31 August, 2007

Muslim Women In Charge

Despite the barriers, 10 women executives from the Middle East made the World's 100 Most Powerful Women in Forbes Magazine ranking this year.
How are they managing to break through the glass ceiling?

Good old-fashioned capitalism has played a role. The economic liberalization of several Muslim countries in recent years, and the privatization of large chunks of government-run companies, have helped Muslim businesswomen get a greater foothold.

In the government sector, Muslim women are also winning posts. Sheikha Lubna Al-Qasimi (No. 99), minister of the economy in the United Arab Emirates, has cracked down on stock market shenanigans with tougher rules, transparency and corporate governance.

None of this means that the going is easy for Muslim professional women as a group. In 2002, the first Arab Human Development Report, issued by the United Nations Development Programme, found that women occupied an average of only 4% of all seats in the parliaments of Arab countries, compared with 11% in sub-Saharan Africa and 13% in Latin America and Caribbean countries. The report blamed these figures in part on women's inequality under the law, and also noted that just one in every two Arab women can read and write.

By delivering the bad news, though, the report may have had a galvanizing effect. It "really shocked everyone in the Arab world because it came from within," says Dr. Nailah Hamdy, assistant professor of mass communication at the American University in Cairo. That meant that the report's criticism of women's second-class status "could no longer be perceived as a foreign idea," she says.

For a lucky and determined few, opportunities do exist. "Just being a woman in our part of the world is quite difficult," says El-Sallab of Egypt's Commercial International Bank. "But if you have the proper education, credibility and integrity in the way you handle your job, intelligent men will always give you your due."

Out out dam spam

From The New Yorker Annals of Technology
Graham compared every character—dashes, apostrophes, numbers, symbols—in thousands of genuine e-mails with those in thousands of pieces of spam. He was able to train his software to use the context of a message to guess how likely it was that an e-mail containing certain words in relation to each other was spam. The words “republic” and “madam” seem innocent enough, but when they appear together in an e-mail they are often from a Nigerian huckster who has addressed his e-mail “Dear Sir or Madam.” Mail like that is invariably spam.

As filters become more sophisticated, spam becomes more elusive. There are millions of ways to write a word using punctuation, numbers, and other symbols. One mathematically minded blogger who looked into it found that there are 600,426,974,379,824,381,952 ways to spell Viagra. “If I thought that I could keep up current rates of spam filtering, I would consider this problem solved,” Graham wrote. “But it doesn’t mean much to be able to filter out most present-day spam, because spam evolves.” Indeed, most anti-spam techniques so far have been like pesticides that do nothing other than create a more resistant strain of bugs.
Read it all.

Thanks to Craig Newmark for the link. Craig notes,
Bill Gates infamously predicted in 2004 that the problem of spam would be solved "in about two years".
The image of where Bill pulled that one from is rather vivid.

New lane on Garhoud Bridge

In case you don't already know, there's a new, separate lane on the far right of Garhoud Bridge. Make sure you get into this lane if you need to access the airport or Garhoud.

If you stay in the left lanes on the Bridge, the route will take you to Sharjah.

30 August, 2007



Dubai Lime offline?

Local live music junkies, Dubai Lime, have been officially "blocked". Something about going against the "religious, cultural, political and moral values, blah blah".

Didn't realise that building a stronger local music community was an immoral act.

Any insight on this?

29 August, 2007

Thank You Gulf News

Thank you Gulf News for including my blog in your 28 August blogosphere round up. So far as I know, this is the first time that Bss & Brn in Al Ain have made the cut. The only problem is the post quoted didn't appear there, but here at clayfuture's place.

The prince at the paupers'

“Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English)." - Alice in Wonderland

[The source of these pictures is unknown. nonetheless, I'm pleasantly surprised.]


For or against?

28 August, 2007

Salik to expand to speed you on your way?

From Arab News

DUBAI, 28 August 2007 — The Dubai Roads and Transport Authority denied yesterday that it has started work on the second phase of the road toll tax. For the first time, Dubai introduced in July a toll tax on motorists who cross Garhoud Bridge and use Sheikh Zayed Road. Motorists who use the road have to pay the 24-hour toll when they pass the electronic tollgates. A fee of AED4 is automatically deducted from the motorist’s account.

Rumors have been rife in the emirates about additional gates to be added. A report yesterday from Fujairah said that the authority had started work on eight new gates in the city. They included all the major routes in the emirate including Shindagha Tunnel, Maktoum Bridge, Floating Bridge, Emirates Road, Al-Khail Road, Nad Al-Hamar Road and Business Bay crossing.

