Thursday, February 12, 2009

Off to Oz

We're heading for the airport shortly, if we can fight our way through the thousands of fleeing expats abandoning their Mercedes, Porsches and Large 4X4s, to head for Oz.

A couple of days in Singapore then we're due in Sydney on Sunday. After a week there we're going on to our home on the NSW Central Coast and, if there are no fires, further, much further, north to Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

Last week the temperatures were in the mid-forties celcius, this week the forecast is telling me it's in the low twenties with rain periods through Sunday and maybe further ahead.

Not so good for those of us on holiday but excellent for the firefighters - although NSW hasn't had deaths or property damage we have fires burning.

We have friends and family to catch up with, a lot of driving, sightseeing, so I'm sure I won't be spending much time on the computer.

See you in three weeks.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tradition or comfort?

The Walk at JBR has plenty of activities going on as part of the Dubai Shopping Festival.

The other evening we came across a group performing their traditional dances, dressed in their traditional clothing.

Although I wasn't entirely convinced about the authenticity of the traditional shoes...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Room with a (changing) view

I've always believed you buy off-the-plan property at your peril. I've never done it.

It all sounds great, especially the cheaper prices than those you pay for a finished property. But you don't see the finish, you don't see the fittings, you don't see the quality, you can't check the soundproofing.

That applies anywhere in the world, and regardless of the promises of the builder those things can be far poorer in reality than you expected.

In Dubai there's an added problem.

Things you weren't expecting get built around you. Things that weren't even planned when you bought the property.

Dubai Marina has a few examples.

Like suddenly finding a Metro pedestrian bridge right outside your windows...

A new interchange is built out of nowhere, like the new Interchange 5.5 at the Jebel Ali end of the Marina, and one of the flyovers is going past your bedroom....

Interchange 5.5 snakes around to JBR too, so people here are getting a whole different view from the one they expected...

I guess some owners are end users and they'd be the worst affected. But even if the owner is an investor he's been hit. The rental and the sale value will have been badly affected by the new view. And noise. And pollution.

There must be a whole bunch of disgruntled owners out there, with presumably no recourse.

What a fantastic photograph

Photo. Russell Vickery. Herald Sun

Actually it's not the photograph but the moment it captures that I find so heartwarming.

A wild animal which would usually run away or scratch & bite with firefighter David Tree giving it some of his own water.

In a bushfire all living things share the danger. These two have experienced the horrors of the fires, fought the common enemy, and now in the middle of the devastation they share a moment together.

A sombre Oz trip

We're due to arrive in Sydney on Monday to spend about two weeks in Oz, catching up with friends and family.

That part will be good but I'm expecting a much more sombre time than when we planned the trip a few weeks ago.

The death toll in the Victorian bushfire disaster is now at 173 with still many areas not entered yet by the emergency services and over twenty fires still blazing out of control. Police are saying they fear the death toll could rise to around three hundred.

I'm staggered and horrified, I find it hard to believe. Not the destruction of property because property is often lost in our bushfires, so sadly are tens of thousands of animals. Given the extended drought we've been going through for years the scale of the fires and therefore the property loss is not a surprise to me. The bush was ready to explode.

What I find hard to get my head around is the number of deaths.

I'm sure there will be an enquiry, probably a Royal Commission I expect, to investigate how so many people could have died.

The Age newspaper in Melbourne has a big library of video, audio and photographs of the disaster in addition to all the stories and a couple of photographs which stood out to me.

This one gives an indication of what the people were going through.

It was obviously zero visibility because of the smoke, you can see that the trees were burning, people were trying to get away in their cars. As is being reported from several areas, a tree was blocking the road.

That stopped four vehicles which are all burnt out. You can only pray the people survived.

The two nearest cars crashed but aren't burnt. They must have arrived after the firefront had gone through but presumably crashed because of the smoke.

The scene at the time doesn't bear thinking about.

Photo Angela Wylie The Age

And a cheerier photo. Somehow the koala survived, apparently unharmed and how he managed that I can't imagine.

Even with all the death and destruction around them, someone had thought of the animals and left food and water for any survivors.

Photo Tina McCarthy The Age

Our plan is to spend some time in Sydney, in our home town on the NSW Central Coast and then head north to Queensland's Sunshine Coast to meet up with family.

There are currently about fifty fires burning in NSW though, so we'll keep our plans flexible. It's about 1,000 kilometres with most of it through the countryside of course, so if there are still fires about I won't take the chance and we'll spend more time in Sydney instead.

