Tag Archives: UAE

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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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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170. Trade

So we waved goodbye to 2013 and have observed the onset of 2014 through the usual blend of fireworks and Fonseca. For it is no lie that this grubby little corner of cyberspace is, the vast majority of the time, awash with pessimism and tales of woe. So in a rather shocking twist I am going to see if readership increases if we ditch the frown and take on a whole new positive approach. But first let’s have some hate…

I hate New Years. I have never quite been able to get my head around why we make such a song and dance about what is simply just a change in date. We insist on partying into the wee hours, or go to a lot of effort to leave the cities and avoid it altogether. Why? Do you do such a thing on the 31st March to celebrate the dawn of April? So we scribble out the “3” and write a “4”, big deal moan moan moan.

Regardless of how inebriated you were on the 31st December/1st January, every single year brings the same old stories. All we do is run around wagging our fingers and moaning about the state of the economy and the various lunacies that come out of Brussels. If it’s not the Roma Gypsies then it’s Chinese industrialization. Peace in the Middle East to Mylie Cyrus’s bottom, Northern Ireland to Fido, the basset hound on benefits. I personally spend my time trying to guess which major celebrity will be next through the pearly gates in a puddle of vomit and narcotics.

It is a fact that 2014 will be another year of the same: immigration will continue to be an issue in the United Kingdom, the US will once again be trying to raise the debt ceiling so that it sits level with Neptune, and, of course, the UAE will continue to try and get us to spend our hard-earned in the various shopping festivals. This year will be like every other, make no mistake about it.

So, while you’ve all been surmising which member of One Direction will succumb to drug abuse this year and how much the Expo will end up costing you (imagine 10 Olympic games), I’ve been thinking about slightly more positive issues; such as how we might tackle real-world problems without the need for guilt-trip advertising. Buckle up…

The UAE only has five years of natural water resources remaining. This is a little known fact that very few will believe. The desalination plants cannot keep up with the demand for clean teeth and green grass. Water is fundamental to life, more so than oil, something that the UAE does have in vast supply.

If, then, the UAE cannot grow more water, it obviously needs to go out and buy it. After several guest ales I think I may have found the answer: Ireland.

Irish black gold exists in more than one form... but sell the rain to get at it.

Irish black gold exists in more than one form… but sell the rain to get at it.

Like other members of the European Union, Ireland is in crippling debt; billions are owed. Interestingly, and unlike its EU chums, and don’t tell the US, Ireland also has, would you believe it, oil reserves. However, at the moment it is not financially viable for the Irish to start drilling for the black gold; the returns at first would just not be enough to justify starting the project. It’s like having a locked bank account. It’s your money, but you can’t get at it.

In order to get at the oil the coffers need to be a suggestion fuller, so what if it was to receive some oil from the UAE in exchange for a natural resource in which it has a near infinite supply?: Water.

I was in the emerald isle for nine days over Christmas and you cannot walk five minutes without being marinated in rain. So what if we could devise a way for the UAE to make a cash-free exchange with Ireland: oil for water?

Oil tankers could fill up at the rig in the Gulf and sail to Dublin whereupon the oil would be put into barrels and sold to whoever the Irish wanted. The same ship would then be pumped full of the Liffey and sent back to Jebel Ali, and the Palm will be green once more.

The ships would have their efficiency doubled and Ireland could then sell the oil at the going rate, and soon enough they’d be able to afford to start drilling for their own, once all the dolphins have been re-homed of course. Before you know it the loans will be repaid and Guinness sales will quadruple overnight.

And what of the UAE? Well they would be full to overflowing with fresh, crisp Irish water of which there is a continuous supply. Grass will be green, date palms shall tower over the common man full of virility. Teeth shall sparkle and bottoms will be ever fresh. It’s a no-brainer.

It may sound a bit mad, but seriously why not give it a go? Each and every year we are reminded about how crap everything is, and then governments world over try to sell us a picture of an unattainable future. I say Ireland and the UAE take a gamble, try something new. That’s what I’ve done with UAE Uncut in trying to make it more positive.

I don’t like it. It’s easier to moan. Worth a shot though.

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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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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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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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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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