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

Friday, October 31, 2008

Development of Dubai Golf Tournaments

An International Herald Tribune article offers some thoughts on the development of golf in Dubai, the ‘brashest of the Gulf States':

Here is a taster of the Tribune article:

“European tour officials have settled on a place with an even milder climate this time of year and much more cash flow. That would be Dubai, the brashest of the Gulf states that keep reeling in international sporting events or, failing that, creating them from scratch.”

“A few weeks of slumping oil prices are hardly enough to reverse the trend, but then Dubai, with reserves that are inferior to those of some of its large and small neighbors, has long been busy diversifying its economy away from energy.”

“It already has a star-stocked golf tournament called the Dubai Desert Classic and close ties with Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, who both have been hired to design courses in the emirate. Now, it will have an even better-stocked tournament with much more sporting significance, as it will be the season-ending event of a five-continent circuit dubbed - what else? - "The Race to Dubai." (What would the sports world do without branding consultants?)”

“The top 60 players in the European Tour standings will take part in the Dubai World Championship in November 2009, a tournament that will have $10 million in prize money and divide another $10 million in bonus pool money among the top 15 finishers in the season standings.”

To read the entire article:

Christopher Clarey, In Spain, Grim News and Changing Times, IHT, 31 October 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Seve Ballesteros of Spain

Kylie Should Be So Lucky Launching a Dubai Property Development

Updated article on Atlantis Opening.
Kylie Minogue is to be paid about $4.4 million to officially open the $1.5 billion Atlantis Hotel on November 20 in Dubai. She will be the star in this $35million launch with the price tag for the fireworks being a mere $6.58 million. It is a pity that marring the build up is the controversy over the confining of a whale shark in the hotel’s aquarium.

Dubai developers recognize the value of having a celebrity name like ‘Kylie Minogue’ associated to lend their success and help sell their wares.

The support of Tiger Woods is selling expensive memberships for the Dubai Golf projects which are part of Dubai City.

The 18-hole Ernie Els gold course in Dubai Sports City opened in January.

David Beckham and 12 other members of the 2002 England World Cup team, were given hefty discounts on some of the best villas on Palm Jumeirah.

The Bollywood star, Salman Khan, launched the Hydra Twin Towers at Jumeirah Village and bought a bunch of flats in the development.

Other projects include the Michael Schumacher Business Avenue, the Boris Becker Tower and the Niki Lauda twin skyscrapers.

Celebrities enjoy giving momentum to the Dubai boom. It will be interesting to see what they do with their names when the development slows and the shine wears off.

Read the entire article at this link:
Michael Prowse, Why Kylie is Launching a Dubai Property Development, Times Online, 31 October 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Is it a Wind Turbine, a Giant Socket Wrench or a Spin Washing machine? No It’s Another Dubai Skyscraper

The latest in the ‘look at me, look at me’ line up is Anara Tower. It is not trying to be the tallest as it will appear stunted (only 2,150 feet), 500 feet shorter than the Burj Dubai.

The Anara signature will be the architectural zaniness with the propeller at the top and the glass-enclosed restaurant. The rest will enclose the 300 expensive apartments, 250 luxury hotel rooms and gardens on all of its 27 floors.

Anara’s sponsor is the Emiratí company, Tameer, and the design is the work of the British firm Atkins.

To see more pictures follow this link:
Anara Tower.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: The Anara Tower.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Aussies not Happy With Flood of Foreign Horses at Emirates Melbourne Cup

Dubai ruler HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, recently snaffled the prestigious Caulfield Cup with his horse, ‘All the Good’.

This was seen as a good sign for the Godolphin Stable because the Caulfield Cup is a major lead up race to the November 4 Emirates Melbourne Cup.

Foreign Raiders of the Cup and $5.5 mill Prize
According to a Herald Sun report, Aussie horse owners and trainers such as Bart Cummings are getting grumpy at this year’s record number of nine foreign-owned horses coming to Melbourne as ‘raiders [to] target our greatest race.” The sport as the big race is approaching is ‘spot the Aussie’ horse.

The same article says that the race is open to all-comers but foreign horse owners pay their own way (unlike the Dubai Cup where all expenses are paid by the hosts) and it costs them about $100,000 a horse.

Over the years the best international horses have enhanced the standard of the race and are now drawing more than 400,000 people to the Spring Racing carnival in Melbourne every October and November.

More Than a Horse Race
Most Melburnian race goers don’t worry about the horses on the track. There are so many other attractions—BBQ’s in the car park, fashion parades, fine food and champagne and this year even foot massages and saunas (in the Saab marquee).

Check out this video and have a ‘Peek Inside the Birdcage Marquees’ around the Flemington Racecourse.

But There is More…
Since the original lineup was announced local hopes in the Melbourne Cup have been delivered a massive blow, with last year's champion Efficient ruled out of Tuesday's race.

Furthermore, a big fight has broken out between Racing Victoria and the jockeys who, according to a report in the Melbourne Age (31 October 2008), have been criticized for “incessantly whingeing about one thing or another.”

Tail End
Emiratis can’t get to cocky or confident about their representative as the most recent news served up by The National and The Age (30 October 2008) says “The Dubai-based Godolphin stable could be without their main hope for the Melbourne Cup after All The Good shows stiffness.”

Australians and Emiratis will be very interested this Tuesday in the two-horse race in the USA, between the young stallion (Obama) and the old work horse (McCain) but for at least five minutes all eyes will be down under on “the race that stops a nation.”

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: All The Good crosses the finish line to win the Caulfield Cup on 18 October. Can the horse do the same on Tuesday? Photo courtesy of John Donegan and The Age)

Whale Shark at Dubai Atlantis Hotel Making Waves Around the World

See 20 November 2008 Update
As an indication of the Atlantis Hotel whale shark ruckus rippling around the world, the Boston Globe and the Washington Post have a full length article on the issue.

The article says:

“An Emirates-based newspaper, the Gulf News, is waging a Free Sammy the Shark campaign. Editors said they named the shark before the hotel disclosed it was female.”

“Emirates residents started a Facebook campaign that has attracted more than 8,000 members. "This poor whale shark was caught off the shores of Dubai and needs to be put back where it belongs before she dies," its mission statement declares.”

“The shark has spent more than 50 days behind glass.”

“Animal advocacy organizations, marine science associations, and hotel industry publications have condemned Sammy's confinement. “

“The Atlantis and the Environment Ministry say the captive shark is educating the public. In the hotel lobby, however, neither signs nor guides identify the shark for the tourists who pass through.”

This publicity is not helping the Atlantis Hotel resort, Nakheel, the developers and the image of the United Arab Emirates.

Even the Boston Globe and Washington Post are weighing in on the fishy controversy with the sub-title, ‘Debate suggests culture of excess has its limits’.

