30 March, 2008

Post-Races 2008

The Dubai World Cup this year was quite different to past experiences. Didn't have as much fun this year as the last couple. Got there late because of traffic. When we asked some people on duty at the blocked road entrances to the racecourse vicinity why we were not allowed to go right in, we were met with shoulder shrugs and a couple of incomprehensible mumbles. Great. We had friends accompanying us from abroad, and, trying to promote Dubai, when presented with the question "So...(would you leave your $$$ job overseas)...when are you moving to Dubai?" I wished I had some bodyguards to protect my little ears from the verbal backlash I had to endure!

Being forced to walk 20 mins to the main entrance when you've spent thousands to come to Dubai especially for the races and don't happen to have a Burj Al Arab chauffeur driven Rolls to take you there is out of order. My designer-label clad friends from overseas were not too happy. Thousands of people at the only 2 gates to the racecourse even at 7pm.

And, this year, taxis were not officially available upon exit. We had 'luxury coaches' to take us out of the desert and into the city, and those standing in the aisles had nothing to lean on, unlike what the upcoming Dubai Metro will offer...those swinging things on the ceiling that you can hold onto while involuntarily being swayed around.

I think the highlight of the night was not that America's top-rated horse won, but the fact that the football results were announced towards the end of the night. I heard "Scunthorpe". Quite a different review to my last Post-Races post.

It was a really fun night and I would recommend it for next year. Upon official approval, camping outside the night before might be a good alternative: after all, it's the desert.

Domain names in Arabic soon online

"The UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said it is co-hosting the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Regional Meeting in cooperation with ICANN. .........
A key topic to be discussed at the meeting which will take place in Dubai, on 1 - 3 April 2008 is the possibility of getting domain names in Arabic online and making them available to the public......." Source

29 March, 2008

UAE troops help win Afghan minds

"Troops from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been delivering humanitarian aid to their fellow Muslims and, on occasion, fighting their way out of Taleban ambushes. Though Jordanian forces have been carrying out some base security duties, the UAE's troops are the only Arab soldiers undertaking full-scale operations in the country.

Until now, their deployment has been kept so secret that not even their own countrymen knew they were here."

"We try to convince the people about the US, about British. They came here to give you peace" UAE Maj Ghanem al-Mazroui.

More here

28 March, 2008

How banks sell off your personal details

I'm sure you all have a story of your own on this subject. But it really starts to bother me big time! Over the last years I have been contacted numerous times by telephone sales people on my MOBILE, at any time during day or night and even including weekends. Whenever I complained to these companies' management, I eventually was always informed, that they had received my personal details from my bank! So much for the protection of personal data.Most banks here have a privacy policy, at least theoretically. Such as for example Citibank UAE:
SECURITY OF PERSONAL INFORMATIONThe security of personal information about you is our priority. We protect this information by maintaining physical, electronic, and procedural safeguards that meet applicable law. We train our employees in the proper handling of personal information. When we use other companies to provide services for us, we require them to protect the confidentiality of personal information they receive...yeah right. I am sick of my bank selling off my personal data. I think it should be illegal for that matter.

27 March, 2008

Get Steve Wozniak to visit Dubai

You may or may not know who Steve Wozniak is, but if you're a geek or an Apple fan I'm sure you do. He's the co-founder of Apple Inc and he's still an employee of Apple although it's more of a symbolic thing these days. We'd like to try to bring him to Dubai for a visit; to speak to interested users, to interact with the Apple community here, to see what Dubai is all about, etc. Join our efforts at http://wozindubai.com.

26 March, 2008

Your Child Is My Child, Let’s Protect His Future Now!

Justice Without Frontiers, the coordinator of the Lebanese Coalition for the ICC, has launched a campaign, entitled, “Your Child Is My Child, Let’s Protect His Future Now,” dedicated to the Lebanese people, and particularly to the Lebanese children, who have been devastated, disfigured, burned, and killed by Israeli weapons.

Justice Without Frontiers invites and urges all national, regional and international NGOs, to participate and support this campaign and support Lebanon’s accession to the Rome statute for the ICC by signing a petition and forwarding it to others.

Dubai Demo Camp

Check out Demo Camp Dubai. It seems like a very nice idea, people come along to a monthly get together and four people "demo" their idea. The idea can be most anything it seems which should mean there'll be good variety. Most recent Demo Camp was yesterday but I'll definitely look out for the next. On their site it's explained like this: "DemoCamp Dubai is a Dubai-based launch event for new products, technologies and companies, it’s all about people presenting their new stuff and people giving them feedback. It’s an effort to entice excitement around creating cool stuff, find great innovation wherever it occurs, identify market trends through the focus of the products coming to market, and expose everyone to new ideas and exciting opportunities."

Explosion & fire at Al Quoz

A fireworks factory in Al Quoz had an explosion around 7am, followed by a huge fire which at 9am the fire service is still fighting.

One person is reported killed and another injured. The story is still developing, so let's hope that no-one else has been hurt.


I'm afraid Civil Defence now say two people died, plus one seriously injured.

They're also saying "illegal fireworks factory". And that up to 100 warehouses/buildings are on fire or damaged.

Medical advice is to stay indoors because of the chemicals in the air.

