Thursday, 29 May 2008

Satwa: الى اللقاء (See you later)

Sadly, we’ve joined the exodus from Satwa and, after we moved out, as arranged, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (“DEWA”) cut off the water and electricity supply to the Satwa villa on 17th May. DEWA produced the final bill on 20th May. Now DEWA are refusing to refund the original deposit we paid as they're demanding that we pay for water and electricity at the Satwa villa from the date they disconnected the power and water, 17th May, to the date the bill was produced, 20th May. Why? According to DEWA their policy is that the amount to be paid by the consumer is calculated on the date DEWA produces the final bill not the date the service actually ceased. So if, for example, a villa in Satwa is demolished before DEWA produces a final bill for that property, and due to the number of Satwa disconnections it takes them let's say, 6 weeks, to produce a final bill, is the consumer required to pay for water and power (non)supply to the pile of rubble for that 6 week period? I'm sure we'll find out the answer when the demolitions really get under way over the next few months.

The keffiyeh kerfuffle

This article from the Sydney Morning Herald just leaves me shaking my head.
May 29, 2008 - 1:15PM

The US Dunkin' Donuts chain has pulled an online advertisement featuring celebrity chef Rachael Ray after critics argued that a scarf she wore in the ad offers symbolic support for terrorism.

Dunkin' Donuts said today it pulled the ad over the weekend because of what it calls a "misperception" about the scarf that detracted from its original intent to promote its iced coffee.

Critics, including conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, complained that the scarf appeared to be traditional garb worn by Arab men. The ad's critics say such scarves have come to symbolise Muslim extremism and terrorism. According to Malkin's syndicated column (which in the UAE is blocked, possibly on the grounds of terminal idiocy), Ray is wearing a scarf that resembles a kiffiyeh. Malkin said the garment was "popularized by Yasser Arafat and a regular adornment of Muslim terrorists appearing in beheading and hostage-taking videos,".

(If you follow Ms Malkin's logic then the following assumptions must also be true:
1. The Yorkshire Ripper wears trousers.
2. Most men wear trousers.
3. Therefore most men support the Yorkshire Ripper?)

Dunkin' Donuts, based in Canton, Massachusetts, says the black-and-white scarf that Ray wore had a paisley design, and was selected by a stylist for the advertising shoot. The chain said no symbolism was intended.

On her blog, Malkin said Ray's decision to wear the scarf was "clueless sporting of a jihadi chic keffiyeh".

"I'm hoping her hate couture choice was spurred more by ignorance than ideology," Malkin wrote last week.

Acknowledging the "keffiyeh kerfuffle" that had since erupted, Malkin yesterday explained her stance further.

"Anti-American fashion designers abroad and at home have mainstreamed and adapted the scarves as generic pro-Palestinian jihad or anti-war statements.

"Yet many folks out there remain completely oblivious to the apparel's violent symbolism and anti-Israel overtones."

Shevonne Hunt, a freelance journalist, has reported on the popularity of the keffiyeh in Australia.

She said the so-called "dessert scarf" (maybe she's means 'desert') had become a recent fashion craze in Australia, following a similar trend in the US about a year ago that started after celebrities including Jude Law and the Mary Kate Olsen were seen wearing one.

In Australia, versions of the keffiyeh were available at popular fashion retailers, including General Pants, Cotton On and Tree of Life, Hunt said. But retailers said they often sold out of the scarf, she said.

But the keffiyeh's recent popularity as a fashion item is disappointing to many who understand its history, she said.

"Some people used to wear the keffiyeh as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian people. But now, the people wearing it often have absolutely no idea what it means or its background," she said.

"Many Palestinians are now actually annoyed because it's lost its power, it's lost its impact."

