View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Time overseas recently convinced me of the need to take a longer time out from some regular activities such as blogging.

I plan to undertake a stock take of pursuits in my work and play portfolio.

Some things to give up and new challenges to grasp?



Sunday, November 15, 2009

Row, Row, Row Your Boat from Fujairah, UAE to the London Olympics

New Beginnings
There is little modern rowing activity to be seen at the moment in Fujairah but the new UAE Rowing Committee has its sights firmly fixed on participating at the London Olympics.

In January 2009 the UAE Sports and Youth Authority established the UAE Sailing and Rowing Federation, appointed members to two committees—sailing and rowing—and declared that UAE rowing should be centred and fostered from Fujairah (sailing is to be supported from the capital).

Modern Rowing
Those present at the foundational meeting in Dubai last January recognized that no matter how much the traditional UAE rowing teams improve they will never be able to go outside the country and test their skills with other nations.

The desire of the UAE Sports and Youth Authority and the new UAE Sailing and Rowing Federation is to encourage traditional rowing while establishing the sport of modern rowing so that national teams may compete on the international stage.

Traditional rowing and sailing in dhows will be organized separately and will continue to come under the auspices of the UAE Marine Sports Federation. The future relationship between the two federations—traditional and the modern—is essential, strategic and delicate.

There exists a strong culture of traditional rowing in the United Arab Emirates. Fujairah was selected as the new base for modern rowing because of the eastern emirate’s proven strength and the success of its teams in traditional rowing.

The leaders of the modern form of rowing will be scanning the members of the traditional rowing teams to pick those who might have the potential to row their new boats while promoters of the traditional sport may fear that their best rowers will be head-hunted and that their ancient sport will die. The challenge for these groups will be to affirm the importance of traditional and modern rowing and discover ways in which both forms of the sport will enhance and encourage the other.

While some basic skills in rowing are common to traditional and modern rowing, the two sports are vastly different in the boats that are used, the technique of rowing, the training required and the rules that govern the disciplines.

Breadth of Modern Rowing
The Fujairah-based Rowing Committee under the leadership of Ahmed Khodom Al Saadi has been active this year in understanding its task, developing the vision and planning an initial rowing calendar.

Under their responsibility is the encouragement of three aspects of the sport viz. canoes/kayaks, modern rowing (with its many classes) and dragon boats. Internationally these sports have their own federation and in time the UAE will need to have specialist trainers to develop the emerging teams.

Purchasing Boats
Already twenty-five kayaks have been purchased by the Fujairah-based committee and they had their first outing during the recent Ramadan. As indication of the interest that exists, forty people lined up to paddle in the twenty-five kayaks.

A dragon boat has been acquired and training the first Fujairah team is to commence in November with a view to participation in the East Coast Dragon Boat Festival hosted by Fujairah in February 2010.

One of the critical strategy decisions to be made is which of the eight classes in modern rowing will the UAE aim to engage and compete—eights, coxed four, coxless four, quadruple scull, coxed pair, coxless pair, double scull and single scull. Will the UAE Rowing Committee develop all eight classes at once or will there be a determination made to aim for a priority in a few classes? These prior questions are currently being discussed by the committee and the decisions will be reflected in the purchase of boats.

Training and Coaching
The UAE Rowing Committee has already made a significant decision in the appointment of its National Coach and Technical Manager. Mr. Mehdi Garidi from Algiers in Algeria has been hired and he is already hard at work from the UAE Sailing and Rowing Federation office high up on the top floor of the Fujairah International Marine Club ship-shaped building.

“Mehdi was hired,” Mr. Ahmed Khomdom said, “Because of his extensive rowing experience representing Algeria, his role on the Algerian rowing technical committee and as one who has had made a significant contribution to national team training.”

The chairman continued:

“We must have someone who can speak Arabic but in Medhi we have someone who also speaks English and French and a sportsman who has considerable experience and contacts with international and national rowing federations. His role is three in one involving trainer, technician and public relations.”

Initially Garidi will have oversight of all forms of modern rowing in the UAE but eventually specialist coaches will also have to be appointed to develop those in the particular classes.

Targets and Milestones
Under the chairmanship of Ahmed Khodom and the new national coach, the Rowing Committee has their sights set on some significant targets. They want UAE rowers to be involved at some level in the rowing world championships in New Zealand from 31 October-7 November 2010, they are eager to participate in the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China between 12-27 November 2010 and the calendar has been marked for the 12th Pan Arab Games in Doha, Qatar between 9-23 December 2011. All these milestones will be stepping stones to the ultimate prize which is participation and success in the 2012 London Olympics. “There is nothing greater,” said Chairman Ahmed, “than hearing your national anthem and seeing your flag flying at an international sporting event.”

