Monthly Archives: May 2013

155. Problems

I was going to come before you all today and complain, vehemently, about the latest proposal to drop speed limits by 10kp/h in Dubai. This, they say, will double the population by next year as even the raciest of drivers finally heed the instructions of the speed limits and stay planted at a gentleman’s 110.

But the situation has changed. Sometimes a genuine situation arises that requires immediate attention. More often than not, if something can be classified as a situation, then it invariably means it is bad. How do we deal with uncomfortable personal situations from over here on the Arabian Peninsula?

If in need of a smile, always click on the puppy

If in need of a smile, always click on the puppy

We all have stuff going on, but it is always that much harder to do ones duty when we are 2000, 4000, or 12,000 miles away from home. How do you assist with a feud over the phone? How do you try to get people talking again over Twitter when you are not there to witness the true actions? How do you break bad news to someone who – despite assuring you of the contrary – will likely fall apart the minute you put down the phone?

Well, and please cover your eyes if you don’t want to know the truth: you can’t. You are helpless. You can’t protect people from themselves. You’ve got to man up, do your duty and let them make their own choices. Sometimes people just need to be told the truth.

I really can’t be bothered to go on any more. What I will say is that when you are feeling a little bit down because you have had to deal with an unsavoury situation with someone of personal importance, just make sure you have a couple of friends over here to talk to. Luckily, I have one such person, and in eight weeks she will be my wife. And thanks to the nasty last 30 minutes of my day, our wedding day will be completely perfect.

Oh, and one more thought on the speed limits thing; law abiding citizens who drive at 120kph don’t hurt anyone. It’s the morons who peg it at 200kph while talking on their phones whom you should be after.

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154. Roundabouts II

Everything in life has a purpose, apart from flies, obviously. It is true that when you buy a phone these days it is not solely intended to make and receive calls. It will also provide you with internet access, maps, and applications that simulate your friends being killed by meteor-showers. Furthermore, it will allow you to remind the rest of us what you look like with a pouty face in the mirror and give us an insight into the texture and form of your stool through social mediums like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pictaface, and Tumblr.

Phones these days are multi-purpose. If you have an iPhone, what is the point of having an iPad? Isn’t it essentially the same thing but only bigger and more expensive but doesn’t allow you to phone someone on a drunken night out? Further still, what is the point of having a lap top, or even a desk top computer? Black leather address book? No, gone. All replaced by the insatiable beast that is common technology.

One day, when iPhones rule the world, I swear they will look at us primates in zoos and think to themselves “surely this lot weren’t the creators? How did they, these humans, ever invent us, the omnipotent iPhone 40 million and 12? They couldn’t even remain within two white painted lines nor could they apply logic and select the only appropriate lane relative to their destination.”

As the common human laughed at the inability of the dodo to survive the evolutionary washing machine, the iPhones of the future will laugh at us for not being able to use roundabouts properly.

I have written about this before, but how, really, can you not use a roundabout correctly? How hard is it? The UAE is peppered with roundabouts since, if used correctly, they are the ultimate form of junction. Would I prefer to have a crossroad with traffic lights? Absolutely not, spare me from such iniquity. The crossroad is the lazy mans solution; leaving the control of the junction to some malevolent, supercilious, self-obsessed set of traffic lights? No, that’s what the iPhones want. Human chaos controlled by technology. No. No, no, no.

The roundabout is nature’s way of giving us a fighting chance against the inevitable iPhone invasion. When i-Day comes we can stand tall together and say that we, the human race that has collectively won and lost every single war it has ever started on itself, was able to allow traffic to flow freely without the need for electronic technology. We will be great again.

However, there is bad news. It would appear that there are very few around that have worked out what to do with roundabouts. Allow me to illustrate: on the typical Al Ain roundabout there are three lanes. On the approach you must select which is most suitable for you and your desired exit. Now, on your traditional four-exit roundabout you should be in the left lane should you wish to take the third or fourth exits (i.e. a lefterly direction or a U-turn). Should you wish to go straight on – the second exit – then you will ideally stay in the middle lane or remain in the right. Should you wish to take the first exit off the roundabout then you remain in the right lane only.

