26 December, 2009

Bahrain: World's Friendliest Country

The Middle East has long had a reputation for being one of the world's perennial trouble spots. But for expatriates, the tiny Persian Gulf county Bahrain ranks as one of the most welcoming places to work.

That's the surprising result of a new survey of 3,100 expatriates conducted by HSBC Bank ( HBC- news - people ). Bahrain ranked first in one key measure of how easy it is for expatriates to set up a new life for their families. It received high marks from expats who like the country's easy access to modern health care, decent and affordable housing, and network of social groups that expatriates can join.

Full story here.

23 December, 2009

All I want for Christmas is ... an extra 70%!

That's right - an extra 70% in my bank account at the end of each month would be most welcome. But as I was born in the wrong part of the world, and hold the wrong passport, all I can do is write a letter to Santa and hope! (Read the story here if you've been asleep for the past few days.)

However, my hard-working Emirati colleagues have been blessed already it seems, as they'll be receiving an enormous pay increase - without having to do any extra work to get it! Seeing as it's doubtful whether they do any work anyway, I don't suppose we'll see an increase in productivity, either. After all, 70% of not very much is ... well, not very much.

But I'm still wondering - will there be a 70% rise in Emirati absenteeism? Will they be drinking 70% more tea, and taking 70% more personal calls on their phones at work? And will those nice ladies at the Vehicle Registrations place be 70% more ineffective? One can only look forward to a whole range of possible surprises. Or not.

As one who has to jump through loads of hoops and fill in piles of paperwork to get even a 2% annual increase from my stingy federal employer, I feel I have a right to be peeved. But how do others feel - expats and locals? Please leave your thoughts below.

And any comments that comtain the yawning cliche "if you don't like it, go back home" will be automatically deleted, so don't waste your time. Those who actually try to justify the rewarding of inefficiency will be welcome.

21 December, 2009

Facebook... Big Brother again?

Can't access it. Not a computer issue or location issue. As far as I can tell Facebook access via Etisalat is down. Are they up to their block shenanigans again? Probably. I can confirm that it is possible to access Facebook in a roundabout way which I prefer not to elaborate on, so that suggests that there is no problem with Facebook itself.

Any New Dubai residents on the Du network care to comment? Are you guys still getting Facebook?

Fan pictures of Abu Dhabi 2009 FIFA Club World Cup

Last week was an action-packed one with Barcelona playing Estudiantes de la Plata of Argentina at the Sheikh Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi at the UAE 2009 FIFA Club World Cup.

Photobucket

While pictures of the players are all over the news, here are images of what it felt like to be among the fans and watch the game live...


Photobucket
Fans arrive all geared up for action in an Abu Dhabi public bus


Photobucket
Isn't that the sweetest fan - loyal RCA supporter!

Photobucket
The best seat in the house - view from the top

FIFA Club World Cup Final Abu Dhabi UAE
The one face that I will remember from my visit to the Abu Dhabi 2009 FIFA Club World Cup.

You are more than welcome to see more amazing fan pictures on my copywriter blog.

17 December, 2009

City Center opens in Las Vegas

"CityCenter" has opened in Las Vegas yesterday. No, not the CityCenter Mall as we know it in the region; rather the kind of one, where you go in, spend your money and usually get nothing much in return.
Further to the last post on this topic and after all the financial turmoil Dubai is going through, I find the timing and price tag of the project rather ironic. Not any less ironic is the title used in the Media "reviving sin city's economy".  Watch the Bloomberg video here.

See the firework on the opening night of the MGM Mirage  - Dubai World joint venture:

14 December, 2009

Scientologist in the UAE

As the gibber goes on about UAE culture, they oughta had the CID at the Sharjah book fair, last month. His, could be fake holiness, L. Ron Hubbard of Dianetics, the science of the mind that has Will Smith and Jada Pinkett looking all glassy-eyed has arrived in the Gulf and they are taking no prisioners.

Posing as two education institute, called Applied Scholastics and The Way to Happiness, they were raking it in at the Bookfair, as everyone wondered "how did they get in?" When approached some officials said the didn't know, others said they new, but kept mum, while others said, they do the same in Arabic. But in UAE, of course anything goes, and one day, this might mean in like those Africans in Mexico, who once ruled, our own Locals will be no more.

Abu Dhabi to the rescue

"The Government of Abu Dhabi has agreed to fund $10 billion to the Dubai Financial Support Fund that will be used to satisfy a series of upcoming obligations on Dubai World.

As a first action for the new fund, the Government of Dubai has authorized $4.1 billion to be used to pay the sukuk obligations that are due today."


That's from a WAM report, which you can read in full here.

10 December, 2009

"UAE urges developed nations to make carbon cuts"

"The UAE made waves at the Copenhagen climate talks yesterday by putting its name to a joint statement calling on developed countries to commit to deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
The document, which was also signed by Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Iceland, Singapore and Slovenia, is one of the strongest statements on climate change to come from an oil-producing nation.
Members of Opec, the petroleum exporters, have generally sought to downplay the issue of global warming.
......
The UAE has maintained that developing states should not be committed to obligatory emissions cuts, a position reiterated on Sunday by Dr Saad al Numeiri, one of 22 senior officials representing the UAE in Copenhagen.
As an oil-producer, the UAE would suffer economically from measures to reduce the world’s dependence on oil. But yesterday’s statement focused instead on the need to strengthen co-operation among the international community.
.......
Mari Luomi, a researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, said the statement represented a break with tradition for the UAE. “This is a significant departure from the Opec position, which the UAE has been inadvertently supporting. It is very bold in a way,” she said.
Opec, she said, has been “very vague” on what should be the maximum permissibly level of warming. The Saudi government has insisted on financial compensation for oil revenues lost due to measures to reduce the fossil fuel consumption of developed states."

___________________________

It's bewildering that the UAE would take such a stance. If a binding 'cap and trade' agreement for emissions gets endorsed by the Copenhagen conference, it may lead to declining consumption of oil world-wide.

It's a little counterintuitive for an oil-producing country to support such a move.

But it's also noteworthy that the UAE "maintained that developing states should not be committed to obligatory emissions cuts", which means that it'd only be limited to developed nations. In other words, it's business as usual for China and it'll continue to emit smoke like a chimney.

So, simply put, the final agreement will either be insignificant, or it will be stalled by developed nations.

Have a nice weekend.

The first Domino

Surprisingly our local newspapers seem to have missed this story yesterday. Never mind, we at the UAE community blog are happy to assist them with the dissemination of relevant news.

According to this report by Dow Jones Newswire (printed in the Wall Street Journal Asia online edition and picked up by Zawya.com), Istithmar World (Dubai World’s investment vehicle) defaulted on loan payments on a hotel investment in NYC in October, which led to a foreclosure auction a few days ago where they got $2 million for their equity in the property.

The whole thing is terribly complicated and involves ‘junior debt’ and ‘mezzanine financing’ etc. but this really just obfuscates the issue. Let’s ignore debts and defaults for a minute and simply look at the bottom line. Which, I think, is the whole point of investing after all.

According to the article, “[I]stithmar spent about $50 million in cash and borrowed $232 million to buy a 90% stake in the trophy hotel in October 2006. In June, Istithmar bought the remaining stake from UBS AG for about $4 million”.

