Sunday, 27 July 2008

Satwa: Seen with a local eye

I've posted quite a few updates on the demolition of the Satwa area of Dubai. I'm so glad to have received this email from a local lady in response to my February '08 post, "Satwa: The End is Nigh". As many people won't have read her comments on the older post I am putting her email here as a separate entry because I think its very important to hear all sides of the story and hers is a particularly powerful and relevant comment:

"This is beyond horrifying.

Expats and emirati nationals alike were told that their investments were safe in Dubai, and to this day the city attracts investors on that premise - yet go online and one finds that it is all a farce.

I am part local, residing in Abu Dhabi, my father had purchased a property in satwa some years ago.

Just last year, out of the blue, the government banned buying/selling of property in satwa. We were stuck.

Well, I received that letter that you mentioned, and promptly went to the compensation department.

But surprise, they had no system in order, in fact the chaos was bordering on extreme. No one had any idea what was going on.

I was worried, but convinced myself into thinking that my own government would take care of me!

I expected to get at least the MARKET VALUE OF MY PROPERTY!

Today, however, I was told that we were being offered 3.5 million for a property that is worth twice that amount. Moreover, the last offer we got for the house two years ago was 4.5 million!


And its not just me, its everyone. I have hired a lawyer, but it does not seem to be making any difference.


My father was not originally emirati... he was not born rich, he worked himself to the bone.

Had we taken out our money two years ago, and invested it elsewhere, we would have been sitting on a pretty penny instead of worrying about the rent which is our only source of income.

I cannot buy another villa with that sum, not with the current real estate boom. How am I to make ends meet?

I do not know what to do, I am not fluent in Arabic and am not aware of how I can contact the other residents.

I wish to persuade them to rally behind the cause of fighting for justice and claiming their rights.


Being a woman, I am not allowed to fight my own battles here, and my reception at government institutions is at best cold at worst shocking.


Wednesday, 23 July 2008

No more visa runs

UAE puts an end to visa runs to neighbouring countries

Published: July 23, 2008 in the "Gulf News"

Dubai: People from any part of world wishing to visit UAE can from now on apply for tourist visa, said a top official on Wednesday.

The Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD) and the Economic Department met with representatives of hotels, tourist agencies, hospitals and educational institutions at Dubai Police Club on Wednesday to brief them about the new federal visa changes and how it will be implemented.

Visa runs to Kish Island, Oman and other neighbouring countries has also been stopped. People wanting to change their visas must go back to their home countries, said Mohammad Ahmad Al Hammadi, Director of the Department of Entry Permit.

Visa applicants coming back from any of the neighbouring countries of the UAE will have their applications rejected, said the official.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Waiting for the backlash

Not a good week for expats here after the publication in the UK, in that august publication the Sun, of the story of an unbelievable act of expat stupidity in Dubai. In summary, a female expat resident of Dubai goes to a well-known hotel for Friday brunch, gets totally hammered, hooks up with a male expat, they carry on pub crawling and next thing she is seen by a UAE policeman having s*x or as they say in the Sun "romping" with the male expat on Jumeirah Beach. They are warned but let go, then shortly afterwards the policeman sees them "romping" again, he warns them again, she goes ballistic, throws her shoes at him and calls him a "*%&ing Muslim". They are arrested and now both are whinging that they are hard-done-by as they stare down the barrel of a possible 6 year jail term (Western jails are holiday camps compared to the jails here.)

This situation has been widely discussed here in the UAE both in the general media and in expat forums. Now that a glimpse of the less attractive face of expat life in Dubai (the "underbelly" I think the Sun called it) has been revealed to the rest of the world, there will be far greater media interest worldwide and the story itself or reports of the morals crackdown have appeared in papers in Australia and NZ. This is not the sort of publicity the authorities in Dubai like, and my concern, shared by many other residents, is that there will be a backlash against the expats already in Dubai. What form that backlash will take, we will have to wait and see. I wonder if, just as one example, the 'Holes in the Wall' which operate in certain other Emirates and are huge expat favourites, will be looked at more closely?

I would think that the management of the hotel where the brunch was held has their collective arses in a sling - I wonder if the restaurant manager still has a job - and the company's local sponsor has probably received big-time GBH of the earhole!

The Gulf News reports that extra patrols will police Dubai's beaches to ensure appropriate clothing is being worn and to crack down on displays of "indecent affection" between couples. I hope their attention will also be directed at the groups of guys who come down to the beaches to stare at the women while playing 'pocket billards'.

