Friday, October 31, 2008

What you see... often not what you get.

Particularly with real estate advertising in Dubai.

This is the artist's rendering of The Jewels in Dubai Marina.

They look great and they're sitting in a park with views all around.

The actual buildings look just as they did in the drawing, but I wonder how many of the owners who bought off-plan are not so happy about that promise of greenery and views all around.

I don't know whether RERA, or the advertising industry itself, has looked into accuracy in advertising...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

ID Card - amazingly quick update.

I thought it might be days, but here I am less than four hours later updating The ID Card Saga.

The speed and efficiency of the internet. Dubai style.

I tell you what. It's a struggle.

I got into the Emirates Identity Authority website and less than four hours later I've registered, have my application number and a bar code. I'm told to present myself, my documents and the barcode printout at one of the EIDA offices.

There may be a small problem though. My application is based on a form which ignored what I entered and instead put answers it came up with by itself, several being totally different from my entries.

For example, it decided I work for the Dubai International Financial Centre. I do not. I did not enter that on the form. But it wouldn't change to what I wanted to enter.

When I go in person to the office I guess I'll find out whether the incorrect information will invalidate the application.

I've been told other people have had the same problem. Female being changed to Male was one example.

I'll let you know what happens at the next stage.

Apart from that you may like to know how interfacing with the EIDA through the magic of the e-world is.

As I said, it's a struggle. Apart from ignoring what you type in it takes half an hour or more to move to the next page, and things don't appear as they should.

For example, it asks which Emirate you live in, you click Dubai on the dropdown menu. Next is City, then Zone but neither will move from the Abu Dhabi dropdown default menu. So you're registered as living in the emirate of Dubai but in an area of Abu Dhabi.

I pressed on regardless and after two and a half hours I got to the end, clicked to Print. The form came up for final checking and approval and it contained too much information different from that which I'd entered.

I thought I'd better cancel and start again.

Second time was a bit quicker, both for pages to load and because I knew my way around it a bit better.

There's some mysterious stuff. Mandatory is Middle Name. I don't have one, but it won't let you past if you leave it blank. There's a dropdown demanding "Please type the father name'. I typed my father's name...and now on my application confirmation I am known by my first name and my father's, but with no family name.

Apparently optional, strange information is asked for. For example after First Name, Middle Name, Family Name it asks for Other Names. And Famous Name.

Something lost in the translation or a basic lack of communicating what they want maybe?

For the delivery address you can put in Dubai for emirate...but again the dropdown menu for City and Zone defaults to Abu Dhabi, they won't move to Dubai.

There were location inaccuracies and some fictitious answers entered by the website but I'd lost patience by then and just printed it.

I'll attempt to get to an office to finalise it next week.

The ID Card saga begins here

I think most of us now know that 'professionals' have to register for the national ID card by the end of the year.

The other day Gulf News reported that a senior official from the Emirates Identity Authority complained that we, professionals, had not registered earlier.

On the recently published deadline he said: "It was not new but announced in May and everybody knew about it."

Everybody? I didn't.

I read several newspapers each day, I listen to the radio and I didn't know.

I also renewed my Residence Visa last month and no-one said a thing about an ID card.

I was aware that Emiratis have until December 31 to register, but until last week I did not know that the deadline also applied to expat professionals.

Even the recent announcement was confusing and unclear. As we've come to expect.

For example, exactly who are 'professionals'? The announcement talked about white collar workers and quite clearly specified degree holders.

There are many professional, white collar workers who are not degree holders. Does the deadline apply to them or not?

We are told that there are 28 registration centres. The nearest I've come to discovering where they are is to read of one in Karama and one in Al Barsha. Those are big suburbs, so where are they exactly? What are the phone numbers?

I've discovered that there's a website - only because reports the day after the announcement said it had crashed under the weight of traffic and was being expanded in the future.

A simple campaign giving basic information would be nice. Stuff like exactly who has to register, by when, where and how, the process required, contact numbers and addresses.

It isn't hard to do something as simple as that, yet it never happens.

Changes to rules are made, vague and confusing announcements are put out, the next day they're 'explained' or changed. Think of the recent new visa rules, the 'one villa one family' campaign. Exactly the same problem. The only information we're given is unclear, incomplete, confusing...and then it's changed.

On and off over the past few days I've been trying to get into the website, with no success.

I'm going to try again now, and throughout the rest of the day if necessary.

Wish me luck. I'll keep you posted.

