Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I don't get this either...

I'm still trying to understand Citibank's 'marketing initiative' I posted about yesterday...and here's another in my 'I don't get it' file:

People are paying a lot of money to eat dinner while dangling from a crane fifty metres in the air.

If anyone who's done it reads this...why?

Monday, March 28, 2011

They're kidding, right?

It's in Arabian Business, not some sensationalist tabloid, so I tend to believe it.

I've checked the date and it isn't April 1st.

The report says:

Citibank’s UAE subsidiary has launched a marketing campaign offering residents a free one-way flight out of the country if they sign on for a personal bank loan.

Borrow up to Dh64,000 and they'll give you a one-way ticket out of here.

I need to go away and think about this one...

See what you think of the story, which is here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dubai 1977

I've been fossicking around at the bottom of boxes and the back of drawers looking for more photos that I took in Dubai when I arrived the first time in 1977.

I found some 35mm slides, processed by a lab I'd completely forgotten about, United Colour Film Co of Ajman.

My first apartment was in a new building in Deira, just behind what is now Al Ghurair City (which hadn't been started when I moved here). There's a photo of it on an earlier 'old Dubai' post, here.

Anyway, in the heart of Deira I took this shot from my sixth-floor apartment:

Plenty of people still kept their livestock like this, a few hundred metres from the Inter.Continental hotel on the Creek.

Across in Bur Dubai, there wasn't a lot of development around Dubai Museum either:

 We had some interesting retail options in those days ( I love the brand name on the box by the way, click on the pic to enlarge it):

 And last but not least, my very favourite of all my old Dubai photographs:

Yes, it's the Imperil Restaurant.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why, du? Why?

In my post of yesterday, which included some photographs I took in Dubai back in the early eighties, I finished with this:

(You'll find many more shots of Dubai back in the seventies and eighties if you hit my 'Old Dubai' label).

Then readers told me this:

Post a Comment On: Life in Dubai

Shalini said...

Great photos and so interesting to see the changes.
By the way, your "old Dubai" label comes up as a blocked page by Du.

March 22, 2011 6:16 PM

Dubai Photo Story said...

The old Dubai label is indeed blocked by du!!!!!

March 22, 2011 9:08 PM

They don't want you to see photos of Dubai in the old days? Why not?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Times they are a'changin'

Rostamani Tower, that's the one at the far left which I've arrowed, on Sheikh Zayed Road:

From my apartment at the back of the building I took this photograph:

Of course, that was back in 1981 when it was Abu Dhabi Road and it looked like this:

Photo: Torri Higgins

That's Rostamani Tower in the far top left, and that's how it was when I took the photo.

To get across the road to drive into Dubai we simply bumped across the sand between the two lanes and off we went. There were crashes of course but not like the ones we get now, by far the biggest problem then was speeding cars hitting wandering camels.

In the foreground is the Trade Centre, then Dubai's tallest building and I took a series of shots at a royal wedding celebrated in its shadow:

I found these photos when I was rummaging around in a cupboard back home in Oz last month. When I've posted old photos in the past they've been received well so I thought I'd share these with you too.

I came across some more of the Dubai Highland Games from the same early-eighties period too. Here's one of them, one of the several Arab Scottish Bagpipe Bands which performed at the Games.

The black & white photo by Torri Higgins I found on Len Chapman's wonderful website Dubai As It Used To Be.

(You'll find many more shots of Dubai back in the seventies and eighties if you hit my 'Old Dubai' label).

Monday, March 21, 2011

More on the law

If you haven't read yesterday's post, please do so before reading this one.

I think that sometimes the problem is the way the law is administered rather than the law itself.

In his comment on my last posting, Alexander called it 'a system that runs on rails to an insane degree', which pretty well sums it up.

But there are other examples where it is the law itself that's the problem and there's an example of what I consider to be a bad law reported in this morning's Gulf News.

A tragedy that happens world-wide is that little children are run down in their own driveways by their parents, especially when they're reversing large 4x4s.

I can't even begin to imagine the sickening horror the parents experience.

In the UAE, more horror is piled on top of that horror.

An Australian father has been charged with accidentally and unintentionally causing the death of his son after reversing his car and running over the toddler at the entrance to his house in Umm Suqeim.

The prosecutors are all showing sympathy and asking that he should be dealt with leniently.

...the law must be applied with a humane touch," said Salah Bu Farousha, Chief Traffic Prosecutor, while arguing for a compassionate and sympathetic view of the case, and asked the court to consider the emotional state of the father and the exceptional circumstances of the case to pass a light punishment...Upon the directives of Dubai's Attorney General Essam Eisa Al Humaidan, prosecutors ask a judge to be sympathetic...In such cases, we frequently ask the court to implement Articles 83 and 84 of the law, which stipulate that a fine or an imprisonment against suspects convicted in such cases could be suspended for three years.

