View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Saturday, February 28, 2009

When in Rome, Beijing, Munich, Vienna or Dubai

In China is it OK to belch and slurp your soup while eating?

Is it normal in Germany to use a knife and fork to eat sandwiches?

What happens if you turn up late for a meal in Germany but turn up on time in Spain?

Time Out Dubai has an interesting article on cultural differences, travel tips and how not to make too many faux pas.

Fancy Seeing the World but Afraid of Making Gaffes?, Time Out Dubai

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: ‘Fancy Seeing the World?’

Monday, February 16, 2009

Visa Denial for Israeli Tennis Player Calls into Question UAE’s Right to Host International Sporting Events

The UAE government has denied a visa to the Israeli tennis player, Shahar Peer, thus blocking her from participation in the Dubai Tennis Championships.

The event this week is a joint ATP and WTA event which includes all the top 10 women's players.

This visa denial does not appear to relate to the recent war between Israel and Palestine but the long standing issue whereby the UAE does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

This is a severe blow to the sportswoman from Israel. Other Israeli sportspersons have got through this loophole by presenting a passport from another country.

Organizers of the ATP and the WTA should take action against the UAE and call into question the right of the UAE to stage another international tennis event. While tennis players are often reluctant to get involved in sport this is a case for organizers to wield its muscle and influence.

By taking such an act against one player the UAE is drawing attention to a weakness in its human rights policies and declaring it to be not as tolerant as its public statements suggest.

This breach of the ‘equal opportunity’ policy illustrates one of the reasons why American universities are experiencing turbulence in setting up branches in the UAE. Students from Israel are barred from studying in these universities in the UAE.

Organizers of international sporting events (many of which the UAE is competing to stage) must take notice, respond definitely to this visa denial and say to the UAE that by such an action the nation is forfeiting its right to host top international sporting events such as the Olympic Games.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Shahar Peer at the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia, January 2009.

Dubai Shop-a-thon Concludes With Consumption Down

The annual shop-a-thon finished in Dubai on Sunday (15 February 2009) and reports suggest that sales are down significantly.

Raed Rafi writes in the LA Times:
“Sales are down at the city-state's annual shop-a-thon, usually a celebration of conspicuous consumption. Even bringing in Iron Maiden to lure customers didn't seem to help much.”

“Authorities and businesses in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, are going the extra mile this year to spur cash-strapped tourists to loosen their purse strings during what has become an iconic fete of conspicuous consumption.”

The LA Times article says that the annual Dubai Shopping Festival have offered free makeovers, car and home giveaways, and big discounts on plane tickets and hotel rates.

To read the full report:
Dubai: Even the Dubai Shopping Festival is Feeling the Effects of Economic Slump, LA Times, 13 February 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Dubai Shopping Festival 2009 logo.

John Galliano Fashion Show in Dubai Reveals Confusing Dress Code

The Dubai Chronicle reports on a successful fashion extravaganza in Dubai:

“Dubai Fashion 2009 played host to a British fashion force in the form of John Galliano’s Spring Summer 2009 collection at the Madinat Jumeirah Arena Ballroom on Tuesday evening, February 10th. In cooperation with luxury fashion retailers, the Etoile Group, John Galliano’s collection celebrated the ‘Great’ in ‘Great Britain’ with the fashion ethos of a “new energy for a new season at Galliano”.”

The full report is worth a read if you are interested in fashion but this event illustrates something of the confusion of UAE values, laws and customs as they relate to the dress code.

Like much in the UAE, the Dubai Fashion’s second evening of international couture in the all-new Fashion Gallery was a segregated affair. It was a ‘Ladies-only fashion show’ showcasing the Spring Summer 2009 range. This single sex event is in keeping with UAE customs, although many top entertainment events are open to both genders.

The fashion show was held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Hind Bint Maktoum bin Juma Al Maktoum – wife of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. In this respect it gains the support of Her Highness and the blessing of the Ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the Emirates.

Some of the reports indicate the promotion of garments that would appear to be risqué and contrary to the values and customs of the UAE. For example look at this snippet:

“For the ‘fragile’ contrast, ruffled skirts and see-through chiffon fabrics were a favourite, with Galliano shifting his palette to Sage green, yellow and light, flowing floral prints. Galliano also played with necklines, ranging from halter neck and strap variations to chic off-the-shoulder looks.”

The see through chiffon fabrics, the off-the-shoulder look and the high hems depicted in the photographs seem to be contrary to the reports advising women what to wear in the UAE. Perhaps at a women’s only event women can wear what they like in the UAE, although reports from some suggest that with cameras on mobile phones Emirati women are tending to keep covered at all women events like weddings.

The above discussion is not intended as a criticism of the event or the fashion styles but a suggestion that what is halal (allowable and acceptable) in the world of clothing in the UAE and what is haram (forbidden) is increasingly confusing.