So, Istithmar spent more than $50 million in cash and got back $2 million for their stake at the auction.
OK, someone will pick up the debt and with it, loads of negative equity because the value of the property is now less than half of what Istithmar (and their lenders) paid three years ago at the height of the market. But the bottomline is that Istithmar put more than $48 million in the sand in the space of three years. And this - involving New York City prime property and not, say, a reclaimed lump of sand in the the Persian Gulf - is quite an achievement for an investment firm. (You have to remember here that Istithmar means ‘investment’ in Arabic and not as you might think perhaps ‘reckless and shortsighted debt splurge’.)

As the saying goes: the money is in the buying. Clever investing means not to overpay.

The first Domino has fallen.

By the way, the report makes a mistake by muddling up Dubai World with Dubai Holding. Its closing paragraph states that “[D]ubai World is expected to sell some non-core assets including Central Park South landmark the Jumeirah Essex House..”
Jumeirah Group (which owns and manages Essex House) is of course part of Dubai Holding, Sheikh Mohammed’s personal investment holding company. It has nothing to do with Dubai World other than the name Dubai in it and the fact that ultimately one man controls everything.

Ehm, you can clearly see the difference...

08 December, 2009

Burning the candle at both ends

I read in the local press about a Dubai resident who is organizing a ‘candle light vigil’ on Umm Suqueim beach tonight to raise awareness for climate change. But actually, she doesn’t want to just light candles. What she really wants is to save the planet. The organizer encourages people to bring along families and friends. To save the planet or light candles; I’m not sure which.

I believe you’ll find that you don’t actually need candles on the beach next to Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the Burj Al Arab. The area is usually well lit by several thousands of metal halide floodlights of the hotel grounds, so ‘Hopenhagen’ won’t have trouble finding its way here.

But anyway you should go and help her light a candle. You know deep down that you are making a difference. For example to the small grocery on Beach road that sells candles.

And when you reach there please note that there is ample parking for your 4.8litre Range Rovers and 5.6litre Ford Exhibitions close by.

07 December, 2009

An honest start to keep Happy "happy"!


‘Happy to be in Dubai; I’ve a better life here’ – says Ms. Happy Bulosan (not her real name), a 22 year-old Filipina resident from Dubai. She and her name – Happy – represent the general state of mind of an estimated 2 million+ Filipinos working in the Middle East. Usually, whatever the time of the day or the place, if you come across a Filipino in the UAE / Middle East, you’d definitely find yourself being charmed by his/her good sense of simple humor, colorful, decent and stylish dress sense, and overall a “Happy-go-Lucky” attitude towards life in general.... (Read On)


For comments on the original post, CLICK HERE

06 December, 2009

What is Abu Dhabi's thinking?

He's back.

The man with his own UAE community blog category has added his voice to the speculation about what the Dubai default ways about relations between Abu Dhabi and Dubai:
The answer to this conundrum lies in both the past and the present, as an age-old rivalry has resurfaced that sees Dubai unwilling to part with its autonomy and come to the table. Dubai, after it broke away from the sheikhdom of Abu Dhabi in 1833, survived repeated attempts at reintegration only because of its peace treaties with Britain. Even in the 1940s, with Britain fully engaged in the second world war and less able to give attention to the region, there was an armed conflict between the two sheikhdoms. In 1979, just eight years after the UAE was formed, a constitutional crisis threatened to break the UAE apart, with Dubai resentful of increasing Abu Dhabi-led centralisation. It is remarkable that Dubai agreed to merge its armed forces - the Dubai Defence Force - into the federal military only in 1996.

In the light of this history of some tension, Abu Dhabi has taken an unexpectedly shrewd stance on the financial disaster. Its thinking appears to be that Dubai’s bad debts really are bad, and could well end up becoming black holes. Moreover, if Abu Dhabi gets involved now, then the lawsuits that will almost certainly be coming Dubai’s way may land on the desks of the federal government or even those of Abu Dhabi.

There is a deeper point. Sheikh Mohammed, his crown prince, and his top lieutenants are now all exposed as having long circumvented the truth; as a result, the ruling family has suffered a massive loss of legitimacy, both internationally and in the eyes of Dubai’s business elite and citizenry. Yet at the time of writing there have been no signs of humility; on the contrary, the ruler stated on 1 December that investors “do not understand anything”.
Read it all.

Christopher Davidson has not always been popular with either ruling family, but he's a favorite of the reporter looking for a quote.

04 December, 2009

Vote for Dubai in before and after contest

As we all know, the 2005 shot is so dated compared to today. Even so, take a look and compare it to the other eleven cities in the contest.

03 December, 2009

Family of murdered boy: 'Execute the killer'

Parents of four-year-old boy who was raped and killed seeks death for the murderer.








Dubai: Residents of Al Qusais were in shock over the gruesome rape and murder of a four-year-old Pakistani boy inside the toilet of a mosque where his father prays regularly.

The parents of Mousa - who was found dead on November 27 - said they do not want "diya" or blood money.

The father, Mukhtiar Ahmad Khuda, 30, a driver for Ahmad Eisa Ali General Trading, said that he will accept nothing less than capital punishment for the murderer. "I hope he gets executed," said Jamala Khatoun, Mousa's mother.

Police detained a Bahraini suspect, 30, who they said confessed during interrogation that he killed the boy after sexually assaulting him. He told police he had been drinking alcohol on the night before Eid.
 Read the whole article here. 

02 December, 2009

The Daily Show: United Arab Emirage

This has been flowing around twitter today:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
United Arab Emirage
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

30 November, 2009

Media Council to the Rescue!

You can count on British newspapers: After the shock, the ridicule. An image accompanying an article in the Sunday Times which shows Sheikh Mohammed ‘floundering in a sea of debt’ is deemed so offensive to the nation’s frail and fickle sensitivities as to spur the National Media Council into action and order removal of the ‘The Sunday Times’ and ‘Times of London’ print editions from the shelves of local news stands, according to this report in ‘The Wall Street Journal’.

Never mind the matter at heart of the controversy. The fact that investors were kept in the dark about Dubai’s ability and intention to repay its debt on time. The fact that this inconvenient truth was released only weeks after Dubai’s ruler told critics to ‘shut up’ and repeatedly reconfirmed that Dubai would honour its obligations - which evidently it is not. That fact that this announcement was made just hours before the financial markets in the UAE shut down for several days of public holidays and the government went ‘incommunicado’.

No, these facts matter not! What really matters is that nobody in this country reads about it.

The National Media Council can be relied on to save the day, and face. Never mind the cock up – as long as people don’t see the photo or read the story, ‘nothing happened’. Thank you, NMC; we can sleep easy in this country, unbothered by troublesome news.

Since the NMC hasn’t heard of that newfangled invention called internet yet, you can see the “offending” article and image here:

26 November, 2009

Wishing everyone Eid Mubarak.... :)

25 November, 2009

Selected Pictures from Abu Dhabi Art 2009


?

24 November, 2009

Heads up folks

Banks will be officially closed from Thursday to Sunday (26-29th November), which means the little elves will not be around to stock up your ATMs for you. 

To avoid unnecessary frustration in the coming days, fill out your wallets today. It will give the nice banking people one more day to refill the ATMs for all the uncool people who do not read the UAECB. 

Pass the word around so you and your friends are not stranded at a petrol station because the ATM was out of fuloos

23 November, 2009

Etisalat talks back!