Bright Future
There is a sense of determination and a spirit of optimism as the Fujairah committee put the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together.

The committee is confident that Fujairah will become a strong basis from which rowing clubs will emerge in all the emirates of the UAE. “Fujairah has traditionally been based on only two activities, fishing and agriculture,” said Khodom. “The people of Fujairah are very experienced in matters of the sea. The expertise acquired in the rowing boats over centuries to yield fish to feed families will soon be turned to bring national honour through rowing as a modern sport.”

For All the Community
The proven support of the Fujairah community at the various events sponsored by the Fujairah International Marine Club will be invaluable as rowing takes off in new directions. The community atmosphere will not be lost as Family Days already have a place on the rowing and sailing calendar and the committee is keen to see modern rowing and its associated events as new ways to build community spirit.

While rowers who represent the country will be drawn from the Emirati community the committee has an all-inclusive approach to the future of modern rowing in the UAE. “Already we have lots of plans for encouraging rowing among boys, girls, women, men and those with special needs whom we should not forget,” said Chairman Ahmed.

Interest has been shown by some tertiary colleges in the UAE and this is likely to find expression in the establishment of intercollegiate modern rowing regattas as has been held in England for years.

Marine Club Support
Major Ahmed Ibrahim Mohamed Darak, the Managing Director of the Fujairah International Marine Club, is delighted at the choice of Fujairah to serve as the base for developing modern rowing in all the emirates. He has already granted office space to the new Rowing Committee and the substantial body of experience his Marine Club has acquired in promoting international marine sports will no doubt help in the fostering of the modern rowing sports.

New UAE Coach of Modern Rowing Starts Work in Fujairah, Fujairah in Focus, 15 November 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: “The Fujairah-based Rowing Committee under the leadership of Ahmed Khodom Al Saadi has been active this year in understanding its task, developing the vision and planning an initial rowing calendar.”

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fujairah Marine Club Managing Director Proposes Changes to Shoosh Race

A day after the racing of the first heat of the Crown Prince Al Shoosh Championships on Fujairah waters, Major Ahmed Ibrahim Mohamed Darak, the Managing Director of the Fujairah International Marine Club, was proposing changes to the race.

Fewer Boats
“I am very happy with yesterday’s race even though there were fewer boats than expected. Normally we get between 15 and 17 boats competing in the races.”

Asked whether the shoosh (traditional fishing boat) race was in decline, Major Ahmed said, “No! But we need more effort by people to help the younger generation to see the importance of this racing series.”

Promoting the Shoosh Sport
The Managing Director said there were several ways he was seeking to promote the racing of these ancient Fujairah fishing craft.

Parental Encouragement
“The number one place to start is with the parents,” said the Major. “They need to remind their children that fishing is basic to life in Fujairah and that these boats contain our special heritage.”

Media Highlights
Major Ahmed signaled that media in all its forms (television, radio, newspapers, blogs etc.) had a responsibility to give attention especially to the sports that recall our cultural identity and the importance of our past.

Cash Prizes
Ahmed said that the cash prizes for the winners of the shoosh races were generous but that the level of the prizes needs to be raised to be in keeping with comparable sporting competitions.

Shoosh Changes
Major Ahmed, along with shoosh craftsman, Abdullah Mohammed Sulaiman, with the support of the Fujairah Royal Family, is largely responsible for keeping the traditional fishing boats alive by initiating and sponsoring the annual championship. Despite the murmurs of some who have not been happy that the boats have been modified for racing, Major Ahmed is not averse to proposing more changes:

“Next season,” said the Major, “Instead of having four rowers and a cox, we will introduce a shasha with two rowers without a cox. The two categories (coxed fours and the coxless pairs) will both race next year but this innovation will help teams get together to train and we will see more shoosh at the starting line.”

Keeping the Traditions Alive
As a parting shot before another radio interview Major Ahmed said, “We will never let the shoosh go. It is part of who we are.”

Al Shoosh Season Starts Slowly in Fujairah UAE, Fujairah in Focus, 14 November 2009.

Fujairah Crown Prince Al Shoosh Championship, First Heat 2009-2010, Picture Gallery, Fujairah International Marine Club.

Become a Fan of the Fujairah International Marine Club.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: “Major Ahmed Ibrahim Mohamed Darak, the Managing Director of the Fujairah International Marine Club, was proposing new changes to the race.”

Friday, November 13, 2009

Region’s First Bottle-to-Bottle Recycling Facility Offers Food-Grade Recycled Plastic

This article about Fujairah’s Horizon Technologies by Asfia Khan first appeared as the cover story in the October 2009 edition of Clean Middle East.

Need of the Hour
Recycling of PET is the need of the hour for its many environmental and sustainable packaging benefits.