"Hemaya" programme

" More than one million people clicked through the 'Hemaya' website (www.hemaya.ae) in only 25 days after it was launched by Dubai Police to boost continuing efforts to comabt drugs and raise awareness against addiction,......" WAM

3 days to go!

It's that time of year again - the world's richest horse race kicks off on 29th March, here in Dubai.

It's an event not to be missed - and, in my opinion, one of the 'most fun' on the city's social calendar.

Here is a post I wrote pre-races last year, and one post-event... My overall sentiments were echoed in letters to 7Days, the local paper, reflecting racegoers' experiences of the event. Here are extracts of responses to these letters:

Louis Cypher..."I would not be able to stand seeing this place turning into the kebab strewn streets of some down market area in the UK, this is Dubai and it needs to be protected from lo life chavs who give myself and every other law abiding Britsish expat a bad name, even if this means getting tough and kicking out offenders and making sure people know about it & closing down bars and clubs that repeat offenses such as under age drinking, discriminatation etc. You see there are people here who are just waiting for this kind of letter so they can launch an all out attack and turn it into something political instead of just focusing on the facts here,which is, drunken unsightly chavs causing trouble as they have no respect for themselves or others. Bad behaviour at home is one thing, being disrespectful in public ref points made in this letter is undefendable, such as the couple by the entrance fondling each other, this is a Muslim country for gods sake,look around you, understand the culture, take an interest, talk to people, talk to local people and get an idea of how your antics affect them and conversly us!. I am not sure how many people at the races came over especially and therefore had been tourists as I cannot imagine for one minute that they could have all been residents like myself and others on here as they surely would have known that this behaviour is greatly forbidden, if they did then this is again very disrespectful. Ladies dressing up and making the effort however should not be attacked just because they are not all size zeros and catwalk models. Respect the people & they will respect you - respect their culture and they will respect yours - Respect their country and they will in turn respect yours."

Homer Simpson..."I have a very low regard for chavness, as do most people, and it's sad to see them lowering the image of an entire country with their slobbish behaviour. Wasn't so long ago that Britishness was synonymous with impeccable manners and discretion after all. I just hope Dubai doesn't sell its dignity down the drain for the sake of high occupacy rates"

Reportedly, tickets for the public enclosure are sold out, as of yesterday.

25 March, 2008

At the gallop

Sheikh Mohammed is making waves Down Under after spending half a billion dollars on Australia's biggest horse breeding stud:

AUSTRALIAN horseracing's most lavish supporter, Bob Ingham, has sold the vast Woodlands Stud to the ruler of Dubai for more than $460 million.

Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the world's biggest owner of thoroughbreds, and the deal means he will dominate the breeding and racing of thoroughbreds in Australia through his Darley Stud.

Darley will take Woodlands' 1000 horses, two studs, a pre-training farm and racing stables in Sydney and Melbourne.

The deal is subject to approval by the Australian government which will take another month.

24 March, 2008

Dubai to join 'Earth Hour' blackout

The Gulf city state of Dubai is to join two dozen cities around the world later
this month in turning off the lights for one hour to raise awareness about
global warming. "Dubai is the first Arab city to declare its support for Earth
Hour" slated for March 29, said a statement on Tuesday by sponsors of the move
in Dubai, one of the seven members of the United Arab Emirates.
Residents in Dubai were urged to switch off all non-essential lights for one hour at 8:00 pm local time (1600 GMT) on the day "to send a message around the world that we have the power to take action against global warming."

read more here.

im just curious as to how people would define essential vs non essential. but here's a question. what would incentivise you to not "waste" - having to pay extra (as in the case of slab tariff introduced by dewa), or the thought that you were umm... contributing to the greater good of mankind... or saving the world... or something?

does the earth hour blackout (where you get to keep the essential lights on) mean anything to you?

Bad publicity for Brand Dubai

The jailing of Cat Le Huy for six weeks, before he was released when the case of drug possession was dropped, is still getting international media exposure.

Today The Times of London runs the story: "Endemol exec sent to Dubai jail after police find 'speck of dirt'

"Officials at Dubai airport claimed they had found 0.03 grams of hashish in the Endemol television executive’s bag...They accused him of possession — which would have led to a mandatory four-year prison sentence had he been convicted. After he spent six weeks in Dubai’s jails protesting his innocence, prosecutors dropped the case this month.

Mr Le Huy, 31, a German citizen living in London, claims that Dubai officials are paid a “bounty” for arresting drug offenders, a practice confirmed independently to The Times by sources who did not wish to be named.

'People shouldn’t go to Dubai until the laws change,' Mr Le Huy said. “They are running a risk. Even if you’re innocent and know about the laws, if they suspect you of anything, you run the risk of incarceration.'

His experience is common, according to Fair Trials International, a legal charity, which says that drug-related arrests have increased rapidly since 2006, when the laws changed in Dubai so that trace amounts of banned substances picked up by airport detection equipment were deemed to indicate possession.'

Dubai's laws, their implementation and the differences in sentence handed down for various offences are coming under more and more international scrutiny, and criticism. I won't talk about the human side of injustice, just the commercial implications. It's not helping us to get the 15 million tourists, and more, a year that so much of the economy's future is based on. The vast majority of people caught up in it and readers comments left with newspapers and websites say 'don't go to Dubai'.

