Friday, 30 December 2011

Doha to Dubai for NYE

We left Doha at 6:20am and arrived at the border to exit Qatar just over an hour later.  Painless process which took 10 minutes maximum, then a drive through no-persons land to the Saudi border post.  We arrived at the Saudi border to find one side blocked because two locals in big 4x4s had had an accident in one of the customs inspection lanes!  You stand in a queue at the little window to get a number, then if you're woman you have to get a number written in your passport and then walk over to another building to have your fingerprints done and a photo taken.  This was only done 6 weeks ago but I had to be fingerprinted and photographed again.  Why the Saudis wanted to do my fingerprints again I don't know, they can't have changed *that* much in 6 weeks surely?
The drive through Saudi takes about 1.5 hours, there is nothing to see except for truck tyres in various states of burial in the sand on the side of the road. They are known as 'desert dolphins'.  The condition of the road is, umm, suboptimal.  Customs will give you a small piece of paper that looks like a supermarket checkout receipt.  Guard this little piece of paper as, even though nobody tells you this, you will need it later on and heaven help you if you don't have it as, first off, you need to show it to the official at the final Saudi exit point who'll give it back to you.
Entering the UAE involves parking your car, going inside (do not feel tempted to use the loo around the back, its a health hazard) the UAE official will stamp your entry visa into your passport and ask to see the Customs paper that looks like a supermarket checkout receipt.  Show it to him and make sure when he gives you back your passport that he gives you the little piece of paper too.  Now you have to buy temporary car insurance from one of the bored gents in the insurance company booths around the corner from the immigration building, its 70 dirhams for a week.  You get back in the car and if you're a woman you can get behind the wheel again at this point, only to have to muscle your way through the queue of trucks down to the final exit check where the man will give your passports the onceover and takes the Customs paper that looks like a supermarket checkout receipt from you.  He keeps it this time and you can get on your way.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

A Kiwi Night Before Christmas

A Kiwi Night Before Christmas
(by Yvonne Morrison)
˜Twas the night before Christmas, and all round the bach
Not a possum was stirring; not one could we catch
We'd left on the table a meat pie and beer,
In hopes that Santa Claus soon would be here.
We children were snuggled up in our bunk beds,
While dreams of pavlova danced in our head;
And Mum in her nightie, and Dad in his shorts,
Had just settled down to watch TV sports,
When outside the bach such a hoo-ha arose,
I woke up at once from my wonderful doze.
I ran straight to the sliding door, looking about,
Jumped out on the deck, and let out a shout!
The fairy lights Dad had strung up round the door
Let me see everything, down to the shore.
And what did I see, when I took a peep?
But a miniature tractor and eight tiny sheep,
With a little old driver, his dog on his knee
I knew at once who this joker might be.
He patted the dog, and in a voice not unkind,
cried, "Good on ya, boy! Now, GIT IN BEHIND!"
Now, Flossy!, now, Fluffy!, now Shaun and Shane!
On, Bossy! on, Buffy! on, Jason and Wayne!
Up that red tree, to the top of the bach!
But mind you don't trample the vegetable patch.
So up to the roof those sheep quickly flew,
With the tractor of toys, Santa and his dog too.
As my sister awoke and I turned around,
In through the window he came with a bound.
He wore a black singlet and little white shorts,
And stuck on his feet were gumboots, of course;
A sackful of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a postie just opening his pack.
His eyes - bright as paua shell - oh, how they twinkled!
Like an old tuatara, his skin was all wrinkled!
He had a wide face and a round, fat tummy,
That looked like he'd eaten lots that was yummy.
He spoke not a word, but got down on one knee,
And placed a cricket set under the tree,
A present for Sis, one for Dad, one for Mum,
Then he turned and he winked and he held up his thumb;
He jumped on his tractor, to his dog gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, as fast as a missile.
I called out, "Thanks", as he flew past the gate.
He called back: "Kia ora to all, and good on ya, mate!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

We're good sports here in Qatar.

There'll be a new national holiday in Qatar starting in 2012.  The Heir Apparent, HH Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani, has decreed that the second Tuesday in February every year will be celebrated as ‘National Sports Day’.  
I'll do an extra hour in the gym that day! 

