Friday, May 30, 2008

Bigotry is alive & well...

On her blog A Year in Exile Melanie talked about the Dunkin Donuts story too, as part of her concern at 'Bigotry, discrimination and prejudice' she'd been appalled to see in the American media.

There's been a story in the Sydney Morning Herald on similar lines.

We're here in Muslim Dubai, where we have other religions' places of worship and schools.

In free, liberal, laid back Australia, where giving everyone 'a fair go' is claimed as some sort of unique attribute, where multiculturalism is official government policy, we have this.

"Am I the new Pauline Hanson? I hope so"

Photo: Lisa Wiltse. Sydney Morning Herald

Mrs McCulloch, a Catholic mother of four, became the poster girl for Camden's Muslim-shy residents this week when local councillors voted unanimously "on planning grounds alone" to reject a Quranic Society proposal for a $19 million Islamic school on Sydney's rural outskirts.

Having railed against Muslims who "take our welfare", Mrs McCulloch, 45, now says she is considering following Mrs Hanson into politics.

Mrs McCulloch, who owns a hospitality business in Camden, accuses Australia's Muslim leadership of saying nothing while mothers and children are used as suicide bombers.

"The ones that come here oppress our society, they take our welfare and they don't want to accept our way of life," she said after the council vote.


However, not all of Camden is behind her. A 72-year-old farmer in Argyle Street, Camden's main thoroughfare, said giving Mrs McCulloch publicity was the best way to silence her: "Eventually she'll choke on her own words."

Hanson made a noise, got some redneck support, inevitably made a complete fool of herself and has disappeared. Publicising her ramblings worked there, so the farmer probably has it right - publicise them and they bury themselves under their own manure.

Religious fanatics, racists, the sweeping bigoted mis-statements, said with such conviction...these people are a disgrace to the human race. They disgust me.

The story is here.

Just a quick bit of background. Muslims and Australia pre-date Europeans and Australia. Indonesians were trading with Aboriginals in the 17th Century, way before Europeans arrived. In the 1860’s many Afghan cameleers worked the camel trains which opened up the interior of the continent. The famous Ghan railway, of which Australians are very proud, is named after them.

The 2006 census shows that there are at least 340,000 Muslims in Australia, in a population of 20 million. 128,904 were born in Australia.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Be very afraid.

I've just been reading the Sydney Morning Herald and found this story.

The US Dunkin' Donuts chain has pulled an online advertisement featuring celebrity chef Rachael Ray, it says.

Here's the ad that had to be pulled:

Well, you would pull it wouldn't you.

Supporting terrorism as it does.


Yes, "the ad offers symbolic support for terrorism."

What do you mean you can't see what they're frothing at the mouth about?

Here's a clue..."sporting of a jihadi chic keffiyeh"

Jihadi chic! I nearly fell off my chair.

Critics, including conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, complained that the scarf appeared to be traditional garb worn by Arab men. The ad's critics say such scarves have come to symbolise Muslim extremism and terrorism.

These people terrify me. More so because they come from the world's most powerful country, with armed forces that its government is happy to use on a whim.

It's not so much the far-right extremists, paranoid loonies frothing at the mouth when they see things that aren't there, who frighten me. Every country has some of them and they're best ignored. As are the far left fanatics, religious fanatics and fanatics of all persuasions.

But in the good ol' US of A a huge company like DD is running scared of them. What does that say about the climate of fear, where the society they live in finds itself?

The lunatic fringe makes a fevered infantile accusation and it's taken seriously. The company buckles at the accusation and pulls the ad.

They should have threatened legal action for the libel of accusing them of supporting terrorism, demanded a grovelling written apology acknowledging the crass stupidity of the accusation, and run a campaign in the media to expose and ridicule the loonies.

Critics, including conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, complained that the scarf appeared to be traditional garb worn by Arab men. So are sandals. Will wearing sandals come to symbolise extremism and terrorism to these people?

Concede to demands by fanatics and where will it end? The situation will worsen with every win they have.

And since the ad was withdrawn, Michelle Malkin has had this to say on her blog:

It's refreshing to see an American company show sensitivity to the concerns of Americans opposed to Islamic jihad and its apologists...Fashion statements may seem insignificant, but when they lead to the mainstreaming of violence -- unintentionally or not -- they matter. Ignorance is no longer an excuse. In post-9/11 America, vigilance must never go out of style.

At this point I'm speechless.

The story is here.

Communique from the parallel universe of the RTA.

The lesson from cities all over the world is, and has been for years, that if you want and expect people to use trains you have to provide parking at the train stations.