If you're interested, The Age coverage is here.

By the way, as I'm looking at it it's showing the Melbourne temperature as only 18C while a couple of days ago it was 47C. That's much needed good news for everyone there.

Monday, February 09, 2009

"We really need help right now"

All major events are actually a jigsaw of small personal events, as with the bushfires devastating Victoria.

You can look at the photographs, read the stories that 130 are dead, that whole townships are destroyed but while it's a terrible story it's somehow at arms length, it's a news story, it's not on a personal level.

Then you hear real time audio of one person trapped right in the middle of it and it makes the hair on your neck stand on end.

Rhiannon, only twenty years old, called radio station 3AW as the fires raced towards the house where she and a group had taken shelter.

She was matter of fact, calm, well organised but obviously terrified. Here are a few snatches of the conversation:

"The property we've located to is surrounded completely by fire and we're just waiting for it to hit...

We've seen no emergency services and we really need help right now."

How many of you are there?

"Eight kids under ten, two elderly ladies, four adults...there's quite a few of us."

How far is the firefront from you?

"Half a kilometre...not even..."

And it's burning towards you?

"That's correct."

Is there any capacity at that property in terms of pumps, sprinklers?

We have pumps and sprinklers going but I don't know if that's enough.

We heard there's a strike force coming our way. If they're near we really need's just minutes away."

How far away did you say the flames are, half a kilometre?

"I can't even see the flames, there's too much smoke now.

Please send help."

The emergency services were simply overwhelmed, the situation was obviously critical, the conversation ended.

Then sometime later the line with Rhiannon was reconnected.

"Hi Rhiannon. You're OK!"

"For the moment. I can't see much there's smoke everywhere. We need as much help as we can get up here.

The house we were at was engulfed in flames and there are still people in the house.

We're going back for them in the tractor."

Rhianna was saved by her eighteen year old brother Rhys who had driven a tiny tractor through the burning paddocks, cut his way through the fences to the house and got them all out.

Emotional stuff.

If you want the real story behind the headlines, and get a feel for what people are going through, the full audio tape is here.

Bushfire nightmare

Aussie radio is reporting that 130 people are now dead in the horrific bushfires around Melbourne.

Many more victims are expected to be found as emergency services investigate the burnt out areas, and many badly burned survivors are not expected to survive.

There are around thirty massive fires burning in Victoria, one for example is burning over 30,000 hectares. Radio has just reported that the one which has killed twenty-one people so far has now broken containment lines and is out of control, as are several others.

Many people have died trying to save their homes instead of evacuating, others have died in their cars as they tried to get away.

The scale of the disaster is hard to imagine. Fifteen percent of the population of the small town of Strathewen, pop 200, was killed when the town was destroyed.

At least twenty-two people died when Maryville, which I mentioned in my last post, was destroyed and more victims are expected to be found as the ruins are investigated.

In Kingslake, also destroyed, many fleeing motorists didn't make it out. In thick smoke, which is worse than the worst fog you can imagine, they were caught by towering flames. Some crashed into each other, others crashed into trees. There is a five car crash on the road out of town with all the cars burnt out.

The horrors awaiting the emergency services as they are able to go in don't bear thinking about. Utter destruction, bodies in houses, cars and in the open and a resident says there are dead animals all over the road.

That's another result of fires like these, the appalling loss of animal life, pets, domestic herds and wildlife.

It's hard to imagine what these fires are like. Listening to some of the interviews on radio gives some idea. The fires burn all the oxygen from the air, so water pumps stop operating and people can't breathe. They come so fast that people who have good fire plans and equipment don't have time to do anything but try to flee. The gum trees, which are full of eucalyptus oil, explode. The fires roar, there's heat, smoke, a wall of flames tens of metres high.

There are videos and audio tapes here.

Unbelievably a number of the fires have been started by arsonists. Some have been caught and will be charged. I've always believed that they should be charged with murder with a mandatory life sentence and no parole.

The cooler weather that has helped the exhausted firefighters a little but the forecast is for strong gusty winds and much higher temperatures over the next couple of days, the worst possible news.

God help them.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Eighty-four people killed by Aussie far.

Photo: AFP

There's a terrible deathtoll in the bushfires which are destroying huge areas of southern Australia. South Australia and New South Wales are being badly hit but the real tragedy is in Victoria.

As of ten minutes ago, eighty-four people are confirmed dead and emergency services fear they will find many more as they get into fire ravaged areas.