Monday, 19 December 2011

Qatar National Day 2011

Qatar marked its National Day yesterday, 18th December.  Introduced in 2007 National Day celebrates the founding of the modern and united State of Qatar by Sheikh Jassim (Qassim) bin Mohammad bin Thani.  Sheikh Jassim was born in Bahrain arond 1825 and grew up in Fuwairat on the Qatar coast.  To cut a long and really interesting story short, once he was in power, Sheikh Jassim mostly suceeded in balancing the pressures of the regional powers, who were at that time Britain and the Ottomans (Turkey).  When he resisted the Ottoman Empire's growing attempts to dominate the area, the resistance culminated in a decisive battle at Al Wajba, south of Doha, in 1893 which the united Qatari tribes won.
Today proud Qataris decorate their cars with pictures of the current Emir and the ruling family. 

The pictures are screen printed onto a thin perforated plastic mesh which is then heat sealed onto windows or glued onto the vehicle's bodywork (how that affects the car's paintwork I don't know). Holes are cut out of the mesh to allow for head/tail lights and door handles.  The vehicles of both nationals and many expats were decked out with flags of various sizes while buildings were draped with huge pictures of the Emir and the Heir Apparent and flags some several stories high.
The day is a public holiday with events centered on and around the Corniche in Doha including a fly past of planes from the Qatari Airforce.

Throughout the day there cultural shows on the Corniche and in the nearby souq Wafiq.

In the morning there was a military parade along the Corniche displaying the Qatari Armed Forces' most recent purchases.  In the evening the crowds were entertained by a light show and  fireworks display.  We were warned about the traffic schmozzle that would go along with the fireworks display and so we stayed home, this photo of the fireworks is taken from our roof. 

All this along with the national day pastime of standing in the sunroof of a speeding 4x4 waving either a national flag or a brandishing a sword.
More photos are here.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Rain, rain.....

On 364 days of the year there's no need for street drainage in Doha, but on one day of the year, there is:

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Pollution cloud in Doha

We saw this pollution/smoke cloud not long after we crossed the border into Qatar from Saudi yesterday (Sat 12th Nov).

By the time we arrived home, the cloud had enveloped a large part of the suburban area of Doha.  There didn't seem to be any smell so I don't know whether it was a rubbish tip fire or what it was.

Not a mention of it today in the newspapers or on any of the usual websites yet to say 'you can't miss it' would have been an understatement.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Round and round

Anyone on the road in Doha at 2pm on a Thursday either (a) deserves a medal for bravery or (b) should be put down before they have a chance to breed! Its insane out there today, even the cop who stepped out onto Aramex roundabout to direct traffic had to jump back onto the footpath to avoid being hit by a idiot in a 4x4. The officer's job is to stop the traffic flow on one part of the roundabout so that other cars can get round.  The road is 3 lanes wide but in an act of evil genius, he ensured there were 4 vehicles side by side in the front row. By the way the other drivers were eyeing each other off I very quickly realised I was in the front row of a race grid. The other drivers didn't look at me, local etiquette and all (so they didn't see me smirk). Even the truck driver in the far lane was staunch and steely. There was engine revving, even by the truck but Madame didn't bother as she was bored, then the cop dropped his arm and we were off. It was like a police supervised drag race.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

When the KSA driving ban bites....

The driving ban in Saudi: when it really bites.

I thought you might be interested in getting a personal story on how the KSA driving ban can affect a woman in the region. So here's my story:

We've recently moved to Qatar after a long stint in the UAE and we want to bring our car over from Dubai. The transit route UAE-Qatar is all overland, reasonable roads (though shocking drivers). As you know its the law that women cover in Saudi so I'd change into abaya and sheyla just before the Saudi border and keep them on until I'm in Qatar. I have a cupboard full of abayas so no problem there. The simplest way would be for me to fly back, get the car and drive it over. The trip is just 680kms (422 miles) and if I left Dubai in the morning, even with border crossings, I could be back in Doha by dinner time....but I can't do that. Why? Because for 125kms (that's a mere 78 miles) the transit route passes through Saudi so for that tiny distance I can't drive nor can I hire a driver to do that leg of the trip for me because I can't be in the same car as a man who's not a relative. End result, my husband has to take a day off work, fly back to Dubai, pick up the car, and he'll do the driving within the Saudi borders.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Plumbing Story: Its all a Plot

Here's an update on the plumbing situation: The Top Head Director of Plumbing came out yesterday, examined the manholes and announced that the reason the kitchen drain blocks up is because it doesn't have an outlet, the water goes out of the sink, out of the pipe and then just soaks into the ground....somewhere. The reason? He looked at his offsiders and muttered darkly 'Iranian plumbers'.

