The Pros…

Things I will miss about Dubai:

1.  The weather in late Autumn and early Spring.  This cannot be beaten.

2.  The swimming pool on the roof of my apartment block.  I doubt I’ll have one of these in Sakhalin.  Maybe a skating rink, but not a swimming pool.

3.  Multi-screen cinemas.

4.  The shopping malls.  Normally avoided, I will surely miss being able to buy all manner of clothes, household goods, and electronics all under one roof.  The first time I need a new pair of jeans, I know I’ll be wishing the Bur Jamman Centre had a branch in Yuzhno.

5.  Driving about in a Mercedes coupe.

6.  Clean streets.  I know they are covered in litter and sand, but at least it’s dry dirt.  Your car doesn’t get covered in sludge, and your shoes don’t need a polish every day.

7.  Being able to nip out to the grocery store without changing clothes or putting on a jacket.

8.  The abundance of electrical and computer shops, and the prices at which they sell stuff.

9.  The Viceroy bar in the Four Point Sheraton hotel, and one or two other bars and restaurants.

10.  Seing the sun shine every day without fail.

11.  The Fillipino band in the Sea View hotel.

12.  Cans of Pepsi for 1 Dirham.

13.  Proximity to a major airport served by a pretty decent airline, and a superb geographic location for travelling.

14.  Scuba diving.  Although I’ve heard you can do this in Sakhalin, if you bring a pickaxe with you.

15.  Watching live Premiership football immediately after work on a Saturday and Sunday.

16.  MBC2.  I know they show a lot of crap, but I’m going to miss it.  I really liked how they had no watershed for showing 18-rated films.  You could wake up on a Friday morning and find yourself watching an uncut Platoon.

17.  The general benevolance, or laziness, of the police.  They leave you alone, which is good.  I’m going to yearn for this after a year in Russia.

18.  Dirt cheap petrol.

19.  Seeing Dubai’s megaprojects completed.  I know half of them won’t be, and the other half will be white elephants, but I’d still liked to have seen the Burj Dubai and The Palm finished.

20.  The guarantee of doing next to bugger-all at work in the three months of summer and a month of Ramadan.


A Change of Scenery

Ah! Dubai.  The Jewel of the Desert, Pearl of the Middle East.  With its rich culture, exotic beaches, authentic cuisine, world class hotels and restaurants, friendly locals, and luxurious lifestyle for all, Dubai is truly heaven on earth.  Witness those who pay thousands to come from the slums of Europe to taste the nectar of this desert flower for a short week, and the place speaks for itself.  And with a dozen exciting new projects under construction and a further dozen on the planning charts, life in the city can only get more idyllic.  Who could want more?

Well, me for one.  I’ve had enough.  I’ve handed in my notice, and after 6 weeks or so I will be moving to that other well known holiday paradise, Sakhalin Island.  Here’s a description of its climate:

Owing to the influence of the raw, foggy Sea of Okhotsk, the climate is very cold. At Dui the average yearly temperature is only 0.5 °C (January -15.9 °C; July 16.1 °C), 1.7 °C at Kusunai and 3.1 °C at Aniva (January, −12.5 °C; July, 15.7 °C). At Alexandrovsk-Sakhalinsky near Dui the annual range is from 27 °C in July to −39 °C in January, while at Rykovsk in the interior the minimum is −45 °C. The rainfall averages 570 mm. Thick clouds for the most part shut out the sun; while the cold current from the Sea of Okhotsk, aided by north-east winds, brings immense ice-floes to the east coast in summer.

All the snow you can eat, and all the seals you can club.  Now that’s what I call expat living.


Local Joke

A man brings a lion into Dubai.  For the next month, the man feeds the lion nothing but bananas.  The lion is obviously unimpressed with this, but still the man continues to feed him only bananas.  Eventually, the lion snaps:

“Look, you dickhead, I’m a lion!  A lion, understand?  That means I eat meat, not damned bananas!”