Whatever your choice of direction is once on the roundabout, you do not break formation. There are white lines on the ground. This is paint. Babies know what paint is. Hell, dogs know what paint is. In fact, scarily, an iPhone can tell you what type of paint it is. You stay within your markers. Should you drift beyond your markers then you are a traitor, a pawn to our future i-Leaders. If you are in the wrong lane, or you have strayed over the white lines because you made an error on trajectory, then you should a) have your license revoked, b) have to re-sit your driving test and c) accept that a phone, yes, a phone, is smarter than you.

This should slow down the first wave of iPhone invaders...

This should slow down the first wave of iPhone invaders…

But there’s more. How many times have you been sat there waiting to enter the roundabout when Johnny Over-Compensating-For-Something is screeching round like Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder? In such a case I would be tempted to play hard ball and risk all – for a laugh. But I am uncouth and brazen and would not recommend you follow suit. I like to put up a fight.

Then there are those who continue to park on roundabouts. I’m sorry, but if anyone is caught doing this then they should have their tyres removed and then be made to wear them. Who could possibly think that that is a good idea? Whatsapp message: “Hi m8. fancy meetin up l8rz? Wht bout RA wit da rock on it?” No! Go to a restaurant and have a meal like normal people for goodness sake!

How will we ever trounce the iPhone invasion if we cannot keep our simple cars – which are powered by a series of successive explosions – between two thin veneers of paint, stay left to go left or right to go right, or continue to treat them as car parks? When the first wave of Angry Birds come, I’m staying away from roundabouts and taking the high road into the desert.

I know that in this multi-purpose world it can seem that everything must have more than just one function. But that is not the case. There are still many things that have been designed to serve one purpose and one purpose only. Roundabouts are to managing traffic as mirrors are to reflecting things. Don’t let these glorious circular beacons of hope go the way of the conventional phone.

Because when the iPhones take over and we’re all caged up in zoos, we will become evolutions greatest joke of all.

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153. Dubai GDP

The question on everyone’s mind right now is: is Dubai back? What a lovely question. The question is a simple one, and if you were to replace the noun with, say, David, then it would be far easier to answer. David is either here or not. Dubai, on the other hand, never really went away. Its Star Trek skyline has been there all the while, peppered with cranes and heras fencing. Of course, when the Lehman Brothers jumped out of their 100th floor office window, they left Dubai with a nasty scar, a wound that will never really heal.

But that was in 2008 and in my experience if you just go ahead and pretend that the problem has gone away then, really, nothing can go wrong. It seems that I am not the only one with this idea. Dubai has left the troubles behind them and is now powering into the next decade with its big guns out.

But I have noticed something a little bit worrying. It would seem that over the course of time, Dubai’s prosperity has mirrored that of regional events. Whenever there has been an episode, all of a sudden the coffers start to fill up. Take the first Gulf War, the one when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Bang, straight away the Dubai spin-doctors were advertising it as a logistics hub for the assisting parties.

Then there was the second Gulf War. Dubai instantly became recognised as the base for Iraq-focussed companies. The same is true of the war in Afghanistan and the daily conflicts that plague Pakistan and Lebanon. And what of the Iranian lot over the water? Dubai, more so than Abu Dhabi, likes to be thought of as the regional go-to-guy, the big kid in the playground who will look after you in exchange for protection money.

After Dubai’s economy went south at the end of 2008, the treasury was all but closed down and the money stayed firmly under lock and key. Growth was slow and at times it looked as if Dubai was dead in the water. Then, in early 2011, a Tunisian market trader set himself on fire and the Arab Spring began.

Civil unrest swept across the Middle East, felling dictators like Hosni Mubarak and Colonel “definitely not mental” Gaddaffi. Forgive me if it sounds crass – as the movement is still in action and tens of thousands have lost their lives – but the instability of the region has allowed Dubai’s growth to accelerate. Business that once was headed for Egypt, for example, is now here.