To read the entire article, follow this link:
Ellen Knickmeyer, Rare Whale Shark Held at Dubai Resort Making Waves, The Boston Globe, 30 October 2008; Washington Post, 24 October 2008.

What do you think about keeping this whale shark in the Atlantis aquarium?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: The Atlantis resort's captive whale shark, dubbed Sammy by news media, swims in a lobby aquarium also viewable from $7,500-a-night suites. Animal rights groups and scientists have condemned the confinement of the shark. (Courtesy of Kamran Jebreili -- Associated Press and from the above links)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Heavy Censorship Makes UAE One of the Worst Countries for Bloggers

Expert online entrepreneur, Daniel Scocco, who edits the popular blog, Daily Blog Tips, declares that the UAE is one of the ‘Top 10 Countries Censoring the Web.’

Coming in at fourth position on his list, Scocco says of the UAE:

The Rundown
The United Arab Emirates is one of the most connected countries in the Middle East. Despite that fact, the country tries to control heavily the flow of information on the web. Virtually any website containing ideas or information that goes against the political, moral or religious values of the country is blocked.

How does the censorship work?
All the telephone and Internet services used to be provided by the state-owned company Etisalat. In 2006 The United Arab Emirates started liberalizing the telecommunications market, but they still have a strong hand on it.

They are therefore able to control and filter most of the Internet traffic. Curiously enough, in 2002 a survey found out that 60% of the Internet subscribers approved the filtering of online content at ISP level.

What kind of content is blocked?
The United Arab Emirates is concerned with protecting the moral and religious values of the country mainly.

As such, they extensively filter websites that contain pornography, that are related to alcohol and drug use, gay and lesbian issues, online dating and gambling.

To read about other countries in the decalogue with which the UAE is associated:
Daniel Scocco, ‘Top 10 Countries Censoring the Web’, Daily Blog Tips, 29 October 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Australians Told to be Wary and Astute When Buying Property in UAE

In a Sydney Morning Herald article (29 October 2008) Mark Armstrong gives Aussie buyers advice on buying property overseas and some specific words about buying in Dubai.

In general Armstrong says:

1. Buying overseas carries a high degree of risk.
2. Research the market in person or engage someone with local knowledge.
3. Understand the financing, purchase and negotiation processes.
4. Get to know the legal and regulatory environment.
5. Find out about your tax liability in the country of purchase, and in Australia.

Property in Dubai
One of the specific things Mark Armstrong says about buying property in the UAE is this:

“The regulatory environment in other countries may be different. In Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, for example, foreign owners are limited to new and established property in high-rise towers, along with a few designated enclaves where they are able to buy established property.”

To check out all the property purchasing tips:
Mark Armstrong, Be Wary When Buying Properties Abroad, SMH, 29 October 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: The Opus Tower, Dubai.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Christina Aguilera’s Performance Confuses UAE Conventions

No wonder many tourists to the United Arab Emirates get confused. Conflicting stories and court decisions abound concerning local law and etiquette to do with dress, decency, touching, the meeting of single people, drinking alcohol and eating food.

Thousands of internet sites are blocked in the UAE because their content is deemed “inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates.”

Then performers like Christina Aguilera perform in the UAE capital and images of her dress or lack of dress and sexy stage moves are beamed across the world from the iconic Emirates Palace sending mixed messages about what is haram and what is acceptable.

This article is not a criticism of Christina Aguilera. On the contrary, her journey to success despite a troubled family life, ostracism by schoolmates and her peers is inspirational. She has been blessed with an amazing vocal range, musical versatility, striking looks and a remarkable creativity in reinventing her image throughout the years.

Those who sponsored her visit to the Emirates would have been under no illusions as to what they were getting on stage when Christina accepted the invitation.

Imagine the confusion experienced by thousands of international readers concerning the “religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates” when they ponder Aguilera’s Abu Dhabi performance through the reviews they read, the pictures they view and the video of the concert highlights.

Take this statement (27 October 2008) posted on the British site Entertainment Wise and headed up, ‘Christina Aguilera Gets Dirrty in Abu Dhabi’.

“Christina Aguilera showed off her amazing post-baby figure in a set of raunchy outfits whilst performing in the United Arab Emirates.”

“She may have just given birth but the new mum hasn't toned down her revealing stage costumes and sexy dance routines.”

“The Stronger star wowed the crowd at her Live In Abu Dhabi show in a barely there leopard print leotard.”

“She also donned a sparkling all-in-one ensemble that showed off her busty E-cup cleavage.”

Readers were also invited to view the photos from Aguilera’s ‘eye-popping performance’.

Again, there appears much that is commendable about Aguilera’s appearance, music, dance moves and her ability to wow the UAE crowd.

However the ‘raunchy outfits’, ‘revealing costumes’, ‘sexy dance moves’, the ‘barely there leopard print leotard’ and the exposure of ‘her busty E-cup cleavage’—none of which was toned down because of her new mother status or her new UAE location—tell the world that what goes on in New York and London is acceptable in Abu Dhabi.

In the UAE there is a recognized conservatism in morals and strictness about dress and appearance but these codes are observed and the law applied only some of the time.

By all means be conservative, moderate, open or liberal but whatever position a country takes, clear information about what is acceptable and consistency in standards will always be greatly appreciated.

What do you think about this issue?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Christina Aguilera performing in Abu Dhabi.

The Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi Aims for World Record

Abu Dhabi is applying to the Guinness Book of Records for acknowledgement of a new building in the capital as the ‘World's most inclined tower’.

Developed by Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC) and designed by RMJM, the new building is known as Capital Gate and it leans westwards by 18 degrees. In contrast, the leaning Tower of Pisa leans less than four degrees.

Simon Horgan, chief executive officer of ADNEC Group, said, “Capital Gate will be a building that the world will talk about, not because it has surpassed another building as the world's tallest, but because of its aesthetic splendour and technical achievement.”

Capital Gate will also feature 728 custom-made diamond-shaped glazing panels, each fitted at a slightly different angle due to the structure's curving shape.

The tower forms part of the Capital Centre development - a $2.2bn business and residential micro city.

Source: Capital Gate Set to Enter Guinness Book of Records as ‘World’s Most Inclined Tower’, ADNEC, 27 October 2008.

What is your favourite tower or building in the Emirates and why?

Dubai Tower, ETE.
Burj Dubai, ETE.
Man Jumps off Burj Dubai, ETE.
Emerging Architecture in the Emirates, ETE.
Top Ten for Architectural Excellence in the UAE, ETE.
UAE Architecture: Not all Visitors are Favorably Impressed, ETE.
Burj Dubai: Another Tower of Babel, ETE.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: The Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi.

