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

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bring Back the Muezzins to Fujairah

Those who give the call to prayer (muezzins) in Fujairah have been replaced today (27 February 2008) by a unified call to prayer beamed to satellite dishes on the 320 mosques of the city.

To read a call to dump the dishes and reinstate the muezzins to the eastern emirate, follow this link:

Fujairah in Focus ‘Fujairah Unified Call to Prayer is a Backward Step’

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “Prayer is better than sleep…”

Monday, February 25, 2008

Reviving UAE’s Heritage as Pearl Capital of World

AME Info has posted a report on an ambitious plan to showcase the region's traditional association with pearls in a pearl-themed heritage centre.

Link: ‘Dubai Unveils ‘Pearls of Arabia’ at the World, AME Info, 25 February 2008.

Image: “association with pearls…”

Global Warming and the Middle East

A report posted by AME Info begins with this warning:

“Middle East towns and cities could be hit by rising sea levels through global warming, displacing millions of people, claims the British University of Dubai in its new research on climate change.”

The entire text of the article is at this link:
‘Global Warming Could Displace Millions in the Middle East’, AME Info, 25 February 2008.

Image: Global Warming Could Displace Millions.

Arab League Plans to Limit Press Freedom

An article by James Robinson in The Observer (24 February 2008) reports that Al-Jazeera claims its freedom to report is threatened by a charter restricting the rights of broadcasters. Its journalists are angry that the Western media (especially CNN and BBC) is keeping quiet on the issue.

The report says: “A document issued earlier this month by the Arab League, which could give its member states the power to close broadcasters who are critical of regimes in the region, marks a new low in the fragile relationship between the network and the governments it reports on.”

The full text can be read at this link:
James Robinson, ‘Al-Jazeera squares up for a fight with Arab League’, The Observer, 24 February 2008.

The curtailing of freedom by Arab States would reverse the trend of openness which has been praised in this last year by the World Press Freedom Index 2007, a matter which is commented on in this report.

The move also appears contrary to a statement issued by the Ruler of Dubai which signaled greater freedom to report within the bounds of an agreed code of journalistic ethics. More can be found on the relationship between the UAE government and UAE journalists at this link.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Freedom for journalists.

UAE: Home to 40 million Date Palm Trees

Many representatives from all over the world are gathering in Dubai at the moment for Gulfood to discover and do trade deals.

Special envoy from Brazil, Alexandre Roche, writes a post (25 February 2008) for the Brazil-Arab News Agency and here is his introduction:

“The United Arab Emirates is not one of the countries best known for its agricultural production. When speaking about the country, people generally think about the skyscrapers of Dubai and about the oil of Abu Dhabi. But the country stands out at least in one product of the countryside, or desert—dates. Here, there are 40 million date trees, among them trees that are growing and producing.”

In the remainder of his article, Roche expands on the cultivation and export of dates and other food products that the UAE is exporting.

Dr. Geoff Pound.

Image: “Here, there are 40 million date trees…”

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Most Expats Look to Quit as Inflation Soars

Two thirds of workers in Gulf states including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates plan to change jobs this year as soaring living costs erode income, Arabian Business reported from its first regional salary survey.

In the U.A.E., 68 percent of workers are looking for another job, compared with 67 percent in Saudi Arabia, the Dubai-based magazine said in an e-mailed report today, citing data from a poll of 8,914 people across the Gulf Cooperation Council states.

To read the entire article, follow this link:

Will McSheehy, ‘Most Gulf Workers Plan to Quit as Inflations Soars, Survey Says’, Bloomberg.Com, 24 February 24, 2008.

UAE Population

An influx of foreigners has bolstered the population of the United Arab Emirates to 5.6 million by the end of 2006, while the number of nationals fell to 15.4 percent, an unofficial study said Sunday.

The study, by a federal body which advises the government, showed there were only 866,779 Emirati citizens among the population of over 5.6 million at the end of 2006, the daily Al-Bayan said.

Foreigners numbered 4.764,356, or 84.6 percent of the total population, said the study compiled by the deputy speaker of the advisory Federal National Council (FNC), Ahmad bin Shbib al-Dhaheri on the basis of government figures.

