Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Abu Dhabi Death Could Spark a Dynastic Struggle

Many reports are stating that the late Sheikh Ahmed was the brother of Sheikh Khalifa.  This is incorrect.  Sheikh Ahmed was Sheikh Khalifa's half-brother, they have different mothers.  His father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan, had 19 sons from several different wives.  This web of fraternal relationshops is important and is explained in more depth in this article from 'Time'.Source: Time magazine
The body of Sheik Ahmed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, managing director of one of the world's largest sovereign wealth funds, was retrieved on Tuesday, fished out from a picturesque lake some 20 miles southeast of the Moroccan capital, Rabat, that his glider had crashed into five days before. The 41-year-old was the half-brother of Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, President of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi, the most influential — and with some 8% of the world's proven oil reserves — the wealthiest of the seven states that comprise the U.A.E.
The sudden passing of Sheik Ahmed, who was ranked No. 27 on Forbes' list of Most Powerful People last year, is likely to precipitate a power struggle among several of his 17 surviving brothers as they maneuver to replace him. (The late Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan, former U.A.E. president and the country's founding father, had 19 sons from several different wives. Another of his sons, Sheik Nasser, was killed in a helicopter crash in June 2008.)
Sheik Ahmed was a senior member of the ruling al-Nahayan clan, and since 1997 was charged with overseeing the day-to-day runnings of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA). The fund has stakes in companies including Citigroup, the Hyatt Hotels and Britain's Gatwick airport. Engorged with Abu Dhabi's substantial oil surpluses, ADIA's assets are estimated at between $300 billion and $800 billion. It was Abu Dhabi's wealth that helped bail out sister city-state Dubai when it ran short of funds to complete the world's tallest building — which was then renamed the Burj Khalifa after the President of the U.A.E.
Power and influence among the male heirs of the al-Nahayan clan is divided among several groups within the family; the President, Sheik Khalifa, who does not have any full brothers, and Crown Prince Sheik Mohammed, who along with his five full brothers from a common mother, Sheika Fatima bint Mubarak, form the most powerful bloc within the clan. The sons of Sheika Fatima (the late Sheik Zayed's third wife) control the defense, intelligence, national security and foreign affairs portfolios, as well as the chairmanship of Abu Dhabi's second largest sovereign wealth fund (the International Petroleum Investments Co., or IPIC) and Mubadala, the state investment company, among other things.
As ADIA's managing director, Sheik Ahmed, who was the son of Sheika Mouza, another wife of Sheikh Zayed, held one of the few pillars of the oil-soaked emirate's economy not dominated by the powerful crown prince and his full brothers. Christopher M. Davidson, senior lecturer at Durham University and author of Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond, says that with Sheik Ahmed out of the picture, the crown prince and his brothers are likely to move on ADIA. "Then they will control virtually all of Abu Dhabi's economy," he says.
But there are elements within the family that may oppose them, including the President, who may want to place one of his two sons in the role. Sheik Ahmed had four full brothers, and they are also likely to try and keep the position among themselves. His eldest full brother, Sheik Saif, wields significant influence as the powerful Interior Minister.
Despite the tensions, the dynastic tussle is likely to be veiled. Issues of succession in conservative gulf kingdoms are customarily dealt with behind firmly closed doors, and Abu Dhabi — more traditional than its showy neighbor and U.A.E. constituent, Dubai — is hypersensitive about its image and extremely unlikely to let any split within its royal family become public. ADIA's holdings are unlikely to be affected, primarily because Abu Dhabi's wealth is still Abu Dhabi's wealth regardless of who manages its sovereign fund, and because its investments rarely exceed 5% stakes in any given company.
But whoever assumes the helm of ADIA will be of keen interest to Dubai, according to Davidson. Apart from the troubles with the Burj Khalifa, debt-laden Dubai received a $10 billion bailout late last year from Abu Dhabi to pay off the debts of some of its most troubled state-run companies. "Dubai will be hoping that whoever replaces [Sheik Ahmed] will be someone who is more open to assisting Dubai, rather than this drip-feed of financial assistance Abu Dhabi has been giving Dubai, little by little, humiliating them every step of the way," Davidson says. Sheik Ahmed was widely considered to be among "the most conservative members of the ruling family, extremely cautious in nature," Davidson adds.
Dubai's ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, might be pinning his hopes on his son-in-law Sheik Mansour, who is one of the Abu Dhabi crown prince's full brothers. Davidson says "there's no doubt" that he's the one member of the al-Nahayan clan that Dubai would like to see take charge. But Sheik Mansour already controls IPIC. Will he be given the reins of both of the emirate's massive kitties? It's improbable but not impossible, especially in a country where too much is never enough.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Emiratis get tetchy with expats in the UAE