Whole townships have been destroyed, over 700 homes so far. Up to 80 per cent of the township of Marysville has been reported destroyed, emergency services haven't got in yet and the death toll doesn't include anyone from there.

As they go in they're finding bodies in cars, in burnt out houses, in the streets.

The ABC reports that Melbourne hospitals are dealing with large numbers of burns victims. Some patients are so severely burned that they're not expected to survive.

Thousands of firefighters, including volunteers from other states, are trying to save lives, property, pets and livestock and thousands of people have fled to relief centres set up by the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and others. The army has been put on standby.

A current report:

Residents and tourists are stranded in Yarra Glen, north-east of Melbourne, after fires cut roads going in and out of town.

Visitors and locals have herded into the main street as farms, homes and hotels are evacuated and people are left with nowhere to go.

"The fire's really close, we can see the flames from the middle of town", said tourist Jacqui Cheng.

"There's hundreds of people, cars are packed full, there are dogs and people with horse floats, they're all in the street, they're just wandering around.

"The fire is on three sides and all the roads are cut."

The Age in Melbourne has the stories, videos and photos here.

ABC report.


It's just getting worse and worse. At 10pm Dubai time the death toll has reached a confirmed 93 and more are expected. There are thirty-one huge fires burning in Victoria, twelve out of control.

Entire townships have been destroyed. This is a shot from ABC TV film showing Marysville:

More poor reporting from The Times

The Times continues to demonstrate a knock-Dubai agenda with its spin on the Queen's cancellation of her Spring tour.

All the other news outlets say that the tour destination has not been announced although it's generally believed to have been to various Gulf destinations. Buckingham Palace says the cancellation is due to an overcrowded schedule but the other news outlets speculate the cancellation is almost certainly to do with her age and Prince Philip's health.

The Times alone takes a very different approach.

Their print edition headline is : "A further blow for Dubai as Palace blames cancelled visit on diary clash."

The online edition has the story headed "Queen cancels state visit to Dubai and Abu Dhabi."

They also ramble on yet again that 'police have found more than 3,000 cars' abandoned at the airport by fleeing expats.

They embellish it with even more nonsense this time. The cars they tell us are"mainly Mercedes and large 4x4s""

This time they've managed to use the correct title of Ruler rather than Emir as they used before. They couldn't keep the accuracy up though, they name the Ruler of Abu Dhabi as 'Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan'.

Imagine the ridicule if our papers said that England's monarch was Prince Charles.

It would be fascinating to discover why they're suddenly attacking Dubai. As
Alexander notes on his comment to my previous post, they do seem to be grinding an axe.

It's sad to see these plunging standards in a newspaper which through its long history, until recently, was one of the world's most respected.

If you think I'm exaggerating, have a look at the cancelled tour reports from a wide range of other news outlets and then read the way The Times have slanted it.

Press Association.
Daily Telegraph.
Daily Express.
Daily Mail.
The Times.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The big slowdown

You may have seen the list doing the rounds of various projects announced as being on hold or cancelled.

It lists 57 projects with a total value of nearly US$75 billion. Actually, only seven are listed as cancelled, the rest it says are on hold.

There's also a report today of some research by Proleads, who looked at 1,289 projects in the UAE.

That says projects valued at $582 billion are now on hold, a huge 52.8% of the country's construction.

That's a lot of work not happening. A lot of jobs lost, a lot of investment lost or deferred.

But the other side of the coin is that about half of the projects will continue, about $500 billion dollars-worth.

It's one hell of a slowdown but there's still one hell of a development programme happening.

I've said before that looking at the bigger picture the slowdown is a good thing for Dubai. The more I think about it the more I believe that. I'm not minimising the effect on people who lose their jobs, it's happened to me twice in the past so I know what it means.

Part of the culture of the region is 'it must be now' and that applied to the development of Dubai. Attempting to build in twenty years what took hundreds or more elsewhere.

Some of it's been good, like the groundbreaking work that's pushed the boundaries of engineering. The creation of Burj Al Arab's island and the building itself, new records for construction achieved with Burj Dubai, the building of the Palm Islands and The World. They've all pushed engineers to find ways to do what hasn't been done before.

The problem is that it was too much all at once. Separate cities to form a vast metropolis all being built at the same time. Finished work being ripped up and done again to a different plan. Endless hole digging in finished work to lay yet more pipes for newer projects.

Construction fatigue set in for many of us - probably all of us in New Dubai.

