Sunday, January 31, 2010

Why do they do it?

Not unique to Dubai by any means and I've often wondered over the years (fumed, actually) why the lazy bastards do it.

This happened to be in Ibn Battuta Mall car park. The trolley park is just the other side of the silver car but the shopper couldn't be bothered to take it the few steps. Instead it's left between two cars. Where it can cause damage and has to be moved by someone else.

It really is only a few steps, a few seconds. So why do they do it? Laziness, stupidity, inconsideration, can't be bothered, don't understand? Arrogance - I'm too important to take my trolley to the right place? All of the above?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Another steady job...

I began my post on Sunday with "There are a number of people who have steady jobs in Dubai, like the guys who have small domestic brooms to sweep the sand back."

I spotted this one this morning:

He had plenty to do after the couple of windy days we've had.

He has to work with less than hi-tech equipment too - a domestic broom, a dustpan & brush, a black plastic bag.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An Australia Day story

As it's Australia Day here's a topical Australian story.

It's about the Aboriginal flag:

The flag first flew in 1971, the year it was designed by Harold Thomas. It was declared an official flag of Australia in Federal legislation fifteen years ago and Mr Thomas was given copyright on the design.

Now to today.

Google ran a competition, 'Doodle 4 Google' in schools across Australia. The winner was eleven year old Jessie Du (now there's a familiar name to us here in Dubai!) with a very clever design.

Jessie used native animals to form the word google with the Aboriginal flag incorporated in the design around the second 'o'...

Then it all went pear shaped.

I won't bother you with the details, claims and counter claims, there's a link to the story below, but it appears to be a copyright payment issue.

In the end Google airbrushed the flag out.

In purely design terms I think they've ruined it, which is a shame.

But the real reason I'm posting about it is that Mr Thomas is from the town with my very favourite place name and I can't resist the temptation to mention it whenever I get the chance.

He's from the spendidly named Humpty Doo.

No, it's true. Look, they even have a pub:

You can read the story here in the Sydney Morning Herald, for the claims and counter claims.

There's some info on Humpty Doo here and some thoughts on how the name came about here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A steady job

There are a number of people who have steady jobs in Dubai, like the guys who have small domestic brooms to sweep the sand back.

I came across another one in Dubai Marina.

There are seven or eight kilometres of railing, a man, a bucket and a rag...

All on his own he was doing a good job.

Wipe the rag over the railing for several metres, walk back to get the bucket of water, take it a few metres further on, walk back and wipe the rag over the railing, walk back to get the bucket of water, take it a few metres further on........

Thursday, January 21, 2010

More on driving standards

"Transport Minister says the results show that while most drivers are well-informed about road safety, many are choosing to ignore the warnings."

Very true.

But in another of those 'it ain't only Dubai' moments, it's the Australian Federal Transport Minister talking about Aussie drivers.

I've long complained about the lack of lane discipline in Oz, drivers doing much the same things wrong as here in Dubai.

A single lane road widening into two or more lanes sees the majority of drivers immediately dashing to get into the wrong, overtaking, lane. Slow drivers sit in the overtaking lanes, on freeways and other roads.

Every person I've asked who took lessons and passed their driving test in Oz, without exception, has said that lane driving was not taught or even mentioned.

A couple of recent stories give an idea of how serious the problem is on our roads.

A survey has found Australian drivers are continuing to ignore warnings about road safety and engage in risky and illegal behaviour on the nation's roads.

Almost two thirds of respondents admitted to regularly using their mobiles while driving, twenty-five per cent of respondents felt it was acceptable to speed in some circumstances, sixteen per cent had fallen asleep at the wheel and four per cent believed they had driven while over the legal blood alcohol limit. Almost twenty five percent of drivers have been booked for speeding in the past two years,

I'm sure it's not just in Oz either, many countries have similarly dangerous drivers.

Not just dangerous but incompetent.

How's this for leaving an office block car park...

Photo. Sydney Morning Herald

The driver claims she 'lost control' of her car.

I would have thought that if you're driving sensibly and competently out of a car park it's very difficult to 'lose control' of the car.

We're right to complain about the poor driving standards here but we shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking it doesn't happen elsewhere.

Survey report.
Woman freed from hanging car.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The clarifications begin...

The first of the 'clarifications' on the visa story I posted about yesterday appears in Gulf News today.

