Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dubai, crossroads of the world...

...in a French hypermarket.

By the way, I learn something every day - today it's that Saudi has ostrich farms.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Today's moron report

A normal drive along Al Sufouh Road and a short way along Al Wasl Road this afternoon. Not a long drive by any means. Out of peak time, not a huge amount of traffic, everything just average.

Here's what I noticed - I obviously didn't see it all, so this would represent just a percantage of the full story:

Illegal U-turn into oncoming traffic: 1

Jumping red light: 2

Talking on mobile phone: 8

Dangerously aggressive driving: 1

Dangerous speeding/lane weaving: 1

Police: Zero

Incorrect lane and exceeding the speed limit I don't bother with any more, it's so common.

If you don't live here you probably get tired of us complaining so often about the driving. If that's the case, have a look at what we're talking about on YouTube. This is CCTV footage in the new tunnel which runs under Dubai International Airport. Thanks to Dubai Sunshine for posting it there.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Great work on the souks

Secret Dubai has posted about the upgrade of the Deira spice souk, making the point that it might just save it from closure - which I really hope they can achieve.

I think they've done a great job with the upgrades of the souks and here's the proof - a photo of the Bur Dubai textile souk in 1960 and another which I took from more or or less the same place a few months ago...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Road rant

After my follow-on from the rant about company attitude, a follow-on to my regular rants about driving standards. Just a quick one but it's so typical of what we face every day we're on the roads.

I just drove from Dubai Marina to Mall of the Emirates. What's that, maybe seven or eight kilometres? Just a few minutes.

Here's the tally that I noticed, I'm sure there were more that I missed.

Deliberately driving through a red light: 1

Illegal U-turn into oncoming traffic whilst talking on a mobile phone: 1

Driving whilst talking on mobile phone: I counted seven.

Driving above the posted speed limit: Too many to count but more than half the drivers. I am not exaggerating - more than half.

Driving dangerously above the posted speed limit: 3

Dangerous lane-changing with no signal and at excessive speed: 2

Police cars: Zero

Company attitude...

Just a quick follow-on from my rant about companies taking our money but not expecting to provide anything in return.

Our fake alternative telco, du, has announced that:

"...it will allow new customers to register for mobile numbers starting on November 26, but details about pricing and its launch may have to wait until January."

Go to their website and they tell you nothing. Cliches, jargon, mission statements, all the usual press release phrases trotted out again. But information? What are they actually going to provide, when and for how much? Forget it.

But they will "allow" customers to register for mobile numbers from next week. They say: "Under a campaign beginning next week entitled "055 my number," etisalat customers wishing to switch to du may carry over their seven digit number at a cost of Dh100.

Why would anyone switch when we don't know what, when or the cost?

Yet another example of 'you give us your money, we'll decide later what we'll give you in return.'

The announcement was carried in Gulf News.

Monday, November 20, 2006

THIS is a road safety campaign.

Think about the road safety campaigns that the authorities run, and are planning to run, in Dubai.

Think about the 'quality' of advertising here too.

Then look at these road safety tv commercials running in the UK.

We need this kind of campaign here. Desperately.

This is absolutely brilliant advertising.

We need the whole team who produced the ads brought to Dubai to shoot and produce the same campaign here, and the authorities to run the same comprehensive media schedule.

It would cost much less in dollar terms than the ineffective, uncreative stuff we get. And the saving of lives would be priceless.

The commercials are here and here.

If you go to the UK Road Safety site you can check out all the ads, tv, cinema, radio, print media.

I urge everyone in advertising, agency and client alike, to go to the Road Safety website and spend time there. It's not only the creativity that's important, it's the thinking, the research, the conclusions, the identification of target audience segments, the integrated campaign, the comprehensive detail. This is a total, professional campaign. This is how advertising should be.

I'm indebted to our new friend S!ckbhOy for the heads-up on these commercials, which he gave on keefieboy's blog.

Only in Dubai/part 2

I really must run a series recording the classic 'look what you made me do' excuses given by the accused in Dubai courts.