Monday, October 27, 2008

First a Ski Slope Now an Ice Rink to Chill Out in Dubai

It feels incongruous dressed in ski clothes, hurtling down the ski slope in Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates while it is 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) outside.

Now Dubai is once more going countercultural with the development of an Olympic-sized ice rink as part of the new Dubai Mall.

The 1.5 inches (38 mm) thick ice will provide the cool platform for up to 2,000 visitors at a time to enjoy a two hour session on any day of the week.

The largest mall in the world, the Dubai Mall, is billed to open on 30 October 2008 with 12 million+ square feet, 1,200 stores and 16,000 car spaces. It is expecting 35 million visitors in its first year of operation. This Dh 2.6 billion project at the heart of the Burj Dubai will be the largest commercial centre in the UAE.

More About:
Dubai Ice Rink, Press Release, Dubai Mall, 20 June 2008.
Ice Rink Technical Details, AME Info, 26 October 2008.
Dubai Mall Web Site.
UAE Malls: Shopping the Emirates, ETE, 4 April 2007.
Skiing in Dubai! ETE, 25 March 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Ice rink in the Dubai Mall.

Oversupply of Bankers in Dubai Amid Tough Financial Times

“Dubai is no longer a haven for investment bankers. When heads started to roll last year in London and New York, the joke used to be: ‘Shanghai, Mumbai, Dubai or Bye-Bye.’ Not anymore. Now, bloated investment banking teams sitting in some of the world's most expensive office space look set for a downsizing.”

To read the entire article:
Una Galani, Dubai Loses Status as Haven for Bankers, IHT, 27 October 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Part of the range of Investment Banks.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Development Then and Now in Dubai

Tom Fletcher’s Essential Architecture web site has some fascinating pictures taken in 1990, 2003 and 2008 of a street in Dubai plus many other shots of architectural landmarks in the Emirates.

No wonder the pictures are supplemented by words and phrases such as ‘crazy’, ‘Dubai is Nuts’ and ‘What the hell is going on there?’

What is your response to Dubai architecture as you see these pics?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Dubai over the years.

UAE First to Have Internet Domain Names in عَرَبيْ Arabic

The UAE is aiming to become the first country worldwide to offer complete Internet domain names in a language other than English.

The target for starting to implement full Arabic domain names is the third quarter of 2009.

Always besotted with world records the UAE is hoping to be the first country in the world where a complete non-English domain name would be available and it is keen that this record be won with domain names in عَرَبيْ (Arabic).

Nadia Saleem, UAE Set to Change Domain Name Norm, Gulf News, 25 October 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: "Internet domain names in عَرَبيْ (Arabic)."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

HH Sheikh Mohammad Wins Best Website Award

The official website of His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has won the award for 'Best Website' in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa at the Vignette Excellence Awards.

The awards are presented annually to customers who employ Vignette technology to deliver the web's most compelling and useful online experiences.

Source: Sheikh Mohammed’s Official Website Wins Award, WAM, 23 October 2008.

Further on Sheikh Mohammed:
His Horse Wins Prestigious Caulfield Cup, ETE.
One of the 75 Most Influential People of the 21st century, ETE.
Questions and Answers about Sheikh Mohammed, ETE.
His Thoughts on the Environment, ETE.
Sheikh Mohammed the Poet, ETE.
Most Powerful Figure in Horse racing Industry, ETE.
His Ambitions for the Middle East, ETE.
His Commitment to Knowledge and Reading, ETE.
His New Website, ETE.
On Dubai Going Green, ETE.
Sheikh Mohammed Appears on 60 Minutes, ETE.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Glimpse of Sheikh Mohammed’s Website.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Speed Limiting Devices on All UAE Cars the Answer to High Accident Rate

The National (16 October 2008) reports that Abu Dhabi taxi drivers will be prevented from exceeding 120kph with the introduction of speed-limiting devices in their vehicles.

This is a good move but why apply it only to taxis?

Speed-regulating devices should be fitted to all cars on UAE roads to reduce the accident rate and save lives.

Surveys on the reasons for the UAE having one of the highest road accident rates in the world have been conducted regularly and have usually pinpointed carelessness and excessive speed as the greatest factors.

Brigadier Mohammad Saif Al Zafein, Director of the Dubai Police Traffic Department, was reported this week (21 October 2008) saying that 211 people have died in road accidents in the past nine months and citing speeding as one of the chief contributors to the carnage.

Matthew Chung told his readers at The National:

“The device limits the flow of fuel to the vehicle’s engine when 116kph is reached, causing the car to level out at 120kph.”

“On the emirate’s motorways, where many drivers travel at speeds exceeding 160kph, the move would leave a taxi driver with little choice but to stick to the slower lanes.”

The speed-limiting devices would not only reduce the speed but curb the related practice of car chases that is a major cause of accidents and fatalities on the roads.

If this regulator was deemed to make a car unsafe it surely would not be fitted to taxis. The devices come with boosters for those times when a driver needs to accelerate out of danger.

Why ever would drivers need to exceed 120 kph when most UAE roads have a speed limit of 100 kph?

The proposal to mechanically limit the speed on all UAE cars to 120 kph is aimed to put public safety and the saving of lives above the need for personal freedom.

More Articles on Driving in the UAE:
The Road: The Most Dangerous Place in the Emirates, ETE.
UAE: The Tailgating Capital of the World, ETE.
The UAE Where the STOP sign Means GIVE WAY, ETE.

Check out this video of a new, £12 mill British car that goes faster than a bullet, or to be more precise 1,000 mph. This says something, not only about record breaking but the common addiction to speed.

What do you think about putting a speed regulating device on all vehicles in the UAE?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Scenes from UAE roads.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bodies, Bikinis and Breast Feeding in the UAE

The recent ‘Sex on the Beach’ case has made many tourists jittery about what behavior is acceptable and what will be punished severely in the UAE.

Prior to this well-publicized case one of the most frequently Googled questions by prospective tourists is ‘What do I wear in the UAE?’

Many articles have been written about the dearth of information regarding UAE dress codes and the conflicting standards that have provoked much international discussion and confusion.

Beach Wear, Bikinis and Bodies
There has been universal condemnation of the practice of copulation on the corniche but what is the dress code for bathing or walking beside the sea? Generally on streets, in shopping malls and in public places modesty is the watchword for women—no plunging necklines or slit skirts. Interestingly sleeveless shirts or tank tops are a No, No and if women expose their shoulders and ankles they are likely to hear passersby mutter the word, ‘Haraam’ (Arabic: حرام‎)—forbidden.

At public beaches the dress code is more relaxed and at hotel beaches (private) and around the hotel swimming pools, bikinis are acceptable. Some women go topless sunbathing on private hotel beaches in the UAE as is often the custom on the beaches of the Mediterranean. It is difficult to know if such an act would be punished if police were on patrol or whether the private nature of a hotel beach somehow makes the area an international enclave.