In stories like that below, the word 'expat' seems, in so many people's minds, to mean Western.  I wish these articles would begin by pointing out that  81% of the population here are from the sub-continent, the Phillipines and other Arab nations.  Western expats make up only 3% of the population.  Emiratis are at 16%.
Source: The Telegraph 29 March 2010
Photo: Iconotec Stock Photography

The United Arab Emirates, and Dubai in particular, has undergone breakneck development in recent decades, attracting foreign money and foreign visitors - in their billions and millions respectively. But such progress also has its price.
"We have become a minority. Our traditions are threatened and Arabic is no longer a first language," says Ibtisam al-Ketbi, a sociology professor at the United Arab Emirates University.
"We are surrounded by foreigners, and live in constant fear for our children because of the spread of drugs and a rise in crime rates," she adds, echoing a sentiment felt by many "nationals," as they are commonly called.
The recent case of a British couple sentenced to a month in prison after an Emirati mother complained that they were kissing in a Dubai restaurant highlights a growing unease among a traditionally conservative local population.
The two 20-somethings were also accused of consuming alcohol, a fact they acknowledged, but said in their defence that they had only kissed on the cheek.
Now they have had their passports confiscated and have to wait as their case makes its way through the appeals procedure. They should find out in April whether their conviction has been upheld or they are free to leave.
It is understandable that many people in the UAE feel they are being swamped.
Before the 1968 oil boom, nationals made up some 62 per cent of the federation's population but now account for just 16.5 per cent of an estimated population of six million, officials say.
In Dubai, the disparities are even greater. Emiratis make up only around five per cent of the two million residents, estimates Chris Davidson, author of a book called Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success.
"Many nationals now contend that they feel unwelcome in certain parts of the city and often complain that restaurant and hotel managers discriminate against national dress," writes Davidson.
In Dubai, Emiratis entrench themselves in neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the city in order not to have to mingle more than necessary with foreigners, whose customs differ widely from their own.
"We are practically living in reservations, and if this abnormal growth continues at the current rate, in 20 years' time we'll end up like the American Indians," Ketbi says.
"We were undergoing natural development until the property boom came along in the past 10 years, and in the attempt to encourage foreign investment, the city became open to everything, including alcohol and prostitution."
On radio talk shows, Emiratis often complain of seeing scantily clad foreigners in public parks and shopping malls, and express concern about how easy it is to buy alcohol.
Special permits are required for restaurants and clubs to serve alcohol, and individuals need a permit from the government. But alcohol is still available in almost all hotels and in many restaurants.
Foreigners are required to be modestly dressed, but in reality this provision is neither observed nor enforced.
Nightclubs in Dubai can compare to those in major cities around the world, alcohol flows freely at sporting events and restrictions on women's clothing are almost non-existent.
The police do sometimes intervene, however, as they did in the case of a British couple arrested in 2008 accused of having sex on a public beach - a story that made headlines across the globe.
Michelle Palmer, a British expat, and Vince Acors, a tourist, were each given a three-month suspended sentence, fined and ordered to be deported.
The Britons denied having sex in public and public indecency, but admitted to being under the influence of alcohol when they were caught on Dubai's Jumeirah public beach.
Their case drew unwanted attention to what has been a fine balancing act of preserving tradition while also allowing in outside influences that can quickly come into open conflict with an ancient and proud culture.
"Emiratis are starting to lose much of their identity, and the presence of so many expats leads to unacceptable behaviour that does not conform to our traditions," said Abdel Khalek Abdullah, an Emirati writer and academic.
"What arouses UAE concern is the massive influx of foreigners due to very rapid economic growth. If officials do not take bold steps, the social costs of this frantic economic development will be much greater than any economic benefits."
Abdullah thinks that "the government must review its development strategy and reduce the proportion of its ambitious growth," which may have slowed in Dubai today but is still rampant in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi.
According to Davidson, the worldwide economic crisis has caused anger over foreigners' customs and behaviour to be more widely expressed.
"The resentment nationals feel about foreigners is becoming more public," he believes. "Two or three years ago, no one really cared."

