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

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Emirates Entering New Year in Solidarity with Suffering

Celebration Cancellation
According to WAM (Dec.30th, 2008)

“The Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai has ordered the cancellation of all forms of celebrations marking the New Year in Dubai emirate.”

“According to Sheikh Mohammed's order, Dubai emirate will mark the New Year with a sombre tone as a token of solidarity with the Palestinian people in general and the Gaza strip in particular which is currently under the barrage Israeli's military fire.”

Clarifying What is Off and On
Throughout the last day of the year New Year celebration organizers and hotel managers were trying to rearrange their plans amid confusion over the extent of the order.

Many of the outside celebrations were cancelled, many hotel restaurants for whom this traditionally is a big night of the year were toning down celebrations by not providing music, dancing or fireworks.

An up-to-the-minute account of what was on and off in Dubai was being posted on TimeOutDubai.Com.

Around the UAE and Region
Some big name concerts like that with popstar Shakira, were still going ahead in Abu Dhabi.

Some other Arab states were also cancelling the usual New Year celebrations or staging a scaled down version.

Sheikh Mohammed’s Moral Leadership
The order from the Ruler of Dubai will have created problems and loss of revenue for organizers of celebrations and hotel managers yet Sheikh Mohammed has displayed deft timing, moral leadership and he has signalled that Dubai is not always about business and big records but seeking to be on the side of the suffering.

Newspaper advertisements said:
"While the world is celebrating the new year, the people of Gaza are going to welcome it with bombs, fire and blood. Let us affirm our solidarity with them."

“Emergency services inside the battered Palestinian Gaza enclave say that since Israel unleashed its wave of air strikes on Saturday at least 390 Palestinians, including 42 children, have been killed and 1,900 wounded.”

“During the same period, four people in Israel have been killed by rockets fired by militants in Gaza.”

While the Israeli response has again been disproportionate it has been a reaction to rockets being fired from Gaza by Hamas. Innocent people are being killed and wounded on both sides of this war.

The call to cancel celebrations offers a chance to stand in solidarity with all those who suffer and to call both sides to cease firing and work for peace in this new year.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: New Year Celebrations Cancelled in Dubai.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Madrid, Pamplona, Fujairah…

Judging by the number of people at last Friday’s Fujairah bull-butting experience, the crowds are getting bigger or is this just the high-tourist season?

Since my last article on bull-butting there have been some modifications to this Fujairah tradition:

New Barricades
In recent months new fencing has been erected giving better definition to the arena and further protection to the spectators. There are, however, plenty of spaces near the entrances where daredevils can get up close and personal with the bovine contestants.

One of the attractions of bull-butting Fujairah-style is a bull on the loose. It did happen once or twice last Friday, resulting in a small crush but there were no spectacular incidents of spectators being hurled over the fence or a Brahman bull ripping a 4WD apart with its horns.

Instead of the old echoey megaphone, the bull-butting show now has a microphone and public address system with an almost non-stop Arabic commentary. Some of my international visitors were longing for an English translation, an explanation of the rules and an idea of the score but the desert of information adds to the mystery and the mystique of the Fujairah bull experience.

No More Innovations
The arena is still earth and dust with the soil watered a couple of hours before the event. It would be a pity if the Fujairah organizers succumbed to the pressure to conform to international sporting events and put down synthetic matting, erected steel grandstands and introduced electronic scoreboards.

Somehow the humpy Brahmans, the dust, the bovine excrement and the look of anticipation on the faces of the spectators forge a powerful link with the past and encapsulate what is essentially Fujairah.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Two bulls providing a good show.

Slideshow: To see more photos from the last Fujairah bull-butting event in 2008, click on this link.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Utility Bills Can Now Be Paid at Emirates Post Offices

It often takes an hour to pay your electricity and water bills in Fujairah. The queues are long and there is rampant queue jumping.

After standing in line for over an hour this week, the only good news was to pick up from the counter the advertising bill (pictured) from the Federal Electricity and Water Authority (FEWA) of the UAE.

The blurb states that FEWA has joined with Emirates Post so that FEWA bills and fines can now be paid at the 95+ Post offices across the UAE.

This is a significant improvement in service.

When will FEWA offer online payment facilities like most banks and communication companies in the UAE?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Views of FEWA advertising bill.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Internet Slows in UAE

Zawya’s Molouk Y. Ba-Isa reports 21 December 2008:

"The Internet has not been available [in Saudi Arabia] since Friday afternoon for all business and home users," "Saudi Telecom Co. (STC) is currently working to restore service. Furthermore, information technology analysts are working with STC to establish a temporary, limited Internet service."

Anyone who has been online in the past couple of days can confirm that the recent cut in undersea cables in the Mediterranean has once again stymied the digital flow to Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries. And involved companies are saying not to expect any improvement on their part before Thursday, and that connectivity may be hampered for the rest of the month.

According to a statement from France Telecom, undersea cables running between Sicily and Tunisia were cut, possibly due to seismic activity. In January this same line of cables was accidentally severed off the coast near Egypt. It was blamed on a vessel's propellers severing the cables.

In Saudi Arabia….Internet traffic is being diverted east. The loss of the cable connection has meant fewer channels for data to flow, thus noticeably hampering connections. Customers are reporting long load times for Web pages and frequent time outs -- when Web pages try to load for a number of minutes and then either load, partially load or go to an error page.

The entire Middle East and parts of East Africa is being affected. The call center business in Egypt and India is in crisis….

A cable repair ship has been directed to the sites to fix the cables.

Spokespersons for both France Telecom and Reliance GlobalCom advised that the connectivity situation may not improve before Thursday and may not return to normal until the end of the month.

Source and to read the entire article:
Internet Woes May Last Through December, Zawya, 21 December 2008

If you live in the UAE what is your current experience of Internet connectivity and speed?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “It was blamed on a vessel's propellers severing the cables.”

Nurturing Patriotism in the Emirates

In addition to the invitation to deck out every building with a UAE flag, a number of large billboards with photos of the rulers and ruling families have been placed in prominent places.

This is connected with the National Day celebrations, which with festive lights adorning towers and villas, have been signaling a season of patriotism and national identity.

In the approach to Fujairah between Thoban and the Friday Market there are many large billboards on both sides of the road extending a welcome and a farewell from the ruling family of Fujairah and distinguished leaders of the Emirates.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “Many large billboards on both sides of the road.”

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Change to Travel Instructions from Dubai to Fujairah

There is a significant change in the road system for people travelling from Dubai to Fujairah and it hasn’t been clearly explained by the road signs.