What's going on at Dubai Eye?

Apart from the excellent Business Breakfast and evening business show, every time I tune in to Dubai Eye radio they're playing repeats of old programmes.

Or "recaps of a previous programme" as they call them.

I've seen no news about it and the website gives no information. Not that that's unusual for Dubai, most websites are years out of date.

The site does say that they're in the process of improving transmission (long overdue in my opinion) and they're experiencing a few technical difficulties.

But that's quite different from programmes and presenters not being broadcast.

Anyone in the know who can enlighten us?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Back to buzzing

Buzzing - the use of frantically trendy buzzwords in place of words which should be used.

A worldwide problem and I spotted another fine example on the side of a delivery truck in Dubai Marina:

A bed? Wrong. It's a Sleep System.

I have a solution to human capital fatigue syndrome. A horizontal period utilising a sleep system.

*shakes head*


Being such an international city we do get some strange meldings of cultures.

This one struck me as incongruous - the traditional regional architectural style housing a chippie...

Not only incongruous but helpful by the way. If you have an urgent need to write 'fish & chips' in Arabic, it's like this:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Singapore Dubai similarities

I've been meaning to post some photos from our last trip to Singapore for the past couple of months, but as usual time slipped away somehow.

At last here they are, but I have a point to make with them.

There are often comparisons made between Dubai and Singapore, with some justification because there are similarities.

Both are in ideal central locations to bridge parts of the world together, both are commercial centres, the commercial base is changed to meet changing situations and demands, both are authoritarian, they're amongst the safest cities in the world.

They're also similar in that they have 'iconic' (how I hate that word) buildings.

As in Dubai, there are plenty of shopping malls in Singapore too, a whole row of them side-by-side on Orchard Road for example.

But there's one big, big difference that the death of Dubai's old Satwa suburb has highlighted.

I know I keep on about preserving what little there is of historic, or even old, Dubai, but it's the heart and soul of a place.

On my earlier posts regretting that old Dubai wasn't being preserved several comments were posted which argued that they needed to be demolished.

For example: I think we have to demolish all the old villas as it is not save for living; sanitary system of Satwa is worst compare to any other city in dubai. By demolishing, new building structure is taking place, which is more hygienic, fire protective, accommodate more number of people etc.

I've never agreed with insanitary conditions, unsafe buildings, inadequate infrastructure. It should all go.

My point is that things can be renovated. Power and water can be piped in, buildings repaired and renovated. Bastakiya in the city is a good example of what can be done.

Some years back Singapore was going in the same direction. Everything was being torn down and replaced with modern high-rise and malls. The PM talked about the shame of tourists coming to see people living in run-down houses.

Then they woke up to the fact that they were destroying their history, their heritage, their heart and soul. So the policy changed and whole areas were renovated instead of being demolished.

The famous Bugis Street had to make way for a Metro station but they rebuilt it a few metres away. Shophouses on the river in the centre of the city have been renovated and it's now a thriving dining and entertainment district.

So here are a few photographs of some of the buildings which were saved, renovated and given a new lease of life. Which add immeasurably to the city's look, feel and culture.

From the roaring twenties some Art Deco buildings have been preserved, with their memories of tea dances and early cinema

And in areas such as Chinatown and Little India, traditional buildings take on a new life:

Many of the larger renovated buildings are excellent restaurants:

Running right in to Orchard Road, the main modern tourist street, beautiful old shophouses probably look better than they ever did.

That's the big difference between the two cities. I think it's sad that Dubai hasn't followed Singapore's lead.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The demolition gang are in...

I posted back in August that there'd been an announcement that Oasis Beach Hotel was to be demolished.

The work is well under way...

There goes another little bit of history. And the only non-five star hotel on the beach strip.

Please sort out the roadsigns!

I've complained many times about the bad management of signage by the RTA.

While the design of the signs is good - large, with clear, easy-to-read wording, Arabic and English - they are all to often misleading, confusing, in the wrong place. They add to the dangers of driving in Dubai and they do cause crashes, I've seen it myself.

Now there's a frantic campaign under way to make them even more confusing.

It's gone beyond just changing signs which indicate the way to suburbs to the new obsession with showing the way to roads we've never heard of.

I came across this sign yesterday on Interchange 4. They used to indicate the way to "Dubai" or to "Jebel Ali. Abu Dhabi", which was clear, concise, not confusing.

So they had to go, to be replaced by:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

JBR ain't all bad.

