Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Put it down, dig it up...

...put it down again, dig it up again.

That's the Dubai way. And that's why the construction will never be finished. Along with it we get the added confusion, extra pollution, wasted money.

They're at it again in Dubai Marina. At long, long last the paving of footpaths and roundabouts is being done.

As always, resources are being thrown at the job. Dozens of workers everywhere, piles of pavers, machinery...they're doing a great job and doing it very quickly...

Less than 50 metres away the holescapers are working equally feverishly, ripping up pavers and digging big holes...

I see it all the time and I'm still amazed every time.

And so to Singapore...

In a couple of hours we're off to the airport for two weeks in Singapore. Not sure if I'll have time to post anything here...if not, see you in Ramadan.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Love those bureaucrats!

I've talked before about struggling to understand the bureaucratic mind, and I loved this story that demonstratres it once again.

Regardless of nationality, they're the same all over the world. They inhabit some parallel universe that has nothing to do with the one the rest of us live in.

There's a great example from the UK, reported in The Times.

To summarise what sounds like a Monty Python script, garbage collectors went on strike for two days last month, so garbage accumulated. I quote: "After the stoppage, collections resumed but although the householders’ bins were emptied as normal, the accumulated extra bags were left to rot at the side of the road.

Residents of the street were promised by bureaucrats at the council that a 'rapid response' vehicle (I love that!) would be sent. True to bureaucratic form nothing happened and two weeks later the rubbish was still rotting in the street.

Garbage collectors came on their regular run, again refused to take the extra bags and even refused to let the residents load the bags onto the truck themselves.

So the residents barricaded the street, refusing to let the binmen leave.

The council sent a second truck. A bureaucrat with it told the residents that to teach them a lesson their bins would not be emptied.

The residents, including children, formed a human chain around the truck.

Tempers flared, the police were called, negotiations took place and eventually a deal was struck, the barricade was removed and so was the garbage.

Then we have the message from the parallel universe of the bureaucrats.

This is how they saw the incident.

A council spokesman said: "The collection crews always do their best to collect everyone’s waste. This minor incident was quickly resolved, in line with what we would expect of our collection crews."


You can read the details in The Times.

Weeding out corruption

The big news covered in all the papers today is the government's renewed attack on corruption.

We've had a spate of allegations against senior executives in major development companies and financial institutions recently, including government organisations. Although the allegations are against individual executives not the companies, some big names are involved including Nakheel, Tamweel, Istithmar World, Deyaar Development, Dubai Islamic Bank.

Dubai has enjoyed a good reputation in the past as a reputable place to do business, with relatively little corruption. The government has cracked down heavily on officials found guilty of corruption and promises to continue to do that. With the future so heavily dependent on developing as a major world financial and commercial centre, that's critical.

The Ruler's office has issued a statement saying:

The Government will continue to have a strict stance against all aspects of corruption and will take legal measures against violators. There will be no tolerance shown to anybody who tries to exploit his position to make illegal profits.

With the names involved, and the share prices are already taking hits, the investigations need to be concluded and any prosecutions brought quickly. Justice must be done, but most importantly it must be seen to be done. We need maximum transparency, maximum publicity.

Reports and reactions from the marketplace in
Gulf News
The National
Khaleej Times

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Snowflake in Hell's chance...

A visitor to Life in Dubai arrived after asking Google:

how to complain about etisalat in uae

What optimism!

Multiple crash on Al Ain highway

Gulf News report is already blaming the weather: Thick fog and poor visibility over Dubai was the cause of two other major accidents... so I'm sure the official announcements will exonerate the drivers and blame the fog for all the crashes.

Yesterday seventeen cars crashed on the Al Ain highway, many people were injured, thankfully no deaths were reported from this disaster.

A taxi "drifted off the road because of the low visibility and foggy conditions and bumped into a barrier on the road" and sixteen other cars crashed into one another.

See, the taxi driver didn't drift off the road because he was driving without due care and attention. He drifted off because of the fog.

And I suppose the other sixteen cars didn't crash into each other because the drivers were doing the wrong thing, it was because of the low visibility.