I said in the post that one of the things the announcement hadn't explained was whether the rule that visitors cannot re-enter the country for one month applied to the 33 passports which get an automatic visa on arrival.

Today's 'clarification' actually talks about 36 passports - they've added Cyprus, Malta and Paraguay to the previous list.

Citizens of those 36 countries are exempt apparently and can come and go at any time.

So that's one question answered.

Now they need to give some thought to the effects of the one month ban on the cruise business, which Dubai is trying so hard and expensively to develop, and on the general tour business here. Thirty-six exempt passports means citizens of about 170 countries are not exempt.

The 'clarification' with the list of passports exempt is here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Act now think later

We had a report on Sunday that an official has confirmed that visit, transit & tourism visas are for one visit only. Visitors leaving the country can't re-enter for one month, after which they'll need a new visa to come back in.

This visa 'clarification' is another example of the sort of nonsense we get all-too regularly. There's no thought about what it actually means before an announcement is made.

Relate it to another subject we've had stories on recently, about Dubai being a regional cruise ship hub. That's not to mention huge government investment in infrastructure for it.

So are the cruises for residents only?

If visitors enter the UAE and get on a cruise ship they can't, according to this 'clarification', come ashore when it docks back in Dubai. They've already used up the one entry allowed by their visa. And they can't come back in for a month.

So what happens?

The report is also yet another example of something else I complain about ad nauseum, the lack of questions from 'journalists'.

An official makes a statement which raises more questions than it answers, yet the questions aren't asked.

In addition to the cruise customer questions, what about the 33 passport holders who get an automatic visa on arrival? Does the one month ban apply to them too?

Gulf News has the visa 'clarification' here.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


I've posted a couple of times about Sam the koala, injured in last summer's Black Saturday bushfires, Australia's worst ever fires.

The first time was when this photo appeared...

Photo: Russell Vickery. Herald Sun

...and later when it was reported that the koala had died, not from the fires but from an unrelated disease.

I guess we're now at the final chapter in the story because it's reported that the animal will be stuffed and put on display.

I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with that.

Anyway, the story says that:

The female koala survived the fires but later died from the disease Chlamydia.

Sam's body has been preserved, and will become part of a bushfire memorial display at the Melbourne Museum.

The Museum's chief executive, Dr Patrick Greene, says Sam now has a special place in Victoria's history.

The ABC story is here.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Moron report

Dubai's Traffic department has issued a list of the top ten worst traffic rule violators in 2009.

The number of offences they must have commited are astonishing.

Even the tenth on the list racked up fines averaging over Dh111 every day of the year. A total of Dh40,750.

The worst offender had fines totalling Dh84,510.

There's no information about whether they've been banned and had their vehicles confiscated. I do hope they're not still on the road, still endangering the rest of us.

By the way, for once the official report is the same as anecdotal reports - males and Emiratis dominate.

Nine are men and nine are Emirati. The lone expat is a male Brit, who's number two on the list. The woman is at number four.

The story is here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Laws, blind eyes & heads down

The latest legal case here making the news internationally is that of the British woman who reported a rape and was charged with having illegal sex.

That's actually the way it's being reported, the all-too-usual mix of truth and fiction which ends up giving the wrong impression.

She wasn't charged with having illegal sex in relation to the alleged rape nor was the rape claim ignored by police, although that's the way it's being presented and is what many people seem to believe.

The story is that she reported the rape, the complaint was ignored, she was subjected to humiliating tests and then charged with illegal sex and drinking.

It's actually somewhat different.

The brief background is that she was here with her fiance, sharing a hotel room, she got drunk and passed out in the hotel toilet. A waiter allegedly followed and raped her.

When she reported it to the police she and her fiance were arrested (they're out on bail) for drinking alcohol and having illegal sex.

To clarify, the police have said:

The rape allegation of a 23-year-old British woman was registered and investigated by Dubai Police with a full forensic report filed to the public prosecution, said a police official.

Contrary to what have been reported in many international media outlets, Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Qadir Al Bannai, director of Jebel Ali Police Station, said: "I am aware to what have been reported recently. A case has been opened against the Syrian suspect who she claims raped her. He was detained and referred to the public prosecution.

"All the necessary procedures were undertaken. Our rules are clear in the UAE; illegal drinking and sexual intercourse is considered an offence, so a case was filed against the couple as well. But we didn't ignore the rape report," he said.

