Friday, August 12, 2011

See you in Oz?

Just about the final piece of the moving back jigsaw has fallen into place.

The shipper has e-mailed to confirm that our stuff will be delivered the day after we arrive. That couldn't be better timing, just one night camping and then we'll have the furniture and the rest of our belongings.

So after nearly six years this will be the last post on Life in Dubai.

The first post was January 20, 2006 and I've rabbited on in 1264 posts in total. I'm amazed, I had no idea when I started that it would go on and add up like that.

A sincere thanks for stopping by, for taking the time to read the posts and for the comments, I really appreciate it.

I'll leave this blog as it is because it's a report of daily life as one person saw it through a unique period of time in the development of Dubai.  I won't post here any more but I'll check back every so often to see if there are any new comments; I still get comments on posts from years back.

As in future I'll be in Australia that's where I'll move my blogging to. But I'll be visiting Dubai regularly, at least for a while, and I'm sure I'll have things to say about it. You'll find me at Life in Oz...& Dubai.

If you'd like to keep in touch, as I would with you, just click on this link:  Life in Oz...& Dubai..

Monday, August 08, 2011

Last lap

Less than a week before we fly back to Oz, Saturday morning in fact, so this really is the last lap.

Everything's done, except packing the bags and we always leave that to the last minute.

The online tracking system shows that the ship with our container of belongings arrived in Sydney on schedule last week. It does say that customs clearance was completed today but as I expect a bill from customs I don't believe that.

It also says Quarantine Date was August 5, but I'm not sure what that actually means. The Quarantine Service in Australia is very tough and I fully expect them to demand that at least some of the furniture is fumigated but I've heard nothing about that so far. Usually they send a Quarantine Notice saying why fumigation (or destruction) is required and the cost of doing whichever one you choose.

Anyway, it seems to indicate that our belongings should be delivered not too far from when we arrive ourselves.

The shuttle is booked to get us from Sydney International early on Sunday morning and I'm hoping we'll be home by about 10am. The forecast is sunny with a possible shower and a max of 18C - that's very different from the horribly humid day we're having in Dubai. The worst humidity of the summer I reckon.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Solutions drivel

I've been letting a few examples of ridiculous corporate gobbledegook pass without comment, plus a few with the use of my hate word 'solutions'.

But there's such a classic combination of the two in a Gulf News report this morning that I have to share the gibberish with you.

They've even managed to get three 'solutions' into one sentence.

It's a short report about the link between Mubadala and Virgin Australia and includes this company statement:

"Leveraging the full scope of Mubadala Aerospace's global MRO [maintenance, repair and overhaul] capabilities, some services will also be completed out of Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies, SR Technics' sister company. These agreements will cover full nose-to-tail integrated component solutions and are complemented with a component financing solution from Sanad Aero Solutions"

The report is here.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Paperwork done

The last items of paperwork for the move back to Oz are done now, cancelling the residence visas.

My cancellation was easy - my sponsor did it. A bit more involved for Mrs Seabee's though, because I was her sponsor. And I'd had to pay a deposit of Dh10,000 when I arranged it, which I was keen to get back.

I actually started the process a few days ago when I went to the DNRD office in Bur Dubai, on Trade Centre Road. That's where I arranged it all in the beginning so I thought I'd go back there.

It was absolutely packed with people though, although much more orderly than the first visit because now they have the numbered ticket system. It's hardly rocket science, and it's existed in other countries for many years, but it's new here.

And what a huge improvement it is in government departments (and banks and other organisations). It replaces the chaos we always had of everyone pushing and shoving, waving papers and shouting to get the attention of someone behind the counter. Now you tell the ticket dispenser person what you're there for, he gives you a numbered ticket and tells you the counter number(s) to go to. You sit and wait for the machine to bleep and display your number, telling you which counter to go to.

Anyway, even with a more orderly crowd the size of it made me think I'd be there for most of the day. So I decided to drive down SZR and go to the smaller, less popular Jebel Ali DNRD office. It was as I'd expected, very unbusy.

Now anything you do at DNRD requires 'typing'. Generally you have no idea what's being typed, and it's in Arabic of course. But you have to have 'typing'. 

I told the Information person I was there to cancel a visa. "First typing. Then any desk".

I told the typing department ticket issuer what I was there for, got my ticket and sat down. For an hour. The 'typing' took twenty minutes. Another fifteen minutes waiting at a DNRD desk until I was first in the queue (no ticket numbers for this bit, just sitting in order on the bench seat and shuffling along as the people ahead of me were dealt with).

The actual cancellation took about two minutes.

Then I took my Dh10,000 deposit receipt to the cashier desk.

I was told that as it was issued in Bur Dubai I had to get the refund from Bur Dubai.

Another of those inexplicable obstacles you run into here. It's all the same DNRD, one large government department, but you have to get the deposit refund from where you lodged it.

Back up SZR to Bur Dubai DNRD.

There seem to be just three desks for deposit refund paperwork and I was their only customer.

That's when I hit the next obstacle. As with just about anything official you have to do here, you don't know what you're supposed to do, you don't know what you have to bring with you and there's no way of finding out in advance. It's only when you try to do whatever it is that you're told what you should have brought with you and what the process is.

I didn't have all the bits of paper I needed, so I gave up and went to get some coffee.

I haven't been able to get there again until today and as it's the first day of Ramadan I wasn't too confident about it all.

In fact the office was almost deserted. Plenty of people behind desks but with no-one waiting to be served. No big queues at the ticket dispenser. I got my ticket, only waited about five minutes and then it was my turn.

"Go to typing to get letter, then come back".

Out to the Dickensian typing office.

Tiny, hot, crowded both sides of the counter. No numbered tickets here, and it's the east-west queue rather than the north-south queue. That is, a double line of people the length of the counter, pushing and shoving, waving papers, yelling in a variety of languages.

I joined in, told them I wanted a deposit refund letter, paid the oddly precise amount of  Dh19 and waited while they photocopied everything and printed out an Arabic letter.

Back to the DNRD counter and five minutes later I had the authorised deposit receipt.

I asked where I had to take it and was told, "Outside bank".