Egypt has long been the preferred tourist destination in the Arab World, with its tolerance of all things western in the tourism hotspots and such mind-blowing attractions like the pyramids. But the uprisings have all but obliterated one of the world’s most desirable destinations. Airport traffic has increased 16% year on year. Dubai, really, has been one lucky son of a gun.

Trading off the maxim of being the “safe haven of the Middle East”, however, does leave Dubai in a bit of a pickle. How long can it rely on the conflicts elsewhere in the region to effectively bail it out? Had it not made millions from selling use of its ports in the Gulf Wars or lucked into diverted tourism and international commerce from the recent uprisings, where would it be?

Dubai doesn’t have oil; that was all finished years ago. Abu Dhabi takes care of selling the black gold. How will Dubai stand on its own two feet when world peace happens? It is no secret that the Emirate has been looking to diversify from natural resources for some time. Primarily it has looked to develop tourism and international finance. But without a sizable export portfolio that will only get them so far. Beyond petroleum and natural gas, Dubai’s primary exports are fish and dates. Err…we may need to think of a few more.

Thankfully, Dubai has a new ally in the shape of UAE Uncut and today I have come up with an idea. In order to boost export revenue, why not start selling sand? No, really. Sand has many uses and is in more or less infinite supply. Bricks, aquariums, mortar, concrete, paint, kitchen counters, low quality glass; the list is endless. Ultimately the desert is a barren waste land, so scooping up a few bucket loads and selling them to Autoglass is a winner; surely? The infrastructure already exists; the old oil tankers can be used to transport sand to Europe, and there are plenty of diggers and dumpers knocking around.

Now, Mr. Willy Wonka, I want exclusive rights to your sand...

Now, Mr. Willy Wonka, I want exclusive rights to your sand…

Nature will be on Dubai’s side, too. When the shamal (wind) picks up and half of Saudi Arabia is blown across the UAE then the sand coffers will be replenished and they can continue to sell it on to men in Ford Transits. Think of the fortune they could make. This “deal in the desert” will be far better than the one Blair did…

Well, I’m no trade envoy, but surely my half-cock idea of selling sand to manufacturing industries all over the world is better than relying on international finance, investment and regional unrest. Conversely, if you can put it in a box and sell it, you can trust it; its existence cannot be denied. If you can only see it as a long number on an accountant’s computer then trust it in the same way that you would trust your genitals in the hands of a lunatic with a pair of scissors.

So, is Dubai back? Yes. And watch out.

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152. Bieber

One day I want to be a real boy

One day I want to be a real boy

We all have people we dislike for no obvious reason. We can’t quite put our finger on it, but there is usually a certain quality that just gets under our skin. Some, when pushed though, can dig reasons from the muddiest of pits. Maybe you don’t like a co-worker because they are useless. Maybe there is a man in your local pub who, when he eats bar nuts, does so at such a volume it sounds as if HMS Ark Royal is knocking on the door. Then there are those in the public eye. We hate those who we see as stupid, like a Kardashian, or a Jersey Shore. Sometimes we don’t like these people because of how they behave. Maybe they are violent, a charlatan, a manipulator, or even a poor role model.

I can name many people who at least one of the aforementioned adjectives could be applied. But all four? My God, does such a person exist? Could it be Ming the Merciless? Perhaps, but he is fictional. Goldfinger? Professor James Moriarty? The Joker? No, all fictional. Does a person with these attributes actually exist in the real world? The only person who I can think of that can have violence, fraud, manipulation and poor guidance attached to his name is, alarmingly, Justin Bieber.

Ok, I know what you’re thinking, what does that punk kid from Canada have to do with the UAE? And more so, why do I care? Well, he was here last week and, frankly, made a complete wally of himself, and I found it funny.