However, Salah Al-Marzouqi, from the RTA denied the news report saying that the authority has no plans for the second phase of the project.
Before the launch of the Garhoud toll there was a lot of complaining early in 2007 -- on this blog even! -- that the toll was merely tax, that it would only make congestion worth, and so on. Did that pan out? How many of you find it easier now to cross the Garhoud and are glad there is a toll?

Not without my sheikh - Part II

A few weeks ago I wrote about a new book which was published in Switzerland about the affair of a UAE sheikh to a Swiss lady.
The title of the book is: "Die verbotene Frau." (the forbidden wife)

I have read the book and am surprised that she has given away his identity, although she says repeatedly that she wants to keep his identity a secret. Well, all i can say is she failed miserably. Intentionally? Maybe.

I just wanna give you a few hints about the guy, if you like to know more, come over to my blog. I am just repeating here, what she says in the book, I am not adding anything...you will know who it is!!!
- they met in 1979 in England, when he was 17 and she was 22
- means he is born either 1961 or 1962
- he studied nuclear/atomic physics in the USA, nowadays he's mainly into real estate
- he has 6 kids together with his wife and cousin, whom he married in 1990
- His father has two wives. His mother is the younger, second wife.
- Both wives live on the same property, in individual houses.
- The guy in question has at least one sister
- where he lives: To get to his house, starting from Jebel Ali, you have to drive through Dubai, through Sharjah, through Ajman...until you reach the Hajjar mountain range. In his city there is a huge bridge connecting the new and old town.
- etc. etc. etc....the list is endless

Very difficult huh?

27 August, 2007

Blood, Sweat and Tears

The human rights watch report on the abuses of labourers rights in Dubai provides an insight into the conditions suffered by hundreds of thousands of people. Where statistics and descriptions have failed, aljazeera's documentary has managed to take it one step further by not only providing a visual representation of this injustice but, more importantly, providing a human and personal touch to it.

Part 1

Part 2

I have to say that I was really touched after seeing this.

Ecademy blocked by Etisalat

Does anyone know why this business networking site is blocked by Etisalat? It is a business networking site and don't understand why its been blocked!!

Fire at MFC in Jebel Ali

A major fire has broken out this morning at the Modern Freight Company's warehouse facility in Jebel Ali Free Zone. The warehouse is located between R/A 6 & 7 opposite NAFFCO which is very close to my workplace. Huge flames and smoke could be seen rising over the MFC yard as I was on my way to office.

Restaurant reviews!

Which is your favourite restaurant/menu in the UAE?

Here is my favourite (tried and tested more than once): Rupee Room, Dubai Marina:
I crave those "Peshwari Naans" - you gotta have them with some meat dish. They are a delicacy in the true art, accompanied by (chicken) tikka. Sweet tooths would love this side dish.

My other preferences in terms of "real food" in Dubai are:
Automatic (Jumeirah)/ Lebanese;
Toscana (Madinat Jumeirah)/Armani Cafe (Mall of the Emirates)- Italian;
Trader Vics (Madinat Jumeirah) - Polynesian;
Chop Chop (Mall of the Emirates)/Wagamama (Crowne Plaza/The Greens) Chinese;
The Meat Company (Madinat Jumeirah) - Steak;

What else, folks?

UPDATE: Readers' recommendations


India Palace in Ibn Battuta Mall
Sharjahan at Dubai Metroplitan
Sukh Sagar and Gazebo in Bur Dubai
Asha's in Wafi
Dakshin's at Lotus hotel (Al Rigga)
Rupee Room in Dubai Marina
Dum Pukht at Murooj Rotana

Indian/Pakistani “cafeteria-style”:
Sharjah Industrial area "Afghan Kabul restaurant"
Chicken 65
Liyari Biryani Naif, Deira (right next to the bus stand)

Al Hallab at Mall of the Emirates
Al Makan at Souk Madinat Jumeirah.
Al Hadheera Desert Restaurant at Bab al Shams Resort
Al Mallah (Al Diyafah Rd)Automatic in Jumeirah

Uroos Dimashq (Muraqqabat, Deira)

Marhanabi : Deira, across Dubai Police
Tawasul : Deira, nearby Clock towers
Bait Al Mendi : Deira (Muragabbat or Rigga...)