There's been a death in a traffic accident so it's fair enough that there's a police investigation. If dangerous or reckless driving is involved then a case should be brought against the driver. 

But to have 'accidentally and unintentionally' as a crime is another thing all together. And in this instance there is no suggestion that it was anything other than a tragic accident.

Prosecutor Salah Bu Farousha said the law must be applied with a humane touch. But they shouldn't have to ask the court for leniency, it should never reach court. A true humane touch would be for such a terrible accident not to be treated as a criminal act.

The story is in Gulf News here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Report a crime, go to jail

There's a disturbing example of the way the legal system can be administered, reported by Gulf News yesterday.

If the story is correct, not for the first time the victim reporting a crime has spent time in Al Slammer.

In summary, when meeting friends at a hotel a young German woman was offered sweets. She felt dizzy and uncomfortable immediately after she ate a sweet and blood tests confirmed she'd been given a drug.

She reported the incident to police, who set up a sting operation which resulted in a man being punished and deported.

All witnesses and law enforcement officers confirmed that she was the one who reported the matter to the police. Forensic doctors confirmed that the drugs which appeared in her blood could have resulted from the sweet she ate.

On Thursday she appeared in court after five months in jail.

After five months in jail.

You have to ask why she was in jail in the first place and why it took five months to get the case to court.

There've been similar cases in the past which have attracted scathing criticism in international media, and rightly so.

On every level it's absolutely the wrong thing to do.

On a moral level it's indefensible to lock up a victim.

It can't be right to keep someone in jail for five months before bringing them to court.

It's counter-productive in the fight against crime. People won't report crime for fear they'll be jailed themselves.

It further harms Dubai's reputation, already under sustained attack by sections of the western media.

And still she's not free. The woman was released on bail, had to surrender her passport and, as the report says, the trial continues.

Gulf News has the full court report here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Helping a friend

I've noted many times how all living creatures are equally affected by natural disasters. Bush fires, floods, eathquakes  - we're all in it together.

Here's another example.

Days after the Japanese earthquake a dog was still watching over an injured dog. When it saw an approaching TV crew it went to them and led them to its injured friend.

I found it in the UK Daily Telegraph, and the story's here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bahrain escalation

Over the past couple of months there seems to have been a see-sawing power struggle going on at the top in Bahrain.

The hard liners were obviously in control at the beginning of the current protests, when security forces attacked the protestors, killing several and injuring many more.

Then the moderates, led by the crown prince, seemed to take control, riot police were withdrawn and dialogue was discussed.

Tragically the dialogue didn't happen, I suspect in large part because the first attack had hardened opinion and increased the protestors' demands. How different it would have been had dialogue started with the protestors at the beginning instead of the violence against them.

No dialogue led to a stand off. For weeks. That simply couldn't continue and it seems certain it led to the hard liners taking back control.  Then it was inevitable that it would end up where it has today.

The inevitability of a spiral of increasing violence following the first use of violence. As sure as night follows day.

Today reports are building of a major assault on the protestors by troops with armour and helicopters. Currently the reports are saying at least three and possibly five dead and hundreds injured.

A huge leap in the escalation was the introduction of foreign troops, 1,000 from Saudi Arabia. The UAE says it has not sent troops but has sent 500 police. Whatever they are they'll be seen by the protestors as invading forces, even though the Bahraini government invited them in. Who knows what pressure they were under from the Saudis in that decision, incidentally.

Not only the protestors will see them as invaders, that's the view from the bogeyman of the region Iran and probably most Shias.

They have gone in under the GCC alliance clause which says, as do most similar alliances, that an attack on one member state is considered as an attack on all.

It's an interesting question whether the original intention was for that clause to interpret an internal uprising as an attack on the state. The writers had Iran and Iraq in mind I would suggest.

But it's a rhetorical question because of the facts on the ground. They're there.

As  result of the hard line approach I can't see anything other than more violence, more crackdowns, more deaths and injuries, more bitterness, a thicker wedge driven between Shia and Sunni. And the distinct possibility that it will spread geographically.

And if only they'd talked to each other it could have been avoided. What a disaster.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bank vs Seabee

Continuing with the bank story, this morning I decided to see whether the PIN given to me by the bank which said it was for the new ATM card was actually for the new credit card.

Following instructions from the machine I put the credit card in, pressed 'Other Services', pressed 'Change PIN', keyed in the PIN they'd given me, keyed in the new one I wanted.

Did as I was told and keyed it in again, then again keyed in the one they'd given me.


'Transaction complete'.

Waited a bit longer to see if it contradicted itself as it had yesterday.


Bloody hell, I'd done it!

I now had a PIN I wanted on my credit card.

Mind you, I don't trust the machine so I won't bother to try to use it. I'll just do the old signature thing.