Friday, 16 September 2011

The Plumbing story continues

The plumber and his mate came round, borrowed the broomhandle to poke down the floor drain in the kitchen. "Big problem Madame" well there's a surprise. Used our hose shoved it into the laundry waste outlet and pressed 'go' well you can imagine how well that turned out! And then they decided to lift the big manhole cover outside and check the pipes but by then it was dark so there they were both crouching over the hole using the lights from their mobile phones to try to see down to the drain pipes.  At least its different from Dubai where, if we called the property management company for a plumber, or an electrician or an air-con tech they'd send the same guys (The 3 Stooges) no matter what we'd asked for.

The Plumbing Story begins.

15 Sept: Following yesterday's flood of the kitchen floor that was almost biblical in scale, I'm still waiting for the plumber to arrive to unblock the drain. I called Plumber HQ and they told me he will come today IBM...insha'allah, bukrah, malesh.

16 Sept: The plumber came this morning. He borrowed my broom and used the handle to poke around in the floor drain (ha! I did that 2 days ago) then he went outside and banged on the pipes. He then phoned The-Plumber-in-Chief and they had a long chat in Hindi which I didn't understand except for the English words 'full block'. He will come back at 5pm (insha'allah).

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Nearly there.

Gone are the great days when I could leave Dubai airport and walk home.  Now there's another leg to the trip home from NZ.  I arrived in Dubai at 4pm, collected my bags, chatted to the immigration man as there were no other customers for him, then out the door of the arrivals hall across the driveway into the lift across the road and back into the departures hall which is in the same building I'd just left.  Checked in and now waiting for the flight to Doha. The flight is international so I have to check in 2.5 hours before departure, but the actual flying time is only 40-45 minutes, just long enough to get up to cruising altitude before its time to start the descent.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Getting off the ground

The Air New Zealand website is one of the most user UNfriendly, frustrating business sites ever.  As a potential passenger its impossible to access even simple, basic information for example, flights between Sydney and Rotorua (the rumour is they fly direct, probably in a Tigermoth but moving along) without entering a code which I typed in but their site refuses to accept it and gives me another code which their site refuses etc etc.  I have now tried 9 different codes in an attempt to get flight details and I've had it with them.  Other airlines have websites that give information easily and quickly but Air New Zealand's answer is to give a full page of instructions on how to change your computer settings to access their crappy site as they are too cheap to optimise it for all browsers.  If I want computer instruction I'll go to Microsoft, I just want to make a flight booking through Air New Zealand's website but they make it impossible.  So I'm going Emirates.  Yallah!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Water for Dummies

We've bought a new water cooler for the kitchen.

It must be part of a special "Drinking Water for Dummies" range, have a look at the choices we have.

Friday, 15 July 2011

The impossible task.

The task is exporting our 2008 Prado from the UAE to Qatar, the distance of 1,000kms. Not so hard you'd think (well if you don't live around these parts you probably would think that....) and as the vehicle is less than 5 years old it is within the allowable age for import into Qatar. The Prado has stayed in Dubai as Colin used it for work until the day he finished and I've used it since then for all the running round you have to do to prepare to move countries.
First stop in the process was the RTA website and the Dubai Police website then a visit to the big RTA headquarters building in Garhoud by the petrol station.  My passport was taken and held hostage while I found the man who could apparently tell me how to export the Prado from Dubai to Doha.  He couldn't help me and told me to go the the RTA 'Customer Service' centre in Marakesh Street not far from the RTA building, so off I went.  You'll notice that I'm using quotation marks around the words 'customer' and 'service' for a reason.  I went there, found there was only on street parking for customers and all the spaces were taken so I drove up the out lane into the staff parking and parked in one of the empty spaces.  I figured that as it was 2pm there was little chance of the staff member coming back and wanting their car space.  I went inside and took a number from the receptionist to join the queue to be served.  After 35 minutes they had served two people so, as there were 13 numbers ahead of me, a quick calculation said that it would be at least 4-5 hours before I was called. So I made a considered decision – I gave up.  As one of the papers that has to be produced is a confirmation of import tax payment, I went to the Toyota dealer to collect a letter that was waiting for me confirming that tax had been paid on the vehicle on entry to the UAE by the importing agent.  Unfortunately the letter had been lost (sigh) and I had to go away again while they prepared another one. 
Next day I was back at the RTA, first in the queue when the office opened at 7:30am to start the process of getting blue export plates.  I had all the paperwork that the website listed but sure enough they give you an application form which you can't access online and on the back it lists more required documents. I explained that as my husband now works in Qatar I'd be doing everything on his behalf, no problem, the lady was very helpful and listed the papers I'd need to produce to get the blue export plates.  Once the Prado has the blue plates we have 3 days to leave Dubai.  Anyway, one of the papers I need to produce is a new Dubai warrant of fitness. So I took the car to the WOF place, the car passed the test, but after nearly an hour of waiting the lady there told me that the warrant of fitness would not be issued. She said that Dubai car registration and immigration records are now linked and because the car is registered in Colin's name and he no longer has a valid UAE visa therefore no warrant of fitness will be given.  When I queried this and explained that a certificate is required to export the car she just shrugged her shoulders, turned her back and started to deal with the next customer.  I gathered up my papers and left, totally dejected and just a bit angry.  Its a circular story: the UAE visa must be cancelled before Qatar will issue an RP (as a foreigner you can't have visas in two GCC countries) and a foreigner has to have an Qatar RP to import a car into Doha but a foreigner can't export a car without a UAE visa.  Do you apply for, and hopefully receive, a Saudi transit visa, then drive the car to Saudi, park it somewhere, go back to Dubai, cancel your UAE visa, go to Doha, get your Qatar RP (bearing in mind that it took nearly 3 months for Colin to get his), then once you have your Qatar RP apply for another Saudi transit visa fly to the place in Saudi where you left your car, then drive it across the border to Qatar? Nah, sounds too simple.
So this indicates that we cannot sell the car in Dubai ourselves or even transfer ownership to a friend with a UAE visa in order to sell it rather than export. I needed to drive Madame to work right up to my last day (though I realised later that my employer had actually cancelled my visa the day before). Does this mean that as soon as you are made redundant/decide to leave Dubai you must sell your car and then pay for a hire car before your employer cancels your visa?
This is doing my head in.
(Image: Design Pics Images)