According to the last official figures, the UAE's population stood at 4.1 million at the end of 2005, of whom 825,000, or just 21.9 percent, were Emiratis.

But the latest study indicated that the native population of the oil-rich Gulf Arab country is steadily dwindling as more foreigners flock to the UAE, amid a spectacular economic boom and what is euphemistically knows as the "demographic imbalance."

Expatriates from the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia make up around 75 percent of the workforce, with Indian citizens counting for 42.5 percent of all expats, the study said.

The Indian community in the UAE numbers about 1.4 million, according to the Indian embassy.

In fast-developing UAE, the foreign influx ranges from poorly-paid construction workers to hard-partying professionals.

Source: ‘Influx of Expats Boosts UAE Population, Global Nation, Inquirer Net, 24 February 2008.

Golf in the United Arab Emirates

An article in the Canadian Press surveys the health of the golfing game in the Emirates. Here is an excerpt and the link!

Getting a tee time in Dubai is difficult these days - especially on the weekends.

Golf has become so popular in this booming, skyscraper-studded city that courses are booked nearly every weekend, forcing tourists and others who aren't members at clubs to scramble for playing time on weekdays.

Though it may seem like an unlikely location - Dubai is located in the Arabian desert where grass isn't indigenous and temperatures soar above 30 degrees in the summer - the fast-growing city is quickly becoming one of the world's top golf destinations.

Developers are scrambling to keep up with demand as courses pop up alongside shopping malls and packed highways in the sprawling city. Few cities can boast of having luxury golf courses - many designed by famous pros - nestled among glitzy high rises and tournaments that attract the game's best players.

A city known for its superlatives, including the world's tallest building and the world's first seven-star hotel, Dubai will next year begin hosting the world's richest golf tournament, the European Tour's US$10-million Dubai World Championship.

Even Tiger Woods is impressed.
"What they are doing is frankly phenomenal," the world's No. 1 player said before winning his second Dubai Desert Classic title this month. "I haven't seen anything like this, and I don't think really anyone has anywhere around the world."

To read the entire article, follow this link:

‘Golf Courses Sprouting Up in the Desert’, Canadian Press, 24 February 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Tiger Woods in the Dubai Desert Classic.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sonapur: Dubai’s Underbelly

A scathing article that reveals the underbelly of Dubai appeared recently in the Melbourne Age (and several other papers) written by Eric Ellis, the South-East Asia correspondent for Fortune magazine.

On a recent visit to Dubai Ellis visited Sonapur, the slum area of Dubai and what he calls a Middle Eastern Soweto. He said these were “the most depressing conditions I’ve witnessed.”

Why haven’t people heard of this? Although it is one of the largest communities in the UAE it doesn’t officially exist and it is not on any maps. It is hidden away in the dunes between Dubai and Sharjah.

In this community are migrant workers who are hired to build the skyscrapers in Dubai, men who work for $8 a day and are crowded into primitive conditions by night.

To read the full text of this article, follow this link”

Eric Ellis, ‘Dubai’s Rags-to-riches Miracle Built on the Backs of Exploited Foreign Workers’, Melbourne Age, 9 February 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Dubai workers.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Minimum Wage for Indian Maids in UAE

The Economic Times of India (and other papers) have posted this report entitled ‘India Fixes Minimum Wage for Female Household Workers’ 21 February 2008:

DUBAI: “India has fixed a minimum wage for its female household service workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at 1,100 dirhams ($300) per month.

"The minimum wage will be 1,100 dirhams per month, besides provision of free food, accommodation and return airfare," the Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi on Thursday said, stipulating that only Indian women over the age of 30 could apply for such household jobs.

The intending employer in the UAE will also have to show that his minimum income is at least 10,000 dirhams ($2,723) per month, the embassy said.

According to the new rules, any intending employer will have to approach the Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi or the consulate in Dubai accompanied by an Indian national of good standing who would personally guarantee the character and social standing of the intending employer.”