There's another doozy in today's Gulf News.

You don't need the link, it's only short so here it is:

Manager claims he was forced to impersonate police official

By Bassam Za'za', Staff Reporter

Dubai: A manager who is being tried for impersonating a police official has claimed that he was forced to do so because "a secretary abused him verbally over the phone".

Dubai Public Prosecution had charged the 26-year-old Lebanese manager, identified as H.G., with impersonating personnel from Dubai Police's Criminal Investigation Department.

The manager who appeared before the Dubai Court of Appeal yesterday was pleading guilty but seeking clemency. "I did send an SMS to the claimant's mobile phone in which I claimed that I was a police official. I had to do so because the girl abused me verbally and cursed and insulted me," the 26-year-old accused told Presiding Judge Fouad Hamdoun yesterday.

Police heard that the accused sent an SMS to the 27-year-old secretary, S.R., from Belarus, on her cell phone in which he impersonated a policeman. In his statement, the accused claimed that he coincidentally called up the woman twice and spoke to her.

He said she abused him over the phone after which he sent her an SMS.

The Dubai Court of First had earlier fined him Dh2,000 but the Public Prosecution appealed the initial verdict.

So we have the manager (coincidentally) phoning the 'Russian' girl, the content of the calls we can guess at, she tells him to **** off, he sends an SMS saying 'you can't talk to me like that I'm a police officer'...and his defence is that he was forced to take that action.

I can't wait for the court's verdict.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Service? In your dreams.

An example of typical Dubai service levels.

We pay a ridiculous amount every month for First Net TV. We watch a couple of hours a week of the rare watchable programmes amongst the ancient repeat dross. You know, the programmes featuring up-and-coming young actors who actually are now retirees or dead. I pay extra to watch English Premier League, four matches a week.

Oh, and they don't even bother to publish a programme guide so that their paying customers know what's on.

'You give us your money, we give you as little as possible in return'.

On Friday the TV dies on us. No reception of any channels.

We call First Net. They direct us to their service representatives EuroStar.

They say they'll send a technician betwen 24 and 48 hours later. Not a good example of service so far, we are after all paying for something that they're no longer supplying.

Around 36 hours later two technicians - I use the term loosely - arrive. They do exactly what I've been doing, which is use the remote to re-programme the set.

Surprise, surprise! They get the same result as me. Nothing.

The meter comes out, they plug in, mutter to each other and tell me the fault is in the building.

"Call the real estate company to fix it". And they walk towards the door.

Me: "That's it?"


Me: "I pay a lot of money for TV which I'm not getting and you just walk away?"

Them: "You don't pay for service."

This is the second time in less than six months that I've called First Net because reception disappeared. The second time they've referred me to Euro Star as their 'service representative'. The second time I've been rudely told by their 'technicians' that I don't pay for service.

I honestly believe that the only answer to this kind of arrogant, pig-ignorant attitude is a firm smack in the mouth.

I am so close. Instead I say: "I pay for TV reception, I am not getting TV reception. I don't have to pay extra for 'service' to give me what I've already paid in advance for."


They walk away.

Not only is a smack in the mouth the only thing that will make them understand that arrogance and ignorance is unacceptable, it's the only way they'll learn not to turn their backs on a customer and walk away.

I am fuming at the fact that companies take our money but don't give us what we've paid for. And more so at the rudeness, the lack of manners, the arrogance of their employees.

I manage to do no more than fume.

I call EuroStar and get a 'customer service executive'.

I tell him the problem. That is, I'm not getting the TV reception I'm paying for, the 'technicians' don't know what to do, tell me not to expect any service and simply walk away. I tell him the other apartments in the building have no problem.

The 'customer service executive' isn't listening, obviously. He tells me I probably need to put the dish higher than the surrounding buildings. I tell him it's already as high as it can be on the roof and in any case no-one else is having a problem.

He tells me the dish is no good and I need to get Tecom or E-Vision to do a cable installation.