It's another example of what many people see as incomprehensible differences between what's illegal, which laws are enforced, what's allowed. It's also another example of people naively believing that the laws in other countries are the same as in their own country.

It is indeed illegal to have sex outside marriage. But as with any society it happens all the time. Unmarried couples live together, unmarried tourist couples are welcomed without question by hotels.

Alcohol is freely available, yet you can be jailed for drinking it.

People are confused by it all but I think it's actually very simple.

The laws are there but a blind eye is turned as long as you keep your head down.

That such laws are in place is no surprise. They're appropriate for a Muslim country, for a country in this conservative part of the world.

But Dubai in particular treats them pragmatically and the police turn a blind eye, allowing residents and visitors a relatively liberal environment. It's not ideal but it's the way it is.

The key thing to remember is that you have to keep your head down and not come to the attention of the police.

Drinking is OK, but cause a disturbance in which the police get involved and you're in trouble.

Unmarrieds living together is OK, but attract the attention of the police and you're in trouble.

I think this came about because Dubai from its beginnings has interacted with people from outside. They traded with, visited, resided in Dubai and the people here became comfortable dealing with foreigners.

As the society developed, laws were put in place and because lawmaking is official and formal they inevitably followed the religion and culture of the region. But the reality on the ground was tacitly acknowledged.

Turning a blind eye is not a new thing brought in as a result of greed for the tourist dollar either. It's been the same since the laws were written. As long as people keep their heads down.

I'm not suggesting this latest couple should not have reported the alleged rape, but they seem to have been unaware that their own actions were illegal and that they could be arrested.

Gulf News has it here.


CCTV footage confirmed that the waiter did not follow the woman into the toilet. She was not raped and subsequently dropped the charge against him.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sheikh Eisa acquitted

An up-date on a story I've posted about in the past, the last time being a month ago.

Shaikh Eisa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has been acquitted of assaulting an Afghan merchant after the Al Ain Court of First Instance found him not responsible for his actions which were videotaped and put on the internet last year.

The court also cleared Shaikh Eisa of endangering the life of the Afghan merchant, M.S., and of sexually abusing him with a stick.

I've always had a problem understanding the way the law is structured in the area of responsibility, not just here of course.

It makes no sense to me that a verdict can be 'well, yes he did it but he's not guilty because...'

If he did it he's guilty of doing it. That should be the verdict. Yes he did it. Guilty.

Extenuating circumstances should, to my non-legal mind, come in later when the sentence is considered. If the person did the deed, ie is guilty, but was coerced, mentally unbalanced or whatever then the sentence, if any, would reflect that.

Anyway, back to the 'torture tape trial'. The verdict is what was widely expected and I don't suppose anyone's surprised.

In an earlier hearing, a doctor from Abu Dhabi's Forensic Laboratory testified before the Al Ain Court that the medication given to Shaikh Eisa at the time when he allegedly assaulted the merchant may lead to loss of memory and uncontrollable behaviour.

The court accepted the 'not responsible' defence.

It's a bizarre case.

The tape is on the internet for the world to see. A number of people are shown torturing an Afghan merchant, Mohammed Shapoor. Sheikh Eisa has been found not guilty while five co-defendants were found guilty.

Couldn't they also have mounted a 'look what you made me do' defence?

Two associates of Sheikh Eisa, American citizens, released the tape to the media. They were sentenced in absentia to five years in jail for having drugged him, thus endangering his life, and defaming & insulting him by broadcasting the tape.

The victim is suing them for libel because he says that releasing the tape defames him. The court must have agreed because he was granted Dh10,000 in temporary compensation.

It's reported in The National that after the verdict the victim Mr Shapoor congratulated the sheikh, kissing him on both cheeks.

I really have trouble getting my head around all that.

While Sheikh Eisa and and a co-defendant were acquitted, three other co-defendants were jailed for between one and three years for the assault.

Public Prosecution can appeal the verdict. I'll be as surprised as you if they do.

So far the international media has simply reported the verdict, although the Financial Times does add the comment that: Reaction to the verdict ranged from a weary assumption that the judicial process was bound to find the brother of the UAE president innocent, to shock that in spite of graphic video evidence Sheikh Issa was found innocent while five of the seven accused were sentenced to jail, including two farm employees who had carried out the assault with the sheikh.

