Saturday, 31 October 2009

Dubai Properties chairman arrested.

Source: Bloomberg
Photo: Dubai Properties website

Hashim Al Dabal, chairman of Dubai Properties LLC has been arrested on suspicion of embezzlement at the state-owned company that’s in merger talks with Emaar Properties PJSC, the emirate’s attorney general said.
“Mr. Al Dabal is accused of abusing his position and earning millions in illegal profit,” Attorney General Essam Essa al-Humaidan said in a phone interview today. “We are questioning him almost daily and Mr. Al Dabal indicated he is ready to answer questions without having a lawyer present.”
Emaar, the United Arab Emirates’ biggest real-estate developer, said last week that talks are progressing on a merger with Dubai Properties and state-controlled Sama Dubai LLC and Tatweer LLC. Authorities in Dubai have arrested officials at property companies since beginning an investigation into corruption last year. They include Deyaar Development PJSC’s former CEO, Zack Shahin, and Adel al-Shirawi, former chief of mortgage lender Tamweel PJSC.
“This clearly creates a distraction for the planned merger,” Saud Masud, a Dubai-based analyst at UBS, said by telephone. “It also raises questions on the need for more due diligence beyond the financials for Emaar and it may end up becoming a catalyst for a management reshuffle.”
Bloomberg calls to Dubai Properties seeking comment weren’t answered today, a weekend day in the United Arab Emirates. Al Dabal hasn’t appointed a lawyer and only family and legal representatives are allowed to talk with him, al-Humaidan said.
Investigation Continues
Al Dabal was arrested about 10 days ago, the attorney general said. No arraignment date has been set and the investigation is continuing, he said. Under Dubai law, he can be held for 21 days, after which he must appear before a judge.
Dubai Properties is a unit of Dubai Holding LLC, a group owned by the emirate’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed Bin RashidAl Maktoum. In August, Al Dabal was appointed as executive chairman at Dubai Holding’s newly created Property Vertical unit.
The proposed merger with Emaar is aimed at controlling the supply of new buildings amid a glut of homes that drove property prices in Dubai 50 percent lower. The combined entity will have 13.4 billion dirhams of debt and 194 billion dirhams of assets, Emaar said on Oct. 22.
Dubai Properties built Jumeirah Beach Residence, a 1.7- kilometer (1.05-mile) waterfront development that includes 36 residential towers, four hotels and retail space.
In Custody
Al Dabal is being held at a detention center in Dubai police headquarter, al-Humaidan said.
“We’re still trying to determine the extent of Al Dabal’s misconduct,” he said. “When the investigation is complete, all details will be announced.”
The investigation is being “conducted swiftly and, God willing, it will be concluded soon,” he said, adding that Al Dabal will be allowed to meet with a lawyer as soon as he appoints one and his family is allowed to visit him.
Emarat Al youm reported earlier today that Al Dabl had been referred for prosecution on suspicion of financial misconduct. It cited Yasir Amerey, the head of the financial supervision department at the Ruler’s Court.
Dubai Holding appointed Ahmad bin Byat as acting chairman, Zawya Dow Jones reported yesterday, citing the company.
“Dubai Holding and all of its business entities are committed to the highest levels of corporate governance. As such we fully support the Dubai government’s initiatives to uphold these standards,” Zawya Dow Jones cited the company as saying in a statement.

Friday, 30 October 2009

UK contractors snub Dubai over payment fears

No wonder some of the companies are lairy about dealing with Dubai.  The rumour I'm hearing is that some UK construction companies are nearing collapse because they have not received payment from the Dubai clients.
Source: 29 October 09

 Many UK companies are still owed money by Dubai developers for work completed, it was reported on Thursday. Some UK contractors are turning down invitations to chase work in Dubai because of continuing doubts over whether they will be paid on time, it was reported on Thursday.
According to Nelson Ogunshakin, the chief executive of the UK Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE), a significant number of UK firms are still owed money by struggling developers in the emirate, UAE daily The National reported.
Almost £400m ($660m) is reportedly owed to UK consultants and engineers in unpaid fees from work undertaken in the UAE, ACE said in April.
“A substantial part of that is outstanding,” Ogunshakin told the paper. “There’s a dialogue going on between various government departments and clients, with a view to easing the process and ensuring payments come through.”
He added that firms which had been paid were forced to take a discount of up to 30 percent as developers braced for further losses.
Foreign contractors operating in Dubai continue to report payment problems despite moves to ease liquidity through a $20bn bond programme, the paper added.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

New Years Eve in Dubai

Can't decide where to go this New Years Eve?  If you're the only person left in Dubai with lots of money to splash around then you might consider the offering from the Burj al Arab, a 'New Year's Eve Gala Dinner inclusive of a pre-dinner cocktail and after dinner party with selected complimentary beverages'.
And the price? 
Per person the cost is AED 7,450 that's 2,192AUD / 2,028US or 1.349 EUR each.
Photo: Flat Earth