I have made changes to my ‘Directions from Dubai to Fujairah’ posted at this link.

Flick through to the heading 20.00kms (which marks the 20 kms point from the Dubai International Airport Terminal 1) as this is where the change occurs.

To continue with just the new instructions go to this link at Fujairah in Focus.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Coming out of this roundabout you will find you are on the Sharjah-Al Dhaid Road with ugly pylons on the right side of the road. This is the stage on the journey that you realize you are in the desert.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fujairah a Meeting Place of Cultures

December is a wonderful month for visiting Fujairah.

The skies are generally clear, the water is warm while still being refreshing and the temperatures are consistently in the mid twenties.

Judging by the tour buses and the visitors pounding the streets there seem to be many people who are taking advantage of what Fujairah has to offer—no-fuss hospitality, scenic mountain and water views and authentic Emirati tradition.

Down at the Fujairah corniche recently there was a rich mix of cultures enjoying the sea views and breathing in the clear air. In the space of 10 minutes I spoke with people from India, Bangladesh, Philippines, Pakistan and these well-dressed men from Baluchistan (pictured) who were happy to pose with my granddaughter.

Come and see Fujairah for yourself. It is a total experience.

Dr Geoff Pound

P.S Just back from a holiday in Syria. What a delightful country to visit.

Links to some of my Syrian photos:

In the Steps of St Paul-Damascus Pilgrimage

Sixth Century Monastery in Syrian Desert

Pottering Around Palmyra, Syria

Monday, December 1, 2008

UAE Draped in Flags

Several weeks ago an encouragement went out to residents and businesses of the UAE asking them to hoist a flag above their homes and buildings on National Day.

It is amazing to see people taking up the challenge in the lead up to UAE National Day on the 2nd December.

Power and lamp poles are adorned with flags, as are taxis and private cars. Travelling around a city like Fujairah at night the CBD is aglow with festive lights all over the face of skyscrapers and contributing an air of celebration.

It all adds up to a wholesome pride in the country expressed by both Emiratis and expatriates.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Power and lamp poles are adorned with flags.

World Record Breaking UAE Fireworks Celebration is Over the Top

Fireworks Frenzy
The UAE news this weekend features the forthcoming fireworks display to celebrate the 37th National Day of the nation.

On 2nd December, the world's largest and record breaking Fireworks Display will light up Abu Dhabi's night sky, beginning at 08.30pm and lasting for 45 minutes,

Over the Top
One would have thought organizers might have pulled the fuse on the fireworks festival this year in the light of recent and current events.

Atlantis Extravagance
Organizers of the Atlantis Hotel launch came in for stinging criticism because of headlines like this: ‘$3million firework display 7 times the size of Beijing's Olympic Games opening ceremony.’ What irked the international community was that this extravagance came at a time when millions around the world were experiencing the pain of housing foreclosures, unemployment and financial loss.

Since the opening of the Atlantis the world financial situation has become worse and many UAE businesses and residents, especially in Dubai are reeling.

Mumbai Terror
The news in the last few days has been dominated by terrorism in the heart of India’s business district, burning hotels in Mumbai, scores of innocent victims killed, hundreds wounded and thousands of families traumatized. Such an event tears at the wounds that people carry from other terrorist incidents.

With this context of financial pain and global terror, the UAE is on the brink of spending millions of dollars to stage the world’s largest and record breaking fireworks. The timing couldn’t be worse for a display of heartlessness and insensitivity, especially when this record is being seen by many as Abu Dhabi asserting its superiority over Dubai.

The UAE’s heart has been most evident in its generosity, most recently displayed in sizeable gifts to Pakistan and in the contribution of Dubai Cares.

According to the Mood
The singing, dancing, festivities and some scaled down fireworks should go on but the symbolism of burning so much money in order to feed the national obsession with world records is highly inappropriate and will seem like pouring salt in the global wounds.

Even President-Elect Obama is said to be judging the mood of his nation in order to stage an inauguration that is appropriate to the times.

One can imagine the headlines around the world: ‘UAE’s Heartless Fireworks Record While the World Burns.’

How much better to see the headline: ‘UAE Shelves Fireworks World Record to Make World Record Gift for Fighting Terrorism’?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Atlantis Hotel world record fireworks display.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Time for Muslims to Take a Serious Stand Against Terrorism

Sultan Al Qassemi is a Sharjah-based businessman, a graduate of the American University of Paris and the founder of Barjeel Securities in Dubai.

He has written a superb reflection on the recent Mubai terrorist attack and he concludes with a multi-pronged challenge for Muslims and for us all. Here is a taster

“It is not enough for moderate Muslims to be revolted by the attacks in Mumbai as we have been revolted by the attacks on the New York office towers, Amman wedding, London transport system, Madrid trains, Beslan school, Jerusalem pizzeria, Baghdad markets and numerous other places. It is time to take a serious stand against these perpetrators and reclaim our religion.”

“Muslims must be more vocal in their sentiments regarding such criminals, and Islamic states must counter this behaviour proactively. To borrow from an unpopular phrase, the Islamic states must launch a psychological pre-emptive strike against these terrorists and more importantly those who encourage them. Muslim preachers who fail to condemn terror must either be re-educated or discredited completely, and those who excuse terror using certain conflicts as a pretext must be silenced because the poison that they spread today will come back to haunt us all tomorrow.”

To read the entire article at:
Sultan Al Qassemi, It’s Not Enough for Muslims to be Revolted by Terror, The National, 29 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: People read a newspaper carrying reports of the shootings in Mumbai, in the northeastern Indian city of Siliguri November 28, 2008. (REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri). Courtesy of The Big Picture at Boston.Com. Check out this photographic gallery of thirty-five pictures at Mumbai Under Attack.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Off Road in the Emirates

The National has an interesting article on the popular pastime of Off-Roading around the United Arab Emirates.

Link: Georgia Lewis, Sea, Sky and Stone, The National, 29 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “Off-Roading around the United Arab Emirates.”

Examining Possibilities of Emirates Etihad Airlines Merger

The Times is sifting through the escalating chatter and exploring the pros and cons of a UAE merger between the Emirates and Etihad airlines and examining the implications for them and the airline industry.

Emirates and Etihad Merger Rumours Raise Prospect of Airline Giant in Middle East, Times Online, 29 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “A UAE merger between the Emirates and Etihad airlines.”

What the New Dubai Emirates Terminal 3 Learned from Heathrow’s T5 Disaster

The new airport in Dubai opened this month without a hitch.

See what Dubai learned from the Heathrow debacle.