It's hardly rocket science, people need to get between their homes and workplaces and the stations. Invariably the best way is to drive there.

So having examples of what does and doesn't work from around the world on which to base their plans, our beloved RTA comes up with this for its 47 Metro stations:

"We are making huge parking plazas at three locations...There will be no private parking for Metro passengers on rest of the stations."

And this, they say is because they plan:

" attract larger number of passengers to encourage them park their cars and use Metro."

They can't be Earthlings, they're from Pluto or somewhere, I swear.

There will be one parking lot for around 6,000 cars at the end of the Green Line in Al Ghusais. 2,800 cars will be able to park at Deira's Rashidiya station in Deira on the Red Line and there will be parking for about 2,000 cars at Jumeirah Islands station on Shaikh Zayed Road.

(An aside: add that lot up and compare it with what they say will be the Metro's capacity of 50,000 pasengers per hour).

So the majority of people who would like to use the Metro but who don't live near the three, and only three, car parks get to the stations how?

The RTA have a cunning plan:

every station will have connection for public transport buses and taxi lay-by.

And every street in the whole of New Dubai will have a convenient bus stop and bus timetable will it? Or taxis in peak times will be readily available will they?

Gulf news has added to the fun with the story's headline and sub-head:

"Metro users to get free parking spaces. Three plazas at major locations will help encourage rail commuters. It's here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Salik road toll expansion begins

"Salik is an effective tool to reduce the usage of private cars."

Matter Al Tayer, Executive Director, RTA.

At last an admission that it's about getting private cars off the roads.

The comment came as part of the announcement that additional Salik road toll gates will begin operating on September 9 on Sheikh Zayed Road, between Interchanges 1 and 2, and on Maktoum Bridge.

An interesting claim was this:

Motorists will be charged once if they pass through two Salik gates including the new one near the Second Interchange (Safa Park interchange) and the existing one at Barsha on Shaikh Zayed Road, in one journey.

How will they know it's one journey? Is there a time limit?

They put the toll on Garhoud Bridge and, surprise, surprise, traffic became heavier on Maktoum Bridge. Now they have to ease that, so on goes a toll. After September 9 the temporary floating bridge and Business Bay Bridge will get more traffic - the tunnel isn't an option in peak times because traffic is backed up for kilometres already. So a toll will go on them...and the expansion of the toll system is guaranteed.

No alternatives yet of course, but at least there should be one for a few people on a few specific journeys next year when the Metro is due to begin operating. That'll mean a handful of cars can be left at home.

It looks to me as though the planning is up to the usual RTA standard.

All the papers have the details, Gulf News also have a map showing the location of the new gates; their story is here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Planning? What planning?

It's just another example of my main complaint, which I post about endlessly.

About six years ago Sheikh Mohammed announced the freehold law. The overall strategic plan has been well publicised, the growth in population, the developments, the target for tourist numbers.

I would have thought the need for infrastructure - more power, water, sewage treatment, roads, public transport - was obvious and easy to predict.

So it was all planned at the same time as the massive new developments, right?


Today there's a report in EmBiz247 from the ME Waste & Water Congress being held in Dubai.

In Dubai we're facing a challenge to deal with sewage... We are currently working at 60 per cent above capacity in the existing treatment plants. We are under pressure but we're still surviving. The 60 per cent will not reduce in the coming years.

A new sewage treatment plant at Jebel Ali is being built. It'll help, but it's going to be running at full capacity, or more, from day one if the figures are correct.

The designed capacity of the existing plants in the emirate stands at 260,000 cubic metres per day, whereas the actual operating capacity is more than 480,000 cubic metres a day.

So that's 220,000 cmd excess to cope with, at present rates.

The Jebel Ali treatment plant, currently under construction at a cost of Dh1.4 billion, is expected to boost Dubai's capacity by 300,000 cubic metres per day.

So by today's volumes the new plant will have spare capacity of just 80,000 cmd.

By the time the new plant opens in 2010 - yes, the sceduled opening is that far away - the volumes to be treated will be way more than that.

Even with the new plant up and running, all of them will be working at their design capacity or more.

So with foresight, with the much-claimed vision, with the examples all around us of what chaos a lack of planning produces, another one is under way already is it?

Here's the report.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Al Salam City - one to watch

There's a fascinating story brewing up in Umm Al Quwain over the huge Al Salam City development. And language is being used that I find quite astonishing for this region, where extreme politeness, especially in public, is the norm.

It seems the project is 'on hold' and heated accusations in strong language are beginning to fly about from those involved. These are named as the UAQ Real Estate Development Company, established by the UAQ government, Ahmed bin Sulaiman Al Rajhi, a Saudi-based investment group, and Tameer.