And the man replies:

“Yeah, sorry about that.  But I got you in on a visit visa as a monkey.”


Dubai to host world’s largest collective snore.

A Dubai company will build the world’s longest hotel strip as part of a Dh100 billion tourist and leisure resort in the city, its developers said yesterday.

reports the Gulf News.

Unveiled yesterday by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the project will be spread over 139 million square feet in Dubailand. It will feature a cluster of 31 hotels offering more than 29,000 rooms and 100 theatres presenting live cultural shows.


The centrepiece of Bawadi will be the world’s largest hotel, Asia-Asia, which alone will provide 6,500 rooms, combining 5,100 four star and an additional 1,400 five star rooms.

I don’t mean to be rude, but … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Is there anyone in Dubai who does anything other than stifle a yawn when they read the announcement of yet another grand, multi-billion Dirham complex with 5-star hotels conference facilities, and umpteen “world’s largest” claims? 

I have lost count of the number of mega-projects I have read about in the last 12 months, yet I can count on the fingers of one hand how many have progressed beyond lumps of concrete or an artist’s impression to the finished article.  And of those which have been finished, the end product is usually a poorly constructed, gaudily decorated cuboid with a snagging list longer than Ron Jeremy’s greatest asset, managed and staffed by people hand-picked specifically for the fuckwittedness with which they interpret the term “customer service”.

People stopped being impressed by these announcements some time ago, especially those who invested in such properties and found water pissing through the roof during the first shower of rain.  People would be far more impressed if they actually finished some of these projects to some acceptable standard, rather than just adding to the seemingly endless queue of mega-projects which seem to represent little more than a penis-size competition between rival developers backed by those with too much money.


Anchored in Love Bovine

The desert sun does strange things to some people.  Last year we had somebody in Ras Al Khaimah jailed for shagging a camel, now somebody has been caught in Fujairah sexually assaulting a cow:

A Bangladeshi labourer allegedly turned into a wild beast after dashing into a cattle pen and sexually assaulting a cow. He was detained and referred to the court, which sentenced him to six months in jail to be followed by deportation.

Court records showed that a national heard abnormal sounds coming out of his cattle pen. When opening the door and checking, he found a Bangladeshi labourer, identified as M.Z., sexually assaulting a cow. He took hold of him and called the police. The man, who was arrested, admitted to his crime, while the cow was sent for medical examination.

(Via Secret Dubai Diary, who notes this as being an “udderly tragic affair”)



Upon winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Syriana, George Clooney said:

“We are a little bit out-of-touch in Hollywood…I think that’s probably a good thing.”

Syriana is a film largely about the workings of the oil and gas industry, in particular the Middle East oil and gas industry, and as I know a thing or two about this subject, I was interested in watching it.  Having now done so, I think Clooney was understating the fact.

The points of contention are as follows.

1.  The merger between Connex and Killen will use economies of scale, and result in cheaper products for consumers.

I think they’ve whipped this line from the automotive industry or somewhere, where buying raw materials in bulk and mass producing the same item on identical production lines can result in a reduction in cost per unit built, and hence increase the margin per unit.  Unfortunately, the oil and gas industry doesn’t work like this. 

Continue reading


Caveat Emptor

Oh dear.  A letter to the editor of 7 Days (only temporarily online):

Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of Dubai Roads and Transportation Authority seems about as aloof as it is possible to be when he claims that the roads issue is “none of their business” (the residents that is),and that the matter is effectively closed, but how nice of him to agree to meet with the residents committee!? (Presumably he has nothing better on that evening?) For your information Sir, no the developer who owns the land did not inform the residents.

I am not just writing to whinge about this decision, bizarre and upsetting though I think it is. I am writing because I feel that this kind of modus operandum is seriously damaging the image of Dubai here, and more importantly, abroad.

Dubai is fast gaining a reputation of money grabbing land owners who can and do behave completely without restraint or integrity.

