31 May, 2009

Tuesday June 2 Deadline: Looking for International East/West Peace Facilitators

This looks like a cool opportunity to help promote peace:
Soliya is recruiting skilled volunteers to facilitate its Connect program for the Fall semester 2009. The Connect program intends to bridge the divide between the "West" and the "Arab & Muslim World” by empowering young adults to play a constructive role in creating a more informed, just and peaceful global society.

Through a series of online video conference discussions held between university students from the United States, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, participants will be given the opportunity to collectively address some of the root causes behind the tensions between the "West" and the "Arab and Muslim world."

Role of a Facilitator: As a facilitator you'll mediate these online-discussions intended to promote intercultural awareness and understanding. You will also engage with people from different cultural backgrounds, explore their various opinions, help them to develop a nuanced understanding of the issues that divide them and become part of the bridge.

They are accepting facilitator applications from graduate and masters students, as well as professionals already in the workforce. The deadline was Friday May 30, but they will still consider applications until June 2.

Email to: Sonja Arnold (sonja@soliya.net)

Lots more information on the Soliya website.

29 May, 2009

Amnesty International Report 2009

In the Gulf states, migrant workers from the Indian sub-continent and other parts of Asia were a main stay of the oil-rich economies, providing labour and skills for construction and in the service industries. Often, however, such contract workers were required to live and work in grossly unsatisfactory conditions, excluded from any state protection against exploitation and abuse. If they protested against their conditions, as in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the authorities’ response was to round them up and deport them.

While I value Amnesty International and its nobel cause, the above claim is not entirely true. There have been peaceful protests where things were resolved amicably and no one got hurt or deported.

Also of note is their soft tone towards Israel.

The rest of the report is well worth reading.

26 May, 2009

UAE bloggers protected by Journalists' Association

A new article says that UAE bloggers will be protected from prosecution by a union of sorts, provided (of course), they follow a code of ethics:

"Bloggers and "virtual" journalists have the right to be protected by the Journalists' Association, provided they abide by the ethics code, including stating of facts and sources of information, avoiding defaming without tangible proof, or provoking hostility arising from religious, sectarian or race discriminations," Yousuf said.

Mohammad Yousuf, President of the UAE Journalists' Association, also said that full-time, dedicated bloggers will be allowed membership of the association.

So the question is really, who is a "full-time, dedicated" blogger? Again, in previous debates regarding this, does it include personal blogs that ocassionally do political commentary and controversial topics, or only those that are "journalistic"? And what is considered "provoking hostility arising from religious, sectarian or race discriminations"? Expats whining about locals, or vice-versa, or both? Does all of this also include comments?

It seems like a step in the right directon for sure, but certain things still seem a bit vague to me.

25 May, 2009

Breaking News FAIL

Someone died in front of Choitram's on Al Wasl road Friday night, and the body was still lying on the road when I stopped by. There was nothing in the newspapers in the next two days, and according to Choitram's staff, it was a hit-and-run. 

Today I see this piece of 'investigative' journalism in GN.

[...] These words were posted on the social networking website Facebook in memory of Gloria, a young pupil who was killed in a car accident on Friday... the 13-year-old () was hit by a car while crossing Al Wasl street.
According to (Major Khalid Kensham, director of accident assessment at the traffic department of Dubai Police) the accident was not a hit and run as stated by some posts online. He said that the Arab man driving the vehicle was held by Dubai Police.

Next time you want to see real news, please log on to facebook, because the only information GN can give you is what has either already been published through online media, or they can quote poetry from the victim's friends.

I pray the child's soul rests in peace; and that her family have the strength to bear this loss.
Let's also light vigils for UAE's media. 

Be Alert Swine Flu is now Positive in UAE

Last May 21, 2009 while reading the Gulfnews online that there is a possible symptoms of swine flue in one of the passenger come from Canada, and this guy put in quarantine. And just this morning (may 25, 2009) while browsing again the online news there was a confirmation that according to UAE Health officials that the guy with a symptoms is now positive of the swine flu virus or what they called H1N1 virus.

24 May, 2009

Here come the French...