This was a showcasing of international fashion trends with the John Galliano range. Would the presence of men have led to a lower attendance, with women deciding not to come, and would the presence of men have stultified the proceedings or added to the richness of UAE life? When do UAE men get the chance to delight in the latest in fashion?

To read the entire article:

Dubai Fashion 2009 Triumphs with John Galliano, Dubai Chronicle, 12 February 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: One of the models showing off the Galliano Spring Summer collection. Photo courtesy of the Dubai Chronicle at the above link.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Car Pooling in Fujairah Hardly Makes a Splash

Gulf News has an article examining car pooling in the UAE and discovers that while very few in Dubai are diving into the pool, Fujairah residents have their own reasons for not joining the national car pooling drive.

Check out the article and the Fujairah comments at:

Car Pooling: Useful to Some but Unhelpful to Others, Gulf News, 14 February 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Why does car pooling work so well in countries like Nepal!

In other countries there is a need for more education about what car pooling involves!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Dealing With Debt in Dubai

What happens if you leave Dubai – and your car and debts – behind? Time Out Dubai investigates or does it?

Check out, not only this one-sided article from Timeout Dubai but also the Comments, many of which allege that this article was backed by the banks to scare people.

There are facts here but the article appears to lack a pastoral and practical approach towards dealing with the considerable debt that is being racked up in Dubai.

Link: Debt in Dubai, TimeoutDubai, 11 February 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Photo courtesy of article at above link.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

UAE Building Projects Cancelled or on Hold

The global financial crisis has caused a slowdown in construction in the UAE, and many developers have either cancelled or put their project on hold.

Proleads recently reported that more than 50% of civil project in the UAE is currently on hold, worth a combined total of $582 billion.

Meed and Zawya have assembled a list of these projects, each valued at $500 million or more, that have been put on hold or cancelled. Below you will find the list sorted by the estimated cost:

Nakheel Harbour & Tower ($38 billion) - Nakheel Corporation - On hold
Al Salam City ($8.2bn) - Al Rajhi Group/Tameer Holding - On hold
Asia-Asia Hotel ($3.27bn) - Tatweer - On hold
Al Salam City (Phase 1) ($2.70bn) - Al Rajhi Group/Tameer Holding - On hold
Dolphin City - $1.70bn - Emirates German Group - On hold
Western Region Aluminium Smelter Power Plant ($1.5bn) -Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority - On hold
Nad El Sheba Race Course ($1.3bn) - Meydan LLC - Cancelled
Mina Rashid Redevelopment ($1bn) - Nakheel Corporation - On hold
Aqua Dunya (Dubailand) Phase 2 ($950 million) -Aqua Dunya - On hold
Aqua Dunya (Dubailand) Phase1 ($950 million) - Aqua Dunya - On hold
Investment Corp of Dubai ($817 million) - Investment Corp of Dubai - On hold
High Rise Boulevard ($817 million) - High Rise Real Estate - On hold
Anara - ($800 million) - Tameer Holding - On hold
Plaza Major (Jumeirah Village) ($800 million) -Tasees, Makaseb Holding, Ishraqah - On hold
Falcon City of Wonders (Dubailand) ($680 million)- ETA Star - Cancelled
Atrium Project ($654 million) - Sunland Group - On hold for redesign
Palm Deira: mixed-use building project ($600 million) - Nakheel Corporation - On hold
Palm Trump Hotel & Tower ($600 million) -Nakheel Hotel & Resorts and The Trump Organisation - On hold
The Vantage ($545 million) -Cirrus Developments LLC - On hold
Light Rail & Tramway (Dubai Waterfront) ($500 million) -Nakheel Corporation - On hold
Rotating Tower (Jebel Ali) ($500 million) - Merjen Group - On hold

Source and with thanks: UAE Rush, Projects on Hold, 11 February 2009.

This report explains the huge numbers of people whose visas have been cancelled and who have been flown home.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Dubai skyline.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pick up a Free Audi, Porche, BMW from the Dubai Airport

The roads around Dubai airport are clogged with abandoned cars left behind by workers from the construction industry who are fleeing the UAE at the onset of the economic collapse:

On the night of December 31, 2008 alone more than 80 vehicles were found at the airport. "Sixty cars were seized on the first day of this year," director general of Airport Security, Mohammed Bin Thani, said over the phone.

On the same day, deputy director of traffic, colonel Saif Mohair Al Mazroui, said they seized 22 cars abandoned at a prohibited area in the airport.

Faced with a cash crunch and a bleak future ahead, there were no goodbyes for the migrants -- overwhelmingly South Asians, mostly Indians - just a quiet abandoning of the family car at the airport and other places.

While 2,500 vehicles have been found dumped in the past four months outside Terminal I, which caters to all global airlines, Terminal III, which is only used by Emirates Airlines, had 160 cars during the same period.

Dr Geoff Pound

P.S. Regarding the free abandoned car, you may well be left with the task of paying off the remaining costs but there might be some bargains in the offing.

Image: Another abandoned car gets towed away.