Why Heathrow’s T5 Disaster Provided a Lesson for Dubai’s T3, Times Online, 29 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Sunrise at Dubai International Airport.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wasta in the Middle East

American Bedu writes:
According to Wikipedia, WASTA is defined as ‘who you know’. It refers to using one’s influence or connections to get things done, such as quick renewal of a passport, waiving of traffic fines, and even garnering prestigious jobs.”

The use of WASTA is endemic in the Middle East region and particularly so in Saudi Arabia. I have also written previously about WASTA but given its widespread use in Saudi Arabia and also a recent experience, felt it was prudent to readdress the subject.

Check out the rest of the article, discover the link to the earlier one and enjoy the informative comments on Wasta, one of the big issues for understanding Middle Eastern culture:

Saudi Arabia: WASTA in Action, American Bedu, 27 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: No Wasta, from a site waging a No Wasta Campaign.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Week End in the Emirates, Happy Thanksgiving, Fujairah and Recombobulation

Vital Signs
I love the quirky signs around the UAE and this one (pictured) caught my attention enough to stop the car and take a snap.

You may have seen in many countries the sign ‘Men at Work’ and do Aussie readers recall the reggae-styled rock band with the name, ‘Men at Work’? But have you ever seen the road sign, ‘Man at Work’?

Happy Thanksgiving!
To the American readers of this site I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. You have had a rough few months (or eight years!) but you are Americans invested with that Thanksgiving spirit and you will bounce back, especially under the leadership of Barack.

If you are looking for something reasonably priced to buy on ‘Black Friday’ or you have some book vouchers to cash, let me recommend two books that I have enjoyed reading and reviewing, both written by your President-elect—Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope.

And if someone asks you what you’d like for your Christmas stocking, place Reporting America on your list of possibilities. I relished this book and learned much about the US of A from these articles by Alistair Cooke.

Enjoy the Weekend
To UAE readers, this is Thursday so it is time to change the sign to ‘Men and Women at Play’.

If you have never been to Fujairah this year, you don’t need my prompting but The National newspaper has declared: ‘Fujairah [is] Good for a Day Trip’.

* Check out my sister web site Fujairah in Focus for some ideas of what to see and do.
* Use the Search function (at the top of the page) and the Blog Archive to help you find what you’re looking for….beaches, bull butting, carpets, Friday Market, Kalba, Al Bidya mosque, diving centres…
* Subscribe to the site so you keep up with what is going on.
* If you are unsure how to get to Fujairah from Dubai or Sharjah download your directions at this link.

Take a Break
Wherever in the world you are living remember that women and men at work need to get some time for recombobulation. Read the great story on the need to recombobulate when you are discombobulated.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Sign spotted this morning on a road in Fujairah.

It is assumed that women are at work but when a man is at work, this is a miracle and it warrants the erection of a sign to let the world know.

Searching for the Soul of Dubai

Dropping in on Dubai
Travel writer for the popular Huffington Post, Andrea Vaucher, dropped in on Dubai in search of its soul.

Vaucher’s article is overwhelmingly negative and may fall into the genre of Dubai-bashing but there are some points from which UAE residents and tourist operators might learn, even if the writer’ stay and assessment was short and superficial.

Downside Dubai
These are some of the negative points Andrea Vaucher makes:
* Dubai does not have a soul
* It is totally lacking in authenticity
* Dubai has benefited little from city planning
* The city is smoggy and noisy
* Where is the Middle Eastern food? “I was there for three days before I even tasted Middle Eastern food.”
* There is zero tolerance for drinking and driving so Dubai diners and drivers Vaucher ate with did not imbibe a drop
* There is little that is old even in the old part of the city

Upside Dubai
* It is loads of fun
* Dubai is home to the most diverse and international communities
* High class international cuisine with a wide range of fine wines
* Many restaurants with sensational views
* The old Bastakiya district along the Dubai Creek where abras (wooden boats) crisscross appeared to the writer to be the only traditional part of Dubai
* The malls convey a sense of how liberal Dubai has become

Concluding Remarks
“Dubai is a crazy hard-to-define place.” “Las Vegas on steroids without the gambling.”

Some Implications
Here are some implications that we can draw from Vaucher’s experience and descriptions:
* Tourists generally long to see and engage in traditional Emirati culture, to visit old buildings and to taste Emirati food and drink.
* The indefinable nature of Dubai is not necessarily a problem or a negative thing for Emiratis but it is a challenge to identify more clearly the features of the UAE that are truly indigenous and to showcase these more explicitly and confidently to visitors.
* To Emiratize the tourism offerings would be a positive step for the Emirates.

To see some of the above points in context and to read the complete article, follow this link:
Andrea R Vaucher, Along for the Ride: Dubai, Huffington Post, 26 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Spices in a Dubai souk. (Photo courtesy of HP at the above link)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

UAE Residents the Most Disorientated People in the World

Zawya reports another world record for the UAE—that its residents are the most disorientated in the world.

Check out the report commissioned by Nokia before you make application to the Guinness Book of Records:

UAE Residents the Most Disorientated in the World? Zawya, 26 November 2008.

The people of Fujairah are getting excited about another claim from the report that you can check out at this link.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “UAE residents are the most disorientated in the world.”

Dubai Airport Makes Top Ten in the World

Dubai Airport
Reported by Forbes.Com Dubai, according to Skytrax, is listed as #6 out of ten.

The summary statement says:

Rated the best airport in the Middle East by Skytrax respondents, Dubai Airport is used by most passengers as a connection point rather than as an end destination. Some say the ongoing construction creates long walking distances and that "ever-present escalators" can slow down passengers. Still, Dubai Airport is known for its "award-winning" duty-free shopping and "glitzy layout that portrays an air of luxury and opulence."

Best Ten
Click here for the World’s Best Airports According to Forbes

What People Prefer in Airports
To read about people’s preferences concerning airports and the criteria for this survey at this link.

Emirates Terminal 3 is Go, Experiencing the Emirates (ETE).
Dubai’s New Airport Terminal, ETE.
Check out the amazing growth of the Abu Dhabi airport.
Kang Pacific Airlines Has Left Passengers Grounded, ETE.
Getting to ‘Can Do’ Dubai by ‘Can’t Do’ Air India, ETE.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “Best airport in the Middle East.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Salaam and Ciao as Italians Explore Collaborazione in Fujairah, UAE

Italian Delegation
WAM reports that the Fujairah Crown Prince HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Mohammed, has received (24 November 2008) a delegation of over 70 Italian businesspersons, who are exploring investment opportunities and ways of boosting joint investment and trade cooperation between Italy, Fujairah and the UAE.