The rather charming (my personal opion btw) Sarkozy is here in the UAE on an official visit, with one of his 'to-do' lists being opening a French military base in the capital:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is set to open France's first permanent military base in the Gulf on Monday, giving Paris a strategic role in the region and a key supply route for oil.

France will be joining Britain and the United States as the few western powers to have a permanent presence in the Gulf and "Peace Camp" is the first French base opened since the end of the colonial era.

The move is widely seen as a sign of France's tougher stance on Iran since Sarkozy took office in 2007, fueled by concerns over Tehran's nuclear programme.

"We are deliberately taking a deterrent stance," said an aide to Sarkozy. "If Iran were to attack, we would effectively be attacked also."

Sarkoy also told UAE official news agency Wam: "Be assured that France is on your side in the event your security is at risk.

More here.

Get paid to 'move in'

An Embiz article reports that the tables have turned for landlords:

Landlords in UAE may soon be offering incentives such as free relocation and discount vouchers for furniture and electronic goods in an attempt to attract tenants

First they'd threaten to kick people out for higher rents - and now? Relocation vouchers. Karma can be a b*tch.

20 May, 2009

UAE rejects Gulf currency


This story - if true - is a bombshell. It is one thing for Oman to play the UK of the GCC and announce as it did a couple of years back that it will opt out of the Gulf common currency, but for the UAE to follow up the recent announcement that the GCC monetary authority will be in Riyadh with an announcement that it will not be a part of the common currency, now that is something else. Abu Dhabi had signalled it wanted to be the location, while influential voices in Dubai have been singing the praises of the putative "Khaleeji" currency of late.

Is the unnamed official source putting in an early bid for strong UAE representation among the eventual central bank board members, or just emphasising that, in such an unintergrated economy, the common currency is not that important when most trade and investment is with the west and Asia? It might be that the UAE genuinely wants maximum national financial flexibility, especially in uncertain economic times, but then Abu Dhabi and Dubai's long standing caution, even, historically speaking, outright opposition, toward Saudi Arabia has not gone away, just as periodically Abu Dhabi's unhappiness over their (oil-related) border delimitations gets a hearing. (Partly related to this, the announcements this year that Saudi and Qatar have "finalized" their border rang rather hollow to me at least, given that without Abu Dhabi's full and unreserved agreement, this isn't possible, quite apart from the issue of who has seen the Saudi-Qatari "final" map)...Any thoughts on what is going on ?

Arab Journalists Challenge HRW Report

From Kippreport:
Worker exploitation such as withheld wages, passport confiscation and employee-paid recruitment fees are an ongoing problem at Saadiyat Island, or “the Island of Happiness” in Arabic, says Human Rights Watch (HRW). The report, titled “UAE: Exploitations of Migrant Workers on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi,” was released on Tuesday at a press conference in Abu Dhabi.

The watchdog’s findings, however, were not well received by the Arabic media. Emirati and Egyptian journalists routinely interrupted the conference to challenge the report’s credibility and accuse the authority of taking the abuses out of context.

They also criticized HRW for revealing its findings in English first, and later in Arabic, with one journalist proclaiming that it showed the organization’s true colors and ‘hidden agenda’.

Full story here.

19 May, 2009

Passengers from NYC to DXB could have ended up in Dubai

Passengers who were on a flight from Dubai to Hyderabad last week have been asked to stay in their homes after an Indian student on the plane tested positive for swine flu.The 23-year-old Indiana University student travelled on May 11 on an Emirates Airline flight from New York to Dubai. He then boarded a separate plane to Hyderabad International Airport.
An Emirates Airline official said that as the student had travelled on two separate flights, it was possible that passengers on the plane from New York to Dubai had finished their journeys in the UAE.

While the story is well-covered from Hayderabad's end, one has to wonder why this is not the case for Dubai. For instance, have the passengers from NYC to DXB been contacted? Even the Emirates Airlines officials quoted in the story were from the India office.

Oh, could it be because the Ministry of Health was not available for comment?