Jumeirah Beach Residence has taken a lot of stick for the high density accommodation and I have to agree - far too many towers, too tall and too many of them packed in together.

But actually, walking around it there's a whole side of it that's been done very well.
On the Plaza level, although you're surrounded by the towers, there is some open space, water features, landscaping, and I'm surprised to say that I think it's done well.

When you're on the ocean side there are more architectural features and of course there's much more of a feeling of open space...

There are shops and restaurants up on the Plaza Level too, and some of the restaurants look to be worth a try so we'll do that over the next few weeks...

Then down at ground level on the Gulf side there's The Walk. That's the retail section, about two kilometres long I guess, with a lot of coffee shops and restaurants going in, many already open. There are also banks and shops such as Jumbo Electronics and clothing retailers.

It's a much more human scale down here, the ocean to one side and much lower buildings on the other, masking most of the towers from view.

Again there's open space and landscaping. A good choice of street furniture too I think, the lamps, benches, even the waste bins...
The Walk takes on a different atmosphere at night, a very pleasant one too...

There's also some nice detail, particularly the use of design and materials relevant to the region...

But of course it wouldn't truly be Dubai unless the completed work was constantly dug up.

Inevitably the holescaping gangs are out in force in the completed areas, digging them up again.

The towers remind me of the low cost towers in Hong Kong and Singapore and I wouldn't want to live in such high density, crowded accommodation. But overall I'm pleasantly surprised, the rest of it is well done.
I think I'm in the best position - a short walk from the facilities without living there.

Height of luxury.

“The United Arab Emirates is the most luxurious place for an expat to live”

HSBC Survey of expats.

This morning I came across another expat revelling in the luxury...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Any shade will do

Even in this beautiful weather it must be hot work for the labourers on their long shifts.

If there's time for a break, any shady spot is welcome:

Space Age & Stone Age

A couple of news items from India caught my attention in the last few days.

A thriving economy, the world's 12th largest, yesterday launched a rocket on a two year mission to the moon.

Meanwhile, villagers are holding an annual ritual. Women in the Badi Sadri, Udaipur district, have to prove they have been faithful to their husbands by dipping their hands in boiling oil for five seconds.

AP photo. . . . . . . . . . . . . Photo: Renu Rakesh/Gulf News

All living on the same planet, in the same country, at the same time but they're millenia apart.

There's plenty of work to be done to stamp out these barbaric, stone age practices. I wonder if anyone in authority is bothering.

You can read the full reports here:

India launches moon mission.

Barbaric test to check wife's fidelity.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Two week campaign against dangerous driving.

I don't know whether something's been lost in translation, but another 'initiative' from Dubai police raises questions.

Gulf News reports that "...the two-week campaign focuses on three dangerous offences which include reckless driving and what accompanies it from speeding, leaving enough distance between vehicles and zigzag driving.

And it's going to be "on the stretch of Shaikh Zayed Road from the Trade Centre Roundabout to the Mall of the Emirates."

Two week campaign?

This is the type of driving that kills and injures so many people.

Shouldn't it be an ongoing, fifty-two weeks a year, twenty-four hours a day campaign?

And why on just one tiny stretch of road?

But it will be extended. "After completing the campaign on Shaikh Zayed Road, it will move to other highways and external roads and will continue until there is a positive reaction and commitment from the motorists."

I simply don't get it.

A two week campaign on a small stretch of road, to be extended later.

If we're ever to get our horrendous accident and death rate down we need more traffic police out on the roads, all the roads, all the time. Starting now.

The full report is here.

Then onto another hot topic around town.

Another Gulf News report tells us that As the deadline for tenants in overcrowded villas draws nearer, Dubai Municipality has clarified that people can share villas if they are related.

That seems to suggest a bit of backtracking by Dubai Municipality, that they've given a little more thought to their original all-encompasing directive. Or perhaps something was lost in translation when the original announcement was made.

The 'one villa one family' campaign is a misnomer apparently. Now "...the current inspections aimed at curbing the illegal sharing of villas is in line with 'Let us protect our residential environment...together', and not to implement a 'one villa one family' policy."

At least an official from DM has now said that the crackdown is against overcrowding, although they still haven't gone far enough and seem not to understand the concept of shared accommodation.

The official said: "If the members are in some way related, there is no problem if they share a villa but there should be no overcrowding."

No overcrowding, yes I agree with that. But sharers have to be related? Why?