Update on the annoying Etisalat text message saga. The good thing is that I got a reply from Etisalat's Customer Care Centre by email the very next day. Somebody must have got the message (17 times)…

The bad news (in bad English) is that “In reference with your case, we would like to inform you currently there is no provision to block incoming SMS from Etisalat.”

Maybe I didn't clean my ears properly this morning but to me this sounds like an admission of providing an incomplete amateurish service.

But behold; apparently “a solution for your request is currently under development and you will be informed accordingly once the solution is developed and approved. We apologize for the inconvenience faced by you.”

Apology accepted. But I wonder just how long it will take them to develop a solution to the problem of blocking SMS from a particular source, because at the same time the message from the Customer Care Centre goes on to give me precise instructions on how to block SMS from a particular source:

“Note: To stop incoming message from the company, simply send the message b followed by the content provider's short code or name of the message sender to the number 1011. The message is "b (4 digit short code)" to 1011”

Etisalat's SMS do not show a short code, but a name. Although I completely trust Etisalat's admission of applying the blocking command to any other company but themselves, I thought I better check and immediately sent “b etisalat” to 1011.

“Sorry can’t process your command. Unknown request.”

A question of Ethics and Sensationalism

My entry into the UAE blogging world was more or less inspired by Secret Dubai Diary; I was sort of a fan of her reporting / blogging style, and was even more impressed by the way she has been maintaining a parallel voice that... (READ ON)

(Also read some comments here.)

20 November, 2009

GeoEye-1 flies over Dubai Airshow

Orbiting at an altitude of 681km, GeoEye-1 is the world's highest resolution commercial earth-imaging satellite.

It passed over the Dubai Airshow and captured this awesome image.



You can go to the GeoEye site to see the original and to download the 11mb high-res file.

If you're interested in aerial imagery, click the Back to Gallery link on that download page and check out the other wonderful photos.  Interesting AUD one at #7!

Satellite image courtesy of GeoEye

19 November, 2009

Blog Rank???

Anyone ever seen this? Came through on my email.

http://www.invesp.com/blog-rank/Dubai

18 November, 2009

FNC & English language requirements

The FNC has some recommendations for the education sector: "The committee also said federal universities should be more lenient in their admission requirements for students when it comes to English language proficiency..."


To me, lowering the bar is a disservice to students, to their future employers and the economy in general or is it just me not understanding the logic behind this suggestion?

facebook group

Funnily enough, someone has gone and created a new facebook group. It is called 'I bet I can find 1 million people who hate Etisalat spam text messages' and is open for membership now.

Dear Etisalat,

"PLEASE,

STOP SENDING ME TEXT MESSAGES IN ARABIC.

STOP SENDING ME TEXT MESSAGES IN ANY LANGUAGE.

I AM NOT INTERESTED IN YOUR PROMOTIONS.

I AM NOT INTERESTED IN ANYTHING YOU HAVE TO TELL ME.

IF I WANT TO KNOW SOMETHING I WILL ASK YOU.

MY NUMBER IS 050-xxxxxxx.

REMOVE THIS NUMBER FROM YOUR SMS LIST.


Yours sincerely ..."


After receiving 8 unsolicited text messages this morning from Etisalat in Arabic I wrote *) the above message to Etisalat customer "care" email address. Let's see what happens now.

*) I sent the email 17 times.

17 November, 2009

Emiratis blacklisted over job-hunting attitudes

I guess this might be a good step forward:
"More than 500 Emirati job seekers have been placed on a blacklist designed to combat lax work attitudes that include refusing a number of employment offers.

Al Mulla added that other job seekers had been blacklisted for not attending interviews and citing reasons such as not being able to wear a uniform or inability to work shifts as an excuse for turning down jobs.
"

The pros are realizing that Emiratis should take more jobs in every sector, rather than wanting to be "boss". Nothing wrong with aiming for the top, but if the UAE wants to truly step towards having its citizens take over, they have to be willing to work everywhere.

On the flip side, forcing people to take jobs within a certain amount of interviews seems a bit much. I would not like to be forced to take the next job available simply because I may exceed the allowable limit and get blacklisted.

What do you think?

16 November, 2009

I’ve been living here for the last 8 years now, and I can say that Public holidays here are primarily “Emirati affairs” - with the expatriates rarely participating in it like the way they do in developed countries. Instead, their celebrations are restricted to enjoying it just as a holiday.

Recently however, I saw some interesting developments that could change this attitude, and could perhaps also bridge the Local-Expatriate culture gap... (Read On)

13 November, 2009

.il (Israel) TLD unblocked?

Has anyone else found the Israeli TLD to be unblocked from the UAE?
On my Etisalat connection it seems to be open.

Here's a URL you can try it on: http://www.google.co.il/

12 November, 2009

NOW YOU SEE IT, THEN YOU DON'T




There have been a couple of posts put up over the past couple of days that seem to have mysteriously disappeared. Blogger Dashboard gives the header & opening lines of the post but when you click on it, you're taken to the latest post & the one you want is nowhere to be found.
What happened to 'Judicial System Fails Roxanne' & 'Visitors are being held captive for months after passports are being confiscated for minor offences in Dubai' both posted by Radha Stirling? Click on either title & you'll get the 'Page Not Found' excuse.

If the posts aren't being blocked, what's happened to them?
If they are being blocked, I can't help but think the UAE is taking it's censorship a bit too far.

It's not a perfect world.

Censorship.jpg

10 November, 2009

Laid off for implicating Emirates Airlines

Dubai Media Observer links to a Reporters Without Borders article titled "Laid off for implicating Emirates Airlines"

"The exclusive account of Courtney C. Radsch, a US journalist who recently lost her job at the Al Arabiya news website (www.alarabiya.net) in the United Arab Emirates for posting information about safety violations by the national air carrier, Emirates Airlines.

“ On Sunday Oct. 4 one of my reporters asked me if we could write about a report on safety concerns at Emirates Airlines following a report about pilot fatigue. Since the report was from a respected Australian paper based on a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) for a report from the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) and I assessed that the story was newsworthy and in the public interest. We sought and received a response from the airline which we featured in the lede and devoted an entire section of the story to. The story was on the site for about 4 hours before I received a call from Dawood al-Shirian, the manager of AlArabiya.net, telling me to remove the story from the site."

Read the DMO post: Nose-dive/Crash landing/[insert aviation disaster pun here] for more.

TV Casting for new series

Casting now for the three lead roles of a new TV crime series to be filmed in Abu Dhabi starting December 09. If you speak Khaleeji and are preferably a Gulf National, this is a great opportunity. Professional acting experience is not required.

Looking for:
1 x male 45-55 years old, will be the Major (crime investigations) mainly playing office scenes and the
“boss” behind the scenes.

1 x male, beginning 30s for the LEAD ROLE. Must have a police / military / security backround. Knows how to handle weapons, arrests, investigations etc.

1 x male or female, mid 20s – mid 30s, Polixe / military / security background. Will be the team partner
of the Lead Role and will be out there conducting the investigations in the field and chasing / arresting people etc.


All people applying must be able to be free and available for further shootings from Jan until July 2010.
Participants will not be able to have “another job”, as the shooting will be a 5 day a week job.