Man denies woman's claim of stalking her by phone

Link Dubai: An employee has refuted a woman's claim that he threatened to dishonour her amongst her colleagues if she refused to date him and have sex with him, heard a court.

"You do whatever I want and if you want me to leave you alone, stop threatening or phoning you, then you should date me today," the 21-year-old Emirati woman was quoted in her statement to the Public Prosecution about what a 24-year-old Emirati suspect has allegedly told her on the phone.

The suspect, who is on bail, refuted her allegations and pleaded not guilty when he defended himself at the Dubai Court of First Instance on Sunday.
"No, it didn't happen," argued M.A. when he rejected his charges before Presiding Judge Al Saeed Mohammad Barghout.

The Public Prosecution charged the suspect with threatening to dishonour the woman if she refused to go out and sleep with him.

According to the arraignment sheet, the suspect verbally threatened the claimant by saying "you do whatever I want and if you want me to leave you and to stop threatening you and not to see my phone number then you have to go out with me today otherwise I will dishonour and expose you at your workplace".

The woman testified that she got acquainted to the suspect at the hospital where she works.
"The relation started over the phone& then I rejected his invite for movies and lunch and our relation continued over the phone. He consistently asked me out. A month and a half later, I helped him process his health card which he insisted to collect from me outside work," the woman said. (...)

18 May, 2009

unblock flickr

The TRA asked for our feedback and here it is:

As we sit on the eve of having the worlds biggest video sharing website cut to shreds by a 500 word long list of censored keywords, aside from the obvious questions like who was paid to sit and compile these 500 words and did they get paid for doing so, I think it is high-time to ask questions about another site that was blocked, then unblocked, the blocked again, and then unblocked again and then finally blocked completely across the UAE in which status it has remained for the past 2 years.

It is extremely unfortunate that the TRA, Etisalat and Du, can’t find a way to unblock Flickr so that it may be used again by people in the UAE. It also raises a question as to whether or not they have actually tried. The usual excuse for flickr’s block is as-usual completely redundant and as-usual ‘nudity’, it also as-usual relates to someone being a bit lazy.
According to Khaleej Times which claims to be quoting a TRA statement:
“It does not have the technical facility of blocking prohibited contents, and it cannot be partially blocked; where such facility is available on YouTube, Facebook and other similar sites.”

It sounds like someone from the TRA didn't actually check on anything before making that statement; images actually MUST be categorized on flickr as being safe, moderate or restricted. This affects whether they show up in searches or whether they are publicly accessible by someone without a flickr/yahoo account.

Funnily, this is a strikingly similar policy to Google images, deviantart and several other websites, yet all of them remain unblocked; infact by the same standard prohibited images are impossible to block via Google images yet that remains unblocked and flickr remains blocked.

Also interestingly enough is this paragraph on the flickr help section:
“Note: If your Yahoo! ID is based in Singapore, Hong Kong or Korea you will only be able to view safe content based on your local Terms of Service so won’t be able to turn SafeSearch off. If your Yahoo! ID is based in Germany you are not able to view restricted content due to your local Terms of Service.”

I wonder how much effort has been put forward to have UAE-based id’s be unable to access adult material?
Anyone from the TRA care to chime in?
(braces for TRA/RTA/KHDA/RERA strategic response 101: “unavailable for comment”

Of course placing blame upon the TRA etc is one part of the problem, the other problem is you, yes you UAE-based internet users… You wouldn’t sit there and do nothing if facebook was blocked, yet when one of the largest photo websites on the internet gets blocked no one cares. Join this facebook group http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=83349217846 and help get flickr unblocked in the UAE.

17 May, 2009

Investors are attracted by returns - GN

Yes, stating the obvious still passes as excellent journalism in the UAE. This is because Gulf News is letting its readers know that investors are attracted by returns. Along with an article a few days back about "temperatures increase as summer approaches" (or something similar), I wonder what future headlines are waiting for us:

- June to officially follow May.
- Restaurants to serve food during opening hours
- Shoppers are integral to mall revenues

Such entertainment! Such quality! No wonder Gulf News has about 50% of the UAE's readership and they are proud of it. Such is why they keep reminding us with their bar charts. I wonder what proportion of those readers need to be reminded that breakfast is taken in the morning and dinner in the evening.