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Madame is in the house

"Madame" our Audi RS6 arrived in Doha from Dubai on the back of a truck about 2 hours ago. Its been quite a marathon to get her here and its so good to have that growling beastie with us again. A huge, huge thank you to Colin who supports my obsession with this wonderful car. Ok that's it, I'm off to the garage to sit and look at her for a while. Fan-bloody-tastic!!!!!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Round and Round

If you look in the Oxford Dictionary for the word 'terror' the definition given is "being in a car in the middle lane on Decorator Roundabout, Doha, Qatar"....wait, whaddaya mean "Its not"? Pfft, if it isn't there already its only a matter of time!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Outta here...finally

I finally arrived in Doha last night nearly 3 months after 'The Move' from Dubai to Doha got under way. 
Leaving Dubai was a drama right to the end: DEWA (the power/water board) cut off the power to the unit a day earlier than requested which left me with the Prado inside the garage and a non-operating electric garage door. After trying everything I could think of I eventually had to call the the landlord who sent one his guys round.  After using a piece of 4x2 to release the door I could get the Prado out. Now both the Prado and Madame are parked under a friend's office. The cars are in the shade.  The Prado will stay there until I have my Qatar visa; when I get it we can both apply for Saudi visas so we can fly back to Dubai and then drive the Prado back to Doha.  As the drive from the UAE to Qatar involves a short transit through Saudi I cannot drive that section and also I'll be wearing abaya and hijab for the 1-2 hours we are on Saudi soil.
Back to the DEWA story: to get the refund of our deposit on the villa we have to supply a copy of the final DEWA bill with 'Paid' stamped on it to the landlord. Dewa said the bill would be ready in 1-2 working days after disconnection but by Thursday we still hadn't heard from them. I went into DEWA on Saturday but they said the bill couldn't be prepared because there was an 'information error'.  What the error was, they couldn't say and I would have to come back the following day to speak to one of the managers. So back I went on Sunday and spoke to Mr Abdullah, The Man Who Knows Things.  He told me he'd find out about the 'information error' but that the bill should be ready in an hour, inshallah. Well I've been in Dubai a while so I know what a DEWA 'inshallah' means.  It means out of sight, out of mind, if you go away they'll just forget about you.  So I got myself a coffee (surprisingly good) and sat opposite TMWKT and waited.  And waited. Until lo and behold after a mere 50 minutes the final bill was ready. Oh, and what was the 'information error'? I will never know and I wasn't going to interrupt Mr A.'s flow of good work to ask.
The landlord wanted the bill faxed to him, so I asked whether I could bring it in person and collect the refund cheque? No. As there are no fax sending facilities at DEWA the landlord's bloke suggested I 'just drive around' until I found a typing centre. Blood pressure rising at this point. 30 minutes later having attempted to get to Satwa but only succeding in becoming seriously lost in the back blocks of Deira (don't ask) I decided to head for home and find somewhere there. First stop, the Umm Ramoul Post Office where Mr Mean took pleasure in telling me that they did not have a fax. Next stop was Al Garhoud's own version of Sin Central judging by the vast array of condoms for sale, the Emarat petrol station on Marrakech St. Yes, they could send faxes and in minutes the mission was accomplished.  Plus I learnt a lot about the preferences of the male population of the local area......
Then back to John and Vicki's, I got on the phone to FlyDubai, booked a seat on the 8pm flight from Dubai to Doha and now here I am.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Music to my ears