I tell him that it is an E-Vision installation.

He tells me that my subscription runs out on November 30, so I can either simply not renew or I can cancel it from today.

So much for companies giving you what you pay for.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More toll questions...

…and more questions about planning competence.

A PS to my post yesterday about the road tolls being introduced in Dubai…

Today there’s a follow-up report in Gulf News that raises even more questions, and once again demonstrates incompetence in the ‘planning’ process that is creating needless chaos throughout Dubai.

First point is the statement that: “The RTA is still considering whether the toll should be charged round the clock or only during peak rush hours.”


An absolutely fundamental part of the plan hasn’t been worked out yet, nevertheless they’ve decided it will be introduced, where it will be introduced and that it will reduce congestion!

How can they possibly claim it’s a viable plan if they haven’t even thought through something as basic as when it will operate?

Then we have the CEO of the Traffic & Roads Agency stating: “The main idea of the toll system is to reduce congestion and exercise better traffic management on Shaikh Zayed Road, and to make motorists use alternate routes and other modes of transportation.”

“…other modes of transport.” What are they exactly?

Car pooling ain’t allowed, the Metro is years away, buses leave a lot to be desired – and as we have no dedicated bus lanes they get stuck in traffic anyway. And taxi passengers will have to pay the toll on top of the metered fare. So what are the 'other modes of transport'? Aren’t the people who run our roads aware of the facts?

Then we have this very strange example of the ‘planners’ art: “The current plans also stipulate that tolls will only have to be paid if you cross the one of the two crossing points - at Mall of the Emirates or Garhoud - if you join the road at another point you will not have to pay the toll.”

Ummmm? How does that equate to “easing traffic congestion on Sheikh Zayed Road”? A quick detour around the gate and back onto the road.

As for ‘Fees & Fines’, yet more examples, as though we need them, of the quality and competence of the ‘planners’.

Under ‘Tariffs’ we’re told the card and subscription fee (subscription?) is Dh50. The first item under ‘Fines’ shows: “Failure to display the card Dh100.”

Hang on, hang on! What does that mean?

Bear in mind that this is just the first toll road to be announced, there will be many more. So does it mean that all vehicle owners must ‘subscribe’ to and display a card? There will obviously be a method of tracing offenders, so then what? A check on whether you ‘subscribed’ to a card and if you did but didn’t display it you’re hit with a Dh100 fine? Second offence Dh200, third offence Dh400.

But wait…'use of tariff gates by unauthorised vehicles’ means a fine of Dh100. So it’s cheaper to not ‘subscribe’ to a card but to just be an 'unauthorised vehicle'.

Back to the drawing board.

Oh wait, too late. Decisions have been made, the plan is already in place, the operator is contracted, Dh500 million is allocated.

The only person who can sort this out is The Big Boss, but he can’t be expected to get involved in this kind of small detail. So I guess the only chance we have of any sense being brought into the equation is if he could look at the whole ‘planning’ operation, the ability & competence of the ‘planners’ and the obvious and urgent need for major changes.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Toll roads questions.

The newly announced tollways are, and I quote, "part of wide reaching plans to ease traffic congestion in Dubai."

Oh really.

Phase one will be Sheikh Zayed Road/Garhoud Road in both directions.

That's both directions.

No mention of peak traffic. From Sharjah to Dubai a.m. and back again p.m. Go against the peak flow and the road is far from jammed. Starting at Media City at 8am you'll be in Deira in about 35 minutes. How will the toll ease traffic congestion for traffic going against the flow? There isn't any congestion.

No mention of timings. The assumption must therefore be that it will operate day and night seven days a week.

That's 24/7.

No mention of shutting off the sensors overnight, or at weekends. How will the toll ease traffic congestion for those of us using the roads overnight and at weekends? There isn't any congestion.

It's becoming very obvious that what the 'planners' (pause for hysterical laughter) do is to scour the world for things that other countries have and decide we must have them here too. It's beyond their ability to work out whether it fits in with the master plan, fits in with the other one-offs they've imported, works in this environment, is actually any bloody use whatsoever. They simply must have it so they add it to their increasing catalogue of mistakes.