Casting now! Suitable candidates should email a short bio & photograph to info@speakers.ae

09 November, 2009

Dubai Water Bucket Walk by DubaiCares



Have you always wanted to do something for a noble cause, but are not quite sure where to go or what to do? Well Dubai Cares has the perfect opportunity for you! To commemorate the United Nations’ Universal Children’s day, Dubai Cares is inviting the UAE community to participate in a Water Bucket Walk, in support of children globally who do not have access to clean drinking water in schools. Dubai Cares welcomes the participation of individuals, families, schools, corporations, government bodies, social, ethnic and religious clubs and all other entities to participate in the Water Bucket Walk.

For more information, go to -  http://www.dubaicares.ae/WaterBucketWalk

08 November, 2009

Social Media Tips for the Consumer


I have seen many Twitter HOWTO's and Guides, but I have yet to come across one that shows consumers how they can get the attention of brands/products. We have all been busy talking about how we can talk to consumers, how we can engage with them.. which is all great, but we seem to forget that just like marketers, a lot of these social media tools are new to consumers as well. After all, we are all consumers.

Being on the monitoring end of things, I hope that I can give some insights to how brands see the world and how you, the consumer, can make your voice better heard. The most important thing you need to know is this: good brands are really trying to listen.

Give your opinion weight

Simplify your sentiments

Engage with the top

You can read more in my Social Media Tips for the Consumer post.

28 October, 2009

Birdcage goes Bollywood

Spring Carnival week in Melbourne, Australia is one of the biggest events on the world's horse-racing calendar.

As one of the major sponsors, Emirates Airlines goes all out with their VIP tent.

This year, the theme is Bollywood. Just for Paraglider who reads blogs at work, I've disabled the video's autostart, so click the Play arrow at the bottom left to view the video!






While the whole concept is exciting and colourful, and not to take anything away from the Indian nation, wouldn't this have been a perfect opportunity to promote the U.A.E. and Arab culture?

"UAE is top Arab state to live in"

If you were too busy to read the paper today, here's what you missed. According to The National

An international study has rated the UAE as the best place in the Arab world to live (in)... (It) topped the list of Arab nations, coming in 47th place overall. It was the only one to break into the top 50, ahead of Kuwait (52), Tunisia (68) and Saudi Arabia (81). 

A few scores resonating with me personally were: 

  • Safety and security- ranking 18th, ahead of America, Britain, Germany and France
  • Second lowest homicide rate worldwide - leading to reports that 95 per cent of the population feel safe walking alone at nights (the highest rate worldwide)
  • It earned praise for its tolerance, too, with 87 per cent of the population under the impression that their area was a good place for immigrants to live, and 71 per cent believing that ethnic minorities were welcome
  • It ranked 47th for education, earning praise for gender equality 

UAE hosts nearly 4.8 million people from 197 countries and provides for them a place to coexist. It does the job so well that most people forget this is not home and that they are here only as guests (then they start whining on the community blog). 

I personally think UAE has done a fabulous job and deserves all the praise it gets. You may or may not want to argue these findings - knock yourselves out. 

N.B. Road safety was probably not a factor worthy of consideration in the survey. 

Ras Al Khaimah loses America's Cup hosting

A New York State Supreme Court has overturned Ras Al Khaimah as Alinghi's choice of sailing venue, citing a ruling in the 1887 Deed of Gift which states that the race may not be held in the Northern Hemisphere between November 1st and May 1st.

Ironically, it may shift to Valencia - another Northern Hemisphere port, but one that met no objection from Alinghi or Oracle earlier in the court hearing.

More in this report

27 October, 2009

One reason that too many Arabs are poor is rotten education...

I'm wondering just how our native Emiratis feel about this one ... especially the highlighted section!

One reason that too many Arabs are poor is rotten education
October 26, 2009

Laggards trying to catch up

A recent issue of Science, the weekly journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was devoted to research into “Ardi” or Ardipithecus ramidus, a 4.4m-year-old hominid species whose discovery deepens the understanding of human evolution. These latest studies suggest, among other things, that rather than descending from a closely related species such as the chimpanzee, the hominid branch parted earlier than previously thought from the common ancestral tree.

In much of the Arab world, coverage of the research took a different spin. “American Scientists Debunk Darwin”, exclaimed the headline in al-Masry al-Youm, Egypt’s leading independent daily. “Ardi Refutes Darwin’s Theory”, chimed the website of al-Jazeera, the region’s most-watched television channel. Scores of comments from readers celebrated this news as a blow to Western materialism and a triumph for Islam. Two or three lonely readers wrote in to complain that the report had inaccurately presented the findings of the research.

The response to Ardi’s unearthing was not surprising. According to surveys, barely a third of Egyptian adults have ever heard of Charles Darwin and just 8% think there is any evidence to back his famous theory. Teachers, who might be expected to know better, seem equally sceptical. In a survey of nine Egyptian state schools, where Darwin’s ideas do form part of the curriculum for 15-year-olds, not one of more than 30 science teachers interviewed believed them to be true. At a private university in the United Arab Emirates, only 15% of the faculty thought there was good evidence to support evolution.

The strength of religious belief among Arabs partly explains their reluctance to accept the facts of evolution. Until recent reforms, state primary schools in Saudi Arabia devoted 31% of classroom time to religion, compared with just 20% for mathematics and science. A quarter of the kingdom’s university students devote the main part of their degree course to Islamic studies, more than in engineering, medicine and science put together. And despite changes to Saudi curriculums, religious study remains obligatory every year from primary school through to university.

Such choices carry a cost that goes beyond ignorance of Darwin. Arab countries now spend as much or more on education, as a share of GDP, than the world average. They have made great strides in eradicating illiteracy, boosting university enrolment and reducing gaps in education between the sexes.

But the gap in the quality of education between Arabs and other people at a similar level of development is still frightening. It is one reason why Arab countries suffer unusually high rates of youth unemployment. According to a recent study by a team of Egyptian economists, the lack of skills in the workforce largely explains why a decade of fast economic growth has failed to lift more people out of poverty.

The most rigorous comparative study of education systems, a survey called Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) that comes out every four years, revealed in its latest report, in 2007, that out of 48 countries tested, all 12 participating Arab countries fell below the average. More disturbingly, less than 1% of students aged 12-13 in ten Arab countries reached an advanced benchmark in science, compared with 32% in Singapore and 10% in the United States. Only one Arab country, Jordan, scored above the international average, with 5% of its 13-year-olds reaching the advanced category.

Other comparative measures are equally alarming. A listing of the world’s top 500 universities, compiled annually by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, includes three South African and six Israeli universities, but not a single Arab one. The Swiss-based World Economic Forum ranks Egypt a modest 70th out of 133 countries in competitiveness, but in terms of the quality of its primary education system and its mathematics-and-science teaching, it slumps to 124th. Libya, despite an income of $16,000 a head, ranks an even more dismal 128th in the quality of its higher education, lower than dirt-poor Burkina Faso, with an average income of $577.

Well aware that their school systems are doing badly, Arab governments have been scrambling to improve. In an attempt to leapfrog the slow process of curriculum reform and teacher training, many have taken the easy route of encouraging private schools. In Qatar, for instance, the share of students in private education leapt from 30% to more than 60% between 1999 and 2006, according to the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Syria has licensed some 20 private universities since 2001; 14 are up and running. Yet their total enrolment is dwarfed by the 200,000 at state-run Damascus University alone. Oil-rich monarchies in the Gulf have spent lavishly to lure Western academies to their shores, but these branch universities are struggling to find qualified students to fill their splendidly equipped classrooms.

