Wednesday, April 30, 2008

'Solution' is back.

"experiential solution"

How's that for an example of buzzing, of using breathlessly-trendy buzz words that actually hide whatever it was the speaker was trying to get across.

It's in EmBiz247 today, in a story about the largest advertising window wrap in the region.

Window wrap? It means a 40-storey building in Media City is covered in a vast advertisement.

CEO of the company responsible is quoted as saying:

"...identifying a 'real estate' based advertising opportunity for a leading real estate developer such as ACI is the kind of experiential solution Ströer Concept Outdoor believes in..."

Don't ask, I have no idea what it means.

Story plus pic is here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Magic Onyx latest news...

From a report in The National:

"A man convicted of attempting to swindle customers by selling an onyx stone he claimed had magical powers was today granted bail pending the outcome of his appeal.

The appeal court is waiting for a report on the stone’s qualities from the Dubai Municipality Central Laboratory.

Both the Commodities and Metals Authority and Dubai Police's criminal laboratory have said they do not have the means to test the stone's ability to repel bullets.

'I do not think [the court] will find facilities in the country that are equipped to test the stone’s properties, they should send it to a lab abroad to test it,' said the defence lawyer.

"Hello. Government Chief Scientist here, how may I help you?"

"I'm calling from Dubai. You know Dubai?"

"Oh yes, it's mentioned in our media regularly. Ultra-modern city, cutting edge, world's best practice, a symbol of the future."

"OK. Well, our courts have ordered testing of an onyx stone for magical powers, but we don't have the equipment to test for such things. I was wondering if you could help."

Click, burrrrrrr...

Here's the story.

More fascinating copywriting...

My new favourite copywriter seems to have a series of ads coming for Vakson real estate.

Following Saturday's ad which I posted, here's today's offering in EmBiz247:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Now the RTA comes clean.

There's unequivocal confirmation now from the RTA that their 'integrated transport plan' excludes private cars.

Back in November I said in a post titled 'Stupid, stupid me'
that I'd suddenly realised the plan was to make it impossible for us to use our cars.

Then in December they acknowledged that they were planning to expand the Salik toll system to "encourage" us to use public transport. I posted that as 'RTA comes clean' but I hadn't quite got that right.

Now they've come clean, their statements at a conference being reported by The National newspaper.

They quote Abdul Redha Abu al Hassan, the RTA’s director of rail planning, as saying:

"There are two methods of encouraging people to stop using the car and travel by public transport instead. One is to provide a luxurious and safe environment for mass transit systems and the other is to force them by increasing the cost of driving."

That's what I'd realised back in November. As I said then: "The plan is simply to drive us all off the roads completely."

He went on to spell out some of the plans:

"driving a car will become a lot more expensive"..."car parking and annual re-registration charges will go up significantly"..."Salik would definitely be extended"...The majority of Dubai’s population would be unable to afford planned increases in vehicle registration fees and additional Salik charges: "To pay all the fees it will end up that they have no money left in their pay packets"...

It's no surprise that Dubai has an enormous 541 vehicles per 1,000 residents (compared with 444 in New York and 345 in London) or that only five percent of trips here are made by public transport.

Blind Freddie can see that if you have no public transport system people have to use private cars. So that's what's been happening.

When we have an integrated public transport system there's a chance that we'll use it rather than our cars. But...

The evidence is clear that Dubai suffers from so many unnecessary problems which are caused by plain and simple old fashioned bad planning. Time after time after time. In spite of starting with a competely blank canvas. In spite of all the data from other cities around the world.

To work as it was meant to in theory a public transport system has to give people what they want, when and where they want it and at a price they are able and prepared to pay. It must be interlinked, convenient, clean, fast and safe.

With the evidence of how much bad planning we have to contend with all around us, I'm not optimistic that the problems of travelling around Dubai are going to get much better.

The National story is here.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Not for a squillion dollars!

Photo taken from what is, so far, the top of the Burj Dubai, the 157th floor.