Contemporary business thrives on discovering opportunities where parties win and grow because of mutual collaboration.

Coming from a country of mountains and coastlines the Italians will see much that attracts them in the UAE’s eastern coastline and the Hajar Mountains. These businesspersons will quickly recognize the strategic nature of Fujairah as a trade hub where cargo is less likely to be impeded than if it were being moved within the Strait of Hormuz.

The Fujairah emirate has majored on fostering its ancient history and there is much to be learned from Italians as to how best to preserve its archaeological finds and to showcase Emirati heritage.

Love of Sport
One of the things that could glue the residents of Italy and the UAE together is their love of sport and especially their shared passion for football. With Italy having won Football’s World Cup four times and being the current cup holder the development of football in the Emirates has tremendous scope with such a partnership.

With a major canal system being constructed in Dubai and talk of a new canal from Fujairah to Dubai, there is vast potential for learning lessons from Italian canal technology as well as pondering possibilities of a tourist canal route in fine Venetian style where people can travel across the Emirates and through the scenic Hajar Mountains in gondolas and river boats.

Car Industry
Emiratis love their cars with the same intensity that for centuries they have shown toward their camels. With the attractive free zones of the Emirates how good would it be to see branches of the Italian auto industry being established in this country—Lamborghini, Ferrai, Maserati, Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo. With a growing passion for riding motorbikes in the UAE there could also be some new coperazione with Ducati and Vespa.

Art and Culture
It is pleasing to see international recognition of the Middle East as a growing hub for contemporary culture and the way that Abu Dhabi is partnering with the Louvre and the Guggenheim Foundation to add richness to its local showcase.

In a truly United Arab Emirates there needs to be a spreading of cultural wealth and in this regard the forging of links with Italy has the potential to see the galleries and academies of Florence, Milan and Rome establishing a Middle Eastern presence, perhaps in Fujairah.

Inhaling the Connection
Hopefully the Italian visitors will recall Shakespeare’s line in Macbeth about “All the perfumes in Arabia” and breathe in the possibilities of reviving Italian perfume centres through establishing an Arabian base in the Emirates.

It might be good for them to visit the shopping malls and souks to smell the distinctive fragrance of the Emirates. In this country Emiratis put ‘perfume’ on their shopping list as certainly and as regularly as they would write ‘dates’ and ‘yoghurt’. In what other country do men at tertiary institutions get presented with a bottle of perfume on their first day as is often the custom in the Colleges of the UAE?

Buona Opportunità
When you start to think about an Italian-Fujairah-UAE connection the possibilities are endless. Imagine coffee shops along the Fujairah corniche where people can imbibe an Italian espresso or sit down, majlis-style over a traditional Arabic coffee! It gets the adrenalin flowing when you start to think that coffee qahwa قهوة has its roots in Arabic culture and the leisurely Emirati art of coffee drinking is symbolised by the coffee pot roundabout near the Fujairah corniche.

And ponder the Italian-Emirati connections in fashion, literature, vineyards, poetry, cakes, Interfaith Dialogue, dairy products, language centres … What possibilities!

The Italians are coming to Fujairah! Bravo! Magnifico! Fantastico!

More on Fujairah
Fujairah is a Load of Bull, Fujairah in Focus.
Fujairah is Just the Place for a Harley, FIF.
Buy Yourself a Camel at Friday Market, FIF.
Buying Oranges and Ouds at Friday Market in Fujairah, FIF.
Fujairah Ruler Says UAE Fully Supports Interfaith Dialogue, FIF.
Directions from Dubai/Sharjah to Fujairah, FIF.

Stop Press
In a joint statement issued today by the Italian and UAE governments it was declared that Dubai's Emirates airline has chosen Italy as its European hub and has asked for more than 50 weekly landing slots in Milan, Rome and Venice.

The deal also covers Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways, which is in line for seven landing slots in Rome and the same number in Milan.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Italians Exploring Collaborazione in Fujairah.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dubai Reveals Level of Debts and Assets

For the first time Dubai has revealed its level of debt in relation to its sizeable assets.

In Brief
According to one of Dubai's top property leaders, the emirate has $80 billion of debt outstanding against a total asset base of $1.3 trillion.

In Detail
A full description can be found at this link:

Louise Armitstead, Dubai Reveals Debt Levels to Dispel Fears Over Growth, Telegraph, 24 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Saudi Girl Rock Band Cannot Perform at Home but Perhaps in Dubai

Robert Worth tells readers of the New York Times:

“They cannot perform in public. They cannot pose for album cover photographs. Even their jam sessions are secret, for fear of offending the religious authorities in this ultraconservative kingdom.”

“But the members of Saudi Arabia’s first all-girl rock band, the Accolade, are clearly not afraid of taboos.”

The band’s first single, ‘Pinocchio,’ has become an underground hit here, with hundreds of young Saudis downloading the song from the group’s Web site. Now, the pioneering foursome, all of them college students, want to start playing regular gigs — inside private compounds, of course — and recording an album.”

Perhaps in Dubai
The article concludes with this statement of hope:

“The band members’ parents support them, though they have asked them to keep things low-key. Eventually, Dina said, they hope to play real concerts, perhaps in Dubai.”

“‘It’s important for them to see what we’re capable of,’ she said.”

Link: Robert Worth, As Taboos Ease, Saudi Girl Group Dares to Rock, New York Times, 23 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: The band’s web site where you can read comments and listen to the band’s songs.

Behold Atlantis Rising

You missed out on an invitation to the opening of Dubai’s Atlantis Hotel the other night or you wish to relive the experience?

The Guardian has posted a three minute video so you can draw your own conclusions of the extravaganza.

See the most expensive fireworks display in history, a smattering of the celebs, learn what Janet Jackson likes about the Atlantis and see Kylie grooving on stage for her handsome pay cheque.

The link to the video entitled ‘Recession? What Recession?’ The Guardian, 21 November 2008.

Accompanying Articles:
‘500 Chefs, 4,000 lobsters and Kylie’, The Guardian, 21 November 2008.

How Dubai’s Bubble Burst, The Guardian, 21 November 2008.

Oprah [who did not show] and Celebs Ignore Animal rights at 20 Million Dollar Atlantis Hotel Launch, ETE, 20 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: ‘Behold Atlantis Rising.’

Arab Style Bartering Takes on in England Due to Financial Crisis

Guardian reporter Tania Gold (pictured) has only bartered once before and that was in an Arab market because she was told the sellers would be insulted if you paid the label price.

