Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dubai's new 5% rent cap

I've rambled on in the past about some of the things jeopardising Dubai's future, which depends entirely on us being commercially successful.

Poor telecoms with Etisalat's lack of speed and bandwidth, the TRA's refusal to allow VoIP, the huge costs caused by the roads & parking problems, the high cost of commercial property and the all-encompassing problem of high inflation. They make doing business in and from Dubai more and more difficult and costly, and alternative cities become more attractive locations.

Dubai's future depends on solving these problems, and solving them quickly.

Recently the Central Bank Governor announced that the government was setting up an agency to monitor inflation, reflecting the growing concern. The official inflation figure is around 10% but I don't think there are many residents who believe it's that low. It's a problem on a personal level, but the bigger picture is that it's seriously damaging Dubai's future.

With the insistence on keeping the dirham pegged to the dollar the government has little room to manoeuvre to control inflation. We have the ridiculous situation where we follow US interest rate reductions even though our economies are going in opposite directions.

A band-aid answer being used is to stop or limit price rises - but that really is a very short-term and unsustainable option.

Scenario - world wheat prices are rising steadily but bakers are not allowed to put up the price of bread. How long can they stay in business if their selling price doesn't reflect their costs?

Rents have been one of the major problems and today we have an announcement that at least this aspect of inflation is being tackled with a 5% rent increase cap being set for 2008.

Rent increases over the past few years have caused huge problems for people. There are plenty of stories of families having to go back home while the husband stays on in shared bachelor accommodation. A ripple effect of high rents is that tens of thousands are adding to the traffic chaos because they've had to move out to Sharjah, Ajman & Umm Al Quwain where accommodation is relatively affordable.

Company costs have increased dramatically if they provide accommodation as part of staff packages or provide an accommodation allowance. An example of another ripple effect of the situation is given by a friend who owns a business and pays accommodation allowance for senior staff. Because of rising rents he's increased the amounts as much as he can, but there's a limit to how much the company can afford and he knows their rents have gone up more than the increase he's been able to give. He's lost some valuable senior staff as a result.

We've had rent caps in Dubai for the past two years, 15% in 2006, 7% this year. For 2008 it's been set at 5%. It applies to new tenants and to tenants whose rents did not increase in 2007. For tenants who did have a rent increase in 2007 there can be no increase in 2008.

It's certainly a move to battle one of the big inflationary factors.

The story in Gulf News is here.

Friday, December 28, 2007

More pointless murders


On reflection I suppose it really wasn't a surprise that Benazir Bhutto was murdered. In fact she talked of the danger herself several times recently.

Plus the 'collateral damage' of others killed and injured as a result of the attack on her. And make no mistake, there will be even more deaths in the coming days and weeks as a result of this.

What an appalling comment on where we are as human beings. Tens of thousands of years of evolution and we're mentally still in the Stone Age, brainless, the worst animals on the planet.

Pakistan, India, the USA - it doesn't make any difference which part of the world we're talking about. Find someone you disagree with, you don't like, or even a complete stranger who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time - and kill them.

And then, these days as so many do, kill yourself as well.

I'm speechless.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Tecom zone road

I won't go as far as saying it's been a pleasure to drive on Dubai's roads over the last week or so, but it's certainly been easier than usual.

It started with the Eid Al Adha holiday of course, then into Christmas, New Year coming up and weekends in between. A lot of people seem to be away, companies have been closed for the festivals and the effect on our usual jams and gridlock has been dramatic.

There's a new road to access Media City too, which hopefully will relieve the awful jams morning in and evening out. It's impossible to say how much effect it's having because it opened at the beginning of the holiday period when there's much less traffic anyway, but it gives an alternative to and from Media City, then on the internal road system to Internet City and Knowledge Village.

The new road is actually where there was originally access to the Tecom zone, but it was closed off months & months ago so that the new road & tunnel could be built. Bad planning yet again, it should have been part of the free zone original plan. However, after months of unnecessary chaos and frustration, it's open.

The new road has a tunnel out of Media City leading onto a new stretch of road that runs parallel to Al Sufouh Road past the barracks and onto the Madinat Jumeirah/Mall of the Emirates road. It gives an alternative to Al Sufouh Road for drivers going on to Al Wasl or Beach Roads, onto SZR avoiding the Salik gate by MoE or across to Al Barsha and the developments beyond.

Here it is last week:

Give alternatives and spread the load is the way to plan roads and this new road does just that.

By the way, I see from this morning's papers that in spite of the lighter traffic the standard of driving didn't improve over the holidays.

Dubai Police report that during the five days of Eid Al Adha, patrols issued 26,937 traffic offences tickets, radars caught 17,057 people speeding and 138 cars were confiscated.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

What chance do we have!

Another of those reports that has me sitting here shaking my head in disbelief.

One of the major topics of conversation in Dubai is the appalling standard of driving of far too many people. Two specific subjects that are very much part of those conversations are how ridiculously easy it is to obtain a Dubai driving licence and criticism of the standard of driving instruction.

A story in Gulf News gives us the good news and the bad news on those subjects.

First, the RTA has taken over responsibility for driver testing and the good news is that they've raised the bar. They've apparently made it much tougher to obtain a driving licence.

An RTA official is quoted as saying that they want only capable, qualified and expert people to obtain a driving licence in order to reduce the number of road accidents.

I don't often say it, but I applaud the RTA for doing the right thing.

Now for the bad news. The reaction of some driving instructors.

Their attitude gives an idea of what we're up against, and says a lot about their professionalism, their desire to produce good drivers.

How's this for a disgraceful figure: An instructor from one of the leading driving schools in Dubai said when 40 or 30 people who get trained by his school apply for driving test, only three or four out of them are be able to pass the test.

'One of the leading driving schools' and they only manage to train 10% well enough for them to pass the test!

And of course the instructor blames not himself and his colleagues but the strict test: "We work very hard to train a person on driving but unfortunately they are unable to pass the test due to strict testing rules adopted by the RTA officials conducting the tests."

See, they fail the test not because they're not trained well enough but because the test is too tough.

Another instructor says it has a bad impact on the trainer when a learner "...has to repeat the test again and again."

Well, how about training them well enough and not letting them take the test until they're capable?

Unbelievably she says that they have people who have to go for retest 10 to 14 times.


Surely at some stage in there they should be told that they simply don't have the ability to be a driver.

And of course this instructor is asking the RTA to make it easier for people to get their licence.