And there are guys wandering around on the girders! I'd feel sick looking out from the mezzanine floor!

Love those copywriters!

The heading on a Vakson ad. offering properties for sale in today's EmBiz247

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More ridiculous buzzing

The buzzwords are back, this time in an article in EmBiz247.

It's in an article on the movement of people around the world- note that I use the word people.

The paper thought one phrase was worthy of highlighting as a feature sub-heading:

"Mobility contributes to national human capital development..."

More confirmation that we aren't thought of as people any more, but as human capital.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Keep the site clean...

I came across this notice the other day in Dubai Marina. Most of the 'Don't do' signs are standard, you'll see them on all construction sites.

But I haven't seen the last one before...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Poll answers

Gulf News has two pages today giving the results of a YouGov Siraj poll. It talks about the cost of living, rents, salaries, savings and so on.

It confirms that for many people Dubai is no longer the place to make and save money.

Forty-two percent said they either save nothing or their debt increases.

Sixty-six percent said their rent had increased by over ten percent - so much for the rent cap.

But the figure that stood out to me was in answer to the question: "Approximately how long have you lived in the UAE".

Two percent answered "Don't know".


All the figures are here.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Unacceptable standards & practices

Earlier this month I was talking about the damage to Dubai's reputation that the cancellation by Damac of their Palm Jebel Ali Palm Springs development would do.

As I said then, when the Master Plan was radically changed by Nakheel and the development moved to a different location on the different shaped island, it meant both developers had sold something that could no longer be delivered.

Many people bought off the plan when it was launched five, yes five, years ago and were threatening legal action if the project was stopped.

The Land Department got involved and it seems they've mediated between Nakheel and Damac and the project will go ahead after all.

As usual, the reports are incomplete, contradictory and confusing. And I'm interested in what's missing, what the 'journalists' obviously didn't seek clarification on.

Why? Why don't they ask? Why don't they clarify?

The developer said the reason for cancellation of the project five years after launch was due to 'redevelopment of the plots.' According to Damac, the development cannot be situated on the re-allocated plot.

But now they say:

It will be developed in keeping with the original investor contracts and Damac's contract with Nakheel, master-developer of the Palm Jebel Ali. Damac has undertaken to implement and accomplish the project according to the contracts with investors...

So which is it? It's not possible to build as planned, or it will be according to the original contracts?

How can the development be delivered to buyers according to their original contracts if it's in a different location on a different shaped island?

But we're also told: ...the main reason the project was shelved was the rising cost of materials.

Change of the Master Plan or rising construction costs? Which was it?

So we don't know the reasons the development was cancelled, we don't know exactly what the new development will be, we don't know how it will differ from what people paid money for years ago.

It's not only yet another example of sloppy journalism, it's yet another example of the cavalier attitude of businesses in Dubai.

I've said it before, the attitude is 'give us your money and we'll then decide whether we give you anything in return, what it is and when we'll give it to you.'

It's unacceptable and it has to be stopped.

Stories in Gulf News, EmBiz247 and Khaleej Times.

"You take photo?"

I've never understood it.

They love to have their photo taken, yet they never have a copy.

Over the years I've taken many photos of people, usually male sub-cons, at their request. Pre-digital cameras they never saw the end result, but for some reason they were still very happy to have their photo taken.

Walking through Deira the other day, camera in hand as usual, my new pal on the right chased after me asking "You take photo?" while pointing to his friend.

It's digital, so at least I could show them the photo on the camera screen.

The souk porters, another glimpse of the fast-disappearing old Dubai.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dubai's trad-mod

I keep seeing examples of the ultra-modern alongside the traditional.

Time to photograph and post a few of them, I thought:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Boy, they were tired.

In the heart of downtown Deira, a much-needed break...and nothing distracted them...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Manufacturing history

One of the interesting things I see in various places around Dubai is the creation of 'traditional' buildings.

