Tag Archives: dubai

173. Phlegm

What is the worst thing in the entire world? You’re wrong; it’s having one of those precious moments of genuine contentment ruined by something – or, more commonly, someone – else. My wife and I are very much strong believers that happiness is an attitude, and can be achieved quite simply by taking a step back and looking at what you do have, as opposed to what you don’t. In recent months, as I hunt for the right job, – as a Features Writer, by the way. Do get in touch – I have been tested to the extreme. Nonetheless, everyday I am reminded that at the end of it all I have a wife, a decent flat, a mild bout of health, and enough hopes and dreams to feed the five-thousand. I don’t live in a crowded labour camp, or in Chad, or indeed even in Croydon. Nope, here are my blessings, watch me count them…

I doubt it, Pharrell, I doubt it very much indeed.

I doubt it, Pharrell, I doubt it very much indeed.

That being said, when one spends most of his time eating crisps and trolling celebrities on Twitter, the odd sense of achievement or exultation is certain to be occasionally lacking. In any normal situation I would whistle away the hours by getting the Black & Decker out and hand crafting a shower-curtain rail, or trap door, or even a working replica of the SS Great Britain. But since I nailed – pardon the pun – all that a few months ago, there is nothing left to fix or build. My vacuuming is clinical and the crockery is spotless, the laundry is freshly pressed and the DVD’s are arranged alphabetically.

So in order to try and break the mould and step beyond the blue walls of my flat, I’ve started to go about town to look for things that might cheer me up. After dealing with the thriving metropolis that is Al Ain for five and a half years, I am still relatively unconditioned to the bright city lights of Abu Dhabi. Once upon a time, TripAdvisor  was for those lucky folk who didn’t live in Al Ain. But now the content is relevant to me, so I can exploit it, and, you know, actually do “stuff”.

In keeping with this bold, new take on life, yesterday I decided to go for something called a “massage”. It’s a thing you go to where you trade your clothes for a pair of unflattering paper pants, and an Asian woman climbs over you poking at this and that; all for the reasonable sum of AED 140. It’s cheaper than a night out on the beers, and more far more rewarding, too.

During a night out downing pints of Arthur Guinness’s finest black stuff, you enlighten yourself and others with mad, right-wing logic and the feeling of serenity is, at the time, akin to being the Almighty himself. Then you cross the threshold and are sick on your shoes. The happiness you thought you were experiencing quickly renders itself inert and the next morning is spent popping Panadols like Tic-Tacs

Unlike a night out on the sauce, you emerge from a massage genuinely enlightened and contented. You’re relaxed and loose, and are able to touch toes that were once as far away from your fingers as Neptune. As opposed to walking down the road smelling of sick and second hand smoke, you walk down the road smelling of baby oil and paper pants, you feel invincible to all the wrongs in the world. For once, your disposition is at ease; you are properly relaxed…

…Until…

…Who are they? These vulgar cretins whom so callously swoop from the soiled shadows to hock up hairballs of phlegm and expel it from their oral orifices right into your path?

Is it not the most odious, vile, repulsive, detestable, abhorrent, revolting sound and sight you have ever witnessed? It’s wherever you go, from the streets to the malls, dirty men hocking up phlegm at such a volume it’s amazing they don’t actually explode.

After my massage I was skipping along the street, swinging around lamp posts, greeting people in song and helping pensioners to cross the road when, out of nowhere, some ill-mannered troglodyte jumped out from behind a phone box and hocked up an entire lung; my congenial levity evaporated and was replaced with a big puddle of discarded lung juice.

Instantly my new-found love for the world, with its chalky white castles, rolling green hills, and cuddly critters was replaced with a dark, haunted forest of vengeful hate and pestilence.

The simple solution to this would have been to go back and get another massage, to restore the faith. But this dynamic does have some longer-term flaws, especially for someone as unemployed as I. The other solution was to commit Grievous Bodily Harm, but this is illegal and fraught with lengthy and inconvenient consequences. A real conundrum.

Mall toilets are very bad for this whole phlegm thing. There you are, having a wee, when Johnny Snotty comes in to brush his teeth with his finger. After all the farting he feels the need to clear his oesophagus, just at the very moment you are bound by science to be unable to put your fingers in your ears. You can’t take your hands off the task at hand, so you’re stuck and forced to endure the repulsive hocking. It’s made all the worse when the guy next to you thinks you’re mad because your eye is twitching.

What is to be done about this menace, this scourge of the streets? I know for a fact that the rest of you are all as disgusted by this as I am, and I fear that our only method of combat is a good old-fashioned Public Awareness Campaign. I am therefore calling on all UAE Uncut readers to share this blog post around cyberspace, or to print it off and nail it to telegraph poles all around the UAE, or even to distribute it en masse in every public place you find. We must get the message out to the people that hocking up your vile phlegm is as vulgar as… as nothing else. Nothing else is that disgusting, nothing even remotely compares.

Together we can spit in the face of the Phlegm Hockers, and once they’re dealt with we’ll all go for a massage and be able to, finally, prove that happiness is a self-appointed attitude.

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172. Motoring

One of the perils of being out of full-time work for a prolonged period of time is that ones mind can wander far more easily. For some, the daily routine of removing oneself from bed at 11am just in time to sit down to spend the remainder of the morning on Facebook and Twitter may sound like a dream. It is not. After a while the walls do start to close in and the conversations you once shared with yourself in the mirror are now shared with various pieces of fruit… with marker-pen faces. Life. Is. Futile.

