it another eBay software.

12 September, 2005

Secret Dubai comes to the attention of the New York Times

Link: Dubai Opens Door Wide to News Media, but Journalists Note a Catch :: NYT

The September 11th issue of the New York Times includes an article by Hassan M. Fattah on ambiguities surrounding journalists freedoms in the UAE. It's worth reading.

Our very own Secret Dubai comes in for a mention - quote:

The Internet is the most often censored; the Emirates' phone provider, Etisalat, uses an electronic filter for all Internet traffic and, the government says, blocks sites deemed prurient or troublesome. Pornography is certainly blocked, as are gambling and dating sites, according to a statement by Etisalat.
Image hosted by Photobucket.com
But the system has blocked material on other subjects, like alcohol and breast cancer. More controversially, content that verges on the political has also been blocked: Secret Dubai Diary, a quirky blog about Western expatriate life here, was blocked for weeks this summer, raising howls from the blogger community. Etisalat says users can appeal to have a block removed.

For almost a day in June, the Web site of The Times was blocked, possibly, the company said, because it contained words that activated the filter; Etisalat quickly unblocked the site after numerous complaints.

Etisalat cutting Al Shamil prices

Gulf News:
Etisalat has announced it is to cut the price of its broadband subscriptions.

The cuts of up to 46% for the Al Shamil home connection service are being brought in to accelerate the UAE’s broadband take, according to the telecom company.

Customers previously paying Dh450 per month for 1mb broadband under the old structure will now find their bill drops to Dh249. The price for a 512kb connection will drop from Dh250 to Dh189. [1Mb drops to Dh249 from Dh450, and 2Mb drops to Dh349 from Dh650]

The price cut is intended to ensure a total of at least 100,000 home-user broadband accounts by the end of the year said Abdulla Hashim, Senior Manager E-Company.
He said there will also be incentives for new subscribers worth up to 1,777dhs, including Siemens modem at 50% of market price.

The price-cut follows the announcement last week of a free upgrade in bandwidth for existing customers.

We've ordered but have yet to have our Al Shamil installed but this seems to be good news for the UAE. Now more people can afford broadband and more people can afford faster broadband. Or perhaps this is just a way of smoothing over all the upset feelings over the performance issues ;-)

11 September, 2005

How popular are these bars going to be?

"Workers in Dubai Media City have just three months to wait until the free zone begins to offer its first venue for out-of-hours socialising. In December, Radisson SAS will open the first hotel within the DMC campus, housing three restaurants and three bars, marking the end of a four-year ‘dry’ period for the media zone."

However, the outlets are reported to be:

• "Italian restaurant and a fusion diner with a 'vibrant and trendy' bar."
• "Mezzanine bar, which will serve Spanish tapas, will transform into a trendy nightspot in the evenings."
• "A rooftop terrace lounge with views of The Palm."

I'd like to know why the third one isn't going to be trendy. And, I can't help thinking an honest-to-goodness Irish Village style boozer would have gone down better.

More here.

Traffic spike

Media coverage - ie the Gulf News article that John posted - can give a noticeable traffic spike to your blog (John and Adnan should also have seen one on their blogs):

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

But more excitingly, this place got its first mention!

"An enhanced sense of community is apparent in new sites such as UAE community blog that combine contributions from several bloggers."

It doesn't seem to have affected traffic here, which is quite steady and healthy. You can see the typical "weekend dip" pattern - clearly most people log on from their office!

Feel free to dig around the stats to see who's coming here. You can also add a Sitemeter to your own blog, it's free, and easy because they have an auto-install feature for certain blog hosts, including Blogger/Blogspot.

10 September, 2005

More Blogs on Dubai Planet.. new logo?

I gave it some time before I continued to add more bloggers to Dubai Planet. I hope the folks who have been added have no objection -- if you do not want to be there, let me know so I can remove your feed from being tracked. If you are not there and want to be, sign up and let me know about it (request@dubaiplanet.net).

Now we need a proper logo. Anyone up for the task? Let's see just how artistic the lot of you are!

Bss & Brn in Al Ain: Fun with Google Maps

Brn's post provides a link to Google Maps (Beta) and gives tips on finding some local UAE landmarks. One further tip: the default is "map" which is not available here. Click on "satellite" to see the satellite imagery. Most of the photos appear to be several years old.

Other UAE forums

There are several interesting UAE web forums around, that often turn up interesting stories. Here are three I have found:

SkyscraperCity Forums - United Arab Emirates

British Expats.com - Middle East

Springs, Meadows & Lakes Community - Breaking News

If anyone has any others, please do post!