It would be good to follow the recent example of Indonesian lawmakers who have clarified the law for their people and tourists in deciding that bikinis are acceptable attire for beaches in the mainly Muslim country.

Sharjah, Saris and Staring
Another complicating factor is the matter of regional differences. For instance the emirate of Sharjah has stricter laws controlling dress.

The Decency Law of Sharjah throws the book at women of any nationality wearing “indecent dresses that expose the stomach and back, short clothing above the knees, and tight, transparent clothing that describes the body.”

This law includes a proper wearing of the sari which must cover the whole body, stomach and back.

More on the special strictness of Sharjah can be found at this link along with a discussion about staring. The question, ‘What do I wear in the UAE?’ is not just about what you can get away with but what style of dress is likely to attract the stares of some UAE residents.

Consistency and Clothes of Celebrities
One of the increasing gripes voiced in the Emirates is the inconsistency of applying the law especially in apprehending people who are breaking the local dress code. This is particularly apparent in the increasing number of celebrities that are courted by the UAE to provide entertainment and have their name associated with a new housing estate.

A case in point is the forthcoming visit of Christina Aguilera to Abu Dhabi. The newspaper and television advertisements of Aguilera on stage depict the entertainer wearing clothes and exposing flesh in ways that are clearly haraam. Is there a different law for celebrities who pull in crowds and who generate huge international marketing revenues for the UAE? If the UAE is really serious about dress that is “inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates” [this is the message Internet users get when they click on a blocked site] then should not this style of advertising be banned? Should not entertainers like Aguilera and their promoters be apprehended with even greater severity if they dress contrary to the UAE code, as they are firmly in the public eye, they are often performing from the iconic Emirates Palace and they are influential role models?

Another recently publicized example is the actor, Hilary Swank, who has been invited to promote the UAE property company Aquitainia, and will be in the country to help launch the US$1.49 billion project on The World Islands. A news article about Swank’s upcoming visit is posted on a Shariah Finance Watch site and is asking about the appropriateness of some of her costumes for wearing in the UAE.

Breast Feeding in the UAE
The confusion of prospective tourists and the thirst for information is evident in this question posted on a travel section of Times Online:

“We are hoping to travel to Dubai for a few days in January with our baby son, and although my husband and I have been to the Middle East before, we have a potential problem on this occasion.”

“Our son will be six months old by then, and I will still be breast-feeding him. I would obviously be as subtle as possible, but would even the idea of breast-feeding be offensive, in a café or restaurant, for example? We would not like to cause any offence.”

The Times Travel Expert gives this helpful reply:

“Dubai is less conservative than other parts of the UAE, but the advice from Dubai Tourism is that although there is no formal rule against breast-feeding in public, Muslim culture favours modesty and unnecessary exposure may cause offence.”

“Restaurants commonly have screened-off tables or compartments, typically for Arab women who do not wish to remove their veils publicly to eat, while hotels and shopping malls have mother and baby rooms. If you use those, you won't need to worry.”

Amidst the confusion that surrounds many of the issues about bodily exposure and dress there is a desperate need for consistency, clarity and comprehensive information. These are pressing challenges for the UAE government.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Range of style on and off the beach.

Monday, October 20, 2008

US Electoral Campaign Costs Make UAE Political System Attractive

Democrats are gloating with the news today that their nominee, Barack Obama, has raised a record $150 million in September 2008, pushing his total fundraising figures to $605 million. The money in the Republican war chest is significant but not as substantial.

Added to the expense of advertising and rallies for getting elected is the time spent in the marathon US electoral campaigns.

Think of how much money and time is spared in the UAE where hereditary Rulers are appointed by a small group, not by a vote of the people.

Americans may not want to emulate the Emirates and give away their freedom to vote but the time and money spent on the US campaign is obscene.

Both the length of the US campaigns and the monies raised should be significantly capped so the resources are devoted to getting the job done.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: US and UAE Leaders are appointed in different ways.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Forum for the Future Delegates Should Visit Streets not Stay in Palace

The fifth edition of the Forum for the Future attended by foreign ministers, state ministers and senior officials, from about 38 countries from around the world, begins its meeting today (19 October 2008) in the Emirates Palace.

What perspective will these leaders acquire about the future meeting in the most opulent and palatial hotel in ‘the richest city in the world’?

The leaders need to get away from the shine and the glitz of wealthy monstrosities and visit the refuges, the midnight streets and the squalid conditions of the labour camps in Abu Dhabi and Dubai that house the many who build the luxury edifices.

Where we stand determines what we see and what decisions we make about the future.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Emirates Palace and construction worker sleeping on the streets of Dubai.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

UAE Must Demand that China Grants Freedom to Muslim Worshippers

Recently the UAE has enjoyed successful trade visits with China but a new report on the growing restrictions on Muslims by the Chinese government calls for action demanding that all Chinese citizens are granted the freedom to practice their religion.

In a New York Times article entitled, ‘Wary of Islam, China Tightens a Vise of Rules’ (18 October 2008) the report notes in certain areas, including Xinjiang, Communist signs posted on the doors of mosques, restrictions on the length of an imam’s sermon (no longer than half an hour), prayers in public places are prohibited, residents in Khotan are restricted from worshipping in other towns, prohibitions against government workers and Communist Party members from going to mosques, official versions of the Koran are deemed the only legal ones, imams may not teach the Koran in private, studying Arabic is allowed only at special government schools, students and government workers are compelled to eat during Ramadan, passports are often taken to prevent Muslims going on the hajj and government workers are not permitted to practice Islam, which means the slightest sign of devotion, a head scarf on a woman, for example, could lead to a firing.

These rules have been in place for some time but the enforcement of these laws is stepping up, as are attacks against followers of Islam.

A top level, four day trade delegation led by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum in March 2008 resulted in the formulation of a new strategy to enhance business opportunities with China. This is bearing fruit as UAE-China trade exceeds well over $19 bill.

While human rights issues must be broached with great sensitivity, the UAE is building a strong relationship and is well positioned to speak up courageously, calling the Chinese leadership to grant all its peoples freedom of worship.

The full article can be read at this link:
Wary of Islam, China Tightens a Vise of Rules’, New York Times, 18 October 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: A People’s Liberation Army political poster in a town in Xinjiang, China, a region largely inhabited by Uighurs, an ethnic group uneasy with the government’s rule. (Courtesy of Gilles Sabrie and the NY Times at the above link)

Exploitation and Impoverishment for Builders of Skyscrapers in Dubai

Behind the dizzying construction boom in Dubai is an army of migrant laborers lured into a life of squalor and exploitation.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, is an Iraqi journalist and photographer who contributes to the Guardian and has been inside the labor camps to capture the lives of the Dubai laborers.