This report and the new standards have great interest for the domestic workers and observers of human rights, particularly in the light of surveys that have reported cases of abuse and other forms of injustice. One such report is posted at this link.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Indian women.

Etiquette in the Emirates

Most travelers to a new country usually want to know what they must do or not do in order not to put a foot wrong and offend the locals.

The Mall of the Emirates posts a courtesy policy on its doors and it has a couple of points that are distinctive to the UAE.

The blue sign placed on the sliding glass doors advises visitors to:

"Please wear respectful clothing"
"No kissing or overt displays of affection"
"No smoking in the mall"
"No consumption of alcohol in the mall"
"No dangerous activities, i.e. sport games, rollerblading or skateboarding"

The first two rules are particular to the Emirates and perhaps different from etiquette in many western countries.

While ‘respectful clothing’ is not defined some guidelines might well apply from this post, What to Wear in the UAE.

Further explanations about this are given in an extended article by Mohammed N Al Khanin, 'Mall of the Emirates: No Kissing Please, You are at a Mall’, Xpress, 21 February 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Courtesy Policy, Mall of the Emirates.

Dubai Bridge: World’s Largest Arch Bridge

The new bridge in Dubai is as-yet-unnamed span but it will be the world's largest arch bridge when it is completed in 2012.

It will have 12 lanes to enable 2000 vehicles set to cross it—per hour, in each direction

At 670 ft. tall, Dubai's next super structure will stand higher than the George Washington Bridge (604 ft.) but fall short of San Francisco's existing Golden Gate Bridge (746 ft.).

Source: Matt Sullivan, ‘Dubai’s Mile-Long Super Arch Bridge Set for March Construction’, Popular Mechanics, 12 February 2008.

Images: The shape of things to come. Click on picture to Enlarge.

Sheikh Mohammed’s Ambitions for Middle East

In the Wall Street Journal Opinion section (12 January 2008), Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum outlined his ambitions for the Middle East and revealed more of his character. He said:

“But the ethos of Dubai was, and is, all about building bridges to the outside world; it was, and is, about creating connections with different cultures…”

“As a child, I learned how important it was to establish an enabling economy where the government provided incentives and an ethics-based regulatory environment, but left it to the inventiveness and energy of the private sector to expedite economic growth…”

“I am often asked, ‘What does Dubai really want?’ Well, here's my answer: ‘What we want is the continuation of a journey that began with my forebears. I truly believe that human beings have a tremendous capability of changing and improving their lot. Change and modernization are inevitable in this age of galloping globalization. But we in the Middle East need to continually and carefully calibrate that change in the public interest…’”

“I am also often asked, "What are Dubai's political ambitions?" Well, here's my answer: We don't have political ambitions. We don't want to be a superpower or any other kind of political power. The whole region is over-politicized as it is. We don't see politics as our thing, we don't want it, we don't think this is the right thing to do…”

“We are engaged in a different type of war that's really worth fighting -- fighting to alleviate poverty, generating better education, creating economic opportunity for people, and teaching people everywhere how to be entrepreneurs, to believe in themselves.”

“Humility and tolerance run deep in the Maktoum family and are very important in trying to serve one's people. I am anchored in that tradition, which is why my favorite activity is listening.”

The full text of this important statement can be read at this link:
Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Our Ambitions for the Middle East, WSJ Online, January 12, 2008, pA9.

Image: The Burj Dubai tower rises in Dubai. The world's tallest building since July 2007, it has also become the tallest free-standing structure on earth.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Masdar Model City is Environmental Extravagance

Masdar Designed to Lead the World
Much media hype surrounds the news of the UAE’s Masdar, projected to become by 2016 the ‘greenest city’ in the world. This new district, thirty kilometres from the city of Abu Dhabi will eventually be home to 50,000 people and 1,500 businesses. It will be waste and carbon free, due to the no car policy and the solar powering of its necessities.

A spokesperson for the Masdar development said that the new inhabitants of the city will have “the highest quality of life with the lowest environmental footprint. Masdar City will become the world’s hub for future energy. By taking sustainable development and living to a new level, it will lead the world in understanding how all future cities should be built.”

