Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Warm Feet

An occupational hazard of living in our stylish ceramic-floored apartment is that your feet get cold if they are unclothed. To combat this I have worn through a succession of fluffy slippers from IKEA. Alas, the most recent set have been crushed by my immense weight to about 5mm, and now have the insulating capacity of a cornflake box. Our most recent trip to IKEA was fruitless in terms of finding replacements.

I've been getting quite anxious about my cold feet as winter draws on, to the extent that I've been looking in other shops for slippers of any kind. To no avail.

Imagine my delight then, when BetterArf returned home this evening, bearing a gift. This gift was in a huge plastic bag, such as you might need if you had bought a 42-inch plasma-screen television or suchlike. I was invited to close my eyes and stick a hand in for a feel. It didn't take me long to discern that the bag contained a slipper of immense proportions, and to guess that it probably contained two of the blighters, for BetterArf is not one to do things by halves, as it were.

Cool, not, yes? I have to walk like John Wayne did when he'd just got off his hoss, otherwise the slippers bump into each other and I fall over. But hey, I have warm feet again!

C'mon, We're Waiting

About five days ago the Government announced that the public sector will be enjoying a three-day holiday to celebrate the UAE's National Day this coming Friday, December 2nd.

Us private sector folk have been awaiting a similar (though naturally scaled-down) announcement regarding the holiday for people who actually have to work for a living. But none has come, so we must assume that we will be doing double-holiday-time on Friday. Friday is the usual day off, and National Day also falls on Friday this year. So we'll have to celebrate both events at the same time. It's tough in the private sector.

That's fair enough, but what I cannot understand is why Government employees, who, as far as I can tell only work five hours a day for about 250 days a year, will get three days off (plus Friday). Are they more loyal and nationalistic than everyone else? Maybe they are. That'll be the reason.


Shop 'n' Win

The Géant Hypermarket at Binned Potato Maul is holding a weird little promotion. They have this guy with a microphone who picks a random number every ten minutes, and if you are at the corresponding checkout, your shopping is free! Yay. So I was just buying a few things when it all happened. A checkout was selected. A shopper was made happy. The single pot of yoghurt he was planning to buy was given to him for free! He saved One Dirham!

Mr Microphone announced they'd be doing it again in ten minutes' time, so I discreetly set up an alarm on my phone and became very interested in the stuff on the shelves near the checkouts. But they cheated - the next number was drawn only eight minutes later, and it was an empty checkout!

Oh and by the way, how hard is it to pronounce 'Géant' correctly? Even Mr Microphone couldn't do it.


Have you noticed the new gadgets on my blog? Three or four days ago I added the NeoCounter who's online script, and the last month's visitors script. Pretty cool, methinks. I always knew I got a lot of traffic from the US, UK, India etc, but didn't really have a way to analyze it before.

So I'm surprised that I get almost as many visitors from the US as I do from the UAE, and that UAE visitors only account for a little over a quarter of all visits. Hmmm, I thought it must be at least half.

Actually the US figure is probably a red herring - I think the script's author might have assumed that .com domains are American - how many sites do you know of that end in .us?

Masalaamah Daddy-in-Law

Yikes, up at 4.30 this morning to take the Daddy-in-Law to the airport. One thing about driving at this time of day, the roads are clear!

The Marhaba people met us kerbside outside Departures with a wheeled chariot and a porter. Daddy-in-law says he's had a great time and he really isn't relishing returning to the freezing cold English winter. Ach well, no doubt he'll be back next year to have his mind boggled a bit more.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


OffSpring tells me that the Vietnamese have started Christmas early - they're stringing Glitter up all over the place.



Etisalat's ridiculous Proxy has blocked this cookery site:

Can't wait to get into my office and find out what juicy horrors have caused this to be blocked!

Monday, November 28, 2005


I was at home and I missed it (isn't that a line from a song?). Missed what? The earth tremor that hit Dubai and Northern Emirates yesterday. Tall buildings were evacuated amid panic and confusion. The tremor was caused by the Richter 6.1 quake at Qeshm Island in Iran.