Ostadi kabab in Bur Dubai, nr the Ruler's Court
Tahran Restaurant in Bur Dubai, Jamal Abdul Nasser St. (corner?)
Al- Borz on Shaikh Zayed Road
Shabestan in Radisson SAS Deira

Don Corleone at Dubai Metropolitan
Capanna Nuova at Dubai Marine Beach Resort
Pax at the Dusit
Basilico at Dubai Marina
Sana Bonta at DIFC
Armani Café at Mall of Emirates
Toscana at Madinat Jumeirah

Seville’s – Wafi City

Finz in Ibn Battuta

Royal Orchid at Dubai Marina
Sukhothai at Le Meridien

Zyng in the China Court at Ibn Battuta Mall
Wagamama at Crowne Plaza/The Greens
Noodle House at Emirates Towers/Madinat Jumeira
Vu - 50th floor of the Emirates Towers
Chop Chop at Mall of Emirates
Soy at Ibn Battuta

Minato at Radisson SAS
Fujiyama at City Centre

Trader Vic’s at Crowne Plaza/Madinat Jumeirah
The Meat Company at Madinat Jumeirah

Shakespeares in Jumeirah (plus sheesha)
Chicken Tikka InnCoCos/Chilis/ at CityCentre
TGI Fridays in Garhoud
Zaatar W Zeit in Dubai Festival city/SZR
MORE Garhoud (Emirates Airlines staff building); Murooj Rotana

International Buffet:
Spice Island at Renaissance Dubai Hotel
Spectrum on One at Fairmont


Rodeo Grill at Beach Rotana

La Mamma at Sheraton
Bice at Hilton
Mezzaluna at Emirates Palace
Prego's at Beach Rotana

Pars Palace, Khalidiya

SE Asian food:
Bambu! in Tourist Club Area, entrance to the Marina & Yacht Club (located between Abu Dhabi Mall/Co-op and Le Meridien Hotel)

Layali Zaman on Corniche (plus sheesha)
InterContinental (don’t know the name)

Oceana, Royal Meridien

Indigo (fusion)

Vasco's at the Hilton
Chili's at Mariah Cineplex (Nadja and Handam St) (best burgers in AD).


Al Yaher Modern Restaurant (behind the post office)

InterContinental Al Ain (name?)

InterContinental Al Ain (name?)

Black Sheep (name/location?)


Al Fawar (King Faisal St?)


Kempinski Hotel

Kempinski Hotel

25 August, 2007

NY Times pic of the day (Link)

Aushi Alzony, 13, from the Sharjah Emirate concentrates during a match on the first day of the Asian Youth Chess Tournament in Al-Ain, United Arab Emirates.

View it here

24 August, 2007

Fitness First or Money First?

Mr. Knill says that Fitness First offers the highest standard at an affordable price. Right. Have you ever tried to join Fitness First without a credit card in hand? Go ahead, try it. They will not accept your application. In fact, after consenting with one of their reps to pay 4 months in advance, they agreed and later (when I came back to pay up) they said they couldn't do it.

The problem with Fitness First is a simple one. The business model is this: People will pay, forget they are paying and continue to pay for a service we will not offer. So, out of X members, only a subset will utilize our facilities. We get their credit cards, charge them for the memebrship. Then, make it very difficult to cancel their membership (30-day written notice, to be handed by... read the small print).. and so will continue to charge them for an additional period (only in periods of 4 months at a minimum).

This is rather deceptive, Mr. Knill. I highly doubt that you can get away with this in Bournemouth, UK. In fact, one of the reasons Dubai is attractive is that you can get away with murder and get your picture taken for it.. with a big grin on your face while you are ripping off hard-working people in Dubai.

Shame on you.

23 August, 2007

Two Thousand Dirhams....

Came across this Khaleej Times report, "Dh2,000 to be minimum pay for schoolteachers"
As per the standard contract, the minimum salary for the teaching and administrative staff has been fixed at Dh2,000.

Dan Rather once said, "The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth.'"

Two Thousand Dirhams, and that's the truth.

If the private schools are guilty of paying peanuts, the government should intervene. In this case, I think the minimum wage set is way too low. I hope and wish the leaders of the UAE would have an urgent look into this matter.

Let this blog be the voice of reason.

Gulf News: Dubai Properties in New Initiative

Dubai (23rd August): Dubai Properties announced the launch of "Up Your
Service!" Programme as part of its strategy to put customer needs as
top priority. Hashim Al Dabal, executive chairman, Dubai Properties,
the programme at an event attended by 1,300
employees. Founded
by bestselling author and renowed
speaker, Ron Kaufman, "UP
Your Service" is a programme
designed to help
companies and organizations
upgrade service
uplift service
providers and build a superior service

For a second, I just mis-read the article.