I wandered outside and found a Commercial Bank of Dubai branch. Got my ticket, waited five minutes, signed and had to write my mobile phone number on various bits of paper, and had to pay Dh20 for something or other. I was eventually given ten crisp new Dh1,000 notes.

So it's done. All the paperwork's completed, the deposit's back where it belongs in my wallet.

We're booked to leave in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Traffic fines discount

It seems that Dubai police are about to follow some other emirates and offer discounts on traffic offence fines.

I'm struggling to understand how that will help to improve the standard of driving.

Gulf News has the report here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Silence on property 'residence visa'

At the end of last month I was talking here about the new so-called 'residence visa' for property owners, which the media and real estate spokespeople were lauding as a great move forward.

It was nothing of the sort of course, and not even a residence visa. It was a three year multi-entry visit visa for which, in spite of all the applause, we were given no details.

We were told that holders would have to leave the country every six months...which was 'clarified' a few days later by a statement that holders would not have to leave every six months.

The only other information was that holders would need proof of a bank account either here or overseas and a salary of Dh10,000 a month, and the visa would only apply to property 'worth Dh1 million'. They would also have to have medical insurance renewable every six months (strange) and take a medical here every two years.

But the real detail that property owners, and potential buyers, need wasn't, and still hasn't, been given. The announcement was made, then nothing.

Value of property for example. Based on what? The original price paid?  Even with the burst bubble, apartments in my building that were originally bought for Dh450,000 are currently over Dh1 million - and they've been much higher than that of course. But if the original purchase price is the yardstick, none of the owners qualify for the visa.

Or is it based on current value?  Two problems with that. One, who decides what current value is? Two, value fluctuates all the time depending on many factors. Something that's worth a million today may be worth less than a million in a month's time if interests rates go up, mortgages become even more difficult to find, a large supply of similar apartments is released.

Then as it isn't a residence visa, can holders apply for all the things that require a res. visa, such as a driving licence, DEWA connections and so on? Or are they treated the same as other visit visa holders?

And what's the cost? The original plan for a six month visa required the holder to exit the country and apply for a new visa to come back Dh2,000 a time. That soon adds up if it's a family on the visa. We had no indication of the cost of the latest version.

Far from helping the real estate sector, this kind of part announcement leaving vital questions unanswered damages it even more.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Johann Hari exposed

The story broke in the UK press a couple of weeks ago and I've been meaning to post this for a while, but being busy with the imminent move back to Oz I didn't get around to it.

It's been somewhat swamped by the Murdoch News of the World saga but it involves much the same thing, appalling standards of 'journalism'.

I'm prompted to devote time to it today by an article in this morning's The National.

It concerns Johann Hari, a columnist I've disliked for a long time and who I've slated here before, and his standards of 'journalism'. You'll remember Mr Hari for his infamous article 'The Dark Side of Dubai' written over two years ago now.

He's at last been publicly exposed for something that was apparent from that and other articles; misrepresention, misquoting and making up 'facts' to make a point.

Hari admitted exactly that when in response to the criticisms he said he had opted for "intellectual accuracy" over "reportorial accuracy".

He has quite rightly been suspended by his newspaper, The Independent, and calls are being made for his various awards for journalism to be taken back. One committee is said to be actively investigating their award to him.

The National quotes Bitish author and columnist Guy Walters as saying Hari has committed three journalistic crimes: "First, he has pretended that words spoken to other journalists were in fact said to him. That is plagiarism, pure and simple. Secondly, he makes things up. There is no doubt in my mind that many of the people he supposedly encounters - such as the girl in hot pants in Dubai - are figments of his imagination. Thirdly, he distorts the words of the real people he does manage to interview."

Certainly the second and third apply to his Dubai article, as I pointed out in my detailed response to it.

That was back in April 2009 and it's interesting that I still regularly get visitors landing on that page.

The times when news went into the bin at the end of the day have disappeared, now it stays here on the www for people to read forever. This is an example - various commentators reporting Hari's attack on Dubai linked to it and to my response, and now more than two years later people are still reading both.

Now that he's been exposed I think there's a good argument for The Independent to remove the links to any of his articles which have been called into question for containing plagiarism, lies, distortions.

I would also suggest that those of us who took him to task over his Dubai article and follow-up, and who took a lot of stick at the time from his supporters, have been exonerated.

The Dark Side of Dubai.
My post disecting it
More lies from Johann Hari.
The National.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pssst. Wanna buy a suit?

I'm sure it must be a scam, although I don't know exactly what it is because I always cut it short.

Walking in Dubai Marina I've been stopped now about ten times by a car pulling up alongside.

"Scusi. Can you please tell me the way to Sheikh Zayed Road, there are no signs"

The passenger is always Italian, presentable, friendly.

I tell him how to get to SZR.

Profuse thanks, then "Where are you from?"

"Ah, Australia. Melbourne or Sydney? I have a brother in Melbourne".

When I say Sydney they usually ask whether I know Machiavalli restaurant - one of my favourites as it happens.

They go on to say they've been working in Oz, more often than not as interior designer at the Versace hotel on the Gold Coast. But...they've changed occupations and now are in Italian fashion and can make me an offer which presumably is too good not to accept.

That's when I tell them I'm not buying and say ciao.

I wonder how the scam plays out. Anyone know?

Monday, July 18, 2011

They don't get it.

The News Corp phone hacking saga continues like a runaway train.

Actually, to my mind it's not about phone hacking, although it did start when the public discovered that the News of the World  hacked into the phones of people other than celebrities. That meant the illegality which had been accepted for years was suddenly an outrage.

And although it's called the phone hacking scandal, the real story is corruption.

The UK has long prided itself on being corruption free. It can't any more.  Media, politicians, police all scratching each others' backs with secret deals, payoffs, freebies, exchanges of confidential information.

Politicians playing for Murdoch's media support. And in return he expected...?

A relationship between police and Murdoch's empire that included police being paid for information.

Former executives from the NoW being given well- paid jobs with the police and government.

The original enquiry finding no problem other than a couple of minor underlings, who went to jail, and the enquiry being closed with unseemly haste.