Seismologists are predicting that the UAE could well see its own major quake before too long. There is a fault line that runs along the coast from Abu Dhabi to Ras Al Khaimah, and another one, the Dibba fault, that has caused several minor quakes in the Masafi area in recent years, and is apparently due to let go a big one any time now.

We are assured by the authorities that our tall buildings are 'earthquake-proof'.

Wallace and Grommit

We went to see W & G and the were-rabbit thingy movie yesterday. It was absolutely brilliant. The lighting and photography were worthy of any outstanding live-action film (can't think of any right now), the chase scenes were thrilling and Wallace's machines just get sillier.

This is definitely gonna win some Oscars. Go Brits!

Friday, November 25, 2005


The 1st Red Bull Flugtag (flying day) in Dubai was held today at Creekside Park. It was a splendid day out for all the family, as they say. The idea is that teams of lunatics design and build a human-powered flying machine and then throw it and themselves into the Creek. Very entertaining it is.

We were rooting for a team called Woof (because BetterArf knows the pilot), but regrettably after a long delay it got itself tangled up at the end of the runway, and only managed to 'fly' one metre. Ah well, there's always next year...

We haven't been in Creekside Park since Offspring was about 12, so I'd forgotten how lush it is. It was also packed with people - apart from the many thousands watching the Flugtag, there were loads of other folks enjoying a picnic, playing games and just generally chilling out on a perfect Friday. Bliss.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Movie Review

A few weeks ago we bought the DVD of Valiant - it had been in cinemas the week previously so I guess the speed-to-video means it was a flop? But we loved it.

Yesterday we rented Garfield - the Movie. My goodness, it is not often that you get to watch such an unutterably bad film. I mean, technically the computer graphics mixed into real stuff with real actpersons was good. But this was completely the wrong thing to do. To anyone who reads the comic strip, Garfield and Jon are 2D, black-and-white characters. The Roger Rabbit approach might have worked (2D hand-drawn animation superimposed on live-action), but turning Garfield into a realistic fluffy cat-thing was totally wrong.


I Forgive You, Turkey

I mentioned this story to BetterArf this morning and she was completely confused - 'is this something to do with Cyprus'? Well no, it's to do with the tradition of the US President forgiving a turkey (for what, I know not) on the ocassion of Thanksgiving. Anyhoo, Happy Thanksgiving to any Americans watching.

About the turkeys - I'd never heard of this tradition until a few months ago when President Martin Sheen had to pardon a turkey in an episode of the very wonderful West Wing. But there was something in one of the local papers today that said the pardoned turkey and the reserve would be going to live in Disneyland rather than the usual farm that previous suspects have been sent to.

Strange...I wonder what they'd done that required them to be pardoned?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

New Dubai, New Hospital

I've blogged about Dubai's Government Health Services before, and in general they're pretty impressive. But I'm worried by the continuing lack of any announcement concerning construction of a new gubment hospital in the Jebel Ali area. As the population of the so-called 'New Dubai' grows by leaps and bounds, so does the requirement for affordable health care. And it's no good saying that everybody moving into these new developments can afford private care - that simply is not true and in any case, the private sector is simply not big enough.

To put this into perspective, the population of Dubai is reckoned to be a little over 1 million now. It's expected to grow to around 3 million in the next ten years or so. That's basically a new city clustered around Jebel Ali, 40 kms from Old Dubai. It's a half-hour drive if the roads are clear, but it can easily take more than an hour when the roads are busy. How can a developed country have a city of 2 million people without a hospital?

If we can't have a new hospital in the Jebel Ali area, we at least need an Accident & Emergency Unit. At the moment, the closest A & E unit is at Rashid Hospital. Critically-injured patients don't stand much of a chance. On a happier note I've been slightly cheered to see an ambulance permanently on call at Media City over the last few days.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Got a New Toy!

Well, strictly-speaking, BetterArf's got a new toy. It's her birthday and her luvvin husband bought it for her. It's a tiny little Sony photo printer, and it's wonderful. It produces vivid waterproof dye sublimation prints on high gloss paper. The quality is remarkable. So after all these years of hoarding digital photo files, never printing them and never really looking at them, it's gonna be snapshot central at our house.