The local supermarket in Dubai has a reasonable selection of Arabic music.  I check the rack for new additions regularly and yesterday, I found a CD in the bellydance section.  Normally I wouldn't buy it as violin music isn't much interest to me, but when I saw the title of this particular CD I knew I had to have it.  I give you:

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Mum and the Kids

Our old bbq has been occupied by one of the local stray cats and her three kittens. Mum Cat is very skittery and shy of humans and she hissed at me when she thought I was too close to her babies, I hissed back which made it a bit of an impasse. Anyway, Mum doesn't realise that as the bbq is right by the house, I can see her out of the lounge window. (We thought she was a bloke cat but we were seriously wrong weren't we?)

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Everything's tickedy-boo.

I'm back in Dubai sorting, culling and packing.  How can people accumulate so much stuff'?  We arrived in Dubai with one suitcase each but we'll need a 40 foot container (possibly two) to leave.

It seems like Sunday was the start of an official 'Everything's Tickedy-Boo in Dubai' campaign. The media has bombarded the public with positive stories; Business Bay is surging ahead, there are blokes are on the radio saying property prices have reached their lowest point and the market is bouncing back. Meanwhile, down at the shops, Deira City Centre is confident of an expanding retail market and will be building 55 new shops.  Who these potential property buyers are, where they'll come from and most interesting, why they would buy in Dubai is not explained and the commentators have obviously never heard the expression 'Once bitten, twice shy'. Dubai's reputation as a safe place for investment has been muddied by the property market implosion.  What rules there were, were shown to be woefully inadequate to deal with the fallout.  Currently there are ongoing complaints and some law suits by investors who have lost their money on developments that have been shelved for the foreseeable future.  Reputation, like virginity, is something that once lost, cannot be restored (yeh I know about the operation but you see my point?)  There would need to be a vast number of people move into Dubai to get rid of the current glut of property units, (those people won't be coming from the construction industry) and did anyone say the magic word "visa"?  Where are the jobs for these people?  It also comes as a rude shock to prospective purchasers when they find that their 'residence visa' in Dubai only lasts for 6 months at a time and then they have to leave and request a renewal. So why would they?  There are markets that welcome their investment, Malaysia for example and its "My Second Home" programme. In response to the current oversupply in Dubai developers are holding back on releasing development units.  The hotel sector is reportedly taking the biggest hit, with one example being the shelving of the Kempinski hotel on the Palm Jumeirah which will remain a shell for the next two years  Ulrich Eckhardt, Kempinski’s head of the Middle East and Africa said “I’m concerned about what I consider poor planning from those in a position to approve new hotels.  He continued, "Building permission was granted without studying “existing inventory, growth rates and future demand." (Just because you get permission to build doesn't mean you have to do it surely?  I would have thought the hotel company itself would have taken a look at the state of the market but there you go....)

With oil prices rising due to the Libyan crisis the number of international travellers is expected to fall, and let's face it, the Middle East is not currently the holiday destination of choice.
Back to the Deira City Centre expansion, Q1: How long ago did they shut their 'luxury arcade' due to lack of custom? Q2: Will the expansion take over more of the car park? Will Deira CC end up like Doha City Centre in Qatar?  Doha CC is a shopping mall almost the size of Mall of the Emirates but with the car park space of Spinneys in Jumeira. Oh yes and Frederick's of Hollywood is opening 10 shops in the Middle East this despite, and this may come as a surprise to many readers, the lingerie market here being saturated - a strange irony isn't it?

Finally, the metro (which I would use regularly if it ran to anywhere near where I work from anywhere near where I live) and which according to local media carries, I don't know, about 17 zillion passengers every week, is cutting back on staff and decreasing the frequency of services.

But everything's tickedy boo.....

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Some of the important things.

Moving from Dubai to Doha means having to start again finding all the important things. So far its looking good:

1. Sharwama man - tick.  The fine food at the Al Mattar al Qadeem branch of  'Lebanese Charwama' (that's their spelling) will do nicely thanks.