This isn't a small project we're talking about, not a tower or two. This is, or was, a Dh30 billion (over US$8 billion) development which, according to the website would be:

...a masterpiece of modern planning and a vision of the way all cities should be.

A city with luxury villas, luxury apartments, malls and shops, restaurants, mosques, schools, hotels, parks and office towers.

A city with cinemas, wide-ranging sports facilities from a golf course to a riding center, cultural and entertainment centers and parks, and a major, international downtown district that is home to one of the largest malls in the UAE.

A city that covers 220 million square feet, that is both much-loved home and busy workplace to over 300,000 people.

It was going to look like this:

So I'd say putting it 'on hold' is a major story. For Umm Al Quwain, for the investors, for the companies involved and for real estate credibility here in general.

EmBiz247 is carrying reports on what's going on, or at least some of what's going on.

They had the original story on Thursday that the development was 'on hold' because, according to a company sales agent:

"There is a water and electricity shortage in UAQ...The government is telling us they don't have enough resources to provide water and electricity for the city. We don't have an idea how long this hold period will go on for.

The government told us they didn't know when the problem is going to be solved."

The head of the customer care section of developer Tameer added:

"We are experiencing delays because of lack of water and power supplies...The Al Salam City project has not been cancelled. The first cluster was expected to be ready in 2009 followed by others in the coming years. But because of lack of water and power there is a major delay."

Oh dear.

But today the Umm Al Quwain government has rejected the claims, in no uncertain terms. This really is very strong stuff, the like of which I've never seen in public before in this region. The statement from the UAQ government is saying the accusations are:

"mere lies that aim to impair the emirate's reputation...The allegations by Tameer are merely an attempt to evade their contractual commitments...The issue of water and electricity taken as an excuse by the other two partners to justify the delay in executing their contractual commitments are in their commitments under the company establishment contract...the other two partners have been slack in executing their commitments, giving weak excuses that are alien to the truth. The real reason behind the delay in executing the project is slackness by the other partners in executing their contractual commitments.

They explain that by revealing details of the contract:

Article 117, Para 4, of the company stipulated that 'the government is not responsible for supplying electric power, sanitary discharge, water, wire and wireless extensions'...

But while this fight is developing, what about the buyers who've poured money into it since it was announced in 2005? It seems there were plenty of them. According to a Tameer sales agent, about 70% of the project has been sold.

That's a whole lotta money.

A report in the same edition tells us that:

"Tameer is offering one of three options to dissatisfied customers who invested in Al Salam City. They can get a full refund, roll over their investment into Al Arjan, a residential project in Dubai, with a 20 per cent discount, or roll over their investment into any other project with a three per cent discount.

But then we get investor reaction that we've seen before in cancelled, altered, postponed or delayed developments:

One investor said prices have gone up so much that he can no longer afford a comparable two-bedroom townhouse in another Tameer project. He said two years ago he paid Dh550 per square foot for a townhouse in Al Salam City, but if he took his money out he would be asked to pay Dh1,200 to Dh1,500 per sq ft for a townhouse in Al Arjan.

We're going to be hearing a lot more about this one. And I wouldn't be surprised if the investors start to involve the international media.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I'll never get away from the RTA

Does this sound familiar? It's from this morning's paper:

Arrogant and complacent, the Roads and Traffic Authority is a law unto itself. It is interested only in quick-fix slogans, not reason or common sense.


It's from columnist Mike Carlton in the Sydney Morning Herald.

I stay here, the RTA makes life difficult. I go back to Sydney, the RTA makes life difficult!

The full story is here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Inconsistent jail terms

I've talked about this several times previously I know, but again in Gulf News there are reports of incompatible jail sentences.

I mean the relative length of sentences for different crimes.

Today for example there are two reports:

A gang of four thieves who resided in Sharjah but travelled to rob construction sites in Fujairah were jailed for six months each by a Fujairah court.

That's here.

An Emirati who knocked down and killed two Indian schoolgirls while speeding has been jailed for six months.

He was also ordered by the Traffic Court to pay Dh100,000 in blood money to each of the victims' families and fined Dh5,000.

That's here.

Six months for robbing building sites. Six months for killing two children by speeding.

And if you bring a codeine tablet into the country you get four years.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The car pooling nonsense gets worse...

Doing a quick U-turn, our beloved RTA has added more confusion to the car pooling fiasco.

On Tuesday we were told that car poolers would have to register, obtain a certificate, register their passengers' names, all had to be background checked...a surreal Monty Pythonesque procedure.