He tells the story of men working 18 hours a day, labor camps that are ghettoes hidden from tourists, basic facilities and food, buckets for washing clothes, dinner prepared in grease-blackened pans, up to 20 men sharing a room, broken promises, passports confiscated, feelings of imprisonment and all for 450 dirhams a month (US$122.00).

To read the story and view the informative photo gallery, follow this link:
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad Visits the Impoverished Camps for the Men Building the Skyscrapers of Dubai, Guardian, 8 October 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: At the end of long days, after up to 18 hours of work, they are taken back to the camps. (Photograph courtesy of Ghaith Abdul-Ahad and the Guardian from the above link)

New Porsche Sets High Standard in United Arab Emirates

The latest range of Porsche 911 Carrera and Carrera 4 has been announced.

The advertising blub makes these throaty sounds:
More powerful, fuel efficient, flat-six engine, greener fuel economy, lower fuel consumption, seven gears, traction management, larger brakes…

My wife knows that if anyone offers to buy us a new car my answer will be ‘Porsche’.

You know you want a new Porsche.

Check out the details and learn where you can order your Porsche in the UAE at this link:

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: This would fit so well in my garage, the new 911 Carrera. (Click on the photo to enlarge, look and lust)

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Horse Wins Australia’s Caulfield Cup

‘All The Good’, a 50-to-1 outsider co-owned by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, won Saturday's Caulfield Cup.

This is a good sign as the Caulfield Cup is a major lead up race to the prestigious November 4 Melbourne Cup.

The Melbourne Age stated that “racing superpower Godolphin finally claims a Group One victory in Australia.”

Further details:
Dubai Horse Wins Australia’s Caulfield Cup, IHT, 18 October 2008.

See photo gallery of the race, horses and fashion at this link in the Age.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Caulfield Cup winner ‘All The Good’ with strapper Muhammad Rashid from the Godolphin stable. (Photo courtesy of Vince Caligiuri at the Age)--Look at the teethy smiles!

Children Visiting Dubai

Q. I'm taking my six-year-old twins to Dubai later this month. We'll meet my husband there, and stay four or five days. Apart from the beaches, what is there to appeal to young children? Also, can you recommend family-friendly restaurants that cater to two fussy eaters? F Hollins, via email

A. Children are justly celebrated in Arab culture, and the United Arab Emirates is no exception…..

To read the rest of the recommendations:

What is there for children to do in Dubai? The Independent, 18 October 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Aquarium at the new hotel The Atlantis (Photo courtesy of the above link).

Friday, October 17, 2008

British Queen to Retire in Dubai

British queens typically don't retire to Dubai, but the Queen Elizabeth 2, arguably the world's most famous ocean liner, has never been typical.

The 40-year-old Cunard ship sailed out of New York harbour for the last time this week accompanied by the far larger Queen Mary 2 en route to Dubai where she will live out her years as a hotel.

"She will always be remembered as the best loved ship in the world and we are delighted that she will be cherished by future generations of travellers at her new home in Dubai," said Carol Marlow, president of Cunard Line.

To read all the details:
QE2 Ocean Liner Sails to retirement in Dubai, Reuters, 17 October 2008.

Update: Queen Falls to Ground but Does Not Hurt Bottom on Her Way to Dubai.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: QE2

Dubai the Most Overrated Tourist Destination on the Planet

Chris Guillebeau at the web site, ‘The Art of Nonconformity’ writes about ‘9 Overrated Tourist Destinations’.

Building to his climax or anticlimax he says:

“There’s one place over all the others, however, that wins the prize for being the most over-hyped city anywhere on the planet:

Dubai, UAE.
I enjoyed driving around the Emirates a couple years ago (there are seven of them – Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm Al Qwain – naturally, I went to each one), but my time in Dubai was surreal.

This is not actually that unusual, because most travelers end up thinking that Dubai is odd when they get there. The majority of the people you’ll interact with in Dubai are immigrant workers (English surpassed Arabic as the common language a while back), and seemingly permanent construction cranes fill the city. Yes, you can get anything you want in Dubai, but since sheiks and Russian billionaires use Dubai as a playground, it won’t be cheap. As for entertainment, there are shopping malls, shopping centers, shopping areas with fake ski resorts, and hotels with shopping malls enclosed within.

The Alternative: Oman, a nearby Persian Gulf country, is much more fun and a thousand times more authentic. Qatar is also OK, but seems to be on track to become another Dubai as soon as they can build a ski lodge and fake islands with huge hotels.

To read the entire article:
Chris Guillebeau, ‘9 Overrated Tourist Destinations’, The Art of Nonconformity, 17 October 2008.

What do you think about Chris Guillebeau’s rating?

What in your opinion is over-hyped?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Burj al-Arab Hotel, Dubai.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Jail for Sex on the Beach and Fine for Drinking Alcohol in UAE

According to AFP, a Dubai court on Thursday (16 October 2008) sentenced two Britons to three months in prison and ordered their subsequent deportation after they were convicted of having sex on the beach.

The judge also fined them 1000 dirham (272 dollars) each for drinking alcohol.

Issues In Focus
The much reported ‘Sex on the Beach’ case has highlighted the difference in cultures between the UAE and certain western countries. The drawn out legal affair has tarnished Dubai’s popularity as a tourist destination and left many prospective tourists with some questions and fear.

The case has brought to light the confusion of standards and values in the UAE, especially with Dubai’s bars and night life that is attractive to tourists and which tends to be often ignored by the police.

Dearth of Information for Tourists
There is a dearth of information about customs and laws in the UAE including the differences between the emirates such as is the case in the more conservative emirate of Sharjah.

As a country that often bills itself as a playground for tourists, the UAE must present clear and comprehensive information about the distinctive legalities especially to do with appropriate dress, consuming alcohol, Ramadan eating and drinking laws and single people being in the presence of members of the opposite sex.

Some UAE Information for Tourists and New Residents:
What to Wear in the UAE?
Etiquette in the Emirates
Drug Laws in the UAE: Travellers Beware!
The UAE and the Law
UAE Information: Essential Guide for New Residents to the Emirates

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: One example of Dubai’s bars and night life.

UAE Enjoys High Global Prosperity Ranking

Business 24-7 reports (16 October 2008):

“The UAE has been rated the best country in the Arab World in promoting prosperity and general satisfaction with life in a global survey of 104 states.”

To discover where the UAE is ranked in the world on the new Global Prosperity Index and reasons for its continuing rise, check out this comprehensive article by Waheed Abbas.

To read about what the UAE might do with its prosperity go to this link.

Dr Geoff Pound

John McCain Sours US Relationships with UAE and Other Countries that Don’t Like Us

The third and final US Presidential debate (15 October 2008) between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama in Hempstead, N.Y., had a focus on US domestic policy but there was allusion by Senator McCain that had damaging international implications.