Now she is discovering that the financial recession in England means that you don’t have to pay the full price on goods and services. It is said: you can haggle.

Read about a day in the life of the British reporter who haggles for a packet of nuts, the Guardian newspaper, a Marlon Brando T shirt, a book and a host of other goods and how she tries to overcome her cultural shame about beating down the price.

Link: Tanya Gold on the Art of Haggling, The Guardian, 24 November 2008.

Plus at the same link: ‘Six Ways to Haggle and Keep Your Own Dignity.’

More on Haggling or Bartering in the UAE:

Why Markets are Hard to Beat in the UAE, ETE.

Do you barter for goods and services in the shops of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Fujairah or wherever you live?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Guardian reporter Tania Gould tries haggling while shopping at Borough Market, London. (Photograph courtesy of Teri Pengilley at the Guardian)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What International Observers Are Saying about UAE This Week

A recent roundup of some international articles with perspectives on the UAE address these themes:

Sewerage on Dubai Beaches
Poo-Bai: Floods of Sewerage Threaten Dubai Beaches, Times Online, 23 November 2008.

Atlantis Hotel Opening
The Atlantis Palm Opens in Dubai, Pink is the New Blog, 22 November 2008.
Mischa Barton Plays with Dolphins in Dubai, HQ Celebrity, 22 November 2008.
Has Dubai Lost the Plot? $30 Million on Fireworks! Go Smell the Flowers, 22 November 2008.
While America Lies in Ruins Selfish Celebrities Party in Dubai, Gawker, 21 November 2008.
Dubai Needs a Reality Check? Pakorakorner, 22 November 2008.
Dubai’s Atlantis Hotel opening Marred by Dolphin Row, Telegraph, 20 November 2008.
Dubai Resort The Atlantis Stages Most Expensive Launch Party Ever, Telegraph, 21 November 2008.

Financial Crisis
Report Warns on Dubai, Wall Street Journal, 19 November 2008.
Debt-Laden Dubai Seeks Investment Advice, Wall Street Journal, 17 November 2008.
Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah Sees Prices Fall as Crunch Moves in, Telegraph, 21 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Mischa Barton among the dolphins at the Atlantis bash.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Teach Yourself Gulf Arabic

Great Interest
A frequently Googled question in the UAE and Gulf region seeks information about resources and courses to help people learn Arabic.

Such interest highlights the relevance of the resource, ‘Teach Yourself Gulf Arabic’ which is described and reviewed at this link:

Reviewing Books and Movies.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Front cover of Teach Yourself Gulf Arabic which contains a 220-page course book and 2 audio CDs.

Will UAE Follow Malaysian Islamic Body and Place Fatwa on Yoga?

According to a report from Associated Press (22 November 2008), Malaysia's top Islamic body on Saturday ruled against Muslims practicing yoga.

The reasons:

1. Yoga has elements of other religions that could corrupt Muslims.

2. The National Fatwa Council's non-binding edict said yoga involves not just physical exercise but also includes Hindu spiritual elements, chanting and worship.

3. Council chairman Abdul Shukor Husin told reporters, "It is inappropriate. It can destroy the faith of a Muslim."

4. Abdul Shukor Husin noted that clerics in Egypt issued a similar edict in 2004 that called the practice of yoga "an aberration."

Implications and Reactions
Although the council's decisions are not legally binding on Malaysia's Muslim population, many abide by the edicts out of deference, and the council does have the authority to ostracize an offending Muslim from society.

The Malaysian fatwa reflects the growing strain of conservatism in Malaysia, which has always taken pride in its multiethnic population. About 25 percent of Malaysians are ethnic Chinese and 8 percent ethnic Indians, mostly Hindus.

Recently, the council issued an edict banning tomboys, ruling that girls who act like boys violate the tenets of Islam.

Yoga teacher Suleiha Merican, who has been practicing yoga for 40 years, called yoga "a great health science" and said there is no religion involved.

"We don't do chanting and meditation. There is no conflict because yoga is not religion based," Merican, 56, said.

There are no figures for how many Muslims practice yoga, but many yoga classes have a sprinkling of Muslims attending.

Putri Rahim, a housewife, said she is no less a Muslim after practicing yoga for 10 years:
"I am mad! Maybe they have it in mind that Islam is under threat. To come out with a fatwa is an insult to intelligent Muslims. It's an insult to my belief," Putri told The Associated Press.

In a recent blog posting, social activist Marina Mahathir criticized the council for even considering a yoga ban, calling it "a classic case of reacting out of fear and ignorance."

United Arab Emirates Response
At the time of writing there did not appear to be a reaction expressed by Islamic scholars or government officials in the United Arab Emirates about yoga or this Malaysian ruling.

A frenzy of often conflicting fatwas caused the UAE to establish three months ago an official UAE Islamic hotline that issues fatwas according to the government’s moderate stance.

Here is the link for the UAE’s Islam Online Network which has these words on its Home page:

“IslamOnline is the leading and orginal Islamic portal on the Internet. Based in Dubai, IslamOnline's objective is to portray a positive and accurate picture of Islam to the world as well as providing support services for Muslims as well as for non Muslims wishing to explore Islam. IslamOnline is the number one source for Islamic content in the Islamic world.”

A search (22 November 2008) of the word ‘yoga’ on this site, found no results or mention of the word ‘yoga’ and its practice. This may reflect the more moderate stance of Islam in the Emirates.

Some Reflections
Islam is not one body of teaching and there is significant diversity in interpretation and practice throughout the world.

Yoga does not represent one body of teaching and its practical expressions are diverse.

One of the reasons for the Malaysian edict is that yoga “has elements of other religions that could corrupt Muslims” but these corrupting elements are not spelt out in the report. What is also not reported is that Islam also contains [not corrupting] elements from other religions, principally from those religions that are called ‘People of the Book’ (أهل الكتاب‎ Ahl al-Kitāb).

Source: Malaysian Islamic Body Bans Yoga for Muslims, Washington Times, 22 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Fire Works Over Arabian Sea Superior to Fireworks at Atlantis Hotel Launch

So you missed the opening of the Atlantis Hotel the other night and a sight of the fireworks display billed as "seven times larger than this year's Olympic Games opening ceremony" in Beijing and "visible from space"?

Don’t worry. Have a look at the pyrotechnics happening early this morning over the Arabian Sea. It was also visible from space and it did not come at the obscene cost of the hotel launch.

I took the picture this morning from the Khor Kalba beach (south of Fujairah and near the UAE/Omani border).

If you want to see a slide show of the sun rising out of the water this morning, click on this link.

