Tag Archives: UAE Uncut

175. It’s goodbye from me, and it’s goodbye from him

I haven’t posted since April because I have a job in journalism now and typing in my own time is a bit of a Busman’s holiday. So thank you to everyone who read this truly appalling blog. If I lose my job then I’ll be back.

Bye everyone.

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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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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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159. Names

Once upon a time, before microwave meals, “reality” TV, and iPhones, we used to identify each other with our noses. Much like dogs, we knew who the other guy was by having a good sniff. Of course when the population began to increase, it became harder and harder to differentiate one odour from another. One day, a man known as “Smells-like-athletes-foot” stood up and said that he would henceforth be known as Steve. And so the name was born.

Soon enough monikers became all the rage. Before too long there were magic books full of characters, all with different names. It was probably the single greatest invention in the entire history of the human race. No longer did our forebears have to refer to each other with grunts or with mad adjectives, no, now they had a one-stop calling card.

The most common name in the world today is Mohammed. But this is exaggerated since there are several permutations; Muhammed, Muhammad, Mohamed, Muhamad, and so on. This is mainly down to Anglicisation, since the name is the same in Arabic. But it can cause confusion, however.

The typical Arabic male name is one of only about 15-20 possibilities in the UAE; Mohammed, Khaled, Saif, Saeed, Khalifa, Zayed, Ali, Ahmed, Saud, Mubarak, Hamdan, Hamad…you know. Further, there are only a few different family names, too. This can make things very tricky.

In my normal day job, I have to deal with lots of customers. It is common for groups of young men to turn up, and in such a case I need to work out who is who. “Mohammed Al Baloushi” I say. As it turns out, in a group of seven of then, four will have the same name. We then have to pick though the ID cards to try and unravel the mystery; it can be a nightmare.

But here’s the thing; it doesn’t bother me at all. I think that only having a small selection of traditional names is brilliant. It maintains identity, tradition; something that a lot of Westerners have forgotten. As an added bonus, it also cuts out a large chunk of bullying material. No, really. Think back to school, 75% of all bullying is having your name rhymed with something derogatory; Fartin’ Martin, for example. If you tried that with the Arabic names you’d end up insulting at least two or three other family members, or even yourself. This would render the exercise pointless.

Where we come from though, names evolve with time. They are treated as fashion accessories. For example, nothing dictates a new wave of name popularity quite like a royal birth. In the 1940’s, Charles was very popular amongst Brits, so too was Anne in the 1950’s. When William was born in 1982, so to was one out of every five boys for the following year.

She smelled like the cafeteria, so I named her "Burger, hold the gherkins, fries, ketchup, but no mayo. Maybe a little mayo". Isn't she adorable?

She smelled like the cafeteria, so I named her “Burger, hold the gherkins, fries, ketchup, but no mayo. Maybe a little mayo”. Isn’t she adorable?

The problem is that we are all so mad when it comes to names. The Beckham family didn’t help; Brooklyn? Romeo? Cruz? Harper? Then what about Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow; Apple?! Michael Jackson called his son Prince Michael II, aka Blanket. Are they all barking mad? Does having lots of money give you the right to name your spawn after what you see in a Bed, Bath, & Beyond catalogue?

We absorb the celebrity world like a sponge and all of a sudden we find ourselves living in a world where for name inspiration we simply look through the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, or the ethnic food section in the supermarket.

Before you know it you’re spooling through the voters register in the town hall and you’re drowning in a world of Ear Bud’s, Venus’s, Pepto-Bismol’s, and Rogan Josh’s. This pandemic has hit breaking point in recent years. It is all so hateful.

I yearn for a world where we can have freedom and where we are left alone, but I want a world where names make sense, and where I don’t have to vomit every time I do a friend search on Facebook. The UAE has it under control. A list of a dozen or so traditional Arabic names gives the country credibility. Ok, it makes calling a register a living nightmare, as I’m sure it would at passport control, or in a police station. But at least they will never be bullied because of their name.

