Monday, March 31, 2008

Anyone else?

Network Error (tcp_error)

A communication error occurred: "Operation timed out"
The Web Server may be down, too busy, or experiencing other problems preventing it from responding to requests. You may wish to try again at a later time.

For assistance, contact Customer Support.

Since yesterday I've been getting this with most of my googling. And Yahooing.

It's more than a little frustrating when you're trying to find information.

Is it just me or is it an Etisalat problem?

Six weeks for a death.

Last week I posted about Dubai Police saying they would appeal a lenient sentence handed down by the Traffic Court. They're saying the same about another appallingly lenient sentence today.

Having obtained his licence five months ago, a driver was travelling at 150kph on an 80kph road. He lost control and ploughed into a group of road maintenance workers, killing two and injuring fourteen others.

The court thought a sentence of three months and a six month driving ban was adequate.

Three months.

Take a life and spend six weeks in jail.

Oh, and diyyah, or 'blood money' - which is simply an emotive word for insurance.

Salah Bu Farousha, the Head of Dubai's Traffic Public Prosecution says:

"We will study the reasons of the verdict sheet thoroughly... then we will appeal the initial ruling to the higher court and ask for the implementation of the toughest punishment applicable."

Good for him, and as with last week's case I wish him luck.

We have to get these killers off the roads and locked up where they belong, but the courts aren't helping.

Gulf News has the story.

Good news on driving standards. Possibly.

Our beloved RTA has set up a new licensing agency.

Amongst all the guff in the press release and stories is the important bit:

"The new Licensing Agency will be responsible for licensing driving institutes as well as training instructors and inspectors of drivers.

It will also be responsible for the testing and licensing of drivers and vehicles along with endorsing conditions and guidelines governing the training of drivers.

One of the root causes of the problem has been the standard of instruction. The instructors just aren't teaching people how to drive correctly and safely.

The whole driving standards thing - I'm sure I've said this before - needs to be put on hold and looked at from start to finish. The most important item is the standard of training, so the trainers need to be trained, the training standards need to be established. We need a published Highway Code, we need road/driving education in schools - in other words, back to basics.

Maybe, just maybe, that may be on the horizon.

Read the story here.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

What's going on?

Dubai's first-in-the-world much vaunted air-conditioned bus stops, so recently installed, are now being boarded up:


The fire aftermath

Sadly, more people were killed than originally thought.

After investigation three people were listed as 'missing', and the body of one of them was reported on Thursday as having been found in the warehouse where the explosion occurred.

Now today Dubai Civil Defence say they have found 'scattered remains of human body parts' but don't yet know whether they are from one body or more.

The death toll is officially three with two missing. I guess this latest grim discovery may be the answer.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Explosion & fire in Al Quoz industrial area

At around seven this morning there was a huge explosion at a fireworks factory is Al Quoz industrial area, not far from Sheikh Zayed Road.

Civil Defence officials are saying, at 9am, that there's one fatality and one injured.

A huge plume of smoke is drifting over Dubai, firstly going out to sea but now changing direction and heading towards Sharjah.

Schools in the area around the fire are reported to have been evacuated, roads are closed - and SZR has heavy congestion thanks to the brainless rubbernecks whose main concern is to slow down to gawp at the smoke.

From Knowledge Village an hour ago the smoke was clearly visible...

The factory is near Interchange 3, apparently somewhere near the big cement factory. Reports from eye witnesses are saying that in spite of efforts by the firefighters the fire keeps re-igniting, presumably as more of the fireworks are set off.

I'll try to update this posting as more information becomes available and the situation becomes clearer.

Fingers crossed that no-one else has been hurt.


Civil Defence has confirmed one death and one serious injury.

Many neighbouring warehouses have been destroyed or badly damaged - estimates are varying wildly between 20 and 80. Already figures on the damage are being bandied about, but they can't be given any credibility while the fires are still raging.

Civil Defence units are arriving from Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ajman to help control the fires.

Al Khail Road is chaotic, SZR not much better. And of course the morons are still with us, with eye-witness reports of them chasing emergency vehicles in an attempt to gain a few metres.


Civil defence say that two people have died and one is seriously injured.