Our new Justice Minister really needs to have a look at this with some urgency.

The full critical story is here.

Towards a World without Walls

Today's NZ Herald carries an interesting read penned by Mike Moore, a former Prime Minister of New Zealand with a longtime interest in Foreign Affairs and Overseas Trade. As well as being a prolific author, in 1998 he also decided to run for the post of Director General of the World Trade Organisation - a position that he won after a protracted contest, and which he held from 1999 to 2002.

His column, titled: Arab states on the frontline of progress - gives a summary of his business dealings in the Middle East.

Some of his statements include interesting information.

For instance, he writes about the discussions around the UAE creating a new currency. If they were to do this, it would rank 4th in the world behind the US$, the Euro€ and the Yen¥. That's no small-time impact on the balance of foreign currencies!

Other points that caught my attention:
~ if the Gulf Co-operation Council (the GCC - made up of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates) ever got their act together, it would be the seventh-largest economy in the developing world - twice the size of Turkey, South Africa, or Argentina. Its global savings are higher than China's, and its current account surplus on a par with China.

~ The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority is second only to the Bank of Japan in terms of assets.
~ The International Monetary Fund suggests infrastructure investment will reach $800 billion by 2010. On the respected index of economic freedom, the GCC is well ahead of Russia, China, and India. Half the GCC states score ahead of Italy.

~ Only 40 per cent of Dubai's income is now resource-based.
~ Dubai now enjoys more tourists than Egypt. (I don't know that "enjoys" would be the word that I would use to describe it!)

The article is an interesting read written by a man whose credentials and experience in Foreign Affairs and Overseas Trade make him an authority in this area.

Link to article
Mike's website - Towards a World without Walls

23 March, 2008

Du begins blocking

Du has gone and gotten itself a proxy page!

The page that has been blocked? Secret Dubai's blog! Congratulations!

Thanks to anonymous for tip and screenshot

(reportedly blogger/blogspot is now working on Du connections once again--except for Secret Dubai's blog)

latest "travel" guide for our fair city

Voice for Abused Women Upsets Dubai Patriarchy

Excellent article on Sharla Musabih in the New York Times.

She's a woman who is very familiar with conflict but it seems that the very people she is trying to help are (perhaps unknowingly or under bribes) being used against her.

*sarcasm* Great to see the esteemed Chief of Police remaining unbiased.
*end sarcasm*

If there wasn't a problem with violence against women, there would be no need for people like Sharla. Some people seriously need to get their heads out of the sand and face reality.

20 March, 2008

Two Evenings of Dance and Music

As part of the ongoing Season of Arts, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is delighted to invite you to two special dance and music events at DIFC, The Gate.
The famous Ornina Dance Band will enthrall audiences with performances of folk dances from across the Arab world. The performance will feature Bedouin, Syrian, Lebanese and Gulf folk dances. Location: The Gate; Date: 24th March; Time: 7.00pm - 7.30pm & 8.00pm - 8.30pm

The UAE Philharmonic Orchestra will perform a mix of classical, Arabic and popular music. The concert will start with exquisite Arabic-inspired pieces and will resume with the all-time favourite "Themes from 007 Movies". Location: The Gate; Date: 26th March; Time: 7.30pm - 9.00pm
The performances are part of the Season of Arts - a DIFC lifestyle celebration of all forms of artistic disciplines; from visual to performing and musical to interactive expressions.
Both performances are open to the public and are free of charge.

Secret Dubai diary by email

Since the mirror appears to be blocked, and I don't want to move it to a new blogspot domain (eg secretdubai2.blogspot) for fear of getting the entire blogspot domain banned, if you want to read my blog and can't, feel free to sign up via email using the form below:

I will put the (still unblocked) comments links on all new posts from now.

You can also try Google Reader to read my blog or any other blog.

19 March, 2008

Le-Huy on Al Wathba prison

Al Wathba prison has long been regarded as a bad prison (unforunately, uaeprison.com is against the moral, social, economic and ignorance-is-bliss values of the UAE, so anyone on Etisalat may aswell go stare at a wall for a few hours)

Recently Cat Le-Huy, who was arrested and subsequently pardoned for having 0.03 grams of hashish was pardoned and deported; but not before sharing a cell with DJ Grooverider for an amount of time in Al Wathba prison... His description is quite revealing.

"Mr Le-Huy was held in the airport detention facility in Dubai and later the Al Wathba prison where he shared a cell with Radio 1 DJ Grooverider, who was convicted to four years in jail for carrying a small amount of cannabis on February 19.

In both he met a large number of European residents, who also claim to have been wrongfully imprisoned, including three others from the Belsize and Swiss Cottage area.

"A very small percentage of them were guilty of trying to bring something across but by and large they were innocent. These people are sitting in a foreign prison and are losing things in their life like their jobs or mortgages. During the Dubai shopping festival we were getting about nine foreign nationals sent in every day.

"Most others weren't serious criminals, but one was a paedophile, which was particularly nasty. We had a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old put in the prison as well and they weren't kept separate from him. We took care of them but one night he kicked down the door of another guy's cell - it was pretty disturbing."