As a result, all this down time has kept me out of the real world and has forced me into a lot of reading. At this point I wish I could say I was reading something interesting like Churchill as Warlord by Max Hastings or the latest Jeremy Clarkson, but I can’t. Instead I trawl various newspapers from across the globe, specifically only reading articles that annoy me. Anything positive along of the lines of “World Peace given the green light” doesn’t interest me. I prefer to get all in a huff with Daily Mail nonsense like “EU demands all white single males remove a leg in the name of equality” or “Police chief says women drivers are to blame for every wrong in the history of the world”. I like reading things that will wind me up and make me angry to the point at which I shout at the oranges in the bathroom.

Now then, team, in light of recent events, only the boy oranges may drive the banana train, but it will cost you your skin...

Now then, team, in light of recent events, only the boy oranges may drive the banana train, but it will cost you your skin…

You can’t have missed the recent chitter chatter originating from certain traffic authorities. Within the last month we have been told that women drivers cause more accidents than male drivers, that in order to ease Dubai’s congestion issues, everything relating to motoring must be made more expensive, and then in the next breath that the legal driving age is to be reduced from 18 to 17.

Then, last week, statistics were released naming and shaming the five most calamitous nationalities on the roads of the Emirates. Yup, the top five countries that cause the most amount of accidents, injuries, and deaths. At number five we have the Egyptians, right behind Team Bangladesh in fourth. Just making the podium in third place were the Emiratis, losing out to Team India in second. But seizing the top spot was Pakistan; they caused 373 accidents, in which 577 people were injured and 33 sadly lost their lives.

Great. Now we know who look out for.

While it is easy to understand how those from other countries might not be so hot on driving competence – for example, I charge you to read up on what is involved in the Egyptian driving test – it is unacceptable to bring a gender dispute to the table. For thousands and thousands and thousands of years men called the shots. But then the suffragette movement came to be in the early 20th Century, and that laid the path for a more balanced playing field between the sexes. In modern times, gender bigotry is as welcome as polio.

I personally don’t see the harm in a bit of banter between friends, and naughty calendars pinned up in British garages are just a bit of harmless fun. But in the real world, going on public record and saying that “women are dangerous drivers” is as barmy as you like. You only have to look at the figures and details released only two paragraphs ago, about our friends from Pakistan… how many lady truck drivers do you know over here? There are good drivers and there are bad drivers; gender doesn’t come into it.

But it is not as mad as the mooted proposals aimed at tackling the congestion issue. As Dubai and Abu Dhabi continue to grow as cities, it must be expected that traffic will also increase. Anyone who thinks that the car itself is the problem is as deluded as those who believe women are more dangerous than men behind the wheel.

If you build an entire city around one road – Sheikh Zayed Road, for example – then what do you expect to happen when everyone along a 40km stretch of tarmac starts and finishes work at the same time?! A rush hour is just a sign of how well your country is doing! If you don’t have a rush hour, then you need to cock an eyebrow.

So what is the solution on the table? Well, to impose a salary cap on car ownership and make motoring more expensive. Hold the phone there, does that mean those poorer folk who fall below the – currently unpublished – salary cap will be forced to…to…to what? What if they live or work miles from the Metro? A return trip in a taxi 5-6 days a week is as expensive as driving. Will the employer then send out a company driver? But doesn’t that then defeat the purpose?

Then, additionally, “certain types of people” will be only be allowed to own one car, much like communist China’s one-child-only rule. For those whom the hammer and sickle will allow to own a car, fuel, registration, and anything else involved in motoring can expect massive price increases. And then, after all this, the legal driving age is to be lowered.

But, as I say, I sit here in UAEUncutTowers, unemployed and cocooned within my neat little apartment, and away from all the hullabaloo and the madness. After reading what is going on out there in the real world, I sometimes wonder if maybe I’m better off staying unemployed and talking to the oranges…

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171. Metro

Isn’t it great being wrong? Being proven wrong suggests that you were, at some point, immensely confident that you were right, only for someone else to turn around and stick two fingers up at you. Those who believe that they are always right are, frankly, imbeciles. It takes a strong man or woman to hold their hands up and admit error. There is nothing quite so humbling, and there is little else that will aid your human development quite so.

There are, naturally, many degrees of wrongness; ranging from an ill-judged drone-strike on a convent school full of nuns to a simple mispronunciation of someone’s name. Then there are opinions. These can be tricky bastards as the definition of an opinion is “a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge”. So theoretically an opinion can neither be right nor wrong.

Nothing gets a debate going quite like a differing of opinions. I have enjoyed many of these opinionated debates over time, and there is nothing more exhilarating than getting stuck in when you have absolutely no idea what you’re on about, or even what the subject is. But from time to time it’s nice to debate something of which you know a great deal, just to reassure yourself that your place in the Ivory Tower is valid. And among us expats a common topic of debate is that of airlines, something of which I am now quite well-versed.

I am forever being asked who the best airline to fly with is, and my answer is always the same: “British Airways, Emirates, Etihad, KLM, or Virgin Atlantic”. All of them are absolutely brilliant. Once I have laid my cards on the table, the follow-up statement usually runs along the lines of “Oh no, I wouldn’t go with British Airways, I had a bad experience with them once”. If you can be bothered, ask the person what the bad experience actually was, and I’d bet my face that they say something like “I sat next to smelly passenger”. Hmm… Ok.