Satwa: Update on demolition

The scale of the demolition in Satwa is amazing/shocking. There are photos taken yesterday (Sat 12 July 08) here. You may recall that we were evicted from our great, and cheap, villa in Al Satwa (not the one in the picture above of course), and had to be out by 1st July, as that’s when the bull dozers were allegedly starting demolition. After a scout around Satwa yesterday and visiting our old compound, which is almost deserted bar only about 2 villas, we find out this morning that apparently the eviction deadline was extended through to 1st September - FREE RENT. As they say “Welcome to Dubai”!

Its worth noting however that its not just the down-at-heel part of Satwa that's going. There are huge mansions in Satwa, formerly the homes of local Emirati families, that are being flattened as well as you'll see from the photos. The Emirati national families receive financial compensation plus a gift of land from the UAE government on which to build a new home but even so, if Satwa's been your home for years and you don't want to move, its a wrench to move to somewhere new.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Peace breaks out in Lebanon.

We're back in Beirut, Lebanon this weekend to attend a wedding. If you want to skip to the photos, they're here. We were in Beirut in January 08 when the political situation was very tense and the feeling of threat and apprehension in the air was almost palpable. In the past six month the political landscape has changed completely as on 25th May, after 18 previous attempts, the Lebanese Parliament elected a President, General Michel Suleiman, and, for the moment anyway, peace has broken out in Lebanon. The airport at Beirut was the first place where the change in atmosphere was noticeably different to January. I remarked to the guy from the hotel who picked us up last night that in January there was 'nobody home' at the airport, he laughed and said that in January 'there was nobody home in all of Lebanon....." In January the airport was deserted with just a few armed soldiers around and our greeter then was extremely keen to get us, and himself no doubt, away from the airport which is seen as a prime target and to our hotel. By contrast, last night Rafic Hariri airport was busy, there was a crowd of people waiting to greet arriving passengers, the coffee shops and souvenir stalls were open, taxis were lined up outside for potential passengers and people are more relaxed. On the way to the hotel from the airport we passed the remains of the huge piles of earth that had been used to block access to the airport in the wave of trouble last month, and while the military is still a visible presence in the city, the tanks and APCs are located only on strategic corners and outside public buildings in January they were everywhere. The soldiers now seem more relaxed where before every soldier we saw was literally on a war footing with his finger on the trigger.

We flew in to Beirut on Middle East Airlines, the Lebanese national airline, which was fine, smooth trip, though an hour late leaving Dubai which meant we arrived in our hotel in Beirut well past 1am. Today we went to the Beirut National Museum an absolute 'must see' with exhibits covering Lebanon's history from the bronze age. We also watched a very interesting video on how the museum encased many of the large statues in concrete to protect them during the civil war in the '90s. From there we went out to the antique area in search of a large decorated platter to hang in our foyer. Found exactly what we, ok I, was after and after another wonderful bit of bargaining by Colin we got it for just over a third of the price originally quoted. Then headed to Monoprix the large shopping mall in Ashrifye to buy music CDs from the Virgin shop there then back to the hotel for a rest before heading out tonight to the wedding at the Sheraton. The wedding officially starts at 7:30pm which means nobody will be there until 9pm - I'm finally getting my head around "Middle East time" - I have the glitzy dress, the clutch purse with fake jewels all over it, the bling, the ultra high heels and the hairdo so I'm prepared :-)

Friday, 4 July 2008

The fickle finger

From the 'Gulf News' of 4th July 08

Judges debate deportation order for indecent gesture in public
By Bassam Za'za', Senior Reporter

Dubai: Flash your middle finger in the face of someone in public and get deported.

Deportation has become compulsory against those who are found guilty of flashing their middle finger in public, warned a chief prosecutor yesterday.

"Expatriates should start having better control over their behaviour in public because, according to the Federal Penal Law, deportation has become obligatory against those who are incriminated of committing an indecent gesture or behaving obscenely in public such as flashing their middle finger, kissing, cuddling or hugging etc.

"Emiratis who commit the same crime face imprisonment, fine or both," the chief prosecutor, who requested anonymity, told Gulf News yesterday afternoon.

Appeals judge Mahmoud Fahmi considers the punishment as stricter than a life sentence and called on lawmakers and legislators to reconsider the compulsory deportation order.