Monday, 26 October 2009

WTF? Swearing Aussie stranded in Dubai.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald
When Sun McKay was manhandled by a stranger in the arrivals hall at Dubai International Airport, he did what many young Australians would do. He swore.
"This guy in a blue shirt grabbed my wrist quite hard, pulled me towards him and started yelling at me in Arabic, and I just said: 'What the f---?'" Mr McKay said.
Unbeknown to Mr McKay, the man was a plainclothes airport policeman, and the 32-year-old private security consultant had just committed a crime.
Almost a month later, with his passport confiscated, Mr McKay remains stranded in the Emirate awaiting trial on charges of insulting and using inappropriate language to a police officer.
Mr McKay has already spent 15,000 dirham ($4500) on legal fees, with no end in sight.
"My lawyer and I will obviously push for a fine, but the penalties here can be straight away deportation or up to three years' imprisonment and then deportation."
A former Australia Defence Force member who has been working in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2006, Mr McKay had visited Dubai about 20 times over the past three years without incident.
"I had no reason to know this guy was a policeman, because he had no insignia or anything."
When the officer produced ID, Mr McKay apologised, but to no avail.
"I was taken upstairs to a small room and interrogated, in quite a brutal way, for three hours. There was lots of yelling and gesticulating; they were smoking and blowing it at me. I was told repeatedly and very aggressively that this was not my country and that they could have me thrown in jail for what I had done."
Mr McKay said he asked for water, a translator and access to a phone, but was ignored. Despite continued apologies, he had his passport confiscated and was sent home at 3.30am.
Mr McKay's lawyer, Mohsen Mohamed Zin El Din, said that just getting a court date could take between three weeks and three months.
And once the criminal case is settled, the police officer could choose to launch a civil case against Mr McKay.
"Sun agreed that he was guilty," Mr Mohsen said. "It is not good for him. I told him to deny it."
Mr Mohsen said his client was most likely looking at a prison sentence of one month, plus court costs of 10,000 to 15,000 dirham, and compensation payments to the police officer.
Mr McKay said he had received little co-operation from Australian consular staff in Dubai, whom he accused of being “rude and abrupt”.
Consular staff met Mr McKay but said that he used “insulting and inappropriate language” towards them. Mr McKay denies this.
Mr McKay is living in a company-owned villa in Dubai's no-frills al-Rashida district.
"For the time being, they are allowing me to stay rent free, which is fantastic of them. But when I get out, I doubt I'll have a job any more. At one stage everyone was quite enjoying the joke. Now I am definitely not."
Mr McKay is the latest Australian to fall foul of authorities overseas, most notably in the Middle East.
In January, Australian citizen Nasrah Alshamery, 43, was arrested by Kuwaiti police after allegedly insulting the emir, Sheikh Sabah IV Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Saba, during a row with airport officials.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Before you pack your bag

This article tells the story of two Canadian travellers thrown into the Dubai jail for a month because one of them had tablets of the medication 'Celebrex'  in his luggage.  Celebrex is prescribed to treat joint/muscle inflamations and is often used to treat arthritis symptoms.  Celebrex is NOT on the UAE government's list of restricted/controlled drugs. 
Anyone can Google "Celebrex".  The very first website listed, "", gives the following summary of the pharmacology plus a coloured picture of the Celebrex molecular structure: 
"Celecoxib is a highly selective COX-2 inhibitor and primarily inhibits this isoform of cyclooxygenase (inhibition of prostaglandin production), whereas traditional NSAIDs inhibit both COX-1 and COX-2. Celecoxib is approximately 7.6 times more selective for COX-2 inhibition over COX-1. In theory, this specificity allows celecoxib and other COX-2 inhibitors to reduce inflammation (and pain) while minimizing gastrointestinal adverse drug reactions (e.g. stomach ulcers) that are common with non-selective NSAIDs." What does this mean? NFI.
The site also gives a history of the drug, discusses the role of Celebrex in cancer prevention and the risks of heart attack from taking the drug etc.
The UAE government's list of restricted/controlled drugs can be found

Source: 7 Days 25 October 09
The Canadian government has warned its tourists to be extra careful when travelling to the UAE after two men spent a month in a Dubai prison for possession of arthritis medicine.
The Canadian Foreign Affairs case worker for the Middle East, Nathalie Tenorio-Roy, described the case as an “ordeal” and said that her ministry had updated its UAE travel advice to warn tourists of the risk.
Rocky Sharma and Stephen Macleod said they went through a “nightmare” after the arthritis drug Celebrex was found in Macleod’s bag.
The drug is not banned in the UAE but it took a month to verify its status and whether it contained any illegal ingredients before the men were eventually released.
In an email to the duo, Tenorio-Roy said her government had now sent out a new warning to tourists because of the men’s “unfortunate ordeal”.
The ministry now warns tourists that they could face “long delays” before they will have the chance to talk to a member of embassy staff if they are arrested.
Macleod, a dialysis nurse, was taking the medicine for back pain and had a prescription from his doctor.
The pair spent a month in jail, during which Canadian officials rushed to get specialist medicine sent from Paris for Sharma, who suffers from a serious ongoing medical condition.
“I could have died without my medicine. I can’t thank the Canadian consulate enough for their help,” Sharma told 7DAYS.
The pair were returning from a holiday in Sharma’s native India and stopped off in the UAE on August 2 to see the “glittering lights of Dubai”.
However, airport police arrested both of them after finding Celebrex in Macleod’s bag.
“I was suddenly in a room with ten other men, I didn’t know what was going on,” Macleod said. He was taken to an isolation room before being moved to the medical wing of Dubai Central Jail because of his illness.
Executive director of Dubai Customs Cargo Operations, Mohammed Al Marri, told 7DAYS that Dubai Customs advertises very clearly in airports and in airline publications that certain medicines are not allowed in the country.
If a person shows their medicine to customs officials, it will be inspected along with a Ministry of Health official to determine if the substance is allowed into the country.
If the medicine is not declared and is found in luggage, the person will then be told if the substance is to be confiscated.
Al Marri said officials always try to act reasonably.
An official at the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the men were held for the Celebrex drug and that the Dubai consulate had fought to have the men released.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Aussie businessmen granted bail after 9 months in Dubai jail

Source: Sydney Morning Herald 21 Oct 09 
Two Australian businessmen have been granted bail after languishing in a Dubai jail for nine months on suspicion of fraud.
Melbourne man Matt Joyce, 43, and his colleague Marcus Lee, 40, of Sydney, were arrested in January after working for three years for the Nakheel company's multi-billion dollar Dubai Waterfront development.
Their arrests came as the global financial crisis hit the local property market hard.
The pair were held in jail for six months before charges of misappropriation were laid.
Last month an independent judge finally assessed their applications and granted an application to hear their case.
Joyce's Australian lawyer Martin Amad said his client was due to be released from prison in the next few days while Lee is also due for release shortly.
The co-accused will be required to hand in their passports once released ahead of the first witness appearance on November 17.
Legal processes in Dubai are primarily controlled by the prosecution, Mr Amad said.
"There's no time limit as to which a prosecutor needs to provide a file," he told AAP.
Joyce will spend time with his wife and three children before concentrating on preparing his defence with his local legal representative.
"We've got confidence he'll be found innocent.
"His wife is over the moon and can't wait to have him back in the home."

