30 June, 2008

A political debate in Dubai

Powers that be have endorsed an open political debate in Dubai, but some are cautious. The Washington Post has the story.

28 June, 2008

Khan Muran - the newest place in town.

A close copy of an ancient Arabian market has been poured into a 50,000-square-feet hole off Shaikh Rashid Road in Dubai. The underground shopping mall is themed after the legendary Khan Murjan souq in Baghdad of the 1300s and was officially opened last week with a performance about the Queen of Syria, that will continue until 5th of July.

It's open daily 10am-10pm, and until midnight on Thursday and Friday. Usually the restaurant is fully booked and there is a cover charge of 125 Dh.
However, if you are lucky to find place around the bar, a-la-carte menu is available with traditional Arabic food and drinks.
We have had a great time.

27 June, 2008

Farewell to Sleepless in Muscat

Some very sad news: one of Oman's best known bloggers, Sleepless in Muscat, has died at the age of 29. You can read more at Oman Community blog.

He was a long-standing and respected member of UAE Community blog, and one of the earliest pioneers of blogging in Oman.

His very last entry, which you can read here, is a beautiful and sad poem. In tribute to him, here is the last verse:

I grow old as nature would pass me by
Is this the way that I shall always live my life?
The red rose in my hand
Petals flow in the air
Has passion died?
Is there no more flair?

We hope that he rests in peace and wish every sympathy to his family.

25 June, 2008

Dubai rotating tower

I wouldn't want to live in it, and I don't for a moment believe it will end up looking anything like this if indeed it is ever built at all, but the 3D animations in this video are stunning. It looks like something from another universe:

22 June, 2008


Apparently there was a bomb of some sort at the nightclub Eleganté early this morning (22/6) around 2.30 AM.
A mate of mine went there with friends and he says that people were trying to get out because something smelled suspicious in the air. People were coughing up blood and many had collapsed. The whole place was evacuated, obviously.

My mate is down with a bad throat and chest today. I'm thinking it was a chemical attack of some sort for it to have caused people to cough up blood, choke and/or collapse.

Does anyone have any news about this incident?

21 June, 2008

Terror Alert linked to... actual Terrorism?

An excerpt from last week's US State Department's worldwide warning to American citizens abroad (sorry for the length -- having said that -- we are a rather long-winded people):
The Middle East and North Africa

Credible information indicates terrorist groups seek to continue attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East and North Africa. Terrorist actions may include bombings, hijackings, hostage taking, kidnappings, and assassinations. While conventional weapons such as explosive devices are a more immediate threat in many areas, use of non-conventional weapons, including chemical or biological agents, must be considered a possible threat. Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Increased security at official U.S. facilities has led terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer targets such as public transportation, residential areas, and public areas where people congregate, including restaurants, hotels, clubs, and shopping areas.

On December 11, 2007, two vehicle-borne explosive devices were detonated at the UN headquarters in Algiers and the Algerian Constitutional Council. Three other suicide bomb attacks in July and September of 2007 in Algeria killed more than 80 people. In July 2007, suspected al-Qaida operatives carried out a vehicle-borne explosive device attack on tourists at the Bilquis Temple in Yemen, which resulted in the deaths of eight Spanish tourists and their two Yemeni drivers. There was a series of bombings in Morocco in March and April 2007, two of which occurred simultaneously outside the U.S. Consulate General and the private American Language Center in Casablanca. Additionally, an attack took place on the American International School in Gaza in April 2007. These events underscore the intent of terrorist entities to target facilities perceived to cater to Westerners. The September 2006 attack on the U.S. embassy in Syria and the March 2006 bombing near the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan illustrate the continuing desire of extremists to strike American targets.

Potential targets are not limited to those companies or establishments with overt U.S. ties. For instance, terrorists may target movie theaters, liquor stores, bars, casinos, or any similar type of establishment, regardless of whether they are owned and operated by host country nationals. Due to varying degrees of security at all such locations, Americans should be particularly vigilant when visiting these establishments.

The violence in Iraq, clashes between Palestinians and Israelis, clashes between terrorist extremists and the Lebanese Armed Forces, and the violence in Pakistan following the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007 have the potential to produce demonstrations and unrest throughout the region. Americans are reminded that demonstrations and rioting can occur with little or no warning. In addition, the Department of State continues to warn of the possibility for violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests in the region. Anti-American violence could include possible terrorist actions against aviation, ground transportation, and maritime interests, specifically in the Middle East, including the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula, and North Africa.