Internet problems?

I know I keep harping on and on about this, but is anyone else suffering with their internet connections today? Sites are taking forever to load (in theory, I'm on a 1MB line after the recent 'upgrade'), downloads are creeping, etc and so on.

Anyone else having problems or is it just me?

Blocking of site bolsters bonds among bloggers

Link to Gulf News story.

09 September, 2005

Compare and contrast

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Source: http://www.enterstageright.com/archive/articles/1204/1204sp.htm

The Sheikhs of South Park

Anyone seen these ads for Air Arabia? (Click the image for a bigger version).

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

I'm guessing from left-to-right:

1. Oman
2. Egypt
3. Dubai
4. Kuwait
5. Morocco (?)
6. Turkey? Iran? India/A Sikh?!

08 September, 2005

The blocking of Blogger photos

As many of you may know - but lucky people in the free zones may not! - all photos posted to Blogger.com are blocked. Visit photos.blogger.com to see what I mean: the entire subdomain is blocked by the proxy.

This means that if you use blogger.com photos in your post, most of us are just seeing blue ?s or red Xs, depending on the browser.

So two suggestions:

1. For posting photos here and in your journal (if you have a big Dubai viewship, which most of us probably do), use an alternative free hosting service such as Photobucket.

2. We should possibly ask Etisalat to unblock the photos. Most probably the link is blocked because of a few rogue "inappropriate" pictures - but that is true of any hosting service, including the now-unblocked Friendster. If anyone has any ideas how to go about this, please do comment below.

Etisalat does provide a Feedback form but it is unclear whether "please unblock!" is a complaint, comment or inquiry.

King of Bahrain



I was in Bahrain this week, the government there just opened a new golf course. This picture hangs at the main entrance and it's huge (8 by 6 feet). I am not good with art but isn't it awful?

Wadi Wurrayah

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Photo taken 1 Sep05.

The 2001 edition of UAE Off-Road Explorer describes Wadi Wurrayah this way:


one of the most popular places on the East Coast for picnickers and wadi bashers. The main pool [3 to 4m deep] and the 2.5m high waterfall that feeds it, are full of fresh water all year round. . . . at the time of writing the area was in an appalling state with a discouraging amount of litter and graffiti covering the rocks all around the pool.
I can report that nothing has changed. The photo above reveals the graffiti. The camera is more "kind" and not nearly so revealing of the litter around the pool and the bottom of the pool.

Untouched by man, Wurrayah would be a splendid place to visit. (Irony intended.) It is a place of great natural beauty - or, rather, it could be if man had more respect for nature. What is currently a national shame could be a national treasure to show off to visitors.

UPDATE: An excellent piece on the subject of litter in the UAE in Gulf News.

JC - http://emirateseconomist.blogspot.com

07 September, 2005

Dubai Planet

It is with great pleasure that I give you... Dubai Planet!

This is a place where all the UAE blogs will be shown so you can get your dose of UAE blogs in one place! It's still not officially up, as I still have to add the whole lot of known blogs into it.

If you would like to have your blog added, please create an account and send me the details of your blog to request@dubaiplanet.net. I would be more than happy to add it.

Let me guys know what you think.

Al Shamil "increased" bandwidth

As people may remember, Etisalat recently gave a free upgrade to Al Shamil broadband users.

Now I've turned my modem on and off, as instructed, and then I went to test things at:
Bandwidth Speed Test

My results on (what should now be) a 1mbps connection:

Communications 273.6 kilobits per second
Storage 33.4 kilobytes per second
1MB file download 30.7 seconds
Subjective rating Mediocre


To compare, I got a friend in Media City to take the test:

Communications 555.5 kilobits per second
Storage 67.8 kilobytes per second
1MB file download 15.1 seconds
Subjective rating Not bad


It would be interesting to see other people's results. The test is free and takes literally two-clicks and no more than 30 seconds (just remember to select that you're in the Middle East). Anyone who does it, please post your results below mentioning what speed you are supposed to have - 256/512/1mb/2mb - and whether you're in Tecom or outside.

Traffic Stats for GoodlookiN!





Just wanted to share my blog traffic details for the month of August. Country wise breakup is on the blog itself. Number of visitors from the UAE has over taken the ones from the US for the first time last month :-)

please click on the image to see a larger version of the graph.

06 September, 2005

Do we all agree?

While checking out the new blogs, I came across Pepped Web which is a commercial site.