Here is the pertinent reference from the written transcript and video of the debate:

MR. SCHIEFFER: The question was, what are you going to cut?

SEN. MCCAIN: Okay. All right. Energy -- on -- well, first --second of all, energy-independent -- we have to nuclear power. We have to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much.

Senator McCain proceeded to outline initiatives in alternative energy supplies such as wind, tide, solar, natural gas, nuclear, offshore drilling, in order to highlight the economic case for energy-independence.

But McCain sours international relationships with comments about “countries that don’t like us.” With the US reputation having plummeted around the world as sharply as the Dow Jones Index, John McCain does his chances little good to enhance the US reputation and he demonstrates his inadequate skills in international diplomacy.

This jibe in the Wednesday night Presidential debate before a huge international audience follows his comments in last Friday night’s about Arabs.

At one point, last Friday night, McCain passed his wireless microphone to a volunteer who said, “I can't trust Obama. I have read about him and he's not, he's not uh — he's an Arab. He's not — " before McCain retook the microphone and replied:

“No, ma'am. He's a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign's all about. He's not [an Arab].”

McCain appears to enforce the view that Arabs are indecent people that you cannot trust.

In whatever capacity John McCain serves in the future, while he may encourage trade with Arab nations he appears to have a problem with Arabs. He is not exhibiting the wise and peaceful diplomacy that the US and the world desperately needs.

John McCain: What is Wrong with Arabs? ETE, 14 October 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: John McCain at the third Presidential debate in New York. (Photo courtesy of AFP)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The UAE Fighting Poverty

Blog Action Day
Today (15 October) is Blog Action Day. Each year thousands of bloggers unite to discuss a single issue.

This year the issue is Poverty. The aim is to ‘raise awareness, initiate action and to shake the web.’

At the time of writing over 10,000 sites are participating with an estimated audience of over 11 million people.

UAE and Poverty
If you played the word association game and said to most people in the world the words ‘United Arab Emirates’ you would rarely get the associated response ‘poverty’. On the contrary, people would say, ‘wealth’, ‘oil’ and ‘glitz’.

The financial markets in the UAE have been affected by the global financial crisis but this country appears to be sheltered from the severe storms and buoyed by massive oil reserves.

Yet there is poverty in the Emirates and many articles have addressed the low wages and inadequate living conditions of Asian laborers who are working to build skyscrapers that are bringing wealth to the nation. Poverty must first be fought in our own backyard.

UAE and World Poverty
The leaders of the UAE have made huge donations in recent years to countries facing poverty and calamity. This generosity is to be applauded.

Getting involved with international campaigns such as Make Poverty History and pressing our own country to do more is one way of doing something about poverty in the world.

It was first said in this region: “To those who are given much, much shall be required.”

Hopefully out of the amazing resources of this country much will be given to make poverty history.

Poverty and the Personal
The immensity of poverty in the world often paralyses us and leaves us sitting on our hands.

It was that shrivelled up Albanian woman working in Calcutta who addressed this challenge and inspired so many with her actions and these words:

“I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time. I can only feed one person at a time. Just you begin...maybe if I didn't pick up that one person I wouldn't have picked up 42,000. The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if I didn't put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less.”

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Blog Action Day 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fujairah’s New Recycling Facility Turns Oman’s Waste into Wealth but Can it be Done in the Emirates?

The Times of Oman (via Zawya) is reporting a major advance in recycling and environmental concern in Oman that is made possible by a new company based in Fujairah, UAE.

The report from Muscat says:
“Tanuf (National Mineral Water Co.) has taken the lead as a major investor in setting up the first PET recycling facility in the region.”

“Horizon Technologies FZE (HTF) is the state-of-the-art PET recycling facility set up in Fujairah, UAE with an annual capacity to recycle 20,000 tonnes of Post Consumer PET Bottles (PCPB).”

“Tanuf joins the plastic recycling project of the Environment Society of Oman (ESO) and carries it forward by delivering the collected bottles to the recycling plant in Fujairah.”

“As part of the project, PET disposal bins will be placed at housing and commercial complexes, colleges, restaurants and commercial institutions. Tanuf has urged the residents of Oman to dispose off all types of PET bottles at the nearest Tanuf disposal bin and contribute towards reducing the carbon footprint. Carbon footprint is simply termed as the amount of green house gas emission resulting from activity consuming electricity and/or any type of fuel.”

“Nida Helou, ESO, manager said: 'The Environment Society of Oman is pleased to join hands with Tanuf to expand our recycling project. Recycling plastic saves raw materials, water and energy and hence contributes to minimising our ecological footprint. However, we cannot succeed in this initiative without the joint effort of each and every one of you. So help us make a difference by segregating your plastic bottles.'”

“PCPB will be collected from the bins, baled and shipped to HTF at Fujairah for recycling. The used PET bottles would then be recycled into flakes and pellets (RPET) for manufacturing value added packaging products for non-food applications such as PET containers and bottles, PET sheets and thermoformed products like egg trays etc. Recycling one tonne of PET saves approximately 5700 KWH of electricity and approximately 700 gallons of oil. For example, an empty 1.5ltr Tanuf bottle, if recycled, will save enough energy to power a 60W light bulb for approximately five hours.”

What About the UAE?
While there are recycling bins that have been placed at one or two educational institutions such as the Fujairah Women’s College (HCT), the UAE Municipalities, in partnership with the Emirates Environmental group must similarly provide bins at all housing and commercial complexes, colleges, restaurants and commercial institutions. At the moment, only the ardent environmentalists will take their plastics and newspapers to a College three miles away. Bins are needed alongside the existing rubbish skips and within easy reach of every home.

As is happening in Oman, the UAE also needs an extensive education programme to teach people about the dangers of throwing plastic away and the advantages that come to everybody when plastic and other waste are recycled for further use.

Recycle the Emirates
We have the rubbish—plenty of plastic everywhere!

We have in Fujairah this new and progressive company, Horizon Technologies, located in the Freezone by the Fujairah Port, that, since June 2008 offers state of the art recycling facilities. It has an enormous capacity to recycle all of the plastic waste in this emirate and transform it into new bottles and egg trays.

We do not have in the UAE the recycling bins and colour-coded (see picture) so people can separate plastics, glass, paper etc. This is a major missing link.

We do not have sufficient education that will train us all to move from a culture of chucking to conserving.

Oman Gives a Lead
It is ironic that Oman is moving strenuously in recycling and using Fujairah facilities while the UAE is lagging behind when it has a twenty-first century recycling plant at its own back door.

To read further:
Tanuf Sets up Disposal Bins in Oman to Collect Used PET Bottles for Recycling, Zawya, 13 October 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Recycling Bins at HCT Women’s College. To read more, follow this link.