Looking at the photographs would you think that maybe, just maybe, some speed inappropriate to the conditions might have been involved?

Photos: Gulf News

There were other crashes too, with sadly another person added to the death statistics.

On Sheikh Zayed Road a four car crash resulted in serious injuries and two trucks collided, the driver of one died later in hospital.

And it's all the fault of the weather.

Gulf News have the report here.

A change of BushW policy?

...a solemn Bush said outside the Oval Office.

"Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century," he said.

A change of policy? Ah, no, he's talking about Russia.

Do as I say, not as I do.

The quote is from here.

I've been cut off

A couple of days with no internet connection so I've been feeling isolated.

Suddenly on Friday the connection dropped out. Etisalat told me to do all the usual stuff of turning everything off, switching it back on, I tried hitting the box...nothing worked.

OK, they'll send an engineer on Sunday.

This morning at 8.30 an engineer called to say he could be here in half an hour but would I check the connection first.

I checked and all the lights which should have been glowing were glowing, I switched on and the connection is back working.

According to the engineer there was a problem at Etisalat - I don't know what he meant exactly but he said they had "changed over" so I assume plenty of other people have had the same problem.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why is the bridge closed?

I was talking yesterday about the closed bridge in the Marina, which enterprising motorists use by bouncing around the road barriers.

This morning, as I was sitting in the traffic jam, I caught a couple of them on camera.

The 4x4 on the footpath to get around the barrier...

And the taxi up on the footpath...

...and motoring happily across the bridge...

The question remains, why isn't the bridge opened to traffic?

Double standards

Dr (Condoleezza)Rice said: “This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten its neighbours, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it. Things have changed.”

So a large country can't occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it.

Unless the country is BushW's good ol' US of A, Doctor Rice?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How's this for planning...

The traffic problem in Dubai Marina has eased these days from non-moving gridlock to just a jam...it's very slow but at least the traffic is moving.

It's caused because traffic going into Dubai and in the opposite direction to Jebel Ali all has to travel on one small road to join another where there's a traffic signal.

There is a way that it could be eased, but the planners at the RTA obviously have other ideas.

One of the bridges across the marina was completed, opened, then closed after a few days. It's been closed for maybe a year.


Drivers are bumping up onto the footpath to get around the concrete barrier, drive happily across the bridge, do the footpath detour the other side and use the less-congested road there.

As this is an option people take every morning you have to wonder why the bridge isn't simply re-opened.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

They're everywhere.

I've been talking about the morons we get driving here in Dubai, but here's a reminder that we don't have exclusivity.

There's an AP report that tells us:

A grandmother has been arrested for driving around the parking lot of a Florida grocery store with a three -year-old child sitting on the roof of the car.

Monroe County Sheriff's Office deputies were called to the Publix store Tuesday and arrested a 54-year-old woman after she was driving around with her three-year-old granddaughter on the roof of her car.

The woman said she would never let anything hurt her granddaughter. She says she was driving at "snail-speed" and holding the child's leg.

Authorities say the woman told police she was giving the child some air and letting her have fun.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Sharjah's new visa rules.

Sharjah Naturalisation & Residency Department have introduced some new rules, including a list of occupations which will have only a one year residency renewal.

What I found interesting was some of the job titles listed, which I didn't realise were specialist occupations.

For example:

Spice/pulse grinder.


Falafel maker.

Meat griller.

Then there are some which are a mystery to me:

Digger? Of what?

Pipe fitter and Pipe filer.
I understand 'fitter' but pipe filer?

Likewise, I understand Clerk. But Follow-up Clerk? What specialist work does one of those do that a normal Clerk doesn't?

Shift operator. Uh?

And what exactly does a Blancher do?

And my favourite, which I had no idea existed any more:


Gulf News gives the full list of sixty occupations here.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Treasures of Satwa

So off we went to Satwa again this weekend, getting another glimpse of expats wallowing in the luxury that Dubai provides.

I always make a point of wandering into the perfumes & herbs shops, they're fantastic Alladins caves full of treasure - open sacks of all kinds of strange raw materials, pots & jars of mysterious things, wonderful smells...

