Monday, 30 June 2008

"I'm my own Grandpa"

Can you believe it? There are people in the world who actually doubt the existence of the song "I'm my own Grandpa." So here's the proof:

Many, many years ago when I was twenty-three
I was married to a widow who was pretty as could be.
This widow had a grown-up daughter who had hair of red.
My father fell in love with her and soon they, too, were wed.

This made my dad my son-in-law and changed my very life
For my daughter was my mother, 'cause she was my father's wife.
To complicate the matter, even though it brought me joy
I soon became the father of a bouncing baby boy.

My little baby then became a brother-in-law to dad
And so became my uncle, though it made me very sad
For if he was my uncle, then that also made him brother
To the widow's grown-up daughter, who, of course, was my step-mother.

My father's wife then had a son who kept them on the run
And he became my grand-child, 'cause he was my daughter's son.
My wife is now my mother's mother, and it makes me blue
Because, although she is my wife, she's my grandmother too.

If my wife is my grandmother, then I am her grandchild
And every time I think of it, it nearly drives me wild
For now I have become the strangest case you ever saw
(This has got to be the strangest thing I ever saw)
As husband of my grandmother, I am my own grandpaw.

I'm my own grandpaw
I'm my own grandpaw
It sounds funny I know
but it really is so
Oh, I'm my own grandpaw.

We're engaged.

We spent last weekend at Bab al Shams the desert resort about 45 minutes out of Dubai, cheapo me, I'd been waiting for the summer specials to start. There are photos of the tanoura dancer and the bellydancer who performed at the hotel's desert restaurant here.

On Friday afternoon over our second bottle of champagne, Colin asked me to marry him and once I got over the shock I said 'yes' and we are now engaged (no date or place planned yet).

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Designer Dishdashes come to Dubai

Tom Ford dishdashas to hit Dubai
Legendary fashion designer Tom Ford is creating a signature line of dishdashas for Arab men. Picture for illustrative purposes only. (Getty Images)Tom Ford, who turned Gucci into a global colossus during his ten years as creative director for the fashion house, is creating a signature line of dishdashas for fashion-conscious Arab men.

Rumours of the launch have been circulating since last year, but Sheikh Majed Al-Sabah, owner of Villa Moda, confirmed the news in an interview with fashion magazine Grazia.

Al-Sabah did not announce a date for the arrival of the Arabic men’s line, but hinted that it would be “very soon”.

The range looks certain to create a buzz for Villa Moda’s new multi-brand store, which is set to open within weeks at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) mall.

The store will be the first to offer Tom Ford fashion in the Middle East.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Visa u-turn in Dubai

An article from the Arabian Business website today:

Dubai risks scaring off investors with visa u-turn

From Tuesday, 24 June 2008

INVESTOR CONFIDENCE: ING said the announcement expat homeowners in Dubai are not automatically entitled to long-term residency could hit property sales. Foreigners could be less likely to buy properties in Dubai after the emirate's real estate regulator said expatriate homeowners are not automatically entitled to long-term residency rights, ING said on Tuesday.

"There is no direct link between owning a property in Dubai and obtaining a residency visa", Chief Executive of the emirate's Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA), Marwan bin Ghalita, was quoted by daily Gulf News as saying on Tuesday. (my emphasis)

The comments were contrary to prior statements from local developers such as Emaar Properties, the Arab world's largest real estate firm by market value, ING said, noting the remarks could trigger "negative sentiment" and impact Emaar's stock.
Dubai, the commercial hub of the Arab world, has witnessed a property boom since the government allowed foreigners to invest in properties in 2002. The emirate passed a real estate law in 2006 allowing foreign freehold ownership in some areas.

Expatriates from neighbouring countries facing political instability, such as Pakistan, Lebanon and Iran, have been lured to Dubai largely on the assumption that owning a property would entitle them to long-term visas, ING said.

"People from politically/economically unstable countries in the region bought residences in Dubai assuming they would automatically be granted residency, a huge asset to have if the situation in their home countries turned sour," ING said.

"Dubai was the only market in the region to offer such a link."

But bin Ghalita's comments on Tuesday raised questions about whether the promise of residency from developers, including state-owned Dubai Properties and Nakheel, has legal backing, ING said.

"Developers should not lure investors to the property sector with a promise of residence visa," bin Ghalita was quoted as saying.

The existence of "safety homes" in Dubai has been a key factor driving demand, and any decision by regulators to review the visa status of existing homeowners would create a "legal minefield" and could hit the emirate's image, ING said.

"Owners will feel they have been sold a worthless investment and what's more by developers that are all linked very closely to the state in Dubai," the bank said.

Shares of Emaar Properties slipped 0.45 percent on Tuesday while those of Union Properties fell 2.68 percent.

The regulator, meanwhile, has submitted a proposal to the government to grant foreigner homeowners visit visas, a rule that could also apply to existing homeowners if it is approved, bin Ghalita said.