I know people who have made a complaint about each and every one of the airlines that I listed above, and each and every reason why they “had a bad experience” is due to fellow passengers. But how can you possibly hold the airline accountable for that? Emirates don’t implement mad policies like that of Abercrombie & Fitch. They can’t turn passengers away just because they read The Guardian, nor can they deny travel to a man with curious body odour. “The guy next to me spilled coffee on my lap” they say. Ok, I sympathise, but again, you can’t blame that on poor old Richard Branson.

If the pilot shouted over the PA that everyone on board was a c*** and the stewardess thought it would be funny to open the door at 38,000 feet then yes, perhaps a cause for grievance could be raised. But you can’t judge an airline purely on the smell, appearance, or sexual orientation of its passengers. I have had two bad flights; one due to a wailing banshee, and the other due to turbulence of such magnitude that I am still amazed I am here today. Was that Etihad’s fault? No, of course it wasn’t.

This neatly brings me onto the Dubai Metro. For years I have asked why it was needed, and have refused to believe that it actually makes any difference to traffic congestion. I have called it names, pulled its hair, lifted its skirt up in the playground, and beaten it up for its lunch money. All in the name of reason, I have dragged it through the mud. It may then come as a surprise to read that, this week, I rode on it for the very first time.

Before you all begin to question the integrity of UAE Uncut and cry bloody murder on me, I can honestly say that it was an enlightening experience. With the exception of their BS claim that it carries more passengers annually than the glorious London Underground (nothing compares with the Messiah of urban rail travel), I found the experience monumentally pleasant.

Not quite enough delicious history to be ranked alongside the Tube, but you're alright...

Not quite enough delicious history to be ranked alongside the Tube, but you’re alright…

My first adventure was merely a toe-in. I hopped on at Ibn Batutta Mall, and alighted at Dubai Marina Mall, which was only about four stops away. No complaints. It was Munich-clean, timely, and peaceful. But, it was 1:30 PM, the equivalent to slack water; perhaps not a true test of its rush-hour capabilities.

I then rode it again, this time for a man-sized portion of journey during the evening commute. I jumped on at the Emirates station, up near the airport, and disembarked at Dubai Mall: that is about half the distance of the Red Line’s route. Boy, was it crowded. When I got on it was empty, before I realised I was accidentally in the ladies-only carriage. But even when I was rudely moved to steerage by a snotty lady, it was still empty… albeit for only one stop.

The aroma of body odour and the sound of hocked phlegm nestling in the epiglottises of my fellow passengers was detestable. Thankfully I was equipped with earphones and Greenday and was thus able to drown out the assorted noises. The smells, though, had to be toughed out to the bitter end.

Was my impression of the Metro altered after these two differing experiences? Yes. I still believe that it is more of a tourist attraction than a genuine means of metropolitan travel, and that it certainly doesn’t carry 12 trillion people a day. But it is clean and prompt, the trains are regular and punctual, the stations are well sign-posted and located conveniently. It is, really, an exceptionally well-designed and well-engineered asset.

Was I wrong about it? Yes. Do I take back what I said? Yes. Would I ride it again? Yes… but only if the car was broken-down.

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168. Expo 2020

FOR SALE: One large tent, barely used. Seeks loving home where it won't be asked to do much.

FOR SALE: One large tent, barely used. Seeks loving home where it won’t be asked to do much.

UAE Uncut resurfaces its muddy head this week after another unscheduled sabbatical. Over the past few weeks there has been much going on in the Emirates, and only if you have been living in a cave will you not have heard that Dubai won the right to hold Expo 2020. The world, well, the four cities bidding, kept up with the mad voting system via that cornerstone of news, Twitter, and as Dubai was named the champion several thousand people from all over the world cheered in the same way that the English might if they were to win the World Cup. Mass hysteria on a curious scale, and then bizarrely all the schools were declared closed the following day.

Within moments of the news being announced, social media was awash with cheers and praise for the UAE, much of the lyrical waxing coming from those who seem to have no idea what the event actually means, or indeed even is.

Those with dollar signs in their eyes may want to think long and hard about what that means for them, as a quick buck for one means a quick buck for another…

Why don’t we begin by explaining a little bit about what the Expo 2020 actually is, to spare some from the embarrassment should the subject arise with your friends. Dubai will be hosting a Universal Registered Exposition, not to be confused with a Universal Recognised Exposition. This means little. Every few years some countries wish to improve their image and host an event that usually lasts for about six months. These expositions are usually given themes, such as an Elvis theme, or mermaids. In Dubai’s case, the theme is “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, which I find vague enough to mean something halfway between nothing and something else.

Once the Bureau of International Expositions sit down to vote on the winner, said winner must build a building and pepper it with lots of things relating to the theme. Usually the structures built are temporary, with some notable exceptions; such as France’s Eiffel Tower. London’s Crystal Palace was supposed to be permanent, too. But it caught fire and burnt to the ground.

Anyway, Dubai is basically going to be spending billions on the whole thing and when you look at the rivals it’s easy to understand how it won the bid. Sao Paulo gave it a good go, but I’d bet my left wedding vegetable that you’ve never heard of the other two places: Yekaterinburg and Izmir? That was as easy to predict as Spain winning a World Cup group comprising England, Andorra and Lichtenstein.