And so it was back to business as usual.

But every day sees more sensational developments. It's not just underlings taking the rap any more, big names are beginning to fall.

The latest is the top cop, Sir Paul Stephenson, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, who resigned yesterday.

There were a number of pressures on him but the one that to me is the biggest is that he accepted a gift of thousands of pounds of free health spa accommodation.

It doesn't matter who the owners were, who arranged it, whether it had anything to do with Murdoch.

The problem is the nation's top policeman accepted a valuable gift from someone.

At the very best it shows appalling judgement and naivete.

And like others being outed in this drama, he just doesn't get it.

Here's what he said:

Sir Paul insisted there was "no impropriety" in relation to his use of the spa. He said: "I am extremely happy with what I did and the reasons for it — to do everything possible to return to running the Met full time, significantly ahead of medical, family and friends’ advice. The attempt to represent this in a negative way is both cynical and disappointing."

See, accepting gifts is perfectly OK for senior police officers. There is such a thing as free lunch.  People will give them gifts worth thousands of pounds and never even think of wanting a favour in return.

Just watch it, this story will grow like a snowball because it's becoming a really dirty fight.  People involved are looking to deflect dirt from themselves by naming others, people are settling old scores, good friends are hurriedly being dropped, there's a mad a scramble as people scurry to put distance between themselves and News Corp. And of course, anti-News Corp forces, including media rivals, are throwing fuel on the fire.

There are widespread reports of Sir Paul's dig at the Prime Minister who he said risked being compromised by his closeness to former News of the World editor Andy Coulson.

And, naturally, not for himself did Sir Paul kept secret his relationship with and employment of Caulson's former deputy Neil Wallis as a 'strategic adviser'. No, that was to protect others:  "I did not want to compromise the prime minister in any way by revealing or discussing a potential suspect who clearly had a close relationship with Mr Coulson."

Very senior people, including long-standing friends of Rupert Murdoch, have gone and are among those arrested. The top cop has gone and his deputy should be next.*  The opposition is baying for government blood.

They'll make a movie of it one day.

Quotes are from:
Sir Paul turns on PM. The Guardian.
Daily Telegraph.

* Breaking News

It's ninety minutes after I posted this and the Assistant Commissioner has just resigned. Things are moving faster than we can keep up with.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Power tends to corrupt...

So said Lord Acton back in the eighteen eighties.

Very relevant to the momentous events going on in the UK surrounding Rupert Murdoch's brand of 'journalism' I would say.

Another saying that springs to mind is 'one law for the rich, one for the poor', but this one is happening in reverse from the usual meaning.

The hypocrisy of the general public is never more evident than in the Murdoch saga.

He's made his squillons and gained his power & influence by feeding the public obsession with gossip and personal details about people's private lives, the more dirt-raking the better. His papers are as downmarket as you can get, with even the once internationally respected The Times and Sunday Times going on a rapid downward spiral when he took them over.

The public's insatiable appetite for dross gave tabloid rags like The Sun and the News of the World the highest readership in the UK. In Australia it's the same with his tabloids versus the broadsheets.

Then the hypocrisy. As long as the gossip and lurid details were about royalty, footballers, politicians and 'celebrities' the illegal means of obtaining the information were not questioned.

But when exactly the same methods were used against ordinary people - an uprising.

It's not the unprofessional, immoral, illegal actions which have caused such outrage. It's who the victims are this time.

They won't of course, but people should take a long hard look at themselves for accepting illegal practices when they were used against well-known people. That's encouraged the practitioners to see their illegal, immoral actions as normal practice, happily accepted by the public.

Then there's the side to this saga that will be society changing.

When the Dirty Digger, as Private Eye* famously dubbed him, bought into the UK's newspaper world he was a breath of fresh air.  He challenged the establishment, as very few did in those days, and broke the print unions which were killing the hand that fed them. (I had personal experience of them when I worked in London ad agencies).

But as his influence with the public - read voters - increased so did his interference in politics. Now there is evidence not only of his power to influence the highest levels of government but of his organisation's illegal activity in phone hacking, fraudulently obtaining personal information ('blagging') and bribery of police.

The mutual back-scratching of News Corp., politicians and the police isn't new but it's reached new depths.

No-one knows how much more there is to discover. Was it confined to the now thankfully defunct News of the World? (Always a dreadful example of tabloid 'journalism'). Was it even confined to the UK? The FBI in the US is looking into alleged breaches of US law. In Australia, where his empire began and where he owns nearly two thirds of big city newspapers, MPs are calling for an inquiry into media regulation.

This time News Corp won't be able to sweep it under the carpet as they did earlier, sacrificing a couple of, albiet guilty, fall guys. I've always maintained that the culture of an organisation is set at the very top. Underlings do what they believe the boss will be happy with, often what the boss indicates he'll be happy with.

To make matter worse, far from making a couple of minor mistakes in handling the crisis, as Murdoch told the (his) Wall Street Journal they'd done, he's made uncharacteristically massive errors. Maybe he's simply lost the plot.  But I suspect it's more that the years of increasing power and influence have made him overconfident about what he can get away with. Arrogance and treating people with disdain aren't cutting it any more.
It needed an immediate admission that the practices were totally unacceptable. An immediate apology and promise that he was on his way to sort it out and hold those responsible, right to the top, to account. An urgent personal apology to the family of the murdered teenager Milly Dowler, the hacking of whose phone started the public outrage.

He should not have refused to attend the parliamentary hearing - a bad decision since reversed only as he realised the severity of the storm and threats of a summons to appear were made.

He should have immediately dropped his bid to buy the whole of BSkyB, 'pending the outcome of the current investigations'. Instead he tried to remove it from the political arena by having it referred to the competion watchdog, then had to withdraw the bid anyway. Calls are now being made to consider whether News should be allowed to retain its existing 39% holding.

All in all, mistake piled on mistake. As I said, out of character and massively damaging to the empire. Perhaps even fatal to it in its present form.