Monday, 19 October 2009

Desert safari camps flattened

Source: Gulf News 15 October 09
Unsightly debris meets the eye as you take in the vast expanse of a once-pristine desert. Toppled toilets, chunks of concrete, wooden chairs, water tanks, soft-drink cans, tyres, boxes and the remnants of what appear to have been praying rooms litter the horizon.
It's hard to imagine that only a few months earlier, this eight-km stretch, between the Margham gas field and Al Maha (Arabian oryx) reservation in Lihbab area on the Dubai-Hatta road, was home to 16 thriving desert safari camps. But razed by Dubai Municipality bulldozers, the camps stand flattened today, their ruins still waiting to be cleared.
The melee began in February this year when the municipality ordered eight tour agencies to immediately relocate their safari camps from Lihbab to Al Aweer. A rental fee, they were told, would also be exacted under the new scheme of things.
Municipal officials said the relocation programme was meant to organise the safari tour camps that had sprung up randomly.
‘Al Aweer not suitable'
Omar Abdul Rahman, Head of the Building Inspection Section at Dubai Municipality, said all safari firms were given warnings and they had the receipts to prove it.
Frustrated camp operators said even as they worked towards complying with the order, bulldozers began to level their old camps in May. Some companies said the municipality never gave them any specific dates to move out, while some said they received notices in 2005.
Hatim Nabeel, Camps Director at Atlanta Tours, said the municipality told them in 2005 to choose any location and build their camps free of any charge in contrast to the new fee-based Al Aweer location.
"Al Aweer is not suitable for camps," he said, adding that tourists were complaining. Instead of tourism being encouraged in Dubai, it is being shrunk, he said.
The Al Aweer area, the operator said, is home to snakes and scorpions with Nabeel's employees reportedly killing at least four to five snakes every day.
"Snakes and scorpions breed in the area and they live in the bushes that grow here," Nabeel said.
He said Atlanta Tours was still smarting from the forced relocation, noting that dismantling the camp for a new one may cost an estimated Dh700,000.
Clean-up issue
According to the tour operators, no original material from the camp could be recycled to lower costs. Only the camels were being relocated. "They even destroyed the mosque and the storage for soft drinks," Nabeel said.
The operators are also concerned about the clean-up issue. Abdul Rahman said arrangements were being made to remove the demolished desert waste, but declined to comment on who would foot the bill for the clean-up process.
Nabeel said the municipality had informed tour operators that they had to clean up the remaining debris or face fines of Dh50,000 if they didn't comply.
Rounding up and carting off the safari camp remnants may hit companies' pockets. Ayman Khalil, Manager of Desert Road Tours, said he estimates it may cost Dh40,000 to clean up the leftover materials from the two demolished camps under his firm.
Khalil said the total relocation loss to Dubai's safari firms was around Dh16 million at a time when the global financial crisis was still strong and tourism figures were on the decline.
"Tourists too complain about the long drive from Al Aweer to Lihbab for the safari," he said.
Another company, Arabian Team Tours, lost two camps and an animal farm worth more than Dh3 million. Mahmoud Gabal, owner of the firm, said he only received a letter that said bulldozers may knock down his camps, but the municipality gave him no specific date about moving his camps out.
Hefty losses
"What I have lost already is enough," he said, claiming that bulldozers drove over his animals, killing a number of birds and smashing their eggs. It's a pity, he said, that things should have come to such a pass when "our business boosts the economy".
Gabal said he was not keen on spending more money on cleaning up the leftover debris. In the business for years, he said this had never happened before in the industry. Three similar safari companies have since closed because of losses.
Net Tours said it lost five camps worth more than Dh5 million but refused to comment, pending the outcome of court proceedings. Ali Bu Manser, chairman of the company, said they had taken the case to court and did not want to jeopardise their position by saying anything negative about the municipality.
Required Approval
Omar Abdul Rahman, Head of Building Inspection Section at Dubai Municipality, said that to build a new desert camp, each safari company had to apply for approvals from the Tourism Department, Civil Defense and the Municipality.
He added that each authority had its own regulations; the Municipality's regulations required details like the proposed camp's sketch, the material used to set up the camp, the location and the entrance and exit of the camp. He noted that without complying with these regulations the company would not be issued a licence for its camp.
Desert Environment
Dr. Zain Al Abideen Al Sayed, Dean of Environment, Water and Energy Institute at the Ajman University for Science and Technology, said that the sand trapped in waste debris and litter during the rainy season were polluting ground water sources.
And generators used to provide camps with power were fueled with diesel, which also found its way to the underground water tanks, he said.
He noted that desert activities such as safari trips change the landscape of the desert sand dunes and natural hills which make up 74 per cent of the UAE's ecological landscape. "I am not against desert camps but I am calling for cautious desert activities," he said.
EEG Clean-up
Emirates Environmental Group is gearing up for the Clean-up UAE Campaign 2009 to be held on December 12.
To be conducted across the length and breadth of the country, targeting a variety of locations and sites, EEG said the campaign would not only clean up the environment but also "create awareness about the environment and instill a sense of responsibility towards its upkeep and well being".
In a statement, EEG said it "has led a long and hard battle to raise the banner of awareness about the immediate and long-term negative impacts of waste."
A cause for concern
Dr Zain Al Abideen Al Syed, Dean of Environment, Water and Energy Institute at the Ajman University for Science and Technology, said sand trapped in the debris during the rainy season and diesel leaking from generators that once lit up camps, were polluting the ground water. He said safari trips change the landscape of the desert, the sand dunes and natural hills, which make up 74 per cent of the UAE's ecological landscape.
What's mandatory
Omar Abdul Rahman, Head of the Building Inspection Section at Dubai Municipality, said to build a new desert camp, each safari company had to apply for approvals from the Tourism Department, Civil Defence and the municipality. He said each authority has its own regulations. The municipality's regulations required details like the proposed camp's sketch, the material used to set up the camp, the location, entrance and the exit of the camp. He said no company will be issued a licence for a camp if they do not comply with these regulations.

The Recession is over...maybe.

Yesterday started with an announcement by the Finance ministers and central bank governors from all six GCC countries that “The Recession is Over” (crowd cheers). At 1pm I went to lunch and by the time I came back one of the Middle East’s leading business figures was warning that “the region faces a “second wave” of economic contraction”. What happened in the preceding few hours?
Its no wonder residents of Dubai take everything they read in the local media with a very liberal grain of salt!.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Take the Metro to Dubai Airport but don't bring your suitcase.