No thought for the quality of driver they're producing, the safety of both the driver and other road users. No, she simply wants to get licences for as many of her learners as possible, the easier the test the better.

Shaking my head in despair at all this, then comes the worst of all. The instructor says: ""We hope RTA will change their policy and be more flexible to help us to do our work professionally."

Habibti, if you were doing your job professionally you would be training drivers well enough for them to pass the test.

The RTA needs to bring in an additional test, that of the driving instructors themselves. If even 'a leading driving school' has a 90% fail rate, a major cause of our road accidents has been identified.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

RAK shows the way

For a long time I've been saying that while we need education to improve motorists' attitudes in Dubai, in the short term we also need strong measures against today's moronic drivers.

In simple terms, get them off the road.

The news from Ras Al Khaimah is encouraging and I hope the other emirates will follow with tougher measures.

The Head of the Traffic & Licencing Department announced new instructions from the RAK Chief of Police, including sensible fines, vehicle confiscation and jail for reckless drivers in the emirate.

Col. Nasser Salem Muradad said reckless drivers will spend two weeks in jail, be fined Dh3,000 and have their vehicle confiscated for six months.

The rules apply all over the emirate, the tourist area of Awafi being mentioned specifically, and include motorcycles and quad bikes.

Failing to fasten seat belts and using a non hands-free mobile phone will be a target and there will be an instant Dh2,000 fine for vehicles exceeding the legal window tinting limit.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Silly story...

Sent by a friend in Australia:

Two mates are out hunting and they come upon a huge hole in the ground. They approach cautiously, and are amazed by the size of it.

The first Aussie says " Wow Mate, that's some hole, I can't even see the bottom, I wonder how deep it is?"

The second hunter says" I don't know, let's throw something down and listen to hear how long it takes to hit bottom."

The first hunter says " Hey, here's an old auto transmission, give me a hand and we'll throw it in and see".

With great effort they pick it up and carry it over. They count one, and two and three, and throw it in the hole. As they are standing there listening and looking over the edge they hear a rustling in the brush behind them. They turn around and see a goat come crashing through the brush, run up to the hole, and jump in headfirst.

They are stunned. They stand there looking at each other, looking in the hole, and trying to figure out what that was all about, when an old farmer walks up. "Say there", says the farmer, "you fellers didn't happen to see my goat around here anywhere, did you?"

The first hunter says " Funny you should ask, but we were just standing here a minute ago and a goat came running out of the bushes and jumped headfirst into this hole here!"

The old farmer, scratching his head says, " Why that's near impossible, I had him chained to a really heavy car transmission."

Realising the obvious

Earlier this year an excellent system was put in place by Dubai police to deter traffic offences. Vehicles were confiscated for a minimum of a week and up to three months, depending on the seriousness of the offence.

But there was what I always thought a strange part of the system. Apart from dangerous driving offences, the vehicles could get out of jail by payment of the derisory ransom of Dh100 a day.

Car impounded for a week? No problem. Pay Dh700 and you can have it back.

It's no surprise that the system was abused. According to police, 'the majority' of motorists who paid the fine and kept their vehicle then repeated the offence.

So now common sense prevails and the system has been abolished. Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, our Police Chief, said that confiscation of the vehicle was a stricter punishment and was more effective.

In future, if your car is confiscated it will stay confiscated for the full term.

Excellent news. We need effective policies to get the morons off the road.

By the way, I made the point in my 'smoking fines' postings (scroll down to find them) about the inconsistency between fines for smoking and for traffic offences. The Dh100 a day fine here emphasises the point.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

EmBiz247 - the verdict

Emirates Business24/7 has published it's first week's issues and the pattern is set.

Being interested in business and business reporting, I thought I'd post my view on the new business paper.

In a mirror of its previous incarnation, the late Emirates Today, it's got just two things wrong.

Content and layout.

It's awful.

Bad design, re-hashed stories, boring writing, years out-of-date photographs.

And they just couldn't resist a tabloid section at the back, which has nothing to do with business.

Commercially it will be viable for a while yet. Today's 48 pages include 13 pages of advertisements, but that's par for the course in this area. Companies here advertise for very different reasons from their counterparts in more sophisticated markets.

Advertisers include the usual suspects plus some very odd ones, given the positioning of the paper and its obvious reader target.

There's a doozy, by the way, from our beloved RTA that sums up marketing communications here for me. A full page ad that tells us they're working on building a Metro rail system.

Whoda thought it!

We really could do with some authoritative, quality newspapers here. News dailies, business dailies in particular. What do we get instead? EmTod, 7Days, EmBiz247...

They are serious!

I said yesterday "they seem to be serious about the smoking ban" and I went on to list the fines for non-compliance that had been announced by Dubai Municipality.

For a first offence of smoking in a non-smoking area the fine was to be Dh500.

Today the news is that it will be a whopping Dh1,000 for a first offence.

That's what Salem Bin Mesmar, Director of the Public Health Department at Dubai Municipality, told Gulf News. He said proposals had been sent to the legal department to revise the original fines and they may now range from Dh1,000 up to Dh8,000 for individuals and from Dh10,000 up to Dh80,000 for establishments ignoring the new regulations.

He went on to say that the idea was not to impose fines but to get society to accept the new laws. I'll go along with that - if it was a fifty or hundred dirham fine it would be ignored, just as the laughably low road offence fines are.

But with a thousand dirhams fine hanging over you for a first offence - and maybe eight thousand for repeat offenders - you're sure gonna think about obeying the law.

That's good thinking from the Municipality.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

They seem to be serious about the smoking ban

Last time a smoking ban was introduced it wasn't enforced, smokers ignored it and it was dropped.

This time the whole story seems to be different. Boy, did I get that one wrong!

Mind you, I was mislead by earlier statements from the Municipality.

Here's what I said in an earlier posting:

" countries such as Australia, the US, Britain, smoking bans are respected. It's highly unlikely they'll be respected here.

More importantly, they won't be enforced.

As I reported in June, Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director-General of Dubai Municipality, said that under the terms of the understanding with the malls, the onus of enforcement would be on the mall management.

"There will be no fines. Malls will be self-regulating,"
he said, adding that mall employees would have to tell smoking patrons to stub out and direct them to designated smoking areas."

I'm amazed, but delighted, that smokers appear to be obeying the ban. Certainly in the various malls and restaurants I go into I haven't seen anyone smoking.