So what does it mean for the great city of Dubai to have been picked to host such a wonderful event? Go on, tell me. Because I sure as Hell can’t work it out. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand that there will be plenty of builders, project managers, and plumbers required to put everything together, and that they will all be paid what will be in essence a normal wage depending on their nationality, but then what?

I have read the Expo 2020 website back to front, and all I keep reading are the words “Sustainability, Mobility, and Opportunity” over and over again. Where’s the creating minds and connecting people part? There is a lot in there about recycling, and that instead of building the buildings with steel RSJ’s and mortar they will use twigs and moss instead.

The plans sound a little mad. When it talks about “Mobility”, it goes on to say that it is important that people can get around Dubai, and that new creative solutions are needed. I agree, but what has that got to do with the Expo? If you stop building pointless flyovers and ban the white trucks and Land Cruisers from the roads then we will all be able to get around much easier. The paragraph on “Sustainability” is just a load of eco-jargon that seems as pointless as some solar powered Christmas lights, and the “Opportunity” page just says that people will do business. So? People have always done business, and so long as we don’t all stray into the evil grasp of Communism, then people will continue to do business.

All this blurb is just useless text, Expo or not Dubai will continue to build flyovers, it will continue to sustain itself with whatever it has at its disposal, and opportunities will exist for as long as there is money here. So why does Dubai need to spend a billion-gazillion Dirhams on a six-month event where people will be told with a grin that the future is inevitable? We know the future is inevitable. Tomorrow will happen, I can tell you that for free.

I want to make it clear that I am one the first to acknowledge how much Dubai has achieved in the last 42 years. I’ve seen the pictures of Sheikh Zayed Road surrounded by nothing but a barren sea of featureless desert, and although I feel uncomfortable addressing the labour issue, it has gone from rags to riches quicker than any country before it. So why does it need an Expo?

An American man with a bald head answered some rather dull questions on the matter and he seems to think that “Dubai will do well out of it”. For the 1200 words printed from his interview, the only thing of note was that people would stay in hotels, and Dubai is best for finance and shopping. Great. So anyone wanting to make a special visit to Dubai for the Expo will have to spend a fortune on flights, an obscene amount on a hotel as the prices will go up especially, not understand what they’re are supposed to do with the word “finance” when they’re on holiday, and then go to Dubai Mall to shop for things they can’t afford.

Oh, and then there’s property. Always the key thing with Dubai. Apparently rents will go up because that’s natural, and those who can afford to live in certain places will, and those who can’t afford it won’t. Same as usual.

Not that I want to see Dubai’s Expo adventure fail, on the contrary, I owe a lot to the UAE and would very much like to see it prosper. But I just don’t see the point. Any information you want about the world is available on the internet, apart from what will actually be in the Expo building, of course.

If they want people to go, then cut out the eco-jargon and nonsensical blub about finance and flyovers, and kit it out with lots of bars and lots of Sega Rally machines.

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167. Problems II

I have had a lot of my time on my hands recently. Curiously, I have not spent it conjuring up nonsensical prose and throwing it against the graffiti-ridden, decaying brick wall that is UAE Uncut. No, instead I have split my time across three key areas: job hunting, moping, and visa acquisition.

My first complaint is about the former. How hard can it be to get a job? I have trawled and trawled online and fired off so many CV’s that I am now fairly certain that there are more copies of it on the world’s wide web then there are pictures of Kim Kardashian. Events Management, writing jobs, and project coordination are my three areas, and have I received so much as one reply? No. It seems that I am more likely to receive an email from Elvis. Still, I remain positive that one day the phone shall ring, and that on that one occasion it won’t be my bank offering me finger nail insurance.

Things have a tendency to move quite slowly over here, and for that reason I am not going for the whisky and the revolver just yet. On a completely unrelated note, should any potential employer be reading this then I love you and think that you are very handsome/pretty and your taste in music is wonderful. And may I also compliment you on your suit/frock/child/children/haircut/car/office. Good job; and I hope to hear from you soon.

Of course when I haven’t been riding around the Emirates in an open-top bus throwing CV’s from the top deck down to the scrabbling masses, I have spent some quality time moping around the apartment and wondering what must be done with this and that. I have, as of yet, been unable to come to any conclusion about anything, and that in turn has made me nothing whatsoever.

Then we come to the party piece of my time-spending escapades: trying to sort a visa. Since I am now out of work I am authorised to be under the sponsorship of my dear wife. On the face of it that doesn’t sound like such a hard to thing to achieve, but believe me, it has been a disaster.

Without wishing to name or shame any specific individual, I was given incorrect information and subsequently had to pay a hefty fine. This did not go down very well in the Fullard residence. Once the fine was dealt with, shall we say, the process of obtaining residency status could finally continue. And by “continue” I mean stop dead several times due to myriad misfortunes, such as the “system being down”, “finishing in two hours so I cannot be bothered to deal with you now”, and of course “actually, Sir, there is one problem…”

The whole thing has been infuriating and needless to say that I am only one more obstacle short of a brain haemorrhage. You can’t just do it all in one place, you have to go all over the city getting this typed here and that stamped there, and it all has to be done in the most absurd of sequences. Get one thing wrong and you land on a snake and have to move all the way back down the board to the start again.