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Head of largest sovereign wealth fund missing

Source: Sydney Morning Herald/AP, 28 March 2010
Photo: Forbes

Rescue workers are scouring an artificial Moroccan lake in search of the head of Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund - the world's largest - who went missing after his glider crashed.
Morocco's official MAP news agency said Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nahyan's glider went down in the lake on Friday. The pilot of the aircraft was rescued in good condition, but authorities continued the search for Al Nahyan.
Al Nahyan is the managing director of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. He is also the younger brother of Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the leader of the United Arab Emirates.
The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority could not be immediately reached for comment.
The glider went down near the Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah Dam, which forms the lake. It is located near the Atlantic coastal town of Skhirat, about 35km south of the capital city Rabat and site of one of Morocco's royal palaces.
The search could be particularly arduous because of recent heavy rains that have pushed up water levels.
The family of Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is known to have numerous properties around this North African kingdom.
The bulk of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority holdings are in the United States and Europe. Al Nahyan said earlier this year the Abu Dhabi fund sees "significant, long-term investment potential" in both regions despite the global downturn.
The fund broke with its customary privacy by issuing its first yearly statement last week - one of the biggest steps yet by the world's largest sovereign wealth fund to increase transparency. However, the report did not contain information on its balance sheet or the overall size of the fund's holdings.
Analysts believe ADIA is the world's largest sovereign wealth fund, with estimates of its size having ranged from less than $US400 billion ($A440.87 billion) to $US875 billion ($A964.4 billion) and beyond.
Its investments include a $US7.5 billion ($A8.27 billion) cash injection into Citigroup Inc in 2007. Stocks and other equities in the developed world make up the largest class of the fund's assets, ranging from 35 to 45 per cent of its holdings.
Between 35 and 50 per cent of ADIA's investments are typically in North America, and another 25 to 35 per cent are in Europe.
The fund, like other investors, is believed to have lost considerable value during the market downturn before bouncing back somewhat over the past year.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Former head of DIFC questioned by state security

The clock's been ticking on this one since Dr bin Sulaiman's rapid departure from the DIFC in November.
Source: Gulf News 25 March 2010
Photo: Foto search Stock

The Public Funds Prosecution is interrogating the former governor of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Dr Omar Bin Sulaiman for alleged violations that took place during his tenure.
Gulf News yesterday reported the detention and interrogation of Bin Sulaiman for alleged abuse of public office.
The suspect had been detained since Thursday and is being questioned over preliminary charges of abusing public service.
The investigation is based on a report by the Financial Control Department of the Dubai Ruler's Court, which confirmed that such violations took place during the tenure of Bin Sulaiman and accused him of abusing his position in appropriating public funds.
The Public Prosecution decided to detain him during the investigation, which is being carried out by prosecutor Salem Bin Khadem under the supervision of Esmail Madani, head of the Public Funds Prosecution.
Investigations indicated that Bin Sulaiman had given himself annual performance bonuses which amounted to Dh50 million.
WAM quoted Essam Eisa Al Humaidan, Attorney General of Dubai, as saying that the Government of Dubai is keen to implement justice without leniency against anyone convicted in this case. Al Humaidan said the investigation of Bin Sulaiman comes within the framework of complete transparency and the effort to combat administrative corruption and to protect public funds and public office integrity.
He stressed that the step came after reports by control authorities supported by documents confirmed the abuse of power by the former DIFC governor to seize public funds without legal justification.
Al Humaidan said the Dubai Public Prosecution will refer a number of similar cases in the coming period, WAM reported.
Corruption cases
A number of high-profile corruption cases have gone to court with the Dubai Court of Cassation handing irrevocable imprisonment and a fine of millions of dirhams to two former Nakheel executives.
The same court handed a similar jail term and fine of about Dh14 million to an Emirati former executive of Dubai Industrial City.
The Cassation Court will issue its ruling against five officials involved in the same graft case.
The Appeals Court and the Court of First Instance are looking into ten cases of corruption involving more than a dozen officials of companies such as Deyaar, Tamweel, Waterfront, Nakheel, Mizin and Dubai Islamic Bank.
Some have been sentenced and others are being questioned in court. Gulf News has learnt that Deyaar's former CEO could be facing a fifth case.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Trench: Day 4

I arrived home tonight just in time to see the Garhoud Gang and their blue wheelbarrow disappearing round the corner at speed.  15 guys with one wheelbarrow? No wonder its taken so long.