The Department is concerned that extremists may be planning to carry out attacks against Westerners and oil workers on the Arabian Peninsula. Armed attacks targeting foreign nationals in Saudi Arabia that resulted in many deaths and injuries, including U.S. citizens, appear to have been preceded by extensive surveillance. Tourist destinations in Egypt that are frequented by Westerners were attacked in April 2006 resulting in many deaths and injuries, including Americans. Extremists may be surveilling Westerners, particularly at hotels, housing areas, and rental car facilities. Potential targets may include U.S. contractors, particularly those related to military interests. Financial or economic venues of value also could be considered as possible targets; the failed attack on the Abqaiq oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia in late February 2006 and the September 2006 attack on oil facilities in Yemen are examples.
Strangely, it doesn't reference any of our friends in the British SIS downing pints at some pub in Abu Dhabi. Must be another US intelligence failure...

Site is being copied

It has been brought to my attention that the website http://blog.dirhambrokers.com/ has made a carbon copy of the content on this website, plopped on a few ads and given absolutely no credit for any posts it has copied nor asked permission.
I'm very limited in what I am able to do against this (alongside a few people here who have the exact same problem: http://www.phoenixrealestateguy.com/dear-nodebtmortgagecom-please-stop-stealing-my-content/953.
Even so, I'd like to remind anyone thinking of mirroring content from here that it is absolutely necessary to provide a link back to this website (whether you are quoting in a newspaper, website, magazine etc)

20 June, 2008

Terror alert linked to alcohol

According to Gulf News, the recent raised terror alert was caused by a conversation between two men in a bar...

"One drunk man told the other in jest: "If someone wants to scare all these people and make them run away, just say there is a bomb. A belt bomb will kill hundreds of them."

The source said it is believed that Britons sitting near the men overheard the conversation and thought it was serious."

more here

18 June, 2008

livejournal blocked

So finally livejournal has been blocked (again) in the UAE (thanks to anon for tip)

A few weeks back I wrote a post on the website www.vimeo.com; I actually complained to Etisalat about the site and was told that they didn't care/it was against policy because it was categorized as 'dating' (which leads me to believe no matter what website it is, if some company in the US lists it as dating they dont care at all and don't seem like they even review the website themselves).

I suggested to securecomputing that the website was not dating and they have since recategorized it (which means vimeo is now unblocked in the UAE).

Unfortunately there are 3 websites (that I know of) which are commonly complained about for being blocked (www.last.fm, www.twitter.com and now www.livejournal.com); as you can see from this screenshot, securecomputing lists them all as social networking/dating, so if a website is social networking it is automatically considered a dating website too. This seems like quite a severe limitation. It is also quite unfortunate as all four of these websites have very little to do with dating (vimeo is a video website like youtube with a policy against adult material, last.fm is so people can share playlists of what music they're listening to, twitter.com is much like blogspot/blogger, and livejournal.com is like blogger too)

3 cheers for Etisalat.

the secret issue 12

Just a quick reminder for those who don't know about the secret, the little free newsletter I publish, or for those who signed up ages ago but have since changed jobs/emails, do feel free to sign up below. It contains links to interesting articles and blog posts about the UAE, small snippets of gossip and scandal that people send in anonymously, and links to various internet sites that are particularly *useful* to UAE web users. It goes out to around 2,000 people at the moment.

Issue 12 just got sent out but I can resend it to any new subscribers. Feel free to drop me a line if you ever want any back issues.

17 June, 2008

US businessman: Videos show torture by UAE royal

As a trusted adviser to a member of United Arab Emirates royal family, Texas businessman Bassam Nabulsi says he safeguarded the sheik's most important documents: financial records, investment documents, and videotapes showing the sheik torturing people with a cattle prod and a spiked plank.

When the business relationship began to deteriorate, Nabulsi says, he also was imprisoned for months and tortured by jailers trying to get the tapes back.

Now, the tapes could become evidence in a federal lawsuit against Sheik Issa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a son of the late UAE president and brother of Abu Dhabi's crown prince.
The tapes have not been made public but The Associated Press viewed 11 still frames from one of the videos. They showed a man who appeared to be Sheik Issa beating another man with lumber, firing an automatic weapon into the sand around him and forcing an apparent cattle prod into his anus. The victim also appeared to have been partly run over by a SUV and had salt poured on his wounds.
The lawsuit has been languishing in a Houston federal court for nearly two years as attorneys tried to serve Issa and others with court papers. Efforts to deliver the documents to the royal family through UAE lawyers have failed and a confirmation of mail delivery was returned unsigned, according to court records.
My emphasis.

The BBC has a report of a different UAE royal in court.

16 June, 2008

BBC: Blogger arrests hit record high

The BBC reports that, world-wide, blogger arrests tripled between 2006 and 2007. The arrests are concentrated in three countries - China, Egypt and Iran:
Since 2003, 64 people have been arrested for publishing their views on a blog, says the University of Washington annual report.

In 2007 three times as many people were arrested for blogging about political issues than in 2006, it revealed.

More than half of all the arrests since 2003 have been made in China, Egypt and Iran, said the report.