The RTA in Dubai has published figures which show the Metro station at Terminal 3 of Dubai airport is the least used of the 10 stations opened to date. You'd think it would be one of the busiest with people heading out to catch planes or to meet incoming passengers, but there's a snag...suitcases are not allowed on the Dubai Metro. Only "carry-on" luggage is allowed because the RTA wants to prevent hordes of people using the train for goods deliveries.  What other train system in the world has this bizarre rule?  Why aren't the rail authorities in London, New York, Paris or Moscow quaking at the thought of their train carriages filling up with fridge movers, the IKEA delivery guys and battalions of blokes pushing trolleys loaded with photocopier paper?
Source: 18 Oct 09
Transport chiefs might look at increasing the luggage allowance for passengers on the Dubai Metro if they are inundated by requests to do so, it was reported on Sunday.
Current rules allow commuters to carry only hand luggage, which has left many Arabian Business reader wondering why stations were built at Dubai International Airport.
Since the launch of the rail system, many readers have left comments on stories asking for the Roads and Transport Authority to reconsider the rules.
Peyman Parham, director of marketing and corporate communication, RTA, told Emirates Business: "If just a few people come and ask us for more baggage allowance, we will not consider it. But if tens of thousands said they would use the Metro if they are allowed to carry heavy luggage we would consider it."
A station at Terminal 1 has yet to open, although Terminal 3 station, which exclusively services Emirates airline flights, is in operation.
Parham insisted that business travellers would still ride the Metro.
"Dubai is a centre of transit and many people travel light. We're allowing bag sizes that one would typically pack for a short three- or four-day trip somewhere. And there are many of those travellers," he told the paper.
But he added that the Rail Department conducted regular mobility studies for issues such as these.
"Nothing is set in stone. We will run a study for this issue when the appeals increase. If the study tells us a majority of travellers will use the metro if they are allowed to carry more luggage, I can tell you it will be considered," he said.
The Dubai Metro launched its Red Line more than a month ago on September 9 and has transported more than a million passengers since.
When completed mid-next year, the Red line will have 29 stations spanning 52.1km and run from Al Rashidiya to Jebel Ali along Sheikh Zayed Road for most of its length.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Expats could face driving test to get UAE licence

Source: The National 15 October 2009
Expatriates from places such as the UK, Canada and Australia would need to pass new tests before receiving their UAE driving licences, under proposals to improve road safety tabled yesterday.
Taxi drivers would be required to have at least two years of driving experience in the UAE before being allowed to work. Other major reforms suggested by a UK consultancy hired by the federal Government included requiring drivers to be at least 20 years old before they can operate some kinds of heavy vehicles and for all new drivers to undergo 30 training sessions.
The proposals, aimed at unifying licensing, training and testing procedures across the country, were debated at a session attended by representatives from the consultancy, Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), as well as public and private transport officials.
The TRL representatives said the proposals reflected international best practices, but some met with immediate resistance.
The suggestion that taxi drivers should have 24 months of motoring experience here before working in the UAE, for instance, did not sit well with taxi officials.
“This is not practical. We already have a shortage of drivers. We need 50 per cent more drivers every year than we already have,” said Masood Hashem, the director of compliance, regulation and licensing at TransAD, the Abu Dhabi taxi regulator. “The sector would die, and the salaries of taxi drivers will double.” He said higher standards were important, but should be balanced against the availability of qualified drivers.
TRL’s Britta Lang emphasised that the recommendations were still in the consultation stage.
Proposals that did not have support of the people affected such as the taxi recommendation, or another that would allow new drivers to learn from someone other than a licensed instructor would not be forced upon them.
“Where maybe it is international best practice, the road network here may not allow it to be done in a sensible way,” she said.
The recommendations were debated over several hours yesterday, as a group of transport and traffic officials, representatives of public transport companies and training experts from the seven emirates worked towards toughening the licensing system.
TRL will send out detailed questionnaires next week, Ms Lang said, and based on feedback, the proposals would be revised.
A final report will be presented by the end of this year to Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Minister of Interior, said Col Gaith al Zaabi, the director of traffic for the ministry.
It was suggested that expatriates from countries such as the UK, Canada and Australia, who, if they already hold a driving licence, are currently exempt from passing the UAE driving test, should be required to take a theoretical and practical test before receiving their UAE licence.
“The knowledge of local road safety requirements is quite incompetent,” Ms Lang said. “Many people don’t know the road signs and are not aware of the safety requirements.”
TRL recommended the minimum age for obtaining a licence for heavy motorcycles or public transport vehicles should be 20 years old.
“Increasing the minimum age for licences has proved effective in reducing accidents,” Ms Lang said.
She said that many countries had graduated licensing schemes for young people because they tended to be involved in more traffic crashes.
A 2004 Scandinavian study found that increasing the minimum age from 16 to 17 reduced new drivers’ accidents by 10 per cent, while increasing it from 20 to 21 did so by five per cent.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Dubai World cuts 25% of UAE staff in shake-up

Job losses continue in Dubai.  An interesting view expressed by the group CEO in this article that lays off = substantial achievement.

Source: 15 October 2009
25 percent of Dubai World's UAE staff have been cut as part of a restructuring process.Dubai World said on Thursday that 25 percent of its UAE workforce has been cut as part of a major restructuring of the company aimed at saving $800m.
In all, about 15 percent of its employees worldwide have been axed as part of the plan to create "significant cost savings and increased efficiency".
Company chiefs said Dubai World's businesses were now well prepared to "thrive in both the current climate and the still uncertain future environment".
The reorganisation builds on the changes announced in June, when management of Jumeirah Golf Estates, Jumeirah Lakes Towers and the real estate activities of Dubai Maritime City moved to Dubai World real estate company Nakheel.
The company is scheduled to benefit by more than $800m in operating savings over the next three years, it said in a statement.
The total workforce managed by Dubai World companies globally has been reduced by about 15 percent to less than 70,000.
However, the reduction is around 25 percent in the UAE, largely as a result of the downturn in the real estate market in the region, but did not give an exact number.
Dubai World chairman Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem said: “Whilst the challenges we faced are not unique, with no global entity immune from the pressures of the world wide recession, we are confident that Dubai World and its subsidiaries are appropriately focused and properly structured to embrace the new global reality.
“Our diverse portfolio of assets around the world, together with our significant interests here in Dubai, provides us with an exciting and compelling future.
"With the reorganisation, the Group enters this next vital phase of our evolution better able to withstand all economic eventualities. Dubai World remains a testament to the vision of our government and the UAE as a whole, today and tomorrow.”
Group chief executive officer of Dubai World Jamal Majid Bin Thaniah said: “This organisational restructuring is a substantial achievement and I would like to thank all our employees and our customers for their continued loyalty through these difficult times.”