2. Juice man - tick.  Just a couple of doors down from the sharwama man.  When I walked into the juiceshop in front of me there was a cash register on an old coffee table and a group of guys sitting round on assorted chairs, some left over from long forgotten dining room suites, a couple of plastic bbq chairs and an old armchair.  There was no obvious indication of who was a customer or who worked there so I gave my order in a sort of general way to the group and then waited to see who reacted. After they got over the shock of there being a woman in the shop, everything went smoothly and one of the guys got up and went behind the counter to make the juice and the man in the armchair reached over to take my money and put it in the cash register.  Next time I'll know that the juiceshop owner sits in the best chair!

3. Gym - tick (FF at Doha City Centre). FF used to be a mixed gym like in Dubai until last year when the Doha authorities told them the sexes had to have separate areas. The gym's done a good job in making the space but the two ladies areas (cardio and weights) are now in separate parts of the gym. The female cardio area is in a sealed off corner of the main gym while the weights/machines area is inside the ladies change rooms. Females have to pass through the main gym to move between cardio and weights areas. So the local ladies come to the gym put on their workout gear then put on their abayas and sheylas to walk from the change area to the cardio area.  Once inside they take them off and do their workout then put them back on so they can pass through the main gym on their way back to the weights area. In the weights area they take off their abayas and sheylas again and continue their workout.
I've been to a gym in the Grand Hyatt hotel here.  While a ladies only gym was provided, men and women can also train together in the main part of the gym which had the most useful equipment.  This gym was ultra expensive but the facilities were top class.  They also provide a laundry service to wash members' gym gear after use and have it ready when you next come to the gym.

4. Abaya shops that sell completely outrageous, over-the-top evening gowns from racks at the back of the shop out of public view - check, check and check.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

On the move..

The Qatari Army is on the move... a big army ute (like a Silverado) roared out of one of entry lanes to the roundabout, it slid to a stop across 3 lanes of oncoming traffic who all had to screech to a halt like something out of a Hollywood action movie.  I was in one the lanes of traffic and I have to say I sat in stunned amazement as  a soldier hopped out of the ute and proceded to direct a convoy of Army trucks, APCs and anti aircraft guns through the roundabout. What I liked most was the truck carrying an office building and the last one in the line which carried a portaloo in desert camouflague colours.  Then the soldier jumped back into his ute and roared off down the highway in pursuit of his comrades.  Just another afternoon in Doha :-)

Sunday, 27 February 2011

And now Oman...

2 protesters killed in the industrial town of Sohar when police opened fire with rubber bullets. Sohar is about 200 kms from Muscat the capital of Oman.

The 'monsters' are being taken care of.

Adverts for houses to rent in Qatar which teach us all NOT to rely on Google Translate or BabelFish:

  • Villas for rent in Beni Hajar 6 rooms and a hall and the Council of the monsters required large R. 9500. BC Tel:
  • Rent Villa for staff behind the university city required slavery 8500 Tel:
  • Villa for rent 5 rooms and bliss halls and the Council of extension and external monsters 10.000
Its good to know the 'monsters' are being taken care of isn't it?

Q for Qatar

Doha, Qatar
Like  many people in the construction industry we are joining the steady trickle of people who are heading to Doha, Qatar to live and work.
I've been in Doha, Qatar for the last few days. Its hard to believe but the driving there really is worse than Dubai and the roundabouts in Doha are lethal, its a complete free for all and the red stop light is just a suggestion!

Apparently a Facebook page "Freedom Revolution March 16 Qatar" has been set up demanding the removal of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.  The page was approved or in FB-speak, 'liked', by about 1,600 people.  Before we see another Egypt looming let's put that number in perspective as there are over 4 million people who 'like' the Facebook page entitled 'Flipping the pillow over to get the cold side'.
As background, Qatar's natural gas reserves have made the country incredibly rick, and the Qatari nationals, who number about 350,000, have the world's highest per capita income.  What's that saying 'Civilization is four meals away from anarchy'. The rest of the population are expats from all over the world.
Sheika Mouza, the Qatari Emir's wife, is a woman with education and opinions who plays an active public role in Qatar. She also acts as a representative of her country overseas. As a result, she attracts criticism from conservatives and one of the demands on the FB page is that she should play no further public role.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Kia Kaha Christchurch

Rolling online coverage on ABC (Australia) through TVNZ of the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Tragically at least 65 confirmed fatalities to date.