It will certainly lead in the UK to a formal distancing between media proprietors and politicians and between the media and police. Perhaps a new media regulator, maybe no more self regulation. More attention will be paid to the meaning of a 'fit and proper' person in relation to media owners. Quite possibly stronger regulations about the percentage of media one person can control.

Very senior people are going to be held responsible for their actions and lose their jobs - instead of the usual platitude of  'I take full responsibility' with absolutely nothing happening thereafter.

And much more transparency all round.

It's a big, big story and, as they say, it has legs. And there'll be more sensational revelations as it evolves.

* Private Eye covers are consistently brilliant. Do have a look at their website, click on 'Covers Library' and search Rupert Murdoch for example.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Temperatures up to 45 celcius...

...but skies beginning to clear"

That was the weather report on radio this morning and I was relieved to hear the second part.

It's the very worst weather in my opinion, air you have to eat rather than breathe.

Photo. Karen Dias Gulf News

The heat I can take, in fact I'm only happy in hot sunny weather. Humidity I hate but in fact that hasn't been bad at all recently, quite comfortable really.

But the dust. I can't think of anything worse and it's been like it for the past couple of weeks.

In New Dubai we have more than just the sand, we have cement dust from the construction. It gets everywhere, inside the car inside the apartment, onto and into everything.

Including us.

A few years down the track I suspect that there'll be an epidemic of bad health caused by it among all of us who've lived here during the construction boom.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Back in Oz we have a nice orange tree which when I left had thirty or so oranges ripening nicely. I've been hoping they'd be perfect for eating when we get back.

We also have plenty of sulphur crested cockatoos flying about:

The connection is this e-mail our good friend and neighbour sent this morning:

Today, I have been watching from our patio a white cockatoo picking your oranges and flying away with them.  As you won't be back at Terrigal for a few weeks, is it OK if I pick them? ( instead of the cockatoo)

Whichever way, I'm not going to enjoy them.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Not happy

I've had a few dealings recently with the unbelievable red tape in the UK and the laughable customer service there and I'm in the middle of another major problem caused by it right now.

A few months ago we sold a house we owned in England. You wouldn't believe what we had to do to prove we were who we said we were - it was all to do with money laundering legislation the solicitor said.

In reality most the frustration is caused by 'jobsworths'; defined by the Oxford English Dictionary  as "a person in authority (esp. a minor official) who insists on adhering to rules and regulations or bureaucratic procedures even at the expense of common sense." They've also been defined as "a minor factotum whose only status comes from enforcing otherwise petty regulations".

In my experience it's more than that. It's people misinterpreting, misunderstanding or simply not knowing enough about the rules but insisting on enforcing their version of them.

To complete the house sale we had to produce passports, other photo ID, signed statements from people that we were indeed us, copies of credit cards to prove our signatures were our signatures.  We had to prove our bank account was our bank account.  Each new piece of evidence we supplied was followed by another demand for something additional.  It went on for days.

My latest run in is with Emirates and my UK bank.

I made bookings online for two family members to travel from the UK to Australia. I've booked online with Emirates many times and it's quick and easy with their excellent website.

But not if you're flying from the UK. If the person paying is not one of the passengers they won't accept credit card payments.

So I had to do a bank transfer, not to Emirates but to their nominated Global Collect BV. Did that, got a receipt from my bank. Waited for the e-tickets.

Nothing. No confirmation, no acknowledgement, no tickets.

I e-mailed Emirates to ask why and discovered that queries are forwarded to the country of departure. That means it went to the UK, so naturally my e-mail was ignored.

I sent another one.

This time I got a reply saying it must be a payment problem and asking for details of the payment. I gave them the information and they replied that my query had been passed to the relevant department and I would be informed as soon as they had an update.  

The bank, the now government owned Royal Bank of Scotland, had sent me a note that the money had been transferred but I wanted to double-check that it had indeed gone from our bank account.

The website won't let me log in. It suggests you re-activate your online banking if that happens. It won't let me reactivate.

You can send them an e-mail, which they promise to respond to in typical UK customer service style...within ten working days.

Now there's an e-mail from Emirates that as payment was not made by the due date the reservations have been cancelled and I have to rebook. But I pay again of course if I do that.

You might guess that I'm not best pleased at the moment.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Vehicle transfer

I approach dealings with government departments, anywhere, with a sinking feeling.

I expect to sit and wait for hours before I'm called to a counter.

I fully expect to not be on the same wavelength as the people I have to deal with (I've posted about this before and readers have left comments about their attempts to hold a meaningful conversation with bureaucrats).

I expect to be directed from counter to counter, department to department.

I expect it, whatever it is, to take at least half a day.

So yesterday was the day to do the car transfer of ownership and I approached it with the usual dread.

It was a doddle.

I can't believe it. Twenty minutes from start to finish. Friendly, efficient people. A simple process.

For when you have to go through it, here's the story.

I went to the Al Barsha Traffic Department, next to the Mall of the Emirates interchange on Sheikh Zayed Road.

You go not to the traffic department building itself but to the adjacent Tasjeel facility next to the EPPCO petrol station.

You need both seller and buyer to be there, they each need a passport copy (main page and residency visa page) and the buyer has to have an insurance policy on the vehicle. You need both driving licences and the current registration card. And some cash.

Regardless of when the vehicle was tested and registered it has to be done again.

I highly recommend you pay Dh150 for Express Service. If you do, you just park your vehicle and wait in the air-condirtioned office. Someone takes the vehicle, jumps the queue, tests the vehicle, issues the test certificate, brings it all to the office. Ten minutes.

You fill in a simple one sheet form - name of seller, name of buyer, vehicle details/numbers, that sort of thing.

You're asked if you have any outstanding fines, money owing on the vehicle, has the buyer paid you, whether the buyer wants a new registration number.

You hand over the money and in return get a wad of paper, the new registration card in the new owner's name.

That's it. Done. Twenty minutes.

But a heads up if you're served by Faisal Al Hamadi.

"Any fines" he asked.

"No, I'm a law-abiding sort of a person" I said.

He checked the computer. "Ah. One big fine. The police will confiscate your car for one month"


I dash round to look at the computer. He enjoys that. "Just joking"

A bit later he looks at the test certificate - which I haven't seen. "Any accident?"