Where newspapers allow online comments the predictable reaction, a travesty of justice, from people is obvious and almost unanimous.

The real attacks will start tomorrow I'm sure, when the columnists file their pieces.

Gulf News report.

The National report.

The Times report.

Financial Times.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It may be art, but is it food...

In the days when I used to run advertising agencies in the UK and Australia I used to take in design students to give them practical work experience.

They were usually in their first year in art college so they had no practical experience, they were learning the basics and were starting to explore their creativity.

Although what they designed was often pretty it was inevitably completely unworkable and unrealistic with no relevance in the real world.

I was reminded of it the other evening when we made one of our rare trips to a hotel restaurant, the Hunter Room Grill at Westin Mina Seyahi.

It's been a while, a couple of years in fact, since I posted about pretentious food but I couldn't go past this example.

Mrs Seabee ordered what was described on the menu as braised Short Rib with puree sweet potato, mushrooms and onions.

Those first year art college students came to mind because this is what arrived:

This isn't from a first year student but from what must be a qualified and highly paid chef in a five star hotel. Which charged Dh158 for the dish, served on a strange slab of cold china.

The quality of the food wasn't the problem, that was fine. Excellent, well-cooked meat and fresh vegetables. But who came up with that presentation, and why?

Another reminder that we're right not to encourage such nonsense by visiting hotel restaurants very often came a few evenings earlier.

Nowhere near the same pretentious presentation but another example of a menu misnomer.

At Pachanga at Hilton Jumeirah Beach Mrs Seabee (she always orders the wrong thing) ordered Paella, a dish she really enjoys.

As you probably know, paella is a dish which has all its ingredients cooked together in one pot at the same time.

Here's what arrived:

A strangly moulded circular pile of rice with peas artfully arranged on top. Pieces of separately cooked seafood were carefully arranged on top of that stack and other seafood items were dotted around the strange piece of china it was served on.

Again, top quality ingredients, well cooked. But paella it ain't. It's seafood served with rice and peas.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Armed police storm Emirates flight at Heathrow

Armed officers have stormed a plane at London's Heathrow airport as it was about to depart for Dubai and arrested three men on suspicion of making a bomb threat, police say.

The three men arrested Friday night aboard an Emirates Airlines plane at Heathrow Airport had made a verbal threat to staff, police said Saturday.

The men, ages 58, 48, and 36, were arrested on suspicion of making a bomb threat and remain in police custody

Sky News television, which broadcast the grainy picture from the plane, said the men arrested were English and appeared to be drunk.

No surprise there then, from my experience of Emirates and Virgin flights into and out of Heathrow.

To avoid flying with drunks falling about and throwing up we're going back to flying with Singapore Airlines.

I don't know what the maximum penalty is but I hope it's what these morons get.

The story is here and here.


Robert Fowles, 58, from Dover, Kent, is accused of making a bomb hoax and being drunk on the Dubai-bound Emirates flight on Friday night, the Metropolitan Police said.

Another man on the plane, Alexander McGinn, 48, also from Dover, has also been charged with being drunk on an aircraft.

A third passenger on board the plane who was arrested at the time - a man aged 36 - was released without charge.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Still in the pre-internet age

There's a huge gulf between the claim that Dubai is an ultra-modern commercial/financial centre and the out-of-date thinking of so many of the companies operating here.

We're still in the age when to get anything sorted out people are expected to visit companies personally and wait in endless queues. In an age when e-mails aren't even read let alone replied to. In an age when material needs to be sent to companies by fax.

Companies got as far as understanding that a website was a good idea - but having set them up they simply left them. Huge numbers of them are several years out of date, making them useless.

On various forums there are regular complaints from people overseas that they get no response to e-mails to hotels, tour companies and others.

There are a couple of reports in Gulf News today that continue the story, relating to the ultra-modern tallest structure in the world, Burj Khalifa.

The first is headed "Confusion over Burj website owner persists" and talks about the people involved in registering burjkhalifa domain names.

How could it be allowed to get to this? When the name Burj Khalifa was decided on it should have immediately been protected. It's very basic stuff that the domain names such as and .ae and .org and .info and the others should have been registered.

They weren't, so we have the free-for-all that's now going on.

The official website is all over the place too.

That Emaar site is still and that's what the tower is still called on the site.