Many people complain that there's no history, no old Dubai left and some say it's all been destroyed to make way for new developments.

The reality is that there wasn't very much to start with. I've posted this pic before but it's worth posting again - this is the extent of Dubai in 1949:

You can still see one or two original buildings, or at least part of them, in Shindagah. Basically mud reinforced with coral, which isn't built to last hundreds of years.

And in what is now 'New Dubai' there really wasn't anything.

So it's interesting to come across developments like these - in my opinion there isn't anywhere enough of them.

Yes, I know it's fake 'old', but the point is that all buildings have to be designed. They have to look like something. I'm all in favour of these, which are designed in the architectural traditions of the region rather than the endless developments of modern towers that could be anywhere in the world.

I wish there were many more developments like these in 'New Dubai'.

Codeine restrictions

The Dubai drugs busts for people having codeine came to mind when I read a story in today's Sydney Morning Herald.

Codeine is available over the counter in Australia, as in many other countries, but it is of course illegal in the UAE.

The article in the SMH says:

"Popular painkillers containing codeine could be reclassified prescription-only to stop abuse of the powerful over-the-counter drugs.

A government committee has flagged the possibility of classifying the codeine combination medicines such as Nurofen Plus, a schedule 8, a restricted category for drugs at high risk of being abused.

Painkillers containing ibuprofen and codeine can now be purchased over-the-counter in pharmacies in packs of up to 72 tablets.

The National Drugs and Poisons Scheduling Committee has decided to examine the scheduling of these drugs, including whether a schedule 8 listing is warranted, after fear of growing codeine abuse.

Reports earlier this year claimed that 7000 Australians had joined an online forum since 2003 for people addicted to Nurofen Plus, the strongest codeine tablet available in this country without a prescription.

The forum's founder claimed 5 per cent of the population could be addicted to the pills.
A report from a Melbourne hospital published in the Medical Journal in January said recreational misuse of Nurofen Plus had become a 'significant problem'".

The original story is here.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A different kind of green

We're hearing more and more reports of 'green' projects in Dubai - green buildings, green cities, now today an 800 million square feet US$55 billion "massive green initiative."

When the rest of the world says something is 'green' they mean environmentally friendly & responsible.

It's a trendy word, the thing to be seen to be doing. It's good PR. You're applauded for being 'green'. So Dubai has picked up on it.

But here it actually has a different meaning.

In Dubai, 'green' means just that. The colour.

A green building isn't environmentally friendly, in fact it's just the opposite because it means it'll have plenty of landscaping and water features.

'Green' cities are full of parks and landscaping.

The new Gardens initiative is a Dubai Properties project of four clusters and will be 73 per cent greenery. The rest is buildings.

It sounds like a fantastic project with some great inclusions.

But in a landscape where we don't have topsoil or water I think it's a bit of a stretch to say that it is: "to help conserve and protect the environment."

Green in colour it all is, but 'green' in the sense the world means it ain't.

The story is with Gulf News.

Friday, April 11, 2008

They're kidding, right?

A few weeks ago I posted this photo taken by a friend - IKEA selling bags of sand for gardeners:

I thought that was odd, then this afternoon in Satwa I saw this in a shop window:

There were two sizes available - I really should have gone in and asked them the price.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Glitz & glamour & opulence.

What the world sees of Dubai is the over-the-top opulence, the 'iconic' buildings, the huge new malls, the biggest/richest/tallest/longest...

Even expats who've been here a while, years in some instances, haven't seen what I think of as the real Dubai.

I've been posting photos for a while, some that I took back in the late seventies but others of the old Dubai that exists today.

Here's another bunch in that category that I've taken over the last week, in the upmarket, des-res beach suburb of Umm Suqeim.

Shopping? Who needs glitzy marble and glass malls when you can go to the local neighbourhood shops...

To get to the shops you simply walk along nice old streets which are on a human scale...

You'll come acreoss plenty of the free drinking water units outside villas, provided for passers by, a nice touch and a glimpse of the traditional hospitality...