Dubai takes $5bn gamble on Las Vegas


Clark in New YorkWednesday August 22, 2007 Guardian Unlimited

The state-controlled investment vehicle of Dubai is betting on the glitzy fortunes of Las Vegas by pumping $5bn (£2.5bn) into a partnership to develop casinos with MGM Mirage - in spite of the fact that the emirate officially forbids gambling.
Dubai World, which is controlled by the Middle Eastern emirate's government, is putting $2.7bn into a 76-acre resort on the Las Vegas Strip and will buy up to $2.4bn worth of MGM shares.

The deal amounts to a coup for Kirk Kerkorian, the 90-year-old billionaire who owns a controlling stake in MGM and who has been building Las Vegas landmarks since the 1940s.
Due to be completed in 2009, the partnership's initial project is named CityCenter and will comprise a 4,000-room resort casino, two non-gambling hotels, 2,650 apartments and 470,000ft of retail space. Architects involved in the project include Lord Foster.
Although an Islamic nation, Dubai is renowned for its liberal policies. But while alcohol is tolerated, gambling is strictly forbidden for the emirate's 1.4 million residents.
Dubai World's chairman, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, brushed aside questions about the apparent conflict of attitudes by pointing out that the company had long owned a small stake in Kerzner International - the owner of the Bahamas' Paradise Island casino.
"Through our Kerzner investment we're already into gambling, so this shouldn't come as a surprise," he told the newswire service Bloomberg.
The scale of the Las Vegas deal, however, eclipsed Dubai World's previous gaming involvement and Sultan bin Sulayem suggested the firm would like to increase its stake in MGM to 20% once it receives approval from gaming regulators.
Dubai World's activities in its home nation include building two luxurious off-shore residential projects - The World and the Palm. The company's recent overseas ventures include purchasing the QE2, the W Hotel in New York's Union Square and the department store Barneys.
Two years ago, Dubai World's ports offshoot, DP World, snapped up P&O for £3.9bn but was forced to offload P&O's six US ports following a campaign by opponents including Hillary Clinton who claimed that Arab ownership of American ports was a national security risk.
MGM shares leapt 7% to $79.87. The US company's chairman, Terry Lanni, described the deal as "a transforming event for MGM Mirage and Las Vegas".
"We are extremely pleased to be working with Dubai World," he said. "We have a tremendous amount of respect for Sultan bin Sulayem and all that his company has accomplished."

22 August, 2007

UAE Community Blog Copy Cats

Looks like our brothers in Oman are trying to copy the success of this blog. Check out their blog Oman Community Blog.

Its at an early stage, but its seems UAE Community Blog is the leader in the GCC.

Rights group decries jailing of UAE Web site owner

Rights group decries jailing of UAE Web site owner

August 22, 2007

DUBAI -- An Arab human rights group called Wednesday for the quashing of a one-year jail sentence against a Web site owner in the United Arab Emirates, who was also fined $19,000 on defamation charges.

The sentence against Mohammad Rashed Al Shehhi "deals a harsh blow to freedom of expression" in a country that took the lead in spreading Internet usage, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRInfo) said on its Web site.

According to the group and local press reports, Shehhi was sentenced to one year in prison, and his Web site was closed, earlier this month, by a court in Ras Al Khaimah, one of seven emirates that make up the UAE, after a local official sued the Web site and its owner for defamation.

Cairo-based HRInfo, which posts information about human rights in the Arab world on its portal, said the alleged defamation by an unknown user on the Web site, which provided a forum for debate of local issues, did not amount to more than "political criticism" of a civil servant.

A hearing in the appeal against the sentence handed to Shehhi, who was ordered to pay a fine of 50,000 dirhams ($13,600) and Dh 20,000 in compensation to the official, is scheduled for August 26, the local press reported.

HRInfo said the harsh sentence was passed despite the fact that Shehhi should not be held accountable for the writings of users on his Web site (majan.net).

The group, which said it would approach UAE leaders over the case, reported that another writer on the same Web site, Khaled Al Asli, was arrested in Ras Al Khaimah August 19. It called for both his release and the quashing of the "unjust" sentence against Shehhi.

Scores of regional and international news organizations operate out of Dubai, another UAE member that hosts twin Internet and media "cities," but most local media in the oil-rich Gulf country is government-guided.

original article HERE

The website in question is majan.net;

more information on the case is available on the following links (use translate.google.com to help you)


Job prospects and the niqab

Reuters has a longish article about the difficulty women who wear the niqab finding jobs with face-to-face contact with the public. Dubai features prominently. Some excerpts:
It is common to see Emirati women in the workplace, most wearing elegant robes and head coverings, but those wearing the niqab which leaves only the eyes uncovered are rarely seen in front offices.