North West?! For God’s sake, Kim. It would have been kinder to have named her after something you smelled in the hospital.

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158. Red tape

Have you ever wondered where things went so wrong in Britain? I mean once upon a time we literally ruled the waves; we were unbeatable on the water as we saw off the French and the Spanish Armadas with ease before sailing off to tame the world. Britain used to have it all under control. At times it was inhuman and evil, and at others it was charitable and kind, but we were a nation of doers; we always got the job done.

During The Great War, we and the Allies saw off the Axis powers and 21 years later we did it again. Many of our Grandparents gave their lives so that we could be free; and so too could the multitude of colonies under British mandate. Fast forward to 2013 and take a look around. If an aggressor decided that he – or she in Argentina’s case – wanted a foothold on our territory, do you think we would be able to put up much of a fight?

I have been kidding myself about this for a long time, and I am saddened to report that I don’t think Britain would last very long. Our Navy fleet are now floating museums, and our submarines are crashing into Scotland. The RAF now only works with paper planes, and, of course, the solitary Vulcan that was saved this week by some men from a pub. Then we have our brave boys and girls in the Army, who have been stretched further than Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy pants.

But, oddly, it is not the laughable Navy, rusted Sopwith Camels or the 18 soldiers that we have left that makes me fear us losing in a spot of international pugilism, but the fact that everything you ever need takes so bloody long.

This week I took my friend to the Al Ain licensing section so that we could get him his UAE driving license. It sounds simple enough and sure enough it was. We went in with the required documents, were handed a ticket, sat next to a man who smelled of vegetables and within 23 minutes we were out. Task completed. It was amazingly efficient and I’ll be honest, I had to eat my hat.

I know I come before you frequently and moan about this and that, and certainly the UAE has a long way to go in certain areas; like sorting a working visa. But the process of getting a driving licence was so astonishingly quick and easy it has technically made UAE Uncut null, void, and as credible as an Alistair Campbell WMD dossier.

I'm telling you. Two minutes I was in and out. New licence: job done my son.

I’m telling you. Two minutes I was in and out. New licence: job done my son.

When did you last try to renew your driving licence back home? Does the DVLA website allow you to do it online? Not without a qualification in astrophysics. No, you have to post off this and that and wait 3-4 weeks for your metro-sexual, EU-embossed, recycled, pink card to arrive through the letter box. It is so dated and useless. Why can they simply not set up offices around the country and employ 5-6 ex-coal miners and bankers to simply print you a new card?

The same is true with your passport. Another friend of mine has recently tried to renew her passport, complete with Queen’s message, from over here. After completing the form, scribing down the card details, getting the photograph lined up and so on she is now 104 years old. Still, 4-6 weeks is how long she was told that she would have to wait. Passport templates are all the same, the only page that needs printing is the photo page, and how in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost can that take between 4-6 weeks?

What are they doing over there in Liverpool? A background check takes five minutes, and the useless courier that will be charged with its safe delivery will only take two or so days to get it back to you. How can 4-6 weeks be justified?

The UAE has Britain crucified on this one; thankfully we’re allies so maybe they can teach us a thing or two. But what if it only takes President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 30 minutes to renew his passport? Or, worse still, what if Mrs. De Kirchner is able to sort out a new driving license for one of her cabinet while on her lunch break? Do you think that they will then hang around? No. Whereas you can imagine what would happen in Blighty; as the four minute warning sounds, the fighter pilots tasked with defending us wouldn’t be allowed to take off because they won’t have the right piece of paper, and the new one will be stuck in the sorting office.

Once, the world hated Britain. Today, they just laugh.

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157. Jackson’s

Faithful readers of UAE Uncut will know all too well that I am not the biggest fan of the iPhone. I hate how people chose to live and die by it. I hate how it has become the peripheral human organ and that without it we would all foam at the mouth and die. I loath those who walk around wearing Apple T-Shirts as if they are the Barmy Army on their way to watch the Ashes. I cannot stand how every 6-8 minutes a new version is released that is differentiated from its predecessor only by the colour of the on/off button. But most of all I despise how it consumes everyday life. You forever see groups of people in coffee shops huddled around a table simply WhatsApping each other or Tweeting friends who aren’t there. Society is dead, killed by the poisoned Apple.