The men were also being held in unsanitary conditions, according to Mr Le-Huy, which made health problems a growing problem.

Mr Le-Huy continued: "There was a hepatitis and HIV scare at the detention centre.

"You get tested when you arrive and there were three men found positive, but it took the guards to sort out who they were and move them.

"There was also some drugging. One guy came in he was screaming all day and all night and kept everyone up. He would just lie in the middle of his urine and faeces. They put him in solitary but he got better and said he had been injected by guards.

"Another guy came in with the same thing - we fed him food and water through the bars, but he didn't improve.

"The bathrooms were absolutely filthy - the toilets were overflowing. There was a Salmonella outbreak, but the prison denied it was happening."

His final say on the situation sounds like a pretty good suggestion...
"Mr Le-Huy is now supporting the campaigns to free others he met there and hopes pressure will build on the country to change its legal system.

"You have to be level-headed about things," he said. "There will be cases of people wrongly imprisoned in any judicial system, but if you give an unbiased system, which allows representation, it will limit it. Dubai has a promising future if it can maintain its Islamic views, while also bringing in some sort of representative justice system. It has to realise what it is putting people through - something needs to change."

more here

18 March, 2008

Bye Bye Air Arabia

so after denying it for 10s of times.

Emirates Group announced that it is going to deliver a new baby.

lol @ bridge for love and interaction. I bet with my foot that there will not no love if Air Arabia wasn't there. Obviously Sharjah Airport took millions of passengers from Dubai Airport.

"Emirates welcomes this announcement, and any new Dubai airline operation. Dubai's Open Skies policy encourages the growth of air transport, which has and continues to contribute to the development of this city. The new airline, a low cost carrier, will complement the international air services already provided by Emirates. As Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates and Chairman of the new low-cost airline announced today, I can confirm that Emirates will extend its support to the new company, he said.

Link1, Link2

"Arabian Sands"

M.A. Film Production FZ-LLC announced the release of "Arabian Sands" for first time in celluloid in theatres in Dubai.
The film portrays the journey of a great European explorer with the nomadic camel-breeding Bedu in a harsh land where no thought of a world other than their own existed. No man can live this life and remain unchanged.
As the film represents U.A.E. and the Southern Arabia before the oil boom, we recommend you to see the film in order to get an insight of a heritage now almost disappeared and be part in the success of U.A.E.'s film industry.
The film is being shown in the Dubai theaters for a few days only. The film is in Arabic & English with corresponding subtitles and the duration is one and a half hours.

Art exhibition "Vibrations within" at Tashkeel

Hope this might be of interest to some Community Blog visitors.
Vibrations Within, the inaugural exhibition at Tashkeel, opens on Saturday 15 March, 2008 at 7 pm. A group exhibition, Vibrations Within features the work of twenty-one artists from more than ten different countries who are all living and working in the United Arab Emirates. Whilst many of these artists have exhibited extensively both here and internationally, for others it is the first public showing of their works, reflecting Tashkeel’s core aim to encourage and support artists and designers in the region, regardless of age, nationality or experience. 
Artists were invited to submit work in response to a given theme, in which they were asked to articulate their personal interpretation of the energy of change. Exhibited works range from paintings in oil and acrylic to recontextualized found objects.
“We are inevitably affected by our surroundings, absorbing inspiration by gaining knowledge from new environments and people. The spaces we occupy are also impacted by a multitude of changes that are imposed upon them, whether through natural or man-made forces. Yet, whilst these changes and influences may at times seem remorseless, even overwhelming, there is an innate rhythm, an almost unnoticeable vibration at the core of existence that remains constant, continually defining the character of the space it occupies.  We may not always be able to interpret these signals, or even be aware of them, and yet they affect who we are and how we live.”
Participating artists:
Ahmed al Marzouqi, Mark Pilkington, Alya Al Sanad, Najla Al Bassam, Colleen Quigley, Nivedita Saha, Debjani Bhardwaj, Noor Hamidaddin, Dina Khorchid, Reem Al Ghaith, Ginger Krieg Dosier/J Michael Dosier Rick Millar, Gita Meh, Sertac Tasdelen, Jalal Abuthina, Sheikha Bin Dhaher, Janet Bellotto, Stephen Copland/Meredith Brice Copland, Karima Al Shomely, Tim Kennedy, Latifa Saeed Al Falasi.
Exhibition dates: 15 March – 17 April 2008, Opening at 7 pm, Saturday 15 March
Opening times: 9 am – 9 pm.
Location: Tashkeel, Nad Al Shiba 1, Dubai (Next to Nad Al Shiba Clinic at the intersection of Road 20 and Road 5, Nad Al Shiba 1)

7days coverage of SD block

7days has some coverage of the secretdubai block including some choice quotes from the TRA...

"Secret Dubai Diary, one of the emirate's most popular blogs, has been shut down in a move that has upset the many thousands of its readers. The UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has decided to block secretdubai.blogspot.com, calling it, “a web site for slander, defamation and vilification against Dubai”.

The same site was blocked in 2005 for similar reasons. However, since laws to block web sites were not concrete then, the site was eventually unblocked. This time, the TRA says the content was more offensive.