"Women in niqabs do not sit at the counter. They take administrative jobs," said Abdullah Naser, a manager at a Dubai post office. "Clients need to know who they are talking to."
In Dubai, the most modern emirate where multinationals keep their regional hubs and expatriate non-Muslims make up a large proportion of the population, women who wear the niqab find it hard to get jobs.

"Some companies have a policy preventing women from wearing their niqab during work hours, such as banks for example," said Nora al-Bidour, public relations manager at Tanmia.

The niqab has also caused controversy in Egypt, the most populous Arab country, where an increasing number of women are wearing the veil. In June, a court ruled that a U.S.-accredited university was wrong to bar a female scholar who wears a face veil.

In the United States, Saima Azfar, an immigrant from Pakistan, plans to wear her niqab when she interviews for jobs once she passes her medical board exams in Chicago.

"There are Muslim women doctors I know who went through the licensing process here," explains Azfar, 34. "They told me that if you have the talent, then nobody will deny you a job for wearing a veil."

Here's the whole thing.

21 August, 2007

Dubai, outsourcing hotspot

The Wall Street Journal today reports (subscribers only, I suspect) on page one of its US edition:
Much of the Middle East offers the same appeal other outsourcing hot spots have: cheap, skilled labor. But companies are finding other advantages, including a time zone that roughly straddles the world's three biggest economies -- North America, Europe and Asia. The region's geographic proximity to Europe and a multilingual labor force also help. And with business booming in much of the Mideast, there is more demand for Arabic speakers.
In recent years, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have all broken into the top 20 most-attractive offshoring destinations, according to an index published by consultancy A.T. Kearney Inc. Tunisia, Morocco, Israel and Turkey made the top 50 in this year's list.
Dubai, in the UAE, is promoting an "outsource zone," one of several zones aiming to attract specific industries. While wages in the UAE are relatively high, officials highlight its advanced high-tech infrastructure and large talent pool, including educated Southeast Asian and Arab-speaking expatriates.

An outsourcing joint venture between Electronic Data Systems Corp. of Plano, Texas, and another UAE emirate, Abu Dhabi, is pouring $100 million into a new center aimed at Mideast customers. EDS recently started hiring in Morocco to service its European clients. It already has 450 employees in Egypt.

Talk about the weather

It's warm, not hot.

You can cruise with the top down; go to the beach; take a stroll down the road in the "summer heat".

You can even dine al fresco; and many do.

Dubai summers are pleasant when you need some cooling.

20 August, 2007

Kuwaiti bloggers tortured by Kuwaiti secret police

Two Kuwaiti bloggers, Jassim Al Qames and Bashar Al-Sayegh, were arrested by Kuwait's secret police after someone posted a negative comment about Kuwait's Emir on their website.

Even though they deleted it immediately, they were still arrested:

Bashar was detained because of a comment written about the Amir of Kuwait, Shaikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, on his website's forum by an annonymous person, it was deleted by Bashar because of its inappropriateness but he was 15 minutes late deleting it, the police held him accountable even after it was deleted. As for Jassim he was released but beaten severely and blind folded and forced to use his fingerprint as signature to a document he couldn't read because of the blindfolds.

This is disgusting behaviour by the Kuwait authorities and brings disgrace on all of Kuwait.

19 August, 2007

Quest for the Holy Chocolate Grail

Some of you may have seen magazine articles about the new Galler chocolate cafe "on Sheikh Zayed road". Well that's not a very helpful location instruction. Nor is Time Out Dubai's description of it as "Ghaya Residence, behind the Dusit". After - no kidding - one hour and a half of driving round SZR and asking for directions (a huge thank you to the guy in Axiom Cafe who let me do a Google search on his laptop) I finally found it.

Anyone who has been to the Galler cafe in Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall will understand why it was so vital to find the Dubai one. The menu is wonderful: fresh salads, burgers, crepes, with lots of imaginative use of chocolate, and the most amazing home made ice cream and sorbet in the UAE. Plus of course rich, foaming hot chocolate like you have never tasted it before.

So how to get there? Well, Ghaya residence is nowhere near the Dusit. It's half way up SZR nearer to the Emirates Towers end. It has Commercial Bank of Dubai at the bottom facing SZR, and the Galler cafe is round the back (north east corner - ie the Emirates Towers side). Click these images to enlarge:

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

18 August, 2007

Nakheel Designs Al Burj: 1,050m Tower in Dubai

Al Burj

Al Burj (The Tall Tower) project being planned by Nakheel will be 1,050 metres tall, comfortably exceeding the height of the rival Burj Dubai and making it the world’s tallest building.