The infrastructure is way behind the development - we still only have one sewage treatment plant, one desalination plant, no real public transport system, chaotic roads, a serious lack of parking, an antiquated postal service, not a good enough spread of police , fire or ambulance services.

The financial slowdown means a much needed slowdown in the frantic pace. It gives an opportunity to get the infrastructure closer to what's needed, catch breath and take stock, maybe even get some real town planning done.

Gulf News' report on the Proleads research is here.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

More questionable reporting

The Times seems to have gone tabloid in today's sensationalist reporting of how the worldwide slump is affecting Dubai.

In the locally printed edition three-quarters of Page 4 is devoted to a piece based on the rumours about dumped cars at the airport. It's datelined Dubai but tells us that we apparently have an Emir called Sheikh Mohammed. An Emir.

The story is highlighted on the front page with a colour photo and headline "Dubai's car crash victims", although it's actually about Brits leaving Dubai.

It's a one-sided story based on hearsay and dinner party rumour rather than verified facts.


Police have found more than 3,000 cars outside Dubai’s international airport in recent months. Most of the cars – four-wheel drives, saloons and “a few” Mercedes – had keys left in the ignition.

The dinner party rumour is that 3,000 cars have been left at the airport, it's not what the authorities have said. As I said in my last post, the police have reported 3,000 cars abandoned around the city - against a usual number of 1,500.

And that word 'most' pops up to emphasise a point. 'Most' cars had keys left in them? Most? Or some?

The word 'many' is used in the same way:

When the market collapsed and the emirate’s once-booming economy started to slow down, many expatriates were left owning several homes and unable to pay the mortgages without credit.

Many expats owned several homes? Oh yeah?

And what does 'unable to pay the mortgages without credit' mean? A mortgage is credit, it is a loan.

Here's a classic dinner party quote:

...the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming. Dubai is emptying out,” said a Western diplomat.

Emptying out?

People are still arriving every day; the DNRD have said that they issued 199,000 new resident visas in November and December. It's true that more people than usual are leaving and there's a net decrease in population. Estimates are that we'll end up with about 8% less than now, which means about a 120,000 reduction. Hardly 'emptying out' is it.

Interestingly the 8% figure is listed alongside the article in a highlight numbers column, contradicting the dinner party quote.

Then the emotive word 'fled' is used:

...the (British) embassy has no way of tracking how many have fled back to the UK.


People flee from conflict, flee from a bush fire. These people haven't fled, they've lost their jobs, can't stay without a residence visa so they've gone back home.

The highlight numbers column continues the way the article is slanted:

1,500 visas cancelled every day in Dubai.

I commented on this figure in my previous post.

60% fall in property values predicted.

50% slump in the price of luxury apartments on Palm Jumeirah

A sudden increase to 60% from the worst figure guessed at, and Palm Jumeirah brought in. Again I commented on this in my previous post. A fall against when? Check the prices since the property was launched and through to now, there's a huge increase in value until the last few months.

By the way, they say their sources include No such thing of course, I assume they mean

With that and Emir you'd be excused for thinking they're laying off people themselves, like proof readers for example.

Or in Timesspeak, proof readers have fled.

I'm far from being a conspiracy theorist on any subject but there does seem to be an agenda here.

I say that because there's also an 'analysis' by none less the the grandly titled World Business Editor, under the headline "With no oil to back it up, desert economy is built on shifting sand'

It starts with the implication that Dubai is a brand new city.

Dubai’s boom was always a mirage made up of fast money, mass immigration, low taxation and gentle regulation. Dubai has almost no oil but cleverly decided to boost its economy as a financial and leisure centre for neighbouring cash-rich but service-poor Gulf economies.

Back here in the real world oil has always been only a small part of Dubai's economy. In any case it only came onstream in the sixties and for most of the forty-odd years it sold for peanuts. Dubai has been a trading and commercial centre for about 150 years, oil has been a short term boost to the economy.

To state that Dubai relates only to its neighbouring Gulf countries is to misrepresent competely. Dubai's business, including finance, is international, as is tourism, which they would know if they'd bothered to check the data on both. But then those facts would have spoilt the slant of the 'analysis'.

Mass immigration? Dubai from its very beginning has had a huge expat population.

It became a magnet for Saudis and Iranians seeking a liberal environment in which to play global financial markets and work off personal stress. A vast community of expatriates arrived to service their whims and their business needs...

Only Saudis and Iranians? That's the suggestion.

The whole thing is a nonsense. They, and any other nationality, can play the financial markets from anywhere. And the rest of us, about a million people, are here to service the whims of Saudis and Iranians?