John McCain: What is Wrong With Arabs?

Last Friday night (10 October 2008), at a high school gymnasium in Lakeville Minnesota, John McCain was addressing a campaign rally that began to get out of hand with denunciations of Senator Obama.

At one point McCain passed his wireless microphone to a volunteer who said, “I can't trust Obama. I have read about him and he's not, he's not uh — he's an Arab. He's not — " before McCain retook the microphone and replied:

“No, ma'am. He's a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign's all about. He's not [an Arab].”

It is heartening to see John McCain beginning to tamp down many of the outrageous outbursts and mistruths but on this issue he left himself with ambiguity and questions about his view of Arabs. The woman said, “He’s an Arab!” to which John McCain said, “No, ma'am. He's a decent family man…”

McCain appears to enforce the view that Arabs are indecent people that you cannot trust.

Supporters of McCain may say that McCain’s affirmation of Obama’s decency was made to counter the earlier assertion about trustworthiness but many times in this campaign McCain has himself challenged Obama’s honesty and hammered away at this issue of trust.

We all say things or omit things in the heat of the moment but John McCain and his campaign team have been on the defensive over criticism of audience outbursts and the whipping up of fear at Friday’s rally. They do not appear to have clarified McCain’s position on Arabs and the Arab world.

In whatever capacity John McCain serves in the future, while he may encourage trade with Arab nations he appears to have a problem with Arabs and he is perpetuating the dangerous and damaging stereotypes about Arabs that have been around for centuries.

To watch and hear the video clip, follow this link:
Obama is an Arab Says McCain Volunteer in Letters, YouTube, 10 October 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: McCain took the microphone from this woman who called Obama an ‘Arab’.

Gandhi Watching Gandhi Film in the UAE

Sir Ben Kingsley was guest of honor on Saturday 11 October 2008 at a special screening of the award-winning film, Gandhi, at the Second Middle East International Film Festival in Abu Dhabi.

Imagine what Mahatma Gandhi would say to the audience if was given a few words before the screening.

He would feel uncomfortable about being put up in the Emirates Palace like Ben Kingsley.

He would affirm Islam, highlight its commitment to peace and denounce acts of terrorism done in the name of religion.

He would be commendatory about the encouragement of women to serve in positions of the UAE government.

Visiting the ‘richest city in the world’ Gandhi would urge a life of simplicity and the wise stewardship of resources especially for the care of the poor.

Gandhi would admit surprise at the absence of elections in the UAE and the banning of peaceful protest.

He would ask serious questions about the low wages and poor conditions of many of his fellow countrymen who are building the skyscrapers and palaces in the cities of the Emirates.

He would urge UAE leaders to denounce war and be leaders in the cause of world peace.

What a good think for the film on Gandhi to be screened in the UAE. As Gandhi often said, “My life is my message.”

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Wikipedia.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Wikiquote.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Imagine Mahatma Gandhi in dhoti and shawl outside the Emirates Palace.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Swimmers at Dubai Beaches Going Through the Motions

The putrid news is reaching as far as Britain, according to the BBC. There is raw sewerage in the sea close to Dubai’s tourist beaches. If you can’t see it you can smell it.

While officially the beaches have been given a clean bill of health, independent tests around the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club show the water to be contaminated with bacteria and human faeces floating in the sea.

What is the problem with Dubai which relies heavily on its tourists to bring income?

The blockage is at Dubai's only sewage treatment plant where there are long queues and serious delays.

Drivers are paid by the truck load to collect waste from the city's septic tanks and they currently have to wait for several hours to dispose of their foul cargo legally. The Dubai sewerage system is constipated. The system does not have the capacity to receive and process the human waste that Dubai dwellers produce.

These truck drivers say they have a crap job at the best of times. But many of them are refusing to sit down on the job. In the secrecy of the night time darkness some drivers are taking a shortcut and dumping their loads straight into manholes meant only for rainwater.

The result is raw sewage flowing directly into the once-pristine blue sea of the Persian Gulf - right next to prime swimming beaches.

The faces of the authorities are flushed. The Dubai Municipality has imposed fines of up to $25,000 and threatened to confiscate tankers if the dumping persists. Many truck drivers have been caught in recent days.

Hopefully in time the problem will pass.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Raw sewage flows directly into the sea near Dubai's exclusive yacht club (Photo courtesy of BBC at the above link).

Dubai’s New Airport Terminal

Check out this photo gallery with description of the new terminal.

Dubai's state-of-the-art new terminal, The Age, 10 October 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Dubai authorities showcased a state-of-the-art airport terminal on Thursday, vowing "not to blink" in face of the global financial turmoil and to press ahead with their $6.7 billion expansion plans. Photo: Reuters

CNN Opens in Abu Dhabi UAE

CNN reports that CNN International is to start broadcasting live daily news programming from a brand new broadcast facility in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. This landmark move signals the global network's significantly expanded on-the-ground commitment to the Middle East and marks CNN's first regularly scheduled daily live show from the region.

The development is part of ongoing plans for CNN's new broadcast and production centre set to open in the Abu Dhabi Media Zone in early 2009. In addition to a daily local-primetime newscast, the new production centre in Abu Dhabi will provide the infrastructure for expanded newsgathering activities in the region. It enhances CNN's existing representation in the region which currently comprises news operations in Amman, Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Dubai and Jerusalem, and is part of the company's ongoing newsgathering expansion which over this year has seen more than 50 additional staff and more newsgathering operations in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

CNN's Abu Dhabi operation complements its ongoing presence in Dubai and will be a fourth international broadcast centre alongside the existing facilities in London, Hong Kong and Mexico City; and US production centres in Atlanta, Washington DC, New York and Los Angeles.

"Our UAE expansion is one of our boldest editorial undertakings of recent years and one that builds on our existing newsgathering heritage in the region," said Tony Maddox, MD CNN International. "For a global news organisation, the Middle East was the logical choice for an investment of this scale. Our new operation in Abu Dhabi will enable us to continue to meet and exceed the demands of our audiences at a time when many of our competitors are having to retrench."

The expansion cements CNN's desire for a broad presence across the UAE spectrum at a time when the Middle East is making headlines in the political, business and cultural arenas that are having a genuine impact on world affairs.

"With a successful long standing operation in Dubai, the natural next step is to have a base in the capital city," added Maddox. "We have long covered the Middle East region comprehensively on our air and now we will have the on-the-ground infrastructure to serve, support and facilitate that coverage to the next level through these complementary operations in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. This groundbreaking initiative allows us to put news from the Middle East right at the heart of our output in a proper reflection of the role the region is playing on the world stage, and is a significant plank of our ongoing newsgathering expansion."