Last week, as I reported, I came across some snake oil. Nothing remarkable in that I discovered this week. There's a huge range of the stuff and according to some of the packets it's just the thing to slap on your hair.

I also discovered a new, new to me at least, and odd-sounding product...but just read what it does, it's fabulous stuff. I'll let you know if it works...
But then it really started to get mysterious. Hip Up and Buttock Gel? What's that all about?
And you're really going to have to help me out with this one...

"Bride Herbs. Sorry."
Any ideas?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Drug law jurisdiction

In the past we've had reports of people being jailed here for drug possession when the drug was simply in their systems. This even included prescription drugs or an over-the-counter painkiller such as Codeine, taken quite legally in another country.

We received considerable negative international publicity, and rightly so.

Several times I asked the rhetorical question that surely as it happened overseas it was beyond the jurisdiction of Dubai's courts.

I posted back in February about what seemed to be a change of heart. A visiting British DJ tested positive to cannabis use but 'the public prosecution discharged him of consuming drugs because it fell beyond its jurisdiction'.

I said then 'I wonder whether it's a one-off or if it may be the general policy in future'.

Today there's a similar story in Gulf News. A Brit has been charged with being drunk on an aircraft and telling passengers he had a bomb which he was about to detonate. If he's found guilty he deserves many years in one of Dubai's jails.

But the comment I wanted to highlight was that although he: tested positive for two kinds of drugs and banned substances "he has not been charged with consuming drugs because our investigation showed that he took drugs beyond Dubai's jurisdiction".

It looks as though it may have been more than a one off back in February and maybe we're now doing the right thing.

Today's report is here.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Another landmark going.

According to a story in EmBiz247, Oasis Beach Hotel will be demolished shortly.

It's the only less-than-five-star hotel on the beach strip and the least expensive. You can bet that it'll be replaced by yet another expensive five-star, super luxury hotel.

The report says it will close at the end of this month and replaced by a 'multi-storey structure'.

The story is here.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The last straw.

The final nail in the coffin.

The end of civilisation as we know it.

Dubai Eye Radio is reporting:

Some ENOC and EPPCO petrol stations will be trialling self-service petrol pumps from August 12.

ENOC has been handing out leaflets to customers at certain sites to make them aware of the changes.

The leaflet also provides instructions on how to fill vehicles with fuel.

This will be the straw that breaks the camel's back, the final piece in the jigsaw that opens the floodgates to expats leaving.

You heard it here first.

Dubai Eye have it here.


They were out in force this morning.

The unnecessary gridlock in Dubai Marina caused by the RTA's lack of planning, and lack of giving a damn about motorists' inconvenience, continues.

A small, two-way road through the construction chaos. Traffic generally queueing patiently.

But there's always a moron. Or two. Or as was the case this morning, several.

I managed to get two on camera.

This moron decided to go down the wrong side of the road, round a blind bend, and force his way into the queue. He met a truck coming the other way, so caused a small tailback in the opposite direction too, until someone let him in.

Soon after, Moron 2 not only decided to go down the wrong side of the road, he went the wrong way round the roundabout too, so that he could force his way in further down.

And here's a prediction. Next time it rains we're going to have flooded roads. People will complain about the drainage, but when throughout the dry months the sand is swept into the drains guess what...they get blocked.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Parks to be no smoking areas.

Reports today quote the Acting Director of Dubai Municipality's Public Health Department as saying that the ban on smoking will be extended to public parks.

A ban on open air smoking. Could that be another world-first for Dubai?

The reasoning is that there are many family areas, including children's playgrounds, swimming pools and beaches.

It's an interesting one isn't it, bound to generate some heated discussion.

I'm going to stay well away from commenting...

Gulf News have a report here.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

An old Dubai evening.

As I said yesterday, we had a good evening in Satwa on Saturday, enjoying Dubai as it used to be.

There are two new baby girls amongst my in-laws and, as we're going to see them in a couple of weeks, Mrs Seabee decided we should buy them some gold.

Forget the famous gold souk these days, it's turned into a tourist attraction selling the same kind of bland jewellery they can find back home, it's just a bit cheaper here. The real Dubai gold shops are in the traditional areas these days, such as Satwa.