Now, I have to be careful here for two reasons; firstly, I heard on the radio today that a Filipina was fined AED 1000 for calling someone “stupid” in the street in Dubai. So I will have to refrain from name calling. Secondly, Bieber has a substantial following, a full-blown religion by all accounts. He has the ear of hundreds of millions world over, whereas I have the ear of 50-60 UAE expats and a German company called “Strudle-big.” By typing further, I am putting my life on the line and risking the vengeance of the Bieberati…

Justin Bieber did not impress me last week. There, take that. The young, greasy haired, pin-up boy performed two “gigs” at the Dubai Sevens stadium last week and thought that it would be a good idea to keep everyone waiting for two hours, at both concerts. Of course we all know that in the music industry it is fashionable to turn up late, but sadly for Bieber his fanbase aren’t in the music industry, they’re in the school industry. And Saturday and Sunday nights are school nights in the UAE.

After his first evening soiree on a rugby pitch, he decided that he would go and take in a few sights in Dubai. Being only a young whippersnapper – 19 – he is two years shy of the legal drinking age, plus he doesn’t have an alcohol license. For reasons I don’t fully understand, he was given special permission to enter a nightclub in Dubai that I have never heard of. He went in looking moody, so tried to order a drink. Amusingly he was declined service and he was next spotted hanging from the roof of a Range Rover in Jumeriah.

During the last of his two shows, Bieber was commissioned by his puppeteers to play the piano and sing a song, at the same time. Clearly, this upset the fans somewhat as a young boy charged on stage to grab the young Canadian, sending the piano tumbling down the stage and landing upside down. Bieber was rushed to the side of the stage as the assailant was – fittingly, given the venue – rugby tackled to the ground. I have seen the videos; did anyone else find it rather odd that through all the brouhaha, the tackling, the piano, the groping, that he continued to play both the piano and sing completely un-phased? Despite the piano lying broken on the floor and he being cuddled by a man in a black suit?

I’m sorry, no. But if I had paid a gazillion Dirhams to see my music idol then I would expect the full show. If I want to listen to a recording I will pop a CD in the car. How would you feel if, on your wedding day, your partner held up a dicta-phone with a pre-recorded “I do” on it? No, you want to hear the real words.

Thankfully, Bieber was able to restrain himself from any physical altercations this time, unlike when he was in London earlier this year. A man with a camera dared to take a photo of the young scamp and Bieber got angry. Ok, the photo man was winding him up, but Bieber should have realised that by the time he was 15 he was going to suffer a life of public interest, drugs, hair and no concept of reality.

He is a temperamental, fraudulent, crowd manipulating, unsavoury spoiled brat. His whole demeanour is wrong. His Twitter account is replete with hollow gratuity towards the fans; “@dubai massive respect. I will always be there for the #fans”. Apart from when you’re 140 minutes late, you little scallywag.

The music industry has a long, rich history of pillaging younglings from their mother’s nests too early; Britney, Christina, Justin, Miley, that weird kid with the face. Bieber is just another Hessian sack with a dollar sign on it. I know as well as you do that he is just a face, a franchise for a lot of men and women in suits to make money, and the worse part? People are still buying into it. Is this what we want the younger generation to look up to?

I like to think of UAE Uncut as a relatively neutral page…sorry I couldn’t finish that sentence without my moral compass spinning out of control. Unlike Bieber, I respect my followers. Make up your own minds on this twerp, but I’ll be damn surprised if you disagree with me.

Or maybe, just maybe, I am wrong. Is Justin Bieber real at all? Is he in actual fact no different to Goldfinger, The Joker, Ming the Merciless or Professor Moriarty? A mere fictional character simply to bring balance to this world of saints?

Nah, the guy’s a tool.

Right, then, Bieberati…bring it on…

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151. Sandwiches

A couple of months ago I decided it best that UAE Uncut take on a degree of structure. As opposed to simply thinking of a topic, putting some more coal in the laptop and firing out my views sporadically, I opted to churn out one missive a week. Sadly, however, there is just too much going on and I can afford to miss out no longer.

People often stop me in the street and ask where I get my ideas from, and my response is always the same; I just look around. No, really, inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. I notice something, find an absurd metaphor that I twist until it is beyond all recognition, alter history to suit my needs and input a picture gung-ho to suit. My blogs are thrown together with the same delicacy and care as a Taliban-baked wedding cake.