That said, can I let you in on a little secret? They are quite cool and one day I will probably end up with one. But for now I am happy with my Blackberry Curve, which is about three years old and has not let me down once. Why do I love it so much? Well, for a smart phone it is simple to use, functional, it is as tough as nails, – and considering how many times I have dropped it, that is important – and finally it is not garish.

I don’t like brash, gaudy things, I like simplicity. Take my choice of cars for example. I love cars, but there are many things within a car that I do not need, therefore I will not spend money on having them. I have never used a SatNav in my life since I don’t see the need; I don’t really need electric windows, either. I like my cars to look simple, that’s why my favourite cars are generally older, like a MKII VW Scirocco, a Ford Capri, Peugeot 205GTi and so on. Give me a Ferrari 458 or a Rolls Royce Phantom and I will scratch my head and ask why it is so?

The same is true of my home, and where I choose to stay when I am away. My hotel choice is always based on how simple and how cleverly decorated it is; I cannot stand tacky hotels. Once, many years ago in Brighton, I was looking for a place to stay the night and stumbled across one hotel that offered themed rooms. All that was left was the Elvis room, but I didn’t fancy that. It was horrendous in the extreme. Plus, the Maitre D wouldn’t have looked out of place presenting Top of the Pops in the 1970’s…

I only know one of them! And they're getting their own hotel!?

I only know one of them! And they’re getting their own hotel!?

Neatly, this brings me onto the point of today’s missive; how many millions of Dirhams would I have to be paid to stay in the Jackson Family Hotel and Resort that has been proposed for Yas Island? The answer, thus far, is infinite Dirhams.

Forgive me, and I’m only being honest here, but the UAE does have a tendency to be a bit tacky. You only have to walk around Home Centre or Homes R Us during one of their seemingly never-ending 70% off sales to see the kind of monstrosities that people buy. Purple velour cushions, gold painted wingback armchairs, chesterfield sofas; it’s all so hateful.

But put the shopping basket down for a moment and step outside. Do you see Ferrari World? Is there anything more self-indulgent than or as horrific as that? What about the homage to the Elizabeth Tower of The Palace of Westminster (incorrectly referred to as Big Ben) on Sheikh Zayed Road? My, there’s even a fake Alp in Mall of the Emirates.

It’s on a smaller level too, what possible use is vending machine that pays out gold? If you are city trader who understands how the value of gold fluctuates then you will invest your money correctly and accordingly. You wouldn’t see Gordon Gekko stroll up to the gold ATM in Dubai Mall and take out a wedge of bullion, would you?

When things are done properly over here they are incredible. For all its pointlessness, the Burj Khalifa is impressive. The Anatara Resort on SirBaniyasIsland in the Western region is also nicely done; but a Jackson 5 and Janet and Michael and Michael’s kids themed resort? How can this go well?

I’m trying to think of the themes; and I can’t pen them all down without offending everyone. I mean, in their original guise they were a revolutionary and very popular band, but there was so much better out there at the time; The Beatles? The Rolling Stones? That’s like living in a world where Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Lamborghini make the best super-cars, and then Rover come along and open a theme park. Why? They weren’t the best, and in all honesty, were a little bit of a joke.

Besides, Michael’s personal foibles were a global scandal, how can that then be used as the face of a welcoming family resort? What next, Jimmy Saville Land? The Jackson’s were popular, I’m not denying that, but Michael was always the one who epitomised them. I just had to check Wikipedia for the names of the others; and if I don’t know who Tito Jackson is then how will the expected clientele know? Are there enough Jackson family fans in the UAE to justify its construction?