TRA spokesman Rasheed Joumblatt told 7DAYS: “Many people contacted the TRA complaining about the offensive language and the lies that had been spread on the site, 'mutilating' their beautiful city and twisting facts to dishonour the development and progress of the city…

“The TRA browsed the web site and found that it is a site for slander, defamation and vilification against the city of Dubai… and UAE individuals and personalities.”

more here

17 March, 2008

Hard Rock Café To Close In Three Months

Apparently the land that the Hard Rock Café stands on has been sold to somebody who wants to build a skyscraper, and we know how desperately Dubai needs more of those. So yet another Dubai landmark will be pulled down. There's a Facebook Group. As I remarked on there:

What a shock! I remember when HRC was first built, and I thought 'what a crap location'. Now it's in the heart of New Dubai. I think I left Dubai at the right time: the powers that be have no idea how to build a city: they only know how to build buildings (well, some of them know how to build buildings). But cities are about much more than the buildings that they are made of: they're about soul and culture and character. Dammit.

Anyone can join this group: I wouldn't expect it to make a difference, but it would be nice to think that the authorities do take a bit of notice. Not that the evidence bears this out, of course: the Exiles and Country Club gone, Satwa and Safa Park under threat. Surely there must come a point where you stop throwing away the good stuff that you have and replacing it with tacky and soulless rubbish? Oh, sorry, this is Dubai.

St. Mary's Church...

Has anyone been to St. Mary's Church lately? I passed it by today on my way to a meeting in that area and saw the entire area barricaded and police cars at every entrance. You can't park anywhere near the area, and I'm guess you'll be frisked trying to enter.

Rumor has it that there was a bomb scare hence the extra protection. Can anyone confirm this or give a full story?


Stroobia va bientot demenager sur une plateforme qui n'est pas interdite aux Emirats...

Rien d'autre a dire sinon que c'est minable.

Instant Justice

I want to share an incident I saw today morning. One of my neighbors deflated tyres of the two cars which were parked in front of his house. I think he was kind enough to only show kindness to only one tyre. Why he did that? Because he has reserved four parking spaces for himself in front of his house gate although most of the times he parks his car inside & interestingly he only own a single vehicle.

I would like to point out the fact that only a couple of years ago you could park the car in any angle you want in our neighborhood but now many people who don't have the luxury of indoor parking struggle to find a vacant space.

Why I am posting this here? To highlight the fact that as the population of Dubai is growing, have you noticed any change in the attitude of people towards others? At least I have noticed that people have become more selfish, they lose tempers easily & hearts have become harder unlike before. Is this a price all "developed" countries also had to pay on their path towards economic "growth"?

Was he justified in his action? What would have been your action if you were in the place of the person who deflated the tyres, since I have explained the situation in the above paragraph. And how would you have felt if early in the morning on your way to work, if you were greeted by a deflated tyre?

16 March, 2008

blogger access problems?

Are any users located in freezones having difficult accessing blogger? (i.e. blogger not loading at all?)

EDIT: It may be that all Du/freezone internet users are unable to access blogger (ever since the secretdubai block); still waiting on more information, but have 3 users confirming a blank screen when trying to access blogspot/blogger.com


Can anyone tell me if they've travelled the road between Nizwa & Salalah, Oman? If so, can you remember if there were any petrol stations along the way? There's a big distance between Adam & the next town - Hayma - and from the map, there doesn't appear to be any filling stations in between in between!
Any help will be most appreciated.

The Fifth Bridge Has Been Named

The new bridge has been named Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Crossing.


There were some speculations about the name in one of the earlier posts in this blog.

14 March, 2008

EUR / USD 1.55

I haven't read anything worth linking to lately on depegging. What do you guys think, is this still going to happen or should I start looking for a job elsewhere? Any information, anyone?

13 March, 2008

Carnage Q

Is it just me (and Mars) - or anyone else think those cars in flames given the carnage on the 11th (see pictures on post below) quite puzzling? Am confused how several vehicles, caught fire? It seems they were up in flames on impact or something? The flames seem to be on the cars, and not spread across the highway - which should be the case perhaps given leaking petrol?

Am I missing something? Thoughts appreciated.

Interesting links of the day

Marketplace has two interesting features on Dubai;
The first: "For every Indian or Pakistani who decides to leave Dubai, for every Bangladeshi who figures their opportunites will be better at home, there are dozens or hundreds of others who'll gladly replace them. Scott Tong met one of them in Manila."

The second: "Falcons hold a special place in the United Arab Emirates, so it's probably no surprise that they have a hospital especially for their care. Kai Ryssdal has more."
(Unfortunately the video featured in the falconry piece has been declared against the moral, social and cultural values of the UAE)

They also have a number of other interesting features on the UAE in their archives

In other news, apparently someone in the UAE has found a spare 2 million pounds to get a private dance from Britney Spears

12 March, 2008

Dubai Arch Bridge meets with approval

Take a look at this graphic. It's New York Magazine's "Approval Matrix". Dubai's arch bridge ranks very high in brilliance and high brow-ness.