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Instructions to the masses

New instructions to shoppers in several of the major malls in Dubai:
Please do not:
~ Smoke inside the mall
~ Leave children under 8 years old unattended
~ Cycle, rollerblade or skate inside the mall
~ Wear inappropriate clothing to the mall (I hope that applies to leopard print leggings!)
~ Display "indecent affection" in public
~ Climb on ballustrades, balconies,fences and railings.

This fuller explanation from "The National".

DUBAI/ABU DHABI // Shoppers are being told to dress appropriately and refrain from public displays of affection by a poster campaign in malls.

Showing excessive amounts of flesh and kissing are cited in the courtesy policy at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai.

Large blue posters are visible at the entrance to the mall on glass sliding doors. The policy is also printed on the maps and store directories which many visitors use to guide themselves around the 223,000 square metres of shops.

A spokesman for the mall said: “Every year we receive a number of complaints about people coming here and not respecting the traditional way of dressing in the Muslim world.

“It is usually tourists who come in wearing beachwear and who are not aware of our custom. We wish everyone who visits the mall to have a pleasant experience, therefore we feel it is our job to point out the acceptable way to dress.”

The Burjuman and Reef Malls in the city will soon be putting up similar posters outlining their code of conduct.

Bruce Von Kaufmann, operations manager for the two malls, said: “Inappropriate dress is often mentioned in our feedback forms and it often comes up in our executive meetings. We decided to act this year and would have done so whether or not the Mall of the Emirates had taken the lead. It is important for us that people are aware of their surroundings when they visit our malls so we advise discretion.”

The signs at Burjuman and Reef will inform visitors that respectful dress should be worn at all times and that customers should refrain from kissing and cuddling.

“Not every tourist reads the in-flight magazine from cover to cover so we feel that discreetly pointing out the traditions and culture of the UAE is as helpful to them as it is to us,” he said.

The posters are currently in the final stages of design and will be put in place in the next few weeks.

Aaron Richardson, public relations manager for Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai, said that there is no official dress code there at the mall. However, if a shopper was dressed inappropriately, management would bring this to their attention.

“We have only received a couple of complaints in the three years that we’ve been operating, although we do monitor visitors to the mall and would advise customers if we felt it was necessary to do so,” he said.

At the Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi, which is home to over more than 300 stores, the management has a similar procedure. Nadeem Wajahat, the general manager, said: “We strive to ensure that the mall offers a wholesome atmosphere for all our shoppers. We treat each [complaint] uniquely, depending on the factors at play. Each situation is considered as important as the next. I am proud to confirm that, to date, never have we needed to involve mall security or the local police.”

Mr Wajahat also said that he hoped that visitors to the mall would be aware of the cultural traditions of the UAE and act accordingly to this.

Khalid Hamad, 27, a marketing manager from Abu Dhabi and regular shopper at Marina Mall, said: “When I go abroad I make sure I am aware of other cultures and traditions. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for visitors here to do the same.

“If I saw a woman in her bikini in the mall it would go against everything I have been taught about decent behaviour. I would be offended.” (Can I say here that a woman in a bikini or a bloke in Speedos wandering around Chatswood Mall or Henderson Square would get, amongst other things, a degree of negative comment too.)
Reem al Hamly, 21, an interior design student who dresses in an abaya and black sheila, feels it is important to introduce guidelines for westerners in the malls for the sake of the children. “For me, women walking around wearing swimwear or other garments showing a lot of flesh is not personally offensive but I worry about the example it sets to children and young people,” she said.

“I am old enough to make my own decisions about what I wear and to be well informed about other cultures but it will be confusing for those who are being taught one thing at home and seeing something different when they are shopping.”

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Abu Dhabi has big plans

If we thought the development in Dubai was mind boggling, take a look at what Abu Dhabi has planned scroll down to the animated presentation. The plan, Abu Dhabi 2030, is to grow the city to a population of 3 million by 2030. To quote the government website, this urban structure plan "has been created to deliver upon the vision of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, for the continued fulfillment of the grand design envisaged by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and the ongoing evolution of Abu Dhabi as a global capital city." (my emphasis)

Watch out Dubai, Abu Dhabi's coming up behind you and they're in the overtaking lane.....