"It was Colonel Fullard, in the Waiting Room, with the victims own leg..."

“It was Colonel Fullard, in the Waiting Room, with the victims own leg…”

It’s getting to the stage that my metaphors for visa acquisition will soon shift from Snakes & Ladders to Cluedo

I’m not kidding when I say that I have not endured one stage where there hasn’t been at least one “problem” of some kind. Why can’t there just be a list, a detailed list of what you need, how long it takes, how much it costs (so far I’ve spent somewhere in the region of AED 70 million) and most importantly where you actually have to bloody well go? I have traced my route on a map of Abu Dhabi and thus far I have covered 60,421 miles. And yet have only made about six feet of progress.

Still, no matter, at least I have my health. Yes, that was verified by the Disease Prevention Centre only today, I am “Fit” apparently. I don’t know how reliable that information is because all that happened was a doctor asked me to lift my shirt for 1.5 seconds so that he could see my back, I was drained of my blood, and had my upper torso x-rayed. All that was confirmed was that I have a spine, that I’m not Vulcan, and that I have some gooey things under my skin. I went to play football in Dubai last week and let me tell you, I am anything but fit.

Still, all my problems and grievances of late pale into insignificance when compared to the events of the recent devastation in the Philippines. All my fist thumping and harrumphing melted away when I saw the images of the wretchedness. I can’t even imagine what horror and hell the people of the Philippines are going through. With over 10,000 reported dead and the survivors totally cut off from the world, I refuse to accept that anyone else has a problem.

Thinking about it just isn’t enough, but I don’t know what else I can do. Hope.

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166. Road Names

What is the most annoying thing in the world? Vevuzelas? Bluebottle flies? Kardashians? The answer is none of these; it is in fact the bureaucratic mentality that prevents anything from happening within a reasonable timeframe.

It seems that wherever you go, local councils and governments want to spend as long on any given project as possible, seemingly to do nothing more than justify their existence. Take for example a very British conundrum; do you have any idea how much red tape you need to tear through to get a new park bench installed? No, neither do I. But only because when I stumbled across the procedure online I fell asleep after page 74. It is horrendous. Why does it need to take so long to put a bench in a park? You buy a bench, engrave the brass plaque with the name of a locally renowned goose, and place it in situ. A bench needs planning permission. Why? Put it there, and if enough Guardian readers complain about it then pick it up and move it somewhere else.

This type of mindless bureaucracy, it seems, is a global pandemic. Even those whom reside in the most remote outback wastelands of Mongolia need permission to paint pots. Why can’t those running the show just get things done? Why wait? Alex Salmond wants his vote on Scottish independence, why keep with him waiting until 2015 or whenever it is, just let him do it so we can all get back to work.

Cock-A-Dobby, Jumeriah Lake Towers, please.

Cock-A-Dobby, Jumeriah Lake Towers, please.

It therefore came as no surprise to me yesterday that it is to take five years to rename all the roads in Dubai. Allow me to explain the situation: The road naming system in the UAE is, by its own admission, a joke. There are snippets of sense, such as the main motorways being given numbers like E11, E22, E66 and so on, and of course we have the big landmark roads like Shiekh Zayed Road which are easy to identify. But everything else is a mish-mash of incomprehensible balderdash.

In order to understand the incumbent numbering system you need a mind of such ability that you would be able to crucify Stephen Hawking on Countdown, in the same way that a ferret could outsmart Kim Karsdashian in a game of Battleships. It is all so dreadfully hateful.

Along with the numbers there are also roads named after Sheikhs and prominent Emiratis, and that is normal. It’s no different from road names like Victoria Avenue, Kings Road, Albert Road, Elizabeth Street, and so on. But it can get confusing sometimes. If I’m navigating the Dubai traffic looking for Khaled Bin Khalifa Street, invariably I will get confused and end up on Khalifa Bin Khaled Street.

The new system means that every single road in Dubai is to be renamed, and in keeping with global tradition, the names are to reflect the local district and its history. Take the coastal area, Jumierah. Roads along the coast are to take their names from fish, famous boats, and an array of other nautical paraphernalia. Great, it will be like Portsmouth; Fish Street. Cod Cresent. HMS Ark Royal Avenue. Navy Mews.

The Trade Centre area is to be named after various currencies, which sounds fine, but there are only a finite amount of currencies in the world, so expansion of the Trade Centre would be halted should the limit be reached. Unless they build more roads off Dollar Drive, in which case they can raise the debt ceiling to whatever fictional level they like…

The thing is, this renaming programme is going to take five years, and for the life of me I can’t fathom why. How hard can it be? You break the city up into zones, as they have done, and just go nuts. Honestly, if they were to get in touch with me then I could rename the whole city in a day. Just give me a copy of the Viz Profanisaurus and immunity from prosecution and before you know it you’ll be driving through Uphill Gardens and Bell End, past Busty View and before you know it you’ll be back home on Penistone Road.

Problem solved.

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165. Youths

As I like to mention a lot of the time, I have lived in the UAE for a considerable while. Well, I like to think that nigh-on six years is a healthy crack. In that time I have, in all honesty, barely done anything. My former employment commanded that I work every weekend, and that prevented me from “doing something” interesting. Resultantly, I was only able to go out and drink my spare time away to the milieu ambience of atrocious hotel bands who couldn’t find a key in a locksmith’s and some overpaid Premier League footballers falling over on TV. It was an uninspiring existence.