16 May, 2009

Wolfram|Alpha's answer for United Arab Emirates

What additions, improvements or corrections would you make to Wolfram|Alpha's answer for United Arab Emirates? What's true, what's false, what's misleading, what's missing? Before answering compare to the answer for other countries (e.g., France).

Compare UAE and Oman demographics; GDP per capita. Seem plausible?

13 May, 2009

Why the Double Standards?

"Many people scoff at the notion that the American media propagandizes the American citizenry, but here one sees the vivid essence of that process. Our establishment media loves to point to and loudly condemn the behavior of other governments as proof of how tyrannical and evil they are -- look at those Iranian mullah-fanatics imprisoning journalists/look at those primitive, corrupt, lawless Iraqis and their "culture of impunity"/look at the UAE and their tolerance of torture -- while completely ignoring, when they aren't justifying, identical behavior by our own government.
A Nexis search for "Roxana Saberi" reveals 2,201 mentions in press reports, virtually all of them in the last two months regarding her arrest by Iran. By stark contrast, a search for "Ibrahim Jassam" -- the Iraqi journalist still held without charges by the U.S. even in the face of an Iraqi court finding that there's no evidence of his guilt -- produces a grand total of 71 mentions. A search of "Sami al-Haj" for the first five years of his detention in Guantanamo (2001-2006) reveals a grand total of 101 mentions. For the entire period of his lawless detention, Bilal Hussein's name was mentioned 556 times. See those Nexis searches here."

Full piece here.

11 May, 2009

'We that are true lovers run into strange capers'

HEY! Does this couple remind anyone of this couple? Turns out it's not only dubai's beaches, but also the queen's lawn which are off-limits for PDAs ;) 

my favourite line from the story: "The Japanese tourists were comparing their videos."

Amazing Indonesian Photographer Looking for UAE Contacts

Young Indonesian traveler and photographer Agustinus Wibowo is:
...planning to leave afghanistan soon, on the way overland to middle east. i have been to dubai recently, but i m still curious to visit again, to see it from different aspects. therefore, before going to the arab countries, i will first study arabic in damascus.

i am a travel writer, now some books of my travel are going to be published in indonesia. if you have any contacts in the middle east who can help me to see insight of the countries, it will be very much helpful.
Agustinus has been travelling since 2005 through Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tibet, and more, and has captured breathtakingly beautiful images.

His profile is here.
His gallery is here.
His email address is avgustin_photography@yahoo.com.cn

I'm sure he would grateful for any help anyone would like to offer while he's in UAE.

Balancing the Bash

At the risk of pissing off samuraisam, I offer the definitive round-up blog post on Dubai bashing (it seems I've unintentionally offended most of the community already, so what's one more on the list...?).

The exemplary piece of comprehensive journalistic research and writing was posted two days ago by Thomas on his Mean Green Cougar Red blog. It references several UAE community blog bloggers about half way through thus:
Hari's article elicited a strong response from Dubai bloggers. Seabee argued that the article's "objective was simply to find the worst possible angle and seek out the worst possible examples," while samuraisam noted that the article's title - "The Dark Side of Dubai" - was anything but original. Another blogger wrote an open letter to Johann Hari in response, and Chris Saul typed a hilarious parody of the article.
The post itself is quite long, but it's an outstanding read that covers A LOT of territory.

Read Thomas' full post here.

10 May, 2009

Issa detained

HRW, May 8:
The reported detention of a member of the United Arab Emirates royal family, Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan, in connection with the videotaped torture of an Afghan grain dealer is a significant development, but much more needs to be done to restore faith in the country's police and justice system, Human Rights Watch said today.

UAE officials told American diplomats that the sheikh was put under "house arrest" this week and prevented from leaving the country as the Ministry of Justice conducts a criminal investigation of the incidents on the videotape, ABC News reported today. The government has not released any information about the detention.