I thought maybe I was on a winning streak so I decided to give the ATM card a go, just to see if it was working and if I could withdraw cash.

Not sure about the PIN though. Would it be the one I had on my previous card or would it be the new one they'd sent me?

I keyed in my original number.

'The number is incorrect please try again.'

I tried the new number they'd sent me.

'The number is incorrect please try again'

Aha. They were getting their own back because I'd just managed a hassle-free successful transaction.

I suspect that if you beat the system by managing that, the system goes to Red Alert mode and you go on a watch list. 'A customer has made a successful transaction without any aggravation. Flag him'.

I pulled my card out of the machine and the retribution started. 'This machine is temporarily out of order'.

So it wasn't going to let me try again. (My apologies to any other HSBC customers who now can't use the ATM near Spinneys in Dubai Marina)

A bit later I was up in Jumeirah 1 and I remembered there's an ATM in Spinneys' entrance.

I put my card in and the screen welcomed me by name.

I keyed in my original PIN, pressed the appropriate links.

'Card retained. Please contact the Bank'  (Their capital B, not mine)

Yep, it identified me, snatched my card from me and wouldn't give it back.

I called the Bank. Naturally the machine at the other end started asking for things: 'Key in your ten digit personal banking number'.

Yeah right, I always make sure before I leave home that I have all my ten digit, twelve digit and sixteen digit bank and card numbers with me.

Went home, spread all the papers with numbers on them (do you know how many different numbers a bank gives you?) over the desk and called the Bank again.

The machine made the usual demands for ten, twelve, sixteen digit numbers relating to accounts, cards, personal banking, phone banking.

Somewhere in the middle of it all I thought I heard something about 'alternative'. I hit the star key, then whatever numbers it told me to hit and I was in a queue to talk to...wait for it.....a person.

I got the inevitable stuff about 'all our customer service (sic) officers are busy' and I was even told I'd been put in the priority queue (hollow laugh from me of course).

Then the machine told me that 'Our Customer Service (sic) Centre is available 24 hours a day. You can continue to hold or please call us later'

I held and not too many minutes later a human being spoke to me.

I'm sorry I didn't note her name because she was actually lucid and helpful. I explained the situation and that I wanted a new card issued. She said she would arrange it and that she had cancelled the card the machine had snatched from me.

So today has confirmed the cause of the problem, vague and incorrect information in the material sent by the bank, and what actually needs to be done.

The PIN they sent which says in three places that it's for the ATM card is actually for the credit card.

The statement on the instructions with the ATM card that you can only change the PIN at any HSBC ATM is incorrect.

The sticker that says 'Please call 800 etc to select your PIN' actually means you must call that number, there is no other way.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Smack into the wall

Back in Dubai and I inevitably smashed straight into the wall of frustration.

Sorry but I need to get it off my chest. After all, what's a blog for if it isn't to let off steam. (Feel free to leave at this point before I start).

The first and worst frustration is the bank. No surprise there then for anyone living in the UAE.

Two days of incompetence, of stupidity, of false information, of bank-built barriers to prevent the customer doing the simplest thing. I swear they do it deliberately to make us go away, to stop us asking them for anything.

And I'm still only at the begining of trying to do one very simple thing with them.

Here's the story so far:

I arrived back in Dubai to find a new credit card and new Debit/ATM card waiting for me.

With the Debit/ATM card is a sealed envelope containing a PIN. On the outside it says "Debit/ATM Card PIN."

Inside it says "...PIN to access Debit Card/ATM services..."

Next to the PIN it says "...PIN for Debit Card/ATM Services."

I assumed that means the PIN relates to the Debit/ATM card.

Foolish of me of course, that's apparently not what it means at all.

It tells me to change the PIN, "which can only be done at all HSBC ATM's in the UAE."

There's a sticker on the card itself that tells me to call an 800 number "to select your PIN."  Not a good sign, starting with a contradiction. Only at an ATM...or alternatively by phoning.

I'll be passing an HSBC ATM so I decide to do it there.

Following the prompts I put my Debit/ATM card into the slot, then key in the PIN they've given me. Then I key in the PIN I want to change to.

As requested, I re-key in the PIN I want to change to and I re-key in the PIN they've given me. It tells me the transaction has been successful.

Then it changes its mind and tells me the transaction has failed and I should go to a counter.

I go to a counter.

The cashier tells me I'm using the wrong card, I should have put in my credit card.

I point out that all this PIN stuff came with the Debit/ATM card and that's what it says all over the envelope.

He shrugs and gets on with some important paperwork.

HSBC customer service personified.

I walk steam away, fuming.

I come back and recheck all the paperwork. No, nothing about PINs on the credit card paperwork, the PIN all relates to the Debit/ATM card.

Today I think I'll give the 800 number a try.