Met Office say that a sea breeze is pushing the smoke - and chemicals - inland and medical advice is to stay indoors.

Reports of up to 100 neighbouring warehouses/buildings on fire or damaged and others destroyed.

Losses are obviously going to be huge, probably hundreds of millions of dirhams. I wonder what happens to the staff of these businesses - are they kept on the payroll? That might be difficult if the company isn't able to trade. Or do they simply lose their employment? That would be disastrous for very many people.


I noticed a visitor with a search engine enquiry "dubai explosion" from the UK. Followed it and I found that the international media is starting to cover the story.


I was in Mall of the Emirates at lunchtime and the fire was still burning well, so it certainly wasn't a small one.

Here's a photo from the car park at 1pm:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Secret Dubai mystery

As we all know, SD is blocked in the UAE.

My visitors this morning include this one:

Domain Name (Unknown)
IP Address 194.170.24.# (Abu Dhabi Investment Authority)
ISP Emirates Telecommunications Corporation
Location Continent : Asia
Country : United Arab Emirates (Facts)
State/Region : Abu Zaby
City : Abu Dhabi
Lat/Long : 24.4667, 54.3667 (Map)
Language English (U.S.) en-us
Operating System Microsoft Win2000
Browser Internet Explorer 6.0
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.0; .NET CLR 1.1.4322; InfoPath.1; .NET CLR 2.0.50727)
Javascript version 1.3
Monitor Resolution : 1024 x 768
Color Depth : 32 bits
Time of Visit Mar 25 2008 1:57:33 pm
Last Page View Mar 25 2008 1:57:33 pm
Visit Length 0 seconds
Page Views 1
Referring URL
Visit Entry Page
Visit Exit Page
Out Click
Time Zone UTC+4:00
Visitor's Time Mar 25 2008 2:57:33 pm
Visit Number 64,237

So someone in ADIA is coming in to me from a blocked site.

Actually, it's the second time today they've done it:

Domain Name (Unknown)
IP Address 194.170.24.# (Abu Dhabi Investment Authority)
ISPEmirates Telecommunications Corporation
Location Continent: Asia
United Arab Emirates (Facts)
State/Region: Abu Zaby
City: Abu Dhabi
Lat/Long: 24.4667, 54.3667
Language English (U.S.)en-us
Operating System Microsoft Win2000
Browser Internet Explorer 6.0Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.0; .NET CLR 1.1.4322; InfoPath.1; .NET CLR 2.0.50727)
Javascript version 1.3
Monitor Resolution: 1024 x 768
Color Depth: 32 bits
Time of Visit Mar 25 2008 8:42:20 am
Last Page View Mar 25 2008 8:42:35 am
Visit Length 15 seconds
Page Views 1
Referring URL
Visit Entry Page
Visit Exit Page
Out Click 8 commentshttp://www.blogger.c...D=765942449095148285
Time Zone UTC+4:00
Visitor's Time Mar 25 2008 9:42:20 am
Visit Number 64,177

Should I be hiding under the bed?

Later in the day - they're still visiting via SD's blocked blog: ? (United Arab Emirates)
IP Address 194.170.32.# (Higher Colleges of Technology)
ISP Emirates Telecommunications Corporation
Location Continent:Asia
Country: United Arab Emirates (Facts)
State/Region: Abu Zaby
City: Abu Dhabi

Referring URL
Visit Entry Page
Time Zone

Visitor's Time Mar 25 2008 5:11:32 pm
Visit Number 64,270

Magic onyx to be scientifically tested.

This story has legs, as they say.

The magic onyx and the bulletproof sheep story that is.

Last week I said of the convicted dealer and his defence lawyer: "I like these guys, they're really putting up a defence.

They're still trying the 'try to shoot me while I'm wearing it' argument. But as that was rejected by the earlier court the defence lawyer has a scientific fall-back position.

He asked the judge to: "assign a physics expert or Dubai police's criminal laboratory to test the stone and decide whether it contains any electromagnetic powers which deviates the bullet before it hits the stone wearer."

I thought that was going to be rejected but no, the Dubai Court of Appeal has decided we can continue to be entertained by the story for a while yet.

