31 March, 2010

NOT Nice, 'Baby'

Residents of the Emirates were racked with the shocking news that Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed (younger brother of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi) was involved in a plane crash last Friday. On the recovery of his body from a lake in Morocco just yesterday, the United Arab Emirates has now officially declared the customary 3 days of mourning.

As a sign of respect during mourning periods of this sort, radio stations cancel regular programming in deference to playing either classical music or recitations from the Holy Quran, and similarly events/concerts/gigs previously scheduled to take place during this duration of time are either cancelled, postponed or requested to ‘tone it down a notch.’ Literally meaning that there’s to be ‘no booze tonight.”

Now, expats residing here are already aware that Dubai is a very liberal city, especially with that permission slip it distributes to certain watering holes and restaurants, licensing them to serve alcohol (yet responsibly). And as a result, many residents are more than understanding when on a regrettable event such as this, that permission slip is retracted for a couple of days. No harm done. No offence taken.

It comes as no surprise then, that on the receipt of this text from a popular establishment, the entire local and expat community were left reeling:

This crude ‘reassurance’ that their gig is on as scheduled, delivered a response far from the enthusiastic 'hurrah!' the institution probably expected.
Both the online and offline community reacted strongly and almost instantaneously to the SMS, deeming the establishment ‘disrespectful,’ ‘inconsiderate’ and ‘insensitive' (among other aliases). And the fact that it was sent entirely in upper case suggested to the residents the lack of sensitivity towards the ruling family. Many promised to boycott the event (if not the venue entirely), and others are rallying for a public apology.

The fiery responses to the promotional text just goes to prove that the UAE expat community is more true to the nation than the bottle, a fact that unfortunately the foreign media so adept at ‘Dubai Bashing’ will never pick up.

Its strange circumstances that unite the nation, and whether this protest will prove successful is yet to be seen. A humbling act of solidarity all the same.

23 March, 2010

FNC attacks internet-censorship loopholes

"The FNC report also blamed the TRA for failing to prevent the use of proxy software that allows people to bypass blocks on hundreds of websites classified as “forbidden”.

“There is also some software that allows downloading things without going through the filtering process,” said Sultan bin Hussein, a member from Umm al Qaiwain.

“Peer-to-peer software is not being blocked,” he said.

“We notice the effect of this problem in the crimes committed by children and violence among the youth. All of these crimes are influenced by the internet.”

Mr al Ghanim said it was not possible to block all “forbidden sites”.

“Companies that offer peer-to-peer services change their websites and there are thousands of them that keep changing,” he said. "

More here: Give us cheaper telecoms says FNC

Does anyone anticipate the TRA trying to block VPN's anytime soon?

You can read more about this at the Federal National Council website (google translate)

DM Dictionary and Thesaurus

'The National' newspaper today reports that the ‘ban’ on alcohol being used in the preparation of food issued by Dubai Municipality was not really a ban at all. It only sounded like one but it wasn't green with blue stripes. There you go - blink and you miss the difference.
The confusion has now been cleared and there stands nothing in the way of expats getting sozzled on Coq au Vin as long as the restaurant menu clearly identifies the evaporated previous alcoholic content of the dishes in question. I think this is a great victory for mankind and its long lost bastard sibling, common sense, in the UAE.

But the episode exemplifies the serious ongoing issues of miscommunication between government and (expat) population. It appears that the official DM translators are still using the now out-of-print but still infamous edition of ‘English as Forth Langique” (Ed. Ghuanghzou Copying and Statenary Supply’s) which could be seen being illegally sold at the fleamarket in Safa park in May 2003.

The need of the hour is thus a clear and concise ‘DM Dictionary and Thesaurus’ in the vein of the Oxford or Merriam Webster editions.

I am more than happy to assist DM in this glorious venture and propose a few entries to begin with:

DM Dictionary and Thesaurus

containing alcohol – big revenue generating substances for hotel owner

circular – leaked joke email from DM copy room attendant to his uncle’s brother in Um Al Quain / to be ignored until further clarification

clearly stated – see under ‘Heidegger’

cooking of food – making of menu cards

prohibited – allowed unless prohibited by un-enforced previously retracted bans

strictly – to be deported after the last sentence

Please feel free to add under the comment section.

21 March, 2010

Sammy the whale shark meets the grassy knoll

According to media in the UAE, Sammy the Whale Shark was released from captivity recently. However things aren't quite as clear on the Set The Whale Shark Free From The Atlantis Aquarium Dubai facebook group:
Nigel Smith: "Sad news: Sammy has died. The Dubai hotel that was holding her captive in an aquarium has sent out a press release claiming she was released yesterday. But an insider at the Atlantis Resort said Sammy, who's become critically ill while in captivity, had been euthanise...d and secretly removed from her tank. The hotel had previously advised Dubai authorities that Sammy was too sick to be successully removed from the tank and returned to the sea. Local journalists in Dubai said they became suspicious when the hotel made its announcement that Sammy had been released, but were unable to provide photographs of the event. The journalists said the secrecy surrounding Sammy's departure was also suspicious as the whale shark had become a huge drawcard for the Atlantis."