Tight rein

"The recent amendment in the Federal Penal Law is strict. The compulsory deportation order has honestly kept a tight rein on us especially when we prosecute someone who committed an indecent gesture in public such as flashed a finger or had consensual sex ... the suspects who commit such an offence or crime aren't a threat to the society or as dangerous as rapists or molesters who deserve a deportation order," judge Fahmi told Gulf News.


He called on the lawmakers to return to the earlier practice by which judges were given the discretion to issue a deportation order when prosecuting such suspects.

Advocate Khalifa Al Salman, who was a former judge at Dubai courts, told Gulf News: "I am strongly against the compulsory deportation order because it is very stiff against someone who commits an indecent gesture or behaves obscenely in public. Lawmakers have stipulated punishments to deter suspects from repeating a crime or misdemeanour.

"Meanwhile, an obligatory deportation order is inconsistent with such a crime. A deportation order is meant to expel a suspect from a society when he/she becomes more harmful than beneficial to that society."

Al Salman called on lawmakers to stipulate laws that entitle judges to jail or fine a suspect who commits such a crime and grant them the discretion to issue deportation orders against expatriates or not.


A 37-year-old Pakistani worker faces a deportation order in case Dubai Court of First Instance incriminates him flashing his middle finger to a 19-year-old jobless Emirati who has also been charged with flashing his finger to the worker.

"I am guilty for flashing my finger in his face... but I reacted to his and his compatriot's behaviour."

The Public Prosecution charged the worker, J.A., with indecently gesturing in public. The jobless Emirati, S.R., was likely charged with flashing his finger in J.A.'s face.

J.A. and his compatriot, M.A., were charged with leaving the worker with five per cent permanent disability after assaulting him. M.A. was additionally charged with endangering the lives of J.A. and his 35-year-old compatriot driver, M.I., when he surprisingly pulled his breaks and swerved his vehicle against their car.

Violating privacy
Article 121 of the amended Federal Penal Law No. 3, 1987, says it's up to a judge's discretion to order the deportation of any expatriate who is jailed for a crime or misdemeanour.

A deportation order becomes compulsory when a suspect commits a crime against someone's privacy, honour or dignity. According to the same Article, a court can instantly deport a suspect in a misdemeanour crime instead of a jail sentence.

The fifth section of the same Law concerning crimes against honour and dignity, Article 358, stipulates that a suspect who commits an indecent gesture in public faces a minimum of six months in jail, and any suspect who breaches the privacy, honour or dignity of a minor under the age of 15, in public or in private, faces minimum one year in jail.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

It's all in the profile

Picture from 'Xpress'

It won't come as a surprise to anyone who's been in Dubai more than 10 minutes, that the taxi drivers here pick and choose potential passengers who try to flag a taxi in the street. According to the Dubai tabloid 'Xpress' here's how its done, (and there are few places in the world where such an article could even be printed):

How cabbies racially profile Dubai’s passengers

Africans They usually head for Deira, Baniyas Square (popularly known as Al Nasr Square), Naif Souq, Frij Al Murar, Hamdan Colony and Al Baraha.

Indians, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and Pakistanis They go to Bur Dubai, Karama, Old Pakistani Consulate, Oud Metha Road, Al Rigga Road, Al Muteena Road and Al Qusais.

Indian businessmen Great to pick up during business hours as they take business routes. After 5pm, they head back to the aforementioned locations.

Asians The Chinese live in large congregations, either at International City or in various areas around BurJuman Centre.

Filipinos Usually residing in Satwa, Jebel Ali or Al Muteena in Deira. Always take short rides

Emiratis A rarity

Saudis Singles usually stay at hotels in Deira near Al Rigga or Muraqabbat Roads. Saudi families make great customers as they tend to travel to major shopping malls such as Mall of the Emirates and Ibn Battuta Mall

Arabs Risky pick ups. They get upset fast and go to Sharjah a lot

Eastern Europeans Usually stay in Sharjah or Ajman, which means running into traffic.

Westerners Preferred customers. They usually go to new Dubai, from Jumeirah onwards.

Why new Dubai?

Taxi drivers prefer going around new Dubai because there’s less traffic. An evening trip from Madinat Jumeirah to The Springs 3 would cost around Dh25 would take around 12 minutes. A trip between Oud Metha Road and Al Maktoum Road - about the same distance - would cost around Dh13, but would take 25 minutes.