Environmentally Extravagant
Models can be helpful for enabling people to see and believe that a new way is possible. But is the building of this new city with its massive $20 billion price tag warranted to give a constructive lead to the world in environmental management?

According to the most recent figures the UAE has the unenviable reputation for having the largest ecological footprint in the world. While there are measures being implemented to address this high wastage of resources one must ask whether this fledgling nation is qualified to be a world leader in this sphere.

Centuries ago on the Arabian Peninsula the statement was uttered, “If someone forces you to go one mile [requirement], go with them two miles [choice].” What is being attempted in the Masdar experiment is to walk the second or fifty-second mile without walking the first mile in basic environmental responsibility.

While the announcement of Masdar has left many people in an afterglow, high energy consuming desalination plants are being proposed across the Emirates, mountains are being wrecked by the quarrying of rocks for city skyscrapers, polluted skies exacerbated by dust storms are choking the atmosphere at dangerously high levels and in many regions there are no adequate recycling services for paper, plastics and glass.

The Choice
If the residents of the United Arab Emirates were given a choice—spend $22 billion on creating an environmental model for 50,000 future residents who will live on six square kilometers or use $22 billion to provide basic recycling services, affordable solar panels for every household and effective measures to cut exhaust emissions that would benefit the almost 5 million current residents living on 83,000 square kilometers—what option would they choose?

When cost is no object to the UAE, the easy option is to construct a new city using expensive materials. How much better leadership might be given to the world if the UAE transformed an oil-guzzling and wasteful nation into an ecologically responsible country which recycled its precious resources and adopted environmentally clean sources of energy even while its oil wells were far from empty.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Masdar: A glimpse into what this city will look like.

More information about the Masdar City can be found at The Masdar Initiative.

A promotional video entitled ‘Masdar Initiative—World’s First 100% Carbon Free Community’ can be viewed courtesy of YouTube.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Gulf States Guzzling Gas and Oil

Kamel Al-Harami, says the Gulf must curb its oil demand.

The Independent Oil Analyst, says:

“The Middle East Gulf oil producers should do something about their increasing oil and gas demand. The demand of seven Gulf States, including Iran, is going to exceed six million barrels per day over the next few years. At such a rate, our own refining capacity may not cope with our rate of consumption which will reach nearly 30 per cent in the next two years. Today most Gulf States are net importers of oils, particularly of motor gasoline. Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Iraq are importing almost all finished petroleum products. Bearing in mind that Iraq is still not stable, its demand for oil in times of prosperity will be far more than that of Saudi Arabia and Iran. "

“We all know that China is the main factor behind the growing demand for oil but no one is publicly commenting on the growing demand of the Middle East Gulf countries whose annual demand is as big as that of China. China’s demand is growing at 6 per cent while our Gulf States are very close behind with 5 percent growth.”

Read this article further to get an idea of what Middle Eastern countries are paying at the gas pumps, in relation to other regions and the writer’s plea not to consume oil willy-nilly because it pours out from under their sand.

Link: Kamel Al-Harami, Gulf must curb its oil demand, Arab Times, 17 February 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “the writer’s plea not to consume oil willy-nilly…”

Young Muslims at a Time of Religious Revival

The first in a series of articles has appeared today in the New York Times, designed to examine the lives of Muslim young people across the Middle East.

“Here in Egypt and across the Middle East, many young people are being forced to put off marriage, the gateway to independence, sexual activity and societal respect.”

Link: Michael Slackman, ‘Dreams Stifled…’ New York Times, 17 February 2008

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Prayer in a Cairo Mosque (Photo courtesy of NYT)

Another Ski Slope for UAE

More artificial ski fields, more oil to burn, more of the environment getting wrecked.

Link: ‘Tamouh considers plan for ski slope at Jebel Hafeet’, Proposals Gossip, 15 February 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: There are more fields planned like this one at Ski Dubai.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

UAE Progress in Tackling Human Trafficking?

After a major international conference in Austria this week on Combating Human Trafficking how is the UAE fulfilling its pledge to tackle this issue in the Emirates?