I know, for example, two British couples, friends but not related, who share a three bedroom, three bathroom villa. For the same money they could each get a small studio apartment, so they prefer to share the villa with much more space and comfort.

Why shouldn't they?

And singles sharing a villa, each with their own room. Why should they not be allowed to share?

The new clarification is a step in the right direction but they need to go further. Stamp out overcrowding, yes. Stamp out sharing accommodation, no.

That story is here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Crass stupidity

I can't believe the crass stupidity that goes on here.

Where do we get these management people from?

Have a look at this photograph. I was told by a security guard that I was not allowed to take it.

A secret military installation? A royal villa? A bank vault?

No, it's apartment blocks.

Jumeirah Beach Residence of course.

The security lady was very polite, I was polite in return (no point shooting the messenger, she's only obeying orders) and told her it was a public area and they were just apartment blocks. She said she had instructions to stop people taking photographs, it was not permitted.

Google Jumeirah Beach Residence and you're given 104,000 websites to look at. The developer Dubai Property's own website comes up first and it's full of photographs, as are the others.

But they've instructed the security guards to stop people taking photographs.

I can take photographs of the White House, of Buckingham Palace, of the Ministry of Defence, but I can't take a photograph of an apartment block.

Unbelievable stupidity.

I was on the Plaza level, which is a retail section. Plenty of shops are open and at all the staircase entry points the passing public is directed to it:

A public retail area surrounded by apartment blocks and the management has decided that taking photographs should be prohibited.

I've run into this stupidity before too.

In one of our hypermarkets I took this photograph:

A security guard there also told me photography wasn't allowed.

I simply can't get into the mindset of management who come up with this nonsense.

Do they think it's an invasion of the curry powder's privacy?

Do they think I'll sell the photographs to a terrorist organisation which has sacks of spices high on its bombing target list?

What the hell is in these people's minds that they come up with this level of stupidity?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Al Sufouh trams

Gulf News tells us that the RTA has awarded the contract for phase one of the Al Sufouh Tram project. Phase One is scheduled to commence operations on April 11, 2011.

It'll run around Dubai Marina, including Jumeirah Beach Residence, link with the Metro at Jumeirah Lake Towers and Marina stations and have a total of thirteen stops (or stations, as they're called).

That's all good news, but I still fear for safety with trams 44 metres long carrying 305 passengers trundling along rails on the same roads as Dubai's moronic drivers.

And I have a question about the planning. Don't I always!

Phase One is a tram to nowhere. Here's the graphic produced by Gulf News (click on it to enlarge it):

Why doesn't Phase One go the extra distance to Madinat Jumeirah? Or even better, to Mall of the Emirates Metro station. Why leave that section to be included in Phase Two?

The beach romp final word.

The last word on the beach romp - perhaps.

There are what I think are a couple of very good columns, the first by Minette Marrin in the UK Sunday Times.

An extract:

‘Why don’t we do it in the road?” That was the question posed by the Beatles in 1968 in the song of that name....

...Now, 40 years on, we have a couple of well-to-do British expatriates in Dubai shamelessly and drunkenly doing it on the beach...

...I have absolutely no sympathy for them but I do think that given the permissive culture of the country in which they grew up – they were born only a few years after 1968 – it is understandable, if depressing, that they themselves didn’t see much wrong with their behaviour.
From their perspective it is apparently quite normal for two strangers to meet at a hotel brunch, drink themselves silly and proceed to perform sex acts on each other in public. It is normal to insult a policeman who has the effrontery to caution them, regardless of the law, and to carry on.

That is what Britons do at home and abroad. They belch, vomit, copulate, litter and barge their way through public spaces, dressed like hookers and louts, defying the police without shame or modesty. British expatriates are some of the worst: overpaid, oversexed and all over the place.

Palmer and Acors are appealing against their convictions. Yet by Palmer’s own admission, she was drunk and they were kissing and cuddling. “We didn’t have sex together,” she insisted. “I was lying on top of him.” This is rather to miss the point.

See what you think, it's here.

The Times also ran a column on Friday by Ross Clark, along the same lines.

For example:

The Dubai beach-sex couple weren't just stupid, they were irresponsible.

There is no better recruiter for al-Qaeda than Westerners thumbing their noses at the laws of Islamic countries.

