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. "


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!


#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


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.

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.
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)