I doubt it. But I’m sure that just like when people un-necessarily upgrade their iPhones, whether it is needed or not, it will happen anyway. I knew society was dead, but sense too?

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156. Speed limits

The other day, before I went off on a mad tangent about personal quandaries, I began by complaining about the latest means by which to stop road traffic accidents. In case you missed it, speed limits in Dubai are to be reduced by a whopping 10 kph on expressways – such as Sheikh Zayed Road – and a further something or another on roads for which I wasn’t paying attention. This, they say, will reduce the amount of accidents because everyone will be driving 10 kph slower.

This is a classic case of missing the point. It would seem that no matter where you go in this world the silent, law abiding masses are forced to suffer for the follies of those who lack a moral compass. The reduction of speed limits is futile, 100%.

Yes, son, I know you're a good driver. But you did a traffic boo boo and now you're in trouble...

Yes, son, I know you’re a good driver. But you did a traffic boo boo and now you’re in trouble…

At present, Shiekh Zayed Road has a limit of 120 kph. It is known throughout Dubai circles as the most deadly road in the UAE. According to a set of misinterpreted Facebook statuses and brazen Tweets, 7 million people are involved in crashes along Dubai’s flagship expressway every minute. But before the high and the mighty bombard me with “speed kills” messages and subject the rest of you to their opinions as opposed to facts; can I point out how few crashes there have been when a car has been travelling at a steady 120 kph minding its own business? Well I cant, and nor can you back up your nonsensical claptrap to the contrary, either. But that won’t stop me giving it a go.

The idea of a man driving his Nissan Sunny at 120 kph along Shiekh Zayed Road is simple to picture. There he is, two hands on the wheel, right foot on the throttle, bit of Kenny and Accalia and a due sense of respect and understanding for the limit imposed. Then, from the port side, a fellow road user swings out of nowhere cutting in front of Nissan Sunny man, clipping the wing and rolling it. Was speed to blame for this? Like hell it was. It was the pure idiocy of the other driver who failed to signal or check his mirrors before proceeding to swerve.

Now, the self-righteous and the pious I’m sure will slam down their tea cups and tell me that “if the lane-swerver was going slower he would never have rolled!” And you’re absolutely right. I agree that if both Nissan Sunny man and the swervista had both been driving at 40 kph then it would have been nothing but a simple scratch. But if you think that there is any notable difference between 110 and 120 kph when it comes to collisions of that nature then I’m afraid the planet Earth has no further need of you.

I charge you to put down your copy of Marxism for Dummies and check into a hotel along Sheikh Zayed Road. Book a room with a view over the road and sit there observing what is going on. By applying a simple mathematic equation you will come to the conclusion that only 0.83% of Shiekh Zayed Road users are uncouth and dangerous. No, really, most people are law abiding citizens who sit comfortably at the speed limit.

The problems lie elsewhere. Idiots who have no sense of lane law are the biggest killers out there, and then there are those who think that the indicator stalk is simply a hook for which to hang their sunglasses. There’s more, Dubai itself can be blamed to a degree by not furnishing the road with adequate signage. If the exits were signposted properly then people wouldn’t need to suddenly cut across several lanes leaving a trail of fire and destruction in their wakes.

Finally, and most obviously, we have those who are over-compensating for the size of their modest vegetables. Johnny Big-Potatoes with is modified Hummer loves nothing more than to hoon along Sheikh Zayed Road at 200 kph listening to Spice Girls remixes. He has no concerns about speeding fines because they don’t even dent his wallet. If the police want to take his Hummer then no matter, he’ll go home and get the FJ Cruiser out, which by the way is the ugliest and most repulsive car in the history of the human race. He doesn’t care for speed limits, why should he? He has nowhere to be and life is just a bit of fun. If he is racing along at 200 kph then it is only the other road users that will have to slow down, he is still able to continue to do as he pleases.

The solution, then? Don’t bother changing the speed limits by the most pointless of margins. Anyone caught driving recklessly, in any capacity, should have their vegetables boiled instead.

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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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