Thursday, 15 October 2009

25% of Dubai homes lying empty - Colliers

Source: 14 October 09
Photo: 'Photographers Choice'
A large majority of developers polled at Cityscape saw house prices in Dubai falling further. (Getty Images)Real estate company Colliers said on Wednesday that 25 percent of residential units in Dubai were lying empty as the impact of the global downturn continued to hit the emirate's property sector.
The findings, published in a new report, also showed that nearly three quarters of developers (71 percent) surveyed at the Cityscape Dubai show said they believed house prices still had not reached the bottom.
The poll of 28 developers, undertaken by Colliers, also revealed that only 18 percent had suspended sales in projects until the market showed signs of recovery.
The new report showed that office capacity in Dubai was expected to double in the next year, putting pressure on prices.
Colliers said that the current vacancy rate for both residential and office accommodation in the emirate was 25 percent. It said that residential rents were down by 49 percent in the third quarter of 2009, compared to Q3 2008.
Average asking prices in Dubai residential sales also fell 12 percent from the first quarter to the third quarter.
"It's going to be a long and slow recovery," JP Grobbelaar, director of research, said without predicting when the recovery would start. He added that while there had been no mass buying of distressed properties, Colliers did still see opportunities for investors in Dubai.
On rents, Grobbelaar added: "If I were a landlord I would rent my property to the first person who could pay the rent because rents are going to decline."
The report said there will be around 340,000 units in Dubai by the end of the year and Colliers saw another 34,300 being completed in Dubai over the next two years. It said that prices would only start to recover once demand exceeded supply.
Colliers said it saw office capacity increasing from three million to six million sq m by 2011, saying projections were based on confirmed projects only. It added that the office market had been the worst hit by the global economic slowdown.
Average Dubai office prices were down 58 percent in the third quarter, Colliers said, compared to the same period last year, while office rents fell 44 percent in the same period.
Retail rents, the report added, had fallen 18 percent in the past year based on new and renewed rents in the emirate.
In a Reuters poll compiled last week, analysts at banks, investment firms and research institutions said Dubai house prices appeared poised to fall another 10 percent in 2009.
Residential property prices in the former boomtown have yet to reach a bottom and have a 20 percent chance of picking up before 2011, according to the median forecast of nine analysts.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Egyptian bellydance from the 70s: Heyatim

Heyatim is an Egyptian dance star from the 70s. Even on video she oozes confidence but it doesn't come across to the viewer as the in-your-face aggression we see from some of today's dance 'stars'. Heyatim's style is relaxed and fluid.  This video is also an example of the camera styles back then, where every possible backdrop is used (forest, sky, fish tank etc etc) which can be very distracting.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Men's dance from Saudi Arabia: 'Al Aardhah Al Najdyaah'

This is a clip from Dubai tv last week. The dance is from Saudi Arabia and is called "Al Aardhah Al Najdyaah". Al Aardhah means 'the dance', Al Najdyah is relevant to the land of Najd which includes Riyadh and its suburbs, where King Abdulaziz the father of the Saudi Kings was born and started the unification of his Kingdom. So, in the old days when there were lots of wars led by the founder of the Kingdom and this dance is usually performed after winning a battle... they usually will sing "Nehmadallh Jat Aala Ma Netmanna" which means "We are grateful to Allah that we have won such a war". After the wars ceased it became a Saudi traditional dance to be performed on national occasions such as National Day and at the culture festivals such as Jenadyriah. The King will also participate in such a dance as his father used to.
The drums, tassels, swords, outfits and the other decorations are derived from the old days.

Lebanese speaker in UAE amid Shiite expulsion row

 Interesting article.  About a week ago a workmate told me of a "friend of a friend" a man of Iranian descent, who's been expelled from Dubai despite living here for nearly 30 years.... you never know here what's fact what's fiction so I took it all with a grain of salt...seems it was true.
Source: Agence France-Presse 13 Oct 09

Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri on Monday began a visit to the United Arab Emirates, which has been accused of expelling Lebanese Shiites thought to have links to Hezbollah.
The official WAM news agency reported that Berri met officials in Abu Dhabi, but it did not specify the subject of the talks.
In Beirut, parliament spokesman Ali Hamdan told AFP on Thursday that Berri would discuss the deportation of hundreds of Lebanese Shiites in recent months.
The Lebanese, who have lived in the UAE for years, were expelled on suspicion of having links with the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, their representative Hassan Alayan charged last month.
The UAE authorities have not commented on the allegations.
According to Alayan, the expulsions began after Lebanon’s June 7 parliamentary elections which were won by the Western-backed Saad Hariri camp at the expense of a Hezbollah-led coalition supported by Iran and Syria.
Some 100,000 Lebanese currently live in the mainly Sunni Muslim UAE.