They wouldn't let the dealer wear the magic onyx and be shot at, but they have agreed that an expert from Dubai police's criminal laboratory or any concerned authority should examine the onyx to establish whether it contains any special characteristics which makes it bulletproof.

No, I'm not making it up.

The story is here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Getting tough with motorists

The new and tougher penalties for bad driving are coming in to play, with Gulf News reporting heavy fines for drunks caught driving.

"The Dubai Traffic Court of First Instance gave the 34-year-old Emirati motorist a hefty Dh20,000 fine for reckless and drunk driving and jumping a red light...(he) crashed into another vehicle after he jumped a red light under the influence of alcohol. The court seized his driving licence for three months. He was also fined Dh500 for tinting his car windows 50 per cent.

The same court fined a 30-year-old female flight attendant from former Yugoslavia Dh10,000 for driving her car under the influence of liquor.

A similar fine (Dh10,000) was given to a 50-year-old Pakistani driver who was also found guilty of jumping a red signal when he drove his car inattentively and under the influence of alcohol.

Of all the dangerous driving on our roads, jumping red lights is, to me, the most dangerous of all.

It would seem that Traffic Police might agree with me, because they're planning to appeal the sentences. "We will be appealing these rulings to the Dubai Court of Appeal and ask for the implementation of the toughest punishments applicable under the newly revised law," Salah Bu Farousha, the Head of Dubai's Traffic Public Prosecution.

The law allows for jail in addition to fines and confiscation, so presumably that's what they'll be pushing for.

I'm with them all the way, I hope they're successful. We have to get these life-threatening morons off the roads now.

The full story is here.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Customer care, Dubai style

Ah that's better, we're back to normal.

The good service I posted about a couple of days ago was just a blip in the normal standard of customer care and service.

Today Gulf News brings us the story of bugs in beans.

A tourist was disgusted to find live bugs crawling in a sealed packet of beans...he returned the packet, which was crawling with around 100 live bugs.

That's when he found out about true Dubai-style customer care.

After reporting the infestation to the manufacturer's customer helpline, he was outraged when told that it was a good thing.

"I rang the number to complain and they told me it was a good thing that bugs were eating the beans, because it meant the food was tasty."

Yep, that's the normal arrangement. We pay the money, the company decides whether to give us anything in return, what it is, when they'll give it to us and what condition it's in. Resistance is futile.

Welcome to Dubai.

You can read the story here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Reality check

We're in a bit of a fantasy bubble in Dubai sometimes, forgetting the reality of what happens 'back home' and thinking the problems we face are unique to Dubai.

I was reminded of that by a couple of articles in overseas papers recently.

First, in my home town in Australia. Our sort-of equivalent Sheikh Zayed Road is the F3 Freeway going north from Sydney.

The old original Pacific Highway has been allowed to fall into disrepair since the opening of the freeway, which has long stretches with no turn-off. That means that whenever there's an accident we get this:

The same happens when we have one of our frequent summer bushfires. People have been stuck there for hours - I recall one accident that had kilometres of vehicles trapped there in searing temperatures for eight hours.

The Central Coast Express Advocate has a story about the plans.

DESPERATE drivers hope the State Government's $28 million plan to divert traffic on the F3 during major emergencies will curb lengthy closures.

But many warn it is not a silver bullet to solve the problem and does not negate the need for an alternative route between Sydney and the Central Coast.

The government has released its plan to divert traffic to the opposite side of the F3 during emergencies.Traffic will be diverted around a blockage, typically caused by an accident or bushfire, at one of 19 crossover points.

The plan has drawn mild applause from commuters, the NRMA, the Opposition and the NSW Business Chamber Central Coast.But they said it was not a new idea and there was a need for another major route.

"The crossover points are only a Band-Aid solution," Terrigal State Liberal MP Chris Hartcher said.

Those are things we complain about here in Dubai - not enough roads, not enough alternative routes, gridlock when there's a problem.

Then another subject we complain about here, not allowing emergency vehicles to pass, was covered in the London Evening Standard.

London ambulances are involved in an average of more than four accidents a day, figures show.

Experts say the problem is getting worse because other drivers are increasingly unwilling to get out of the way of emergency vehicles.