Citizens have faced arrest and jail for blogging about many different topics, said the World Information Access (WIA) report.

Arrested bloggers exposed corruption in government, abuse of human rights or suppression of protests. They criticised public policies and took political figures to task.

The report said the rising number of arrests was testament to the "growing" political importance of blogging.
Of particular interest to the UAE community may be that the WIA Report 2008 also explores "diversity in the ownership of media assets in the 15 largest media markets in the Muslim world, and the ideological diversity of political content online in 74 countries with large Muslim populations."

UK Warns of "high threat from terrorism" in the UAE

So says the BBC this morning:
British nationals in the United Arab Emirates have been warned there is now a high risk of a terror attack there.

Travel advice from the UK Foreign Office said terrorists might be planning indiscriminate attacks in places frequented by expatriates...

"High" is the most serious of four terrorism risk levels which the Foreign Office uses in its warnings...

One of the great selling points of the Emirates is the high level of personal safety (well, except on the road), especially when compared to so many expats' home countries. I know that I always felt much safer walking around Al Ain, even at night, than I do now that I'm back in the US.

Here's hoping and praying that either the report is wrong or that the authorities are able to stop any plots that do exist. Stay safe everyone.

IFJ Demands UAE Overturn Ban on Pakistan TV Programs

"The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is extremely concerned that two popular talk programs transmitted to Pakistan from Dubai-based GEO TV have been taken off air at the request of the Government of United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The IFJ calls on the UAE Government to explain why, and on whose authority, it asked the independent Pakistan television broadcaster to cancel the programs.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), an affiliate of the IFJ, said the owner of GEO and the Jang group of newspapers, Mir Shakeelur Rehman, confirmed that UAE authorities had asked GEO to discontinue broadcasting Capital Talk, hosted by Islamabad-based Hamid Mir, and Meray Mutabek, hosted by Dubai-based Shahid Masood.

UAE authorities reportedly told GEO management that they did not want anything transmitted from Dubai to disturb UAE’s relationship with friendly countries.

more here

09 June, 2008

UAE Dirham Bonds, the next fashion?

Bonds are not new to the financial scene in Dubai, only now they’re starting to become popular. More than AED 28 bil worth of bonds were issued in the last seven months, and this time in UAE Dirhams instead of US Dollars.

UAE governments and corporates are betting on steady growth, selling debt at large to target the massive liquidity out there by providing safer products to the portfolios of institutional investors who were hit hard by the recent bearish trends in the regional markets.

There’s a speculation about the real reason why the recent bond issues were denominated in UAE Dirhams instead of Dollars. State-owned utility company DEWA for instance was supposed to issue bonds in US Dollars last November but it got postponed till last month where they were issued in Dirhams. It could be related to a near revaluation of the UAE Dirham or an abandonment of the US Dollar peg.

Another aspect to UAE bonds is that they’re mostly Islamic. “Sukuk”, or Islamic bonds, as opposed to regular bonds, feature something called “Ijara”, or a leasing agreement, by which the bond holder is actually receiving returns derived from underlying assets, and not interest-based coupons since interest is banned in Islam. Nevertheless, UAE bonds and Sukuk are being priced at various spreads above the interest rate EIBOR (Emirates Interbank Offered Rate), sometimes as generous as %2.15 in the case of two-year Sukuk by property developer Nakheel.

More than half of UAE bonds are not yet rated. There are no rating agencies in the region, and not enough regulations for bankruptcy and default.

The bonds are not available to the retail investor but the latter can get exposure to such bonds through mutual funds.

Some of the major issuers include: Dubai Government AED 6.5 bil, Ras Al Khaima Government AED 1 bil, Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA) AED 7.5 bil, Dubai Water and Electricity Authority (DEWA) AED 3.2 bil, Emirates NBD Bank AED 2.1 bil, HSBC AED 2.25 bil, Emirates Airlines AED 1.8 bil (traded on DFM as EK-2013), Nakheel AED 3.6 bil, and Aldar Properties AED 3.75 bil.

08 June, 2008

Embassy Row

Which of these is not like the others?

United Arab Emirates
The Philippines
The Republic of Togo

If you are thinking like I am thinking, your answer is the United Arab Emirates. And the reason is it is far wealthier than the rest (to be sure) with far less internal political and governmental dysfunction (my guess).

What do all of these countries have in common? They are the countries that make the list of countries with vacant dilapidated residences on Washington's Embassy row.

Because the properties are treated as foreign soil the city of Washington cannot use penalize the countries for trashing the neighborhood.

The tool the city has a last result -- after asking politely -- is to publically shame the countries by making the names public. I'm not even sure it's done that: it seems the Washington Post has come up with its own list.

I know enough about UAE culture to know that public shaming is taken as a personal affront, even when you bring it on yourself.

The Washington Post story is here on page A01 of the Sunday paper; with an interactive graphic here.