Going somewhere dodgy for dinner tonight - might tell you about it tomorrow!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Jackson in Denial

A spokesman for Michael Jackson has been frantically issuing denials of all sorts of things that he has done or is supposedly planning to do in the Arabian Gulf. This one amused me: "Mr Jackson mistakenly entered a ladies room in Dubai, labelled in Arabic." This refers to him being spotted fixing his make-up in a ladies' washroom at Ibn Battuta Mall. I just thought I'd check about these signs, on the basis that virtually all signage in public places in Dubai is in English and Arabic.

Sadly, the signs at IBM are a bit linguistically challenged. No English. No Arabic even! Only little pictures. So this is obviously why Michael got confused. He's seen lots of blokes wearing dresses, and assumed that the character wearing the dress is the male. Quite obvious really.

Rents Again

So here's me advising people to go to the Rent Committee if they're having landlord trouble. But I've just found out that they charge 15% of the rent as a fee! This is clearly outrageous. Obviously the fee needs to be substantial to deter frivolous complaints, but setting it at 15% means
1) They're only interested in dealing with cases where the proposed rise exceeds that amount
2) The Committee is seen as a revenue-generator for the Municipality rather than a much-needed protection for tenants

Economists agree that runaway inflation is a very bad thing. It makes the country less competitive globally. It causes hardship for individuals and companies because their earnings are not being adjusted to keep pace with inflation. Ultimately it will make the Emirates much less attractive to investors and visitors.

Monday, November 14, 2005


BetterArf told me this morning that her daddy had said I was one of only two drivers he knew where he didn't have to keep pressing the imaginary brake pedal in the front passenger seat. The other one is his sister who is in her mid-70s. So, it's official, Keefieboy drives like an old lady!
And he certainly never parks like this:

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Moron Rents

Oops, that title should have been 'More On Rents'. In the wake of yesterday's reports of a cap of 15% on rents for commercial and residential property, today's papers are full of praise for the decision. However I still think that landlords will abuse it and view it as a mandate rather than a maximum.

Dubai Municipality's Rent Committee will be responsible for enforcing the decision, and unless they change their procedures but quick, it will result in a lot of disappointed people. The problem is that the DMRC has a lengthy and quite public procedure. It involves publication of names and addresses of complainants, and that process can easily exceed any agreed notice period between landlord and tenant. Many tenants facing rises of up to 40% when they are supposed to renew in the next few months are doubtful that these proposed rises will be reduced in line with the new order. And they are sceptical about approaching DMRC, fearing that if they cause any trouble they will be evicted anyway.

What is needed is a very simple, anonymous complaints procedure. If you are facing a rent hike of more than 15%, you simply submit a copy of your existing lease agreement, along with a copy of the letter from your landlord advising you of the proposed new rent. The Committee will then know which landlords are doing the dirty and can sort them out. There is no reason for the landlord to know who complained, and the Committee should guarantee the anonymity of complainants. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy.

We have Khaleej Times, our favourite number one newspaper to thank for this ruling, by the way.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Rent Cap

The announcement that Sheikh Mohammed has ordered a 15% cap on rents over the next year is both good news and bad news. The good news is that finally some visible action is being taken to try to control the runaway inflation that is causing many individuals and companies to consider moving out of Dubai.

The bad news is that every property owner in the emirate will take this as an instruction to grab the 15% rise as soon as possible.

Friday, November 11, 2005


The daddy-in-law is a bitter drinker. By which I mean he likes to drink pints of brown frothy beer in preference to the light, golden, flavourless gnat's pee that is understood to be 'beer' by most of the world.

We went to Hatta today, sat down in a bar at the Hatta Fort Hotel and asked about the beer selection. 'Foster's, Heineken, Kronenbourg, Carlsberg and Stella. All in cans or bottles'. Ah, says the d-i-l, what do you have on draught? 'Well, sir, we only have draught beer in the Coffee Shop upstairs'. So we struggle upstairs to the Coffee Shop. 'Tell us about your draught beer, please' we say. 'Ah, we have Heineken.' 'Go on'. 'That's it, sir, we only have Heineken on draught'.

We relocated to a third restaurant, drank draught Heineken and enjoyed a pleasant meal.


Many thanks to Emirates Today for publishing a couple of snipperoos from this blog in Blog Bites today. But I was bemused to see the phrase '..without some jerk imploring you..' transformed into this: '..without some j*** imploring you..'.