"A car drove in the back of me two years ago, minor damage and it was an official dealer repair"

"Chassis damage" he says.


Dash for the computer again.

He enjoyed that too. "Just joking"

I don't mind. A government employee with a sense of humour, appearing to enjoy his work. He's also pleasant, friendly, efficient. Much better than the usual surly, unhelpful 'don't want to be here' attitude of so many bureacrats.

So a process I was dreading was actually very simple and efficient and not at all unpleasant.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Oh good, clarification.

Gulf News is pressing on with reports about what they present as the great new residence visa for foreign property owners.

As I pointed out last Wednesday, it ain't a residence visa, it's a multi-entry visit visa available to some property owners. With lots of conditions - many of them not announced yet.

Today GN has a story headed 'New residence visa will increase flexibility for real estate investors'.

Oh yeah?

The story includes some of the usual 'clarification' that we're so used to.

Last Wednesday Gulf News quoted Maj. Gen. Nasser Bin Al Awadi Al Menhali, Assistant Undersecretary for Naturalisation, Residence & Port Affairs, as saying: "Investors who own property worth Dh1 million can get three year mutiple-entry visit visas. However, they have to exit the country every six months".

Today they quote 'senior government officials' as saying: "The visa...will allow property investors to sponsor their families and stay in the UAE for three years without leaving."

So they either have to exit the country every six months or they don't. Wait for more 'clarification'.

As for the unannounced conditions, Major General Nasser Bin Al Awadi Al Menhali has told Gulf News that the full details of the law would be made public soon.

The report goes on to point out that: "It is still unclear if the visa provides investors all the usual benefits of a residence visa, such as enabling them to open bank accounts and apply for local driving licences."

Another thing that's unclear is the Dh1 million 'value' of the property. Is that the price paid or the value now? And if it's the value now, who fixes the value?

Deja vu.  It's exactly as happened with the original six month visit visa, exitedly welcomed but misrepresented by the media and the real estate industry as a residence visa that would restore confidence and increase sales. They're again wildly enthusiastic, presenting the latest incarnation as the answer to many of the problems of the real estate sector and investors.

Take a deep breath fellas. We have conflicting information, the law isn't issued yet, the details haven't been announced, we don't know how it's going to work.

The Gulf News report here.

Monday, July 04, 2011

The countdown begins

It's time to move back to Oz and so the countdown to leaving Dubai has begun.

Like so many people we decided to come for two or three years but stayed longer. Six years in our case.

To be honest, I was ready to move back at least three years ago but Mrs Seabee got totally involved in her work and didn't want to leave. I wanted to go, she wanted to stay - so we made the compromise that so many couples make, we did what the female said.

If I remember correctly my first posts on Life in Dubai were about the fun and games we had with bureaucracy and I'll round things off with what we have to go through to close the chapter.

The first task is to transfer the car ownership and I'll let you know what's involved in that when I find out.

So far I've been told by my insurance company that the new owner of my personal mobility solution has to have insurance in place before we can do the transfer. I'll do a post with the full story when it's all done.

Flight's booked for mid-August and the container with our belongings has just left Jebel Ali. You have to allow for Customs and, particularly, Quarantine (Australian Quarantine & Inspection Service) to take at least three weeks to check and clear stuff coming into Australia and we've tried to time our arrival as close as we can guess delivery of our belongings will be.

As for blogging, I'll simply stop posting here - as I won't be commenting on a Life in Dubai any more - and I'll move to a new blog. I'll give you the details when I finish up here in about six weeks.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Property visa changes - again

When foreigners were told they could buy property in designated areas of Dubai, a residence visa - subject to the usual DNRD requirements - was included as an added inducement to invest in the emirate.

But the goalposts were moved after the game was well under way.

The standard three year residence visa suddenly was no longer available. It was replaced by a six month visit visa - hardly fair to those who'd invested their money on the original basis. It was also a bad decision in relation to both confidence in Dubai being a good place to do business and in supporting the by-then crashed real estate sector.

Now that bad decision has been reversed, partially at least.

A three year visa is again offered, but it's still only a visit visa not a residence visa.

Gulf News quotes Maj. Gen. Nasser Bin Al Awadi Al Menhali, Assistant Undersecretary for Naturalisation, Residence & Port Affairs, as saying: "Investors who own property worth Dh1 million can get three year mutiple-entry visit visas. However, they have to exit the country every six months".

The Khaleej Times report adds that a property owner applying for the visa: "...also needs to open a bank account locally or aboard and is required to provide proof of a minimum monthly income of Dh10,000. The investor shall also get a medical insurance renewable every six months, apart from a valid medical fitness test every two years."

It's a step in the right direction but it still misses the target. It needs to be a true residence visa. And it needs to be simple.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Back again

Sydney was 21C, sunny, with crystal clear air when I left.

Dubai today will reach 44C the weather forecast said, and even with only 24% humidity the air is thick with 'haze' - cement dust and sand.

Some difference.

The fun story while I've been away was, I thought, the ENOC/EPPCO no petrol saga. It's just such a typical story from this part of the world.

No petrol available from two of the largest petrol station operators in one of the world's largest oil producing countries.

The demonstrably ridiculous 'reason' given by the companies - upgrades of the outlets which everyone could see wasn't actually happening.

Followed by the usual 'disappear and say nothing' PR strategy.

Under that policy, the Sharjah government deadline to explain the situation was ignored.

The Sharjah government shuts down the outlets.

Still no comment.

So what happens next?

Let me guess. ADNOC replaces them as the supplier in the northern emirates.

Being an Abu  Dhabi outfit they have government oil revenues behind them - unlike ENOC/EPPCO which have the Dubai government behind them - so the payment of the subsidies shouldn't be a problem. And EPPCO/ENOC get rid of the losses that were being racked up on every litre of petrol they sold in the northern emirates.

A conspiracy theorist would say that was the plan all along.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Christmas lunch flew in...

A wild turkey on my back fence this morning.

I'm getting ready to come back to Dubai, flying out of Sydney on Friday afternoon and due in at the usual unearthly hour of the morning.