It has made some steps and has even given a whopping US$15 million grant from the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi on behalf of the UAE for the conference.

But the UAE is not doing enough says some commentators and is in danger of being listed as one of the countries that is dragging the chain in fighting human trafficking.

More details from the AP report entitled, ‘United Arab Emirates Committed to Combating Human Trafficking Minister Says’ and lots more in depth resources on this massive international problem can be found on the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking site, and within this site the page headed ‘The Vienna Forum’.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Shaikh Mohammed’s Son Following in Father’s Steps

Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, wants to keep pace with his father’s giant steps towards the development of the emirate and the country, says a report in the Khaleej Times (15 February 2008), entitled, ‘Hamdan wants to follow in Mohammed’s Footsteps’. More about this ‘chip off the old block’, is in this article. The revolution looks to be continuing for some years.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Hamdan, also known as Fazaa.

Portraying Arab Culture Truthfully by the Reading of Good Books

The attacks of 9/11 and the constant use by the media of phrases such as ‘Muslim terrorists’ has bolstered suspicion and generated major misconceptions and biases towards Arabs around the world. What can hold back this Tsunami of prejudice?

An interesting article by Tami Al-Hazza and Bob Lucking, entitled ‘Celebrating Diversity through Explorations of Arab Children’s Literature’ suggests that a good place to start beaming a truthful portrayal of Arab culture is with children and a revolutionary method is through reading. This article has a comprehensive list of books that might be good to add to the library.

A comment on this article and a commendation of a book, ‘The Day of Ahmed’s Secret’, is given in the posting of Mary Ann Zehr entitled, Teaching Arab Stories and Counteracting Negative Stereotypes’.

Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai was right in his ground-breaking speech (28 October 2007) when he said that “knowledge and freedom are two sides to the same coin”, when he established new measures to combat illiteracy and urged the writing, translation and publication of good books.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Front Cover of ‘The Day of Ahmed’s Secret’.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Price and Process of an Emirati Wedding

The UAE gives nationals Dh70,000 to get married, but look at some of the costs that are making marriage in the Emirates an expensive business:

Centre Stage, tables, covers: Dh25,000
Wedding dress to rent: Dh5-20,000
Wedding invitations per piece: Dh10-100
Hair & bridal makeup: Dh2500-8,000
Drinks (non-alcoholic): Dh2,000+
Giveaways per piece: Dh10-100
Lighting & screens: Dh12,000+
Flowers: Dh5,000-1 million
Wedding album: Dh4,000+

Check out the detailed Gulf News article (15 February 2008-nicely timed to follow Valentine’s Day!) entitled, An Unaffordable Affair’, about the prices and the process of getting married Emirati style.

Conversion Rate as at time of writing:
100 Dirham= 27USD; 19EUR; 14GBP; 27CAD; 30AUD.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Wedding photo (courtesy of Gulf News).

U.S. Universities in the UAE

“When John Sexton, the president of New York University, first met Omar Saif Ghobash, an investor trying to entice him to open a branch campus in the United Arab Emirates, Mr. Sexton was not sure what to make of the proposal — so he asked for a $50 million gift.”

“It’s like earnest money: if you’re a $50 million donor, I’ll take you seriously,” Mr. Sexton said. “It’s a way to test their bona fides.” In the end, the money materialized from the government of Abu Dhabi, one of the seven emirates.

So begins an intriguing article in the New York Times (10 February 2008) entitled ‘U.S. Universities Rush to Set Up Outposts Abroad’.

Some of the ethical and legal challenges for the university outposts and the UAE government are stated in an earlier posting on this site entitled, ‘New York University, Abu Dhabi Campus Has not Clarified Human Rights Issues’.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Aisha al-Qaissieh is among the students taking an accounting class in Abu Dhabi offered by New York Institute of Technology, one of the many American institutions that are trying to become global universities.
Photo, courtesy of the NY Times.

Filipino Workers in UAE and the Gulf

You’ll see them in the UAE at the checkouts, the hotels and in thousands of homes serving as domestic workers. They are from the Philippines. They are extremely hard working, polite and proud of their home country.