You're being talked to by a computer of course, so you have to wait for it to tell you what to do, key in whatever it demands before it moves on to its next demand.

What they haven't bothered to tell me in advance is that I'll need lots of information at my fingertips to be able to advance through the phone call.

How hard is that? While telling me to call the number to select my PIN they could so very easily have said "you will need the following information".

Here's how the one-way 'conversation' goes:

Please wait while we identify your contact number.

I wait.

To continue in English  press 1.

I press 1.

Please key in the last six digits of your primary bank account number or primary card number.

(Dash away to find the numbers, come back and redial. Start all over again).

Please wait while we identify your contact number.

I wait.

To continue in English press 1.

I press 1.

Please key in the last six digits of your primary bank account number or primary card number followed by the hash key.

I obey.

Please key in your full ten digit personal banking number or your full twelve digit bank account number or your full sixteen digit primary card number followed by the hash key.

Scramble for bits of paper trying to find numbers, count the digits to see if I've got the right one. Too late, the computer has lost patience with me and cancelled the call.

Redial and start again.

Please wait while we identify your contact number.

I wait.

To continue in English press 1.

I press 1. 
Please key in the last six digits of your primary bank account number or primary card number followed by the hash key.

I comply.

Please key in your full ten digit personal banking umber or your full twelve digit bank account number or your full sixteen digit primary card number followed by the hash key.

I obey.

We're sorry, the number you've entered doesn't match our records. Please try again.

I do. Very carefully. Digit by digit.

We're sorry, the number you've entered doesn't match our records.

You probably heard the phone slamming down over in Sharjah.

So HSBC wins again. I've done what they always intended me to do, give up, go away and leave them alone.

Now for something completely different, let me tell you about the customer service we enjoyed in one of our ubiquitous franchise restaurants food factories last evening.

The waiter was friendly, pleasant, doing his job to the best of his ability and let me say that I don't for one second criticise him for his lack of English. That's the fault of his employer. People employed in customer service here need to speak English because of our diverse population. But that's not something that concerns the people who employ them, they just bring in job-lots of bodies. Why would it matter if they can't actually give the service customers expect.

We'd been shopping and stopped at Noodle Factory in Dubai Marina Mall for a quick meal.

One of the dishes includes mixed peppers, which we don't like. Mrs Seabee asks the waiter to get the chef to change the peppers for a different vegetable.

Blank look.

Repeat the request worded slightly differently.

Still a blank look.

Try again, in pidgin English.

He sort of gets part of it because he carefully explains that, yes, the mixed peppers come with the chicken.

We try again. Yes we understand that but maybe the chef could replace the peppers with broccoli?

He tells us if we want extra broccoli we have to pay extra.

It's soon after my HSBC run-in and I get very close to losing my temper.

Through gritted teeth and perhaps a little louder than I would normally speak I suggest he just brings whatever he wants to bring.

We push the mixed peppers to one side and eat the meat, vegetable-less.

It's all so unnecessary. Doing the right thing, running a business competently, making it easy for customers to do business with you isn't actually very difficult.

But here there's a universal wilful insistance on doing it the wrong way, running businesses incompetently, making it hard for customers to do business with them.

And I haven't even mentioned their websites.

There, I feel a bit better now. I knew I would.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Back to Dubai

I'm flying back to Dubai tomorrow, arriving, as always, at some unearthly time on Wednesday morning.

It'll take a couple of days to recover and to get back into what's going on in the dusty city but I expect I'll soon be posting again.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Pots & kettles

Just about all of the news outlets I use are suggesting the 'international community' needs to step in to stop more bloodshed in Libya. By 'international community' they mean, and usually name, the USA, the EU and NATO.

The West in other words.

But what about the Arab League and the African Union?

Libya is a member of both organisations so surely they should have been taking the lead in this crisis.

Nothing from them for weeks but now, according to AP, the Arab League have at last spoken out about the situation.

The foreign ministers meeting in Cairo have: ...condemned Gaddafi's crackdown on the Libyan people and said they would consider imposing a no-fly zone over the country if the turmoil continues...The Arab ministers said they will coordinate their discussions about a no-fly zone with the African Union and consult 'about the best ways to protect and ensure the safety and security of Libyan citizens'.

So the two organisations which should have been active from the beginning are gently dipping their toes to test the water.

It must be difficult for the Arab League though, given that some of the member governments condemning Gaddafi's actions are guilty of doing exactly the same.

As for the African Union, they've been conspicuous by their silence. A few gentle comments about governments needing to listen to and negotiate with their people is as critical as they've been.

But then it's difficult for them too isn't it. More than a few of the member countries have governments not dissimilar to the colonel's of course, and it's long been assumed that the colonel bankrolled the AU and paid smaller countries' fees.

The old cliche 'the pot calling the kettle black' comes to mind.

The AP report is  here.