There are even not many grouped around outside the entrance, having furtive drags.

A big help, I'm sure, was that the timing of the ban had been thought about, starting as it did immediately after Ramadan.

The ban is going to be enforced by big fines on both smoker and venue - something that originally the Municipality said would not happen. And the establishment can call the police if a smoker ignores the instruction to stop.

From next month the fines for smokers disobeying the law will be Dh500 for a first offence, Dh1,000 for a second offence, Dh4,000 for the third and Dh5,000 for any repeat thereafter.

That's an expensive cigarette!

Malls and restaurants must have a designated smoking zone with specific ventilation and smoke-absorbers. If they don't meet the requirements, smoking must not be allowed in these zones.

Fines on the establishment for not correctly regulating smoking will start at Dh10,000 and could go up to Dh50,000.

There is a total ban on smoking in establishments such as educational establishments, hair salons, internet cafes, health clubs, food courts and public offices.

Just going off at a tangent for a moment - this surely gives a hint that fines for driving offences must be increased dramatically. If you can be hit with a Dh5,000 fine for smoking a cigarette surely dangerous driving should atttract a fine several times bigger than that.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Just passing the time, as I do every so often, investigating to see who comes to my blog and why.

As I've said before there are some interesting, not to say mystifying, phrases put into search engines.

Today I've come across:

Someone in Dubai asking about "Chinese girls in Dubai". Hmmmmm...

Somebody in Malaysia wants to know about "Expats run up debts in Dubai". A suspicious spouse perhaps?

What about the naughty "Getting past Etisalat" from another frustrated person in Dubai.

And one from Romania that has me totally confused, "Rummy etisalat"

The material's all here, I'm gonna write a book.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Our new business daily

There were only two things wrong with Emirates Today. The content and the layout.

Now it's gone to the newspaper graveyard, to be replaced by a business daily.

Sorry guys, it's all wrong, it just doesn't look the part. Here's the masthead:

A serious daily reporting on business from an international business centre and it looks like that?

And "Emirates Business 24/7"? Who came up with that doozy?

You can picture the meeting can't you.

Boss: 'A business daily, covering the Emirates. What shall we call it?'

Serf 1: 'How about 'Emirates Business? Short, descriptive, to the point. Says what it is.'

Serf 2: 'I know! I know! 'Emirates Business 24/7!

Today's business is obsessed with using buzz words - buzzing - and Serf 1 won't get on. Serf 2 will be promoted to In-Charge.

Mind you, if I'd been there I'd've won the sucking-up-to-the-boss battle. I'd have shown them what buzzing is all about. I'd have said we need an exclamation mark after 24/7!


Just look how impressive that would be

If you want to see what the new paper's like you can go to the website

The War on Jargon

I suppose 'jargon' is the wrong word. It's buzz words and buzz phrases really, the stuff that's used more and more in business by not-very-good people who think it will make them appear clever and knowlegeable.

I'm going to call it 'buzzing' in future.

I've ranted a couple of times recently about examples I've come across here - my doomed campaign to try to make the users see the stupidity, the pointlessness, of it. To see what appalling marketing it is.

Anyway, in the London Financial Times there are some great examples in a column by the business commentator Lucy Kellaway.

Going around for a day with a professional headhunter, she pretended to also be one. At the end of the day she asked whether the real headhunter would offer her a job. "No, because you say what you think" she was told.

Pretty well sums up buzzing - don't under any circumstances let people know what you're talking about. The great art of miscommunication prevails.

Lucy goes on with some classics. For example, she comments that "...recently I have started to feel less bruised about the rejection. Talking my mind may have ruled me out as a headhunter, but now saying anything that even makes sense disqualifies one from joining what practitioners call the "executive search space".

Modern headhunters spout as much guff as management consultants, but without the excuse. Consultants have to, to hide the fact that it often isn't clear what they're selling. Headhunters are selling something pukka so there's no reason why they can't come right out and say so.

The examples she quotes are mind-numbing.

Remember that what these companies actually do, the reason they are hired and paid, is find the right person for the right job.

Simple, direct, explanatory, crystal clear. That's what they do.

What do they say they do?

Korn Ferry describes itself as "The premier provider of human capital solutions".

Heidrick & Struggles says "as innovators, we are actively redefining top-level search to encompass complementary services".

Michael Page says "Our journey starts when we see a difference between where we are today and where we want to be".

An aquaintance went to a headhunter to find a new Managing Director. He told her the introductory e-mail from them said: "As a Leading Total Talent Solution Provider, we have some special assessment tools to help identify the 'right' candidate."

Lucy's column is worth reading in full and you can find it here.

RTA comes clean

It's all about getting our private cars off the roads folks. That's The Grand Plan.

As I said in my post 'Stupid, stupid me' last month, it took a while for me to see the obvious, but now the RTA has come clean.

In the new Emirates Business 24/7 (who on earth came up with that for a title?) there's the admission that Salik is to be extended to cover all major roads and Creek crossings. The objective is to "encourage people to use public transport."

Bad news for the huge number of Dubai's workforce who live in Sharjah because of the impossibly high rents in Dubai - all the gateways between the two emirates will be toll-controlled.

If they, and the rest of us, are going to have to use public transport to get around I hope we're going to actually get an efficient public transport system.

The story in Emirates Business 24/7 is here.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sorry, it's another rant.

Feel free to ignore this, I'm just venting my frustration at the way companies here inconvenience us, waste our time and money.

I'm sure we all have many examples of the syndrome - having to go in person, not being able to make appointments etc - but here's my latest.

Background: my car insurance includes a very useful Vehicle Registration Service - they take the car for its annual registration.

Great, that'll save me best part of a day messing around getting to & from plus all the aggro. of doing paperwork here.

Except that when he was bringing it back to me, the driver called to say an idiot had run into the back of my newly re-registered car.

I have to take the car with the police report, copies of my registration card & driving licence, the insurance policy, to the Mazda dealer Galadari so that they can give an estimate.

I'm in Dubai Marina, they are on Al Ittihad Road, not only the other side of Dubai but - literally - in the middle of the disaster that is the new interchange under construction near the airport.

I fight the traffic and the roadworks all the way, they give me the car back after an hour of fiddling around and I fight the traffic and the roadworks back to Dubai Marina. Over three hours of my life have disappeared.

That's not the problem, here's where the typical Dubai company don't-give-a-damn-about-the-customer starts.

After they've received the estimate the insurance company wants to check it against the damage. That's OK too.