Filipino Expats in the UAE reports:

“There are more than 150,000 Filipinos residing in the UAE and the population is
increasing every year with very few intending to go back home. Those Filipinos
who came in the 70s have established businesses, some brought in their families
and relatives while some have children who studied and set up family here. Some
even have three generations here.”

“In spite of the non-assurance of permanent stay in the UAE (there is no
permanent residency), Filipinos still flock to the country to earn good income
and consider the country as an ideal place to raise their family -- a concept
that is inevitable considering the unstable economic and political situation in
the Philippines.”

An interesting article, Migrants and Maids in the UAE, was posted earlier on this site concerning the Filipino diaspora—the amazing tradition of Filipinos going to many parts of the world to work and send money back to their families.

A recent Human Rights report has revealed the unfortunate abuse to which many Filipino maids have been subjected.

Significant Contribution to UAE Economy
How much money they send back from many countries of the world to the Philippines is reported in a newly (15 February 2008) published article entitled, ‘Filipino Remittances Set Record 14.4 Billion Dollars in 2007’. Here are the main details:

Overseas workers sent home a record 14.4 billion dollars to their families in
the Philippines in 2007, up 13.2 per cent from the previous year, the central
bank said Friday. The bank said the dollar remittances exceeded government's
forecast of 14.3 billion dollars for last year.

In December 2007 alone, remittances totalled 1.4 billion dollars, the highest
monthly total on record.

"Robust remittance flows in 2007 were due to continued demand abroad for
Filipino workers and enhanced remittance services provided by banks and non-bank
remittance agents," the central bank said.

According the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, 1.07 million
Filipinos found work abroad in 2007, up 1 per cent from the previous year.

The major destinations of the workers were Saudi Arabia, the United Arab
Emirates, Qatar and Taiwan, with professionals and skilled workers accounting
for the bulk of the new hires.

The top sources of remittances were
the United States, Saudi Arabia, Britain, Italy, the United Arab Emirates,
Canada, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Fun-loving Filipinos

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine’s Day in the Middle East

Readers might be interested to read these reflections on Valentine’s Day in Saudi Arabia, written by Rajaa Alsanea, who is a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry and the author of “The Girls of Riyadh.” Much of the description is similar to what happens in the UAE and in the Gulf region.

The article appears in the New York Times, 13 February 2008 and is entitled, My Saudi Valentine’. Here is just an excerpt:

TOMORROW will be my second Valentine’s Day in the United States. As I’ve discovered, the celebration here bears little resemblance to the one I know from growing up in Saudi Arabia.

Yes, there are dates. But in Saudi Arabia, we eat them. As for the other kind of dating — the kind that will fill restaurants here tomorrow night — don’t count on it.

Where I come from, dating in the Western sense is not acceptable, either socially or religiously. Though most Saudis sympathized with “the Qatif girl” — a young woman who was gang-raped while in a car with a male friend, then sentenced to 200 lashes for “mingling” — and relieved when King Abdullah pardoned her last year, that does not mean that sitting with a strange guy in his car is considered appropriate.

Some daredevils do meet in coffee shops or restaurants that have partitions to separate the tables so nobody can see the illicit couples. After all, being a Saudi means knowing what the rules are — and how to sidestep them without getting in trouble. But most young women prefer to get to know the guy through accepted channels like the Internet, friends, family or the phone.

These days, Saudi relationships start on Facebook or through Bluetooth. We “date” over the phone or by instant messaging, and we enjoy exchanging gifts — through our chauffeurs or housemaids….

The rest of the article can be found at this link.

Image: There will be no red roses in Saudi Arabia as the government bans St Valentine’s Day calling the celebration of it as a sin. For more see, ‘Saudi Arabia Bans all things Red Ahead of Valentine’s Day, CNN, 12 February 2008.

Dubai World: 40 Square Kilometres of Homes, Shops and Golf

Can you imagine an area twice the size of Hong Kong which will add 40+% to the existing number of retail outlets in Dubai, which today stands at 3,500?

For more details, read the latest report (14 February 2008) from AMEINfo.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Photo of the model depicting the various districts and the six runway airport.