"I suppose people are so frustrated stuck in traffic that they lose any sense of proportion but we are seeing some of the consequences of that."

If you're interested, the original stories are here and

It's petunia time

My favourite time of year for the landscaping has gone - my favourite colours are orange & yellow so the marigold period is the most pleasing to my eyes.

But that's finished, the plants have been replaced with petunias and I must say they look pretty good too.

Here's one of the displays just in front of Madinat Jumeirah.

And the landscaping of the new Interchange 5 at Dubai Marina is starting to come good too...

Zoo update

The other day in an EmBiz247 large article about the plans of Dubai Municipality there was a small, almost throw-away, comment about the long-promised new zoo.

Guess what...yet again the work will start this year.

The paper quotes Hussain Nasser Lootah, the municipality’s Acting Director-General and as it's a short piece here it is in full:

NEW ZOO: Work on the long-awaited new Dh500 million Dubai Zoo will start this year in Dubailand.

"The first phase of the project will cover an area of around 123 acres," said Lootah. "It will include car parking of around 38 acres.

The new Dubai Zoo has the potential to become a landmark attraction for national and international visitors. It will serve as a major tourism and visitor education centre for all of the UAE.

The project has been divided into two phases the first will involve preparation work while the second will include construction of the zoo and the botanical garden."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The magic onyx saga...

At the beginning of the month I said The Case Of The Bulletproof Sheep would continue to entertain us, because the defendant was planning to appeal.

Re-cap: in the Dubai Court of Misdemeanours a defence lawyer said he would be calling witnesses to confirm his client's claim that a sheep became bulletproof when an onyx stone was placed around its neck. The defendant shot the sheep four times without harming him.

The owner of the stone advertised it for sale in an Arabic newspaper at only Dh1.8 billion (US$490 million). He was charged with trying to obtain money under false pretences.

The judge refused the application to allow the defendant to wear the stone and be shot at to prove its magic powers and jailed him for six months.

On Monday they were back in court, this time at Dubai Appeals Court.

They're still trying the 'try to shoot me while I'm wearing it' argument. But as that was rejected by the earlier court the defence lawyer has a scientific fall-back position.

He asked the judge to: "assign a physics expert or Dubai police's criminal laboratory to test the stone and decide whether it contains any electromagnetic powers which deviates the bullet before it hits the stone wearer.

I like these guys, they're really putting up a defence.

The story's here.

The beach - now we know.

Exactly a year ago I posted about a construction fence going up on Umm Suqeim beach. Here's how it was shaping up:

The media started to publicise it, there were voices raised in protest, a petition....then The Big Boss stopped the development.

But as I subsequently pointed out, dredging work continued.

Then at the end of May that seemed to stop and the island they'd been building started to disappear:

But here it is this morning:

At least now we have some some information about what's going on.

Emirates Business247 ran a story that tells us:

"Zabeel Properties, the property arm of Zabeel Investments, has started work on Porto Dubai, a luxury residential development, on a reclaimed peninsula that will feature a “tiered island” design concept for the first time in the UAE, according to a top company official.

“We have started dredging and reclamation work on the project. Villa construction will commence by year-end, while the project is expected to be completed by 2010,” Mohammed Ali Al Hashimi, Executive Chairman, Zabeel Investments said."

There's a photo with the article that's so bad I can't reproduce it here - you'll need to go to the article here and try to work out what they're showing us.

It seems to be a circular-shaped island jutting out from Umm Suqeim Fishing Port, and it's a far cry from the massive 4.5 million square feet residential/commercial/hospitality development originally planned.

Good service from Etisalat

Now that's something I never imagined I'd be saying.

Here's the story: we decided to change to Wi-Fi at home, so yesterday morning went into Etisalat at Jebel Ali.

The guy at reception was knowledgeable and helpful, we filled in a couple of items such as 'User Name' on a form, he gave us a numbered ticket.

Less than a minute later our number was called, again the person we saw was knowledgeable and helpful - and very pleasant - and it took him a couple of minutes to enter information into the computer.

The whole process took less than five minutes.

That was yesterday. This morning at seven the phone rang. The engineer would be with us in fifteen minutes to instal the new modem, if that was OK.

It was.

Even more amazing, he knew his way to our building and didn't need any instructions.