Nakheel has kept the tower’s height a closely guarded secret as it waits for its more advanced rival, being developed by Emaar Properties, to reach its final height later this year. However, MEED has confirmed that design plans show the tower to be more than 1 kilometre tall, at 1,050 metres.

Read More ...

Where in the world is Mummy?

Emirates Airline refuses to allow a passenger to carry onboard his dead mother's ashes for a NZ-UAE-UK flight, and then loses them by way of the Seychelles.

I guess that the pax didn't want to pay full fare for his mum too - or did the ashes pose a threat to aircraft security?

Read full story here.

The Fire @ Sharjah Port

Well, I was too sleepy to take a snap when the fire was raging, but here's one snapped at 8:30 am

It was pretty fearsome at its peak.

17 August, 2007

Dubai Ice bar

I made a short video of the ice bar in Dubai's new Time Square shopping centre. The food in the food court is quite impressive - fresh and authentic, unlike a lot of food court food that sits out in metal trays for hours on end. The Chill Out ice bar is Dh60 to get in, and then you get a free lemon margarita or strawberry daiquiri included (all mocktails, there's no alcohol there). There's also the world's first ever ice painting of Sheikh Mohammed (click to enlarge):

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Airport Trouble.......

Does anyone know why the entrance to the airport parking & the airport it self coming from Clock tower/Dnata side was blocked by the police last night at about 10:30. The entrance from the airport tunnel side was open but there were a couple of police men keeping an eye on the cars entering. Also the police presence at the airport was very high & the cars already in the parking were also delayed from getting out of the airport.

Was this due to the presence of some high official at the airport or a terrorist threat/hoax.......

Btw nothing about this has been reported in GN or their website.....

16 August, 2007

Al Jazeera etisalat latest target

Al Jazzera has recently started posting most of its newscasts and programmes on youtube.
Does anyone know why Al Jazzera's website has been blocked on youtube?

15 August, 2007

Happy Birthday India!

7Days letter

I found this letter to the editor in 7 Days and of course it will spark controversy but I think that the man has written a very well thought out letter with figures that do look like they were well researched and sadly, reported a situation that would take ages to resolve knowing the penchant of my fellow Indians (and I willingly share the blame) for being too heavy handed to tie the delicate shoestrings Mr. Aneja would like us to do!

....it gives you more than wings

So I went to the grocery store next door last night and as I qeued at the counter, I noticed this HUGE display presenting a new fancy drink. Nothing new I thought to myself. Just a flashy can in red and black colours. Surely the name of the drink is quite memorable. It's called "orGAZM". How's that name for getting approved by the UAE authorities?
Has anyone else spotted that drink?
One can only imagine the marketing slogan: "Have you had your can of orGAZM today?" I should go over there again and take a pic it's hilarious.

Slow Down!

RTA is soon lowering the maximum speed limit from 120kph to 100kph:
~ between Interchanges 2 & 5 on Sheikh Zayed Road
~ on the Al Khail Road

The minimum limit of 60kph will remain.

Speed reductions are also being considered on other 100kph roads down to 80kph.

Excerpts from the article in Gulf News:
~ "We are in the process of revising speed limits on most of Dubai roads in order to reduce fatal accidents, because speeding is the main killer," said Badr Al Siri, Director of Traffic Department at Roads and Traffic Agency in RTA.

~ "The measures are being taken after extensive studies," he said.

~ Motorists are allowed to drive at least 20km above the given speed limit before they are caught by radars and cameras.

~ 240 out of 312 people were killed in accidents caused by speeding last year. Around 45 people were killed and 273 got injured in 122 accidents last year on Shaikh Zayed Road alone.

~ Some 136 people have been killed on Dubai roads during the first six months of this year.

Read the whole article here.

14 August, 2007

Life begins at 50

This is for those of us over 50. If you need some ideas for socialising and you are from the UK, I found this web site that is great - http://www.overfiftiesfriends.co.uk.

You have to use a UK city (at the moment) to register as a member but its great for when you are on holiday and need ideas for meeting new people, activities, etc. The site owners are considering expansion ideas and I hope they continue to keep the controls that keep it clean like it is at the moment - and keep the raging hormones (of the youth variety) away!

Clean living, no hidden agendas. Just up my street.


Click on image to enlarge

Funny typo seen on Gulf News' headline ticker this morning.

Even the good employers get complaints!

GN actually meant the opposite.

09 August, 2007

Success comes at a price for UAE's native minority


by Lydia Georgi Tue Jul 31, 11:33 PM ET

DUBAI (AFP) - The United Arab Emirates got its own, first-ever comic book superhero in July. His mission is to promote national identity in a state overrun by foreigners where natives could become negligible in 20 years.
A cultural melting pot, the seven-member oil-rich Gulf federation stands out as an oasis of prosperity in the troubled Middle East, and Dubai as the jewel in the crown.

