Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Black magic again...but in Oz this time.

I quite often post about black magic practitioners operating here, a regular one being that you can double your money with magic chemicals.

I've just been browsing one of Sydney's local newspapers, the North Shore Times, and the same scam has popped up there.

I find it hard to believe but the story says that three business owners from Victoria payed around A$160,000 for chemicals that would double their money.

I'll let you know when we get stories about genies in Sydney.

The story's here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Singapore pics

Not having seen them before, I posted a pic of 'Wife Biscuits' the last time we came back from Singapore. This time the baker had them side-by-side with 'Husband Biscuits'.

I'm told that the wife biscuits are sweet and the husband biscuits are salty.

Talking of food, it looks as though it's tiring work chasing the frogs around...

No, I wasn't tempted to try it.

We also came across an interesting awards scheme, not one I've seen anywhere else:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Back, down, blackballed

Back from Singapore and the next day the virus hit.

The one that my doctor says is sweeping Dubai - if you have it you have my sympathy, it's no fun. If you've escaped it so far I advise you to do whatever you can to avoid it.

I've been down and out for three days but as this afternoon I feel slightly less awful I thought I'd dip my toe gingerly into the blogosphere.

The Singapore Airlines flight back was going on to Cairo and I came across something that I haven't experienced before.

Cairo passengers were told, several times, that they could not leave the aircraft during the transit, including during the cleaning of the aircraft. Blackballed.

We Dubai passengers had to show our boarding passes to security people stationed right at the exit door of the aircraft to prove that we were indeed booked to Dubai and then they let us through.

Does this happen to passengers to/from other destinations or is the heavy hand reserved for Egypt I wonder?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

UK pics

Here they are, the inevitable holiday photos.

We only had four days in the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire but we managed to see a few things and with the ease, and no processing cost, of the little pocket digital camera I ended up with hundreds of photographs.

We stayed in the largest village in the Peak Park, called Youlgreave. Like most English villages it's nestled in a valley (an interesting opposite to Italy where they're mostly on hilltops).

The village is built from the local stone and slate, old and new buildings alike, so there's an attractive overall style to the place:

What I'm told is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's smallest detached house is in the main street.

Called Thimble Hall it's basically one room with a ladder up to a few planks which make a sort of mezzanine floor. It was once home to a family of eight.

The village has a thriving community with plenty of activities on a regular basis. By chance we were there on the weekend the Youlgreave Show was being held.

That's a typical English country show, with residents exhibiting all sorts of handicrafts and things they grow, competing for 'Best of ' certificates.

Best tomato for example...

Plenty of beautiful flowers in all sorts of categories...
And one for the kids to enter their sculptures made from vegetables...

A couple of visits to the only town in the Peak Park, Bakewell, home of the Bakewell Tart (delicious) and Bakewell Pudding (not my favourite taste).

We were there on Monday which is market day so the town was buzzing. Monday is also the livestock auction day and that's well worth a visit...

It also happened to be the weekend when the Chatsworth Show is on, held in the grounds of Chatsworth House, home of the Duke of Devonshire. It's another of the country shows that are held all over England in the summer, highlighting country activities and produce and offering all sorts of entertainment.

I was, naturally, attracted by the vintage car rally, this Jaguar being my pick of the fifty or sixty cars on show...

They had amusing demonstations too, like the sheepdogs showing off their skills herding a flock of ducks around obstacles in the arena...

Plenty of food and drink stalls...

Including of course typical traditional English items...

We spent some time driving around the countryside too. This really is beautiful country...

You come across interesting little shops in the villages, like this licensed slaughterhouse and farm butcher shop - the meat and things like sausages from this area are absolutely top quality.

There are some beautiful little villages dotted all over the Park, a typical one being Milldale:

Across that little ancient bridge and there's a beautiful riverside walk...

The weather was kind of OK too. When we were further south in Leicester for a couple of days working it rained non-stop, but up in Derbyshire we only had a couple of showers. It was generally cloudy with some sunny spells so we were able to be out sightseeing most of the time.

And that's it for a few days, we're off to Singapore this evening for Eid.

Eid Mubarak everyone.

No power, no water, no information

It's what happens when development runs so far ahead of infrastructure.

There are too many buildings, too many people, too much traffic for the power supply, water supply, sewage treatment, roads to cope.