Foreigners comprise more than 80 percent of the population in the United Arab Emirates, home to about 4.1 million people, the majority from the Indian subcontinent, Iran and other Arab countries. (Reuters)

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

A sh*tty story

Dubai's struggling to provide the infrastructure required to keep pace with the rate of development here. The challenges that come with the resulting enormous population increase are really brought home by sights like that shown above. All the trucks in this queue, which stretches for kilometres into the distance, are carrying raw sewerage from Dubai and waiting to unload it at the Al Aweer treatment plant behind International City. The queue is there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. According to the Gulf News, the Al Aweer sewage plant was originally designed to cope with 57 million gallons a day, but is currently running at 70 per cent above design capacity and actually processes 101 million gallons a day.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Madame's Revenge

Madame and her Italian friend

Madame came home after her week in the slammer, and she was annoyed, anyone could see that, one look in her headlights was enough to know that this was a 505bhp beast in a Very Bad Mood. First day and Colin had her for the day, "Are you sure you want to take her?" I asked "She's really cross with you." He shot me a look that said, "Get a life, its just a car, a machine, a collection of metal and electronics incapable of independent thought and acts of revenge." At noon I got a phone call from him saying that Madame's air-con was playing up, and that he and his MD were stuck in the traffic with the inside temp in the car heading towards 50+ because, get this, not only was the cooling not working, but the heater had started pouring out hot air too.......just a machine.....totally incapable of acts of revenge........

(I've had her every day since then and she's purring along like a smug little kitten scaring all the little cars and doing what she does best.)

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Skype users beware

Skype is running again in the UAE for computer to computer calls, some people can call landlines but others can't. If a user wants to add credit to their Skype account they are forced by Skype to use a UK site called Moneybookers. I was punted onto the Moneybookers site when I clicked "add credit" on my Skype page only to find that I couldn't get into the Moneybookers site initially because UAE users have to use a VPN to access Skype and Moneybookers won't accept contacts from anonymous proxies. The only thing to do is disconnect from Skype and close the VPN, then go back onto the net and into the Moneybookers website direct. First, you are asked to intially register and you're sent a confirmation email. You then go back into the Moneybookers site and after completing the registration process which includes giving all credit card details, to my horror they immediately blocked access to my Moneybookers 'account' (if such a thing even existed). It was instantaneous: I gave the cc details and immediately I was "blocked". Yes there's sufficient credit on the card. Moneybookers have a complaints "process" on their website so I've filled out the form, probably a completely pointless exercise, if I get a response at all it'll be one of those smarmy "....your complaint will be handled by the first available customer care consultant..." They have the cc details and that's all they wanted. This has been my experience with Moneybookers this morning and all I can say after my experience is 'Beware'.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Facebook and You Tube blocked in the UAE?

Happy to be proved wrong but like a lot of people in Dubai I haven't been able to access either Facebook or YouTube for 3-4 days. I assume that like Skype (see entry below) they've both now been blocked. No luck using a VPN over the weekend and today I can't even access the websites for either H.S.S. or T.C. We're with Etisalat. Friends with 'du', the other comms company here in Dubai, say they can still access Facebook and YouTube, but its "up and down". If Etisalat has barred the sites then du won't be far behind.

Here's what happens:

Facebook: the sign-in page comes up as normal, I type in my password, press enter and get bounced straight back to the sign-in page, repeat ad infinitum.

YouTube: the site comes up ok, type in subject, maybe something innocuous like "kittens playing", press enter, the little Ouroboros thing comes up in the middle of the black screen followed by the words "This video is no longer available". Also "not available" to protect the public, due to the obviously corrupting nature of the content are tips on propogating tomatoes, my own videos of John driving the Lambo, Crufts Dog Show, bellydance, pro wrestling, and even instructions on textured finishes for painted walls (for some reason this reminds me of Lister's crocheted hat and "Wall-papering, Painting, and Stippling - a DIY guide".)

If anyone's having better luck let me know.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Soccer: Australia -v- Iraq ticket ripoff

Ticket prices have just been confirmed for the Aus-v-Iraq match to be played in Dubai tonight. There is a euphemistically named "two tier" price system in place: 20 dirhams ($US5.45) for Iraqis/Arab nationals and 356 dirhams ($US100) for expats. That's not just a tier mate, that's the whole bloody grandstand!

But this bit of shiftiness and some other unsportsmanlike incidents pre-game have not gone unnoticed out there in the Real World with an article already in the Melbourne Age. I'm annoyed and I'm not even Australian!

Friday, 6 June 2008

Skype blocked in the UAE

Skype is a software programme, created in Estonia, which allows users to make phone calls from their PCs. Calls made to other Skype users are free and there's a small fee for calls to landlines and cell phones. I can make calls to NZ, talk for 15-20 mins and it only costs around 40c US.

Access to Skype is now blocked (again) in the UAE. It was banned previously (2005-ish) but people got around it by using VPNs but now that doesn't work either. Attempts to access the Skype website result in this message:

'We apologize the site you are attempting to visit has been blocked due to its content being inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates.'

I don't understand how making phone calls to family and friends overseas is "inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the UAE". Inconsistent with profit making more like it........

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

How architectural plans are interpreted on site

Another one for the 'Only in Dubai' department.

Madame is not amused.

Madame seems to have her own fanclub :-) The latest news is that she served only 4 days of her sentence and then we bailed her out of the Big House. Up until recently, you could pay the fine plus 100 dirhams per day for each day of impound and keep the car. We were *told* that people could no longer do this, but in true Dubai style that wasn't true at all. After 3 days without Madame Colin asked the question, paid the cash and got the car back immediately.

Madame however, was not amused. To show her displeasure she blew her alternator which means she's now sitting out at the Audi dealers having a nice time with all the other Audis (her peeps) while waiting for a new alternator to be imported from Germany. While she's is out of action I'm tootling round town in a 'loaner' a little Audi A4. Where Madame is a fire breathing tiger, the Baby Audi is a little kitten. So I just 'pull my head in', drive in the right hand lane with the Good Kids and watch the endless display of imbecility and death wish that pass for driving on Dubai roads.