Galadari Mazda tell me to take the car in before 7.30am Sunday, which is when the insurance company inspects the cars. If that's too early for me I can leave it there before 5pm Saturday. They will call me "sometime on Sunday" when the inspection's done and I can collect the car.

So I'm to be without the car for that time and either have to pay for a hire car or taxis for two days. We have to get from and to Galadari, get to work on Sunday morning, two of us moving around but without the car.

Mrs Seabee has a friend of a friend at the insurance company, calls, discovers their man will actually be at Galadari around mid-day Sunday. I drive there then, he takes two photos, I drive away within 5 minutes.

No hire car, no taxis, no leaving my car at the dealer for a day and a night as I would have done had I listened to Galadari.

It simpy doesn't occur to them to try to give customer service. To make appointments, to tell the customer when the assessor will be there, to save their customer large slices of time, money and inconvenience.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Madinat's Winter Wonderland

A few days ago I posted a silly thought about the Christmas tree going up at Madinat Jumeirah.

It was part of what a sign said was a 'Winter Wonderland' being created, and I said I'd post photos when it was done.

Well, I went for my morning caffeine fix today and here's the view from the central outdoor eating area:

They've fenced the bloody thing off from prying eyes! A tacky hessian wall tarted up with a crown of plastic holy.

Anyway, I wandered off to the side, squeezed onto Prunier's terrace and took a shot of the Winter Wonderland area:

That's the big tree that was up in the eating area last year, now replaced by the much smaller one in the first photo. They've decorated it well I thought. Not sure what the cabins are for - food probably, or perhaps traders.

Just a touch incongruous in that setting wouldn't you say, but hey this is Dubai and anything's possible.

It was all a bit strange I thought, being fenced off with no apparent way to reach it. So I wandered around and the obvious was soon revealed - this is Dubai so it's gonna cost you.

A narrow entrance, a security man and a sign that says 'Admission Dh20'

Beach mystery solved

I was musing last month on 'Another beach mystery'.

I saw lots of sand being moved about on Umm Suqeim beach, huge bags being filled with it, gangs of workmen, construction machinery, trucks etc. I wondered what was going on.

Tody Gulf News has the answer, in a very interesting article 'Saving Dubai's Beaches'.

The sea is eroding the coastline, as it does quite naturally. We also have the changing water movement caused by the huge offshore developments and the artificial breakwaters.

Apparently the 5-tonne bags of sand are placed about 100 metres from the shore to form protective groynes.

Of course it isn't that simple, a complex tracking system is involved to determine exactly what's happening so that engineers can work out the best solution.

The full article and the photos are well worth looking at.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Safety? What safety?

I posted last week on Yet more avoidable deaths the dangers to road-workers.

Lack of adequate protective barriers, lack of adequate warnings.

Today on Sheikh Zayed Road raceway was a classic of don't care, don't think, utter stupidity.

Two workers wandering along sweeping the roadside, completely unprotected, no barriers, no warning - not even the ubiquitous red flag.

A plastic helmet and a lime green jacket aren't much help when six lanes of traffic are doing a minimum of 100kph.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

More on jargon.

Two signs that I've read this morning highlight the fact that none of us are people any more.

Even worse than not being thought of as an individual, we're no longer collectively even people.

First, in Knowledge Village I was confronted by a sign declaring "Empowering human capital."

Don't they mean empowering people...or even better, empowering you?

Then driving along Sheikh Zayed Road a very large advertising board told me that some company or other wanted me to "Come to us for human capital solutions."

(Bloody 'solutions' again!!)

I'm assuming it was an employment agency which can find the right person to fill a vacancy, although they obviously feel the need to hide that fact.

I have two main problems with this morning's jargon affront.

One, say what you mean, explain yourselves clearly and concisely, don't confuse people about what you mean.

Two, any company thinking of its staff as nothing more than 'human capital' isn't worth working for or dealing with.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Dubious taste

The date palms along Al Sufouh Road have been 'decorated' to celebrate National Day.

The sentiment is OK, it's what they've done that I question.

It looks like someone's shredded a whole truckload of UAE flags and defaced the trees with them.

Not next year please, let's have something a little more tasteful.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Mubarak, UAE

National Day tomorrow marks 36 years of the UAE, which I've read is the longest-lasting federation in the Arab world.
I first moved to Dubai six years after the original six emirates joined together, and in those days the feeling was still largely that it was very much individual emirates in a loose federation.
In Dubai it was rare to see the country's flag, Dubai's own red & white flag was very much more in evidence, as you can see from this 1977 photo of dhows on the Creek...

The unified country has come a long, long way since then.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Silly thought

Having coffee at Madinat Jumeirah this morning and seeing this I thought - we usually have a fairy on the top of Christmas trees...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Good news for labourers?

Apparently about 150 major contracting companies have decided to raise their labourers' pay by 15% to 20%.

The raise was confirmed by an official of the UAE Contractors' Association, although each individual company will decide on the amount and from when the increases will be paid to their workers.

Even if the 20% is paid it's not really a pay rise, it will just bring them back to where they were before the US$ crash devalued their earnings - the AED being pegged to the dollar.

The pay levels are sobering. According to labourers interviewed by Gulf News unskilled workers get AED350 to 550 a month (that's US$95 to 150) while skilled workers are paid the princely sum of AED700 to a whopping AED1200 (that's US$190 to 326).

Not a lot is it.

No surprise, it's a design error.

What everyone else seems have to been able to see from the beginning, the RTA didn't see.

Why am I not surprised.

The obvious fault in the air-conditioned bus shelter design has hit the news today, now that the shelters are appearing all over Dubai.

They ain't big enough!

The RTA's policy is to have much more public transport - excellent - and to 'encourage' people to abandon their cars in favour of it. Not a strong possibility if we have to stand around in 50C heat and 100% humidity, so the RTA came up with a good solution - a/c bus stops.

But we have already-crowded buses, the population of Dubai increasing by 800 people a day, everyone told to use public transport...and the bus shelters are designed to take a maximum of 14 people, eight seated and six standing. I must say that seems like an optimistic number, they're only 2.5 x 6 metres.

The problem has obviously been recognised - far too late - because many places have two of the shelters side-by-side...

It should have been thought of at the design stage! When you start with a blank canvass there is no excuse.

Given the culture in which we're living, another interesting point was raised by a Gulf News reader - why are there no separate shelters for ladies?