Last night I was out with friends in one of Al Ains’ many social night spots. Conversation meandered through more subjects than the encyclopaedias’ bibliography. We began by talking about working visas and the complications that usually arise. We spoke about our friends and families and the personal foibles that define a close relationship. We discussed, in detail, the UAE demographic and how similar ideologies could be implemented across Europe, and how the European Court of Human Rights could learn a thing or two from the UAE about real justice. And then we talked about sandwiches.

There are three main meals in the day. We begin with breakfast. Breakfast is usually limited to a few options; cereals, fruits and yoghurts, and cooked breakfasts involving eggs and so on. You can’t have pizza for breakfast, nor can you have a mutton vindaloo. Dinner, at days’ end, can be many things. Chicken kiev, pie and mash, pasta, fish, steak and chips; all these things are lovely. But you won’t find anyone having a bowl of Frosties.

The two primary book-end meals are governed by strict EU regulation and rightly so. If people had roast beef and gravy for breakfast and Coco Pops for dinner then we’d end up with a world full of white-face-painted stoners with leather nipple rings and no sense of up or down. But then there is the exception to the trend; lunch. Lunch is the meal in the middle of the day that can literally be anything you like.

Like zoiks! I said NO tomatoes!

Like zoiks! I said NO tomatoes!

I am generally on the go a lot, and the last thing I want to have after lunch is a food coma. This makes me uncomfortable and I usually find myself very fat by the end of the week. What are the options? You go to the mall and sure enough there are plenty of fast food franchises just dying to clog your arteries and get your order wrong. However, a fast-food diet is unsustainable, so we turn to the café’s. But, of course, all the meals are so big that once you have finished your tonne of chips – or the uncouthly-branded “French fries” – the last thing you want to do, let alone can, is stand up and go back to work.

All I want for lunch is a sandwich. I want two slices of bread with some sort of appealing filling within; cheese, turkey, chicken mayonnaise, whatever. Why is this so hard to achieve? Why can’t I just buy a sandwich? No, I don’t want chips, or a Pepsi, or a pointless side salad. And while we’re at it, I want to make it absolutely clear that by simply putting one leaf of lettuce on a plate, it does not make it a “salad.” I have seen sandwiches in supermarkets and at petrol stations but these have the same taste-bud arousing qualities as vomit, and I would sooner eat my own finger nails than put one in my mouth.

No, I am looking for a middle-of-the-road, non-boutique-esque delicatessen that makes normal, edible sandwiches. I’m not asking for Jamie Oliver quality, just something that you can eat on the go to stay alive and that will not cause your tongue to catch fire. Those of you from the West may know the chain “Greggs”, that’s what I am after. They offer a range of simple sandwiches in plastic wrappers that are not stupidly overpriced. Greggs is a good go-to-guy kind of place, it is what it is.

The UAE strives to have everything, it actively promotes itself as having it all and I fully subscribe to that. How many other countries can claim to have five of the last eight Top Gear top super-cars in their police fleet? Dubai has the largest mall (by floor space) and tallest building in the world. The UAE has everything, even rain this year. But the one thing that the UAE lacks – and I will state that the crisis is far more apparent in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain than it is in Dubai – is sandwiches.

Those of an annoying disposition I’m sure will comment below about how I should shut up and simply make my own sandwiches if I’m that fussy about it, and you’re right, I could. But I am a capitalist consumer, just like you. And sometimes my work life means that I literally don’t have the time to sit down and eat, to say nothing about finding the time to go shopping or making my own lunch. No, I need a lightweight snack that won’t turn me into Fatty Arbuckle and that can be collected when I want it; I need a bloody sandwich.

I need variety and flexibility in my sandwiches, like how UAE Uncut used to be in the good old days; sporadic and available at a whim. Please, UAE, heed my call. I enjoy living in this country; it offers me a quality of life that David Cameron couldn’t even pretend to promise me. Please can I have a sandwich?

But not cheese, I’m off dairy. And hold the butter. I want crusty white bread. And I want chicken instead of turkey. No tomatoes. Ok just a little bit of cheese.

Aaahh, welcome back, spontaneous blogging.