I have worked continuously since the age of 15, and that meant that I also spent the vast majority of my weekends working and seemingly missing out on what life had to offer. But now life is different. Now I am a free agent, a man whose daily tasks extend to little more than stockpiling the kitchen with crisps. I am therefore unaware of what the world, and more specifically the UAE, has to offer.

So to find out what the life of Riley is really all about, I went to the latest instalment of the Sandance franchise on the Palm Jumierah, which if you live on Mars, or in Milton Keynes, is off the coast of Dubai. The day didn’t start well. Our party awoke the morning of the event with a collective headache that, if measured, would very likely shift the galaxy from its axis. No matter, with heavy heads and oscillating stomachs we hailed a taxi and set sail for Atlantis.

This is Dubai

This is Dubai

A friend had suggested previously that to avoid the traffic, congestion, and damn-right hassle of everything involved in the journey, that we do a brunch at Saffron. My first worry was to fathom whether to use the term “brunch” as a noun or a verb. Do you “do” brunch or go for “a” brunch? Before I could get my head around it, we were whisked through to our table and pointed in the direction of wriggling crowd.

For those non-UAE readers, you must have heard about the famous Dubai brunches. You pay about 500 Dirhams, which is about 100 Disney Dollars, sorry, Euros, and it is all you can eat and drink within a specified timeframe. Inevitably, the halls are usually decked with quivering wrecks and dribbling drunks fairly quickly.

With my stomach going up and down like an elevator, I headed for the counter with the smallest gathering and set about piling my plate with two pieces of salami, some steamed rice, and a piece of bread that had very recently been on the floor. While negotiating through the masses I couldn’t help but pass judgement on the clientele in attendance. It was like The Only Way Is Northumberland’s Christmas party. There were fake tans, earrings the size of banquet tables, shirts with strategically undone buttons, cleavage, vajazzle, facial henna tattoos, the lot. Most seemed to be British.

We tackled our way through the – delicious – food and gave the alcohol a good go, well, my friends did. And before we knew it, it was time to mosey down the road to the beach concert. The sweaty walk helped as booze from the night before oozed gracelessly from every pore. Once the ladies in our group had had their handbags poked with a stick we were in. After six years of living in the UAE I was at my first ever Sandance. We made a beeline for a spot on the beach and got the ciders in, and it was then that it hit me: where was I?

No, really. If you were to be teleported into Sandance from anywhere else in the world then you would be unable to work out which part of the world you were in. One of my childhood friends came to visit the other week, and before his trip had asked a whole manner of reasonable questions about Dubai, such as “am I allowed to drink?” Or “is it ok to hold hands with my girlfriend?” I’m not surprised, we read in the British media all the time about how Dubai operates with an iron fist like the USSR did in the good old days of communism. But the penchant for modesty couldn’t be further from the truth.

At the Sandance music extravaganza there were haircuts, bottoms, men in sleeveless vests (no, by the way, just no, it’s an appalling style), puddles of what I assumed to be custard with carrots in them, and bikinis of such minute proportions that you could be forgiven for thinking it was a nudist colony. It was like the last days of Rome versus 1965.

Such wild hedonism was occasionally interrupted by some live performances. There were The Wailers, minus Bob Marley who had been signed off ill, Of Monsters And Men, whom I have never heard of before but were actually quite good, and then The Killers. Who were f****** brilliant.

All the while I was looking around at the sprightly youths that surrounded me, getting increasingly envious over their perfect complexions and very wealthy parents. It must be nice not having to worry about much. Living in the UAE, and Dubai of all places, not needing to work and being able to enjoy all it has to offer whenever you like. You have no idea what the real world is like. I wish I didn’t need to go to work, and that I could go out every weekend and definitely get served, and that I could hang out by the beach all day.

…Hang on, wait a minute…

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164. Warning lights

"Britishisation... Now there's a vote winner with the middle classes..."

“Britishisation… Now there’s a vote winner with the middle classes…”

Next week is the Islamic holiday of Eid Al Adha, and to mark the occasion everyone has been given some time off. This doesn’t make too much difference to me since I currently spend most of my time sitting down watching TV and eating crisps.

Those who work in the public sector, such as teachers and government employees, have the entire week off. Coupled with the two weekends at either end, that is nine whole days. That is a superb result. However, those who work in the private sector will only get three working days off – Monday to Wednesday. This means that they will work Sunday and Thursday.

On the face of it that doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but it does kind of underline the fact that things aren’t very balanced. There are many things I admire about the UAE, chief of which is the Emiratisation project that is currently being championed. If such a thing were to ever happen in the UK then we would all be calling Nigel Farage the Prime Minister…

For those who may not be aware, Emiratisation is a drive to get more Emiratis working in the private sector. As you will all know, we expatriates are all here to earn a decent wage and to give something back to the former British protectorate. The UAE population is vastly outnumbered, making up only 10% of the overall population. As such the government is keen to ensure that their own people are not lost in the wilderness, and that they will lead the country to international glory.

Sadly, there does seem to be one small flaw in the plan. Gun against your head, if you had to choose between a cushty government job that paid a handsome salary and offered you shorter working hours and more time off, and a private sector job on a quarter of the money, longer hours, and less holiday, which would you take?