I gave the details in my last posting, below, and you'll see from the comments left that everyone but the RTA lives in the real world.

I don't read 7Days but thanks to a heads up from The Grumpy Goat I see there's a new statement from the RTA, made whilst furiously back-peddling. When you back-pedal you can't see where you're going, as is the case here.

Having gone into great detail the other day they're now saying we got it all wrong. What they said isn't what they meant at all.

I promise I'm not making this up, bizarre as it is.

The new statement says, in complete contradiction to the previous announcement:

"We do not want to discourage car pooling by slapping fines on motorists erratically. People are free to pick up their friends and relatives if they want to. They need not register with the web site which is being created for car-pooling in the coming days."

OK. So now we can car pool and we don't have to register. Great.

The statement goes on:

"Only those motorists who are intending to pick people who are not known to them (from the side of the road) should register their names on the site."

Hang on a second. Do they now mean only the driver has to register? What happened to the previous announcement that all passengers had to be named, registered and have their backgrounds checked?

It gets worse:

"Motorists will be given the certificate on the same day when they register on the site. People can show the certificate to inspectors if they stop them to ask about passengers in the car.

Help me out here.

People are free to pick up their friends and relatives and they do not have to register. But vehicles are going to be stopped by inspectors and drivers 'asked about passengers'. Drivers can explain the passengers by showing their certificate. But they DON'T HAVE A BLOODY CERTIFICATE, they didn't have to register!

Currently, RTA inspectors can issue a Dh5,000 fine to any motorist illegally carpooling. So if you're giving people a lift, you didn't register because now they say you didn't have to, but they stopped you and gave you a Dh5,000 fine anyway because you didn't have a certificate...well, you can call 800 9090 where:

...a committee...studies all such cases and cancels the fine of the motorist if they have been wrongly fined.

My brain hurts.

I have a suggestion.

The RTA should announce that all previous car pooling announcements are to be ignored. They should sit down and actually think it through. They could even ask some motorists to advise them. Then they should issue a new statement explaining whatever it is they come up with.

I have a suspicion that what they're actually trying to do is to get unlicensed, unofficial 'taxis' to register. Presumably as a prelude to taxing them charging them a fee. How they got themselves into this farcical situation about car pooling is way beyond me.

The new announcement is in 7Days.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Car pooling madness

The RTA has come up with some mind-boggling ideas in the past but this new one will take some beating.

They have a new pronouncement on car pooling.

I quote the Director of Planning & Business Development Department:

"Now people can drive their friends and colleagues to and from their homes and workplaces without fear of getting fines if they get approval from the RTA."



The motorist must register the car with the RTA.

Motorists will be given certificates allowing them to share their cars.

The names of the persons sharing the car should be furnished at the time of registration to avoid a fine.

A maximum of four people will be allowed to share a car.

And look at this for the worst Big Brother part:

After they have entered their personal details and information on their vehicles, the authority will conduct background checks on colleagues wishing to carpool before issuing a letter of approval.

They're checking your background before you can sit in someone's car?!! It's easier to join the CIA or MI6.

I hardly know where to begin on this utter stupidity.

All over the world people share cars. RTA equivalents and governments encourage and support it. Many cities have special lanes for them, to speed their journey. Singapore has various meeting places where a driver going into the city centre can pick up passengers.

If people want to give others a lift, and to share petrol costs if they choose, that is A Good Thing. And it should also be a personal choice.

And then look at the bureaucracy and just a few of the questions it raises:

The car must be registered with the RTA.

So if the car's in for service or repair, the owner can't use his hire car to drive his registered passengers around?

The names of those sharing the car must be pre-registered.

So when one of them leaves the company, his name has to be de-registered and any new passenger registered?

What if your company has an overseas visitor and asks you to drive him to the office - and around town come to that. Do you have to pre-register him as an approved passenger?

A maximum of four people will be allowed to share a car.

So if you have a vehicle suitable for carrying more, like a big 4x4 or a people mover, you can't fill it?

People can drive their friends and colleagues to and from their homes and workplaces.

What about other journeys? A group of friends going to dinner decide that one will drive them all. A friend or colleague is going to the airport and you offer to take him there. Illegal?

And in general, there are the less structured instances of people sharing cars.

What if a neighbour's car won't start and you offer to drive him to his office? Illegal?

A colleague's car is off the road so you offer him a lift until he has it back. Illegal?

You and a colleague are going to business meetings in the same area, so you offer to drop him off. Illegal?

And then there's the enforcement of it all. What's the plan, to stop all cars with more than one person in it? Check who they are, where they're going, if they have a car pooling certificate, if the passengers are registered?