Did you know that almost all the major brand in the beverage industry use recycled plastic in their packaging? I didn’t either until I visited Horizon Technologies, the only plant in the Middle East which is into bottle-to-bottle plastic recycling.

Against a background of not having verified the authenticity of fraudulent emails warning consumers not to reuse plastic water bottles available in the market today for the fear of carcinogenic substances like dioxin leaching into the water, my meeting with the management of Horizon Technologies was something of an eye–opener.

It was heartening to learn from the management of Horizon Technologies that most convenience-size beverage bottles sold worldwide are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a material approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) for use in food and beverage packaging for both single and repeated use. In fact, the FDA has evaluated test data under circumstances that simulate long-term storage and support repeated use of PET bottles.

The danger to health must have probably existed in the eighties, when mineral water was being bottled in other plastic bottles. When produced or burned, plastics release harmful gases which can cause health hazards.

However, further progress in research and development on plastics, has rendered PET, a wonder product which has clarity, pleasing aesthetics, and most important of all, it is a plastic which has been extensively tested for safety when in contact with food and beverages.

As part of its review, USFDA assesses the migration potential of plastics and the substances with which they are made in order to establish that there is a minimal amount of transfer between a plastic package and the food it contains and that any transfer does not pose a risk to human health. PET has been well-studied for toxicological properties and for migration properties under test conditions and the results of these tests have demonstrated that PET is safe for its intended uses. PET also fulfils the EU requirements for food contact material (Directive2002/72/EC).

Again, going back to the fraudulent emails circulating the web these days, there is simply no scientific basis to support the claim that PET bottles will release dioxin when frozen. Dioxins are chemical compounds that are produced by combustion at extremely high temperatures, formed at temperatures well above 700 degrees Fahrenheit; they cannot be formed at room temperature or at freezing temperatures. Moreover, there is no reasonable scientific basis for expecting dioxins to be present in plastic food or beverage containers in the first place.

Increasing Use of rPET by International Brands
With the line clearly drawn between fact and fiction in terms of the safety of use and re-use of PET plastic in food and beverage packaging, it is easy to see why leading brands such as Coca Cola, Pepsi, Nestle, Danone, etc, decided to help in closing the loop for PET plastic recycling, especially when recycled PET (rPET) has the potential of meeting the technical and safety requirements demanded by the retail sector.

Like most plastics, PET is not biodegradable, and if it were not to be recycled, precious landfill areas would soon be engulfed with growing mounds of waste. In a bid to do away with PET waste, the ingenious Japanese are trying to produce energy by burning PET, for PET does not release toxic gases in the environment when it is burnt.

Having seen bales of plastic recyclables in domestic waste sorting plants in Dubai and Al Ain, I wanted to find out know how this waste was being processed in the UAE. This quest ultimately led me to Horizon Technologies FZE, the only bottle-to-bottle recycling unit in the UAE, which converts used PET bottles into a range of food and non-food grade recycled plastic.

The GCC has one of the highest per capita plastic wastage rates in the world. The UAE and Saudi Arabia produce the most waste in the region as a result of more disposable income, rising consumerism and the increasing trend of buying bottled water as opposed to drinking tap water. It is of no surprise then that the Oman-based Sabco Group which supplies bottled drinking water decided to set up a plastic recycling facility in UAE’s Fujairah emirate under the banner of Horizon Technologies FZE.

Challenges to rPET production
I naturally assumed that plants such as the one set up by Horizon Technologies would have an abundance of raw material being supplied to them on a regular basis. Apparently, that is not the case.

Even though the UAE market consumes approx. 70-80,000 tons of PET resin per annum, the Horizon plant receives approximately 600-700 tons per month of PET plastic bottles to be recycled, which is about 10-12 percent of the country’s overall consumption. The plant has the capacity to recycle 2000 tons per month. For Horizon Technologies to function to full capacity and subsequently establish economically viable operations, the plant should receive optimum load every day.

The reasons for this shortfall could be many. Not all the emirates of the UAE have their own sorting plant to process domestic solid waste, which means that valuable plastic waste is being sent to landfills. Secondly, plastic recyclable waste is also being exported to other countries by the few municipal waste sorting plants in the UAE which leaves a fraction of the waste behind to be processed by plants such as Horizon.

To fill in the gap between demand and supply, the general public as well as the public and the private sector can gear up to tackle this issue, which is actually a social cause with a positive environmental impact for generations to come.

The number of plastic bottles recovered from household waste should be maximized. Local collection services need to be set up at strategic locations so that dropping of used plastic bottles becomes convenient for residents. While this practice is being carried out in a few places across the UAE by Dubai’s Tadweer, Sharjah’s Bee’ah, the Environment Company and waste management service providers like Dulsco etc, the general population by far remains unaware about the benefits of plastic recycling and how they can contribute towards environmental sustainability.