Just look at what they're doing. The roads are confusingly dangerous in large part because they're a hybrid of US and British systems - dual-carriageways with U-turns plus roundabouts with traffic lights on them. We had to import both systems. As I posted last month, a tram system has been announced. Trams! That'll add more mayhem, confusion and congestion to the roads.

What else don't we have? Oh, I know! A toll system. Let's put one of those in too, that'll ease traffic congestion.

Dubai would work better if The Big Boss issued a decree banning planners.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

N - U - C - L - E - A - R

The word is 'nuclear'.

It's pronounciation is 'nuclear'.

The technology may be complicated and beyond the wit of most of us but not the word, surely!

But it is, it seems, beyond the linguistic skills of the majority of announcers, newsreaders and presenters on Dubai's radio stations.

Why do they say "nookyoolar"?

Look at the word! How do you get 'nookyoolar' out of that sequence of letters?

It's driving me crazy - I know, I need to get out more, but it's just one of those things that really gets under my skin.

What with North Korea and Iran having ambitions in the nuclear department, and the Arab world now also considering nuclear power for desalination plants and whatnot, the word - or rather the non-word, the mis-pronounced word, the teeth-gratingly annoyingly mispronounced word - is popping up with relentless regularity.

It is not 'nookyoolar'. It is 'nuclear'.

Please, please, please, someone, anyone, STOP THEM.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lost in translation?

It happens all the time. A press report quoting officials that leaves me bewildered.

I've mused in earlier posts - is it a language problem?

Does the official say words that don't quite come out as what he means? Or does he mean exactly what he says? Has the reporter mis-heard, misunderstood, misquoted?

Front page of Emirates Today is another classic example, in the story about 'beach pests'.

Protection of females using the beaches is vital on a number of levels. To see action being taken against the hordes of men harassing, photographing, propositioning them is excellent news.

The story is based around a conversation with the Director of Dubai Police CID, who explains what action is being taken.

Amongst it we get on to confusing stuff.

For example, he is quoted as saying that his department is prepared to arrest every man who goes to the beach for the sole purpose of staring at female swimmers.

Hmmm...difficult to prove I would have thought, and they're not likely to admit to that. More likely they'll say they were just taking the sea air, getting some exercise, meeting with their friends - just as the rest of us do. Some of them will be doing just that too I would have thought.

Then the quote that I really don't understand: "Those who go to the beach must swim. They are not allowed to sit and watch the swimmers...On the beach, they must swim or else they will be arrested."

Most of us who go to the beach spend more time sitting on the beach than we do in the water. Most of us look around at other beach-users, watch the people in the water.

That isn't the problem at all.

The actual problem is well-documented - groups of men invading females' personal space, both on the beach and in the water (but that's OK because the men are swimming?); illegally photographing them without their permission; making unwelcome advances; propositioning them.

It's good news that the issue is being addressed, but if the quotes are correct the way it's being planned is simplistic in the extreme and leaves a lot to be desired.

The full story is at Emirates Today

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Big Boss is at them again!

A few days ago I posted about Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid losing patience and taking a strong line with the traffic authorities about the continuing traffic chaos in Dubai. We saw evidence of changes the very next day.

Now he's turned his attention to the Labour Law, the changes needed and the ways it's violated. "Unjust treatment will not be tolerated", he said. He's obviously studied the problem and come up with a whole raft of instructions to the ministers involved.

Sheikh Mohammed said the rights of expatriate workers must be protected, their living and working conditions - standards of health, safety and quality of life - are to be significantly improved. He instructed that an effective mechanism to ensure unpaid workers receive their dues and to enable legal job-changing is to be implemented. He said a medical insurance scheme is to be set up, covering all grades of labourers to provide them with the same level of healthcare as the rest of the community.