Damas CEO quits over $165m 'unauthorised payments'

Source: 12 October 2009
Photo: Damas website

The managing director and CEO of UAE jewellery retailer Damas International on Monday left the company after admitting to being responsible for unauthorised payments worth up to $165m, the company said in a statement.
Following Sunday’s voluntary suspension of trading by Damas on Nasdaq Dubai, the company announced that it has accepted Tawhid Abdulla’s resignation.
The luxury retailer said in a statement that he had stepped down "due to his disclosure to the Board of what is understood to be unauthorised transactions conducted by him".
The statement added that the full extent of the transactions had not yet been calculated but the company’s initial estimate was that they could amount to about $165m.
The Abdulla brothers, who are founding members and current owners of more than 50 percent of the company's shares, "fully stand behind the company", the statement said.
"They have agreed to commit the necessary assets to secure and repay in full any unauthorised transactions," the statement added.
A special committee of the Board is to appoint an independent global accountancy firm to conduct an independent review and an international law firm to assist in analysis of the transactions.
The Board has appointed Hisham Ashour as CEO of the company effective from Sunday. Tawfique Abdulla will continue to serve as chairman of the Board and has also assumed day-to-day responsibilities as managing director.
The company also said it had adequate funds to meet its current financial obligations and was continuing to conduct business as usual.
"The Board remains fully committed to the highest standards of corporate governance, and has implemented procedures to ensure that the repayment is conducted in an appropriate and timely manner and that all transactions are fully scrutinized in the future to prevent a recurrence," the statement added.
Damas, a family-owned jewellery group with origins going back to 1907, raised $270m in an initial public offering on the Dubai International Financial Exchange, NasdaqDubai’s predecessor, in July 2008, in one of the largest privatisations of a family-owned business in the Gulf.
One of Dubai’s best-known brand names and a leading member of the city’s jewellery and precious metals industry, Damas has more than 500 stores across the world.

Six jailed for illegal DVD sales in Dubai

Hmmm, maybe this is why the Chinese Video Lady (everyone in Dubai has one...) hasn't been round for a few weeks.
Source: 12 October 09
Photo: Fotosearch Footage

Six people have been jailed after being caught selling parallel imports of DVDs.Six foreigners trading in the UAE have been jailed after being convicted of engaging in parallel imports, the practice of goods without the permission of the intellectual property owner.
Dubai Courts handed down the sentence which is the first ever imprisonment related to the sale of "grey" products in the Middle East, the Ministry of Economy said in a statement on Monday.
The ruling followed a raid by authorities against a major parallel importer in Dubai, which led to the confiscation of thousands of DVDs containing banned titles, Ministry chiefs added.
Six people including the shop manager were arrested, with the manager sentenced to two months in prison, a fine of AED20,000 and deportation. The name of the shop was not released.
A parallel import is a non-counterfeit product imported from another country without the permission of the intellectual property owner. Parallel imports are often referred to as grey products, and are implicated in issues of international trade, and intellectual property.
Mohammed Ahmed Bin Abdulaziz Alshihhi, general manager of the UAE Ministry of Economy, said: "Our overriding objective is to improve the competitiveness of the UAE market while ensuring that the interests of the intellectual property rights owners are protected.
"While this landmark court ruling has underlined the UAE's position as the safest business hub in the Middle East, it also reflects the country's stringent stance on piracy."
He said the country would continue its "relentless efforts" to protect property rights, including steps taken to confiscate counterfeit products and levy criminal charges on violators.
"The result...serves as a strong precedent against parallel imports which we can expect to further reduce this type of IPR crime," added Scott Butler, CEO, Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Egyptian bellydance from the 70s: Nagwa Fouad performing "Set el Hosen

If you're a fan of "old school" Egyptian bellydance from the 70s, then you've probably already seen this video clip of Nagwa Fouad performing "Set el Hosen", but if not, its a real treat.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

DNA testing for all residents of the UAE

Source: The National
The UAE aims to start collecting genetic samples from residents within 12 months as part of its controversial DNA database project, the programme’s director said yesterday, making it the first country in the world to do so.
Dr Ahmed al Marzooqi, the director of the National DNA Database, also said the order for millions of people to allow lab technicians to collect samples of their DNA by swabbing their cheeks would probably be given as a security directive and not require the passage of new legislation.
“The first step is to set up the infrastructure and hire the lab technicians,” he said in an interview with The National.
“This should take us approximately one year.”
Then, he said, the UAE would start collecting DNA samples from the general public, beginning with juveniles.
“The aim is to eventually have a profile of the entire population,” said Dr Marzooqi, who is also the chairman of the DNA Working Group, made up of various police forces across the Emirates.
“Our goal is to sample one million per year, which could take as long as 10 years if you factor in the population growth.”
Some officials have suggested that the DNA programme may require new legislation, which would then need to be considered by the Federal National Council.
But Dr al Marzooqi said this might not be the case.
“We are not sure if this will go through the Federal National Council or not,” he said. “It could simply be decided as a security matter and not need the legislation of the FNC.”
The legislative route seems increasingly remote given that a new government department, the National DNA Database, has already been formed within the Ministry of Interior and collection kits ordered to help the police gather genetic material.
At present, only 5,000 DNA profiles are stored, all of convicted felons.
The notion of collecting DNA samples from non-criminals has raised ethical concerns about privacy protection.
In Britain, for example, such use of DNA was contested last year in the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled that Britain must purge non-criminal genetic material from its database.
The UAE has not accepted the jurisdiction of any such body.
Even attempting such a database – in which DNA is gathered from the entire population, even those who have never gone through the legal system – is basically unheard of, said Sir Alec Jeffreys, the British genetics pioneer who invented the DNA profiling system.
He expressed concern over the lack of legislation required for a national database.
“It will be interesting to see how this develops,” he said.
“How this works out will really set the scene for how other countries approach this problem. If it’s seen as a great success which the population and citizenry fully endorse, I think it will open the way for a lot of other countries going down this route.
“If it turns into a disaster for whatever reason, that will be the end of the story. You are the interesting experiment at this point.”
Dr al Marzooqi, who is also Interpol’s single Middle Eastern representative in its DNA Monitoring Expert Group, said he was aware of the project’s challenges.
“We are certain the pros will outweigh the cons,” he said. “The issue of privacy is just as important for us as it is important for the public. We will implement strict usage rules and will take secondary tests in court cases to verify the identity matches.”
Other nations could use information from the UAE’s data bank, but not access the material, he said. Treaties and other international agreements would dictate the specifics.
“If there is co-operation with the country seeking the DNA profile, we share this information through Interpol – only the DNA profile, and obviously not the sample,” he said.
Because each country may have its own database of DNA profiles, Dr al Marzooqi said, databases would not be merged with those of any other country.
“Not every country who asks will be given this information,” he said.
The database, he added, would be “instrumental in helping with unsolved crimes, identifying unknown bodies and will also be a great help in major disasters, either man-made or natural”.
It is the latest development in a string of scientific methods the country uses in law enforcement. Most recently, eye-scan and facial-recognition programmes have been incorporated into the Department of Naturalisation and Residency’s efforts to build a national identity database. The compulsory National Identity Card, intended to cover the whole population of the UAE, also maintains personal identification information that could be merged with the DNA database.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Citiscape 2009