Read more on the Grumpy Goat's blog

Dubai issues 'alcohol in food' ban to hotels

An exclusive in Arabian Business reports that Dubai Municipality has issued a letter stating that "the use of alcohol in the preparation and cooking of food, and the display and sale of food containing alcohol was strictly prohibited".

But...it's another of the 'issue-a-statement-rethink-issue-a-clarification' actions.

It caused "mass confusion in the industry leading to officials to rethink the ban. They are now set to issue revised restrictions on Tuesday, sources said".

Arabian Business has the report here.

16 March, 2010

Google Earth blocked?

The Google Earth application appears to be blocked via Etisalat connections at the moment.

Anyone else experiencing this problem?

More here: http://www.pprune.org/middle-east/408823-google-earth-blocked.html

Thanks to anon for tip

11 March, 2010

The Emirates Airlines International Festival of Literature - Food for the Intellect

The term book or reading is tragically fast becoming (if not already) synonymous with the moniker nerd, or even geek. Imagine then the tag assigned to an entire festival dedicated to the sole purpose of promoting literature.

The Emirates Airlines International Festival of Literature (EAIFL) was launched in 2009 to dispel that very prejudice; the notion that books are for ‘losers’ and reading for bores.

Following its successful advent the previous year, the second edition of the EAIFL was officially inaugurated this morning at the Intercontinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City, in the presence of a full house of authors, dignitaries and bibliophiles.

Collaboratively sponsored for the second time around by Emirates Airlines and Magrudy’s, this Lit Fest has every intention of bringing back to life the dying practice of reading in the Dubai community.

Boasting a diverse line-up of more than 80 authors (including quite a few heavy weights of the business), this year’s event kicked off to a very promising start. Throngs of book-lovers marked their presence from the early hours of the morning until the end of the day’s sessions; keeping busy with the numerous discussions and ‘conversations’ scheduled for the day.

Favourites of Day 1 included the insightful Inspiration-Why We Write discourse featuring Bahaa Taher, Yann Martel and Imtiaz Dharker, The Book Club Phenomenon conversation with Chris Cleave, DJ Taylor, RJ Ellory and Rachel Hore, and the much-anticipated session with Martin Amis.

Also very well-received were the sessions with Robert Greene, Conn Iggulden and Youssef Ziedan.

Author sessions and workshops vary in price, and entry passes to each session can be either pre-booked online, or purchased at the venue itself (albeit with no guarantee of availability). Book signing sessions follow each discourse, and all titles of participating novelists (just in case you don’t have a copy in hand) can be bought at the makeshift (yet fully operative) Magrudy’s outlet at the venue.

The Lit Fest is scheduled to run from the 10th-13th of this month, so those eager to attend have 3 more days to get in on the action. The more anticipated discourses scheduled for the rest of the festival are the sessions by Marjane Satrapi, Jeffery Deaver, Alexander McCall Smith and William Dalrymple (to name a few).

To have a look at the entire schedule or for more information on session reservations, visit the EAIFL official website: www.emirateslitfest.com

For individual reviews of the festival’s sessions, visit www.moneymunot.com, www.shaahima.wordpress.com, http://hishamwyne.wordpress.com/, and http://ana-aqra2.blogspot.com/

05 March, 2010

Tip For Your Supper

The newly enforced (and long overdue) ruling in Dubai against the levying of service tax at restaurants has turned the cards in our favour, for both expats and locals alike. For many a night out we’ve failed to take into account with how much weightage that 10% obligatory service charge is reflected on our tabs; especially at the more fancier eateries and watering holes. Quite the damper it was, yes.

And now that the days of the dreaded service tax have been put behind us, our meal bills are considerably less exorbitant and our wallets slightly lighter. What we fail to realize however, is that although the charge has ceased to exist, the kind folks who serve us our meals are still very much alive.

In fact, now there’s more a reason than any to actually tip our servers and busboys; for now we can be certain that this little gratuity from our end really does make it to their pockets and is not another addition to the sum total of the outlet’s logbook instead.

Just like we’re encouraged to give credit where credit is due, let’s also tip those who are clearly deserving of it. Pay that 10% anyway, just because your waitress delivered service with a smile. Exchange a ‘loaded’ handshake with the valet who retrieved your car, even though you’ve got the parking ticket stamped. Let your cabbie keep the change, and spare the gas attendant a few for having taken the trouble to wash your windows.

We’d all like an appreciative pat in the back at the end of a job well done. And in times like these, it’s best sometimes to let the money do the talking.