See if you can spot something that looks like a whale shark crossing the sun's rays toward the end of the slideshow.

Dr Geoff Pound

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Changing Images of Dubai

The Big Picture web site out of Boston has posted (19 November 2008) 28 wonderful photos of the changing skyline of Dubai.

Visual Stories
They are well taken photos like the one posted here and it is worth a look on the hosting site to see these large vistas.

There is not much in the way of text because the site is devoted to ‘new stories in photographs’.

Take a look at the comments at the bottom—84 when I checked the site. They express wonder, doom, awe, criticism, envy…

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Image #24 “An Emirati carries a falcon, one of the tourist attractions at the lobby of the Atlantis resort complex on the man-made Palm Jumeirah island in the Gulf emirate of Dubai on November 18, 2008. (Courtesy of KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images). Click to ENLARGE.

Emirates Terminal 3 in Dubai is Go

Signs approaching Dubai’s airport district this week indicated that all Emirates flights are now departing from the new Terminal 3.

Smooth Launch
Unlike the launch of some other international airports the gradual roll out of ET 3 has proved to be a smooth success.

Designed for Speed and Comfort
The new Terminal 3 is designed for optimum comfort and speed from the front door to the plane. A news report says:

“The underground terminal is located beneath the taxiways/aprons making it closer to the boarding gates. The facility is among the world's largest, yet its unique design, coupled with state-of-the-art people transportation solutions such as Skytrains and travelators make for quick jaunts between kerbside and aircraft. The lush green Zen gardens, complete with fountains, surrounding the food courts at either end of the airside facility provide respite during a busy travel schedule.”

Lounge Features
A letter from Emirates Airline to its customers this week announced what you can expect from the new lounges:

First Class Services
In brief you are offered:
* A spa followed by a massage
* Hair styling
* A range of three seating areas to suit your mood
* Water features and plants to soothe your mind
* A range of dining areas, juice bars
* Step into the Wine Cellar to select your expensive vintage
* A kid’s play area
* Complimentary WiFi access throughout the entire lounge
* Conference rooms if you need to do business

Check out this video and see for yourself.

Business Class Services
* Lounge designed around theme of Fire, Water, Air and Earth
* Range of dining and juice options
* Spa, massage and hair styling but at a fee
* Kid’s area
* Complimentary WiFi access throughout the entire lounge
* Two Business Centres and a conference room.

Check out the video showing Business Lounges

First Impressions
According to reports the Emirates Terminal 3 has been a big hit for the more than 500,000 passengers that had flown from the terminal by 18th November.

Comments have been made about:
* The massive baggage hall with 18 baggage carousels that provide a quick and easy getaway.
* More than 13,500 families have used the bright-red baby strollers and the Unaccompanied Minors Lounge providing a secure and entertaining outlet for children travelling alone.
* The privacy and space in the lounges
* The comprehensive range of duty free goods

Emirates Terminal 3
Emirates Terminal 3 Has Arrived, Emirates News, 20 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Kid’s Area at the Emirates Terminal 3.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Visit IKEA at Festival City for the Biggest Indoor Maze and Labyrinth in UAE

Some people find the Swedish store IKEA in Dubai’s Festival City to be amazing. At 24,500 square metres it is the UAE’s largest retail outlet and it is IKEA’s largest store in the Middle East.

This building is constructed so that shoppers get herded around like animals in such a way that they must pass lots of signs and endless products to get out. Many shoppers have questioning looks on their faces and are having to ask ad nauseam about how to find the exit.

If a maze is “a complex tour puzzle in the form of a complex branching passage through which the solver must find a route” then IKEA is a maze. Perhaps it should advertise itself as such for people who are looking for a challenge.

Size and Service
The company is so big that letters to the Customer Service department go unanswered. Size isn’t everything and often the bigger the company the lesser the ability to serve its customers and see shoppers as individuals.

Dr Geoff Pound

Oprah and Celebs Ignore Animal Rights at 20 Million Dollar Party Launching Atlantis Hotel

Party Organized Before Financial Crisis
The opening bash for the Atlantis Hotel in Dubai (20 November 2008) might be a case of ‘eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.’

The multi-million dollar extravaganza was organized before the financial meltdown affected Dubai and the other emirates.

The local stock market has crashed, losing two thirds of its value since the beginning of the year, and Dubai's real estate sector, a major driving force of domestic economy, has begun to slow.

When a UAE company launches a product these days it is usually lacking in cultural authenticity.

Dubai opens hotels by importing international stars not by showcasing Emirati culture. Emiratisation is shaping employment quotas and salaries but it is hardly affecting entertainment and business launches. How will the Atlantis be opened today?

First you invite (pay for) more than 2,000 world celebrities to attend the event and get the local press to call it "the party of the decade."

Second, ensure that talk show queen Oprah Winfrey, actors Robert De Niro and Denzel Washington, and former basketball great Michael Jordan are there to walk the red carpet at the 1.5-billion-dollar "Atlantis, The Palm" hotel, thus modelling the idea that if it is good enough for them then it is good enough for me.

Third, pay $4.4 million for Kylie to come and officially launch the establishment which will be adorned by flowers arranged by a New York florist and a sand castle created by a sand castle creator flown in from Australia.

Finally, there is the ubiquitous fireworks display and in the tiring ‘look at me, look at me’ fashion these pyrotechnics will be "seven times larger than this year's Olympic Games opening ceremony" in Beijing and will be "visible from space", according to the event organisers. For the money spent I hope those up in the space station tonight can see the action through the Dubai smog.

Environmental Concerns
The promoters are saying that part of the attraction is that the hotel boasts the largest waterpark in the Middle East and a gigantic aquarium in which 65,000 fish, along with an enormous whale shark, swim in 11 million litres of water. They are keeping silent about the animal rights abuses.

The public in the UAE has gone crazy and in a country where protest is prohibited ordinary people have joined with animal rights campaigners and are raising concern about the confinement of ‘Sammy’ the whale shark.

“There's not a true scientific reason to keep the whale shark in a tank. It's clear that they brought it as an attraction,” said Azzedine Downes, the Dubai-based vice president of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. “To remove a female from the population just further endangers the species.”

They are the biggest fish on earth, growing as long as 65 feet and trade in whale sharks is regulated by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species.

It appears that Oprah, Robert de Niro, Denzel Washington, Kylie and co have been lulled by the loot and the lavishness of the Atlantis hospitality into forgetting their animal rights responsibilities. Like the other guests they will probably ‘plunge through shark-infested waters’ on the way to their $7,500 a night suites but will they sleep soundly?