Wonder of wonders, the trench outside the garage has been filled, the bricks relaid and Madame spent the night in the garage, away from the temptations of the Porsche across the road. 

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The Trench: Day 3

Third day, and we still have one car trapped inside our garage while Madame is outside on the street for another night and I'm starting to think she's getting friendly with the Porsche across the road.
We used to laugh at Post Office gangs in New Zealand who were famous for standing around in a group leaning on their shovels while one guy was in the hole digging, but those guys were rank amateurs compared to the pipe laying gang currently doing the 'work' in our street in Garhoud.  As you can see from the photo on the left, the trench stretches the length of the street cutting across all the garages and because its so deep, makes access to the garages impossible for any car other than a 4x4.  Yesterday the pipelayers, the Garhoud Gang, and it is a 'gang' as there's15-20 guys here every day, took the entire day to deposit individual piles of stones at the right hand end of the trench outside each garage.  Once again nobody could use their garages.
Today I drove home breathless with excitement.  Could I get into the garage tonight? Or would my shovelling technique be tested? Could I use the sandmat thingys across the trench to get Madame off the street and away from the temptations of the Porsche across the road?  Sigh, the answer is that, as you can see from the photo below, the Garhoud Gang had been there all day and in that time all they'd done was move the pile of stones from the right hand end of the trench to the left hand end.  Aaaagh!  So Madame was on the street again and the trench is filling up with windblown rubbish and empty Masafi bottles. Meanwhile, the neighbours next door appear to have admitted defeat, packed their numerous children into one of their cars and gone to stay elsewhere.  Their other car remains trapped inside their garage. 

U-turn on alcohol in food ban

As was expected, there's been a u-turn on the ban on alcohol in food in Dubai..  I was wondering how they were going to flambe dishes.  And, as usual, the negative publicity has been as the result of a "misunderstanding".  The chefs thought the circular meant what it said when it stated clearly in English “Use of alcohol in preparation and cooking of food is strictly prohibited. Display and sale of food products containing alcohol as an ingredient is strictly prohibited...”  Seems the words 'strictly prohibited' mean something else, like for example, business as usual.
Source: The National
Photo: Blend Stock Photos
On second thought, waiter, maybe I’ll have that order of coq au vin.
Hotels and restaurants in Dubai will be allowed to serve food cooked with alcohol after the municipality yesterday retracted its ban on such dishes.
In fact, there may never have been a ban. The confusion was a result of restaurateurs “misunderstanding” a circular sent to them.
The apparent U-turn came as a relief to chefs and hoteliers who feared huge losses if they were forced to remove from their menus all dishes containing alcohol.
Chefs from leading hotels in Dubai had approached the municipality on Sunday asking for a review of the decision.
Khalid Sharif al Awadhi, the director of the Food Control Department at Dubai Municipality, said that food containing alcohol could be served, provided it is segregated from other food and clearly labelled.
“We are asking them that any alcohol content in food should be declared,” he said. “We have found violations where hotels are not clearly stating alcohol content in their food.
“This is why we issued the new circular,” Mr al Awadhi explained.
He said alcohol should be handled like other “non-halal products”, such as pork.
A municipality circular sent to all hotels last week clearly stated that food in alcohol would be strictly prohibited. “Use of alcohol in preparation and cooking of food is strictly prohibited. Display and sale of food products containing alcohol as an ingredient is strictly prohibited,” said the circular, seen by The National.
Ahmed al Ali, the head of food inspections, had said on Sunday that alcohol in food would not be allowed even if clearly labelled.
Mr al Awadhi said yesterday that the circular was misunderstood. The municipality will meet with chefs from leading hotels later this week to communicate the regulation and clear the confusion.
Restaurant owners said they were waiting to hear from Dubai Municipality before they made changes to their menus.
Yann Chevris, the general manager of Nozomi at Al Habtoor Grand hotel, said: “I think I will wait for the final word before we do anything. We will have to follow the regulations, anyway. We are in a country with different rules because of the religious aspect of it and we have to respect that.”
He said that a restriction of alcohol in cooking would be a handicap for chefs as alcohol is used in numerous sauces and desserts.
“I think the more restriction on them on how they cook or what they can cook is a restriction on their originality and the freedom of creating,” Mr Chevris said.
“We will change some dishes if we have to and maybe it will challenge people to work around it.”
Uwe Micheel, the president of the Emirates Culinary Guild, said he knew what changes to expect: “It will be similar to how we handle pork.”
This would mean separate storage, clear labelling communicated to patrons “and when it’s on the buffet it is separate from the other foods”.
He added: “I think it is fine and we must not forget we are in a Muslim country and we have a lot of Muslims coming into the restaurants.”
A scholar from the Islamic Affairs Authority’s fatwa centre, the only body in the UAE authorised to issue religious edicts, said the use of alcohol in cooking was unequivocally forbidden.
“It is not allowed to put alcohol in food because it is impure,” he said. “Just the fact that it touches the food makes it impure even if [the alcohol] evaporates.”
The affair raised questions about the law in Abu Dhabi, which is usually considered more conservative in matters cultural and religious.
According to Fareed al Zubi, the chief lawyer at the capital’s Department of Economic Development, the law in Abu Dhabi prohibits the use of alcohol in food unless the establishment, such as a hotel, has a special licence issued by the tourism authorities and the menus clearly label which items have alcohol in them.
Reema Baroudi, the director of communications and public relations at the Intercontinental in Abu Dhabi, said less than one per cent of meals in her hotel were prepared with alcohol, and those were clearly labelled.
“It would not be a big issue” if Abu Dhabi decided to ban the use of alcohol in cooking, she said. “We have not received any instructions from the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, but if we do we will just have to comply.”

