Saturday, December 31, 2005

Adventures in Jordan

We arrived and met up with Offspring safely. Spent the first day in Madaba, and went to Jerash yesterday. Now we are in Amman and will be spending New Year's Eve at an Irish Pub here.

I wish you all a very happy new year, and hope it brings you everything you wish for.

Keefieboy in Jordan - I'm lovin' it!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Going Out

We're just going to Shams al-Din Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Ibn Battutah al-Lawati al-Tanji* Mall to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at the IMAX.

*Guess who got'The Travels of Ibn Battutah' for Christmas!

Off to Geordieland

What do you mean, Geordies don't come from Jordan? I had a friend once who was convinced that the denizens of Liverpool were known as Geordies (not the sharpest pencil in the box - he also thought that the Spice Gurrrls were American).

Last night was taken up with some seriously (for us) advanced planning. A car has been booked for the week, and an hotel room reserved for the first night. Today we will throw together some kind of itinerary which we will of course completely ignore when we get there.

I've also been checking the weather in Jordan, and boy, they have nearly as much weather as England! In Amman today the max will be 14°C and the min 3°C. In the last few days the figure 0°C has been featured, along with the word 'rain' and the phrase 'snow in the mountains'. But it seems to be warming up a bit now.

We are flying tomorrow morning, and blogging will be light to moderate.

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Talking Turkey

My old mate Deepak Morris sent me a link to The Dialectizer. This very clever site can translate your blog, or any web page, into several dialects, including Cockney and Hillbilly. It's a scream!

Unfortunately, you folks in Etisalat-land won't be able to access it because it's blocked. All those strange words flying about the page are obviously up to no good.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Hot News From Jebel Ali

Your fearless number one reporter Keefieboy brings you this eye-witness report. Passing Ibn Battuta Maul on the way to repay Etisalat for their extreme generosity in disconnecting my broadband on Christmas Day, I found the road was blocked by hundreds of Oriental-looking blokes marching in the direction of the China Court. Somehow I don't think they were going shopping. Returning from Jebel Ali, the road to China was blocked by dozens of policemen, cars and the kind of busses you use to take a lot of people to jail in. Some of the police were wearing riot gear.

More hot news. I arrived at the little Etisalat office (after detouring halfway to Abu Dhabi and then back to Jebel Ali Village because I managed to miss the turn-off in both directions) to find the car park completely empty. Now there is no way that Etisalat are going to take a day off to celebrate the Prophet Isa's Birthday (PBUH), and I was right. The old office is closed because they've moved to a big new shiny building not far away. Unfortunately, because of the crap road layout around Jebel Ali Free Zone's Main Gate, the only way to (legally) drive to the new office would involve a detour back to Jebel Ali Village. I kid you not.

So I walked over to the new office. It is indeed big and new and shiny, boasting no less than a dozen counters, one of which was actually open. But there's loads of room for people to queue in and we all enjoyed that.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Chez Nous

We are into Christmas in a big way in our house. None o' that 'bah humbuggery' for us, no sir! But now we are empty-nesters, so it's a bit different. For one thing, I'm not cooking the gazillion-kilo turkey and trimmings - the two of us wouldn't be able to eat it all before we go away. So we will be dining out tomorrow. Also, no mountains of presents under the tree this year - our present to ourselves and Offspring is a week in Jordan.

BetterArf's gingerbread estateBetterArf is busy doing a research project into gingerbread houses. Every few years she has a go at making these things according to different recipes, and they hardly ever work. Yesterday and today we have an ongoing comparative study. One comes from a generic Christmas magazine, the other is from Martha Stewart and it has the best flavour, apparently.

She is also watching the ultra-cheesy "White Christmas" with Bing Crosby. A preposterous movie.

And of course, no Christmas is complete without the Christmas Singalong at Jebel Ali Cloob (this evening).

I probably won't be allowed to switch on the computer tomorrow, so I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Baffled By Traffic

I just read this piece in Gulf News today: it's about increasing the use of radars to catch speeders and red-light jumpers. Yes, ok, it's a start, but it won't deter the worst culprits because the fines are meaningless to them, as is the ultimate confiscation of a vehicle. He has a go at pedestrians who get themselves killed running across major highways:

He said: "We have a shortage in road crossings, but highways are not designed for pedestrians, they are only for motorists."

Well, yes, but you completely miss the point: pedestrians need ways to cross over these huge expanses of tarmac to get to the other side, and this aspect of road design is almost totally ignored.

Reading further, I am completely baffled by this statement from the Director of Dubai Police's Traffic Department.