Hopefully they will think of the whale shark which could live for 70 years, be diving up to 6,000 feet and who in her natural environment would be populating the species and ranging for thousands of miles but instead is imprisoned in a small glass box.

It is not too late for these celebrities to use their considerable power and call for the freedom of the whale shark.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Environmentalists have called on the managers of a massive new marine-themed resort in Dubai to release a whale shark they are holding inside a giant fish tank. (Courtesy Kamran Jebreili/ Associated Press)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Reading and Books in the Emirates

Feed Your Soul
A fine article by Lubna Qassim in The National about the value of reading has stimulated me to post some book tasters from one of my other web sites, Reviewing Books and Movies.

Fortunately, according to this report, bookshops and reading are thriving in the UAE.

Books by Barack
The UAE Daily News reported that books by Barack Obama were running off the shelves.

Here is a review of his first book, Dreams From My Father. I have on my reading pile his next one, Audacity of Hope.

Children’s Books
Read what publisher Isobel Abul Houl has to say about children’s books in Arabic.

Mennah Bakkar, I am a Little Moslem.

Frances LaBonte, The Arabian Date Palm.

Frances LaBonte, Sheikh Zayed.

Things Arabic
Looking for a good English to Arabic Dictionary? Read up about this one.

John Kirkbright, Spoken Arabic Step-by-Step.

Living Away from Home?
Jhumpa Lahiri is a Bangladeshi author living in the USA and she has written a fine collection of stories about people who live away from their homeland. How do they get on in Unaccustomed Earth?

Business Books
Jim Collins is a great observer of issues to do with business. Good to Great reveals the secrets of how good companies progressed to being really great.

Joseph A DiVanna, Understanding Islamic Banking.

Tom Kelley, The Art of Innovation.

Essam Al Tamimi, Setting up in Dubai.

Jeremy Williams, Don’t They Know it’s Friday?

The Hardest Book to Read
The hardest book (because of the pain) I have read for years is Desert Children by the former fashion model Waris Dirie. This one is about her journey through Europe talking to women who have experienced Female Genital Mutilation. I am glad that I read this book.

Books on Middle Eastern Themes
Dubai Chamber of Commerce, 1000 Numbers and Reasons Why Dubai.

Rajaa Alsanea, The Girls of Riyadh.

David Cottridge et al, Birds of the Middle East.

Fadir Fakir, My Name is Salma.

Christopher Hurndall and Blanka Rössler, The Colours of Fujairah.

Naguib Mahfouz, Palace Walk.

Marguerite van Geldermalsen, Married to a Bedouin.

Latifa, My Forbidden Face.

Gareth Leggett, On-Road in the UAE.

Eric Moore, Gardening in the Middle East.

Ben Smalley, Middle East and North Africa Media Guide 2008.

Trevor Waugh, The Emirates Through the Eyes of an Artist.

Important to Read
Benazir Bhutto, Daughter of the East.

Jimmy Carter, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid.

Wilfred Thesiger, Arabian Sands.

See Jeremy Williams (above).

This Book Will Change Your Life!
Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin, Three Cups of Tea.

These are just a few of the hundreds of books in fine UAE bookshops like Magrudy’s.

Put Lubna Qassim’s thoughts to the test and discover that books feed the mind, nourish the soul and sometimes provide life-changing new insights and perspectives.

Dr Geoff Pound

Disclosure: I review books for Magrudy's Bookshops. I love visiting Magrudy's but I would like it even better if they established a branch in Fujairah!

Image: A great book for UAE National Day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Obama on Climate Change and Reducing US Dependence on Foreign Oil

More than 600 climate change leaders from across the country and around the world convened in Los Angeles today (18 November 2008) for the opening sessions of the Global Climate Summit, a 2-day event arranged by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to break gridlock on the issue ahead of next month's United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland.

In a short video addressed to the Summit's attendees, the You Tube King emphasized his enthusiasm for the Poznan Conference and promised that his administration would mark a "new chapter in American leadership on climate change."

In this statement President-elect Obama spoke of his commitment to reduce US dependence on foreign oil.

Source: Barack Obama, President-elect Obama Promises ‘New Chapter’ on Climate Change, The Office of the President-Elect, 18 November 2008,

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Barack Obama.

Reflecting on the Richness of Salaam

The Emirati and Arabic custom in greeting people with a blessing of peace—As-Salāmu `Alaykum السلام عليكم Peace Be Upon You and responding with a reciprocal blessing—wa `Aleykum As-Salaam and upon you be peace—is not only rich culturally but it is full of amazing potential.

This custom and expression have been used for centuries in this region.

It is easy to let the greeting roll off the tongue glibly but the idea of Salaam warrants some regular reflection.

I came across the following statement about the nature of peace by Oscar Romero, the San Salvadorean leader who spoke out on behalf of the poor, who lifted the veil on abuses of human rights and who was assassinated in 1980 for his countercultural stand.

I have substituted the Arabic word for ‘peace’ to make Romero’s statement speak more directly into our scene here in the Emirates and on the Arabian Peninsula:

Salaam is not the product of terror or fear.
Salaam is not the silence of cemeteries.
Salaam is not the silent result of violent repression.
Salaam is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.
Salaam is dynamism.
Salaam is generosity.
It is right and it is duty.
In it each one has a place in this beautiful family…

Source: Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love, E-Book, 8 January 1978, 42.

As-Salāmu `Alaykum السلام عليكم Peace Be Upon You!

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Salaam.

Get Your Green Bags from Magrudy’s Bookshops

Don’t bother waiting for your supermarket to produce ‘green bags’ instead of the environmentally unfriendly plastic bags.

The best source of green bags in the UAE is Magrudy’s Bookshops.

Check out your nearest shop.

These bags (pictured) are generous in size, sturdy, stylish and they have comfortable handles.

This year Magrudy’s has produced green bags as part of their commitment to the national and international drive to reduce waste.

Their bags are made of 100% biodegradable jute.

They come in two sizes with the large ones costing Dh8.00 and the small ones Dh7.50.

To encourage care towards the environment Magrudy’s awards 10 points on a loyalty account each time people reuse the bags at their shops.

To discourage people from using paper they are charging Dh1.00 for each paper bag used and donating the proceeds to the Emirates Environmental Group.

Great bags. Great leadership.

Dr Geoff Pound

At Work in the Emirates

It normally is ‘men at work’ on the UAE roads but those of both genders work hard in this young country that is approaching its 37th National Day on 2 December 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: One of the many signs that can be seen on roads around the Emirates.