We've got a lot of flight cancellations because of volcanic ash in the air, mostly domestic but some international flights have been diverted or delayed apparently. They're saying it will clear within 48 hours so hopefully I'll get away on time.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Then and now



Sunday, June 05, 2011

That's better!

I can't believe the weather we've been having. It's so un-Australian.

We're coming into winter so cooler temperatures are normal, but the wet certainly isn't par for the course.  

The last time I remember a period like this was way back in the mid-eighties. was sunny so I went for a walk. Blue sky. Crystal clear air. Sunshine.

I walked around the next bay to the one I live on...

That's how it should look, not wet and gray.

The forecast for tomorrow is sunshine all day. But then the clouds and showers are forecast for the rest of the week.


Monday, May 30, 2011

We have weather

Australia's the world's driest inhabited continent, and the drought over the plast decade is testament to that.
Not this year though.

We've just had the coldest May since 1970 and we have plenty of rain, 100mm since yesterday morning.

We're also getting things I haven't seen before. This morning I looked out of the lounge window to see this:

Friday, May 27, 2011

Judges and bloggers of one mind

Many of us have discussed on our blogs for years the sentences handed down for public indecency offences. While we accept that different cultures have different sensibilities it's hard to understand how an offence such as an alleged rude hand gesture can result in far more severe punishment than a real crime such as robbery.

A very interesting report appeared in The National yesterday including comments from several judges about the sentences they often hand down for people found guilty of indecency.

"Public decency laws need to be reformed so that punishments can more accurately reflect the severity of the offence, several judges have said."

I've questioned in various posts on the subject whether the courts had any discretion in the sentences they hand down, or whether they are mandatory. The judges quoted in the report have answered that.

"While sentencing guidelines for more serious crimes allow judges discretion in weighing the facts of a particular case, guidelines for minor crimes concerning public decency often force them into overly harsh sentences."

"An expatriate who has committed an offence such as raising his hand in a bad gesture should be punished, but not by destroying his chances of returning to this country to make a living," one lower court judge said. More serious crimes such as theft were not punished by deportation, he pointed out."

The courts have taken some stick, especially in the overseas press, over their draconian sentencing but it seems they have little room for discretion.

In fact judges, or at least some of them, seem to be of the same opinion as us.

It's a fascinating insight into the legal system here in The National.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Two lost weeks

There hasn't been anything to report because I seem to have lost the last couple of weeks.
Dubai to Sydney door-to-door is a long and tiring journey so that takes some recovery time.

Then there's the six hour time difference that confuses the body clock for a good while.

Added to that a virus has had me flat on my back feeling awful for a few days.

But at least I was indoors in the warm.

We've had the wettest, windiest, coldest May days for a long time, so indoors was the place to be.

Tuesday we had severe weather warnings for the Sydney area and got winds of up to 110kph overnight.

They were southerlies - that's the cold ones down in this part of the globe. The weather bureau said it would reach a maximum of 14C but the winds would make it feel ten degrees colder.

I poked my nose out and it sure did feel like about four or five.

The coldest May day for eleven years they said.

The battered body is adjusting to that too, having just come from 42C in Dubai.

I'll just about get on top of it all when it'll be time to come back.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Don't call us...

"Gulf News was unable to get a response..."

Absolutely typical of all-too many companies here.

This time it's from Sharjah, where according to the Gulf News report, expat residents have found notices from SEWA (Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority) on their doorsteps demanding payment of additional deposits of at least Dh3, be paid within seven days or the services will be disconnected.

"We tried to contact Sewa to inquire through their phone number attached with the notice but in vain as no one ever responds," said one resident.

High-handed or incompetent? Both, probably. And just so typical. Make a statement, say something controversial, change the rules overnight, go into hiding.

You can read the full story here.

And on that note I'm getting away from it for a few weeks, back to Oz. I'll be back towards the end of June, although I'll probably post the odd piece on Life in Dubai while I'm away.

The suitcase is packed with sweaters; Sydney will be sunny but with a max of 20C and a minimum of only 8C tomorrow when I arrive according to the forecast. But cool as it is at least I'll be able to breathe the air, it won't be full of dust as it is today in Dubai.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Give and take

I found a couple of news stories about money interesting, coming as they did at the same time.

In Oz the federal Treasurer Wayne Swan delivered the budget which included an increase in overseas aid to $4.8 billion.

At the same time Abu Dhabi announced that it was donating $30 million to our northern state of Queensland to build cyclone shelters, after the devastation caused by Cyclone Yasi.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

More old photos

Here are more of the old photos I rediscovered recently.

These I took in the fish market and the fruit/vegetable market in Deira in 1980. 

Friday, May 06, 2011

Back in the day...

I've been through that forgotten bag of old Dubai photos I mentioned the other day and scanned some of them, so it's time to share them with you.

What's interesting is not so much the buildings themselves in these photos but what's around them. Or, compared with today, what's not around them.

My first apartment was in a brand new building and I was one of the first to move in.
It was in Deira just behind Al Ghurair City. Although back in 1977 when I moved in construction of Al Ghurair Centre, as it was originally called, hadn't been started.

Mine was the top floor apartment on the right of the building. From it, three or four years later, I had a good view of Al Ghurair Centre.

 You can see that it was still  far from the built-up area that it is today - in fact it was almost rural:

Over the other side of the Creek, behind the newly-opened Trade Centre was the Hilton hotel. This photo has a note on the back that it was taken in 1979.

The Hilton was demolished a few years ago but the Clock Tower is still very much in place, although not the prominent landmark that it was back then:

The Dubai Municipality building in Deira is still there, but the surrounds are very different now.

 This one was also taken in 1979, from Deira looking across the Creek to Bur Dubai:

 No concrete banks you'll notice, just the natural sand and plenty of dhows and fishing boats.

There were a lot of original buildings in Bur Dubai too, complete with original, working wind towers.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Signs of the times

Here's some signage I stumbled across in the UK which caught my attention.

The first isn't unique to the UK of course, the stupidity is world-wide.

A packet of peanuts...with an allergy warning to buyers that it contains nuts and may contain traces of nuts.