"In downtown and arterial roads such as Al Ghusais, we have to provide pedestrian crossings because they are not only for motorists. Pedestrians have a 50 per cent right and motorists have a 50 per cent right."
He said on Jumeirah Road, however, pedestrians have a 70 per cent right because it is a commercial and residential area.

I have no idea what this concept of 'rights' means. Sounds a bit like gambling odds to me.

"On Jumairah Road there are pedestrian crossings every 500 metres, (and) 50 radars..."

Are we talking about the same Jumeirah / Jumairah Road? 50 radars? Pedestrian crossings every 500 metres? No, I thought not. I wonder where the other one is?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Treo Update

So, I spoke to the shop, and they referred me to the distributor. Distributor asked for the IMEI number (this is a number that uniquely identifies every mobile device on the planet) and said 'it's not one of ours'. Back to the shop. Aah, the other distributor. I call the other distributor and after the usual endless music-on-hold-passed-from-pillar-to-post ritual, I speak to the right person. I explain the problem, and she says 'oh, that always happens'. Hmmm. 'Can you fix it?' I ask, naïvely. 'No sir', she says 'we have to send it to the Czech Republic, and they will send a replacement. After 20 days'.

Resisting the urge to go ballistic I ask her if it wouldn't be a good idea for them to keep a stock of replacements. She says they do try to, but they've run out and they ordered another five three weeks ago but they've had no response and they don't know what's going on. So, I say 'have you got any 600s?'. And she says 'yes we have lots'. So I say 'let me have one of those while the 650 is on its holiday'. 'No sir, not allowed to do that' is the reply.

Aaaargh. What a ridiculous situation and a pathetic way to run an 'after-sales service' (not the distributor - Palmone itself).

A bit later the mobile rings. I answer it and say 'I can hear you, but my phone's broken so you can't hear me'. 'Oh no, I can hear you fine!' says the bod on the other end. This is possibly worse than a completely dead phone, because with an intermittent problem you can just bet that every time I take it to the service centre it will work.

Technology. I hate it.

My {insert name of toy here}'s Broken!

The Bimmer / beemer / bummer is still slightly broken because I just haven't had time to do anything about getting it fixed. The scrolling wheel on my mouse is also still busted, same reason as above.

And now my phone is on the blink! Yes, the wonderful PalmOne Treo that I bought eight months ago (so it's still under warranty, yeehah!) now lets me listen to anything that anybody says on it, but refuses to let the other person hear what I'm saying.

I know it's probably a bloke thing, but I find it really hard to throw away any bits of redundant techno-garbage, because they might come in useful or become collector's items one day. One of my old phones is an Ericsson R310s which is an allegedly waterproof model. Somebody once asked me if it was a surfboard for a hamster. Anyhoo, this phone saw a lot of action in swimming pools on Fridays, but the rubber coating could not stand up to the rigours of our climate and pretty soon it began to perish and fall off. The glue that was holding it on, though, is completely indestructible, leaving the whole thing a sticky mess.

Of course, I've kept all the old phones, but cannot find a working charger for any of them. Dang.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

And Now The Good News

Just to prove that this blog isn't all about whingeing, here's some good news.

The last two days I've managed to do the morning drive (dropping BetterArf off at work and then going the Media City) in forty minutes instead of the usual fifty-five.

This afternoon I had an appointment at Rashid Hospital and I drove from the Gardens to the hospital and back in under two hours. Including being seen by a very nice doctor who told me little brown blob on my arm was not going to kill me.

See, it's not all doom and gloom!

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Friday, December 16, 2005

King Kong vs Harry Potter

There's been a stupid and tedious campaign in Dubai over the last few weeks driven by people with nothing better to do. They are complaining because the UAE release of Potter has been delayed by two weeks so that the distributors can squeeze extra revenue out of King Kong. Well hey, this Old Boring Expat remembers when you wouldn't dream of getting to see the latest blockbuster in Dubai until months after the rest of the world had seen it.

Anyhoo, we went to see Kong yesterday and it was magnificent. It could have been an hour shorter (running time is a bit over three hours with an intermission), and to the management of the Grand Megaplex: we really did not enjoy the 25 minutes of ads and trailers that preceded it. Although I was pleased to see that they have now installed mobile phone blockers.

Back to the movie. The sets, special effects and photography were mind-blowing. The humans were quite good, but the monkey steals the show. Go see it.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Winter Holiday (We're All Going on a)

Remember at the start of this month I mentioned that it was Offspring's birthday, but I never actually told you what his present was? Well, now it can be revealed (because we've just booked the flights). We are going to spend a week touring Jordan, starting a few days after Christmas. And Offspring will be flying out from the UK to meet us there.