09 May, 2009

Wanted for research project: Canadian engineers and geologists in the mining industry

We are two researchers at York University, Toronto, visiting Abu Dhabi
between May 24th and June 2nd and looking to interview Canadian engineers
and geologists in the mining industry who expatriated to the UAE
independently of a company connection.

This project involves collaborators from UAE University and Curtin
University in Australia.

We can be contacted at smckenna@yorku.ca from where we can supply further
details of the Canadian government funded project.

Thank you in anticipation.


Dr Steve McKenna
Associate Professor of Human Resource Management
Graduate Programme Director
School of Human Resources Management
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
York University
4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3

07 May, 2009

'free prisoner'

A shocking story is being shared on this blog:
"What's basically happening is that my old employer (AMG - Arab Media Group) is claiming against me that I absconded from my post with them, despite the fact that I have a signed letter of termination by them.

They have reported this to the expat sponsorship people called Tecom (Tee-Com) who then put me on a no-fly list. (unbeknownst to me, all the while)

At the airport, en route to Munich, they confiscated my passport, detained me and threatened to throw me in jail for being a law breaker, and being in their country illegally."

read more here: http://lagirlindubai.blogspot.com

Two Trips to The Kingdom...

I just got back from my second visit to The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – a two-day business trip to help a Riyadh-based consultancy with its communications initiatives.

Getting there, being there and even leaving there created a host of mixed feelings (click here to see the short vid).

My first weeklong visit to The Kingdom in February 2007 almost didn’t happen because of the onerous process in securing a visitor’s visa. As a woman, I was required by the Saudi embassy to produce written permission from a male relative (in my case my ex-husband), to make the trip.

I say in my video clip that this type of situation was unprecedented for me, but that’s not quite true.

I had forgotten (as I recorded myself yesterday in Riyadh), that I needed my then-husband’s permission for many things, such as getting a driver’s licence or being employed, when we first arrived in the UAE in 1993.

I remember how frustrated I felt in those early days as an expat that I wasn’t allowed to have my own bank account, let alone apply for a credit card simply because I was a woman. I felt like I had stepped into the Stone Age.

(Read the rest here)

06 May, 2009

Property Madness!!!!

How can a 60 year old expatriate who bought a house in international city 3 years back (assuming for about AED500,000) supposed to live in his house taking into account he blew all his saving in getting that house and is retired...any idea???

Pens For Hire

05 May, 2009

UAE bloggers on Sharjah

The National Magazine makes reference to this blog and also to secretdubai's blog a few months ago...

"If you search for Sharjah-related posts on the various blogs at www.uaecommunity.blogspot.com, the general tone is one of disdain. The emirate is routinely described as pre-modern, primarily because of the authors’ presumption that the “decency laws” make the place as puritanical as Saudi Arabia. On www.secretdubaidiary.blogspot.com, a banned but still popular site, Sharjah is almost always referred to as “the stone-age emirate”.

Rest of article can be found: here

Gulf News TV

I wonder if other bloggers are find some aspects of Gulf News TV annoying. For some reason, when I click on a new GNTV video it just comes up with a blank screen. When I check the archives a few days later, I am able to play the video.

Does anyone have a different experience? Does Gulf News have a view on this?

Heads Up for Emirates Bank Customers

This weekend, Emirates Bank will be upgrading their computer system to ensure that it talks nicely with the National Bank of Dubai's computers.

As a result, some services will not be available for specific times. This includes ATM use, online and phone banking services and smartBUSINESS.

Further information and timeout periods are listed on the Emirates Bank website.

Oh - and account numbers will change, but shouldn't affect PIN #s, ATM cards, automatic debits and credits, cheque books and post-dated cheques and smartBUSINESS log-in details.

I'm withdrawing enough cash for at least 5 days - just to be safe!

(without words)

04 May, 2009

New Sherrif in town

KHDA was at the receiving end when Sunny Varkey on Saturday accused them of "standing" in the way of Dubai's vision of world class education and stifling private investment in the sector. His outburst came after KHDA's refusal to consent to a fee hike for his new school that he claims the authority earlier approved. Varkey has called for an independent review of KHDA's ruling by a higher government body.
"Their actions are a disincentive for the private sector to reinvest in education, especially as there is no clarity on what the KHDA wants from us," said Varkey who is the single-largest provider of private education in the country with 26 schools under his charge.