Stocks and Shares in the Emirates

New stocks in the UAE and region are a fertile ground for intrepid, international investors say’s CNN’s article today entitled, ‘The Stockpickers’.

Cost of Living in UAE Too High

An article in today’s (14 February 2008) Gulf News records the financial woes of many people across the UAE who confess to the impossibility of making ends meet. The report entitled ‘Families Struggle to Provide Basic Needs’ says in summary:

“A 36 per cent hike in the price of basic commodities in less than a year has added to the heavy burden of many families across the country, struggling to make ends meet, according to figures compiled by Gulf News.”

Late last year the UAE government authorized a whopping 75% salary increase for workers in the government sector. It was hoped that this initiative would take effect early in 2008 and would also urge CEOs in the private sector to follow suit.

The huge salary increase has probably caused prices to soar beyond the significant increases of this last year but when non-government workers have not received a sizeable increase and they are also experiencing a drop in the real value of the dirham when they wire this home to relatives or to pay off their mortgage, they face an uncomfortable squeeze.

As a writer on issues to do with the Emirates and Fujairah, I get many enquiries from people in different parts of the world about living the UAE—questions about lifestyle, climate, safety and education—but one of the increasingly voiced questions has to do with the cost of living. Is it worth it to uproot and come and work in the UAE?

Unfortunately many expatriates who have made a significant contribution to the development of this fast-growing country have decided that it is not worthwhile any longer working in the UAE and are looking for job opportunities in other countries.

Gulf News has a very good series entitled, In Depth: UAE Cost of Living, which covers the costs and related issues to do with commodities, education and accommodation in the Emirates.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Rising prices (graphic courtesy of Gulf News).

UAE Showcases World's Largest Gold Coin

The UAE loves to be associated with the biggest, the brightest and the richest so it is not surprising that Abu Dhabi, ‘the richest city in the world’, is exhibiting this treasure.

Here is a report from Coin News about the UAE exhibition:

Over the weekend the Royal Canadian Mint (RCM) exhibited the world’s largest gold coin in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Guinness World Record gold bullion coin:
* Has a $1 million face value
* Weighs in at 100-kg (220 pounds)
* Contains 99.99 percent pure 24-karate gold [don’t you love that ‘karate’ gold?!]

The coin was shown in the Canadian Embassy at a reception to further pursue new business opportunities. Royal Canadian Mint President and CEO, Ian E. Bennett, said:

"The Royal Canadian Mint is delighted to come to Abu Dhabi to showcase the world’s best and most exclusive gold bullion coin to the people of the United Arab Emirates. The Mint senses strong business opportunities in a market with such a high concentration of sophisticated investors. We are confident that our superior gold bullion products will more than meet their high expectations.”

Coin News also has embedded on its page a more detailed article from Al Bawaba news article, Royal Canadian Mint displays the world’s purest, largest and highest denomination gold coin in the UAE.

Further details about the coin when it was first unveiled can be found from Wiki News.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Heads and tails.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

National Sport of the UAE

Rugby for New Zealand
Football for Brazil
Ice Hockey for Canada
Sumo wrestling for Japan

But what is the national sport of the United Arab Emirates?

Juliana Rincón Parra, in her Global Voices Online article, entitled, National Sports: Unique Expressions of Countrywide Pride, votes for camel racing and includes a short video of this sport which is also staged in neighboring countries such as Qatar.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Camel racing with robotic jockeys.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

English Idioms in the Emirates and Dubai Speak

Hannah Allam in her Middle East Diary has written a stimulating and humorous post entitled Dubai Speak.

You may have heard the terms ‘Emiratization’ and ‘The World’ but are you familiar with commonly spoken phrases in the UAE such as ‘visa hop’, ‘shag pad’ and ‘the hole’ (or in Fujairan phraseology ‘the hole in the wall’?

Extend your Emirates vocabulary and add to this commencement of a UAE dialect by checking out Hannah’s post.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: ‘Modhesh’ (‘amazing’ in Arabic) is one of Dubai’s overworked mascots.