The reason it took so long to get the tickets booked is that we tried to book Offspring's ticket online. After doing all the stuff on the airline website, it said 'something went wrong - please try again'. Hrmmmph. We tried three times and gave up in disgust. The next day BetterArf went to a real travel agent and had another go, only to face the embarrassment of a maxed-out credit card. 'No, this cannot be', quoth she, but examination of her credit card account on the Interweb revealed that the previous day she had been debited for the exact amount of Offspring's ticket. Times three. But of course, nothing from the airline saying 'here's your three tickets for the weirdo who want three seats'.

So, it has taken a while to get all this sorted out, but now it is. And no, we never thought of cancelling it because of the terrorist bombings in Amman - we'd be in just as much danger in Dubai or London or pretty much anywhere else. Now that we have an exit strategy for leaving Dubai, we realise that after 12 years of living very close to some of the world's most amazing stuff, it's about time we actually went to see some of it! Can't wait.

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Trapped in Jebel Ali

Once upon a time (about four years ago), we lived in a remote outpost of Dubai called Jebel Ali. I worked at Media City. It was a ten-minute drive from home to work, and about twenty minutes to Dubai itself. I thought 'how lucky I am to have escaped all the congestion'. Then they decided to construct homes and offices for about a million people in my neighbourhood.

But, amazingly, they forgot about transportation infrastructure. When the Jumeirah Palm was being built we had endless streams of trucks full of sand or carrying big chunks of Hajar mountains to dump into the sea. Our only artery for getting anywhere, the beloved Sheikh Zayed Road, became more and more clogged with heavy traffic. The pathetic 'interchanges' number five (for Media City) and six (for Jebel Ali Village), simply could not cope with the pressure.

They built an interchange between 5 and 6 to service Ibn Battuta Mall, and this also improved access to The Gardens. They are almost done with building two new interchanges to service Jumeirah Palm and Internet and Media Cities. This has brought more than the usual chaos on Sheikh Zayed Road and also on Al Sufouh (Beach) Road, where these interchanges connect to the Palm itself.

And, the crowning glory of this strategy, about two months ago they closed junction five because that's going to be turned into a lovely cloverleaf interchange. Marvellous. The temporary access roads they have built are hopelessly inadequate for the job. It is no longer possible during daylight hours for me to get from the Gardens to my office in anything less than forty minutes.

The last two times I have ventured out for an evening's entertainment in Dubai have involved being stuck in traffic on SZR or Beach Road for well over an hour.

Developers keep banging on about 'master-planned this' and 'master-planned that'. The problem with these master plans is that they stop at the gates of the development. They are not joined-up. So poor old Dubai Municipality, over-stretched, under-funded and under-staffed has to try to build the infrastructure to make it all work. Not an easy task when you don't know from one minute to the next what the developers are planning!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

My Bimmer's Broken

'Bimmer'? What's a 'Bimmer'?

According to that there Interweb thingy, a Bimmer is a motor car made by BMW.

'But I thought that was a 'Beemer'?

Well, you thought wrong, according to that there Interweb thingy. In the olden days, before they made cars, BMW made motorbikes. And in the tradition of BSA bikes being called 'Beezers', the BMW bikes were called 'Beemers'. So when BMW started making cars, they had to have a different name, and that name is 'Bimmer'. Not that I've ever heard anybody use that word, but there you go. More useless trivia from Keefieboy.

Anyhoo, the ageing 'Bimmer' that I bought a few months ago has been doing its job extremely well. Until last night. On returning home, I discovered that the electric windows would not close. Not only that, the central locking had also given up the ghost. So it was fortunate that the front windows were open - I was able to reach in and push down the lock buttons.

I'm not remotely mechanical, but I figured that this could well be a fuse problem. I consulted the handbook to find out where the fusebox is, and the label inside the fusebox cover told me that the central locking and window winders are on the same circuit as the instrument panel, and that flummoxed me a bit because the instruments were working fine.

Some time later I went down to the shops and I noticed that the electronic diagnostic display that for some reason always tells me I have a door open even when I don't...was not working. A little bit later the actual instruments (speedo, rev counter etc) packed up.

I parked up and had a fiddle with the fuses. The instruments worked again, but still no action on the windows. So, off to the car doctors with it, unless any you geniuses out there have any useful advice to offer...