Mr.Sunny Varkey, the man who made extortion synonymous with the word education having a HISSY FIT.

That just made my day.

Who wants to be Paris' Dubai BFF?

According to an Al Arabiya report, Paris Hilton is looking for a friend in our very own Dubai:

"She's going to come here to Dubai and shoot the whole thing from here"
Ziad Battal, Dubai TV executive, adding the show would have to be compatible with cultural sensitivities as the socialite is known for her wild partying.

I'm very curious is how they will make it 'culturally sensitive'. Perhaps they can see who can out-shop one another. And is anyone here interested in becoming her BFF?

(Sorry, only girls and gays can apply)

the flipside of this coin

the national has a story citing a 'government report' which makes a lot of interesting points.

"The report, published by the General Authority for Youth and Sport... identifies a host of challenges facing young people, especially men. It says they are less likely than women to enrol in university, more likely to be unemployed, more vulnerable to being killed while driving and more vulnerable to abusing drugs and contracting HIV.

“The high per capita annual income in the UAE [Dh141,700 or US$38,600] means the country’s youth do not suffer the poverty or hunger experienced in other countries,” the report says. “However, we should focus on some of the negative repercussions on the behaviour of youth as a consequence to growing up with wealth and comfort. This includes a rise in obesity and a lack of a sense of self-reliance among youth, especially young men. Independence and self-reliance make citizens contributing members of society.”

"Young Emirati women have especially benefited from their country’s advancement as they now have much greater access to higher education and employment. Women at university, including medical school, outnumber men by almost three to one, and this figure continues to rise. 
"While young women attend university, many men join the armed forces or law enforcement agencies instead, which explains the high level of employment among young men compared with young women."

Ive heard these comments from locals as well as expats. (expats generally crib about how easy the emiratis have it) if government reports too are acknowledging the existence of such a problem, it will hopefully not be long before initiatives are taken address it. 

Ford - Middle East Bloggers - Did they Contact You To Assist With Their Campaign?

According to a story in Emirates Business 24/7 the Middle East bloggers failed to respond at all to their oh so clever social media marketing campaign...

"Ford is to count on the efforts of 100 bloggers to launch its new Fiesta model. However, Middle East Ford officials said they won't be able to replicate the innovative campaign here as they feel blogger marketing in the region still lags behind other cyber marketing tools."

"According to Ford, the campaign was the first of its kind in the automotive segment. Bloggers invited to offer their inputs from around the region, however, generated no response."

I suggest the failure was not Middle East bloggers failing to respond, or be ready for such an initiative, I suggest the failure was in their communication and engagement of the Middle East blogger community.

As a little experiment - I'd like to ask did anyone here know of this campaign, see their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter or most pertinently be directly asked by Ford to participate.

Further reading and commentary at the ever reliable Fake Plastic Souks

Responses please...

Online Victory?

Couple of weeks ago I wrote a lengthy post in the form of a surreptitious complaint (or an impertinent one, depends on how sensitive you are). My incredulous mind has always refused to give much of a credence to the power of blogging. It's a useless pastime, after all.

However in this case, I can celebrate a small bloggerish victory, although I can't confirm or know for sure whether my raising the issue on an online venue had any bearing on the Dubai Municipality's decision (see link below), I am at liberty to think so until I'm shown proof to the contrary. Here's the relevant excerpt from the post (edited to suit the context):