'Arabic has been confirmed as the official language of UAE federal authorities'

So much for Arabic being the official language if they can't spell the country's capital right. When will the Emaratis say 'enough!'!!

This photo was sent to me by email today……… heads should roll.... people need to respect the country and the language.... No more La Hoya Bays and No more westren names.... Arabic names for projects in an Arab country.... these are baiscs... Sign boards even for shops should be frist approved as many are misspelled in Arabic before being displayed to the public.

Taking the bus

My car has been in the shop for a week. During that time, I have been getting a ride with one of my co-workers from Dubi Internet City all the way back to the Burjuman area. Last Thursday, he had other plans, so I thought I would just take a taxi. After 40 minutes of waiting, I decided to take the bus. I figured, they got new buses now, preparing for the Metro.. why not?

So, I walked over to the bus stop, saw the first bus, hopped in. Okay, squeezed in. I have to admit that I drive a fully loaded BMW 530, which would make me a lot more susceptible to discomfort. However, this experience is far worse than I had expected.

The A/C was not on. The bus quickly filled up to its maximum (people standing without seats). I started sweating, so I quickly took off my jacket and loosened my tie. Yes, I was an odd-ball in the bus. Then the stink started sinking in. Even if the passengers wouldn't have normally had such strong body odors, the lack of air circulation and cool air would have induced it anyway.

The seats are terribly uncomfortable. My ass was numb within 10 minutes. It could be that I have been spoiled with my leather seats, but I do consider myself a practical man.. I saw the bus is a mode of transport. I was willing to be inconvenienced.

The windows are tinted, thanks to the advertisements on the bus, so I can hardly tell where we are. I didn't get off until the bus reached the central station. I got out, lit up a cigarette.. breathed the fresh air (the weather was spectacular that day).. and hailed the first taxi I saw.

If I could go back in time, would I have waited longer for a taxi or taken the bus? I would have taken the bus. Would I take the bus again, knowing these conditions? Not likely. I really hope that this is not how it's going to be when the Metro arrives. I want to use public transportation. I am tired of driving. RTA, quit your self-congratulatory bull, and increase the buses so we are not packed like sardines. Fix the A/C's in your buses (ironically, that is why my car was in the shop!).

no more salivation

"DUBAI, 11 March 2008 — Authorities in Dubai have launched a major cleanliness campaign that, among other measures, imposes fines of up to 500 dirhams for spitting in public places or littering.

As part of emirate-wide efforts to make the streets and countryside cleaner, authorities have begun a campaign to raise awareness of recent changes to municipal laws, which includes a fine of up to 10,000 dirhams for septic truck drivers who dump wastewater illegally. Truck drivers found dumping other trash anywhere besides in designated waste-disposal areas could face fines of up to 50,000 dirhams. Vehicles used to dump waste could also be impounded and the owners of the vehicles could face losing their business licenses."

more here

Continuing Medical Education in UAE – Fraud Alert

Please be aware and make your employees aware of dramatic increase in illegal CME Accreditations flipping throughout the Arabic Gulf countries. The scam involves hospitals and medical establishments posing as “International CME Accreditations” – offering purchase Seal of Accreditation from USA. The scam is most prevalent in new hospitals and high-end medical establishments, particularly in UAE and Saudi Arabia by American Academy of Continuing Medical Education (AACME).


11 March, 2008

11 March Melee

Not to tout my own horn, but I've posted a narrative of the tragic events on the highway today--particularly the Al Rabha incidents. It's not suitable to post on the community blog, but some readers may like to read this narrative account.


Hot off the email - photos of the carnage this morning.

NPR's Marketplace comes to Dubai

Marketplace, a business/economics program of the U.S. National Public Radio is in Dubai this week. Here are some of the programs it's done already:

Environmental costs of spinning sand into gold
The real Emiratis
Americans in Dubai
The dream of Dubai
It all began along a creek in the desert
Book club's ex-pats tell Dubai story

Besides audio, some of the stories have transcripts. There's also some video episodes and still images.

It's part of a larger series Marketplace is doing called The Middle East @ Work. More stories from Dubai are to come.

Cairo also figures prominently from earlier in the series.

secretdubai blocked (again)

It would appear Etisalat has blocked the secret dubai blog again.

Eyewitness Account of SZR Mayhem

Anyone traveling from AD to Dubai this morning will probably have been affected. Apparently there was a huge multi-car accident, including burning cars, on the SZR Dubai bound, near the AD/Dubai border (Ghantoot exit). I didn't see this one, but reports mentioned 30-60 cars involved. Can anyone confirm? That would have happened around 7:00 a.m.

I wasn't able to get near there due to the several accidents on the same highway some 40-50 kilometers behind the Ghantoot accident. Incredibly, this one involved another 50-60 cars although none burning. In my case I was making my way through the dense fog after 7 am, Dubai bound from Abu Dhabi. It was the densest I've ever seen and found myself in places unable to drive any more than 60 kph. Passing Shahama and after the exit to Al Rabha (near Zayed Military City) I hit the first tailback which eventually led me past 6-8 wrecked cars, some still blocking lanes, others already on side of the road. Immediately past this the tailback resumed which led me another 2 km down the highway only to find this time 50-60 wrecked cars littering both sides of the highway! Just past that the tailback resumed, this time (and after over an hour in wait) I eventually made my way another kilometer ahead past another 12-15 wrecked cars. This was 2-3 kilometers before the Taweela interchange. Once at the interchange all Dubai bound traffic was forced to exit and not allowed to take any road in the Dubai direction--not SZR or any of the service roads on either side of the highway.