And the bloody scrolling wheel on my mouse has packed up too! What next?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

NeoCounter No More

Oh woe is me. The wonderful bloke who invented the NeoCounter (the scrolling list of countries, flags and visitors therefrom) reckons my 14-day trial period is up. Dang. I was getting quite attached to it, especially the bit that counts how many countries you've had visitors from (mine had got up to 60). Now he wants me to pay $9 a year for it. D'you know what - I might just do that.

Our New Telco

Emirates Today carries a front-page report about the soon-to-be new rival to Etisalat, and said the move is 'raising hopes that service rates will be forced down due to competition'.

Well, we can hope all we like. We can even pray. But the sad fact is that the Telecoms Regulatory Authority has already ruled out a price war, and expects 'competition' to be on the basis of quality of service. Given the fact that the Federal Government owns more than half of Etisalat, will own 50% of the new company, and that both companies will continue to pay 50% of their profits to the government as a 'royalty', we, the valued customers (you bet we're valued - we pay more for these services than anyone else on the planet!), will continue to be ripped off.

When my daddy-in-law was here recently he was disappointed that his UK Virgin Mobile account wouldn't work. He suggested that while Richard Branson was in town, he (Branson) might pop down to Etisalat HQ and do some kind of a deal. I tried to explain our archaic telecoms monopoly/duopoly to the daddy-in-law, but he just could not understand it.

And I can hear you all saying 'another whingeing expat - if you don't like it, go and live somewhere else'. Well, watch this space.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

It's a Small World

We have a house guest for a few days. She arrived yesterday, at BetterArf's invitation. I had never met this lady before, but it turns out we have some things in common. We come from the same town in England. In consecutive years we did the same Art and Design Foundation Course at the same Art College, with the same wonderful tutors.

In view of Mystic Jack's prayers for me, BetterArf is looking distinctly worried!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Somebody's Praying For Me

In response to a comment I had posted on one of his ridiculous stories, Mystic Jack posted this reply:

Mr. Keefieboy, I assure you I am not Mr. Al Hamedi. . . I am sending forth nine (9) Nafl prayers on your behalf that you may obtain another additional wife so that your imagination may be focused on her.

Wow! Don't anybody tell BetterArf though!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

25,000 visitors!

Yayyy. I would post a screenshot of the details of visitor 25000, but it was somebody from Dubai, quite possibly me! So that's a bit boring. Not that I'm ungrateful of course - a blog without traffic is like tea without condensed milk egg without salt car without petrol. Oh, y'know. A bit pointless!


Or Tedadded if you prefer the local name for the UAE's census. There's been a fair amount of criticism of the way this is being carried out, and now I know why. The census guy came at 7.30 last night.

I thought censi (made-up word) were supposed to be anonymous, but the guy wanted the names of all residents in the apartment. He attempted to translate them into Arabic - it tickled me that he wanted to use the Arabic format for BetterArf, as in 'BetterArf bint HerDadsFamilyName' - if they do have any dodgy motives behing wanting peoples' names they will never find that name on any official document. They want to know who you work for, what you do and your nationality (not your religion, oddly). How many cars and computers you own, and how much rent you pay for your accommodation. Not too intrusive, but all of this stuff (apart from how many computers you have) can be easily collected from other sources.

Very strange.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Giorgio Armani's in town, promoting the hotel chain that he's developing with Emaar. 'Dubai is the new New York' he says. Oh yeah? Somebody else said that 'hotels are the new handbags', which tickled me somewhat.

I have an Armani hat:

Oops, sorry, that should read 'Omani'.

Another Mega Project

News today that the Dubai World Trade Center precinct is to be re-developed. I began reading this in utter disbelief. They are proposing to put 40 high-rise towers on the site. Then I read further - the 'site' now extends all the way up to the Emirates Towers. I hope they start with about six levels of underground parking!

The plan involves the much-mooted demolition of the Trade Center Apartment buildings, but the Trade Center itself will stay - it is an historic building, after all. The exhibition halls will be replaced by bigger and better ones, and the development will also feature more hotels, residences, offices, shopping and conference facilities. Because of course Dubai doesn't have enough of these things.

I know there's probably a 'super mega-plan' somewhere. A few years ago Sheikh Mohammed said that the projects announced so far amount to only 10% of what is planned. I would really like to know whether we are approaching 100% yet, because my poor little brain just can't take it all in.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Dodgy Blogs

One thing that always irritates me is blogs that do not allow comments. If you don't have comments on your blog then what are you saying? You're saying 'this is my thing, take it or leave it'. And when someone posts something that you really want to reply to and there's no comment thingy. Nyaaaargh!

An example I just stumbled across. An American Uni Lecturer in Sharjah, seemingly having a hard time. And she posted this sensitively-written piece.