Jerk is a naughty word?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

You Better Watch Out...

If you get the chance, go to Choithram's in Umm Suqeim (the one near the TV mast). You'll be greeted by this life-size Santa. He dances, he sings 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town', and his fibre-optic beard lights up.

Really gets you in the mood!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005



For about the last ten years I have been a big fan of Pterry Pratchett's Discworld books. Feel free to skip this post if it means nowt to you - you either lurve or hate or have never heard of or are just plain not interested in these books.

If you're still with me, I've just finished reading his latest book, 'Thud'. And jolly splendid it is too. It amuses me to draw comparisons between the Discworld books and Dubai. The principal location in most Discworld books is a place called Ankh-Morpork. It's a city-state. Not unlike Deira-Bur Dubai. Ankh-Morpork is ruled by an enlightened despot, the Patrician Lord Vetinari. Again, not unlike Dubai.

The city is swamped with immigrants, like Dubai. Ankh-Morpork's original human population now finds itself in a non-melting-pot of dwarfs, trolls, gnomes, vampires, gargoyles, imps, gnolls and golems. And no, I don't plan to link those to the various nationalities in Dubai, although it might be fun.

The model of government is similar to Dubai's, and the general trading approach is exactly the same - 'feel free to come here and give us most of your money'. Hehehe.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Secret Dubai is back, and has started a thread on aromas which has somehow veered off into the various merits / demerits of sheesha. Offspring is a bit of a sheesha nut, and has been totally deprived of it since moving to London. He had asked us to bring one of his pipes when we went over in the summer. This we duly did, but the next problem was getting hold of decent charcoal and the flavoured tobacco.

I'm not really into sheesha myself, so the technology is all a bit beyond me. Offspring had got some double apple baccy from somewhere, but wandering around Walthamstow yielded no charcoal. He ended up buying a few kilos of barbecue briquettes from Sainsbury's and we spent a happy afternoon almost burning the house down. His basic plan seemed to be to burn some of this stuff in an aluminium tray in the garden, and then hammer the glowing embers into chunks small enough to fit into the pipe.

No, it didn't work.

A few days later we were in Camden, and he found a shop that sold all the bits, including charcoal. It was staggeringly expensive, but we bought a little bit. A week or two after that we went to Spain. Enquiries about sheesha cafes in Valencia didn't amount to much, but we did learn that there is one in a far-distant suburb. We had more luck in Barcelona, in a dodgy-looking bar in a dodgy-looking alley off La Ramblas, a sheesha was had.

So if any of my readers can offer useful info on where to get sheesha charcoal and tobacco in London, Barcelona and Valencia, your advice will be appreciated!

Monday, November 07, 2005


I used to love living and working in Karama in the olden days. Wandering round those tacky gift shops. Buying 'genuine' brand-name clothes for almost nothing. So it seemed like a 'must-do' for the daddy-in-law.

Alas, the place has really gone down the tubes. You could not walk 5 metres without some jerk imploring you to buy 'copy watches, Rolex, Tag Heuer, Breitling' or 'DVDs, geniune, very cheap', or 'handbags, designer handbags'. I know the guys have to make a living but after a short while I really really couldn't take it any more. It was awful.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Merry Winter Celebration

Sometimes I despair. Us Brits are too accommodating to people from other countries and cultures. I spoke to Offspring in London today and he told me that his little cousins have had two days off school recently. One for Eid Al Fitr, and one for Diwali. I think that's pretty cool - no doubt they will have been taught a bit about what these things mean, and that can only be a good thing.

But then there's this. The famously nutty Lambeth Council in London will no longer be putting up 'Christmas' lights. Instead, they will be called 'winter lights'. I am deeply, deeply offended by this. I have steam coming out of my ears. Lambeth Council, if you can show me one single Muslim, Jew, Sikh, Hindu, or any other bugger who lives in the UK and thinks that Christians should not celebrate their own festivals in their own way in their own country, I will personally slap them round the head with a deceased fish.