On the radio one only hears details about the Ghantoot pile up. That would mean the 60-80 crashed cars I passed up near Al Rabha was still small fry compared to what must have happened at Ghantoot.

10 March, 2008

Just a click...

The Breast Cancer site is having trouble getting enough people to click on their site daily to meet their quota of donating at least one free mammogram a day to an underprivileged woman. It takes less than a minute to go to their site and click on 'donating a mammogram' for free (pink window in the middle).

This doesn't cost you a thing. Their corporate sponsors/advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate mammogram in exchange for advertising.

Here's the web site - please pass it along to people you know. Thanks.


Arabic declared as official language of the UAE

"Arabic has been confirmed as the official language of UAE federal authorities, the government announced on Sunday.

The move has been lauded by commentators who have campaigned to combat the growing use of English in government departments.

Ebtisam Al-Kitbi, professor of political science at UAE University told UAE daily Gulf News the decision would “enhance the presence of Arab speaking people in the labour market and restore the national identity”.

“To my knowledge, there is no nation that allows an invasion of foreign languages in government institutions the way we did in the UAE. The move will correct the imbalance,” she said.

“People [in other countries] use foreign languages, but you will never see them in the workplace other than their national languages. English is widely used in the government in the UAE and this is unacceptable,” she added."

more here

Saudi woman flouts driving ban on YouTube

A Saudi woman activist marked this year's International Women's Day by defying a ban on women driving in the ultra-conservative kingdom and posted a video of her act on YouTube.

"In September, more than 1,100 Saudi men and women signed a petition to King Abdullah urging him to lift the controversial ban on women driving in the oil-rich kingdom, which applies a strict form of Sharia (Islamic law).

The petition - a brainchild of Huwaidar and other activists - stressed that Islam does not put constraints on women such as the driving ban and points out that women already "drive in villages and remote rural areas."

A group of 47 women defied the ban on driving by roaming the streets of the capital Riyadh in 15 cars in November 1990. They were swiftly rounded up by police and penalised, while their male guardians were reprimanded.

The following year, a fatwa (religious edict) was issued by the then mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz, prohibiting women from driving cars. "

09 March, 2008

Dubai sets up Cultural and Arts Authority

WAMPublished: March 08, 2008, 01:09

Dubai: His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in his capacity as Ruler of Dubai, has issued a decree creating a Cultural and Art Authority in Dubai.

The Authority will be a public body affiliated to Dubai Executive Council.
The aim of the authority will be to enhance the international status of Dubai, which will participate in developing and forming the cultural and heritage scene of the 21st century in the region and around the globe.

Shaikh Mohammad also issued a decree appointing Shaikh Mayed Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum as chairman of the Authority's board of directors and Omar Mohammad Ahmad Bin Sulaiman as board member and managing director.

More Coverage

08 March, 2008

Arms dealer Viktor Bout nabbed

The doughy, broad-shouldered 41-year-old Russian who Thai police paraded before the press on Friday in an orange golf shirt is a monstrous example of entrepreneurial business acumen gone over to the dark side. He is believed to have supplied arms to the warring factions in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, as well as the perpetrators of some of the worst violence in Africa's interminable civil wars. Experts believe he has shipped AK-47s to every corner of the world. He even appears to have used U.S. airbases in Iraq in 2004 as part of his arms trafficking. He had a shadowy financial network stretching from Europe to Africa to the Middle East.
Amid one of his first big shipments — sending crates of fresh-cut South African gladiolas into the United Arab Emirates — Bout realized it was wasteful flying into Africa with empty planes. According to Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes and the Man Who Makes War Possible, a book on Bout written by Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun last year, Bout began to fill his Africa-bound aircraft with stockpiles of Soviet weapons to sell to some of Africa's most notorious regimes and rebel groups.

The Asian Tribune on the UAE connection:
During the period 1998 -2001 the Taliban regime in Afghanistan operated a major weapons procurement operation based at the Ariana Airline office in Sharjah. Much of the military hardware that the Taliban acquired through the Sharjah network was supplied by the infamous Russian arms dealer Victor Bout also known as the Merchant of Death. Victor Bout and his business associate Sanjivan Ruprah have supplied weapons and training to several West African rebel groups and are accused of involvement in the illicit diamond trade[8]. Victor Bout operated an air cargo service at the Sharjah airport known as Air Cess, which together with Ariana Airlines co-handled most of the military deliveries between Sharjah and Afghanistan[9]. It is estimated that the Sharjah network operated 3 to 4 flights daily between Sharjah and Kandahar transporting weapons and supplies to the Taliban[10]. During this period 17km away in Dubai, the LTTE also operated a cargo company known as Otharad Cargo, headed by Daya the younger sibling of Nithi a Canadian based member of the LTTE’s KP Unit. It is suspected that Otharad Cargo acquired several consignments of military hardware as part of consolidated purchase arrangements with the Taliban’s Sharjah network. It was also the function of Otharad Cargo to service the operations of the LTTE shipping fleet in the Gulf region. Officials of an Asian security agency believe Kumaran Pathmanadan (KP) head of the LTTE procurement unit (KP unit) traveled from Bangkok through Karachi to Kabul on 19 May 2001 and had meetings with Taliban officials on matters relating to the Sharjah network.
The Globe and Mail has this trenchant passage:
To Mr. Bout, it was all just business.