Fifteen minutes later he was doing the job, fifteen minutes after that he'd finished.

I thought it was worth recording.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Church security

At the weekend a reader e-mailed me about hightened security at St. Mary's Church.

"We were not allowed to park next to the church, and we had to be screened by guards with metal detectors (a la airport security)."

I'd seen nothing in the papers then, but yesterday there was a report in Gulf News about it.

Police are saying it's a 'routine security measure' and 'there is nothing to worry about' and I suppose it just could be, with Easter coming up.

It could also, of course, be that the authorities have received some intelligence that something untoward is planned.

One to watch.

Gulf News report is here.

The big crash - the fog dunnit.

"Fog and low visibility were identified as the main causes of the accident."

So says the story in Gulf News, reporting from Abu Dhbai Police's press conference.

The fog drove vehicles in to other vehicles. The fog was not paying attention. The fog was on the mobile phone. The fog was speeding. The fog was too close to the vehicle in front. The bloody fog chased emergency vehicles along the hard shoulder.

The fog.


The first, vital, step in solving a problem is to identify the problem accurately and honestly.

If you don't do that you cannot solve the problem. Solving it is impossible.

The cause of the crash was driver incompetence. Nothing else.

Driving standards are bad enough as it is, without official announcements that drivers are not to blame for crashes.

Now all the people who were actually resposible for the death and destruction can go on believing they were not at fault, that they have no behaviour to change, that they can go on endangering others by their incompetent, dangerous, brainless driving.

They have official exoneration.

Read it here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Light relief

Every so often I glance through the words that visitors put into search engines that led them to this blog.

These from today made me smile:

Search Engine
Search Words
european old guy for couple in dubai

Optomistic I'd say, but I understood it. This one still has me puzzled though:

Search Engine
Search Words
dubai 40's sheep

I despair

Since Tuesday morning the media has been full of the carnage of the country's worst traffic crash, caused by brainless, moronic, criminally stupid people.

There can't be a driver in the country who isn't aware of it.

But I've come to the conclusion there's nothing we can do about it.

The fact is, that's how people are. They are morons. They are brainless. They are criminally stupid. And they're all around.

Short of having compulsory intelligence and common-sense tests and euthenasing everyone who fails - what an empty planet we'd end up with - I can't see an answer to the problem.

As I said, for 48 hours the media has been giving huge coverage to the destruction. No driver can be unaware of the dangers.

Today in Dubai Marina we were confronted with one of them, driving his sedan the wrong way down a dual-carriageway. He was aware of what he was doing because he had his hazzard lights on and he was faced by oncoming traffic in both lanes. And arrows on the road pointing in the opposite direction.

An hour later I was doing 60kph on a clearly-marked 60kph road when a Dodge Charger, driver on his mobile, came past at something over 100kph. He was stopped by a red traffic signal - he was still on the phone as he screamed off when the light went green.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

People caused the crash, nothing else.

The country's worst-ever road crash is still a confused story and there are plenty of rumours doing the rounds.

There were a number of crashes along the Abu Dhabi-Dubai highway, hundreds of vehicles were involved, many caught fire, at least three and perhaps more than double that number were killed, over three hundred are injured, many critically.

Exactly how many crashes, how many vehicles, how many dead and injured is not clear and there are conflicting reports everywhere.

What isn't in dispute is that it was the country's worst-ever road disaster.

They call it an accident.

I don't like that word, it makes the event sound as though it was unavoidable, was no-one's fault.

Never forget that accidents don't happen, they are caused.

The police are reported to be blaming the thick fog as a major contributor. Others are saying it was fate, some sort of divine will.

The fact is that the cause is simple to pinpoint. Brainless, mindless, criminally stupid people.

Nothing else.

Speed, stopping distance and the distance you can actually see are inseparable.

If, as the police said was the situation yesterday, you can only see a few feet and you drive at 100kph or more you are going to slam into anything in front of you.

They did.

You can also be sure that some were talking on their mobile phones, others were in the wrong lane, plenty of them had their hazard lights flashing so that no-one would know if they were going to change lane. It was early morning so more than a few would have been drinking coffee - I've seen it many times.

Criminal stupidity.