Monday, 22 March 2010

The Tale of the Trench

For the past 3 weeks labourers have been digging a trench in the street for new water pipes, or that’s what I gather from the arm waving and Hindlish dialogue. So far the digging has only been on our side of the street and it seems to be taking a long, long time.  On many annoying occasions, residents have found their driveways dug up with the paving bricks left in piles on the footpath and no access possible to the garage unless they organise it themselves. As a result I’ve become adept at putting down just enough bricks so I can drive the car into the garage. Other residents or their maids have shovelled sand back into the trench or have been seen throwing paving bricks into the hole in desperation so they can get their cars in or out of their garage.
Yesterday the pipe laying geniuses surpassed themselves.  They dug a trench at least 6 inches wide and 6-8 inches deep, running the length of the street and cutting across the entrances to all the garages, then they finished work for the day leaving it behind them. Was any provision made for residents to use their garages?  If you live in Dubai you already know the answer. 
A 4x4 could deal with the trench, but for any saloon, it was a non-starter (particularly the lovely Madame and her low profile tyres.) After some high-level muttering and irritated site inspection I realised that the trench was too wide and too deep for me to start re-laying bricks unless I wanted to be there all night. I considered lifting the DEWA manhole covers and laying them across the trench but they were too heavy dammit. There is also virtually no on-street parking in the area.  What there is, is occupied almost permanently by residents parking their 3rd and 4th cars that don’t fit into their garages.
As the evening progressed, more of the neighbours arrived home from work, realised they couldn’t get into their own garages, and what I said when I initially looked at the trench, was repeated down the street in 4 or 5 different languages.
So, long-story-short, poor Madame had to spend the night parked sideways across the driveway with her tail just off the road.  As I maneuvered the car between the 3 foot high stacks of bricks the mental midgets had left on the side of the driveway, I realised that the area's mums wouldn’t be able to get their cars out of the garages the following morning to do the school run either. The concept that residents may need to use their cars doesn’t seem to have been factored in at all.
And now I look forward to tonight’s Driveway Surprise; the heavy duty brickies’ gloves are in the car, there’s a shovel by the front door and in the garage are Colin’s sand mat thingies that I can lay over any trench like something out of a D-Day movie.
Madame and I are prepared.

The DFSA shows its teeth

The Dubai Financial Services Authority has shown that it has teeth, imposing fines and banning the Abdullah brothers from acting on the board of any DIFC company for 10 years.  A regulator doing its job is a good sign for business in the UAE.  However, as there are two parallel systems here the brothers could set up outside the DIFC at some time in the future.  The National newspaper reports that Tawhid Abdullah, the former Damas chief executive, “borrowed” almost two tonnes of gold from the company’s vaults. The gold, which has not yet been returned, was used to make “certain personal investments”.
Source: 21 March 2010
Photo: Sanabisdailyphoto