You can read the Gulf News report here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Stupid, stupid me.

For a long time I've been complaining that the RTA is making it more difficult for motorists to get around when they should be making it easier.

Today I was reading the news that the trams we were threatened with some time ago are for real and work will start in January. Initially the trams will run for 15 kilometres along Al Sufouh Road from Madinat Jumeirah to Dubai Marina, and around both sides of the Marina. The route is shown very well in this Gulf News graphic:

Thanks largely to Salik these roads are jammed solid morning and evening already. Losing a third of the road space to a tramline - plus the inevitable closures & diversions while the work is being done - will make it all but impossible.

Then a blinding flash. The light came on. The penny dropped. It all suddenly became clear.

Why I haven't seen the blindingly obvious for so long I don't know.

It's to make driving difficult to the point of impossible.
That's the plan. Always has been. I simply didn't see it.

I stupidly thought the integrated traffic plan included private cars. It obviously doesn't.

It's so simple. Make it so frustrating, so annoying, so time-consuming to use a private car and we'll all have to use the Metro/tram/buses/ferries.

The plan is simply to drive us all off the roads completely.

An RTA official is quoted as saying: "The tram project will encourage people in these posh areas to use alternate mode of transport instead of personal cars."

Encourage? We'll have no option.

By the way, I'm sure I must have raised the point when I talked about a tramline in a posting ages ago - can you imagine the danger, the chaos with Dubai's motorists and trams on the same road?

The stupidity of jargon

Something that's been increasingly annoying me over recent years is the use of frantically trendy, meaningless jargon.

Look at this classic example, the opening phrase from a press release in today's Gulf News:

", the region's global property and lifestyle brand offering comprehensive marketing solutions...

Totally meaningless and it tells potential clients nothing about the company or what it does.

In an effort to be trendy they've packed today's top-five buzz words into a meaningless jumble of nonsense - 'global', 'lifestyle', 'brand', 'marketing' and the daddy of them all, 'solutions'.

Nobody sells anything any more other than 'solutions'.

They're a reputable real estate company. Surely they're not ashamed of that fact? So why are they hiding it?

If a company loses sight of what it is and what it does it's headed for trouble.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

How to obstruct Dubai's commercial life.


Some errors occurred while processing the requested tasks.

* Your server has unexpectedly terminated the connection. Possible causes for this are server problems, network problems blah blah blah...

The last few days I've had this message on my e-mail more often than I've been able to use it.

It simply won't connect.

I keep trying, it flickers on for a few minutes, I send a couple of messages...then up comes the terminated message again.

Add to that the current unblievably slow speed of the internet connection, which is even worse than the normal slow speed, and you have Etisalat's contribution to the succes of Dubai as an international business hub. Thousands of people sitting in offices glumly staring at computer screens that load at an agonising, frustrating snail's pace. People forced to waste time, to be unproductive.

This is the 21st Century, international commerce is increasingly done via the internet. Dubai's very future depends on us being a major international business hub, with an increasing amount of business done from here, with more and more international companies relocating or opening regional offices here. Communication is the lifeblood of business. But Etisalat's infrastructure isn't up to the job. Dubai's businesses must have modern telecommunications services, with sufficient capacity, fast and reliable.

Etisalat's website assures me:

We enable people to reach each other, businesses to find new markets and everyone to fulfil their potential. Across the UAE, we provide telephone, TV and Internet services for everyone, and much more for businesses. We are increasingly present in international markets. Our customers enjoy the latest services and technologies, as well as a choice of great entertainment.

Our website will let you discover all we have to offer.

Reach out. The world’s waiting.

I'm trying to, but you won't let me!!!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Yet more avoidable deaths

"Two men were killed and 21 others injured when a car hit a group of men working on a site near Global Village. Police said the motorist, believed to be speeding, lost control and hit a group of workers who were carrying out road maintenance."

What amazes me is that this doesn't happen on a daily basis. Not only because of the moronic, criminal driving we have to contend with but, equally importantly, because safety for roadworkers is virtually non-existent.

Their 'protection' is invariably a red flag and a few plastic cones.

To make it even more dangerous the 'warning' is usually, at best, just a few metres in front of them, and all too often the red flag is actually in the middle of the work. Even motorists driving sensibly have a hard time taking evasive action. And, of course, the last-second manoeuvres this forces on them increases the chances of an accident.

I flicked through some of my photographs and here are some examples:

The red flag man standing within the danger zone, no warning for motorists that they're approaching a danger area.

On the Sheikh Zayed Road racetrack, workers wandering around behind plastic cones.

On a dangerous junction in Dubai Marina, gangs of unprotected workers.

There's a whole safety issue here and it's not exclusively down to the companies arranging suitable protection barriers, the workers themselves - and their supervisors - urgently need education.

They need to understand that motorists need adequate prior warning of a hazard ahead. Grouping the work gang and the red flag man together, wandering around in the road, dashing across the road to move to a different part of the site are all recipes for disaster.

At the under-construction Interchange 6 there are concrete barriers, but still the workers wander in the roads, jump the barriers, work with their back to the traffic seemingly oblivious to the danger.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wanna be a bureaucrat?

Government employees get 70 percent pay hike

Nov 20, 2007 - 04:59 -

Abu Dhabi, Nov. 20, 2007 (WAM) -- All federal government employees, including civilians and security personnel of the interior ministry, will get 70 percent salary hike with effect from January 2008 salary.

I was interested to read that several government employees interviewed by Gulf News said that while they were delighted with their increase they were worried about its effect on inflation. One senior official said that three years ago when they received a major increment, traders pushed prices up to the extent that he felt increased expenses cancelled it out.

Three immediate questions come to mind. One is the general inflationary effect of such a big increase. Second is whether the increased costs will mean we all, private individuals and companies, will have to pay more for government services.

Third is the inevitable 'wot about the workers' in the private sector. Inflation isn't only hitting government sector workers.

The Gulf News story is here.

Amazing! I agree with the RTA!

A small panel in Gulf News has what should be a much bigger story, given the appalling driving here.


The Dubai Roads & Transport Authority is currently studying driving licence system in Dubai, said a senior offical.

The study focuses on a comprehensive education package that also include drivers' responsibilities, safe driving practice, road safety information, road rules and driving attitude.

"We are also working on making changes in the driving school training syllabus, which will be announced soon," the official said.