I don't think we should allow any commercial activity whatsoever on this page. It would be disappointing to see anybody feeding off the energy of UAE bloggers for profit, unless they plan to share that profit with us.

Blogrolling back up!

And some changes: the Blogroll was getting so long and unwieldy it's now been split into two groups:

UAE blogs
Blogs specifically about the UAE:
- what life is like here for expats and locals
- news about the UAE
- UAE issues and opinions

General blogs
Blogs by UAE bloggers:
- personal content
- poetry and writing
- philosophy, world views
- community blogs (like this one!)

If anyone feels their blog is on the wrong list, do comment below - the whole thing was so confusing and time-consuming that there are very likely to be errors/omissions/duplications.

And largely thanks to pixel8 we have half a dozen new blogs on the list!

05 September, 2005

Blogrolling problems

For some very odd reason, the UAE Community Blogroll has stopped working - it was how all the links to other people's blogs were displayed in the right hand column.

I have logged in to Blogrolling.com but get weird Fatal Errors there and can't add links. All the existing links seem to have vanished. Even registering a new account got the same errors. Until it gets sorted out - an email has been sent to Blogrolling about the problem - a list of some of the links has been pasted into the sidebar. It doesn't yet have every single UAE blog on it, but you can access the full list at Bloglines.

Do let us know if anyone's UAE blog isn't on that Bloglines list, and also if there are any new UAE blogs around that should be added.

04 September, 2005

Black Eyed Peas and a radio funk up

If anyone out there is knocking around with the Black Eyed Peas while they are in town this week, could you let us know their reaction when they take time off from their busy schedule to listen to Emirates Radio 1?

The station seems to take offence to the word 'funk'. Sorry [twists baseball cap sideways], 'phunk'.

So we have the lovely Fergie (who looks a lot better since she divorced Prince Andy and went to Fat Fighers) crooning: "No, no, no, no; don't [blank] with my heart."

Needless bit of censorship? Don't let the phunkers get you down.

Saudi women blamed for 50% of Kingdom's traffic accidents :: GN

link

As always, the comments section is open.

UPDATE: Arab News has more.

Try not to use the F-word after reading this

Khaleej times:

Government to introduce liberal oil price regime
By a staff reporter

4 September 2005



ABU DHABI — The government is considering introducing a liberal oil prices regime within the next six months. According to local newspaper Al Khaleej report, oil-marketing companies approached the government, demanding 100 per cent increase in the oil prices in one shot, though the government approved only a 50 per cent rise in two phases.


Last week, a 31.5 per cent hike was announced. The remaining increase would be made in the second phase, beginning early next year.

The objective behind the increase in oil prices is to bail out the loss-incurring oil marketing companies, who have long been complaining on the price-widening differential of their cost of purchase and the retail price.

[Checks date - not April 1st. Hmmm]

"A monthly magazine celebrating the lives of famous dead celebrities is to be launched across the region by Corporate Publishing International, Campaign Middle East can reveal. Called Goodbye, the “niche” publication is expected to hit the streets from the start of next month, priced around AED10 (US$2.70).

More here.

03 September, 2005

Try not to faint with delight...

...but Etisalat, recently much-reviled for their abysmal handling of the cable outage and refusal to compensate users for severely impaired service, are offering what must be the least spectacular FREE OFFER! ever made:

Free Password Resetting
In addition, you may also reset your lost/forgotten Internet password for free by clicking on the Account Management button shown above on the menu bar.


Wow. Resetting a password for free.

We are so, so lucky to have the privilege of being customers of such an amazing telco as Etisalat. The thought of their monopoly ever being cracked makes me literally weep.

01 September, 2005

Hornet's nest of UAE consumer reaction :: Khaleej Times

link

I find it interesting what causes a stir among UAE consumers:

Moza Muhairi, a UAE national woman, said that although she considers herself fashionable, she felt out of style when she first travelled to Europe and came across some of the famous brands that she had never heard of in Dubai.

“Flipping through some fashion magazines there like Vogue and others, I found several pages featuring advertisements for products from designers such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Christian Dior and others. When I returned, I asked my friends if they knew where I could find Louis Vuitton bags in Dubai and it took us some time to locate the outlets where the designer products are being sold,” she said, adding that she just wanted to make a comparison of the prices of bags.“I was really surprised to find that the brand, although international, is hardly heard of here."
Your No. 1 favourite newspaper says its "piece in which many consumers blamed the distributors and agents of these brands for failing to turn customers into loyal followers of the products they market, has evoked a strong reaction from readers, mostly women aspiring for that touch of class and style."