And who will do it, the police? Don't they have enough real work to do?

Even if this is just a fishing expedition to gauge public reaction it's a bad, bad move. It indicates a total lack of thinking, of planning, of understanding.

You probably think I'm making this up, but both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are reported to be setting it up. The stories are here, in Gulf News and The National.

" the architectural epitome..."

My favourite copywriter has another offering in today's Vakson ad for villas at "The Lakes. Nature's Signature".

Sadly, it looks as though the deadline arrived before s/he was able to finish the last sentence.

I'd like to share it with you:

Monday, May 19, 2008

Those were the days!

Going through a drawer full of old paperwork I came across a gem. A brochure from 1978 promoting the Excelsior Hotel in Deira.

We'd had some rain and the photographer thought the reflection of the hotel in the water was worth shooting. Dubai's first inland waterfront property?

From the same brochure here's what it really looked like:

It's all changed so much and Al Ghurair City wasn't built - not even started if I remember correctly - but the hotel is now the Deira Sheraton.

A couple of streets away was the brand new apartment block that I lived in, which was top floor right with views down to the Creek. Wow!

Boy, ain't Deira changed!

It was closer than the other watering hole, the Inter.Continental on the Creek so it became my 'local'. I spent many an evening in the colourful Banjo Bar...

Then usually on to the Eve Super Club...our sophisticated Night Club. For those days in Dubai it was too. They were adamant that they hadn't left a 'p' out by mistake, even though it was a supper club.

Actually, the food was pretty good and the cabaret was, mostly, good quality with acts/musicians brought in from overseas.

There were no models for photo shoots, so it was a case of rent-a-crowd; friends and staff or passers-by. Here's an example - someone who's been here since these days. The Jack-the-Lad pretending to be a guest in the room service shot is the now publishing baron Ian Fairservice of Motivate. In those days he was Deputy General Manager of the Excelsior, with plans to be the next Conrad Hilton rather than the next Rupert Murdoch. He later started 'What's On', the first English-language magazine here, and so the publishing empire was born.

And the Excelsior is where I first met the lady who became Mrs Seabee.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Gentle humour

Driving along a street in Umm Suqeim I hadn't been on before I came across this, which raised a smile:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Another avoidable tragedy

There is no question that road crashes are the fault of drivers.

But...roads and the management of them are a contributing factor.

Not just in Dubai, anywhere the world.

While we have a huge way to go to educate drivers, that isn't going to happen any time soon.
But there is no excuse for not urgently fixing current hazards and avoiding future dangers caused by bad planning and management of the roads (there I go again).

I've talked about it several times - the mish-mash of US and British road systems, the short distances given to filter in and cross several lanes of traffic to move into the lane you need, the confusing or non-existent signage. Roundabouts with traffic lights, U-turns without traffic lights. Vision blocked; here's a comment e-mailed to me by a friend about Al Wasl Road:

"the STUPID advertising bill-boards (you know, the free standing ones with lights inside) on the central reservation, usually advertising Burger King, Pizza Hut or Davidoff's new perfume) REALLY BLOCK THE VIEW."

All of that is about the planning. Or lack of it.

Last year on Al Wasl Road this happened:

The two, both in their early 20s, burnt to death when their Peugeot 206 caught fire after it was struck by another vehicle on Al Wasl Road in Dubai on Friday afternoon.

It happended here, where they were apparently attempting a U-turn:

Photo: Regi Varghesi. Gulf News

It happened again on Friday and the report reminded us that:

Three expatriates died in a similar accident involving a U-turn five months back.

On Friday:

Three people, including a five-year-old child, were burnt to death in a horrific car accident late on Friday night on Al Wasl Road.

According to witnesses, the accident happened when the car carrying the child rammed into another vehicle while taking a U-turn near the Iranian Hospital.

Later reports say the child was only two and was sitting on the driver's lap. Dear God! Just maybe, she might have been saved by the people who tried to help had she been in a proper child seat in the back of the car.

It happened here:

Photo: Megan Hirons. Gulf News.

They weren't the cause of the crash but the trees and all the poles certainly don't help visibility and probably contributed to the problem.

So now the RTA has closed the U-turn and has taken the trees out:

Photo: Javed Nawab. Gulf News.

And here's where I get back to the lack of planning.

You notice there are no traffic lights at either U-turn?

The road is busier than ever with Salik dodgers using it, and drivers waiting to U-turn or drive across get impatient. I know they shouldn't but that's human nature and it's something that any good planner, any health & safety expert, allows for and builds into his plan.