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150. Petrol Station

This week there have been many shocking revelations in News-o-sphere. Helen Flanagan was voted “Britain’s Sexiest Woman”, another Conservative MP has found himself in hot water and of course the BBC continues to spiral into the scandalous abyss. But that’s Britain; what of the UAE? Well, Justin Bieber got asked for ID in a nightclub, failed to get served a pint, so left on the roof of a car. Property prices in Dubai soared. Then property prices in Dubai dipped. But of all the stories to have caught my eye this week, the revelation pertaining to petrol stations had my arms up the high-most.

From next week there will be ten petrol stations in Dubai that will switch over to self-service between midnight and 6am. In case you require any further elaboration, that means that between midnight and 6am there will be no forecourt attendant; you will have to get out and fill her up yourself.

Stop the presses.

I have just come round after collapsing with shock at this announcement, and I find myself in the uncomfortable situation of having to drag this subject out over 1000 words; but where to begin? Stupidity seems as good a place as any. This has been tried before back in 2008. Dubai and the Northern Emirates trialled 10 or so petrol stations as self-service but the scheme was cut short since – and I quote – “two thirds of the people didn’t like it and couldn’t work out what to do.” Are these the same people who are allowed to drive cars on the road and raise children I wonder?

In the UK, and indeed most of the world, the standard practice when wishing to refuel ones car is to pull up at the pump, turn the engine off, get out, open the filler cap, pick up the nozzle of choice, put it in and squeeze until the dial annoyingly says £10.01. You then go into the kiosk, pick up some Smarties and a Daily Mail, pay the man who speaks Urdu, return to the car and you’re done. This is something that we all do. It is, in essence, an easy process.

Now I want to make it plain that Britain is not the brains of the world, we are the nation that people like Helen Flanagan, Amy Childs, and Alex Reid call home. They too share the Queens’ message in their passports just like I do. These people are just able to fathom which end of a dart to throw and, I presume, are able to successfully use a toilet. But even they are capable of driving themselves to the local BP garage and putting £20.01 of Unleaded into their Citroen C1. Well, without setting themselves alight anyway.

Reading some of the quotes from actual people – people who have been assessed and then given legal permission to control a car that can exceed speeds of 150kph – I find myself alarmed. “What do I do?” said one; “what if there is a fire?” said another. “How do I pay?” was my personal favourite. I am genuinely worried for my own safety, what if I encounter one of these people on the road? If they can’t work out how to use a fuel pump then what will happen if they need to do an emergency stop on Sheikh Zayed Road?

How do you put out a fire? Well, picking up an extinguisher and aiming it and the base would be a good start. Not knowing how to put out a fire is…well…unbelievable. What if your kitchen caught alight and your kids were in there? Panicking won’t help; you could try poking the flames with a broom I guess.

Furthermore, how in the name of the almighty can you not know which fuel your car runs on? What have you been telling the man at the pump? One woman said that she didn’t know which fuel her car ran on so left it up to the man to decide. Wonderful; how the hell can you not know?! Is she allowed to have children? Will she also not know that cutlery shouldn’t be jammed into live plug sockets?

Get. Out. The. Car......Mate.

Get. Out. The. Car……Mate.

The UAE is predominantly a service industry nation, and since labour is so cheap people have been afforded convenience on an unprecedented scale. You have a man for this, a man for that, the only thing you need to worry about is getting out of bed and picking your nose, everything else is done for you.

I’ve always thought that having a man wearing blue trousers and a moustache to fill my car is phenomenally lazy. Don’t get me wrong, it is wonderfully convenient, especially when it’s 50 Celsius outside and you can remain in an air-conditioned paradise. But what will we all do when Mad Max happens?

Sometimes I find myself embarrassed to be a human being. Any motorist who does not know how to put petrol into a car should have their driving license revoked and then be chemically castrated. No, really. If you can’t fill your tank then how will you be able to stop your child from electrocuting themselves?

The only positive aspect about being an ignorant, thick, air-heard is that you stand a better chance of making lots of money and being voted “Britain’s Sexiest Unspecified Gender.”

The world really has gone mad. Depressing.

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