Get a grip you morons! I, as a Christian, am not remotely offended by mention of the religious festivals of other faiths. In fact I enjoy them. So why do you think that non-Christians in the UK would be offended by the Christmas thing? I tell you: I am sick and tired of Christianity being repeatedly subsumed to the 'cultural sensitivities' of other faiths. I have absolutely no axe to grind about these other faiths being practiced peacefully in my country, but when 'politically-correct' local politicians start arsing about like this, a line has to be drawn.

In fact, it's probably about time the UK got itself a written constitution, along the lines of: the official and approved religion is Christianity (Anglican & RC). All other religions are tolerated, and can build their own places of worship. No brain-dead local politician is allowed to interfere with the traditional UK religious or pagan celebrations. No other religion is allowed to be upset by Christians doing what they do. Likewise, no Christian is allowed to be upset by the celebrations of other faiths. OK, nice and easy. Get on with it.

Remember Remember the 5th of November. Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.

Sadly in this part of the world, us Brits barely remember Bonfire Night at all. I believe Dubai Country Club (the Brittest establishment in Dubai for many many years) is having a celebration this coming weekend. But nobody we know is doing anything tonight. I guess we could have got some bangers and/or sparklers, but only by devious means since the sale of these things to Joe Public is banned on safety grounds in the UAE. Quite right too.

It's a bit crap that we've forgotten about Bonfire Night. I used to lurve Bonfire Night in England. It was a bit anarchic - the idea that
a) the whole thing celebrates a bungled terrorist attack that was meant to blow up the Houses of Parliament, and...
b) Josiah Public would be allowed to construct a huge fire in his back garden, set fire to it, burn an effigy of Guido Fawkes (good ole English name) and ignite a bunch of highly dangerous explosives...
is just insane! We saw crazier stuff than this in Spain though.

In our latter years in England, we used to go to organised celebrations. The best I can remember were when we lived in Liverpool. They used to have a summer rockfest in Sefton Park, in south Liverpool, called 'Larks in the Park'. For Bonfire Night, they had a thing called 'Larks in the Dark', and that was your bonfire, fireworks and laser show, all done from a pontoon floating in the lake with accompanying soundtrack. It was BRILLIANT. And the year that the boathouse containing all the fireworks caught fire and exploded was the best one ever!

Heh heh heh.

Aramex Does it Again

Once more our lives have been fked about by the wonderful courier company Aramex. I'm really getting hacked off by these eejits. We wanted to go out this morning (like Fujeirah), but BetterArf had a call from Aramex saying that they had an important package that would be delivered to the house before 12.30 today. So we had to wait in. And of course, 12.30 has come and the package has not. BetterArf phones Aramex, and they say 'oh no, the Jebel Ali route doesn't happen till 3pm'. For goodness' sake, this company is beyond belief.

See this previous rant also.

New Drivers Taken for a Ride

So says Gulf News in a bit of a non-story published today. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that it is standard practice the world over for insurance companies to charge new drivers and young drivers a bit more for their cover. The reason? Statistically these groups have more accidents. But I was greatly amused by this comment in the article:

(a 20-year-old new driver) ... said he did not understand this discriminatory policy. "I should not have been treated like this because I went through a complete training programme and got my licence after passing tests conducted by Dubai Traffic Police."

All is not lost, however:

(an agency manager) ...said insurance companies do consider giving a normal insurance premium to a driver if he holds a European licence or any other driving licence that can be exchanged for a UAE licence.

But I cannot imagine why.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Northern Emirates

We've had another action-packed day with the daddy-in-law. Principally I wanted to do a raid on the Barracuda Booze Emporium in Umm Al Quwain, but it was a good opportunity to get the auld fella out of Dubai, show him some desert and maybe some camels.

So we set off up the Emirates Road. I had heard that they'd finally managed to finish work on National Paints Roundabout in Sharjah, and that the Emirates Road now extends all the way to Ras Al Khaimah. And it's true! What a joy it was to just sail over National Paints, and continue unhindered all the way to UAQ. We took a detour to try to find Falaj Al Mualla - a pretty little village that we visited once about ten years ago. We gave up before we found it and on a whim I decided to follow a little dirt track off the main road. This turned out to be a splendido idea because we encountered half a dozen camels who were experts in the art of pleasing tourists. They posed in well-composed little groups so we could take photos. They meandered very slowly so that Keefieboy could video them. They came to nibble the wing mirrors on the car so we could get some good close-ups. Excellent stuff.