And what I complained about yesterday, the unbelievable heartlessness, the lack of any semblance of humanity.

I'm not sure about the looting rumours, there hasn't been any confirmation from the authorities. It could have been, for example, that people who'd fled their vehicles to get to a safer place later went back to retrieve their belongings.

But there are other examples, such as people following emergency vehicles along the hard shoulder to try to get to the front, the rubberneckers on the opposite carriageway. And how about these:

"“While I was trying to rescue my friend, I was horrified to see one of the passengers from a crashed bus being mowed down by a car that was speeding down the hard shoulder,” Singh said. From 7Days.

"What really got be irritated was when I saw some of the motorists busy clicking away pictures on their mobile phone instead of helping the injured." Rachael Johnson. From Gulf News.

As always, in contrast to the cretins there were people doing what they could to help and comfort:

"...unknown hero on the road (a labourer) who was shouting his heads off and running towards the on coming traffic to warn them and stop them. It is difficult to explain how frantically he was yelling and trying his best to stop cars ... just so that there are not any more casualties. Had I not stopped because of his warning I might have also been involved in that horrific accident.

When I asked that “angel” what had happened, he told me that people are dying ahead on the road … everyone is hitting in each other. I advised him to take some precaution while warning others on the road, coz he was running towards the traffic in the road to force them to slow down or stop. Guess what he replied, he said “If I can save them by risking my own life then let it be that way.” Anyway, my salute to that labourer." Waqqas Pervez.
From Khaleej Times.

"Some of the motorists who were stranded in the traffic were seen offering water to those who were injured.” Rachael Johnson. From Gulf News.

Thick fog, slippery roads, visibility a few feet. What speeds do you think would be needed to flatten cars like this:

Photo: Gulf News.

Gulf News.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

No punishment is severe enough.

Breaking news this morning, related to the thick fog in Abu Dhabi:

"An horrific accident involving 31 cars has blocked the Abu Dhabi to Dubai highway near Ghantoot.

Police have confirmed that there are fatalities and several injuries but have yet to say how many people were killed in the accident which happened on Tuesday morning.

Witnesses have said that three or four cars were on fire after the accident."

Apart from the brainless morons driving as they are in thick fog and causing the destruction, you know what makes it even worse?

Radio reports are saying that:

a) drivers are attempting to by-pass the jam by following emergency vehicles along the hard shoulder. They then get stuck and block other emergency vehicles trying to get through to help the victims.

b) drivers going in the opposite direction are stopping and abandoning their cars on the highway so that they can look at the carnage.

My cynicism about people's stupidity, lack of consideration for others, lack of basic humanity is once again confirmed.

People are dying and others can think of nothing but getting to the head of the queue.

I am outraged and disgusted. We need to protect the rest of society from these apologies for human beings. They should be jailed for a very long time at the very least.

Breaking story from Gulf News is here.


It's much worse than the original reports suggested. Here's a photo from Gulf Newswebsite:

Photo: Yasir Thottingal. Gulf News

And they say:

"At least six people have been killed after a series of horrific accidents on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai highway near Ghantoot on Tuesday morning.

Police have said around 200 cars were involved in the crash, which happened in heavy fog, with 25 cars catching fire.

Sources at Rashid Hospital in Dubai said that 40 people were admitted to their emergency department, but 20 were discharged after being given treatment. Around 10 people are seriously injured at Rashid Hospital."

As the first comment on this post points out, there are also claims of looting - unconfirmed and I sincerely hope beyond any depths to which human beings can sink.

Gulf News.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Light at the end of the tunnel

There are encouraging signs that little by little we may be getting to more public honesty about things.

We're used to the relentless 'everything is good, nothing bad ever happens' style of reporting, but there are the odd signs that it's beginning to be a bit more realistic, a bit more honest.

Not only are officials, and The Big Boss, saying things publicly that once would have been kept private, but they are being reported.

There's another little item along these lines today with the announcement that Dubai Police are launching an anti-narcotics campaign. Part of it is to help rehabilitate 5,000 drug addicts in the Arab world.

Announcing it, Police Chief Lt.General Dahi Khalfan Tamim said that according to international statistics there are 10 million addicts in the Arab world.