Only after several crashes and deaths is action taken to remove the hazard. But it should never have been planned that way in the first place. Prevention. Don't create a problem and fix it afterwards, don't create the problem in the first place.

If we're going to have the dual-carriageway/U-turn system, if we're going to make drivers who want to turn left cross two or three lanes, then traffic lights should always have been the key safety factor.

Much of it is not originally the RTA's fault because it was built long before the RTA were formed. But they are at fault for not having urgently removed the hazards on what is after all one of Dubai's main arterial roads.

And while I'm ranting, again I have to raise the question of why there are so many fires in vehicle crashes. Here are the terrible remains of this latest crash:

Photo: Bassam Za'za'. Gulf News.

There are plenty of crashes in other countries, including high-speed crashes on freeways. But very rarely is there an instant fire which is actually the cause of deaths. The crash doesn't kill the occupants, it's the fire afterwards.

So why do we have them? Do we have less safe cars? Do we need tighter regulations?

Back in November I posted that: "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".

I wonder whether anything ever happened.

You can read the stories about these awful incidents here, here, here and here.

More great moments in the art of planning

It's peak traffic time, it's the road from Madinat Jumeirah to Interchange 4 on SZR - the one people use to avoid the Salik tollgate.

It was worse than ever this morning, jammed, frustration, impatience, traffic pushing in trying to change lanes and increasing the probability of a crash...

The cause? Someone thought peak traffic time was a good time to send the gardeners out with their big truck to collect the grass clippings.

Oh, well done!

And, as always, no advance warning of the hazard with the red flag man just a few feet in front of it.

In another example of what's considered giving adequate warning, I love the way they tie one or two cones to the back of the trucks and drag them along behind.

And a PS to yesterday's rant about the endless digging up of just-finished projects, here's another one in Dubai Marina.

Two years of construction with all the ugliness, pollution, inconvenience, diversions and finally it all comes good. The building is completed, the construction fence is removed, the pavers go down and the footpath is done. It all looks clean and neat and finished.

A few weeks later...

Yep, they're digging it up!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Yet more bloody holescaping!

I keep on about it and I'm sure you're bored with the same old thing, but I have to let off steam.

It annoys the hell out of me.

We have more than enough construction work all around us from projects being built. Endless piles of sand, kilometres of red & white concrete barriers, plastic cones and flapping plastic.

On top of it is the endless digging up of completed work adding to the ugliness, the pollution, the inconvenience.

The same stretches dug up time after time after time.

DEWA is at it again around Phase 1 of Dubai Marina. It was finished, what, three years ago. But every few months when the landscaping re-establishes itself and is looking good, they dig it up again.

Here's a small part of it this morning:

And this is DEWA again.

There are master plans, they know how many buildings are going in, they know where they'll be built, they know they will need power and water. Why don't they put in at the beginning what is going to be needed in the future?

Every few months it's all dug up anew. Every time a new building gets under way the entire street is dug up. Then it's filled in, pavers put down, maybe the greenery gets established...until another building starts and the whole stretch comes up again.

Another posting of my endless complaint about the total lack of planning we have to endure.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Another strange request...

A recent visitor, based in Egypt, arrived at this blog after asking Google:

chat with old ladies in dubai

How was I the first site to be listed by Google?

I plead innocent, m'lud.

It was due to a comment left on one of my perfectly innocent 'old Dubai' postings, about Satwa, by CG.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Dubai marina fire

Yet another in a seemingly endless succession of fires.

This one is at Dubai Marina, close to Interchange 5 and near to Media City.

I drove past as it was, I think, in its early stages at around 6.30pm. It was on a plot that seems to have no work going on and it was at ground level.

Half an hour later I was on my way from MC into Dubai Marina and Mrs Seabee took these quick shots as we drove on the slip road to join SZR:

There seems to be no hard information anywhere yet - a brief report of a fire but that's all.

The worst yet?

Here's what the press release says:

"Oqyana World First is the first and largest of all developers on The World with 22 islands and waterfront villas that form the shape of Australia and New Zealand islands.

It offers a diverse range of luxurious accommodation choices that suit different preferences, such as stylish apartments, waterfront homes, villas, canal homes, hotels and serviced apartments – all designed to ensure maximum exclusivity and privacy for residents and visitors."

Here's the artist's impression:

That is awful. Dreadful. Appalling.

The story is about a utilities island they're planning - an offshore industrial zone. It's here.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The oxymoron of customer service

There's a nice 'what the customers say vs what the company says' in Gulf News today which sums up customer service Dubai style.

I've described it before as: we give them our money and they decide whether to give us anything in return, what and when it will be. We must not complain and they don't need to apologise or explain.