I bet you didn't realise that's why you were here. I didn't.

There's more;

Two struggling mortgage banks were then bailed out and shuffled into a new state-owned entity. Yesterday the Government of Abu Dhabi was forced to inject a further $4 billion (£3 billion) into three of its banks.

I assume he's referring to Amlak and Tamweel, which are government owned anyway.

And it's hardly worth reporting these days that a government has put liquidity into the financial and banking system. It would only be news if a government somewhere hadn't.

The 'analysis' ends:

For Abu Dhabi, there is always the oil and gas but for its wayward sibling the future is no more solid than the shifting sands of the surrounding desert.

Oh dear, the hackneyed old chestnut about shifting sands. This time used to support the nonsense that Dubai has no future.

It ignores the history of Dubai, from its beginnings a commercial and trading centre, which has gone through all the same periods of boom and downturn as the rest of the world.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the writer started with the cliche. To work it in, the 'analysis' also has to ignore another important fact. This is a worldwide slump. Exactly the same as the rest of the world, Dubai has gone through a boom period which has ended.

It's cyclical. We have downturns, recessions, booms & busts regularly.

Today's paper seems to be part of the new approach to Dubai, which until a few months ago had nothing but fawning rave reports from the international media.

It mirrors something that's annoying me more and more with each passing day too. The glee with which so many people here are talking about the downturn in Dubai.

It's what we call the tall poppy syndrome.

I have no problem with stories talking about the downturn, provided that they are honest. I do have a problem with stories which cherry pick the facts, which use rumours rather than verified facts, which distort the true picture.

Fleeing Brits story.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Out of context

I'm getting irritated with our 'journalists' again.

It's a constant state with me but every so often it peaks, as it has this morning.

First item on the radio news was "Property prices may drop by up to 50% in Dubai this year!"

As usual it's nothing more than a guess from an 'expert', some crystal-ball gazing.

Taking just one guess from one person and making it the headline news is hardly responsible journalism.

Nor is announcing figures without putting them in context.

A drop against what? Against when?

If you'd bought a 2-bedroom apartment for Dh450,000 as so many people originally did, or a villa for a million, you haven't seen anything less than a huge increase in value.

If you're going to quote figures you must put them in context but all too often our 'journalists' don't bother with the context.

There's another example with the recent statement that Pakistanis are the most dangerous drivers in Dubai, police data shows. Indians were number two on the list.

Apart from finding lists like this based on nationality offensive, I also have a problem with the presentation of the data.

Firstly, the list wasn't of dangerous drivers, it was of drivers involved in fatal crashes. They are not the same thing.

And there was no context of percentage of drivers by nationality. Of our total drivers, what percentage are Pakistani, and Indian, and all the rest of us. With so many Pakistani HGV drivers, and with the fact that a high percentage of the population - thus drivers - are from the sub-continent, you would expect their numbers involved in crashes to be higher than the smaller represented nationalities.

If you're going to list dangerous drivers by nationality then at least give the context of the percentage by which each nationality is represented in the total number of drivers.

It was the same with the recent '1500 visas a day being cancelled' reports.

That was used as part of the panic stories that Dubai is being hit by the worldwide economic crisis.

Dubai has always been a transient, guest worker society. People have always come and gone on a daily basis.

So where's the context? How does the figure compare with previous years? How many new visas are being issued - and how does that compare with previous years? What is the actual effect on our population?

We can't get a true picture without the context.

There's a chink of light though, examples getting closer to how information should be presented, in EmBiz247 this morning and in The National last month.

An EmBiz247 article tells us:

Property prices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have fallen by an average of 25 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively, since their peak in September 2008.

It is difficult to determine the actual change in property prices given the lack of official data about transactions and costs.

...a data sample compiled on a monthly basis from Better Homes, a property broker in the UAE, apartment prices fell by five per cent in December 2008 from their September peak."We think these numbers are misleading to some extent given the current market circumstances, where some asking prices for the same unit have not changed for months, which, in turn, has inflated average prices"

There's more in similar vein, giving figures but trying to present them in context, which gives a much more accurate picture. The drop is against the peak, so in reality prices are probably back to where they were about the middle of last year.

The National had a much misrepresented story on abandoned cars. The general hysteria has turned the story into thousands of cars being dumped at Dubai airport by fleeing expats.

In reality, being the transient society that it is, Dubai has always had a dumped car problem. I remember it way back in the seventies.