Not so long ago that kind of thing would not have been spoken about publicly.

Unless problems are identified and acknowledged they can never be fixed. And it's always dangerous if the general public is kept in the dark and believes that nothing bad is happening around them.

A shortened version of the newspaper report is here.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

A glimpse of Dubai life

Mrs Seabee has just gone to the airport (business trip to Singapore).

Taxi was ordered for 4.15 but he rang fifteen minutes early to say he was nearby and ready to pick her up.

She explained he was fifteen minutes early.

"Madam, I have to stop for fifteen minutes prayers on the way."

So he managed to do his duty, and she arrived at the airport at the time she expected to.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Maids' wages

About ten days ago I was talking about the new minimum wage bringing a better deal for Indian maids.

In it I said that it's a highly complex issue and I talked about the different wages which different nationalities view as fair and acceptable, which attracted some debate.

Today there's a story in Gulf News that reinforces both points. People are saying that they can no longer afford to hire maids, which obviously means that some maids will lose their jobs and will no longer be able to send money back for their families. That's just one complexity.

And there's a list of the minimum wages set by some maid-supplying countries. It demonstrates the difference in what the governments of these countries believe is a fair and acceptable wage for their citizens. The lowest wage is half the highest wage.

None of them are saying, as well-meaning but naive westerners all-too often say, that citizens of all countries must be paid the same wage. That 'there's a rate for the job'. They acknowledge the temporary guest-worker nature of our workplace, the fact of remittances, the relationship with the wages, cost of living and economy of the home country. They base the minimum wages for their people on that.

The monthly minimum wage for maids is:

Philippines: Dh1,470
India: Dh1,100
Sri Lanka: Dh825
Indonesia: Dh800
Bangladesh: Dh750

Here's the full story in Gulf News.

Frightening traffic figures

New tougher penalties for traffic offences came into force on March 1st. We obviously need them.

Dubai Police report that traffic offences are increasing, with 272,979 in February.

In 29 days there were 272,979 drivers caught breaking the law.

That's 9,413 offences a day.

392 an hour.

It's a traffic offence every nine seconds.

Many of these were dangerous and life threatening - 4,724 vehicles were confiscated in February for committing dangerous traffic offences.

And these figures record only the drivers actually caught committing an offence.

The full story is here.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Bulletproof sheep case continues.

My favourite story of recent times continues to provide entertainment.

You may recall that last month in Dubai Court of Misdemeanours a defence lawyer said he would be calling witnesses to confirm his client's claim that a sheep became bulletproof when an onyx stone was placed around its neck.

His client was charged with trying to con the public after he advertised the ring for sale in an Arabic newspaper, a real bargain at only Dh1.8 billion (US$490 million).

As 7Days reported: "In a lively court case (I bet it was!) the guilty man’s lawyer asked the judge to allow a test to be carried out, where the defendant would have worn the onyx and been shot at to test its powers. The judge refused.


The owner of the magic stone was jailed for six months.

We can expect more entertainment though, because he is expected to appeal the decision.

The story in 7Days is here.

Telling it like it is

The Big Boss really does push the boundaries.

In a culture which doesn't publicly criticise, which takes politeness to the point of being overly polite it's quite remarkable.

For the media to be reporting his comments is even more a sign of changing times.

In April last year he warned government ministers to lift their game, even naming ministries he wasn't satisfied with.

A couple of months later it was announced that a system was being developed to track the performance of all ministries. And a team of 'mystery shoppers' would regularly monitor them and report their findings directly to Sheikh Mohammed.

That was followed by a cabinet reshuffle, with some ministers replaced and others moved.

In the first meeting of the new cabinet he laid it on the line again.

He urged the ministers to find effective solutions to the problems facing them while developing their ministries. "I don't want ministers to bring us their problems only, they should come up with valuable solutions."

"...I demand you do more, exert all possible efforts and come up with creative ideas in the best interests of the nation..."

He noted that he would even effect a new reshuffle should any minister fail to discharge his duties.

The person at the top always sets the tone, which then filters all the way down. This new attitude is badly needed to weed out the complacency, inefficiency and incompetence we struggle with. Long may it continue.

Gulf News story here.