Greater effort is therefore required to encourage people to recognize the environmental benefits of recycling and to see how their own actions are directly linked to the fact that they will be able to buy products with more sustainable packaging in the future. The environmental sustainable benefits are such that for every ton of recycled PET that is used to manufacture new packaging, the release of 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide is saved.

Not only will consumers be able to buy more sustainable packaging with the use of rPET, but will also be able to take advantage of cost benefits as well as cost savings in manufacturing are invariably passed down to consumers. RPET price is universally tagged to Virgin price and there is a differential between the two giving users cost advantage as well as reason to use RPET in their input. However, PCR producers, face an uphill task in offering this differential due to lesser economies of scale as compared to resin producers and high conversion cost.

All this is possible if the demand for recycled PET (rPET) increases in the region. If a strong home market is developed for rPET in the UAE alone involving major retail brands, chances are that this will set the ball rolling to stimulate more recycling in the region. This is exactly the kind of positive step that leading brands such as Marks & Spencers, Tesco, Sansberry, etc, took to help UK’s plastics recycling industry.

If leading companies in the UAE commit themselves to using recycled plastic or rPET, whether completely or partially, it will signal a growth in demand for rPET. The ideal situation would be for every ton of PET recycled in the UAE to be put back into packaging production. However, since Horizon Technologies is the only plant in the UAE which does bottle-to-bottle recycling, and so far, none of the local companies have volunteered to use recycled plastic for their products on a commercial scale, it is safe to assume that not a single ton of recovered or recycled plastic is going back into production in the country.

Manufacturers of food, beverages and consumer goods in the Middle East should recognize the fact that the use of recycled PET adds to the brand value of products even more. In countries where the use of recycled products is evident, consumers have responded saying that they felt would feel much better about a product or manufacturer whose packaging was made using recycled plastic. A survey conducted by UK’s Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) in the early stages of using recycled plastic found that 86 percent of those surveyed felt it would be good if packaging contained recycled plastic.

One of the challenges faced by recycling plants such as Horizon is that the plastic waste per bale is not uniform in consistency. The plant invariably receives few PVC bottles in a bale of PET bottles for it is difficult for workers in waste sorting plants to differentiate between PET and PVC bottles. PVC is a contaminant to PET recycling due to the many different toxic additives used to soften or stabilize PVC, which can contaminate the recycling batch. In fact, a single PVC bottle can contaminate a recycling load of 100,000 PET bottles. Worldwide statistics show that recycling of PVC is negligible, with estimates ranging from 0.1 to 3 percent of postconsumer PVC waste being recycled.

However, the automated plant at Horizon Technologies uses technology that is geared to recognize and eliminate PVC bottles from the cycle so that only PET bottles are converted into PET flakes. This means that the recovery of waste is never a hundred percent with sometimes the recovery rate falling as low as 40-50 percent.

Another deterrent to complete recovery and a good process yield are bottles containing leftover contents and other beverages which contaminate the wash water, a factor which directly affect the cost of conversion. In addition, perfectly good plastic bottles have to be discarded if they contain metal foils. In fact, consumer behavior can play a very important role in increasing the recovery rate of recycling plants. People should realize that a little care taken in removing metal foils and throwing away the content before disposing bottles can add tremendous value to the recycling process.

The Actual Conversion Process
Horizon Technologies HPET division adopts the B+B German technology to offer clean PET clean flakes to be used in various industries and the FDA approved Starlinger technology from Austria to produce USFDA approved food-grade rPET chips. Currently, Horizon Technologies exports PET flakes outside UAE where they are processed to manufacture fibre, sheet, strap, etc. Horizon’s rPET chips are exported to a ready market in the Far East, the Asian Market and the US, where they are used to manufacture food and beverage packaging.

Horizon Technologies’ HorizonPET division manufactures bottles for local clients from the edible oil and the detergents industries using virgin PET but the case for recycling will be won when rPET will be involved in the manufacturing process. The plant is fully prepared to manufacture packaging bottles using a mixture of virgin PET and rPET according to client specifications.

The actual conversion process is simple, yet involves the latest technology. It is fascinating to watch dirty plastic bottles being converted into absolutely clean PET flakes. Dirt and dust covered bales of PET are fed into the feeding bay where they are de-baled in order to dislodge the bottles onto the conveyor system. At first, bottles which contain metal foils are discarded, followed by the selection of bottles based on their colour. Horizon produces blue and white coloured PET flakes, hence bottles of any other color besides these are discarded.