But for native Emiratis, this glory has come at a price.

Foreigners continue flocking in, transforming demographics and prompting some analysts to warn that the indigenous population could end up strangers in their own land.

Read the full article here

Villa ban for singles

The Municipality is taking stringent measures to ensure that 'bachelors' are evicted from villas.

'Bachelors' are defined by the Head of the Building Inspections Section of Dubai Municipality as "a single person whether married or unmarried, male or female" and includes "executive bachelors" - so if you're a highly paid unmarried CEO, or one whose wife isn't here with you, don't think this only applies to construction labourers - you're out of your home too.

Real estate companies renting villas to singles or companies lodging executive singles in villas are threatened with having their trade licence cancelled.

Singles can live in apartments anywhere in Dubai, but not in villas - bizarre when you consider that villas tend to have space around them while apartment dwellers live in very close proximity.

Another of those blanket laws that hasn't been thought through in a sophisticated enough way.

08 August, 2007

Freedom, not Protected by Law

It occurs to me that one of the things many people like about the UAE, whether local or expat, are the freedoms that most of us percieve we have. There is freedom to worship according to one's beliefs and freedom to associate with others as one pleases, so long as there is a certain level of discretion. There is freedom to dress as one chooses, whereas even in a Western country one is not likely to ever see a burkha beside a bikini.

I don't think anyone can deny the popular perception of a great amount of freedom in this country, even though some will counter that religious or other restrictions exist. On the other hand, very few if any of these perceived freedoms are actually protected by law. So when it comes to dress, association, and even religious practices (like, say, handing out Bible tracts on the street) one, if unlucky, may well discover that these freedoms are on some level illusory.

But I would argue that these freedoms are, in fact, not illusions. They are the reality that make the UAE such a comfortable place to live and work in for the many varieties of people that do, and make it possible that the UAE may in time become the world's premier leisure destination as its leaders and planners envision. This is freedom UAE-style--a reality, even if not guaranteed by law.


My observations since Salik's implementation are as follows:

a) More traffic on the "free exits" before the two Salik points
b) Still a gridlock on the Barsha toll gate (more compared to pre-Salik @ peak hours)
c) More traffic onto Sofouh Road leaving Media City (peak hours)
d) More traffic on the junction leading to Madinat Jumeirah (peak hours)
d) Bottle-neck (non-existent pre-Salik) onto the entrance to Business Bay Bridge (from Dubai direction)
e) Shaikh Zayed Road seems to be a little less busy at off-peak hours
f) Day-by-day, Dubai's floating bridge (peak hours) is packed, Sharjah direction
g) Last but not least, I've overheard impatient Salik-customers at petrol stations request if Salik tags were available. Station attendants responded that there is a quota on the number of tags they receive, and they are out of stock.

Just over a month into Salik, would you say it's been good for you, or not?

07 August, 2007

Thank you for not leaving.

There's more to the NYT article referenced below, like a slideshow with commentary--click on the photo above--and the original article link, which includes images and links to related coverage. (Don't know how long these links will be active.)

It is rather disgusting that there are always people ready to retort leave if you don't like it when people raise legitimate issues of labor abuse. Regardless of the reason that these hardest of workers come to the UAE, their sacrafice is largely what this ultra-modern, head-turning country is built on. THANK YOU, Guys. I hope you never leave.

Greetings from Mars

Hi everybody,

This post is just a big "Hello" to everyone. My next post will be a little more informative. But for now a big smile, wave and ALOOOOOOOOOOOOHA!

PS: You're more than welcome to visit my blog anytime, as well as comment :)

The Whole World is Watching (yet again)...

"They say we are the richest men in our village, Ahmed. So why is it that I can't afford a can of coke?"

From today's NEW YORK TIMES (registration may be required):

"DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — They still wake before dawn in desert dormitories that pack a dozen men or more to a room. They still pour concrete and tie steel rods in temperatures that top 110 degrees. They still spend years away from families in India and Pakistan to earn about $1 an hour. They remain bonded to employers under terms that critics liken to indentured servitude.

But construction workers, a million strong here and famously mistreated, have won some humble victories.

After several years of unprecedented labor unrest, the government is seeking peace with this army of sweat-stained migrants who make local citizens a minority in their own country and sustain one of the world’s great building booms. Regulators here have enforced midday sun breaks, improved health benefits, upgraded living conditions and cracked down on employers brazen enough to stop paying workers at all.