In the two items Etisalat customers say:

A banker was recently kept on hold 20 minutes before the customer support representative picked up her call, not knowing that the number she had called was not a toll-free one.

Upon discovering how much she was charged for the call, she demanded to be compensated for the lost credit. "Why should I be paying to wait for them?"

She was told that the matter would be looked into but said she never received a response.

A subscriber of the company's Al Shamil DSL service called technical support at 4am and was told after a half-an-hour wait that the person responsible had left the office for the night.

An Al Shamil subscriber had an intermittent connection for five days, had lodged a complaint "many times" but received no response.

"I called them with a complaint and was given a reference number and told that a technician would call me. I never received the call so I called Etisalat back and was told that my complaint had never been registered," he said, adding that he waited for two more days but no technician called.

Another says: "For a whole year, I had an intermittent DSL connection. Every time I called Etisalat I was told that my complaint has been filed and I should expect a call and a visit from a technician soon. The technician came a year later after a number of calls and a demand for compensation," he said.

Yet another says: when he had difficulty accessing the internet Etisalat said a technician would call within a week. "It's been more than ten days now."

Etisalat says:

On average, the waiting time for internet customers is between 2 and 3 minutes.

Etisalat has provided alternate methods of getting in touch with its customer service staff which can be utilised during peak times.

Recent improvements in customer support levels have been acknowledged by customers "in writing".

And for all of us who think we've been struggling with unbelievably slow or intermittent service over the last few days - we're wrong.

Etisalat says:

There is no general outage in internet connections in any part of the UAE

There have been no "major issues apart from individual cases".

Khalifa Al Shamsi, Vice-President Marketing, said that the network had been performing very well.

So will you all please stop complaining, pay your outrageous perfectly reasonable bills every month and leave Etisalat in peace so they can continue to provide us with their marvellous service.

The stories are here and here.

Reality check posting continued...

In today's Sydney Morning Herald there's a story that sort-of continues my Sunday posting.

There are stories within a story too.

It's headed Hunt for road rage shooter and includes this information:

"Three teenagers are lucky to be alive after a gunman fired at their car in a terrifying daylight road rage incident in Sydney's west, police say.

As traffic had piled up behind, the 18-year-old P-plate driver was forced to mount the pavement to escape and almost ran over three pedestrians.

Two men, one armed with a black pistol, jumped from a white Holden Commodore and advanced on the teenagers' silver Subaru WRX...The armed man fired shots at the car before the pair jumped back in their car and sped off.

They are looking for a white VT model Holden Commodore, possibly a V8, with chrome mag wheels, tinted windows and black and gold number plates.

A 'P-plate' driver is someone who has just passed the driving test so they have to carry a P-plate on their car for eighteen months. The 18 year old had therefore recently passed his test but was driving a Subaru WRX. They accelerate from zero to 100kph in less than 5 seconds.

That frightens me.

The blacked-out, chromed-wheeled Holden Commodore is re-badged here as the Chevrolet Lumina. If it was a V8 as suggested it's 5.7 litres, powerful and quick.

So we have two powerful cars dashing about crowded streets, one driven by an almost learner driver carrying two 16 year old girls.

Who nearly ran over three pedestrians as he drove on the footpath to escape a gunman in a road rage incident.

Not for the first time I'm just sitting here shaking my head in disbelief.

The story is here.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Big Boss is on the case.

There's no excuse that in the time entire communities can be built the infrastructure to support them isn't also built, instead of lagging years behind.

Think what's been achieved with communities such as Dubai Marina - the world's largest marina built in the desert, residential towers for perhaps a hundred thousand people, with very many living in them for more than two years already. There are shops, restaurants, a weekend market, landscaping - a bustling community of residents and visitors.

But the roads and bridges are still being built.

And that's just one of hundreds of communities being developed, all suffering the same infrastructure failings.

Fortunately it seems it isn't only we who think the infrastructure isn't going in fast enough.

From a story about the Parallel Roads project:

Shaikh Mohammad has also directed [the Roads and Transport Authority] RTA to expedite the construction work on the Parallel Roads as the project is aimed at easing traffic congestion on Shaikh Zayed Road and to link new developments...Shaikh Mohammad has also directed RTA to widen the road from the originally planned three lanes in each direction to four lanes on each side to accommodate more vehicles and to ensure a smooth flow of traffic...Shaikh Mohammad has also directed to step up the construction of a number of vital projects with a view to ease traffic bottlenecks in Dubai.

I've asked the rhetorical question before - why does it need Sheihh Mohammed to get personally involved in this level of detail before the right thing is done. Telling them how many lanes they need, telling them the projects are not moving quickly enough.