It needs much more than this of course, particularly for the here and now, but for the future education is the key so it's a very good start.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The endless zoo saga

After many false promises going back years there was a report last July that Dubai's new zoo was being constructed.

"Construction of a huge new zoo will start in August...all the animals at the existing Dubai Zoo in Jumeirah will be moved by the end of this year to the new and much bigger zoo being built in DubaiLand...the core zoo will be built within three months after construction starts in August."

I posted about that back on July 30th.

It sounded genuine, it was all finalised, land had been allocated, private investors were being invited to participate, visitor chalets were being built, a botanic garden was being included...

Then it all went very quiet.

Until today.

A small panel in Gulf News records that Dubai Municipality "hope we will be allotted a piece of land in Dubailand within a couple of weeks."


That's positive isn't it. I hope I'll win the lottery.

So the latest news is that nothing's actually happened. The design for the zoo is ready - but as the land hasn't been allocated how do they know the design will work? Maybe it's too big for the land they'll eventually get. If they get it.

Meanwhile the 1,100-plus animals remain crowded into their appalling little prisons, which remains a blot on Dubai's reputation.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A foggy day...

...not in London Town as the song goes, but in Dubai.

In fact most of this week has been foggy overnight and into the morning.

Usually the sun burns it off by around nine in the morning but today it didn't clear completely at all.

Here's the normal view of Jumeirah Lake Towers from the traffic lights by Marina Mansions:

This was the view at 9.30 this morning:

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Labour accommodation inspections

I posted last week about the Cabinet directive that labour accommodation had to meet prescribed standards, and the follow-up by The Big Boss who ordered Dubai Municipality to employ sufficient inspectors.

Today Gulf News reports that Dubai Police's Human Rights Division is doing its bit to improve things.

Special teams have begun to inspect labour accommodation to ensure that it complies with the law. They began with inspections in Al Ghusais, Al Qouz and Jebel Ali and will 'listen to accommodation-related complaints and suggestions from labourers', according to the report.

The UAE, and Dubai in particular because of our high profile, have been getting bad press internationally because of the treatment of labourers by some, by far too many, companies.

As I've said before, it's a sad fact of life that we don't all treat each other as we should. Given that we don't, we need the authorities to enforce the laws and it at last sems to be happening in regard to labourer accommodation.

Fingers crossed...

You can read the full Gulf News story here.

Appalling traffic offences figures.

A follow on to the bus crash we're given statistics by Dubai Police on traffic violations.

Three of the figures stand out to me because of the danger they represent.

In the first ten months of this year the police have recorded:

One million speeding offences.

Forty-two thousand reckless driving.

Thirty-two thousand jumping red signal.

That last one terrifies me. Over one hundred jump red lights every day! Every fifteen minutes a moron somewhere in Dubai jumps a red light.

And these are just the offences the police know about. We can only guess how many more go unrecorded.

It's no surprise that so far this year two hundred and seventy people have died in crashes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Another fatal crash.

Just look at this:

The police say the bus driver was speeding and jumped a red light. That's normal for Dubai's roads.

The driver says the brakes failed.

The bus hit two cars and another bus before landing on top of the Pajero, killing one of the passengers in the 4x4. Ten other people were injured. And, once again, it's reported there was a fire.

It was in Deira at 10am yesterday and caused massive traffic jams of course.

Just another day on Dubai's roads.

Discrimination in Dubai

I expect this comment will stir up some unrest...

The question of discrimination in Dubai based on ethnicity comes up all the time, which came to mind as I walked around Satwa the other day.

The unpalatable fact that many refuse to accept is that it's largely imported by expatriates who bring their prejudices with them.

What I find ironic is that the group which in my experience complains longest and loudest is itself one of the most guilty of practicing discrimination.

For example, I came across many signs in Satwa demonstrating discrimination based on not only nationality but also by which area of a country people come from, and by religion.

You'll find the same thing in the Domestic Employment ads in Gulf News, where the majority exclude most job-seekers by specifying nationality and/or area and/or religion. For example:

"Housemaid, South Indian, preferably Keralite, required for a family residing in Sharjah.

Full-time Housemaid, Indian, urgently required for an Indian family in Karama.

Housemaid, Indian / Filipino, required for an Indian family residing Deira.

Think I'm exagerating when I say 'the majority' of ads? Check them out for yourself here.

Yes folks, discrimination is alive and well in Dubai.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Another beach mystery

A mystery to me - does anyone else know what's going on?

The beach at Umm Suqeim the other side of the fishing port from Burj Al Arab looks like this:

Piles of sand, earth-moving equipment, gangs of workers. I couldn't work out whether they were bringing the sand to the beach or taking it away.

But then I saw big bags being loaded with the sand, so I assume it's being taken away:

And a very large area features the ubiquitous red & white plastic - more of a symbol of Dubai than the cranes in my opinion:

So what we have is a large beach area coned off, piles of sand, earth-moving machinery, big bags.

The beach has been eroded along this stretch with the changing water movement caused by the offshore developments. I thought at first they were building it back up, but I'm not so sure.

Any ideas anyone?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Investigation into vehicle fires.

Last month I asked Why so many fires? when we have vehicle accidents here, and ended the posting "Something for the authorities to look into?"

Apparently they are.

Gulf News reports today that "Road safety expert seeks answers to blazes following road accidents and collisions."

Dr. Yaser Hawas, Director of the Roadway, Transportation & Traffic Safety Research Centre in Al Ain, said the occurrence of vehicle fires during accidents is so alarming that it warrants an investigation into the causes.

That's why I wrote about it, I'm sure that we have an unusually high number of vehicle fires in crashes. There has to be a reason and if the reason can be found it can be eliminated.

Dr. Hawas said: "We are examining these accidents to ascertain whether it's a car manufacturing fault, nature of the accident or any other aspect that set the vehicle on fire after the collision."

That really is good to see. Any crash is a terrible thing but I have a real horror of fire and I can't think of anything worse than the vehicles exploding into flames.

The full Gulf News story is here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The bridge tragedy

Further information has come to light today on the accident in which seven workers constructing a bridge at the entrance to Dubai Marina were killed.

Apparently it wasn't a bridge collapse as reported yesterday. The crane's heavy load of steel frames hit a wall, which collapsed onto nearly thirty workers.

There are two disasters to be faced by the families of the dead, the obvious grief of having lost a loved one being the first. But there's also the practical fact that they were probably the main bread-winner for their families.