The blog in the press this week

This week's issue of 'Time Out' features a front page article on the demise of Satwa. My blog is quoted several times in the article including in a highlighted boxed section which is very exciting. Judging from the lack of new information in the article, it seems the reporters hit the same walls of silence within the Lands Department that Satwa residents have been dealing with since February. Nowhere in the article is the development company, Meraas Investment Company, named. Meraas operates under the direct supervision of Dubai ruler Shiekh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum and will be headed by Abdullah Al-Habai of the Engineer's Office. Mr Al-Habai is also a board member of Dubai Real Estate Corporation (DREC). Already contracts for parts of the new development have been awarded including for the building of the sales office. If the authorities as quoted in the article are to be believed (and that'd be a first) the final development plan has yet to be finalised. Out in the real world, the construction industry has the plans, the contracts and the names.

The Meraas company website hasn't changed in months being a single page with the ironic sentence "Our site is designed with you in mind", which is amusingly indicative of their attitute to the public - tell them nothing. Binod H. Shankar the former CFO of Dubai Waterfront Corporation is the CFO of Meraas. Vivek Rao, the Chief Executive Officer, seems to an active speaker on the Real Estate conference circuit.

I fear that to continue down the path of obliteration in the name of profit will doom Dubai to becoming just "somewhere that could be anywhere" full of million dollar ghettos. That would be a tragedy.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Madame's "holiday": Part 2

As you know, Madame was pinged doing 183 in a 120 zone, the penalty for which is a AED1,000 fine and poor Madame has to be impounded for a week.
It was decided that, on the Sunday we moved out of Satwa, we’d take Madame down to the Place of Incarceration for her week in the joint/the Greybar Hotel/the slammer. I was going to drive the Disco for the week that she was “inside”. On Sunday morning I went to the garage at Satwa, pointed the key at Madame, pressed “Unlock” and......nothing happened. Tinkle of alarm bells in head. I opened the door manually, oh I already knew what was up but even so I got in and attempted to move the seat forward.....Colin had driven her last so the seat was so far back that it was almost in Karama.....but again, totally dead, nothing happened. Her battery was flat as a pancake, odd considering she was fine the day before.
It took a couple of days to get her going again, we had to borrow a power pack from a friend who also owns an RS6, kick start Madame and then take her to get a new battery. She ran fine, and Colin drove her down to Abu Dhabi to Citiscape, so the battery was fully charged. We decided that the following day she would go into the Pound. I confess here that, STUPIDLY, we discussed this plan in front of Madame and sure enough, the next day when Colin tried to start her........nothing happened....again! The brand new battery was flat. How did the battery go flat overnight eh? Who didn’t want to go to the Pound eh? Who was telling us “Hell no! I won’t go!”
Unfortunately for Madame her protests were in vain. Colin used the powerpack again and got enough juice into the battery to get her out to the Pound. At the Pound there was the obligatory paperwork. If you live in Dubai, this scenario will sound familiar: stand in queue at Counter X and eventually you're given piece of paper and told to go to Counter Y which is somewhere else, exit building, walk round the corner and out the back, stand in the sun, join queue at Counter Y, another man hands over another piece of paper and you're told to take it back to Counter X, walk back into first building, take the piece of paper from Counter Y back to Counter X to be given yet another piece of paper and told to park the car with the Nissan Sunnys (boo hiss). So now the Audi is parked out there and she's in the sun too as they wouldn’t allow a car cover to be put on! Poor, poor Madame!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

And Sheikh Mo said "Let there be rain".....

Here's a story that, once I thought about it a bit, is really a bit creepy. We had some rain in Dubai yesterday and reports "Many UAE motorists making their way home on Tuesday would have put the dark skies and light rain down to just a freak occurrence, but in fact the unseasonably bad weather could have been manmade as scientists were carrying out tests to induce artificial rain.