Not to be outdone, Saudi Arabia has launched King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), a city-sized institution with an endowment of $20 billion. Intended as an oasis of academic excellence, it enjoys an independent board and is the kingdom’s only co-educational institution. This augurs well for the Saudi elite, but one fancy new university will do little to lift the overall standard of Saudi education. And it has been attacked by religious conservatives. A senior cleric who decried the mixing of sexes at KAUST, declaring that its textbooks should be reviewed by religious scholars, was forced to resign from government office.

Source: The Economist Print Edition
Web: http://mahmood.tv/2009/10/26/one-reason-that-too-many-arabs-are-poor-is-rotten-education/

24 October, 2009

RIP: Her Say

In news that seems to have passed everyone by, the locally produced tv show "Her Say" is apparently no more (as of at least 3 months ago)

The much loved tv show will obviously be greatly missed by Dubai; you can watch the final episode here.

Slightly more interesting is that you can actually watch all the locally produced TV shows online on the DMI website now; not sure how long they've been doing that but I haven't seen it before.

20 October, 2009

The Yas Marina Hotel

Looks pretty good...


The glass panels and the space frame that holds them really look like something you'd expect to see on Mars in fifty years or so. Up close, the panes of glass don't seem like solar panels at all, but they might save on air conditioning costs by reflecting a fair bit of sunlight off. But the 'sheath', as I like to call it, looks quite funny. It looks like the whole thing is a giant razor blade. A feminine one at that too (Venus, anyone?).

Some more pictures of the world's largest feminine shaving razor:





It glows in the dark too!

19 October, 2009

Etisalat announces 30mbps

Etisalat has just announced 30mbps internet through FTTH connections.

"Available in the FTTH connected areas and priced at AED 699/month, the new 30 Mbps package will also be made available for existing customers in the FTTH coverage area, who are keen on upgrading their account."

...
"FTTH will also allow Etisalat to launch a much faster package of 100 Mbps in the coming months"

Is anyone else worried that we might face monthly bandwidth caps with the introduction of these higher speeds? (It happened in Bahrain with the Boycott Batelco movement in 2006)

iPhone 3Gs in the UAE, why NOT

I'm not a mobile geek so please excuse me if I don't use the right lingo. The point of this post is the price of the new iPhone now being launched by Du.

It appears to be the very latest Apple model--great, as we sometimes have to wait months for such things. On checking the price of the top model offered by Du I get Dhs 2869. On checking the same model on the Apple website, I get a price of US$ 199. Comparing the prices in the same currency, the Du model sells for a whopping 2.6 times more!

That put a big damper on my enthusiasm. The fact that Apple products always cost more here has effectively destroyed most of my enthusiasm for any new Apple or Mac releases. But this huge surcharge seems way over the top.

GeekFest 2.0


GeekFest 2.0 is to be held at The Shelter on the 22nd October, which is next Thursday.

As you may remember, we put GeekFest 2.0 back to give Twestival Dubai some space. Now it's full steam ahead for the 22nd.

GeekFest is intended to be an offline social for online people and would be interesting for anyone who's involved in the online world and in using technology to create, educate, entertain, inform or just play around.

The event remains resolutely un-organised. We're suggesting a 7pm start, but you can please yourselves when you turn up. We have added a couple of aspects to the event, mainly to cater to the feedback that while everyone loved GeekFest 1.0, they thought some things to give it more, well, purpose might be in order. Your wish is our command...

TechnoCases

We have, as previously reported, brought in two technology companies to mount technology showcases at the event. Both Nokia and Lenovo will be there showing off their snazzy new gadgets. Both have promised not to hassle the geeks - the idea is that they're there for you to talk to if you want to - no aggressive marketing, shouting or anything. If this works, we'll do more of these next time.

GeekTalks
After 8 o'clock, we'll have a number of speaking slots for people to share interesting technologies, projects, thoughts, ideas, practical things or disgusting personal habits. Each slot will be 15 minutes long maximum and it will be up to the speaker to invite his/her audience, start on time and end on time. This will either work perfectly because of the collective will for it to do so, or will descend into absolute chaos. Either way, we're not taking responsibility.

There are a total of four talks booked for the night, details are here if you want more info. They'll take us into the worlds of HDR photography, TEDx, the future of publishing and The National's mysterious new project.

Windows 7 Launch Party
As you may or may not know, Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system launches around the world on October 22nd and Microsoft has earnestly been soliciting participants for a number of launch parties around the world. You can find out more from this gloriously inept video.

Sadly, our plans to host a Windows 7 Launch Party have had to be cancelled following a violently outraged reaction to the idea from the Macintosh community. You haven't heard the last of this, Mac Freaks.

Eats
The Shelter, as you probably are aware, has many enviable features - including its very own More Café.

Location
The Shelter is in Dubai's Al Qouz industrial area. Here's a map!

Registration
Are you kidding? Just turn up...

If you want to get updates and stuff, you can follow @GeekFestDubai on Twitter and there's a GeekFest FaceBook group too, for no particularly good reason. You can also email either myself or Saadia Zahid at the addresses given on the GeekFest Twitter page.

Good news

"From November 1, trucks, buses and light vehicles such as pick-up trucks, minibuses and taxis will face severe punishment if they exceed the speed limit by 10km per hour, said Major General Mohammad Saif Al Zafein, Director of the Dubai Police Traffic Department."
--read more here

Also according to Gulf News/RTA people will now be able to plan routes using public transportation via Google Maps

16 October, 2009

TEDxDubai - An Idea Worth Spreading

Not many events (let alone free media events), make the cut, here in Dubai. And by ‘cut’ I metaphorically refer to that fine, slice of meat; perfectly extracted, excluding everything unnecessary to produce a prime, well-done steak.

The purpose of TEDxDubai was to do justice to the concept of TEDx (an abbreviation for Technology, Entertainment and Design; the ‘x’ representing an ‘independently organized event’), a non-profit convention that started out in California, with the intention of hosting ‘forward thinkers,’ all connected by the common goal of spreading the power of positive thinking. 
What TEDxDubai aimed to achieve was to bring together like-minded individuals from the emirates under one roof, and bounce off ideas that would otherwise seem unfeasible.

Delegates entered the event location with high expectations, but frankly, expecting the worst. As is the norm with most conferences / events / concerts here in ‘Dubayy,’ a parking predicament was expected, lousy customer service was anticipated, and a disappointed lot of speakers was prophesized.

But boy, were we pleasantly surprised. 
Parking was plentiful, the volunteers were always on deck, the catering was delectable, and the line-up of speakers was nothing short of mind-blowing. 
So obviously, the atmosphere was proportionately abuzz with intellectual conversation of TED-happy delegates.