The results form a portrait of halting change in a region synonymous with foreign labor and, for many years, labor abuse.

Many rich countries, including the United States, rely on cheap foreign workers. But no country is as dependent as the United Arab Emirates, where foreigners make up about 85 percent of the population and 99 percent of the private work force. From bankers to barbers, there are 4.5 million foreigners here, compared with 800,000 Emirati citizens, according to the Ministry of Labor. About two-thirds of the foreigners are South Asians, including most of the 1.2 million construction workers.

The labor agitation came as a surprise in this city of glass towers and marble-tiled malls where social harmony is part of the marketing plan and political action can seem all but extinct. But when thousands of migrant construction workers walked off the job last year, blocking traffic and smashing parked cars, it became clear that the nonnatives were restless."

Okay, no news to us -- most of us have read or at least heard of the HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT on how South Asian construction workers are exploited and conned. But will it actually matter now that the rest of the world is aware of it?

06 August, 2007

outlook to the past

Sometimes Microsoft Outlook gently reminds you of the past, or things you don't really want to be reminded of. Same goes for Plaxo. I don't really need to get reminders of everyone's birthday in my adress book! Anyway. Today I got this Outlook reminder saying "Shk Zayed Accesion Day" - remember, August 6 used to be a holiday!
Can't believe it is almost three years since he passed away :-( .

Give the cyclists a break, please

Just a quick request to all motorists - I know you are in a hurry but while you sit in the comfort of your air-conditioned car, spare a thought for the poor cyclist standing by the side of the road waiting to let the cars through to cross the road. His only hope of being cool is to be on the move!

I saw a poor bloke this morning and though the cars were slowing down to do a turn - not one stopped to give this guy the option to cross the street. And it wasn't a main road like Sheikh Zayed Road either!!

02 August, 2007

Dubai and American Empire

I think most of us are aware of the different roles Dubai plays in U.S. empire building (Halliburton just being one example). One of the things I am curious about is if people perceive transformations in Dubai with an increasing American presence there.

The other day I was offered a job in Afghanistan, which I politely refused (though the double salary was a bit tempting). One of the arrangements was that after every two months they would fly one to Dubai for a week of R & R. While the U.S. military is mostly taken to bases in Qatar for their R & R from Iraq, the 100s of thousands of contractors seem to prefer Dubai. And, as they are all male, we can imagine what many of them are doing. Bangkok, Seoul, and Okinawa being classic examples of how U.S. military transforms economic opportunities for young women. Of course, the same is true for U.S. military cities, such as Fayetteville, North Carolina, near where I currently live. There is a fascinating book on Fayetteville called Homefront: A Military City and the American Twentieth Century.

When I was in Dubai several long-time residents pointed out how it was when the Russians started coming that the "quality" of the place changed and the presence of prostitution and other "questionable activities" moved from the back door to the front. Does one see or sense any qualitative transformation in Dubai with the increased presence of American empire builders? Or are they just absorbed into the already existent structures of sleaze?

Asia’s biggest mall in Philippines

If there is Mall of America in United States, Cevahir shopping mall in Europe; Mall of the Emirates, which is the current biggest shopping mall in the Middle East, and West Edmonton mall in Canada, Now Southeast Asia’s biggest mall is in Paradise Philippines, the “Mall of Asia”.

Located west of Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City, the Mall of Asia is aptly nicknamed as the "Bay City." It is built on 19.5 hectares of reclaimed land and has a gross floor area of 386,224 square meters. Mall of Asia in paradise Philippines has a lot to give for its shoppers. It consists of main mall, which include shopping and dining establishments. All the shops you could think of are here.

for more read Philippine travel guide

01 August, 2007

Thank you

To H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum & H.H. Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Thank you.

The sleazier side of Dubai

I know this exists - as a matter of fact - it used to be a favourite "special night out" thing to do by the guys from my Rugby Club - way back when. But sleazy then is not half as sleazy as now! Oh no - its a lot more blatant these days!!

But there were some things that were just heard of but not seen or overtly spoken of at least. But in the last couple of weeks I have realised that this side is very much making its presence felt and not doing much to disguise it either. I don't care what people do as long as it does not effect me. But how is it that free thinking sites like Secret Dubai get blocked and Facebook gets threatened and there are other sleazy sites that blatantly flaunt sex that are still going strong!

Would the TRA like to explain, please?

Easing traffic: Dubai's floating bridge

The floating bridge of Dubai.

This has opened after Business Bay, "the other bridge".

So what do you all think of the new "floating bridge of Dubai"?

*post updated with photos above