And here and there, the indiginous and beautiful ghaf tree:

There never was much of old Dubai, it was a very small place, and there isn't a lot of it left. See it while you can.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

They amaze me.

In Dubai Marina this morning. No other vehicles involved. No skid marks. So what was the standard of driving that took him into the petunias?

Court report

I thought a couple of reports from Dubai courts were worth mentioning.

There's been a lot of adverse publicity internationally about the rape of a French boy, with accusations that justice would not be done and the courts would not pass heavy enough sentences on the accused Emiratis. I posted about it in some detail back in February.

The boy's mother launched a major publicity campaign, which she later withdrew when fifteen year sentences were handed down.

The defence tried all avenues for appeals but now Dubai's highest court, The Dubai Court of Cassation, has rejected the two men's appeal for leniency and upheld the fifteen year sentences.

Then another case which commentators predicted would be hushed up. In fact the former director of a Dubai detention centre and 24 prison wardens - a senior police officer, 3 lieutenants and 21 policemen - have been charged with beating and injuring inmates. The former director and one of the lieutenants were also charged with inciting the others to commit violent acts. Public Prosecution asked the court to hand down the toughest punishments applicable.

This is the Dubai Court of First Instance, so it may well go on for a while yet. The accused all pleaded not guilty.

And on a lighter note, the Magic Onyx. The Court of Appeal agreed that an expert from Dubai police's criminal laboratory should examine the stone to decide whether it contained any special characteristics which made it bulletproof. Surprisingly, the police did not have the necessary equipment to carry out the tests, so the court has now referred it to the Metals and Commodities Centre. They have to report back by April 14.

The stories are here:
Rape case appeal rejected.
Assault on prisoners.
Magic Onyx.

New Naif Souk

Some good news...the recently destroyed Naif Souk won't be replaced by a high-rise tower or 'iconic' building.

According to Dubai Municipality the new one will look like this:

Hussain Nasser Lootah, Acting Director-General of Dubai Municipality, said:
"It will have the theme and spirit of the old souq and will be built following local architectural designs." There will be around 350 shops, almost double the capacity of the destroyed souq. The souq will be a two-storey, air-conditioned building, and will have additional facilities for traders and shoppers.

They say the new souq will be built quickly. "We will bring the hustle and bustle back to Naif Souq by the end of this year."

The story is in Gulf News here.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The good side of Dubai

Strolling along the beach I was reminded of the good side of Dubai.

One thing was the combination of weather, beach, warm sea.

The other was something we should never take for granted, given the situation in much of the rest of the world.

Security. Lack of crime.

For example, there've been many reports from cities around the world of teenagers in particular being attacked and beaten up by gangs stealing their trainers.

Near Burj Al Arab a teacher had a bunch of schoolkids on the beach...

Oops! Onto the Palm

Not for the first time I was confused by the road signs and ended up on Palm Jumeirah by mistake.

You can drive a couple of kilometres along the trunk, then you reach a security gate to the rest of the island which is a construction site. That's where you do a U-turn to get back to where you originally wanted to be.

Anyway, what I thought was interesting was after all the hype about the prime beachfront properties, people paying lots of money to live on the Palm, 'the most desired address in Dubai' and all's just a bunch of apartment blocks on a main road. It'll be a very busy main road in the future too, with over 20,000 people trying to get along it every day.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

We stand no chance

We read about it just about every day, and we witness the stupidity just about every day.

Two crashes reported in today's Gulf News:

"The accident on the Al Wagan road near Za'abh which claimed 12 lives, including those of eight Emiratis and four Omanis, on Thursday night, was due to reckless driving...One of the vehicles, driven by a 20-year-old Emirati, veered off the lane in the curve and collided with an incoming vehicle."

"A father and a two-year-old child were killed in an accident early on Saturday when their car fell into a pedestrian underpass...the man was talking on his cell phone and while switching it off he lost control of the vehicle. The car, which was travelling at a high speed, swerved off the road, hit the pedestrian underpass barrier and plunged down the stairs."