Then we returned to the Emirates Road and took the turn-off for the Barracuda (the signs say Dreamland Aqua Park, but the Barracuda is right next door). The link road from Emirates Road to the old coast road turned out to be exceptionally pretty - rolling red sand dunes and none of the roadside tat and discarded blue plastic bags that grow up alongside more established routes.

Arriving at the Barracuda we had a hell of a time finding a parking space. In case you don't know, the booze emporia of the Northern Emirates traditionally close down completely for the whole of Ramadan. And it's possible that they remained closed yesterday for the first day of Eid. But they were open today and they were swamped with thirsty customers. We finally managed to grab a parking space as somebody left, and decided that we might have a spot of lunch and hope that the crowds in the shop would thin out.

The Barracuda is a 'beach resort'. There are seaside chalets, a nightclub, and, we figured, there must be a restaurant. And indeed there was but it took much asking of directions before we actually found it. They're not very good at signs up there, you see. But when we did find the restaurant it was well worth it. There was an Indian buffet and everything on it was excellent. There was also draught Carlsberg at Dhs 10 a pint!

Suitably stuffed, we headed back to the shop to stock up on the supplies. Every time I visit the Barracuda they seem to have extended in one direction or another. It is now quite gigantic and sells a range of goodies that certainly puts MMI and A&E (the Dubai booze retailers) to shame. The prices are far lower than the Dubai guys, and there is no tax. Why can't they open a branch in Media City I wonder?

The trip back was somewhat less splendid than the outward trip - we only spotted the link road to the Emirates Road as we sailed past it at 100 kph, and there were no other signs. So we ended up taking the old road back down through Ajman and Sharjah before picking up the Emirates Road at National Paints Roundabout.

The daddy-in-law got to see some true Emirates driving. 'Did you see that?!' 'He can't do that!' 'Aaaargh!'. Etc. And he was flabbergasted to see some classic rubbernecking. There had been an accident on the opposite carriageway and of course everyone slowed down for a look. As we were passing the accident the black-windowed Landcrusher in front of us stopped completely. It remained stopped for almost a minute. I beeped my horn and it sped off into the sunset. Daddy-in-law simply could not believe what he had just seen.

Plastic Tomato

For some reason, BetterArf has been hankering for a plastic tomato-shaped ketchup 'bottle', such as you might find in greasy spoon cafés in years gone by. I have no idea why she wanted to own such a kitschy object, but I wasn't too worried about this complete taste failure because she was unable to find one in Dubai. But she asked the daddy to bring one. He said he'd looked in about 11 different shops before finally locating the red and green object of desire.

BetterArf was delighted and spent a quiet half-hour spooning ketchup into it because we don't have a funnel small enough to fit into the hole.

On our travels yesterday, BetterArf was in Jumeirah Plaza. She found a shop that sells (normally tasteful) cutlery, crockery, pots and pans, and yes, you've guessed it. In the window they had a display of 25 plastic tomato-shaped ketchup bottles!

Tourist in Dubai

Yesterday we started introducing the daddy-in-law to some of the sights and sounds of Dubai. First of all a nightmarish drive up Jumeirah Beach Road (why on earth has the Municipality decided to dig up the entire length of it all at once?) followed by a refreshment break at the Alamo.

Then into Satwa. BetterArf wanted to pick up some stuff from the legendary fabric shops, but they were all closed for Eid! So then we headed over to the Shindagah Tunnel so that we could have the Dubai Traffic Jam experience, and a drive down Baniyas Road looking at all the dhows and their exotic cargos of tyres, washing machines, televisions and old cars. Back over Maktoum Bridge (surprisingly, no jam) and stop at Al Seef Walkway for a stroll beside the Creek as the sun set. We had planned to eat at the Fatafeet restaurant there, but signs said it was closed until further notice. I don't know whether this was just an unfortunate way of saying they were closed for Eid, or whether it's some other reason.

Back to Satwa in the hope that some of the shops may have opened up (nope, it was still Eid), and then down Al Wasl Road nearly as far as Jumeirah Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Crossed over to the Beach Road again, and had to crawl a couple of kilometers in the wrong direction before we could do a u-turn. Another jam approaching the hotel.