The fully-automated system then isolates and removes PVC bottles while retaining only PET bottles. Manual sorting also takes place to see that no PVC bottle gets processed. Before being sent to the crusher, the bottles pass through a metal sorter once again. Once the bottles are crushed, the flakes are washed and cleaned and sent onwards to a floating tank where the PET flakes are separated from the PP material. The PET flakes are dried and passed through a metal separator unit for the last time, followed by colour separation whereby pure clean streams of white and blue coloured PET flakes are obtained.

The ready-to-market PET flakes are packed into Jumbo Bags with each bale being checked for consistency of quality according to set parameters like color (lab values), clarity, cleanliness, strength, etc. Individual bags duly endorsed by Horizon’s well-equipped Quality Control Lab are then offered for sale. A sample from each bag is retained by the lab till the customer consumes products made from that bag.

For further production of food-grade rPET chips, clean flakes are passed onto a pelletizer where the extrusion of pellets takes place, followed by solid stating and bagging.

Horizon Technologies’ eco friendly drive and commitment to protect the environment needs to be lauded. The food and beverage manufacturing industry along with FMCG manufacturing companies in the region need to wake up and take advantage of a world-class, bottle-to-bottle recycling plant present in their midst. The retail as well as the packaging sector must come forward to provide a fillip to the region’s nascent, yet, promising plastic recycling industry.

Horizon Technologies remains unique in its capabilities to process PET products to produce world-class, food-grade packaging material to meet demanding international specifications ─ it is up to the other industries to study the benefits of using recycled PET and play their part in safeguarding planet earth and her bounties.

Asfia Khan, Horizon Technologies Clean Middle East, Vol.2, Issue 4, October 2009.

Thanks to Asfia Khan the editor of Clean Middle East for permission to reprint this article.

More information can be obtained from Clean Middle East.

Check out more information at Horizon Technologies.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Want to Go Fishing in Fujairah?

Fishing is one of the most popular pastimes in the world and people of Fujairah would agree. Just note the ‘Fish’ roundabout at the Fujairah International Marine Club and ponder the importance of this symbolism.

Fishing and agriculture have supported life on this eastern emirate for thousands of years.

The shoosh boats that will be racing this Friday 13 November are traditional fishing boats used for fishing with lines, nets and traps.

Beach Fishing
It you don’t want to take this too seriously you can easily get a fishing reel at a local fishing shop (on Al Gurfa Road, parallel with the corniche or on the corniche in the suburb of Rugaylat—see this article at the 3.6km mark. I bought a reel for only Dh6!)

Boat Fishing
The best way to do it is to go out with someone who knows the spots to fish--someone who can help you with fishing lines and bait.

To a ‘Fishing Fan’ in Dubai who wrote to me this week asking about fishing boats in Fujairah, I sent this information:

Boat Hirage
A number of boats are available for hire from the Fujairah International Marine Club, some that must be used with a skipper from the FIMC, while others can be driven by users who are 18 years of age and who are in possession of a current UAE driver’s license. Life jackets and essential safety equipment come with the boat and are supplied as part of the hire fee.

Name: ‘Marina 1’
Size: 33 feet x 8 feet
Engines: 2 x Yamaha 200 HP
Capacity: 7 persons maximum
Toilet: Available
Skipper: Included
Rate: 400 AED per hour

Name: ‘Marina 2’
Size: 31 feet x 8 feet
Engines: 2 x Yamaha 115 HP
Capacity: 7 persons maximum
Toilet: Not available
Skipper: Included
Rate: 400 AED per hour

Charter Companies
A range of boats are operated by private charter companies from the Fujairah Marina. These are boats of many sizes, designed for fishing (including sports, trawling, fly and bottom fishing), pleasure outings, diving trips, short excursions or overnight expeditions as far as the Musamdam Peninsula.

Al Areesh
Operator: Ahmed Ali Ahmed Al Balooshi
Ph: +971 50 4334969; +971 (0)9 2222864

Deep Sea Fishing Fujairah
Operator: Wayne de Jager
Ph: +971 50 484 9970
Web Site:

UAE Charters
UAE Charters is a division of Royal Segrex which offers several charter vessels for cruises, adventure sport, fishing or exploring the Fujairah coastline and Oman’s Musandam Peninsula.
Ph:+971 (0)4 2229007
Web Site:

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: The smile on the face of this Fujairah fisherman says it all. (Photograph courtesy of Fujairah photographer, Alan Nambiar).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rowing Races are Keeping Alive Fujairah’s Traditional Fishing Boats the Shoosh

When small rowing boats in Fujairah UAE were superseded by large fishing boats equipped with outboard motors Major Ahmed Ibrahim Mohamed Darak of the Fujairah International Marine Club worked with a traditional shoosh maker to establish the annual Al Shoosh rowing championships to keep the boat alive.