There's a new, massive, revolutionary and state-of-the-art service the DM (Dubai Municipality) is introducing: online submission of drawings. Yes, ladies and gentlemen. We no longer need to print 100s of sheets and carry bundles like porters to the DM HQ. We only need to follow a simple procedure. But it's not really simple. I refuse to utilize a singular adjective to describe it. Even 'complicated' falls short. Now before we submit our lovely drawings we need to 'convert' them to DWF format. (my brethren-in-the-craft of you will know that we do handle all our files in DWG format; the standard Computer-Aided-Design software file extension). But we can't convert to DWF right away. We need to arrange all sheets in a layout format. Fix the size. The size does really matter, you know. There are few standard sizes for any engineering drawings. A0-A1-A2-A3...etc.. Once the size is fixed, we go on about converting. Once the conversion is complete, we go on about uploading our files to the DM website. Once we hit the crucial button of 'submit', a DM engineer will be notified. One engineer at each department, actually. And they will review our drawings. 99% of the cases they will have comments. When the comments show up on the system once again (one of the advantages of it, I must concede) we travel to DM HQ, our hands flailing empty at our sides (because the submission is electronic, no need to haul drawings) to meet the engineer, check up on him/her, send out some feelers about what mood he/she might be in, and then discuss the comments (which we already know and are prepared for, thanks to the genius of the system).

This process of online submission was explained to us (engineering consultants) by one of the DM long term experts and, to give credit where credit is due, one experienced and old-school engineer who knows what he's talking about, most of the time. We were in a packed Al Madina hall. There was a cacophony of protests and grumbles of disappointment when he finally declared the importance of the size: "if there was one single discrepancy in the sheets' size of your submission, you will lose the submission and all the subsequent approvals, and most of all, you'll lose the deposit ...."

Let me tell you about the money. The deposit is intended to make sure that the client --the owner of the plot of land-- is serious about his intention to build the aforesaid plot. The deposit is calculated on the basis of square foot of what we call 'built-up area'. Simply put, it's the collective floor area of the building you're designing. The deposit can amount to hundreds of thousands of Dirhams in case of big projects.

Today, I read in the ameinfo.com website, rather belatedly, that the entire concept of 'Insurance Deposit', which I've explained above, has been scraped.

Dubai Municipality abolishes insurance for approving building plans

Eng. Hussein Nasser Lootah, Director General of Dubai Municipality, has issued a decision cancelling the insurance amount, which was required at the time of approving building plans.

Again, I can't claim that my post had anything to do with this positive change, but at least I now know the complaint was legitimate.

By the way, this should also have a positive effect on the construction market, albeit a mild one, since cash-flow is a concern for most of the developers and builders right now.

Court orders grieving mom to pay blood money

I no longer beleive that we are living in a civilised society......


In who's mind can this be right?

mock turtle soup

"The Dubai Traffic Court of First Instance fined (a) 27-year-old Lebanese woman Dh2,000 and ordered her to pay Dh20,000 in blood money for accidentally killing her nine-month-old foetus. The blood money is to be paid to the foetus's successors."

who would be...? 

a woman has an accident, she loses a child she's been carrying for 9-months, and you fine her for reckless behaviour? i cant even begin to imagine what she's going through, but this makes no sense.  and who are the foetus's successors? the woman's husband? or she herself? or the grandparents? i'm still trying to figure out who has suffered the most in this incident. 

and then what makes no sense at all is the headline of a follow- up story:

Heavily pregnant women 'shouldn't drive'. (where Heavily pregnant' is a real term)
the story says:
Salah Bu Farousha, Head of the Traffic Public Prosecution, advised women in the third trimester of pregnancy to avoid driving except in urgent cases.

which isnt absurd. the dude suggests something for the safety of the people, and leaves the choice up to them. but 'heavily pregnant'?
the language is laughable - if only the context wasnt so tragic. 

And there are more torture videos...

Here as we can see there are more torture videos for Sheikh Issa Bin Zayed emerging from his plantiffs.

The wealthy Gulf prince at the center of a “torture tape” scandal has been accused of attacking at least 25 other people in incidents that have reportedly also been caught on film.
Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-­Nahyan, half-brother of the man who owns Manchester City football club, is now under investigation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after the shocking tape showed him beating a man with a nailed plank, setting him on fire, attacking him with a cattle prod and running him over.But now lawyers for US businessman Bassam Nabulsi, who smuggled the tape out of the UAE, have written to the justice minister of Abu Dhabi — the most powerful of the emirates that make up the UAE — claiming to have at least two hours of footage showing Issa attacking other victims. “I have more than two hours of video footage showing Sheikh Issa’s involvement in the torture of more than 25 people,” wrote Texas-based lawyer Anthony Buzbee in a letter.The news of more torture videos involving Sheikh Issa is another huge blow to the international image of the UAE. The oil-rich state has been keen to develop relations with the West and to promote an aura of moderation and tolerance. But the shocking video of Sheikh Issa torturing Afghan grain merchant Mohammed Shah Poor, whom Issa said had cheated him in a business deal, has heavily dented the UAE’s reputation. Particularly damaging was the apparent involvement of a policeman in the torture.