What does it take to pull off this successful an event? The organizers obviously knew what they were doing when they set down the guidelines:

(a) Remove the price tag: Your delegate badge had to be ‘earned’ by filling out an application form on the TEDxDubai website; one that never asked for your nationality and social standing, preferring instead to deem you worthy depending on what you thought was an ‘idea worth spreading.’ 
(b) No black market sales: Since your invite to the event was non-transferable, and valid photo identification had to be presented on entry, not a soul even attempted to sell their tickets; even if they wanted to (which is hardly conceivable).
(c) First-come, first-serve seating: Self explanatory. The earlier you arrived, the better view you got. And if I recall right, the 1,000 seats of DMC’s Palladium were almost completely filled up before the session even began.
(d) Come-as-you-like mentality: No stated dress-code, meant that you were free to wear whatever it was that kept you comfy throughout the day. Presence of flats amongst the ladies and flowered shirts amongst the men were proof enough.
(e) Enlist speakers not on the basis of their job title, but on the principle of the vision / message they have to relay: Speakers varied in nationality (Emarati to Indian), age group (13-40), and subject matter (biophotonics to comic book characters); each speaker more inspirational than the next.


Bruno Guissani, European TED director, inaugurated the event introducing the audience to the concept of TED, and the many projects that have launched as a result.
 
Leo Laporte advocated the benefits of new media vs. old, while Paul Bennett stressed on the importance of ‘moving beyond scale and into substance.’
The Al Awadhi brothers of the contemporary Shawarma store Wild Peeta, and Mohammed Saeed Harib of Freej fame, all highlighted the significance of having faith in your dreams, and running it through.
13-year old Dubai Abdulla Abuhoul, took the stage as living proof that it was not age that mattered, but instead the drive to succeed, while Dr. Naif Al Mutawa, creator of THE99, planted humour into his talk with the same ease with which he glided us through the creation of the region’s first internationally-renowned comic strip.

Masarat Daud shared with us the vision and success of her 8 day Academy, emphasizing on the need for ‘education that functions,’ while Samar S. Jodha drove us to tears with striking visuals from the Indian village of Phenang, and his message of ‘finding the larger cause in your art.’
Bashar Atiyat brought to our attention the need for breaking stereotypes, while Jamil Abu-Wardeh had the audience in splits with his witty take on the importance of comedy in the region.
Mohammad Gawdat addressed the crowd on the internet’s role in non-manufactured information, and Ian Gilbert achieved his goal of making our brains hurt while underlining the necessity of promoting ‘independent thinking’ in today’s classrooms. 
Jiochi Ito advised us to ‘invest in our failures in order to achieve that Google’ while Abed Ayyad brought in the science factor to the conference, delving into the ‘magic’ of Biophotonics.
Khulood Al Attiyat spoke of her innovation to bring back a Renaissance in Dubai, and Qais Sedki talked us through achieving every goal on ‘life’s table of contents.’
Ernst van der Poll helped us comprehend the importance of bringing today’s youth to explore nature in order to better understand it’s value in the circle of life, while Thomas Lundgren walked onto the stage barefoot, and stressed on the gravity of true happiness; stating that ‘without passion, nothing extraordinary in this world can be achieved.’



When the final speaker left the stage, and it was time for the organizer’s curtain call, the entire Palladium rose for a much-deserved standing ovation in honour of the Mad Men behind the scenes; Giorgio Ungania and James Piecowye. Mad because they took up the challenge of putting together a world-class act, purely because they felt it was their duty to make sure the Emirates was not deprived of such a phenomenon.

We, the delegates walked out an inspired lot; now reassured that we’re capable of achieving whatever it is we aspire for, provided we’ve got the passion to back that dream. ‘If they can do it, so can we!’ 

It just goes to show that it’s not the monuments we erect that put us on the map, but projects like these that put us on par with the rest of the world. Here’s hoping that the success of a humble event such as this will motivate our GCC counterparts into bringing the TED experience into their region.

And I’m quite certain I’m not speaking for myself here when I say, I was actually quite disappointed. Disappointed that the much-awaited TEDxDubai had actually come to an end. 


Turns out the best things do come for free after all.






For more information on what you missed out on, visit: www.tedxdubai.com
For more inspiration, visit the main TED site: www.ted.com

15 October, 2009

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

With all the talk about quietness I thought I'd post something....So what do you all think about this multi million dollar event coming to UAE...

I personally think it's fantastic and would love to get my hands on some tickets... :D

13 October, 2009

Pretty Quiet Around Here

What's happening?

05 October, 2009

Nobody's Bothered About A Nuclear UAE, Then?

Scares me to death.

03 October, 2009

A Cup in a storm

The America’s Cup is something like the Formula 1 of sailing. It’s a playground of grizzled billionaire playboys, buxom marketing girls in swim suits and brightly coloured monster machines. The big money involved attracts myriads of hangers-on like flies around the proverbial excrement.

The choice of a Gulf country for next year’s re-match between titleholder Team Alinghi and challenger BMW Oracle was seen by many as apt. Bling does as bling goes.

Ras Al Khaimah was delighted to have been picked by Team Alinghi as venue to host a world class sports event. A press conference was promptly held and even the venue was presented to the press. Or what was thought to be the venue anyway – it’s currently a stretch of sand by the beach called Majan island which strangely resembles a stretch of sand by the beach. But as the old adage goes: “Build a sandcastle and they will come”, assurances were made that “everything would be ready” to welcome the sailing Formula 1. (Not unlike the Metro that would be “ready” on 09/09/09 – “ready” in this case meaning one of two lines and a mere quarter of stations and no feeder buses.)
However it seems that the challenger’s team is opposed to Ras Al Khaimah on other grounds and not because of concerns over readiness. BMW Oracle has filed a suit in a New York court to get an injunction against Alignhi’s choice of Ras Al Khaimah, citing security fears over the proximity of the sailing venue (that would be the sea) to Iran.

Ahhh, geopolitics! It’s funny that it took BMW Oracle more than one month to figure out that Ras Al Khaimah is close to Iran and that sending an American-based team to “that part of the world” could be seen as inconsistent with the State department’s tack (haha, sailing pun!) in dealing with “Ayran”.

(Although it is even funnier that Ras Al Khaimah went public before a formal decision on the venue was made. Duh…)

29 September, 2009

7 Emarati Men and 1 Afghan held on terrorism charges

Personally, I find the charges of funding the Taliban to be silly. They have no concrete evidence against them except for the fact they would go pray in the same Mosque and had 'Military training' videos downloaded.

What I found exceptionally sad was they they weren't allowed to even pray while under captivity.

Two men, RD and AH, are accused of “setting up an organisation to enforce a strict code of Islam”, Justice Khalifa al Muhairi read in the Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi. Officials said the men were also funnelling money to the Taliban.

“You are accused of punishing a Bangladeshi man for speaking to a woman on the phone. You hit him severely and took pictures of him on your phone,” Justice al Muhairi added.

The first defendant, RD, denied the charges, which involve events alleged to have taken place more than a year before his arrest.

“I have never done such a thing,” he said. “Where are the pictures? If I did take them with my phone and I am accused of that, then where are the pictures? Why would the public prosecution charge me for a crime they allege I did more than a year ago?”

“I have signed confessions from the police and from the Public Prosecution of you admitting to your guilt. What do I do with that?” Justice al Muhairi said.

RD replied: “For three months I was placed in solitary confinement. I had no idea where I was. Every morning and every night, I would be beaten. I would confess to anything just to end this pain.”

The second defendant, AH, is also accused of helping found the group and gathering financing for the Taliban.

“I owe Dh90,000 (US$24,000) in bank loans on my car. Why would I give money to someone when I am in debt? If this is the case, then where is the evidence of bank transactions? There is nothing I donated, not even a dollar,” AH added.