You'd hope a packet of peanuts would have at least traces of nuts, wouldn't you.

Then a couple of local signs.

An obviously dissastisfied customer of the  enclosure solutions operative  wanted the passing world to know of his frustration.

A reply was added by said fencing contractor:

And another, this one a classic of the way the bureaucratic mind thinks so differently from the rest of us.

From their parallel world you get this:

A bureaucrat sees the overgrown shrub, goes back to the office, writes a notice, gets it printed and laminated, goes back to the site and pins the notice in place. Then presumably puts in a requisition to the environmental solutions department to carry out the necessary landscaping.

A non- bureaucrat would simply have gone back with a pair of shears and trimmed the offending leaves.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Treasure Chest

I've discovered a treasure chest. Or to be accurate, a treasure plastic bag.

Full of stuff I didn't know I had, it was hidden way back behind stacks of other stuff in the dark depths of a large cupboard.

A bag full of stuff from Dubai from 1977 up to about 1982.

I've been sorting through it and I've come up with a selection of photos and some other bits that I'll share with you over a few posts.

A real find was an old vinyl 45rpm record, one that we played at every gig we had with our mobile DuneBeat Disco.

The cover is the fabulous 'Life in the Emirates', but inside it the disc was 'Back in Dubai'...

But I did find a copy of 'Life in the Emirates', on an old cassette tape:

And there was another home-made tape, featuring 'Alex & The KayGee's, Live at the Cafe Royal, Dubai International Hotel'.

Dubai International was one of Dubai's earliest five-star hotels - it's still there opposite the airport but now changed to Le Meridien Dubai.

Back in the day it was the place to go. It had one of the city's first discos, Studio 7, and Cafe Royal, the fine dining restaurant. And it really was the best fine dining, with superb food and service and a big showband, which was Alex & The KayGees.

They started the evening with just the piano player, who was gradually joined by other musicians as the evening progressed. They ramped the sound up until eventually about fifteen musicians made up the big band, then the girl singers came on and finally Alex, the lead singer, with his big voice, big hair, big personality.

It was some show.

Here they are, with some of the Cafe Royal waiters. From memory, they were the first Filipinos to come to Dubai so they were real trail-blazers:

Cafe Royal was so popular that they couldn't fit in all the people who wanted to dine there, so on Thursdays they took the restaurant outdoors.

If you've been to the hotel you'll know it has nearly forty acres of landscaped gardens, and that's where they built a series of food stations, put down a dance floor and bandstand and had many more tables than they could have indoors.

Not a good photo but you'll get the idea. Dancers over on the top right, the bandstand just to the left of them:

Those were the days.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Brits & weather

Three weeks in the UK and I've fallen into the habit of the weather being the first topic of conversation.

Our first week was warm and sunny, so was the third - in fact the Daily Telegraph ran a story last week headed "Heatwave to stay...with chance of 25C today"

But the week between was wet, cloudy and the temperature struggled to a peak of thirteen or fourteen celcius. But that doesn't stop the Brits stripping off if the sun comes out. 

We were huddled in a coffee shop, hiding from the eleven degrees and howling wind that took it much lower, when several women walked by enjoying the sunshine dressed like this:

Later in the week in Devon the temp dropped even more. The car told us that in the afternoon it was eight degrees:

And a few minutes later, even though there was no sunshine, they were in T-shirts, shorts, thin blouses to enjoy the balmy weather:

Last week someone said to me that people had been complaining about the cold since about November but a day of warm sunshine and they were already moaning about the unbearable heat.

I have hundreds of photos of our trip to sort out of course and I might post a few soon. More importantly, I found a bag of forgotten photos of Dubai back in the seventies so I'll be able to do a new 'Old Dubai' post when I've sorted them and enhanced the faded ones.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The fog did NOT do it!

Sitting here in the UK on a crystal clear early evening I thought I'd have a quick look at Gulf News before we find a nice village pub for dinner.

The morning we left Dubai was when the latest multi-vehicle pile up was reported, a story that has legs, as they say. I found it still being talked about in today's online GN, proof yet again that criminally moronic drivers are not being blamed for our too-frequent road carnage in bad weather.

There's an article headlined  "Timeline: crashes caused by poor visibility"

The latest big crash was "caused by heavy morning fog" we're assured.

The other eight crashes listed were also caused by the "foggy weather conditions and poor visibility"

Not, you note, by terminally stupid drivers travelling at 140kph in 50 metre visibility.

I know I've gone on about this several times in the past but I really do need to keep repeating myself. What chance is there of ever changing these driving habits when those responsible for the carnage are excused because it wasn't their fault, it was the fog's.

Note to Gulf News - the fog wasn't driving the vehicles at insane speeds. The fog wasn't driving too close to the vehicle in front.  The fog did not cause the crashes.

The crash, the death, the injuries were all caused by the drivers.

The drivers, not the weather.

Weather drives cars says Gulf News.


Saturday, April 02, 2011

And now for something completely different.

Something that's intrigued me for a long time has to do with racing camels here in the UAE.

Very big, camels.

Big, clumsy and weighing over half a tonne.

So why were the jockeys very small young boys, replaced when it was acknowledged that was an unacceptable practice by even smaller robot jockeys?


This makes much more sense to me, as we do it in Australia, where we have huge herds of wild camels by the way, with a proper grown-up human jockey:

Photo Greg White

It's a rhetorical question, I'm sure there's no logical answer.

BTW, the pic is from Australia's richest camel race with A$30,000 in prize money (Dh110,000), held every July way, way, way out in the bush in far western Queensland. It's about 2,000 kilometres from the state capital Brisbane.

Just a bit of background, that gives an idea of the vastness and sparse population we enjoy in Oz. Boulia Shire covers a land area of 61,176sq kilometres and has a total Shire population of just 600 people. That's four times larger than Greater London, which has eight million people.

The town of Boulia has a population of 300 people and the other town in the Shire, Urandangie, has a population of 35.

So there's a lot of empty space.

It fills up a bit for the camel races, when about 2,000 people turn up.