Until scum like Issa the torturer (I will not mention Zayeds name in his last name from now on, Issa not being worthy of such a father) are prosecuted, then this country will never be able to call itself a fair country. What exactly allowed him to run amok and go around torturing 25 different people like this ?

Any Emirati who does not fully condemn such a barbarous act is very seriously misguided, this is an act which is performed by a sick depraved individual who brings enormous shame to himself, his country and gives ammunition to those critics who will use this event for years to come to attempt to label the UAE as "just another arab dictatorship".

It is time that Issa the torturer is prosecuted, and with him the so-called "policemen" who are likewise scum for assisting in the torture of a helpless man.

I hope that Nabulsi releases every single video, and I want to see Issa the torturer behind bars.

03 May, 2009


No its not a new abuse, though seeing where the origin is, it just might open a whole new door to witty new phrases.
FTTH stands for Fibre-To-The-Home technology. Etisalat's latest offering to provide data, streaming and video services straight to the home with one optic fibre cable.
The boys were in today installing this fancy new thingybob, and it should be up and running in 2 months.
I would be a tad embarrassed to wear something with that on it though!

RERA backtracks on rental index update

Is anyone really surprised by this?

It's laughable that the same people responsible for setting this "index" are, in the most, landlords themselves.....


Why Blame It On Dubai?

Today I got an email comment from Naresh Nayak of Marunouchi, Tokyo, about my Open Letter to Johann Hari; Nayak says:
Sorry I cannot agree with you at a fundamental and human level.

A country which jails its inhabitants for declaring bankruptcy, leaving their wife and children on the streets is not acceptable.

A country which uses slave labour to build its city is also not acceptable.

I am sure if you were an expat who is maxed out and is sleeping near hotels and sand dunes, you would agree with me.
My short answer is: I DO agree with you, in principle.

As I’ve said repeatedly in this blog (come to think of it, I’ve been singing the same tune for about 40 years, and will probably be doing so until the day I die):
…clearly there is something wrong with a global system in which 10 per cent of the population enjoys 90 per cent of the wealth…

Human history is replete with tragic examples of how the rich get richer at the expense of the poor, and how the powerful get more powerful at the expense the weak.

Does this make it acceptable? Obviously not.
In no way shape or form do I condone human rights abuses. Nor do I believe people should have to live in poverty, not here, not anywhere.

My point is this is a global problem, not a Dubai problem.

Unfortunately, I’m not an economist, and I don’t pretend to have the solutions to the mess in which we (i.e. humanity as a whole), find ourselves...

Read the rest here: Why Blame it on Dubai?

02 May, 2009

Brothers in Arms

Dire Straits or the Strait of Hormuz?

The U.A.E. has jumped from 16th place to 3rd in just 4 years, and now sits behind China and India on the list of biggest importers of weapons.

Image from Al Jazeera online
Possible reasons given:
- to defend against Iran
- to modernise the country's defence systems.

Another train of thought - internal security:
Mutar Jumaa, an Emirati who published several studies on the demography of Gulf Arab countries while working at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), believes the UAE suffers from a serious demographic crisis.

"I can say the UAE and the Gulf are in [an] unpleasant situation, and I totally agree with the need for effective security forces backed by [a] powerful army.

"The fact that our citizens are way outnumbered by foreign working bachelors is something disturbing. We had some unrest last year, disgruntled migrant workers attacked people and used violence to get what they wanted. Some South Asian countries even started to ask us to grant citizenship to their workers in our country."
Al Jazeera Articles:
UAE 'boosting military imports'
UAE guns for advanced weaponry