Three near misses for me before 10 this morning. Way beyond the speed limit, a Toyota Landcruiser screaming down the inside filter lane which merged into the main road and forcing his way into the traffic without even slowing down.

A Mitsubishi Pajero in Knowledge Village almost running into the back of a taxi which was dropping a passenger, avoiding it by jerking the wheel to the left - right in front of me. The moron was texting.

And then going into Dubai Marina at the dangerous obstacle course that is the under-construction Interchange know how these things look - like this:

I came to this T-Junction. A Caucasian female in an open Jeep, talking on her mobile, came round the blind corner in the right of the picture...on my side of the road.

We really don't stand a chance.

The Gulf News stories are here and here.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Fires - the usual Dubai problem.

A couple of days ago I said "What is it with Dubai and fires" when I posted on the Naif Souk inferno.

Since then there's been another major fire, this one in an Al Quoz warehouse - again. There won't be any warehouses left if this continues.

Just imagine what was in the air from this one...

"Some 45 firemen battled for over two hours to save lives and material at two warehouses that stored chemicals, paints and thinners."

Two people were injured in this latest fire, one with severe burns.

Our outspoken Police Chief had this to say:

"...warehouses such as the ones that recently caught fire do not meet safety standards and are hardly inspected." Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim said: "I see that inspections of such establishments are rare. Procedures are only carried out during the licensing process and after that there is no monitoring."

That what's behind many of our avoidable problems. Laws, rules and regulations are in place but they're not enforced.

Fire story here and Lt Gen Tamim's comments are here.

This really must be stopped

Quotes from an item in today's Gulf News:

"Uncertainty surrounds Damac's cancellation of its Palm Springs project...the reasons for the cancellation of its Palm Springs project are due to revisions in the Palm Jebel Ali masterplan...The Palm Springs plot was relocated to a prime position due to widening of the crescent...the revised masterplan allowed for significant improvements in the design...Nakheel has sold other plots of land on the crescent of Palm Jebel Ali to the responsibility of Damac to ensure the delivery of any units it has sold within these plots to customers."

Master plans are finalised, plots are sold to developers, units in it are sold to buyers.

Then the master plan is changed out of recognition. Developments in which people have bought are relocated - that is, they become something that the buyer didn't buy.

So what was promised, what was shown on the master plan, what was sold to developers and sold on to the public doesn't eventuate.

What is it doing for Dubai's reputation? It simply isn't the way business should be done.

Gulf News story is here.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Blast from the past.

I never thought I'd see another - my favourite car name of all time. And there it was, sitting at the traffic lights in front of me.

The Nissan Cedric.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Let 'em get away with it sentences

The courts seem to be passing ridiculously lenient sentences for causing death by moronic driving more and more frequently.

This is the third time in a week I've posted that Salah Bu Farousha, the Head of Dubai's Traffic Public Prosecution, is planning to appeal the sentence and push for the toughest punishment possible under the law.

I posted about this crash when it happened back in November.

Photo: Gulf News reader

Driving recklessly and jumping a red light, the RTA bus driver hit two vehicles, then hit a bus dropping passengers and landed on the 4X4. The bus then caught fire.

He killed the passenger of the 4X4 and injured ten others.

He claimed the brakes failed - they were tested and found to be safe. Cameras on the interchange proved the rest.

He's just been sentenced by the Dubai Traffic Court of First Instance.

Three months in jail and licence suspended for six months.

Three months.

That'll send a message to the other morons that their dangerous life-threatening behaviour won't be tolerated!

Salah Bu Farousha must be tearing his hair out in frustration and anger. I would be.

He says they are reviewing the verdict in detail before appealing for the toughest punishment applicable.


They shouldn't have to do it, the courts should understand the severity of the problem, the reason why tougher laws were introduced and hand down appropriate sentences in the first place.

