Tag Archives: Madness

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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161. Internet

In life there are many things that happen to a lot of people every single day. People get new phones, new jobs, buy new cars, and of course, move house. It is therefore perfectly reasonable to assume that the professionals who deal with these types of things have procedures in place to make them as quick and as simple as possible. But since when was life reasonable?

My wife and I, as a couple, are perfectly balanced. We have about our relationship a degree of equilibrium; she cooks, I wash up. She leaves the living room in a state, I tidy up. I crash the car into a pillar in the underground car park and knock the fog light out, she takes the blame: perfectly balanced. Whereas I will usually be the one who goes off on mad ranting tangents, she will calm me down by telling me that I’m being a pillock. It works.

However, over the last couple of weeks the mad ranting seems to have shifted from Mr. Fullard to Mrs. Fullard, and, frankly, I just can’t let this carry on. Since we have moved apartment, Mrs. Fullard has been trying to get the home internet sorted. This, it turns out, is a near-impossible thing to achieve. Never have I heard her spit such venomous slurs.

We have moved from our old apartment in Al Ain, where we have internet, to our new apartment in Abu Dhabi, where we want internet. Are you still with me? Is it as simple as just transferring the package over to a new address? No. Is it as simple as cancelling the Al Ain package and starting a new one in Abu Dhabi? No. Would it be easier for family Fullard to invent their own internet? Yes, much so.

If I were to find a book called “Build Your Own Internet” then I genuinely believe that I’d have a fair chance, and that the time taken to chuck it together would be quicker than dealing with the pros. Allow me to illustrate just how hard the network provider has made my wife’s life recently.

First, she went to Internet HQ in Al Ain to ask what the correct procedure is. She sat and waited with her ticket for over an hour before being told that it was home time and everybody’s shift had to come to an end. Down but not out, she returned the following morning and waited for over 90 minutes, only to be told that she had to go to Abu Dhabi, and that transferring the package from A to B would take but a minute.

Earth to Mars communication, job done. Al Ain to Abu Dhabi... The fevered dream of a mad man.

Earth to Mars communication, job done. Al Ain to Abu Dhabi… The fevered dream of a mad man.

That weekend we both paid a visit to an office in Marina Mall, where we were both told that transferring our package across to the new apartment was “not possible.” My wife, incensed with rage, highlighted her displeasure, leaving me sitting there feeling rather awkward, and even, may I add, a touch sorry for the poor guy. The helpless man said that we had to call a random man who, as it turned out, was just a random man who knew nothing of anything. Internet man then said that we could fill out a new application form for an internet to be delivered to our new home…once we had cancelled our package in Al Ain.

So, back to the Al Ain office my wife went. After being made to wait a mere 45 minutes, she met another person whose sole purpose in life seemed to be to occupy space and little more. My wife was told that cancelling the package was not allowed, because she had already submitted a new application in Abu Dhabi. In order for us to get internet in our new home, we had to cancel the new application that we had submitted, call the random man who had no idea who we were for no reason, then cancel the Al Ain package, drive back to Abu Dhabi to re-submit a new application, and then each donate a leg to medical science.

How can all this be so? I am genuinely at a loss to understand how this procedure is allowed to carry on. I can only surmise that the network provider is in bed with the local petroleum merchant and all the driving hither and thither is part of the plan… This is the 21st century, according to experts we’re supposed to start colonising Mars soon. How can we be sure that that will go well if we can’t even move house and take our internets with us?

All I can say is thank you to “bootyman1,” whoever you are, for not password protecting your Wi-Fi… Without you, the masses wouldn’t be able to heed my warning:

…Don’t, under any circumstances, move house if you want internet.

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56. Hotels

There are many, many things in the world that make little sense.  There are lots of things that we simply cannot fathom, like for example

Perhaps the new system is being championed by a hotel professional?

what is it going to take to make George Monbiot happy, without blowing the world up and returning to living in caves and eating dung?  Fashion shows?  What are the rules?  Who on earth will ever wear any of the weird monstrosities that are paraded up and down the catwalk?  A dress made of cling film with two strategically placed post-it notes on the chest?  Not what I expect to see a mother of 2 wearing in the supermarket.  I can’t work it out.

As you can probably tell my list of things that I can’t work out is quite lengthy, so maybe I’m just thick.  Thick or not however, I simply cannot comprehend how the criteria that determines how many stars a hotel is awarded actually works.  The facts that I do know are mind boggling.

The UAE, as you would expect, has many hotels.  Some are national landmarks, some of them have the Belgian Café, and some of them are crap.  I have stayed in hotels ranging from between 2 and 5 stars, and honestly, in some cases it is exceptionally difficult to tell the difference.

The first point I must make is that 5 stars is the maximum any hotel can ever be awarded, regardless of how much it cost and how pretentious and expensive the bar is.  There are still people out there that think the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai and the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi are 7 star hotels.  This is not the case.  They are 5 stars.  Yes they cost AED 5000 (£900) per night if you get a good deal, and don’t mind sleeping in the utility room, but they are in the same bracket as all the other normal 5 star hotels, that only cost AED 1200 (£200) per night.  That knocks them down a peg or two.

To be a 5 star hotel it’s not just about having a marble entrance hall, a lift, a large room and a butler; you have to have your in-house reading material in both Arabic and English, except of course when you don’t.  You also need to provide room service in exactly the same way that both 3 and 4 star hotels do.  It must have a gym of a certain size that has never been specified and the swimming pool, which is optional, must be filled with water and not mud.  To be awarded that coveted 5 star rating your hotel must also be located in a big city, or in the middle of nowhere, or even on an island where no one can get to.  Car parks are optional.

To be a 4 star hotel you need to do exactly the same things as the 5 star crowd.  In order to achieve 3 stars you need to do exactly the same as the 4 star lot if you like but if you don’t want to then don’t worry, it won’t matter.  In order to receive 2 stars you don’t need to have a pool, although you can if you like, but otherwise you must offer all of the services already mentioned.  If you only want 1 star then all you need is a roof and at least 3 walls.  And a fan.

I have been to 2 star hotels that have been fabulous and to others that have been diabolical.  I have witnessed excellent service, good staff, and nice rooms.  I have also seen a maître d’ spitting on other guests children.  I have been to 4 star hotels that have been terrible experiences but have also visited some good ones too.  I have enjoyed a few 3 star hotels, and have in equal measure had some bad experiences.  I have enjoyed the wallet crunching experience of a 5 star hotel but my worst ever experience of any hotel ever took place in one too.  There are hotels you look at and say “that’s got to be a 5 star, it looks great” but it turns out to be a 2.  The best hotel in the UAE that I have ever been to is a 4 star.

So really, how the hell does it work?  Are the criteria just meaningless words on a pointless page?  What is the point of spending $1 billion more on your hotel to give it 2 extra stars that don’t even exist?  You could just build a normal one and be done with it.  How much money do you think people have to spend these days?  There aren’t enough Kardashians and Footballers in the world to fund your hotel for sure?  I don’t understand.

My advice to prospective hoteliers then: aim for 2 stars.  Fair rooms, TV’s that don’t receive BBC World News; build a decent bar that shows sports and with a live band that understands the concept of reason.  Pay a little bit more for some decent staff and without knowing it you may very well get a 5 star rating, and you won’t even know how.

Of course, you could just buy the sign that says “7 star”, AED 45 from a small printers shop just off Al Suquiem Street…that’s what the others did.

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