The colonel shows himself

We pick up several Libyan tv stations here in Dubai. Col. Gaddafi's made a bizarre appearance on Libyan state tv interupting the usual 24/7 'We are great/Everything's fine' programming. His message to the people lasted for around 20 seconds. Filmed while he sat in the back of a small vehicle, like a past-its-use-by-date tuk tuk, he held an umbrella to protect himself from the rain. He said he wanted to show himself to the people so they could see he was still in Libya and 'in control' then he moved the umbrella down so nobody could see him.
Does anyone else think he looks remarkably like Phil Spector?
As I mentioned on another thread, Western companies are moving to evacuate expat staff, but Libyan government rules require exit visas for any foreigner leaving the country. Some French oil workers have 'just up and left' w/o the exit visas and flown to Malta.  Also flying to Malta were a couple of Libyan air force pilots who defected in their jet fighters rather than follow orders to fire on protesters.  The Libyan government says the pilots were ordered to fire on ammunition dumps.....

Monday, 21 February 2011

Leaving on a jetplane if they can...

Seif al-Islam Gaddafi offered a tiny olive branch in his tv appearance last night which he then snatched away. He raised the spector of Libya being carved up by unspecified separatists, while threatening the West with disruption of oil supplies (Libya supplies 79% of the EU's oil) then threatening the Libyans with 'the West is coming to get you'. He seems to attempting to rattle all the cages at the same time.

Western firms are mobilising to get their staff out of Libya and two helicopter loads of French oil workers have already arrived in Malta.  As an exit visa is required for a foreigner to leave Libya this is, naturally, proving problematic and it seems many people will attempt to leave without the government stamp in their passport.  Benghazi airport is shut but Tripoli is currently still open.

The latest rumours are:

a) Gadaffi has left Libya and is heading to Venezuela; or

b) Gaddafi's left Tripoli and is heading to the centre of the country to direct operations when the army moves in...time will tell.

Meanwhile the Libyan tv channel which we can pick up here in Dubai, continues to show pro-Gaddaffi rallies with a soundtrack of 'patriotic' songs.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Al Jazeera signal in the UAE

I turned on the tv yesterday to find that Al Jazeera English and Arabic had disappeared from the screen to be replaced with a 'Scrambled signal' message.   The Guardian in the UK reports that Al-Jazeera television is investigating reports that its signal has been disrupted in countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.  A spokesman said: "We are not sure of the cause but we are looking into it."   It seemed odd at the time that I couldn't get AJE or AJA, as the seemingly endless channels showing soap operas in every language you can think of were still there loud and clear.  

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Choppy water in the Kingdom of Two Seas

Map courtesty of
Its a pity they can't spell 'Arabia' though. They also
use the term 'Persian Gulf'  but in this part of the world
its called the Arabian Gulf.
SMS  from a friend in Bahrain: "...its complete madness here! We r home bound and embassy's have advised us to stay indoors. Never seen anything like it. There was a run on the banks and ppl panic buying from the shops. Tanks on the streets and choppers flying past 24-7. If things continue I may get a flight out!"

Many of the non-Middle East based readers of this blog may be asking "So where is Bahrain anyway?' Others may know the kingdom as Michael Jackson's home in 2005, albeit briefly, after his US trial.  Geography 101: Bahrain is a group of thirty-three islands located 24kms from the coast of Saudi Arabia and 28kms from Qatar and is connected to KSA by the King Fahd Causeway.  The word Bahrain/Bahrayn is derived from the Arabic words "itnain bahr" meaning "two seas' and is the name of the largest island in the group.  The nation's 'full name' is 'Mamlakat al-BaŠł•rayn', Kingdom of the Two Seas.
While Bahrain is an Islamic country, the ruling family belongs to the Sunni minority of the population while the majority of the population is Shia. For those unfamiliar with Islam, the Pew Research Center reported in 2009 that the majority of Muslims in the world are Sunni with only 10%-13% being Shia. The largest Shia country is Iran which has, in the past, laid claim to Bahrain.  This claim was tit-for-tat following Bahrain's support of the United Arab Emirates in a squabble with Iran over 3 small islands no bigger than a sneeze.
The current ruler of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa ('bin' means 'son of'') is a member of the Al Khalifa family that has ruled Bahrain since 1782.  King Hamad came to the throne in 1999 instituting a programme of political and social reform which has gone some way towards reconciliation with the Shia majority.  He restored the Bahraini parliament which had been suspended in 1975 giving a public forum for the opposition Shia Wefaq party to voice its opinions.  

The current protests in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, started as a demand for equality for all citizens, The military have moved in to confront the protestors, bullets are flying, people are dying, and the 'if we don't look they'll go away' divisions in Bahraini society are deepening by the hour.  However, the largely nationalistic nature of the protests gives a glimmer of hope to the government that 'outside influences' will not prevail (let's not be coy, they mean Iran). However, the actions of the military also signal the likelihood of a power struggle within the ruling family stemming from the 'dissatifaction' of the Prime Minister (the King's uncle) at being passed over for the role of Crown Prince in favour of the current King's son.  King Hamad has shown himself open to dialogue whereas his uncle the Prime Minister supports a hard line response.  If the actions of the military are a guideline, then it would appear that the PM has prevailed, initially at least. 