Sharjah has been having real problems for a long time and adding to them is the standard attitude of organisations in the area.

Be unavailable. Say nothing. Go into hiding.

It's an ongoing story, continued in today's Gulf News:

"Unable to bear the summer heat, residents in industrial areas in Sharjah who are going without electricity and water are now sleeping on pavements and terraces...'There is no water supply and we have to buy water from outside even if we have to go to the toilet'....'The kitchen sink is filled with pots and pans waiting to be cleaned, but that can only be done once we get electricity and water supply restored'...Dr Shuhaib S. Hameed, a dentist, had been caught off-guard on several occasions when the electricity supply went off abruptly while he was busy with his patients. 'Once, I was extracting a wisdom tooth and all of a sudden the electricity went off. It took a while before we got the generator up and running, but in the meanwhile it could bring harm to the patient'..."

And in reference to communication from the supplier, SEWA:

"Asked whether they have contacted the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (Sewa), Ali said: 'Sewa? What Sewa offices are you talking about? They hardly pick up their telephones. We are tired of calling them up.'

'Load shedding happens everywhere and in every country, but all that we want is for the Sewa to inform us on the timings when power failure is going to take place.'

Gulf News tried to get in touch with Sewa, but no one was available for to comment.

I think it's the tell-them-nothing attitude that annoys me more than anything.

The Gulf News story is here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Longer holiday for public sector

The papers are all carrying WAM's report on the upcoming Eid holiday.

Once again workers in the public sector get a longer holiday than those in the private sector. Fifty percent longer.

On the one hand we have government pushing Emiratis to join the private sector, on the other they offer better conditions in the public sector.

Hardly a co-ordinated strategy I would say.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pub grub

As I've said before after trips to the UK, I think people are wrong to laugh at English cuisine. In my opinion it isn't the cuisine but the way far too many people cook it that's the problem.

We enjoy pubs, the atmosphere and the food, and for our four days in Derbyshire, in the Peak District National Park, we stayed B&B in this one:

They have a big menu and the item that caught my attention was this one:

Here it is - it more than met my expectations:

This went down well too:

For breakfast this was served up:

That sets you up for the day!

Not only is it cooked well, equally importantly they start with top quality ingredients. This is farming country and the meat has a great reputation. An added bonus is that the pub owners have a son who's a local butcher so they get the best of the best.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"No photo!"

I turned on the TV yesterday evening in time to catch the last part of a BBC doco on Dubai property.

Nothing new for those of us living here - speculators made millions, prices went to unsustainable levels, the bubble burst, speculators are now losing millions etc. etc.

Inevitably it included a section on the labourers building it all, and a line that's come up before in similar reports - that photography is banned in the less-than-perfect labour camps.

It's always presented as a sinister policy, that this is something the authorities want to hide from the world so they ban photography.

That misses the context of it, which is that there's paranoia about photography all over the emirate.

As I said in last Thursday's post about the 'water leakage' in T3 at the airport, the main concern of the security people was to stop people taking photographs. I've also posted about being stopped from taking photographs of apartment buildings and supermarkets. Marina furniture shop at Madinat Jumeirah has a 'photography and video policy' I see from the notice on their door.

It's presented as something unusual and sinister but in fact it's perfectly normal here to be confronted by a security guard yelling "no photo!" at you.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

RAK Panic

The day I get back to Dubai I learn that the poor people of Ras Al Khaimah are in a panic yet again.

This time it's not dragons or rampaging oxen, not even genies or black magic.

No, this time, as Gulf News tells us: "Palm trees which fall over for no apparent reason are spreading panic among some residents in Ras Al Khaimah".

In northern areas of the emirate mature palm trees are crashing to the ground for no apparent reason - spreading panic among residents who think that red weevils must be the culprits.

The report doesn't make clear whether the residents are in a panic over mysterious tree falling or red weevils.

Not to worry though, the Fisheries Section, and other departments, will be investigating.

Fisheries Section investigating trees?

I don't get that.

The story's here.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

DXB T3 - what really happened

I'm in the UK but thought I'd give you a quick update on what really happened yesterday morning at Terminal 3.

The papers are dismissing the incident with just the short 'it was nothing' official statement:

A water leakage occurred in Concourse 2 of Dubai International Airport at 6:50am on Wednesday, an official source said. (Gulf News)

The water leak that occurred at Dubai Airports Concourse 2 at 6.50am affecting six remote gates has been rectified, an official source from Dubai Airport has said on Wednesday. (Khaleej Times)

Here's an eyewitness account - mine.