Thankfully, the article puts some context:

More than 3,000 cars have been abandoned by owners to escape loan payments, just over double the figure in 2007.

A UAE bank official, who requested anonymity, said people who dumped their cars and fled the country were known as “skips”.

“This isn’t unusual here,” he said. “A lot of times people just leave. You get a credit card and loans and then you lose your job. What to do? Go home."

Oh, and it does say that police recently moved not thousands, as the rumours have it, but 22 cars from the airport.

So, abandoning cars isn't unusual but the number has doubled. We have context, so we can make sense of the figures.

Would the rest of our 'journalists' please take note.

It isn't difficult. You get information that cars are being abandoned. You don't simply write it up. First you check the facts with the appropriate authority. Then you ask how that compares with last year. Then you write the story giving the numbers and the context.

Dangerous drivers.
1500 visas cancelled daily.
Property drops by 25%.
Abandoned cars.

Great moments in court

The defence offered in so many court cases here keeps me amused for hours. I note some of them on 'Life in Dubai' because it's a glimpse of the ultra-modern city people outside are not aware of.

Only last week we had the gentleman who refused to pay for three nights in a hotel because he saw prophets and angels who told him that he only stayed one night.

And who can forget the case of the bulletproof sheep?

Now we have another.

A man was charged with cross-dressing in public - at Mall of the Emirates no less, which is about as public as you can get.

Dubai's Finest, working undercover, said his outfit was glittering like a woman's clothes, and he wore a bra, mascara, women's perfume and a wig.

The defendant didn't deny the charge but...

I'm not guilty... I was cross-dressed because I was training to perform a woman's role in Indian cinema.

You might wonder, as I did, why he was parading around Dubai's busiest shopping mall.

I didn't intend to go to the mall but I went there because I received an urgent phone call.

Urgent? I'd say it must have been.

Gulf News has it here.

Monday, February 02, 2009

It's our fault again.

We got it wrong again, causing ourselves unnecessary problems.

I can't believe how many times we get things wrong, misunderstand the facts, cause unnecessary problems for ourselves and others.

We caused problems for the RTA over Salik. We caused problems for the EIDA over the ID card.

Now we've misunderstood the 'One Villa - One Family' campaign.

We believed that 'one villa one family' meant, well, 'one villa one family'...but of course it didn't.

We misunderstood.

There is no "one villa, one family" rule in Dubai and the campaign against overcrowded villas has been misunderstood, a top civil official said on Sunday(February 1st).

In our defence I suppose our lack of understanding - and I know it's pushing the boundaries of credibility - but it just may have been based on the earlier official announcements and the facts on the ground.

The campaign was launched in April. By July there were reports that:

Families living in shared villa accommodations in the Jumeirah-1 and Abu Hail areas have been asked to vacate under Dubai Municipality's ongoing 'One Villa-One Family' campaign.

Since the launch of the campaign in April, almost 2,400 eviction notices have been served to families living in villas in the Rashidiya area, and water and electricity supply to 280 villas have been disconnected.

In September I reproduced a DM advertisement which clearly stated that within thirty days from that announcement it was obligatory to vacate multi-families.

And then on October 3, 2008:

The Municipality’s ‘One Villa, One Family’ campaign kicked off this week with inspectors combing through villas in Al Rashidiya area, an official said.

"We study every case individually. However, the rule we enforce is one family per villa.

"Family only refers to immediate family, as in father, mother, spouse, children, brother and sister. No uncles, cousins or in-laws."

He added that if the brother or sister of the resident was married and had his family living in the same house, then even that would be considered a violation of the law.

In November we read that:

Dubai Municipality is cutting power and water to as many as 200 villas a week in an attempt to evict people who are sharing homes, but some of the tenants are defying authorities and illegally reconnecting services, a senior official said yesterday.

I'm going to plead mitigating circumstances for my stupidity in thinking that this meant there was a rule that families cannot share accommodation.

You see, the campaign was entitled 'One Villa - One Family' and a senior official specified exactly how closely related family members needed to be to qualify. Services were cut off, people were evicted and fines up to Dh50,000 were imposed under the rule.

We stupidly misunderstood it all.

February 1st, 2009:

Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director General of Dubai Municipality said the municipality did not have any problem with more than one family living in a villa, provided it was big enough.

"The municipality has started a campaign against overcrowding in villas to ensure the safety and security of residents."

Now do you understand?

Families evicted.

Clarification of what a family means.

DM cuts off 200 villas a week.

There is no rule.