Abdullah Mohammed Sulaiman is one of two remaining builders of the shoosh (shasha singular) that have been used for centuries along the east coast of the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Since the 1940s he has been fishing the Fujairah coast where he learned the traditional boat building art from his father and grandfather.

Agriculture and fishing have been the two basic occupations that have provided food for the people of the eastern emirate. As the emirates were formed into the United Arab Emirates and grew in prosperity the government’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries helped fishermen to purchase large wooden and later fibreglass fishing boats, engines and long nets that were no longer pulled in by jeeps. From the 1970s there was no longer any need for the shoosh.

Abdullah Sulaiman said when his father died he started building the shasha for the sake of heritage, providing these souvenirs for the Marine Clubs in Fujairah and Abu Dhabi. He said, “It was in my blood. I had nothing else to do and the boats I built for people provided me with a little income.”

Sulaiman makes them in different sizes according to the order of people who like to have a shasha for their home or office. A small boat he sells for Dh1,000-1,500 while a larger racing model goes for Dh5,000-7,000. There are not enough orders to make a living out of the shoosh business but Abdullah is heartened to be building a fascinating heritage.

As he is advancing in years his hands do not have the same strength and two of his sons, Abdul Rahman and Hassan, are doing most of the building of the shoosh to enable Abdullah to adopt more of a supervisory role.

If all the materials are available it takes between half to one day to build a shasha. The palm fronds are soaked in salt water for a week and their wetness during the construction process gives them the necessary flexibility for bending them into shape. The fibre from the sheath of the date palm leaves is plaited into ‘rope’, threaded through the fronds and used to bind them together. The stump (‘karb’) that attaches the frond to the trunk is light and 600 or more of these are fixed inside each shasha to give it buoyancy. In some of the new boats nylon has replaced the fibre and polystyrene is often used to increase buoyancy particularly in the bigger boats.

In making a shasha every part of the date palm is used and any material left over is used for fuelling fires. Abdulla’s workshop reveals the versatility of the date palm as it is has been used for making mats, screens, baskets, fans, brooms and fishing traps (before they were superseded by the steel variety). The frame and oars of the shasha are made out of acacia wood.

Whereas the traditional shasha was made to carry one or two fishermen the new styled racing model is built to carry four rowers plus a cox to give the boat better steering. While some old-timers feel this is a departure from the traditional design the larger racing boats are used to encourage more people to participate in the Al Shoosh regattas.

The shoosh with their flexibility can withstand the high seas and they will never sink, however, they get heavy from being waterlogged and need to be dried out between outings. The shoosh usually last for a year or up to two years if they are well maintained.

Major Ahmed said that the aim of the Fujairah International Marine Club is to keep people aware of what their parents and grandparents used for fishing. If we don’t do this in five to ten years it will be gone. We will have lost our valuable heritage.”

In addition to the annual series of heats that make up the annual Al Shoosh championship, Major Ahmed has established a Heritage Souk (market) with ten shops on the property of the Marine Club, one of which is devoted to showcasing the shoosh and many everyday items that have been made from the date palm.

See the Shoosh in Action
See the shoosh in action at the Fujairah corniche on these days during the 2009-2010 Fujairah Water Sports season:

13 November 2009 (Fri) 4.00pm Crown Prince Al Shoosh Championships Heat 1
08 January 2010 (Fri) 4.00pm Crown Prince Al Shoosh Championships Heat 2
19 February 2010 (Fri) 4.00pm Crown Prince Al Shoosh Championships Heat 3
23 April 2010 (Fri) 4.00pm Crown Prince Al Shoosh Championships Heat 4 (Final)

See the Shoosh on Display
Visit the Heritage Souk in the grounds of the Fujairah International Marine Club (to the left as you come in the main gate, up toward the fence and before you get to the basketball court).

Talk with Abdullah Sulaiman in the Heritage Souk (first shop on the left). He will be in attendance on many evenings and especially on the afternoon of the day when there are water sports competitions. Call the FIMC to arrange a time for you or your group to meet him at +971 (0) 9 222 1166.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

From top to bottom:
Abdulla getting ready a new shasha
This man has a long memory and he is a great storyteller
Shasha #2 put in a great performance at last year’s Al Shoosh championship
Boring holes through the palms
Establishing a strong floor to the shasha
Abdulla’s sons and helpers
Baskets made from the date palm
Major Ahmed says “There’s nothing wasted in the date palm.”
Rope made from the fibre from the date palm
Abdullah wearing a home made nose peg once used by Fujairah divers

Thursday, November 5, 2009

When you Visit Fujairah Take Your Camera

This picture of a Fujairah beach is one of many scenes snapped by Dubai-based photographer Michael Cruz.

When you look at his photo blog you will discover that most of the Fujairah scenes he has captured are of the water or coast.