The Dubai Financial Services Authority has banned the Abdullah Brothers from the board of any DIFC company for 10 years and fined them a total of $3m after they were found to have withdrawn Damas funds for their own personal use without disclosing it to the board.
“The sanctions include financial penalties against Damas, Tawhid, Tawfique and Tamjid Abdullah, and voluntary bans, for periods up to 10 years, on the Abdullah Brothers from acting as directors of Damas or any company in the Dubai International Financial Centre,” the regulator said in an emailed statement.
Criticising the brothers for their "failure to exercise appropriate corporate governance over the company", it said they owed "approximately AED365 million ($99.4m) plus the value of approximately 1,940,250 grammes of gold" to Damas. The firm was also fined a total of $700,000.
The DFSA added that the Abdullah brothers have agreed to repay the money owed to Damas. The brothers are reported to be considering selling personal assets to raise funds, including the sale of their yacht.
The discovery of the “unauthorised transactions” led to the departure of the firm's chief executive officer, Tawhid Abdullah, last year.  When Damas listed on the Dubai International Financial Exchange, now known as NASDAQ Dubai, in July 2008, he told Arabian Business that he was looking forward to increased opportunities as a result of the move.
"It's like gaining a PhD in something - you expect you will have more responsibilities but then you also have more opportunities," he said.
"Transparency is an element that we have lived and believed in, and it is positive. The world is becoming global and so I don't believe in the mentality of not being transparent - the more transparency, the easier it is to expand fast."
Tawfique Abdullah has served as chairman of the board of the company since 1980 and is responsible for monitoring group strategies and mentoring the executive committee.
He is also a qualified gemologist and goldsmith, and currently holds professional and active memberships with various organisations such as the Dubai Gold & Jewellery Group, the World Diamond Council and the World Federation of Jewellery.
Tawfique has also served as CEO of the Dubai Metals and Commodities Centre and has been bestowed with the title of ‘Knighthood of Belgium'.
Tawhid Abdullah served as CEO of Damas from 1990 until 2009. He also served as managing director of the company for over 10 years and was responsible for finance and corporate functions as well as marketing and the gold wholesale business.
Abdullah, who was instrumental in expanding the company's retail network and enhancing the Damas brand for over a quarter of a century, is also a qualified gemologist. He has held various senior positions at jewellery companies, including managing director of Dubai Gold & Jewellery Group.
Tamjid Abdullah has served as director of Damas International since 2005. He has also served as deputy managing director of the company for over 10 years and is responsible for the diamond division as well as the retail network.
He has been instrumental in establishing the quality control and customer service departments of Damas Jewellery, and has been recognised with numerous awards for jewellery design and craftsmanship including the De Beers Millennium Award for the Best Jewellery Piece in 2000 and in 2004.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Dubai issues 'alcohol in food' ban to hotels

Ah well, there go the rum balls....
Source: 21 March 2010

Dubai Municipality has issued a letter banning the use of alcohol in cooking in a move that could potentially be a big blow for the city’s restaurants and hotels.  Alcohol is 'strictly prohibited' in the preparation of food, the official letter said. However, the move has sparked mass confusion in the industry leading to officials to rethink the ban. They are now set to issue revised restrictions on Tuesday, sources said.
The letter, a copy of which has been seen by Arabian Business, states the use of alcohol in the preparation and cooking of food, and the display and sale of food containing alcohol was “strictly prohibited”.
It is reinforcing an existing law issued in 2003. Muhammed Khalid Saeed, food health inspection officer at the Food Control Department at the municipality was not available for comment.
David O’Brien, operations director of Caprice Holdings, which runs the Rivington Grill restaurant in Souq Al Bahar, said he did not know why the law was now being fully enforced.
“It just means that it limits the scope of what we can serve. To do some dishes you need to have alcohol, like a coq au vin needs red wine, or beer for a traditional beer batter. It limits the repertoire.
He said the Rivington Grill was still using alcohol in some of its dishes until further clarification from the municipality. But, some hotels have already implemented the ban.
Uwe Micheel, president of the Emirates Culinary Guild and director of kitchens at the Radisson Blu Dubai Creek, said he thought the ban would be dropped but stricter rules brought in.
“We’ve spoken with the municipality and right now it’s going to be reconsidered and a new circular issued on Tuesday. It will not be as tough but there will be some restrictions coming,” he said.
“The way I see it, most probably, there will have to be a separate menu for dishes cooked with alcohol and separate storage – much like the restrictions that exist for pork.
“They don’t want to hurt the industry but they get a lot of complaints from Muslims about too much mixing of alcohol on menus.”