No prizes for answering correctly, I know what I would do. And why not? The drawback is that the parameters between the two sectors cannot be balanced. In the private sector, what you earn is a reflection of how well your company performs. If your business is tanking then your money and subsequent job security is in jeopardy. You are sheltered from this in the public sector to an extent.

You cannot place someone in a private firm and pay them a government-akin wage, unless it was some faceless multinational corporation. If you want to bring balance to the sectors, then conversely you cannot cut every government employee’s wage by 75%; that would have a crippling effect on the economy. I presume.

If you want to devise a balance and make the private sector more appealing you are kind of stuck. The only thing that I can suggest is to keep the salaries as they are, but switch the holiday allowances around. Why not? Make the public servants work longer and those who work for private companies get more time off during special celebrations.

Of course, that wouldn’t work either. Nothing works. Ultimately you just have to leave it be and hope that it all kind of sorts itself out in the end, like Tulisa’s recent drug misdemeanour. But it does, at last, bring me to the point of today’s missive: aviation warning lights.

Once a problem with no obvious fix is in situ, you are kind of stuck with it. One such problem is the luck of living in a tower block and there, right outside your window, is the red warning light that flashes morning, noon, and night, protecting you from stray helicopters and para-gliders.

Can you imagine how annoying that would be? Sitting in your living room watching TV and there, outside your window on the 50th floor, is a red beacon constantly flashing and lighting up your apartment like some dodgy Dutch nightclub. Not even Blitz-standard black-out curtains could stop the incessant red flashing.

Much like the disparity between the employment sectors, there is no solution for such a thing. Those warning lights are a legal requirement, and if a Hughes MD530F did pop in through your window during the middle of X Factor then you’d be up in arms wanting to know why there weren’t any warning lights to remind the pilot.

In fact there it is; the epiphany! I think I have cracked the case and found a benefit of moving into the private sector: you won’t be at home often enough to go insane with the constant flashing.

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162. Trucks

Moaning, it would seem, is the last bastion of hope that we have when we don’t understand why things are the way they are. As you would expect, then, UAE Uncut is replete with folly and misunderstandings resulting from lackluster research. It is all too easy to pipe up and say that “none of it makes any sense” when really all it would take is some strategic Googling.  Still, we’re in too deep now so I shall persevere in the manner of which you are all accustomed.

Last week I was at a training day at Motor City in Dubai. Once the day was done, at around 5pm on Thursday afternoon, I was tasked with driving home to Abu Dhabi. On the face of it that didn’t sound like too tall an order, but… sweet baby Jesus. I turned on the radio – a rare treat for an institutionalised Al Ain-ian like me – and sure enough the broadcaster confirmed that it was essentially a frothing maelstrom of hopelessness and despair out there; total bedlam.

I decided that I would avoid the trouble spots – that being literally all of Dubai – and stay on the E111, the road formerly known as Emirates Road but which is now called Sheikh Mohammed Road, and join the E11 at the Abu Dhabi border. It was a smart move and things were going well, right up until the point when I called my wife to boast of my traffic-dodging prowess, when everything just stopped.

For the best part of 30 minutes I covered approximately 500 yards, and looking around it was easy to understand why: Trucks, or Lorries, if you’re British. There are tens of billions of them, clogging up all the main roads and through-fares.

Of course I am familiar with the importance of the truck. Without trucks then there would be no food in the supermarkets, no concrete to deliver to the wrong building sites, and no winter jackets for the malls to sell in the height of summer. The truck is the very backbone of any functional society, and whether we like it or not, is as constant and as inevitable as death and taxes.

That being said, they are a menace to the common man when he is going about his daily rituals. While I was being propelled along Sheikh Mohammed Road by nothing other than continental drift, two leviathans decided to crash into one another at the slowest recorded speed in all of human history. The carriageway consisted of three lanes on the approach to a useless roundabout, and one truck turned in on the other. So the police turned up and after many a furrowed-brow and pointless traffic cone, and just on the eve of my 200th birthday, I was eventually allowed to pass.

Now I know that the UAE has several “truck roads” snaking around the country, and that really is something that few developed western nations can brag of having. I would hate to think how bad it would be without them, but I really can’t get my head around the fact that they are allowed out on the road network at all during rush hour.

Stuff this, I'll take go through Jumeriah Lake Towers, how bad can it be?

Stuff this, I’ll go through Jumeriah Lake Towers, how bad can it be?

The entire inside lane is just one long stream of trucks, which makes seeing your exit nearly impossible, and actually taking your exit physically impossible. Twin this with the fact that there are some rogue truckers who like to overtake the 1930’s water trucks at walking pace and you’re in a whole world of misery. Even Steve McQueen would struggle to negotiate it all. Yes the trucks need to be out there delivering their payloads, otherwise everything would just grind to a halt, but Holy Mary, do you think that we could get them all to pull over between 5pm and 7pm once a day?

As ever, I am prepared with a solution: There is no shortage of space out there as the motorways are generally surrounded by nothing other than mile upon mile of barren, featureless, inhospitable desert. Why not brick it over and make special truck parking bays so when the clock strikes five they all just pull over and let the rest of us go home?