The second report is about the queues for Observation Deck tickets, in which the final para says "The announced online ticket booking on the tower's website was not yet active at the time of going to press."

I went to check it. If you browse through the Observation Deck section you'll find the valuable information: "At The Top will open in January 2010." Will open. How long ago was that put on the site?

A pop-up tells you to: "Purchase your tickets online for the date and time of your choice" but nothing happens if you click on it.

The Observation Deck was obviously planned years ago, everything's now in place, it's up and running - but no-one thought to have the website ready.

What's going on with management and IT people here?

The stories are here and here.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Smoking ban extended

I've been surprised that the ban on smoking in places like shopping malls and restaurants has been obeyed by just about everyone.

Now there's a new federal law that extends the ban to include public transport and public places(a bit vague that one) houses of worship, educational institutions and health and sports facilities.

There's one more - a ban on smoking in a vehicle with a child of up to 12 years in it.

For a bad example to children and for the damage to their health that's about the worst place to smoke. But I think it's going to be a difficult one to enforce.

Gulf News has the story here.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Burj Dubai Khalifa official opening

After the big firework/light display for the official opening we at last know the height of the world's tallest structure.

Photo: The National

It's 828 metres, a dramatic increase on the previous tallest building Taipei 101 which is 509.2 metres.

You get some idea of the size of the thing when you see it against other 'normal' skyscrapers...

Photo: Bloomberg. Sydney Morning Herald

It isn't just the height that strikes me but also the mass. Each of those sections at the bottom are the size of a 'normal' tower. It's an absolutely huge building.

Brand Dubai's suffered a loss though because the word Dubai has disappeared from the name. It's officially Burj Khalifa, named after the President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Burj, by the way, is the Arabic word for tower.

The opening has been covered all over the world, naturally, and I've been glancing at comments left on blogs and forums.

Two particular areas, the renaming and the finance, are attracting the usual crowd of the uninformed.

On the renaming there are plenty of comments that it's payback for the Abu Dhabi loans to some Dubai World companies and that Abu Dhabi will now own the building.

The other area is that 'Dubai's bust' and can't afford the building.

There are several things these people don't understand. First, they don't understand that 'Dubai' doesn't own the building, and nor can 'Abu Dhabi'. They don't understand that the developer is Emaar, which is a very profitable company and nothing to do with Dubai World. They don't understand that the building was over 90% sold off-plan, that the individual investors own the building and that their money was used to fund the construction.

It's a fact of life that a complete lack of knowledge doesn't deter people from stridently stating an opinion, confidently expressed as fact but in reality far from it.

The renaming is actually more far reaching, especially for Brand Dubai, than just changing the nameplate on one building.

The city being built around the tower is Downtown Burj Dubai. Presumably that will now be Downtown Burj Khalifa. The Metro station is Burj Dubai Station, which presumably now has to be Burj Khalifa Station. The brand name Dubai has lost a lot of future publicity.

There are other areas which are affected too, such as contracts held by the thousand or so owners, which must say they own part of Burj Dubai and will therefore need to be changed to say Burj Khalifa.

Interesting times.

Reuters have a clip of the fireworks on YouTube, here.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Update on 'service charge' update

Now you and I think it's fairly simple - a law was passed in 2006 saying it's illegal for restaurants to charge a 'service fee'.

Simple, it's illegal so they can't do it. Right?


We don't understand. It obviously isn't simple at all.

In fact from the number of updates and clarifications issued it must be very complicated.

As usual we have different officials in different ministries and departments, federal and emirate, clarifying the issue for us. Naturally, in the way of things here, the've all been different so we now have no idea what's actually happening.

I've tried in my previous three posts in the last week on 'service charges' to keep up with the updates and clarifications.

It's illegal so they have to stop it. Except restaurants and cafes operating inside hotels and those paying taxes to the local governments.

Customers can't refuse to pay the 'service charge'. Yes they can refuse to pay.

A bylaw has to be issued, in about two weeks, before the law can be enforced. Enforcement will happen immediately.

A grace period to allow restaurants to adjust their systems. No grace period will be allowed.

Got that?

By the way, whatever happened to the official government spokespeople? I posted about the announcement that they were being appointed to stop this kind of confusion way back in March last year.

Getting that idea up and running must also be much more complicated than it appears.

Today's clarification is here.