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Dirty or clean, cash keeps rolling into Dubai

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 March 2010
This city does not like being associated with high-profile trouble, writes Andrew Stevenson.
From the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum should be master of all he surveys.
But there are a few problems for the ruler of Dubai: the murk of dust and exhaust that lays heavy on the desert metropolis makes it very hard to see to the bottom, while the lifts of the newly opened building are not working, making it impossible to get to the top.
In the soup below are enough odd occurrences to which the Sheikh might wish to turn a blind eye, with political intrigues and assassinations and money rolling this way and that like the squat dhows that still ply their trade in the port of Dubai and across the Persian Gulf.
Another problem is that the Burj Khalifa, which rises 828 needle-like metres into the sky, was named after the ruler of both Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa, a month after the far wealthier emirate bailed out Dubai when the full impact of its burst real estate bubble forced the small city state to plead for financial mercy. It is a dream that did not turn out quite to plan: who wants to build their own phallic symbol and then name it after their boss?
Tourists, rightly, judge Dubai to be as safe as houses. But for some visitors it has proven somewhat less secure - in the space of a year, two visiting political figures have been murdered; another colourful character was held prisoner in her apartment before being rendered to Egypt.
The second murder, of the Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, attributed to the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad in January, was too much for even Dubai to turn a blind eye to.
The brazen abuse of the passports of dual-nationality Israelis - including those of four Australians - to enable a 27-strong team to repeatedly enter Dubai before murdering Mabhouh on January 20 could not be ignored.
The Dubai police chief, Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, has been sharply critical of Israel in general and Mossad in particular, releasing many minutes of security camera footage to support his case. Australia and other western nations, including Ireland and Britain, followed suit.
But General Dahi has chosen to leave hidden at least as much as he has revealed. The autopsy report has not been made public, and neither has the crucial footage from the corridor that shows how the killers entered Mr Mabhouh's room.
Nor has any indication been given of what the Hamas leader charged with organising the flow of weapons from Iran to the Gaza Strip was doing in Dubai - also on a fake passport and with no security - and where he went between 4pm on January 19, after checking in to his hotel, and 8.24pm, when he returned.
Who had he come to meet? Why would he meet Iranians here and not in Iran, or in Syria where he lived? Mabhouh's is not the only startling death. Sulim Yamadayev, an opponent of the Chechen President, Ramzan Kadyrov, was shot dead in the car park of an expensive hotel complex in Dubai last April. Dubai police accused Mr Kadyrov's first cousin Adam Delimkhanov of organising the assassination.
And then there is the strange tale of Malika Karoum, a Dutch-Moroccan woman and former secret service agent, who had moved into money laundering. Karoum was captured in her Dubai apartment by former colleagues from the Dutch security forces and convicted.
Dr Theodore Karasik, an analyst with the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, suggests what matters in Dubai is not who you are but how you behave.
''All kinds of politicos come here, either for R and R, or to avoid prosecution in their home countries,'' he said. ''They're accepted if they keep their noses clean; if they make trouble … they will be gone very quickly.''
But trouble is not the only thing that finds its way to Dubai. Airport regulations allow any quantity of cash in any currency to be carried into the country. It is now coming in planeloads from Afghanistan, where, according to airport declarations sighted by The Washington Post, up to $US1 billion ($1.08 billion) a year, more than the government's annual tax revenue, is being flown in.
Several figures closely connected to the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, own villas in Dubai, and the Post has tied the son of Azerbaijan's President, Ilham Aliyev, to a $US44 million real estate spree on Dubai's waterfront - a feat made more impressive by the fact he was only 11 years old. Dr Karasik said: ''There's a lot of suitcases of money running around from a lot of different sources, so it's kind of hard to say which is bad money and which is good money.''
But none of this distracts Sheikh Mohammed from his vision, which has propelled Dubai from a ragged port town to an international transport and finance hub in a few decades. The vanity projects keep rolling on.
This week he dropped by the filming of a 30-part TV series based on his poetry. At the end of the month thousands of wealthy visitors will fly in for his annual race day, the Dubai World Cup, where the stakes of $US25 million are dwarfed by the $US2.7 billion spent building the new track and a grandstand 10 storeys high and more than one-kilometre long.
For a day at least, as the world watches his famed Godolphin horses race for his own prizemoney at his own track, Sheikh Mohammed will truly be master of all he surveys.