There was 'water leakage' but that doesn't quite explain what happened.

We were sitting having a coffee before going to Gate 209 for our Emirates flight, due to open in ten minutes.

There was an announcement that a fire had been detected and the building was to be immediately evacuated.

Lights simultaneously stated flashing a warning on all the fire alarms.

The problem was that the announcement, presumably automatic, kept stuttering like a jammed record, stopping and starting.

Sprinklers started pouring water into one small section of the terminal. That was the 'water leakage'.

I could see no fire nor smell any smoke.

It had all the makings of a system malfunction rather than a real emergency so while people did get ready to move we all stayed put.

There was no evidence of any fire or safety people hurrying about.

Then the extractor fans, again presumably as part of the automated system, started going full bore.

The noise from the fans was so loud that it was impossible to hear any announcements. In the abscence of visual electronic instructions that could be a real problem in a real emergency. A part of the fire safety system that needs to be looked at I would suggest.

Then people in uniform started running - but it was the cleaners!

A hell of a lot of water comes from sprinklers and the area was starting to flood. So the cleaning machines, the mops, the plastic barriers were rushed to the scene.

A crowd had gathered to view the new water feature and that's when Security got involved.

Yep, you guessed their priority: "No Photos! No photos!"

A hopeless cause, there were hundreds of people with digital and phone cameras.

Here are a couple:

Gate 209 and several others were affected by the water so the aircraft had to be moved.

But to where?

There weren't many Emirates or airport staff around, apart from the cleaners, so milling around was order of the day. Hundreds of passengers who wondered which gate they now needed to go to plus hundreds more rubberneckers looking at the water.

Eventually some uniforms started shouting the destinations and their new gate numbers ("Birmingham Gate 150" for example)

We walked for, I'm not exaggerating, forty minutes (noticing by chance by glancing at the Flight Departures board that 150 had quietly changed to 144).

Good thing I noticed that.

Then a bus to the end of the airport where a line of planes was parked near the exhibition centre and we were dropped at one of them.

Fortunately it turned out to be the right one.

Interestingly the cabin crew I spoke to had no idea what had been happening.

Considering the chaos behind the scenes that must have been going on they actually handled it pretty well I thought. It can't be easy to re-organise several flights and hundreds (thousands?) of passengers at the last minute at a busy airport.

But instead of explaining exactly what had happened, what action they needed to take and how well they handled it, in other words transparency, we've got the inevitable obfuscation.

Just like the security guards trying to stop photography it's the usual pretend nothing happened mindset.

Tell us nothing. Keep it all secret. Everything's perfect, nothing ever goes wrong.

They missed the opportunity for brownie points by not explaining what a difficult situation they faced and how well they handled it.

Having said they handled it well there are a couple of things that obviously need looking at.

There's that very dangerous question of the extractor fan noise drowning out any announcements and, as there always is, the problem of lack of communication.

If you have to close a gate at the last minute and transfer the aircraft to a new one, station a staff member on it to advise passengers that a) they'll shortly be told which gate to go to; b) when the information is available WRITE IT ON A BOARD and place it at the closed gate.

With the only signs to Gate 150/144 pointing to the flooded closed-off area, meaning we had to go in the opposite direction to the signs, it would have helped to have a few more staff members directing traffic. As it was we walked to the far end of the terminal, down some stairs, back the length of the terminal again like a herd of gnu on migration, all following the leaders and hoping they knew where they were headed.

So yes, there was a problem with water but that was far from the whole story.

And the UK is cold, wet and very windy.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Gathering the resources

A week to go before the very partial Metro opening and they seem to have met the self-imposed deadline of 999 but only just - only ten stations will actually be operating.

In Jebel Ali yesterday they were gathering the elements together, a train on the elevated section rehearsing running through a station and a fleet of feeder buses.

And that's it for a week, we're off to the UK tomorrow morning. Three days in Leicester working and then four days relaxing up in the Peak District.

I'm not sure what we'll be able to do because the weather looks very iffy, the forecast says we'll have top temps between 12C and 17C with plenty of cloud and rain. We might have to spend a lot of time indoors, places like pubs or restaurants maybe...