He also told the court he had been forced into signing the confessions: “I was put in a freezing room for three months. I was not even allowed to pray.”


To read the whole article: http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090929/NATIONAL/709289835/1010

28 September, 2009

Mysterious and Interesting Nighttime Cloud over the United Arab Emirates



No rain, no wind. Just a single cloud low in the sky. Then a flash within the cloud, then another flash, and then a few more. Approximately 7 minutes later, the cloud disappeared. I've managed to get three separate flashes caught on video.

26 September, 2009

New books on UAE

Two new books on UAE as reviewed in the Guardian:
Eugene Rogan on A Diamond in the Desert: Behind the Scenes in the World's Richest City by Jo Tatchell, and Dubai: The Story of the World's Fastest City by Jim Krane
...
For Jo Tatchell, who lived in Abu Dhabi as a child in the 70s, and returned after graduating from university for a brief stint in the 90s, the pace of change is unsettling. A Diamond in the Desert is a welcome addition to the short list of books on Abu Dhabi. An independent journalist and author of an acclaimed book on Iraq (Nabeel's Song: A Family Story of Survival in Iraq), Tatchell returned to Abu Dhabi to see what had become of the place and to resolve a dark story in her family's past.
...
By the time AP journalist Jim Krane reached Dubai in January 2005, he was already faced with a boom town that had commandeered 10% of the world's cranes to build its ambitions. Never having known the sleepy little port of the 60s, he comes to his subject unburdened with nostalgia. He is clearly fascinated by the story of how such a global city emerged from such unlikely foundations.

Written as a narrative history, Dubai: The Story of the World's Fastest City begins with the emirate's tribal and imperial history in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
...
Neither Krane nor Tatchell speculates on what the future holds for the most globalised corner of the Arab world. It is enough that they tell the fascinating story of how Abu Dhabi and Dubai reached the current crossroad. Engagingly written and sympathetic to their subjects, both A Diamond in the Desert and Dubai will be welcome additions to the cabin baggage of the many western visitors to the Emirates.

22 September, 2009

"Cultural sensitivities and discrimination issues"

More often than not, friendly anonymous comments with requests or questions get neglected on this blog. I can't blame anyone, though; we have a chorus of bitter anonymous commenters who are hell-bent on trolling and disrupting an otherwise an intelligent discussion. They usually succeed in giving out the impression that all anonymous commenters are stupid. Although this is definitely not the case.

Anyway, here's a comment I thought was interesting from the Metro Virtual Tour post.
I'm not gonna lie this is very exciting! I may be taking an internship at the US embassy in Dubai next spring and I'm actually relieved that there is a metro. lol Being a Washington DC city dwellerI cannot convey in words how convenient this will be for someone who hadn't driven a car in years until recently.

Though to piggyback off of Sudanese Expat's comment about black people in Dubai, I wan't to ask you all just generally your observations about this. I'm a African- American female, and being unfamiliar with the intercultural milieu of Dubai I want to get my feelers out there for any safety tips, cultural sensitivities, discrimination issues that one may run into. I'd welcome your responses (and sorry for moving the thread into off topic territory).
I'm afraid I'm not in a position to answer the racial or the gender discrimination part. However, in the 6 years I've been living here, I'd noticed that government institutions go out of their way to serve people equally. I'd also noticed that Dubai has an undeserved reputation of being an institutionally racist place. This is definitely not true as far as I could tell. But as I said, I could be the last one the lady with the inquiry would want to hear from. So please share your stories and impressions if you've got any.

21 September, 2009

Dust / Weather

An anon friend sent me this:

"Back in DXB... and noticed something while the plane was landing. I could see Jebel Ali from the plane! Never seen Jebel Ali from the air... so it got me wondering, while I was in the cab. I could see Burj Dubai clear as day business bay crossing ( asked the cabbie to take the senic route ). Could see wafi and the NBD building on the creek clear as day. And then it hit me. Between the weekend and eid all construction activity had stopped for 3-4 days, and with no dust being blown up in to the atmosphere for once visibility is extremely good in DXB. "

Thoughts?

19 September, 2009

Eid Mubarak

News is still trickling in about if Eid is tomorrow or not on Twitter. I'm not sure myself but there is no harm in wishing everyone a little in advance. So Eid Mubarak everyone.

I don't have an Eid specific shot so just posting this shot of a very old hand written Holy Quran. I hope no one minds...
Hope everyone has a wonderful Eid with their family and friends. Be safe and take care.... :)

EDIT: seems like it's confirmed. It's Eid tomorrow... :D

18 September, 2009

RTA 'virtual tour' of Dubai Metro

According to Gulf News the RTA has launched a virtual-reality-portal-metro-tour-website.
You can visit the portal/site directly here: http://www.rta.ae/virtualtransport

It is so virtual that you can actually choose your sex and race:
Gotta Catch 'Em All!

The simulation/game sets timed targets for how fast you can purchase a ticket:
You fail at the metro

Here's a video of some of the tour:




17 September, 2009

Report: UAE Disrupted Major Terrorist Ring

From today's Washington Times:

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year quietly broke up a major terrorist ring affiliated with al Qaeda that had plotted to blow up targets in Dubai - a banking hub that has long seemed immune to attacks by the terrorist group.

The disruption in May of the previously undisclosed plot came at a sensitive time for the UAE, which months earlier concluded an agreement with the United States that would allow the U.S. to sell it nuclear reactor technology and nuclear fuel...

Three U.S. intelligence officials and one former senior U.S. government official confirmed that the terrorist scheme originated in Ras Al Khaimah...

13 September, 2009

RTA Metro v RTA Salik?


Dear readers,

A very important question has tickled my curiously from reading the last blog post on this blog, so I will as you a quick question:

Are you more happy with RTA's Metro today OR with RTA's Salik so far?

When thinking about the RTA's Metro, please consider the early teething problems as well as any potential in the future for it to be a success of sorts or any other factors you think are relevant :)

A simple "Metro" or "Salik" response would be great, but I doubt I'll get that! Everyone can vote, you don't need to have a car or pay your Salik or have tried the metro at all!

Thanks.

#MyMetroExp - Will I ditch my car?

Last night, I decided to take the metro. I didn't want to just go on a round-trip without a purpose. I wanted to actually go do some shopping at Mall of the Emirates. I start from the Golden Sands area, where there is a distinct lack of bus stations. You would have to walk on to Kuwait street before you can see any bus stations. It seemed easier to simply walk around 6pm.

Sweating, but still excited, I reached the Burjuman metro station. At this point, I am desperate for some cool air. Nope. It is steaming hot in there. Took the escalator down, still hoping to get hit by the cool air we all love. It didn't hit me until I reached the last 3 steps of the escalator. The station looks nice. Proceeded to look for signs. Jebel Ali. Cool. Turned right and placed my card on the machine to open up the door. Nice.

A set of stairs awaited us, blocked by security as the train has yet to arrive. I'm not sure why that is necessary and/or if there is a better way than having people stranded on the stairs. As we went down, I tried to once again, follow the signs. Gold class. Cool, here we go. Train arrived, stepped inside and ah.. looks nice.