Someone high up needs to get on top of this and call the judges in for a briefing.

I posted about the previous letting-them-get-away-with-it sentences here and

Today's Gulf News story is

Another big fire, in Deira this time

What is it with Dubai and fire?

We seem to have an inordinate number of fires in car crashes, we've had the huge Jebel Ali Port fire, last week over 80 warehouses destroyed in the Al Quoz fire, with four people now confirmed dead, and this morning 100 shops in Deira were destoyed by fire.

Thankfully no-one was hurt in this latest incident, although some firefighters have been treated for smoke inhalation.

I guess the time of day helped to prevent casualties because the reports say it started just before two in the morning.

It's in the heart of Deira in Naif Souk and is being blamed on an electrical short-circuit in an air conditioning unit.

Reports are saying that, inevitably, huge crowds gathered to watch - probably endangering themselves and getting in the way of the emergency services. I know it's a cultural thing but I really don't understand this need to stand and stare at things.

Both Gulf News and Khaleej Times have photos showing the extent of the damage, such as this one from Gulf News reader Sajip P.S.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

An April Fool joke?

It's April 1st, so stories in the media should be treated with a little more scepticism than usual.

The story that has me wondering is this - Gulf News' headline sums it up well:

"Metro stations and lines open for corporate branding".

I can't decide whether it's true or a send-up.

On the one hand, which suggests it's true, I posted about it back in February when it was first announced. And yesterday it appeared again in Gulf News.

On the other, which makes it suspect, the story appears today, April 1st, in both Gulf News and EmBiz247 newspapers but I can't find them on their respective websites. That means, of course, that the stories could have been pulled.

If it's a hoax it's elaborate, time-consuming and Very Important People are involved.

What the hard-copy stories are saying is that 23 Metro stations and two lines are being offered for corporate branding, available for a minimum of ten years. There is selection criteria, naturally.

This could add much-needed style, elegance and class to Dubai's overall look you know.

We have plenty of examples in Australia, which could give ideas to corporate sponsors.

In Australia we have 'bigs' - all kinds of businesses, towns even, have built very large fibreglass 'bigs' to promote themselves.

In the banana-growing area of Coffs Harbour, for example, we have...The Big Banana:

It's the main entrance to a banana plantation and is part of the retail section which sells all kinds of stuff with a banana theme.

That could be an idea for Spinney Station perhaps. They meet the criteria laid down for sponsorship.

Then up in Queensland there's...the Big Pineapple:

Same deal - part of the entrance and retail section of a pineapple plantation.

Maybe that could be a thought for Choitram Station. They also meet the criteria.

There are many other role models our local companies could check on for ideas. I particularly like the very stylish and elegant Big Prawn...

The green and red Metro lines are available for naming rights, the story says. That presumably would be a hefty amount, so very large international companies would be the likely sponsors.

We could soon be travelling on the Coco-Cola Line, changing at Choitram Station to get onto the MacDonald Line to travel on to Masafi Water Station.

I can't wait.

The service misnomer.

A few days ago I ended a post about customer service in Dubai with:

"We pay the money, the company decides whether to give us anything in return, what it is, when they'll give it to us and what condition it's in."

On that subject I thought it was worth highlighting a couple of comments proving the point left on my last post...

i*maginate said...
Strange you mention Etisalat coz Du connection showed the same message but I notice only for about 30 mins between 1am and 2am, maybe on and off at various times throughout the w-e. Called DU guy and he guessed my query before I completed it (implying loads of complaints) and said 'upgrading server' so I said did you give notice of this? He said no... I said how long...he said "don't know"....

Susan said...
We've been having problems with a Duh connection every afternoon for the past couple of months. It's almost impossible to get online at all after 2pm! Duh engineers say its because too many people are trying to access.That's why in our house its called the "Internot"

See, we pay for service that the company simply doesn't provide. In explanation, apology or compensation for not providing what we've paid them for...nothing.