Even learner photographers like myself can get some wonderful photos of Fujairah’s rugged beauty around the coast and up in the mountains but the great thing about taking a camera is the way it slows you down and sharpens your eyes.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Credit: Thanks to Michael Cruz for permission to post this photograph.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Second Fish Sub-Species Discovered in Two Months in Fujairah UAE

Only two months following the discovery of the blind cave fish (Garra barreimiae) at Wadi Al Wurayah Dr. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-von Jaffa has snared another fish sub-species discovery: The New Emirati or Wadi Al Wurayah Tilapia Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi Khalaf, 2009.

A new subspecies of Mozambique Tilapia of the genus Oreochromis (Pisces: Cichlidae) from Wadi Al Wurayah pools, Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates is described.

This new subspecies is distinguished from the subspecies Oreochromis mossambicus mossambicus living in Saudi Arabia, Oman and United Arab Emirates, by its distinctive body colouration and the smaller size.

It is morphologically and geographically distinct from the subspecies Oreochromis mossambicus mossambicus. The new subspecies was named Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi Khalaf, 2009.

Let zoologist, ecologist, geologist, Dr. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-von Jaffa, tell the story of this discovery:

During two field trips to Wadi Al Wurayah, the U.A.E.’s first mountain protected area, located in Al Hajar Mountains, Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, on Saturday the 8th August 2009 and Saturday the 15th August 2009, accompanied with my wife Ola and my daughter Nora, I inspected Wadi Al Wurayah pools and waterfall, and after diving in the circa 6 meter deep pool, I saw many Mozambique Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus ssp.) swimming in the pool waters. These fish were observed, examined, measured and photographed.

Description and Distinctive Features:
After examining Oreochromis mossambicus from the pools of Wadi Al Wurayah, I began comparing with the subspecies Oreochromis mossambicus mossambicus living in Saudi Arabia, Oman and United Arab Emirates. The Wadi Al Wurayah new subspecies Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi Khalaf, 2009, have a smaller size.

The specimens measured were between 25–30 centimeters. The general body colouration is olive, yellowish to blue-gray with a silvery iridescence. The belly is lighter and may have reddish overtones. The tail fin is with spots. The tail and dorsal fins are edged with red and the pectoral fins are red. At spawning times, the throat of the male is silver-white, while the rest of the body darkens. There are three unclear spots in a horizontal row on the flanks, and six or seven unclear vertical bands on the body. Males are often with an enlarged mouth and a concave head profile. The colour of eyes varies from yellow to dark brown. Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi have 16 to 20 gill rakers.

The original habitat of Oreochromis mossambicus (Peters, 1852) is the Limpopo River, Mozambique, East Africa. They have been introduced to various tropical and subtropical waters all over the world. In the Arabian Peninsula, it lives in Saudi Arabia, Oman and the Emirates. The new subspecies Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi is endemic to Wadi Al Wurayah pools, Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates.

The Wadi Al Wurayah Tilapias are omnivores that consume detrital material, vegetation with various ranges from diatoms to macro-algae to rooted plants, invertebrates, and small fry.

Potential to Compete with Native Fish:
Oreochromis mossambicus pose threats to local native populations through competition for food and nesting space (Courtenay et al. 1974). This interaction may reduce the biodiversity of the native fishery due to reduction of food availability and/or by the native fish being eaten as prey (Neil 1966, Bruton and Boltt 1975). But in the Wadi Al Wurayah Pools, it has been observed that Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi was not preying on the local Wadi Al Wurayah Fish Garra barreimiae wurayahi Khalaf, 2009.

Etymology / Derivation of Scientific Name:
The scientific name Oreochromis: oreos is a Greek word which means “of the mountains” and chroma is also Greek and means “colour”; Mossambicus is Latin for Mozambique; and bassamkhalafi is Latin for my father “Bassam Khalaf” (1938 – 2006).

This subspecies of the Mozambique or Common Tilapia is named in honour of my beloved father “Bassam Ali Taher Khalaf” (Abu Ali), who was born in Jaffa, Palestine, on 10 March 1938, and died in Rilchingen-Hanweiler, Germany on 17 February 2006.

My father was a saltwater and freshwater fish lover all his life. He kept always aquarium fish in our home, and his great hobby was deep sea fishing. I learned a lot from him, including my first animal knowledge and the need to live with love and respect for all the animals we share our planet with.

After studying and examining the Oreochromis mossambicus at Wadi Al Wurayah pools, and comparing with the subspecies Oreochromis mossambicus mossambicus living in Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, and referring to many zoological references, and searching the Internet, I came finally to a conclusion that we are in front of a new subspecies of the Mozambique Tilapia from Wadi Al Wurayah pools, Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates.

I gave it the scientific name Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi, new subspecies. The subspecies name “bassamkhalaf” is Latin for my father “Bassam Khalaf” (1938 – 2006).

Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi, new subspecies:
Scientific trinomial name: Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi Khalaf, 2009.
Authority: Dr. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-von Jaffa.
Common Names: Emirati Tilapia, Wadi Al Wurayah Tilapia, Bassam Khalaf’s Tilapia.
Holotype: Ombk-1, Male, 25 cm, Dr. Norman Ali Khalaf-von Jaffa’s Collection.
Location: Wadi Al Wurayah pools, Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates.
Date of Capture: 15th August, 2009.

More about Dr Khalaf
Warm congratulations are extended to Dr Khalaf on this second fish species discovery. This is significant for Fujairah and the UAE as well as important internationally for this advance in scientific endeavor.

Dr Khalaf is currently writing a book on the fauna of the United Arab Emirates that will be published in Arabic, English and German. The expected publication date will be in the middle of 2010 and this project is part of the publishing foundation established by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.

Dr Norman is also working with ecotourism companies to enable tourists and residents to visit the UAE’s rich fauna and flora.

More detail at this web link.

This article was published in "Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin". ISSN 0178 - 6288. Number 92, Twenty-seventh Year. August 2009, Sha'ban 1430. pp. 1 - 25. Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

How Do We Get to Wadi Wurayah? Fujairah in Focus.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Images from Top to Bottom:
The newly discovered Emirati Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi Khalaf, 2009) at Wadi Al Wurayah pools, Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. Underwater Photo: Ola Mostafa Khalaf. 15.08.2009.

Dr. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-von Jaffa.

Dr. Norman Ali Khalaf-von Jaffa diving and studying the fish fauna in Wadi Al Wurayah Pools, Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. Underwater Photo: Ola Mostafa Khalaf. 15.08.2009.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dubai the International Metropolis

This is a guest editorial by Hamptons International- property management company.

In this economic downturn some things have been able to remain stable in the Middle East, one of which is real estate and more precisely Dubai.

The property sector was affected for awhile when the economy bottomed out, however the growth of real estate in Dubai seems likely to stay this time. Over time Dubai has become the epicenter for real estate.

Until a number of years ago, there were restrictions on the sale of Dubai real estate to foreigners. However, the lifting of this restriction made the property market in Dubai extremely dynamic. Of late there has been a lot more movement of residential properties in Dubai, after the exceptional growth seen in years immediately after the restriction was lifted. Dubai’s government still has a focus on diversification and is active in shifting its economic base to other fields such as finance, commerce and tourism.

With globalization Dubai has truly become an international city. Walking on the streets of Dubai is just like walking down 5th Avenue in New York or Knightsbridge in London. Dubai offers a cosmopolitan lifestyle with a multitude of entertainment options. Dubai is situated on the serene Gulf coast and enjoys year-round sunshine.

There has been lots of speculation about property prices in Dubai, however major economic indicators have suggested that the growth rate of property should maintain steady growth. Another benefit from buying Dubai properties is 100% freehold ownership. Rental yields from Dubai residential property is presently between 8 and 10%, better than many developed cities around the world.

Dubai remains a strong real estate market. There is something to choose from for every investor, whether as an owner-occupier or owner-investor. Types of properties available range from residential apartments and signature villas, to office and commercial space, and it is a major attractor for international investors. Dubai real estate boasts amazing projects such as The Palm and The World - the world's largest artificial island clusters, developed with villas, apartment towers and holiday resorts.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: “Dubai offers a cosmopolitan lifestyle with a multitude of entertainment options.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New York Court America’s Cup Decision takes the Wind out of UAE Sails

The people of the UAE are waking up to learn that a New York court has rejected Alinghi’s proposal that Ras Al Khaimah be the venue for the sailing of the 33rd America’s Cup in February 2010.

The airwaves and Internet today are being bombarded with headlines that RAK has been robbed and the America’s Cup competition is on the rack.

There has been a substantial monetary investment in the AC facilities at the Al Hamra harbour but the loss of face contributes greater disappointment as does the loss of an opportunity to host a big event and showcase the Emirates to the world. Arab hospitality has been lauded for centuries but this decision in a New York court kicks sand into the face of those preparing to welcome the world into the Emirati tent.

With all the allegations about the unsafe location of the Middle East, accentuated by RAK’s proximity to Iran, the UAE has lost the chance to pull off a successful event and help dispel these widespread misconceptions, particularly among Americans.

This court decision is a blow to the America’s Cup tradition which could have added a colourful Middle Eastern chapter to its illustrious story. Instead the America’s Cup continues to be marred by legal wrangling among billionaires and ego-driven sailors who have hijacked the competition and lost thousands of disillusioned spectators and a host of sponsors.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: “RAK has been robbed and the America’s Cup competition is on the rack.”