At least there's help for them to deal with the second. The company have quickly confirmed that the families will receive ten years' salary in compensation. Medical expenses for the injured will also be paid by the company.

It's small comfort but at least the company seems to be doing the right thing.

It would be nice to think that it's standard practice. I wonder...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Another fatal day in Dubai's construction industry

Seven workers were killed yesterday when part of a bridge under construction collapsed. Twenty-four of their colleagues were injured, although thankfully none of these are said to be serious.

The need for the bridge is because there was oviously a serious planning error in the design of Dubai Marina. On the ocean side, where the beach hotels and Jumeirah Beach Residence are located, there is only a small bridge with one lane in either direction to cross the marina entrance.

The planners incrediby thought that would be enough for tens of thousands of people to come and go.

Let me remind you what JBR looks like, and this is just a very small part of it:

JBR claims to be the world's largest single-phase development with 40 towers, four of which are hotels. It covers a one mile length and will be home to 25,000 people. There are also dozens of towers on the other side of the road, plus more than half a dozen existing hotels. A bridge with one lane in either direction was considered to be sufficient.


We can't blame the RTA for that doozy, it was done long before they were formed. I do hope the people responsible were dealt with harshly.

The cause of yesterday's tragedy is said to be human error - a crane placed a huge load of iron rods on the upper part of the bridge, far too heavy for the under-construction bridge according to a statement from Mattar Al Tayer of the RTA. The seven workers were killed instantly and a fleet of rescue helicopters airlifted the injured to Rashid Hospital.

A committee of officials from the RTA, Dubai Police and Public Prosecutors has been formed to investigate the acident. I hope they include something I've talked about before - site supervision.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

More Salik twists...

I just received a message from Salik that my account needs topping up.

Strange, I thought, I've only been through the tollgates six times, which means I still have Dh26 in my account.

Scrolling through the message I found the answer - which was a surprise. "Balance of 30AED is below the set recharge value." it told me.

Set recharge value? Do we know about this? I didn't. I haven't seen that anywhere. Have I missed it?

Anyway, I went into the website and eventually found the page that lets me manage and top up my account.

Another surprise - I couldn't top it back up to the original Dh50 because the minimum amount accepted is Dh50.

A 'set recharge value' of Dh30 and a minimum top up of Dh50. Have I misssed the information on all this? Does everyone but me know about it?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Good news for construction workers

The Emirates news agency WAM reports some good news from the UAE Cabinet meeting held on Sunday.

The Ministry of Labour was told to collaborate with construction companies to prepare, as a matter of urgency, proposals on the issue of the salaries of workers in the construction sector.

They will also, the Ministry said, ' intensify their inspections of workers' accommodation, noting that some of the housing facilities being provided to workers by some companies are sub-standard and do not meet the conditions and specifications laid down by the laws of the state'.

Ain't that the truth.

Later, The Big Boss, who of course presided over the Cabinet meeting, was at Dubai Municipality. He ordered an increase in the number of inspectors to cover all labour accommodation and he instructed the Municipality to double its efforts to preserve the image of Dubai.

Later, Labour Ministry Assistant Under-Secretary, Humaid bin Deemas, was forthcoming in his statements.

He said the Labour Ministry was following with deep concern the protests being made by workers from a number of construction companies which it was dealing with. It was also committed to taking the necessary measures to bring an end to any form of violation of the law.

He said the Ministry strongly insists that all workers must receive full wages without any deductions, for whatever reason. He said the ministry totally rejects the excuses being given by some companies for their practice of withholding wages. The ministry was determined to eradicate this practice which, he said, was considered by the UAE government to be an unacceptable form of exploitation that is in contravention of the law. He warned that the ministry will impose heavy fines and severe punishments on all those who are found by the supervisory committee to have violated the law.

There are two obvious observations to make I suppose.

One, wouldn't it be nice if we didn't need this kind of enforcement because we all treated each other with respect and honesty. Human nature being what it is, though, far too many people take any advantage they can from other people.

Two, why does it need Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and the Cabinet to tell the Ministries they need to do what they should be doing as a matter of course?

Salaries not being paid, deductions from salaries, sub-standard accommodation and conditions, all are illegal. It's been going on for years, yet here we are needing a Cabinet directive because the Ministry of Labour isn't on top of it.

If you'd like to read the original WAM reports they are here and here.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

It's raining!

I thought I should record the fact that it rained today.

I can't temember the last time we had rain - sometime last winter obviously - but we had a little bit today. Not what we'd call rain in Australia of course, but enough to leave some wet patches on the ground.

It's apparently the fringe of the weather Oman is getting, and we're getting something we see very rarely, cloudy skies.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I found some more...

Secret Dubai left a link on the last post to a great Dubai Christmas photo, and that got me searching through my own photos for my particular favourite. I came across a few others too, so here they are first:

And then away from the luxury of Madinat Jumeirah into beautiful downtown Karama:

Over to Deira to Naif Souk:

And here's my favourite. That fat man in red gets everywhere - I think this was around Al Faheidi Street.

Oh, and the link to SD's photo is here. I think it's Mary Christmas...or perhaps a working girl who'd wandered into Jumbo Electronics by mistake?

Christmas in Dubai

A couple of posts back I put a photo of Christmas decorations already on display. Our blogger friend DownUnder, LDU, asked about Christmas in Dubai.

I rummaged through my thousands of photographs and came up with these, taken last year in Mall of the Emirates and Wafi Mall:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rights for domestic workers.

Reports today that the Federal Cabinet has set up a taskforce to to 'regulate the relationship between domestic workers and their sponsors.'

A proposed new law will, it is said, ensure the rights and duties of both sides are guaranteed.

It's another of the catch-up laws, of which there are so many in most areas of our lives. What has been accepted in the past is no longer acceptable, but so often we don't yet have laws to cover the problem areas.

The UAE Human Rights Organisation recently demanded, according to the Gulf News story, that domestic workers be covered by the Labour Law.

Why they weren't is a mystery to me.

The watchdog said that the domestic helpers' contract regulating the relationship with employers falls short of the minimum human rights and international labour standards.

There are thousands of domestic workers here and that's some indictment. It's obviously something that couldn't be allowed to continue.

Recommendations from the organisation are common sense and I can't see one good reason why they wouldn't be adopted in full and written into law.

They say the contract should include:
*A minimum wage.
*Working hours & duties for each job.
*System to transfer wages to banks regularly & on time.
*Proper accommodation ensuring privacy.
*Specific daily working hours and weekly rest.
*Annual leave as for other workers.
*Contract to be translated into languages known by domestic helpers.