In the cluster tradition, being used now on massive scale with developments like Academic City, Healthcare City, Internet City, Media City and all the others, twenty or thirty little gold shops have set up side by side in what's really a mini gold souk.

So, a warm, humid evening, small shops crowded together, traffic in narrow streets, footpath crowded with people, the call to prayer starting...

The final piece of the jigsaw is the smell of all kinds of cooking on the heavy air...it looks, feels, sounds, smells like the real Dubai.

Then the shopping. Not the modern malls but how it used to be - into a gold shop, looking, weighing, haggling, on to the next...

...and eventually we get the right gift at the right price.

Then it's into one of the wonderful perfume, herb, all-sorts shops to buy some frankinsence...

And to round the evening off, a meal in our favourite Thai restaurant, Ruan Thai in Al Diyafah Street.

It ain't one of yer posh, upmarket, pretentious and outrageously expensive restaurants of the type many European expats seem to think it's necessary to waste their money in.

But the inside is well enough fitted out, it's clean, comfortable and you get excellent, friendly service...

The special bit that we particularly enjoy is the complimentary appetiser:

Clockwise from top left, all chopped into tiny pieces, hot red chilli, fresh ginger, lemon, onion, with roasted grated coconut and salted peanuts.

Spread some of the sweet chilli sauce on a leaf, pop on a small portion from each dish (be easy with the chilli, it's hot), wrap it up and enjoy an explosion of flavours.

Then we had chicken with chilli & basil, mixed vegetables...

...vegetable fried rice, jungle curry with chicken...

All this plus a large bottle of mineral water and the bill was Dh94*

I managed to resist a stroll across the road to Baskin Robbins ice cream, a highly unusual demonstration of self-denial.

If you're missing the old Dubai, or you never experienced it, I recommend you spend an evening in Satwa.

*Dh 94 is about US$25, £12.70, €16.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Funny what you can find

Yesterday was a good evening out in one of my favourite parts of Dubai, Satwa. I'll post more about it tomorrow.

In one of the many fascinating shops, buying some frankincense if you really want to know, I found something that I thought was just a myth.

Snake oil...

Can't get into my blog

Many others too, including UAE Community Blog.

So I don't know whether anyone can read this.

The error message is:

Internet Explorer cannot open the Internet site (name).
Operation aborted.

Blogger Help Group is saying it's a Sitemeter problem and by removing the Sitemeter HTML the problem can be fixed. I've removed it but it hasn't solved my problem, although I'm in my blog by a roundabout route.

If you're having the same problem try removing the Sitemeter HTML, it seems to be working for at least some bloggers.

(Among others, Buj Al Arab, Alexander and Samurai Sam give me the same error message).

Friday, August 01, 2008

"A society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable"

...which Mahatma Gandhi said included animals*.

I agree with the Mahatma.

The people working at the zoo which is such a disgrace to Dubai obviously do what they can to reduce the suffering of its inmates.


Photo: Karl Jeffs. Gulf News

Well done Gulf News for publicising the zoo problem every so often.

They do it again today, on a page which is about the problems our unusually high temperatures are causing, to people and animals. This July has been about four degrees above average.

The page is headed by hospital reports that 123 heat related medical cases were recorded in July. On July 14 alone, when the temperature in some places hit 52C, fifteen people needed treatment.

Following this story on the effect of heat on humans is a report about the animals, packed into their tiny concrete cages and not surprisingly also suffering from the conditions.

The keepers are doing what they can, supplying water, making pools for the animals to try to cool off in, spraying water, setting up fans.

What an appalling situation, that they have to do this.

For many years there's been the promise of a new zoo. According to statements made during the last year it should have opened by now.

However you look at it, moving the animals to a new zoo makes sense. There's animal welfare, there's releasing prime real estate in Jumeirah 1 for development, there's the money generating tourist attraction of a new zoological park, there's the removal of a blot on Dubai's reputation.

I simply can't understand how the situation is allowed to continue.

For my earlier posts on the new zoo promises which have all turned out to be untrue, click on the 'zoo' label.

Gulf News story is here.

*“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man"-- Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948)