Sky News reports that UK Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt has revoked 44 individual and open licences for the export of hundreds of cartridges of tear gas and other riot control equipment to Bahrain.    Bahrain, as one of the Trucial States, was originally within the British 'sphere of influence' and a close relationship remains.  The US also has a vested interest in ongoing stability in Bahrain due to its strategic location and the extensive US military facilities in the country. The Fifth Fleet has a large facility  in Manama now something like 62 acres onshore plus offshore.  This is centred around what was originally the British naval installation, HMS Juffair, which dates from 1935.  The British left Bahrain in 1971 following the granting of independence, the Americans leased part of HMS Juffair and renaming it 'Administrative Support Unit Bahrain'.  An agreement was signed between Bahrain and US in 1991 granting US forces access to Bahraini facilities and air space to 'ensure the right to pre-position material for future crises' though the US Navy has been a permanent fixture in the Gulf since around 1949. 

With continuing protests in Bahrain, Yemen and Jordan and escalating violence in Libya the old curse 'May you live in interesting times' has never seemed more appropriate.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

World domination using coffee and bikkies.

Resistance is futile.
New Zealand has a plan for world domination and the fern shape in the froth is the clue. First we lure them in with coffee:

Then the coup de grace, the biscuits.

At last we can ask for a 'flat white' in at least one coffee shop in Dubai (Costas) and not get an uncomprehending stare in response. The biscuits are from the Lime Tree Cafe - where else?

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Egypt shuts down Al Jazeera bureau - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

Egypt shuts down Al Jazeera bureau - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

Gone in 60 seconds....

It takes just over 60 seconds for the lift in the Burj Khalifa to travel from the ground level to the observation deck on the 124th floor.  The music played in the lift is copyright so I've overdubbed it with a track from a local singer, Hamri Al Arbi, who is happy to have his music heard.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

One for Miss Piggy?

An eyeball searing experience in Dubai.
It even has scroll work (car tattoos).

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Coming up roses?

Maybe the name seemed like a good idea at the time....
(taken o/s Ravis, Satwa, Dubai)

Monday, 10 January 2011

The fog arrives from Abu Dhabi

The fog that enveloped Abu Dhabi yesterday has meandered down the road overnight and this morning Dubai is shrouded in a thick blanket.  This photo was taken from our balcony at 5:45am this morning.
To most drivers, it's simple: Fog = I can't see = danger = slow down but Dubai drivers consider 'driving for the conditions' to be for wusses.  The only acknowledgement of the dangerous road conditions will be that they'll have their hazard lights flashing constantly, other than that, and despite there being almost zero visibility, it'll be 'business as usual' out on the roads.   Yes folks, they'll be changing lanes at high speed without indicators (indicators are optional extras on UAE cars it seems), the 4x4's will be using high beam to flash the cars in front to get out of the way, the angry Camrys will be tailgating an inch from your back bumper even if you're in the slow lane while the Nissan Sunnys with 20 passengers will be sitting in the middle lane of the freeway doing 60kph when the speed limit is 120. 
Of course there's also the new favourite manouevre 'The Dance of Death'.  This particularly Dubai piece of lethal lunacy occurs when a car, usually travelling at 120kph+, begins changing lanes without warning or indicating (see above) and despite there being (i) no gap in the traffic and (ii) a car beside them in the lane they want to move to.  Ignoring the obvious presence of the other vehicle, the first driver will continue to move into the lane, sometimes the car doors come within inches of each other as the first driver attempts to monster the second driver into giving way.  Usually for reasons of self preservation, the second driver will back off to make room and sometimes they themselves are forced to change lanes to make room for the first car but in heavy traffic there's often nowhere for the second car to go.  This is when it gets really interesting.  The first driver will veer back into his original lane if the second car gives him a blast with the horn or, as I saw on Al Khail last night, swerves towards him to 'push' him back into this own lane. 
Take care, its a jungle out there.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Off the menu.

I don't think I'll be buying these any time soon...
(Carrefour, Mirdiff CC, Dubai)

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Yay! Alta Rica is back in Dubai.

This is the Pyramid of Happiness folks.  Alta Rica is back in Dubai on the shelves at Hyperpanda in Festival City.  Be quick, stocks are dwindling fast!! 

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Moving on...

After a lot of thought, I've resigned from my job, last day 31st January.