And finally, a Hotline to be set up for complaints from domestic workers against any abuses.

Even though it's late the move is to be applauded. Let's hope it doesn't all get bogged down and delayed for months or years.

I do have one sceptical comment though. Assuming the law is passed, how is it all going to be enforced?

Very difficult when the domestic helpers are often poorly educated, if at all, they are strangers in the country with no network, are hidden away inside villas or apartments, maybe don't have the means to communicate, don't in any case know their rights.

There's a large responsibility on the home governments I would have thought, to inform and educate their citizens before they take domestic jobs overseas.

More on prices

It keeps going, this prices in Dubai thing.

To recap, in my earlier posting saying that Dubai wasn't as expensive as many western expats claim, there was a comment about Spinneys here in Dubai selling New Zealand rib-eye steak at the 'rip off' price of Dh65 a kilo.

A New Zealand friend sent me the prices there - which range fom Dh45 for rump steak to Dh84 for fillet.

Now a friend in Australia has just sent me the local butcher's price for steaks in Sydney...where T-bone is Dh50 and fillet is Dh89 a kilo.

While I was in Europe a couple of weeks ago I did the usual 'BigMac Index'.
Here are the comparative prices of a BigMac, converted to dirhams at today's exchange rates.

Amsterdam Dh15.80
Munich Dh16.60
Lucerne Dh34.32
London Dh25.80

Dubai Dh10

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dubai prices

The other day I was talking about the comparative prices of things in Dubai and whether overall it's less or more expensive to live here than in, say, western Europe.

A couple of things have cropped up that are relevant.

I was in Debenhams, the UK store, in Mall of the Emirates over the weekend, passing the time while Mrs Seabee looked for something to spend her money on.

A lot of the labels on clothing had the original £ price printed on them, with a dirham sticker on top. Careful peeling revealed that, at 7.5 exchange rate:

*some items are more expensive here.
*some items are the same price here.
*some items are cheaper here.

I guess the advice has to be that if you're visiting here from Europe, or visiting Europe from here, and you plan to buy a particular item, then you should check your home price before you leave. If it's cheaper at home, buy it when you get back. If it's cheaper 'there' then buy it there.

The other thing was an anonymous comment left on my posting about the 'rip off' price of steak in Dubai. The 'rip off' price is Spinneys selling New Zealand rib-eye steak at Dh65 a kilo.

I checked earlier with a friend in New Zealand and today they're paying - for their own meat which hasn't been airfreighted halfway round the world:

*Fillet steak Dh84 a kilo
*Porterhouse steak Dh73
*Rump steak Dh45

And remember that the best quality product is always exported. As I've been suggesting, many things are still a bargain in Dubai.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Depressed in Dubai?

Browsing through the visitors to this blog reveals some interesting things.

One is the number of people living in Dubai who use search engines to find answers about life here.

Another is the interesting questions they ask.

Today a visitor living in Dubai typed into google: Dubai will not last.
S/he obviously isn't feeling confident about the place.

Another wants to know: private beach, Dubai+topless.

An interesting question to Yahoo: minimal wage in dubai uae.
Many labourers, and others, would surely agree they get a 'minimal wage'.

And another who sounds fed up with life here wants the following information from google:
dubai irresponsible.

Christmas already?

Already, in Mall of the Emirates...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

California wildfire tragedy.

I talk about the horrors of the Aussie bushfires every southern summer, and a few months ago the terrible fires in Greece.

Now it's the USA's turn to suffer again, or at least California, from their regular wildfire season.

I remember a couple of years ago when Aussie firefighters went to the US to help fight very bad fires, they came back amazed at the amount of equipment, people, resources their colleagues there had at their disposal.

Even with that it seems they're in danger of being overwhelmed in Southern California. The conditions are familiar to us down-under with the driest year on record, high temperatures, then the high winds. It then only takes a lightning strike, a carelessly dropped cigarette or a campfire not extinguished properly - or an insane arsonist - to start the inferno.

The winds are what firefighters fear the most and meteorologists are saying the worst winds are still to come over the fire areas.

Sadly, one person has been killed and four firefighters seriously injured, plus over a dozen other people injured. Over 200,000 acres have burnt already, while the LA Times is reporting over half a million residents have been ordered to evacuate and Reuters says over 700 homes have been destroyed.

Fire is a terrible, terrible thing.

LA Times photo

Many more photographs plus the ongoing story at LA Times.

Addition on Wednesday...the LA Times is now reporting nearly half a million acres burnt, 1155 homes destroyed and five more deaths 'linked' to the fires. The good news is that winds are slowing, temperature is dropping and humidity is rising.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dubai expensive?

I've talked about this before - expats from UK & Europe in particular whingeing about Dubai being expensive.

Just going through bits & pieces from our holiday has prompted me to revisit the subject.

For example in London the single journey tube fare from Waterloo to Kings Cross, a short distance of only six stations, was £4 each. Crowded, uncomfortable, dragging luggage up & down stairs, no air-conditioning, and a short journey was Dh30 each.

In a little local Thai restaurant in a small country town the standard dishes were between £6 and £8 each, thats Dh45 to Dh60 per dish. Here we pay around Dh25.

Real estate? My brother recently bought a very small end-of-terrace bungalow in a town about 30 miles from London. Not in the city, it's worth stressing, but 30 miles away in a country town.

One bathroom, two bedrooms, one reception room (as they call them in the UK). The rooms are tiny - for example the master bedroom is 13ft6in x 10ft (4.16 x 3.12 metres). The one and only living room is 13ft x 13 ft. Here are the real estate agent's photos of it:

He paid Dh1,450,000 and had to spend Dh225,000 on necessary repairs and renovations. Total cost Dh1.7 million. And of course he had to use after-tax salary to pay for it, so in Dubai terms you could add about 25 percent.

Here's a photo of it now. Not much for the money is it:

I know rents are high in Dubai, and rising unacceptably, but employers still very often, if not usually, provide accommodation or an allowance to European expats. And salary is tax free, meaning an advantage of somewhere in the region of 25 to 40 percent over European taxed salaries.

All the other items such as food, travel, clothing, eating out, cars, fuel - if you compare like with like, which most of the whingers don't - are much cheaper in Dubai.

I have examples from other European countries we visited, which will be worth posting here when I've sorted it all out.