Quick refreshment, up in the lift to view the spectacular atrium, and then home, exhausted.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Equal Holidays

Somebody in the Ministry of Labour thinks the public and private sectors should get the same holidays! Amazing. Now I wonder how long it will take for that thought to turn into action.

20,000 Only!

Made it! 20,000 visitors. Somebody out there likes this blog...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Happy Holidays - Maybe

Once again we have a major national holiday coming up (or already upon us if you happen to work for the Government). And once again we have the scenario of the public sector having five days' holiday, while the private sector only gets two. But one of those days is a Thursday, which for many people is a half- or full-day holiday, and the other is Friday, which is a holiday for everyone. In such a situation you would expect that days off would be given in lieu, but:

The labour law does not provide for a compensatory day off for an official holiday, which falls on a weekly day off, according to a legal consultant at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

I believe that announcements by the Ministry of Labour regarding holidays for the private sector are for guidance only. Enlightened companies can, and probably will, give their employees compensatory time off, but it seems that most companies in the Emirates are not enlightened. The idea that Eid Al Fitr, one of the major celebrations of the Islamic calendar, can just take place on a normal two-day weekend , is quite appalling. This Eid also coincides with the end of the Hindu Diwali.

Three things.

1) Every time there is a major holiday, the Ministry of Labour announces how much time off the public and private sectors will get. The public sector always gets at least twice what the private sector gets. Why is that? How is it justified? How do they expect locals to clamour for private sector jobs when the public sector is made so much more attractive?

2) These announcements are usually only made one or two days before the event. Why can't these guys plan a year ahead so that businesses can integrate the holidays into their schedules?

3) There is an urgent need for the labour law to be amended so that holidays falling on normal days off (weekends) have to be compensated by other days off.

No Oxo Again

I know I'm a sad git, and I've blogged about this before. But the UAE has run out of OXO stock cubes. Again. So we arranged for daddy-in-law to bring some supplies for us. Yeehaa!

Oops, It's Still Ramadan

This is unbelievable! BetterArf was WRONG!!!

We only found out it was still Ramadan when we went to a mall intending to have some lunch and all the food places were closed. This after I'd almost been rude to a client for calling me on the first day of Eid. Ah well, confusion ain't what it used to be.

Eid Mubarak

BetterArf assures me that Ramadan has ended and we are now into Eid Al Fitr.

Last night was 'interesting'. Daddy-in-law was due to arrive at the airport at one minute to midnight. He's 77 and has had three hip replacements (one of them didn't work too well) so walking long distances isn't one of the things he can easily do. We'd arranged for him to be met by DNATA's 'Marhaba' service*, which means that they'd make sure he got onto a golf buggy for the long trip through the tunnel, and be put into a wheelchair and whizzed through the formalities.

The flight landed ten minutes late, and twenty minutes after that there was no sign of him. BetterArf went to the Marhaba desk and was assured that he had been met. And at one a.m. he finally appeared, all on his ownsome. Marhaba had failed miserably. He had approached lots of the yellow-jacketed meeters, none of whom had been sent to meet him. And none of them showed any interest in finding out where his meeter was.

So that was a truly crap way to welcome a fresh visitor to our wonderful metropolis. But it got better - a quick pint at the Irish Village, followed by a quick hurtle down the Sheikh Zayed Road.

Grrr. On the bright side, when he leaves I expect there'll be a stretch limo, red carpet right up to the plane, a free upgrade and they'll probably let him fly it if he wants to.

*You would expect that you could book Marhaba online, and indeed their website gives this impression right up until the point where they've forced you to register and then tell you that you have to call a special number. When you call this number you find that it no longer works. So you end up having to call DNATA and navigate through their voice response system and when you finally get to where you need to be the whole process is done by fax! Ridiculous.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Squaring the Circle

Why do people talk about the 'four corners of the globe'? I'm prepared to accept, for amusement purposes, that the earth might be flat. But to believe that it is also square or rectangular is pushing it a bit. And if it's flat and square, could it not also be a cube? In which case we'd talk about the 'eight corners of the globe'. Or not.

Answers on a postcard please.