Oil Tanker Collides and Catches Fire off Dubai

Emergency workers have extinguished the fire caused by a collision between an oil tanker and a container vessel off the Dubai coast.

The oil tanker, called the Kashmir, was carrying some 30,000 tons of oil condensates, worth about $9 million, from Iran to the UAE when it collided with the container vessel, called Sima Buoy, which had just left the port of Jebel Ali.

The crewmembers on board both vessels were safely evacuated, said a spokeswoman for Dubai's port operator DP World.

“The (Jebel Ali) channel is now clear and traffic in the channel is back to normal,” she said.

Authorities did not mention the cause of the incident but a witness said that the oil tanker appeared to be badly damaged. It is unclear if there has been any oil spill.

This news does not augur well for the oil business in the UAE and the environmental catastrophes that have plagued the UAE shoreline. Last year (2008) there were more than 15 oil spillages that appear to have been illegal oil dumpings by rogue tanker captains off the UAE’s east coast. This has caused considerable damage to the Fujairah marine environment, to the diving industry and the hotels and resorts along the coast.

At any time, 10-15 miles out from Fujairah, there are 200 oil tankers and other vessels waiting to be unloaded and loaded. There are great possibilities for collisions in these congested waters and the likelihood has been accentuated with the recent measures for stockpiling oil.

The National reported (7 February 2009), that a supertanker has been booked for six months to store about 2 billion barrels of crude off the east coast of the Emirates.
This move to stockpile oil at sea near Fujairah, the world’s second biggest bunkering hub, is part of a worldwide trend towards offshore storage that has developed because onshore oil depots are full, and most oil traders expect prices to rise in coming months.

With the growing congestion of the UAE waterways and the emergence of oil storage vessels anchored off the east coast, it will be imperative that the UAE authorities ensure that collisions are limited and the resulting spillage that could devastate the shorelines and marine life.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: The Kashmir which was reportedly a Malta-registered vessel owned, managed by Italy's Martinoli Consulting Srl, and operated by Greece's Petroships.

Check out Reuters Slideshow of this event.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Royal Wedding in Fujairah

The big event in Fujairah at this time is the royal wedding of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi and the further cementing of ties between Fujairah and Dubai and the ruling families of both emirates.

Over the way from the Fujairah palace is a series of large tents for the festive occasion and the surrounding streets are decorated with colored lights and designs.

Two interesting extras:
Land of Secrets
There are some small, old perhaps dilapidated looking houses on the main road not far from the Palace. They have huge placards in front of them so visitors cannot see them—a new variation on the theme of walls, veils, tinted windows and curtained restaurant rooms. This is also what happens in Olympic cities where the poor are removed and their squalid dwellings bulldozed to create a good appearance for visitors.

Invisibility of Women
Note the way that WAM reports the wedding celebrations:

WAM is reporting this news:
“Fujairah, 9 Feb. 2009 (WAM) - His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Fujairah attended this evening the start of celebrations for the wedding of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi to the daughter of Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.”“The celebrations were also attended by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, Sheikhs, senior officials, dignitaries and citizens.”

Men are named in official reports but women are usually made invisible and are referred to as “the daughter of”. In UAE museums women do not appear in diagrams listing the family tree of different families.

And still, despite women playing the major part in the rearing of children, even of royal families, they are given little mention or credence.

Congratulations to the new couple! Salaam!

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi

Tens of Thousands Get their Marching Orders from the UAE

Tens of thousands of Indian construction workers are being flown out of the country by their employers on bulk-booked flights in March, it was reported on Sunday.

Follow the story and track the numbers in and out at:

20,000 Indian Workers to be Flown out of Dubai, Arabian Business, 8 February 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Monday, February 9, 2009

Free Circumcision in the Emirates Cuts Deeply at Religious Tolerance

Al Bayan is reporting that under UAE Health Policy circumcision is free to people [men?] who convert to Islam.

This is a generous gesture even if I wince at the prospect! Such painful surgery is enough to sort out the men from the boys and test the genuineness of a person’s motives.

Circumcision is the badge worn by followers of Islam and is a permanent one, if not always visible for all to see.

Is it ever likely that UAE law would cover the cost of initiatory rites into other religions?

But here, in flesh and blood (ouch!!), is an act sanctioned by the UAE that allows and actively encourages the conversion of people from other religions to Islam.

Tolerance and religious freedom in the United Arab Emirates will become fully evident when the government and its people allows and actively encourages citizens of the Emirates to convert from Islam and put on the badge of another religion.

Source: Social security in Abu Dhabi to Cover Cost of Circumcising Men who Convert to Islam, Middle East Online, 9 February 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Every year hundreds convert to Islam in the UAE.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

View of Arabian Peninsula from Space

Just spotted this recently taken (January 2009) picture from space of the Arabian Peninsula.

Fascinating to see the Hajar Mountains and just how close Iran is to the Emirates.

Credit: Earth Snapshot, 7 February 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound
Click to enlarge.