"Look, killing isn't about weapons. It's about the people who use them," he told The New York Times Magazine in an August, 2004[3?], interview. Described as the man whose network was "The McDonald's of arms trafficking," he added that to him, "arms is no different than pharmaceuticals."

The reporter who interviewed Mr. Bout for that article said yesterday that he anticipates the arrest will backfire. "He has a lot to say that will be deeply damaging to the way the world operates," said Peter Landesman, who spent 10 days in Moscow with the suspect in 2004[3?].

He said Mr. Bout recently got in touch with him to discuss a possible tell-all book. The writer added that just about every Western government, including the United States, was complicit in Mr. Bout's deals at some point or another. "He's doing our dirty work for us," Mr. Landesman said. "Who do you think his customers are? Where do you think he got these weapons? That he just pulled them down off trees?"
Here's the NYT Magazine article from August 2003.

Panic in the Sandpit

...The wasteland seems to begin almost immediately on leaving the boundaries of the modern metropolis of Abu Dhabi, its skyscrapers and luxury hotels giving way to a pancake-flat drabness of oil refineries, highways and five-winged power transformers marching across the landscape to bring life to a once lifeless land.

Just 40 years ago Abu Dhabi was nothing more than sand and Bedouin tents, until the visionary Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan began transforming his arid fishing village into a thriving Middle Eastern hub. He even tried to turn the land green by ordering the planting of 150 million trees.

Abu Dhabi is taking a more considered, arguably more cultured approach to the future than neighbouring Dubai. With impending civic projects from the likes of Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Frank Gehry and Jean Nouvel, this will be a city to watch in the next decade...

Whole article here

Looks like it's Abu Dhabi's turn for lyrical waxing, while Dubai, and the UAE as a whole, continue to get this kind of attention - at least in news sources out of the country.

I'm noticing more and more articles like this appearing - is it my imagination or are others seeing this too? I mean, they always used to be there, but there was a type of "balance" when articles like the Abu Dhabi one above would also appear about Dubai. Nowadays the Dubai articles seem to be a lot more serious and darker in subject matter.

Maybe it's an evolution process - a maturing city now needs to address the more ethical and social aspects of becoming an attractive entity - it can no longer hide behind the façade of world-record buildings and fantastic property developments.

What do you think?

Are more of these negative articles appearing because:
~ the UAE needs to grow up and really start to address these issues?
~ other countries are jealous of what's happening?
~ travel writers are no longer receiving free junkets to Dubai?
~ some other reason?

Do you think there's a correlation?

"Municipality says old vehicles should not be on roads" national newspaper link

"Rash overtaking main cause of accidents" national newspaper link

What d'ya think?

Keeping internet access safe from terror and danger

Gulf News has an interesting interview with an unnamed TRA spokesperson regarding the proxy; among the interesting information it has are the following paragraphs...

For starters the title of the article in Gulf News is in fact "Keeping internet access safe from terror and danger"

"Each of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Etisalat and du, are required by law to have a proxy programme where certain keywords are checked: sex, terrorism, dating, drugs, alcohol, pornography, and gambling, among others.

These keywords are mandatory by international laws in describing each and every single website."

Is anyone else aware of any international laws regarding keywords?

The final paragraph is quite interesting too...
"The big picture is to be developed and to be in the lead of this century. But knowledge and development doesn't mean ethic-free life or morale-free life. There are certain morals that the UAE government is obliged to protect."

04 March, 2008

Sin City (Dubai)

Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai

Marina Walk, Dubai

Just thought of sharing some new photos that I took recently...
Also check
http://blog.basilkhleif.com for more pics.

03 March, 2008

What a City!

For those not so familiar with Dubai, that's Safa Park in the foreground and the towering Burj Dubai. along with other towering edifices in the background.

02 March, 2008

British TV executive arrested at Dubai airport released

"Dubai: A British TV executive has been discharged of illegally bringing in and possessing 0.03 grams of hashish, Gulf News has learnt.

Dubai Public Prosecution dismissed the charges and released the suspect."

--more here

A (very) short interview with Sheikha Lubna

Todd Watson from Wall Street Market Research gets the shortest interview with Sheikha Lubna after her staff confuse him with editors from the Wall Street Journal.

Amusing story - read here.

Ah well - at least he got a hot towel and a fruit juice!

Rental Property - BOOM

Hello dear readers

What are your thoughts regarding the current rental situation for property- as opposed to advertised market rates in Dubai?

Apparently, there is a discrepancy between advertised rental rates and actual paid amounts for the same properties. Does this hold true, according to your experiences?

Bubble burst” is always a term related to a thriving property market – do you readers expect such a phenomenon in the local market, or is this just speculation?