He instructed the Ministry to implement special contracts between maids & servants and their employers that limit working hours and give full rights. He ordered the setting up of a special court to deal with labour disputes and mistreatment cases. And he ordered the establishment of a 2,000 strong inspection unit to monitor workplaces and labour accommodation.

As if all that wasn't enough he also ordered an urgent investigation into the roles and capabilities of labour supply companies, with special focus on abuses of rights in lieu of providing job opportunities.

These things have been discussed here on blogs, and in some of the more adventurous newspapers, for some time. Changes to the law, and implementation of the law, were obviously overdue.

But as with the traffic problem I have to ask why necessary actions don't happen until Sheikh Mohammed becomes personally involved. It seems nothing happens until he identifies the problems, comes up with solutions and issues orders to the authorities and ministers.

Monday, November 06, 2006

When all else fails...

...execute the dictator.

Please read River's latest posting on her blog Baghdad Burning.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Best War Ever

This is worth having a look at. Turn your speakers on.

If you go to the page it's also worth clicking on 'Read an exclusive excerpt from the book'.

Truth in advertising.

For several days now the papers have been carrying ads from developers bragging about winning one of the CNBC Property Awards.

It's a concentration that highlights something that’s really annoyed me for a long time - the way that artists' impressions depict the location and surroundings of planned buildings. These renders are used extensively in promotional sales material when the apartments are sold off the plan.

Dubai Marina is a good example, where tower after tower has been depicted by developers as having no other buildings around it, just landscaped gardens or parkland. And of course, they’re all absolute waterfront.

Here’s an ad from Gulf News, which incorporates a previous press release, “Promise Delivered”, about the Waterfront tower.

Here’s the artist’s impression. The name is ‘Waterfront’, the depiction is absolute waterfront.

And here are a couple of photographs I shot yesterday…

Yes folks, the building second from left is ‘Waterfront’ tower. Between it and the water is a wide pathway a large building plot and a road.

This isn't anything exceptional, it's the absolute norm for developers here.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Only when The Big Boss gets involved...

It's hardly breaking news that Dubai has problems with moron divers. That jumping red lights, dangerous speeding, erratic lane changing, hard-shoulder driving, aggressive queue-jumping, road-blocking by illegal parking is commonplace. That far too many accidents, and deaths, are caused by the cretins.

It's been that way for a long time, with the occassional hand-wringing and tut-tutting from those in a position to do something about it.

But action? No, no action.

Now Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid is on the case, and suddenly people are running around doing what they should have done long ago.

Why is it that things get done only when he becomes personally involved?

I would hazard a guess that he's is a very busy man. The UAE's Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. Also a very successful businessman with a huge business empire. Not to mention finding time for his interests such as being one of the world's leading racehorse owners, taking part in equestrian events and all the rest of it.

He surely can't be personally involved in every routine decision that needs to be taken. Yet it needs his personal involvement in things that other people are highly paid to do before they actually do them.

Yesterday Gulf News told us Dubai to crack down on reckless drivers. The story was that Sheikh Mohammed had ordered road traffic officials to come down hard on reckless drivers, to find immediate solutions to the city's traffic problems and to implement them as a priority. He also ordered the police to increase traffic patrols and radar devices.

Sheikh Mohammed warned them that "any delay or slackness in implementing the directives would be considered negligence and will not be tolerated." He also warned them that he would be personally watching the traffic situation until it is resolved.

Today Gulf News follows-up with reports of action being taken already. Errant motorists face full force of the law.

The Acting Chief of Dubai Police said: "the directions of Sheikh Mohammed are being implemented immediately."

You bet your life they are, he obviously terrified them.

But it's an unacceptable situation that people in highly-paid positions of responsibility need to be told how to do their jobs by Sheikh Mohammed.

For those of you who don't live here, here's a sample of the problem:

In a 60kph zone!

Vazhisojan/Gulf News
A policeman issues parking fine to a driving
school instructor who parked his car in the
middle of a busy road in Bur Dubai.

Gulf News
This motorist committed a blatant traffic
violation in Dubai yesterday which resulted
in the car being impounded.