Citiscape is being held this week in Dubai, though the publicity for the event has been so low key as to be almost invisible.  Many of last year's display models have been dusted off for use again this year, Meraas is still touting the Satwa/Al Wasl 'development', Jumeirah Gardens.  Organisers say the exhibition is 30% smaller than last year but first day visitors say its more like 50%.  Meydan is to be scaled back, no big surprises there, the original Meydan development is in the photo below taken at last year's Citiscape.

Development plans for Dubai’s Meydan City, the mega-project surrounding the new racecourse, may be reassessed due to market conditions, the developer said on Monday.
While the AED10bn ($2.72bn) Meydan Racecourse would be completed in time for the Dubai World cup horse racing event in March 2010 the developer said, it may ‘reassess’ its plans for the surrounding 15m sq ft area, consisting of residential, retail and commercial space.
“After Cityscape and after [the building] of the grandstand we will see where we stand. We will see what the market needs and we will reassess our plans, said Mohammed Al Hathboor, project development manager of Meydan Group.
“If any changes are required with the development we will study it accordingly,” he added about the 15m sq ft Meydan City, due for completion in stages over the next six to ten years.
Meydan City will feature four sub districts spread over a vast area that will include business parts, waterfront residential developments and the Godolphin Tower, in the shape of a racehorse.
The Meydan Racecourse and Grandstand will form the centrepiece of Meydan City.
So far, the Meydan Group, the master developer of the entire project, has sold 145 plots of land to smaller real estate companies. It has not sold any residential units to investors.
Al Hathboor added that the plots it has sold to sub developers would not downsized even if Meydan did scale back parts of Meydan City.
Despite sacking their main contractors - WCT of Malaysia and UAE-based Arabtec - in January, which involved the cancellation of a AED4.77bn contract, Al Hathboor insisted the racecourse would be ready for the Dubai World Cup in six months.
All equine facilities would be ready for the first race at the course on January 28, he said.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Samoan tsunami: Six minutes to save their lives

Source: NZ Herald
As day breaks, the homeless walk along a gravel road from makeshift camps and fale near taro plantations protected by the higher grounds.