Monday, November 17, 2008

All Residents Asked to Fly UAE Flag on National Day

Raising the Flag
On 2 December it is UAE National Day العيد الوطني Al-Eid al-Watani and to celebrate nationhood this year all citizens and residents in the country are asked to participate in the celebration by flying the UAE flag on the top of their homes and buildings.

The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development is launching this flag-flying initiative as one of its many projects for the country's 37th National Day.

Expressing Pride and Loyalty
Chairperson of the National Day celebration committee Afra Al-Sabri said that the participation will reflect the sense of pride and loyalty to the symbol of the country.

When many western countries have dispensed with overt patriotism like singing the national anthem at the picture theatre or before civic events it is interesting to see the UAE taking practical steps to increase national fervour and support.

Increasing National Feeling
It will be fascinating to see how many flags are provided and proudly raised to flutter nationalism in the breeze. If steps are taken to open up the doorways to UAE citizenship it might increase the intensity of the flag-waving and the sense of home that all residents have towards the Emirates.

The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development is to be commended for this practical initiative.

Source and further details:
UAE Flag to Fly Atop Every Home, WAM, 17 November 2008.

UAE Flag
According to Wikipedia:
The flag of the United Arab Emirates (Arabic: علم الإمارات العربية المتحدة‎) was adopted on December 2, 1971.

It contains the Pan-Arab colors red, green, white and black, which symbolize Arabian unity.

In addition the individual colours have the following meanings:
Green: Fertility
White: Neutrality
Black: is the color of the flag of the Islamic prophet Muhammad
Red: Unity

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: The UAE Flag.

Kiwis Excited about Rugby Sevens Stadium in Dubai

New Zealanders reading today’s (Monday 17 November 2008) NZ Herald will look at a story about another Dubai construction feat—a new rugby stadium emerging out of near abandoned camel farms in the desert.

Read details of the new rugby complex to seat 40,000 fans for next year’s Rugby World Sevens and the beginning of the annual world sevens circuit starting on November 27.

Have a read about Dubai’s latest wonder in NZ’s leading newspaper:

Rugby Sevens Venue Emerges from Dubai Sands, NZ Herald, 17 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Emirates Airline's Gary Chapman in front of The Sevens Stadium. (Photo courtesy of Grant Bradley at above link).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Helping With Directions to Fujairah

Since writing and posting the directions by road from Dubai/Sharjah to Fujairah I have had many appreciative notes and requests for directions from other places.

Can You Help?
Can you help me by writing detailed directions to Fujairah from:

* Abu Dhabi?

* Ras al Khaimah?

* Other UAE towns and cities?

If you are familiar with one of these routes and the next time you make the trip you are happy to jot down the directions and then send them to me for posting on this site, I would be most grateful.

Do drop me a note and tell me which route you will write up.

My email address is geoffpound[at]

Dr Geoff Pound

Dubai Debt, Dangers and Doubts about Investing

A Dubai Fund Chief speaks about the level of Dubai’s debt, some dangers regarding your dollars and dirhams and whether now is the time to do some investing.

Link to the article:

Dubai Fund Chief, International Herald Tribune, 16 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

The New Dubai Mall and the Decline of the Mall in the Emirates

Crowds Flock to New Dubai Mall
AMEInfo reports (15 November 2008) that the new Dubai Mall has had crowds of visitors with “more than 60,000 tickets sold for the Dubai Aquarium & Discovery Centre in the first five days, following its opening.”

“The Dubai Aquarium featuring the world's largest acrylic viewing panel offers free attraction while the walk-through tunnel and Discovery Centre assures closer appreciation of the aquatic world. The three distinctive themes at the Discovery Centre, Rainforest, Rocky Shore and Living Ocean, are a special draw among children, who also have the opportunity to touch-and-feel several aquatic species.”

If You Can Get There!
On the downside has been the problem of getting to the Dubai Mall. A report (11 November 2008) in The National indicates that oodles of car park spaces exist and additional parking attendants have been employed but many people have found the roads leading to the Dubai Mall to be heavily congested and the signs for cars and taxis to be confusing. Dubai streets are usually congested so these reports will pose an even greater turnoff to people wondering about checking out the new mall.

What is the Attraction?
Are people simply visiting the special features such as the Ice Rink or are they spending lots of time and money in the shops? I have written earlier about some reasons why people visit malls in the Emirates, the way they provide a shelter from the heat, a place for gathering and a contemporary ‘worship’ place. The malls provide a haven for those who are financially hamstrung and taking time out between jobs. But these reasons for visiting a mall do not necessarily put lots of cash into the coffers of the business owners.

More Malls More Dirhams?
One of the statistics from the Dubai Mall yet to be revealed relates to turnover and the amounts of money that have been received and banked. This new mall has opened in a month when the world is experiencing a great financial crisis and the UAE may have better cushioning than other countries but it is not immune from the difficulties.

Does the money being spent at the new Dubai Mall represent dirhams that would have been spent at other UAE malls and if so, what impact are these new malls having on the older, more established malls?

Is the UAE Shopping Mall in Decline?
In a Newsweek article (12 November 2008) entitled ‘Is the American Shopping Mall Dead?’, commentators are detecting the decline of the mall, if not pronouncing the last rites. New malls are being built of enormous proportions and with Disneyland-styled attractions to pull in the parents with their kids. But older, less attractive malls are declining and web sites like Deadmalls DOT Com have become virtual cemeteries for American shopping malls. The financial crisis may have simply accelerated a trend that was already taking place.

The Newsweek article gives these sobering figures:
“Georgia Tech professor Ellen Dunham-Jones, coauthor of the forthcoming book ‘Retrofitting Suburbia,’ which focuses on the decline of [US] malls and other commercial strips [says that] today, nearly a fifth of the country's largest 2,000 regional malls are failing, … and according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, a record 150,000 retail outlets, including such mall mainstays as the Gap and Foot Locker, will close this year.”

Read the rest of the article and see if you think that the financial recession will affect the UAE malls, curtail their income and ultimately lead to their death. Will the big brand, luxury shops be gradually replaced by ‘Two Dirham Shops’ that cater for lower budgets? Will the financial recession put the clampers on international tourists who have enjoyed coming to the UAE for a week to do their annual big shop? And will the introduction of the proposed VAT provide the extra nail in the coffin for those who have been attracted in the past to this ‘tax free’ shopper’s paradise?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: One of the many signs that are being erected outside shopping malls in the USA. This sign stands outside the Southtown Mall in Fort Wayne, Indiana. (Photo courtesy of Deadmalls DOT Com at the above link).