The Gold Class cabin is.. well, only one cabin. It also filled up very quickly. In fact, the majority of those in Gold class were not paying the gold class fare. They just walked up and took a seat. I don't know why the doors between cabins remain open or how they intend to police this. If I could pay the lowest rate and go sit up in Gold Class, what is there to stop me?

Novelty riders are usually equipped with cameras and smiles. Around here, we also have the loud and obnoxious types. The kind of behavior you would expect from teenagers, but acted out by full grown adults. I found that most annoying, but cannot blame it on the metro itself. These types of people will eventually go away. I don't think we will continue to have people speak loudly, run around the cabin holding on to your seat, rocking it, etc. It did, however, take away from the otherwise smooth ride.

We reached the Mall of the Emirates station. This is when the chaos ensued. As we stepped into the station, I can see a massive amount of people surrounding what looked like an Information desk. I looked for signs. Exit. Cool, I walked up to it. There stood a guy who barked at us, "You can't just walk up here! Go over there!" The workers are obviously frustrated. We are following signs. It says exit everywhere! Exit to WHAT? Where he stood, it had an exit sign above him. He pointed to where the crowds were.

Apparently, exiting was a major bottleneck. I think one of the machines broke, adding to that, people are still trying to figure out how to take a magnetic card and make it touch a pad. It's a learning curve, but it took me 8 minutes to get out of there.

By this time, I was frustrated. After I was done with the shopping, I realized something very important. There is noway in hell I'm going to walk 2kms carrying this. Good thing I had a car parked in my office at DMC. I decided to ditch the metro, took a cab to my office's parking lot and drove back home.

I am not trying to take away from Dubai's achievement. Having a mass transit system is not something to take lightly. This is a huge deal. I was sincerely hoping to get rid of my car and take up public transportation. I genuinely wanted to. It just isn't practical enough for me. Bus stations aren't enough and the weather doesn't help.

As it turns out, I won't be ditching my car any time soon. This worries me, because, if people like me, who really want to use public transportation are not going to get onboard.. how is the RTA planning on getting people off their cars and into the metro?

10 September, 2009

My City. My Metro.

Took a round trip at 6am in the morning and loved it. Very cool!! Can't wait for the Green line to start near my house... :D

08 September, 2009

Twestival


Dubai's Twestival event, one of the world-wide Twestivals being held in over 200 countries between the 10th-13th September, takes place at Jam Jar, the funky gallery space thingy in Al Quoz, this coming Saturday (the 12th September) from 8pm. There's a map to Jam Jar here, BTW.

This is the second Twestival - a meet-up of people interested in social media in general and Twitter in particular - the first was at Barasti back at the start of the year and drew an interesting and diverse crowd.

Like the first Dubai Twestival, this event will have charitable fund-raising in mind, although this time the global events are being dubbed 'Twestival Local' and are raising money for local charities. In this case, funds raised from the event will go to the Dubai Autism Centre.

Pre-registration is a must as the event is almost certainly going to be full. Registration opened yesteday, so I'd get in early while you can. You can get more information and register for the event on the official Twestival website here.

05 September, 2009

More to it than book flogging?

British academic, Christopher Davidson, is making the same accusation about new book on Abu Dhabi as he made on his recent book on Dubai: that the authorities are blocking the distribution of the book in the UAE.

Forbes:
Davidson's book is available in much of the rest of the world, but distributors in the U.A.E. contacted him via e-mail in May with an early indication that the powers-that-be were not happy. "The censors reported the book is well-written, but because it discusses the fratricides in the 1920s, it will have to go to the highest authorities for approval," he said, citing the e-mail. The 1920s was a particularly bloody time in Abu Dhabi's history, as three of Sheikh Zayid bin Khalifah's sons took power by killing a brother.

But Davidson doesn't think century-old blood is the real reason for the delay in approving the 276-page book, which the "highest authorities" have not yet ruled on after four months. He says it's more likely to relate to the contemporary elements in his book, namely Abu Dhabi's weak human rights record and--ironically--its tightening grip on media censorship.

Davidson says censorship in the U.A.E. is the most "sinister" in the region, and succeeds not by heavy-handed interference but by creating a subtle atmosphere of self-censorship. He cites a new media law passed earlier this year, which threatens fines of up to 1 million dirhams ($272,250) for critical reporting on U.A.E. authorities--including Abu Dhabi's ruler Sheikh Khalifah bin Zayed al-Nahayan, or his billionaire half-brother Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahayan--and asks media organizations to set aside provisions as "collateral" for these fines.

"What the U.A.E. can't allow to happen is direct criticism of members of the ruling family, or what they call "negative reporting" on the U.A.E. economy that could damage confidence," says Davidson. "When you have an economy that relies so heavily on foreign direct investment, you can't have the hedge funds selling short the U.A.E."
For more on Christopher Davidson check out my catalog of posts on him at The Emirates Economist.

Report: UAE to deport hundreds of Palestinians by month's end

Lirun has posted an interesting link in the comments section...

"The United Arab Emirates will deport hundreds of Palestinians living within its territory by the end of September, the Al-Quds al-Arabi daily reported on Friday.

The UAE government gave no official reason for its decision, but said that senior state officials have approved the expulsion.

Palestinian lawmaker Aataf Adwan called the decision a campaign against both Palestinians and those of other nationalities born in the UAE.
Advertisement
According to the Lebanese newspaper Al-Aakhbar, the UAE is also planning to deport dozens of Shi'ite Lebanese citizens. Forty-five Lebanese businessmen and clerks have already been expelled, said the report.

None of those deported were given an explanation, according to the report, other than being told the decision was security related.

Some Palestinians have already been deported for giving financial aid to family members in Gaza, said an official in the Strip's ruling Hamas movement. Hamas has asked the Arab League to intervene, fearing other Gulf state may follow suit.

More than 100,000 Palestinians currently live in the United Arab Emirates."

03 September, 2009

Speaking of Original Material...


After reading the interesting and insightful comments (and leaving a comment of my own), on the Dead Blog entry, I was a bit reluctant to post this link.

But I decided to go ahead anyway because it's such a great story of UAE innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.

I love the fact that the cartoon is centered around women, and that Mohammed employs mostly women writers, whom I would guess are UAE Nationals.

Thanks to the folks at Wildpeeta for leading me (via twitter BTW) to the NYT story here:

Dubai Superheroes: Little Old Grannies Who Wear Veils.

(Photo credit: NYT pic of Freej creator Mohammed Saeed Harib)

30 August, 2009

Dead Blogs

what is happening to blogging? Oman Community Blog and the UAE Community Blog are dead or breathing their last breath, is it out of fashion to blog now? is everyone twittering only? or have all the blogging expats left the Gulf?

29 August, 2009

UAE seizes North Korean Weapons Shipment to Iran

From Bloomberg:
he United Arab Emirates has seized a ship carrying North Korean-manufactured munitions, detonators, explosives and rocket-propelled grenades bound for Iran in violation of United Nations sanctions, diplomats said.

The UAE two weeks ago notified the UN Security Council of the seizure, according to the diplomats...

The council committee that monitors enforcement of UN sanctions against North Korea wrote letters to Iran and the government in Pyongyang asking for explanations of the violation, and one to the UAE expressing appreciation for the cooperation, the envoys said. No response has been received and the UAE has unloaded the cargo, they said.


The Financial Times reports that "The seizure took place in the UAE, but not the shipping hub of Dubai, the person added, without elaborating."