And of course, it's empty apart from the 250,000 sheep and 75,000-plus cattle that are usually around the shire. The wool clip is approximately one million kilograms weight. Yep, a million kilograms.

They say the largest employer in Boulia is the Shire Council, the main role of which is the maintenance of the roads within the Shire.

I'd say there's not a lot else to look after really.

And on that camelian note I'm disappearing for a while. We're off to the UK in the morning for three weeks.  Not sure whether I'll be posting much for the duration.

Boulia Shire Council has a website - a very good one actually - that you might be interested to look at to get a glimpse of a very different lifestyle. It's here.   Info on the camel races is under 'Events'.

Friday, April 01, 2011

More on the law

I was going to post about this earlier in the week but decided to wait for more information and for the muddy waters to clear. It's still all very murky but we know a bit more now.

Sadly it's another in a long line of victim jailed cases such as I posted about a few days ago.

Back in Australia there was a hearing in Brisbane Supreme Court on Friday of last week when lawyers acting for a young Queensland woman, Alicia Gali, were given leave to sue Fujeirah's Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort for breaching its workplace obligations and failing to have systems in place to protect their workers against assault.

That opened a can of worms.

On Monday it was in the news, with headlines like:

Drugged, raped, then jailed for 'adultery' 
Queensland woman tells of her jail hell in United Arab Emirates

The details are murky but it goes back to 2008, when Alicia reported to police that she had been raped by three co-workers at the hotel after they spiked her drink in the hotel staff bar.

It seems the three men were not charged with rape but they and Alicia were found guilty of illicit sex, and presumably consuming alcohol.

Alicia got a year in Al Slammer and served eight months before being pardoned.

She claimed she had no assistance from her employer or the embassy, which the hotel immediately denied. They issued a statement that they had helped 'including assisting with medical support, arranging for financial support, assistance with the investigation, liaising with her representative embassy and arranging for her family to come to the UAE from Australia'.  

The following day her lawyers refuted those claims.

I told you it was all very murky. It'll get worse as the case progresses too with the international spotlight firmly on the laws here and the way they're administered. Let's hope it brings about some changes.

BTW, if you read the stories I've linked to below you'll see they contain warnings against travelling to the UAE. The only news outlet here I've seen the story in is Arabian Business, who simultaneously reported a UK survey in which Dubai came fifth in a survey which asked travellers which destinations they felt most at risk in.

That's strange about a country that's one of the world's safest, but it's not safety in relation to muggings or violence against them they're concerned about. It has to be the regular reports of people being jailed for consuing alcohol, for verbal insults, for giving the finger and of victims being jailed that cause the concern.

Here's the first story and also
Hotel defends itself.
Not true say lawyers.

Dubai not safe survey.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I don't get this either...

I'm still trying to understand Citibank's 'marketing initiative' I posted about yesterday...and here's another in my 'I don't get it' file:

People are paying a lot of money to eat dinner while dangling from a crane fifty metres in the air.

If anyone who's done it reads this...why?

Monday, March 28, 2011

They're kidding, right?

It's in Arabian Business, not some sensationalist tabloid, so I tend to believe it.

I've checked the date and it isn't April 1st.

The report says:

Citibank’s UAE subsidiary has launched a marketing campaign offering residents a free one-way flight out of the country if they sign on for a personal bank loan.

Borrow up to Dh64,000 and they'll give you a one-way ticket out of here.

I need to go away and think about this one...

See what you think of the story, which is here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dubai 1977

I've been fossicking around at the bottom of boxes and the back of drawers looking for more photos that I took in Dubai when I arrived the first time in 1977.

I found some 35mm slides, processed by a lab I'd completely forgotten about, United Colour Film Co of Ajman.

My first apartment was in a new building in Deira, just behind what is now Al Ghurair City (which hadn't been started when I moved here). There's a photo of it on an earlier 'old Dubai' post, here.

Anyway, in the heart of Deira I took this shot from my sixth-floor apartment:

Plenty of people still kept their livestock like this, a few hundred metres from the Inter.Continental hotel on the Creek.

Across in Bur Dubai, there wasn't a lot of development around Dubai Museum either:

 We had some interesting retail options in those days ( I love the brand name on the box by the way, click on the pic to enlarge it):

 And last but not least, my very favourite of all my old Dubai photographs:

Yes, it's the Imperil Restaurant.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why, du? Why?

In my post of yesterday, which included some photographs I took in Dubai back in the early eighties, I finished with this:

(You'll find many more shots of Dubai back in the seventies and eighties if you hit my 'Old Dubai' label).

Then readers told me this:

Post a Comment On: Life in Dubai

Shalini said...

Great photos and so interesting to see the changes.
By the way, your "old Dubai" label comes up as a blocked page by Du.

March 22, 2011 6:16 PM

Dubai Photo Story said...

The old Dubai label is indeed blocked by du!!!!!

March 22, 2011 9:08 PM

They don't want you to see photos of Dubai in the old days? Why not?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Times they are a'changin'

Rostamani Tower, that's the one at the far left which I've arrowed, on Sheikh Zayed Road:

From my apartment at the back of the building I took this photograph:

Of course, that was back in 1981 when it was Abu Dhabi Road and it looked like this:

Photo: Torri Higgins

That's Rostamani Tower in the far top left, and that's how it was when I took the photo.

To get across the road to drive into Dubai we simply bumped across the sand between the two lanes and off we went. There were crashes of course but not like the ones we get now, by far the biggest problem then was speeding cars hitting wandering camels.

In the foreground is the Trade Centre, then Dubai's tallest building and I took a series of shots at a royal wedding celebrated in its shadow:

I found these photos when I was rummaging around in a cupboard back home in Oz last month. When I've posted old photos in the past they've been received well so I thought I'd share these with you too.

I came across some more of the Dubai Highland Games from the same early-eighties period too. Here's one of them, one of the several Arab Scottish Bagpipe Bands which performed at the Games.

The black & white photo by Torri Higgins I found on Len Chapman's wonderful website Dubai As It Used To Be.

(You'll find many more shots of Dubai back in the seventies and eighties if you hit my 'Old Dubai' label).