Do they not understand?? In a country with so many US expats, you'd think the Bin Ladin Construction company would understand the significance of this sign. I had to take a picture.

Sandra, I apologise for criticising you on a third-party blog, but you chose not to allow direct comments on your own blog. You clearly have not been here long. What do you expect Bin Ladin Construction (an entirely respectable and long-established company) to say on their signs? 'We apologise for the foolish activities of our disowned son Osama'? Something like that? C'mon.

The blog in question is

Mystic Jack Hits Back

If you are a fan of The Religious Policeman, you will no doubt be aware of one of his commenters, a holier-than-anybody American 'revert' to Islam named Jack, whose writings would be worthy of a very worthy thing, if only I could think of the right word.

In a recent (Nov 29) discussion of the possibility of Saudi ladies working as nurses, Jack says:

If young women view male genitals, they obviously will be distracted from their duties. How much self-evidentiary information does the reader require to reach sane conclusions? I have no doubt that male infants will be required to wear a small cover of sorts when being treated by these nurses and grown men will not be treated by these women.

and then he strays off-topic a bit...

Speaking of bodily fluids, I note that Mr. Al Hamedi is not commenting on the 26 transgressors recently rounded up by UAE authorities for dressing like women and attempting to marry each other as men. There are rumors going around that a national day of shame may have to be declared in UAE over this wicked affair. And, I have it on very good authority that those girl-men who were dressed like women and desiring fornication with men will have to be stoned to set an example. Before the cries of barbarism and human rights violations descend to the heavens, the readers are well advised that the stoning will not be televised...

I really wish Jack had a blog of his own, he is soooo entertaining. I have previously suggested to Al Hamedi (the RP himself) that he had invented Jack to bump up his readership, but Mr A denies it.

I sit corrected: as of December 1st Mystic Jack has started his own blog: Strangely he claims to be located in Uzbekistan. Nevertheless, this is going to be FUN! My day is made!

Democracy in the UAE

UAE President Khalifa's announcement of limited elections to the Federal National Council is a very, very small step in the right direction. Half of the 40 members of the FNC will be elected. The rest will continue to be appointed by the various emirates. The composition of the electorate is peculiar to say the least. The Ruler of each Emirate will appoint a local 'council' equal to 100 members for each FNC seat.

The FNC itself seems to be a rubber-stamp for legislation created elsewhere - it does not have the power to introduce its own laws.

And the composition of the FNC is surprising. The two largest Emirates, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, have eight seats each, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah each have six seats, while the remainder (Umm Al Quwain, Ajman and Fujairah) each have four seats. This composition bears absolutely no relationship to the population of the 'constituencies'. So, tiny Umm Al Quwain, population about 40,000, has one FNC seat for every 10,000 residents. Dubai, population about 1.3 million, has one FNC member for every 162,500 residents.

But Khalifa has said that this is the first of many steps. He promises to revise the constitution to allow a greater role for the FNC. And no doubt eventually ALL nationals will get a vote.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Happy Birthday UAE!

Today is the UAE's National Day - the anniversary of its formation in 1971. So happy birthday to us!

And, as always, it is OffSpring's birthday. Quite a special one, in fact, it's his eighteenth. So he's now allowed to do all sorts of stuff and it's not our fault.

BetterArf sent him a text message this morning (5 a.m. UK time) and he responded instantly. So that was the end of my Friday lie-in. Then I had to text him his birthday present. Well, not exactly text it, but tell him what it is and how he can collect it. Dying to know what it is aren't you - well, I'll tell you later...(tension builds, bwuhahaha).

The other tradition in our house is that this is the day we put the Christmas Tree up. I love the idea of the Christmas tree. Imagine the scene of its invention:

'Y'know, what this place really needs is a tree in the living room...'

'Yes dear'

'No really, let's try it' (cuts down oak tree in garden, can't get it through the door. Cuts down privet bush instead, gets it through door)

'That looks utterly stupid'

'How about this then?' (brings in fir tree)

'Well it'll have to do, the garden is bare'

'No it's not - here's some holly and some ivy'

'Oh great. Parasites'

(Some time later)

'Y'know honey, that tree looks a bit dull'

'Why not set fire to it - that'll brighten it up'

'Brilliant idea!' (reaches for candles)

Something like that anyway. So, our years-old fake tree has been retrieved from the wardrobe where it lives when not on active duty and assembled and we have our ever-expanding collection of decorations at the ready. BetterArf says 'will you stop blogging about it and decorate the $^*ing tree!'

Here goes then.