07 June, 2008

Legal Magic

Legal Magic is a new UAE-based poetry group:

A group aimed at joining together committed poetry writers who are working towards publication in English, Arabic and other languages in the United Arab Emirates. Where poets meet together to offer valuable criticism; to set up poetry readings, performance poetry and other poetry-related events in the UAE; to help poets achieve book publication and to further the goals of poetry and poets in the multicultural setting of the UAE.

To join, or just learn more, visit Legal Magic

The Diminishing Advantage of Living in Dubai:

Living in Dubai was heaven for expats 10 years ago, no taxes, cheap rent, crime free, no traffic, nice people, stress free, great place to bring up your family, good salary since living expense were cheap and best of all stable.

So my question now is, these advantages seem to be diminishing, the new expats who cant compare and only know what they see , most think this is the best thing ever, Is it worth all the trouble because the salaries are good? The buying power is always diminishing? Is it still better than being back home with your respective family and friends? Or is that not as important and making the extra buck make it worth while?

05 June, 2008

To marry or not to marry? That is the (French) question ha!

Okay, right. So this may not be your regular UAE-related post. But I thought it might be of interest to you (read: I’m curious to know what UAE citizens / expats living in a Muslim country think about it ha!), so please humour me! :)

The highlights: A French court granted a marriage annulment to a Muslim man in April on the grounds that his wife (also Muslim) had lied about her virginity. It was deemed that the husband entered into marriage under false pretenses and that the woman's virginity was a "determining factor" in his decision to marry her. The wife accepted the ruling.

The news hit the media last week, sparking an uproar amongst French politicians, women's rights campaigners and French Muslim figures alike. After first supporting the ruling, Justice Minister Rachida Dati made a U-turn and asked state prosecutors to file an appeal. Urban Affairs secretary Fadela Amara, a practising Muslim and women's rights activist, called it "a fatwa against women's emancipation."

You can read the facts here:


And some reactions here:



And now, for your own reactions! Should the French court have granted the annulment? Virgin and non-virgin thoughts welcome! ;)

03 June, 2008

Have you been scammed yet? Try the UAE Pension Fund!

There are tons of scams on the Internet involving some "get rich quick-schemes" involving Dubai and the UAE.
This one really made me laugh so hard: http://www.uae-pension-fund.com/

The U.A.E. Pension Fund is a merger of six mostly European entrepreneurs who have their place of business in the U.A.E. (United Arabic Emirates). They have placed as a holding structure in the mostly known Emirate Dubai. The board of management is leaded by an Arabic sheik.The concluded insurance sum of U.A.E. Pension Fund is amounted to a total of € 300,000.00.Through your premature assignment declaration you will get a compensation payment of € 80,000.00. Additionally you will get € 3,000.00 as a commission payment for each sponsored member finally to your sixths downline level.The total membership is limited to 50,000, so that in all a very fast expiry can be occur.
Costs and duties for member?To register as a member for U.A.E. Pension Fund the member has to pay € 51 only once.This contains every administrative and transactional costs. The only duty arising for the member is the truthfully information of required personal information. Through assignment declaration all rights and duties of the insurance policy will be transfered to the holding company of U.A.E. Pension Fund, so that no additional payments will be necessary.

Shaikh Nasser Bin Zayed Al Nahyan dies

"Abu Dhabi: The Ministry of Presidential Affairs on Tuesday announced the death of Shaikh Nasser Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the brother of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Shaikh Nasser died on Monday night when the helicopter carrying him and his colleagues crashed over Gulf waters.

In a statement, the Ministry of Presidential Affairs announced a three-day mourning period starting Tuesday.

Offices in the government, public and private sectors will continue to work as normal, an authorised source at the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs said."

more here

Choose the better option...

  • In the US (New Jersey) the government will literally pay you (ableit in petrol money) to carpool. (link found via the consumerist)

  • In the UAE, carpooling requires registration in order for it to be legal (I'd say that you have to pay to carpool, but that depends on whether you have to pay to register)

Choose the better option, share your opinion in the comments section...

01 June, 2008

Dubai bans sale of cigarettes to under 20s

"DUBAI (AFP) — The Gulf emirate of Dubai on Saturday banned the sale of tobacco to anyone under the age of 20 with immediate effect and barred young people from public areas in which smoking is allowed.

The announcement was made in public advertisements in Arabic-language newspapers as part of a "Youth Without Tobacco" campaign.

A spokesman for Dubai municipality told AFP that cigarette vendors and managers of public places such as cafes and restaurants have been instructed to ask clients for proof of identity even to smoke water pipes.

Those breaking the law would be fined, he said without elaborating.

Before Saturday's ban the sale of cigarettes in Dubai was prohibited to anyone under 18 and smokers were not allowed to light up in public places including hotels, restaurants, cafes and offices."

more here