It would be very easy for Dubai to turn a blind eye to the behaviour of British tourists and expatriates: to say to themselves, we may not like it, but we like the foreign currency too much to discourage these free-spending Westerners.
That is the Faustian pact into which so many holiday destinations around the world have entered, with inevitable results: Westerners start to behave like outlaws, doing things that they wouldn't dare do at home.

You can read the column here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

One for the boys

First, trivia. The photograph of the foggy junction I posted yesterday - here's the same spot a couple of hours later:

And these are what I thought car enthusisasts might be interested to see. They're parked every so often by Al Sufouh Road just before Knowledge Village

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Morning fog

Friends overseas are surprised when I talk about the thick fog we get in Dubai.

Fog in the desert? There sure is, and we had some dangerous stuff this morning.

This is the major crossroad at the Dubai Marina/Media City junction:

I was pleasantly surprised at the driving. Even the usual suspects - the labourer buses and Land Rovers - were driving within the limits of visibility.

But there's still the stupidy of the lights question. Thick, thick fog with visibility in places no more than 10 metres and there were plenty of vehicles with no lights on.

Amd of course, the morons with their hazard lights going, like this bus:

Three months for beach romp

Inevitably the British tabloids' hysteria about Vince and Michelle facing six years in Al Slammer were just a little over the top.

They were charged with engaging in sexual activity in public, committing an indecent gesture in public and consuming alcohol. And they've been given three months jail, a fine of Dh1,000 and deportation.

Their lawyer says he will appeal.

The story is here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The whale shark PR

"Representatives of Atlantis resort...did not return calls to the AP on Thursday. They also did not respond to AP's request to speak to one of the marine specialists the hotel says monitors the whale shark around the clock."

That was in the International Herald Tribune.

Atlantis' handling of this story should be written up and used in marketing communication courses as a perfect example of what a company should not do.

A large juvenile female whale shark is being held in the resort's aquarium. According to the original announcement that she was there for paying customers to see, the resort said that the animal was recued by fishermen and they were giving it medical care.

I don't think anyone will be surprised at the revelations by ex-employees of Atlantis reported in Gulf News today - another bad PR hit for the hotel:

Sammy was not rescued by the Atlantis hotel, Gulf News has learnt, after speaking to ex-Atlantis employees who say that plans to have a whale shark in the hotel's Ambassador aquarium were clear from the beginning.

According to several previous employees who spoke to Gulf News on condition of anonymity, there was never been any plan to release Sammy and the hunt to find a resident whale shark was relentless, with fishing boats heading out every night to find one.

And they continue their PR strategy:

No comment was available from Atlantis or Nakheel after repeated attempts by Gulf News on Tuesday.

Like so many cliches, the saying that any publicity is good publicity simply isn't true.

There's been a raft of bad publicty, here and internationally, about the resort, not only about the whale shark. Instead of handling it professionally their strategy, if they have one, has been to ignore it.

The bunker mentality PR plan.

IHT story is here.

Gulf News' latest story is here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Like a good Chinese meal?

Over the last few years we've all-but stopped going to Chinese restaurants, other than in Singapore, because the food they serve has become predicable, all the same, bland...and every dish is swimming in that strange, slimy, beige coloured sauce.

However, there is one in Dubai that we enjoy, the food has been consistently good every time we've been there and the menu offers a good selection of different regions' cuisine.

The restaurant is China Times in Jumeirah Plaza on Beach Road. That's the end of Beach Road near Jumeirah Mosque and the giant flag.

We've tried many of the dishes and although we obviously prefer some to others we've never faulted the quality of any of them, even the ones we didn't like very much.

We were there on Saturday evening and as I said I'd post about it Mrs Seabee took photographs for me.

It's part of the Bin Hendi group and they seem to have a policy of serving very large portions, (Japengo is another example) so it's easy to order far too much. However, it's normal in Chinese restaurants to tau pau (take away/doggie bag) and we always leave with a bagful.

So here's what we had this time...

The fabulous crispy vegetable spring roll to start:

A (very large) bowl of Singapore noodles with chicken:

Vegetables in oyster sauce:

And my new favourite, crispy duck with plum sauce. I've never had such meaty duck anywhere, so this is a big portion:

The duck is more expensive than most items on the menu at Dh50, but the total bill, including a bottle of mineral water and the these-days-inevitable service charge, was only Dh155.

The staff are great and it's a pleasant enough restaurant to sit in too - if you have a window seat you can watch the world go by on Beach Road.

Nothing pretentious about it, it's just a good neighbourhood restaurant. But well worth a visit in my opinion.