We are sold the dream of home ownwership in Dubai, and despite all the possible checks regarding plans for the area around your home, a six lane highway subsequently gets built outside your front door.

This, if I may put it politely, is not at all surprising.  Whilst my sympathies go out to those who have bought expensive “luxury” properties in Dubai, my sympathy is limited.  Only a fool would part with large sums of money for a property in a country where the laws are as clear as mud and the government can change them on a whim, and carry out any activity it likes, without any consultation with the public.  What’s that old saying?  Let the buyer beware.


Ex-Soviets in Dubai

This article on people from the former Soviet Union in Dubai appeared in the Gulf News over the weekend:

[D]espite their increasing success in a variety of diverse professions, … many Russian speakers still suffer from a negative stereotype in the UAE.

A label perpetuated by the criminal activities of a few, the numerous women fighting poverty through prostitution here (and elsewhere) and a poor understanding by other nationalities about the post soviet region is frustrating, especially for a community trying to re-brand itself and succeed in a highly competitive environment.

“Many people can’t even locate Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan or Belarus on a map. They don’t even know what the Commonwealth of Independent states (CIS) is and they think every Russian speaker is Russian,” [says Alexander Orlov, manager of Troyka, Dubai’s most popular Russian nightclub] .

Indeed. People’s knowledge of the former Soviet Union is pretty limited at the best of times, and it is true that the image of Russian speakers in Dubai is generally poor.

However, Marina Golovkova from Kazakhstan seems to understand why:

“Although I haven’t experienced any overt discrimination I think people from the former Soviet Union are partly to blame for any negative stereotype they suffer. We could do more to promote a better image of ourselves,” she says.

Indeed. Russians everywhere, not just in the UAE, put almost no effort into improving or maintaining a positive image of Russia and its people. And this is a shame, because Russians are in my view the most friendly and hospitable people in the world under the right circumstances. There is a reason for this, though:

Marina claims that despite the changes witnessed in Russia and the CIS and the region’s exposure to the rest of the world since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a culture of “not complaining” and “not promoting personal achievements” lingers from a shared communist past. She believes this affects a Russian speaker’s image in the eyes of other nationalities.

She says the post Soviet community in the UAE is having to work extra hard to change their image because in an increasingly competitive and self-promotional world they have to change themselves at the same time.

“Not standing up for ourselves as individuals comes from our cultural background. During the Soviet era we were taught to be modest and humble. We were not supposed to say ?I this’ or ?I that’. We had to wait to be praised for our achievements. In western culture you celebrate your merits,” she says.

Marina’s exposure to the multi-national communities in the UAE has taught her to promote herself and do more to promote understanding about her own culture. She passionately insists this should be the duty of every Russian speaker here.

“I wouldn’t have learnt how to stand up for myself if I hadn’t come to Dubai. I have become more European here and learnt how to say the words ?I deserve’. Russian speakers have to be more assertive if they are to be better understood. I didn’t learn this in Moscow. You have to leave Russia to learn this.”

I might also add that the Russian and CIS governments do practically nothing to improve their image in the UAE though their embassies. Russians often have a hard time here, that much is true, and I really hope that they can work together to help themselves as a community.


Eastern Europe?

From today’s Gulf News:

A couple from Eastern Europe who were caught half-dressed having sexual intercourse in a small car on Shaikh Zayed Road have been jailed.

The Dubai Public Prosecution had charged the 19-year-old female, from Kyrgyzstan, and a 20-year-old male, from Kazakhstan, with having an illicit relationship.

Since when have Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan been in Eastern Europe?

(Hat tip: anonymous comment on Secret Dubai Diary)


Holidays in the Shadow

Surrounded by landscaped gardens that boast more than 200 palm trees, the Sheraton Jumeira Beach Resort and Towers is a beautiful resort located on the white sands of Jumeira Beach.

Erm, I’d say it’s surrounded by rather more than landscaped gardens (click photo for larger version).

Dubai Marina