The Meteorological Department at the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) used aircraft to sprinkle cloud seeding salts in moist clouds heading towards Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain, reported state news agency Wam."
("Wam"?? You must be kidding? "Yes Ma'am I'm the man from Wam!")

"The monitoring stations subsequently registered light to medium rainfalls in different areas of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Wam said.

Motorists could be in for more bad weather as scientists are planning to repeat the tests again on Wednesday, according to the news agency

Maybe taking control of the weather is a way of ensuring that we all stay indoors next time a US President comes to town. If the Powers That Be want us to stay at home they'll just cause a rainstorm.

Madame's "holiday": Part 1

Madame with her American friend

You may have noticed that I've often mentioned "Madame" in past posts. When people here talk about a Dubai Madame they mean a woman usually an expat, living the worry-free shopping/poolside/manicures life of luxury here (that's definitely not me then!) But no, this "Madame" is our car; a 505 bhp bi-turbo V8 Audi RS6, a muscle car supreme. I have her all week to go to and from work and Colin says he gets to drive her at the weekend "If he's a good boy." The car was named by Soirse as we ripped along the Hatta Road down to Oman on a visa run: "This is such a Madame car" she said, and the name has stuck. We're both so impressed with the Audi, she handles beautifully on the open road at speed, but is also very "well mannered" in suburban traffic (which is lucky when, like last night, it took me over an hour to travel the 5kms from BurJuman to the Trade Centre).

Anyway, it turns out that Madame was pinged in March doing 183kph in a 120kph zone (for heavens sake it was on a highway in the middle of the desert near Bab al Shams, we're talking "back of beyond" territory here...) As a result not only is there a fine but the car is being impounded for a week. We have to take her to the main police station in Dubai where she'll be locked up in their parking lot for a'll be full of Kia micro-cars and evil Nissan Sunnys with overdue parking fines.....poor, poor Madame! Our friend Allen's LandRover Discovery has also been impounded for a week so maybe the Disco and Madame can sit next to each other and glare at the other cars.

And before any smartypants(s) say anything, it wasn't me!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Where there's smoke....

BurJurman mall was evacuated yesterday afternoon when acrid smoke filled the luxury shopping mall. The smoke, which came from one of the restaurants, filled all 3 shopping floors of the mall and filtered down to the basement parking. The fire brigade was on the scene quickly and dealt with the fire. However, as expected, there was absolutely no organised direction to confused shoppers on where the exits were to leave the building. Don't tell me otherwise in your glossy press releases! Many shoppers and shop workers gathered in the foyer of the office tower which, in a major emergency and evacuation would be a nightmare as they'd be struggling to get into the office fire exits while the office workers were also using to evacuate from the 25 floors of the business tower. On this occasion there was only smoke, but if there'd been flames, panic would have started and it would have been a disaster. After 18 months the office tower management have still not held an organised tenant evacuation drill. The management hands out a pathetic photocopied book (one copy per tenant) that's supposed to be sufficient. After circling body parts in photos of disaster/accident cases as part of my job 'back in the day' at RT&P, I'm highly motivated to ensure that I'm not a casualty and that nobody I work with is either! So with the support of management, I convinced, ok I nagged, everyone in the firm into taking part in our own evacuation drills. At the first evacuation drill we found the fire exit door to the street had been chained shut. The response was "But Madame don't worry, the door is always open between 10 - 5." Well that's good isn't it because everyone knows that fires keep regular hours. Until February this year the company I work for in BJ Tower seemed to be alone in having any sort of structured and practiced evacuation plan. I'm happy to say that now the Aus Consulate and AusTrade are joining us in our 3 monthly jaunts down the fire stairs. Its not perfect by the standards we're used to in NZ/Aus/US/UK but if it gives us a fighting chance in a real emergency, its well worth doing.
There are photos here.