The Big Boss knows it, we know it, but the planners can't see it.

Parallel Roads project.

Heroes killed

The word hero is used far too often in my opinion. It should be reserved for the deserving few, and way up on my list of the few are firefighters.

A hero to me is someone who deliberately goes towards something the rest of us run from. Like fire. Like collapsing buildings.

Yesterday there were two stories in Gulf News, I'm sure their appearance in the same edition was a coincidence.

First, a story from Al Ain about the Technical Rescue & Quick Intervention team that's part of the Department of Emergency & Public Safety at the Ministry of Interior. The title of the story was, appropriately, "Risking lives to ensure safety."

And on the front page was a news item: "Firefighters die trying to put out blaze."

Today the two firefighters are named as Hytham Faraj and Kamal Hussein, who died while fighting a fire on a Palm Jumeirah construction site.

Like their firefighter colleagues around the world, they were heroes.

Stories are here. and here.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Another reality check

We complain about the problems we face in Dubai, and rightly so. But too often I hear people making an unfavourable comparison, saying that it's so much worse than 'back home'.

As I've said before in these 'reality check' postings, that isn't true. They're looking back through rose tinted glasses. 'Back home' has many of the same problems, in fact they're often worse than here. And of course, there's the crime...

Here's another example.

'Back home' for me isn't a big city with all the usual big city problems, but the New South Wales Central Coast, a rural area of small seaside holiday towns and villages.

Here are six of the ten news items on the local newspaper's website from the Friday edition.

First, a favourite Dubai topic, traffic.

Clearway gets you nowhere

THOUSANDS of motorists are stuck twice daily in huge traffic jams as the closure of Woy Woy Rd causes gridlock each morning and evening peak period.

Motorists are reporting delays of more than one hour each way and even up to three hours as traffic banks up. They are being forced on to other already clogged alternative arterial roads.

Mum rows her boat to school

WHEN the road you use to drive your daughter to school collapses you put her in your boat.

Since Woy Woy Rd washed away at Bulls Hill last week, Irene Bakker, of Horsfield Bay, has rowed her daughter across Woy Woy Bay each day to school.

It is one of the many creative measures Horsfield Bay residents have employed to get around.

Then there's our other favourite topic of conversation in Dubai, accommodation costs. There are a couple of stories in the paper...

Bid to ease rental pain

THE cost of rent has soared 10 per cent across the Central Coast in the past year with vacancy rates the lowest in years.

Cut housing taxes

THE State Government must cut taxes which are pushing the cost of housing beyond people's reach, Terrigal State Liberal MP Chris Hartcher has said.

And something we don't often have to talk about in Dubai, crime - and especially violent crime.

Police investigating horrific stabbing

TUGGERAH Lakes police have refused to release details about a horrific stabbing at Shelly Beach on Wednesday.

A woman, 39, could lose her eye after she was stabbed in the head after an altercation in the car park about 1am.

League bans night games

WOY WOY and Umina Beach rugby league teams won't play each other on a Saturday night for the remainder of the season following a series of drunken brawls at matches.

Of course we should keep pointing out things in Dubai that could and should be improved. But if we make comparisons with other places we should at least be honest about the reality there.

The original stories.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

I had to share this with you!

Someone in Islamabad has just arrived at 'Life in Dubai' having asked Google:

ethi salaad in dubai telecommunication

Ethi Salaad. The possibilities for fun with that are endless.

I have questions...

There are some bad-behaviour-on-the-road stories on page four of this morning's Gulf News which raise questions in my mind that such stories always raise.

Whenever there's some personal injury, a very precise percentage of the damage is given. For example, today in three cases mentioned we're told:

"...a two per cent permanent disability to his chest...leaving him with a five per cent permanent disability... a seven per cent permanent disability to his nose..."

A seven percent disability to his nose? A two percent chest disability?

How is such a precise percentage of damage determined? Is it relevant? Does the sentence increase as the percentage damage increase? Why do they do it?

I find it all very strange.

By the way, the nose damage relates to this item:

The court earlier sentenced a 28-year-old American to three months in jail for flashing his middle finger, cursing an Emirati employee and leaving him with a seven per cent permanent disability to his nose following a road rage incident.

Look, I don't want to trivialise the incident, but I have to ask. What did the American do, stick his finger up the victim's nose?

Gulf News have the story here.

Talking of copywriting...

There's some purple prose in today's ad for "Le Grande. The retail splendour at Marina" which is "An itiative by Trident International Holdings" who, they tell us, are "Creating new benchmarks in luxury living"

Just a fraction OTT perhaps?