As far as the eye can see, a slick silt covers all surfaces, a tell-tale sign of the destructive wake of the tsunami.
Cars are flipped over, rubble strewn across the flattened vegetation.
Thick sheets of iron are crumpled like cardboard, and concrete slabs are all that remain of most fale. Damaged timber from homes and businesses is reduced to driftwood lapping against the beach shore.
Locals pick through the debris to rescue what can be salvaged; police pick through the debris to remove bodies.
Villagers begin to rebuild what remains of their lives. Most have nothing but the shirts on their backs. Even with trucks and diggers arriving, the clean-up seems an impossible task.
The village of Lalomanu, right on the tip of the coast, bore the brunt of the angry seas on Wednesday morning. What was once a thriving tourist spot, a postcard from paradise, is now little more than a rubbish dump. Some Lalomanu survivors have lost more than 12 members of their families.
Everyone we speak to has lost a loved one, but condolences are met with shrugged shoulders. There will be time to mourn, a time to remember and grieve, but there is too much work to do.
Help is on the way. As the locals pick through what is left of their lives, a convoy of Red Cross volunteers bring much needed food and supplies. Behind those, trucks bringing diggers to clear the ruins.
An Orion aircraft from the New Zealand Airforce flies low overhead, scanning for bodies swept out to sea. Flares are fired from the plane to mark locations for rescue boats to pick up the deceased from the sea.
Returning a loved one to the land of Samoa is a crucial part of the grieving process in this country. Every effort will be made.
Samoa had just six minutes to save lives.
Striking 200km to the southeast of the main island of Upolu, the 8.3 earthquake shook the tiny Pacific nation to its core, then delivered a knockout blow.
In just six minutes, thousands of tonnes of water surged across the sea and changed thousands of lives in an instant.
Tourist Andy Belcher was staggered how quickly the water came, with so little warning.
Asleep with his wife Angie in a fale, he initially dismissed the quake as vibrations from a truck driving along the road.
The tremors became more violent, not just moving the room from side-to-side but forcing the bed to jump in the air, as if an unseen giant was picking up the room and shaking it.
For at least a minute, the Bay of Plenty couple, wearing nothing but a sheet, braced themselves in the door-frame, expecting the fale to fall down around them. Then nothing.
The seismic activity slowly subsided and neighbours at the Seabreeze Resort called out to check on one another.
Most went back to bed. But something bugged Andy. "I knew something was coming. Something in my head said: if the quake is that big, it means it was close. There will be a tsunami. There's no question."
Thinking there was time before the tsunami struck, Andy threw on clothes and started walking around. It was the first he had seen of Samoa in daylight, after arriving on a late night flight into Apia.
Walking up the short, steep road into the bay, Andy stopped to talk to a couple of teachers who were packing a rental car with all their belongings. The car never made it.
Andy turned to walk back to his wife, who was getting changed in the fale. Then he saw the sea.
"I looked at the water and I swore the water was going out, but I thought I was seeing things.
"So I looked out to the reef, a few hundred metres away. I could see white water tumbling down the back of the reef, white water disappearing out to sea."
The tide was being sucked out by the incoming tsunami, before being spewed on to the land.
"That was the trigger. This is it. I suddenly knew we all had to get out of there. I started running back down the hill screaming, 'Get out, everybody out, get out'."
His desperate cries almost certainly saved those who were still in bed.
Angie bolted out of the fale and collided with Andy who was running back towards her.
"We just smashed right into each other. I was going to head back into the fale to grab my camera gear, but I thought, don't be a bloody fool."
The couple struggle to remember what happened as they fled.
"Nothing was working. I was going as fast as I could, but nothing was working. My legs felt like lead and my chest, I just couldn't breathe," says Angie.
As they were halfway up the hill with the 30 other screaming tourists, a big, brown muddy surge flooded the bay.
"I saw the wave come over the bank, smash over it. It must have been four or five metres high. It wasn't far behind us. Not far. Not far at all," says Andy.
As the couple scrambled to safety, the wall of water consumed the beachside fales, the Seabreeze restaurant and the resort owners' home. Everything was swept out to sea, including the parked car on the side of the hill, alarm blaring as it bobbed in the angry ocean.
Three times the tsunami rolled in and out, each time larger than the last, the roar of the ocean deafening.
The basin shape of the bay forced the water to surge in like a flushing toilet, swirling right to left in a big loop.
"The sea just boiled, whirling, whirling, whirling," says Angie.
Then there was calm.
The tourists gathered on the hillside and were shepherded into a surviving fale by the locals. With cellphone reception down, everyone was desperate to get in touch with loved ones back home.
"No one could get a signal. Then all of a sudden, lots of text messages came through. Then there was this panic on the phones. It was bizarre," says Angie.
Among the messages, was a tsunami text warning from Civil Defence, 30 minutes after the fact.
"Six minutes. That's all we had. It was staggering how quick it was. Just six minutes. But we were meant to survive," says Andy.
As the group were picked up to be taken by truck to the New Zealand High Commission in Apia, a woman was told that her friend Tui Annandale, the owner of the nearby Sinalei resort, had been killed.
"There was this silence, then this terrible wailing. The sound of grief. As the truck left, this woman standing in the middle of the road and a Samoan lady just came and wrapped her arms around her," says Angie.
"Just this framed picture of absolute grief that I'll never forget."
Foreign Minister Murray McCully arrived in Apia yesterday, visiting Lalomanu, then returning to meet the Samoan Prime Minister Sailele Malielegaoi Tuilaepa.
New Zealand has promised an initial $1 million in aid, and every cent will be needed to nurse Samoa and Tonga back to full health.
New Zealand police officers arrived in Apia the day after the tragedy, providing manpower and expertise in victim identification. It is gruelling and painstaking work.
With a death toll second only to the influenza epidemic of 1918, the effects of the tsunami will be felt for many years in Samoa. In some families entire generations are gone.
Less than 12 hours after the tsunami struck, the Weekend Herald was allowed to enter the grounds of Motootua Hospital where the dead and injured were being taken. Ambulances arrived with body after body, to be carried into the chapel for post-mortem examinations. They were wrapped in blankets or tarpaulins, and you could tell that many were children.
There was no more room in the morgue, so a makeshift chiller was set up to house the growing body count.
It was truly harrowing.
Dr Limbo Fiu took a break to explain the ever-changing tragedy.
At that stage, 79 people were confirmed dead, mainly children and elderly. The youngest was just two months old, the oldest a 102-year-old woman.
Two pregnant mothers were given emergency caesarean births. There were not enough staff to cope; retired nurses and teachers came in to help.
Despite the chaos, Dr Fiu was composed under pressure, and honest.
"I've never seen this kind of devastation. It's unprecedented in the history of our country."
The Belchers, who were in Samoa to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary, admit they were the lucky ones. They lived to tell the tale.
Yesterday, 65-year-old Andy visited the stricken southeast coast with the Weekend Herald and was visibly moved.
He was in tears as he surveyed the desolation. He and Angie had planned to fly back to New Zealand on the next available flight, but have now decided to stay.
Seeing so many destroyed lives up close has rammed home the magnitude of the tsunami and its devastating effect on Samoa. "We're so lucky compared to everyone else in this disaster", he says. "We're just thankful to be alive. This is not something easily forgotten."

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Expat workforce is GCC's biggest issue says ex WTO chief (Mike Moore)

Mike Moore, the former director general of the World Trade Organisation has warned the GCC that its migrant workforce is an issue that needs to be tackled. The former director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has named the Gulf’s sprawling migrant workforce as potentially the biggest issue facing the region today.
Mike Moore, a former prime minister of New Zealand, warned that the sheer number of expatriates residing in the oil-rich Gulf states was tantamount to colonisation.
The GCC is dependent on imported labour, with an estimated 13 million foreign workers residing in its six states and comprising about 37% of the population.  In Dubai, expats outnumber citizens by five to one.
Moore admitted there was no ready solution to the demographic imbalance, but said the region’s monarchies acted as a buffer against the foreign workforce.
“It’s not the power the monarch has, it’s the power they deny the people,” he told Arabian Business on the sidelines of the QFinance Global Debates. “What is certain is that [their solution] will not conform to the think-tanks of North America or Britain.”
His comments chime with those of Bahrain Labour Minister Dr Majeed Al Alawi, who has lobbied openly for the introduction of a residency cap for unskilled migrants, enforcing a maximum five-year stay in the Gulf.
“We need to protect society, and our identity as an Arab nation, without being racist,” he told Arabian Business in June, warning that the local population risked being alienated by the influx of expats.
Moore also criticised the creeping trend among Gulf states to buy up foreign farmland in developing countries; a move aimed at shoring up food security. He accused Western leaders of “pulling their punches” by failing to protest the buy-up of land in developing countries.
“People are too polite and we pull our punches. There is this cultural cringe in Europeans, with their history, and those of us with Western economic experience,” he said. “A lot of people worry that if they offend the region, they won’t get the business. But it’s a moral decision – we should be more robust.”
Some of the largest deals include Saudi’s acquisition of 500,000 hectares of land in Tanzania, and the UAE’s purchase of 400,000 hectares in Sudan.
“I think this could well end in tears. It’s a simplistic sort of food security, and it didn’t work for the British Empire which was built on it. My country was a bloody farm for years. Real food security is being able to buy from 20 different sources, so if things are bad in Uruguay, you can go into South Africa, and encourage competition in the market,” he said.
During his tenure at the WTO, Moore was the architect of the Doha round of trade negotiations in 2001. The talks aimed to slash farm subsidies and agricultural tariffs with the goal of helping poor countries to grow through trade.
The Doha round is now the longest-running set of multilateral trade talks in history.