The amount of accidents would reduce instantly, our stress levels would also take a dive, plus we’d all be driving faster and therefore using more precious fuel, which will only be of benefit to the economy. It’s a no-brainer. Ok, there might be the occasional missed delivery, but really, who gives a damn about whether or not River Island don’t have the latest winter jackets in stock? All it would take is some logical planning…

…Oh no wait. That will just cause even more chaos. Bah, none of it makes any sense.

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160. Bags

Drum roll please… UAE Uncut is back with a bang! Well, not quite, more of a pathetic drip. Since my last inscription in this muddy puddle of cyberspace much has changed. In the last six weeks I have got married, have resigned from my job of six years, and have moved to a new apartment in Abu Dhabi. As you would imagine, life has been jolly busy and, in essence, has little to do with the point of today’s missive.

Since moving here in 2008, I have read many tales from the crypt about how dear old Mother Earth is starting to cough and misplace her dentures. Where as once she was able to walk to the shops and back in 15 minutes, nowadays she does so with a walking stick, making full use of the park bench at half distance to catch her breath. The old girl is showing her age and, of course, her children are to blame.

Let’s not get embroiled in an environmental debate here, but sometimes I wish people would see sense and realise that money doesn’t do anything of any use. No, really. How does paying extra money for certain things in anyway combat physics? We begin with the most obvious of targets for such heinous antics; airlines. Naturally, everyone is provided with a maximum baggage allowance on an aircraft. Anywhere between 20-23kg is generally the average. Over the summer I have been back to Blighty, to Ireland, and to Italy. Because I was travelling around a bit, I had to pack a bit more and was thusly over my allowance.

In most cases, the options laid out before me were a) unpack some things and leave them there on the floor of the terminal for eternity and b) to pay an outrageous fee so that they could indeed travel. Annoyingly, and despite my best sarcastic cannonballs, I had to get my wallet out. The woman said that if everyone was over their allowance then the plane would be too heavy and would plummet to the Earth and that I would be killed. But how does then paying £4,000 per kilogramme all of a sudden make it ok?

Here in the UAE we are protected from the environmental fascism of Europe, and one can easily forget that back under the iron fist of Brussels, life is far more difficult. What were once simple chores of every day life are fast becoming a royal pain the Merkel. I speak, of course, of shopping.

While away in the EUSSR, each and every time I needed to pop into a supermarket I was forced to carry away my Ruffles, Smarties, eggs, deodorant, and milk in my arms. Plastic carrier bags are now a tradable commodity. If I wanted the convenience of carrying my humble groceries in a bag, then I had to pay for the privilege. I’m sorry, but I just can’t subscribe to this.

Before we go any further perhaps I should highlight that I despise those who litter, and companies that continue to package razors in vacuum formed Perspex are no more morally sound than Somali pirates. Plastic bags are indeed a menace and I hate seeing them blowing around windy allies or wrapped around Nelson’s Column. But why should I have my convenience compromised just because some careless halfwit can’t use a recycling bin properly?

UAE Uncut grade good retaining unit. Trademark, £40 per dozen. What? Someone has to make money out of environmentalism

UAE Uncut-grade goods retaining unit. Trademark, £40 per dozen. What? Someone has to make money out of environmentalism

So, my question is: what is wrong with paper bags? Paper bags were the norm for decades and worked just as well. They can come with handles, can be completely recycled, they are re-useable, and, as far as my research concludes, are cheaper than plastic bags. Ok, in the rain they can get a bit soggy, but no matter.

Food prices in supermarkets are high(ish) across Europe, and there is no way in a month of Sundays that a locally grown apple can cost as much as a majority stake in Microsoft. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that merchants can still afford to bulk buy bags for their customers.

What about those big re-useable bags you can buy? They’re great, after you’ve made the initial down-payment. But their usage is dictated solely by whether you actually have one with you or not. If I pop up to Dubai for the day and then, on impulse, decide that I need to dash into a shop for a pack of Smarties and a plasma TV, then the odds are I won’t have one with me. This is what happened in Italy. I was on my honeymoon, and at no point in the packing process did I think that I would need a re-usable shopping bag. This, I’m sure, would have cost me even more money-for-weight with Aer Lingus. And I didn’t want to be responsible for making the plane crash.

The thought didn’t even cross my mind. If I needed to rake in supplies from the local goods merchant, then I assumed that my convenience as a paying customer would not be called into question. But, instead, I was forced to walk back to the hotel juggling my Lynx and Smarties looking like some mad shoplifter.

Returning to Europe reminded me about how lucky we are in the UAE. Flying back from Italy with Etihad, my suitcase was several kilos over the allowance, I wasn’t asked to pay, and the plane didn’t even remotely crash. Convenience is the cornerstone of the Emirates and long may it continue. The day this country starts to charge me for carrier bags will be the day I decide to pack up and go elsewhere. The question is, where is beyond the reach of madness? And how much baggage allowance will I have to pay for to get there? I need to go somewhere where I can carry my shopping in peace, and for free; Chad, perhaps?

Mother Earth is indeed getting on a bit, but she is not yet at the stage where she needs a Stannah stair-lift. When the time comes we will take care of her, but like any good parent, she will want the best for her children without wishing to be “too much of a bother.” My wish, mum, is that my human siblings don’t deprive me of my convenience. Let me carry my shopping like you used to in the old days, a paper bag will be fine.

Ah, it’s good to be back.

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