In addition to the launch of live daily news programming, CNN will also move the production of its popular Middle East focused feature shows 'Inside the Middle East' and 'Marketplace Middle East' to the UAE.

The new CNN hub will be a custom built news centre overseen by the newly created role of managing editor CNN Abu Dhabi. The operation will house approximately 30 staff including a new CNN International anchor; and programming, production and newsgathering staff who will play a key role in increasing CNN's coverage of the Gulf region and the wider Middle East for all of CNN Worldwide's networks.

The new production centre in Abu Dhabi marks another significant step in CNN's content ownership strategy launched at the end of last year. This has seen the network invest heavily in new news operations around the world as part of its commitment to producing premium news content for its audiences across CNN's many platforms and services around the world.

The Abu Dhabi Media Zone provides premier production and technical support facilities to support the content creation and vocational training aspirations of media companies from around the world.

Reaching for a Higher Profile, Abu Dhabi Opens a Hub for Western Media, NY Times, 12 October 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Abu Dhabi Teams Up with National Geographic to Produce Films

National Geographic Entertainment and Imagenation Abu Dhabi are creating a 100 million dollar fund to produce 10-15 15 films over the next five years, a joint statement said on Saturday.

The venture will develop, produce, finance and acquire films that "focus on people's relationship to the world, their environment and each other," with the films having budgets of five million to 60 million dollars.

National Geographic Entertainment is a division of National Geographic Global Media. Imagenation Abu Dhabi is a wholly owned subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media Co.

If you were commissioned to produce some films on the United Arab Emirates on what themes would you focus?

Dr Geoff Pound

UAE Progress on Helping Visually Impaired Children

Kevin, in his blog, Teaching Visually Impaired Children, has an interesting post on progress being made in the United Arab Emirates on this important challenge.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: A transport facility is one of the essential services that brings children to the Al Noor Centre, Dubai. (Photo courtesy of Al Noor at the above link)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Video from Cityscape Highlights Business Developments in UAE

Marketplace Middle East (MME) speaks to some of the region's top property developers about the affect of the current financial climate.

To check out this video follow this link: MME

Dr Geoff Pound

Vote for Obama or McCain Even if you Live in the UAE

It is all a bit of fun for this is your chance to cast your vote for the next US President.

The Global Electoral College
The Economist has redrawn the electoral map to give all 195 of the world's countries (including the United States) a say in the election's outcome.

As in America, each country has been allocated a minimum of three electoral-college votes with extra votes allocated in proportion to population size. With over 6.5 billion people enfranchised, the result is a much larger electoral college of 9,875 votes. But rally your countrymen—a nation must have at least ten individual votes in order to have its electoral-college votes counted.

There are few countries whose votes in the Global Electoral College are a foregone conclusion. So the winner is unlikely to be decided by a small number of "swing countries". Rather, they will have to cobble together a coalition of small, medium and large nations. (A campaign stop in Beijing is recommended, as well as a tour of Africa.) Voting in the Global Electoral College will close at midnight London time on November 1st, when the candidate with most electoral-college votes will be declared the winner.

How is the United Arab Emirates Voting?
As at 10 October 2008 the UAE map was strongly blue—Democrat, supporting Barack Obama. Obama had 94% of UAE votes and McCain had 6%.

How is the World Voting?
As at 10 October the world map was predominantly blue—McCain had 23 Global Electoral College votes and Obama had 8,560. The figures are updates every three hours.

Go to The Economist web site and cast your vote (you need to do a simple and quick sign in).

Who is your candidate and why do you think he is the best choice?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Web page of The Economist, Global Electoral College—Vote 2008.

Kang Pacific Airlines Has Left Passengers Grounded and Without Refunds

In June 2008 it was reported that the entrepreneurial Paul Kang, CEO of Kang Pacific Airlines, had commenced a new route between Fujairah and the Philippines.

With all the marketing buzz surrounding this new airline and the UAE to Philippines routes many people purchased tickets but the planes are not flying and they have been left grounded and out of pocket.

Who is Paul Kang?
He is an Indian businessman based in Manchester, England who is owner of Paul Kang & Son [web site was not operating when access was attempted] which operates a ‘wide range of businesses’ including duty free shops. At one time he worked in aviation catering and then he owned a brewery business but he sold it to get into a new aviation venture. Like many tycoons he got the desire to start an airline and have a fleet of planes speeding through the air bearing his name.

Kang had a duty free shop in Fujairah where he got the idea of establishing Philippines to UAE flights in and out of the Fujairah International airport. Kang was planning to start flights from Clark Airport in North Manila (1 hr from the centre of Manila) to Fujairah and later establish flights to Singapore and Bangkok.

Initially on the Manila to Fujairah flight there would be a refueling stop in Dhaka (using MD 83s) but later he would use the 767 crafts and fly direct.

The Dubai Eye 103.8 Business Breakfast Show team interviewed Mr. Kang and you can listen to their grilling of the CEO at this link. They asked him many questions (with quite a skeptical tone) about why he thought his new airline would fly when so many airlines were going bust. Kang spoke of his research and preparation and his initial $6 mill investment that would soon be going up to $10 mill. One interviewer asked whether with rising fuel prices this was the right time to launch a new airline to which Paul Kang replied: “The time is always right if you play your cards right.” This airline business seems like a gamble but Kang is gambling with other people’s money.

One Prospective Passenger
Leonito Catubag, a Filipino living in the UAE, shares his story:

“I am one of the many customers who have been cheated by the Kang Pacific Airlines. On June 24, 2008 I booked and paid a ticket for my family. I paid KPA by visa credit card the amount of Dhs. 5,125.00.”

“On June 30, 2008, they sent notice that all flights were cancelled. KPA informed people to contact their office for the refund of the payment. Since June 30, 2008, up to this moment (1 October 2008), I have been calling, on a daily basis the KPA office and Mr. Paul Kang for the refund of my money but unfortunately KPA has not paid back the Dhs. 5,125.00. On August 30, 2008, Mr. Paul Kang switched off his mobile phone and there is no other way to contact him.”

“I went to the Fujairah Police on Sept 15, 2008. I met officer DEF [name withheld] and asked for help and all I need is to meet this Mr. Paul Kang and get my money back. But until now the Fujairah Police has made no progress in my request for help.”

“KPA has cheated customers and Mr. Kang deserves to be brought to justice…”

“I have a friend among others, Mrs. XYZ [Name withheld], who also paid cash and till now she had not been refunded.”

“According to one KPA employee, Ms. ABC [Name withheld], when the KPA office was still in operation, there was Dhs. 50,000.00 more or less that had not been refunded by KPA because Mr. Paul Kang stopped the refunding of the tickets. Apparently Mr. Kang just disappeared leaving no other way to contact him. The KPA office telephone is just ringing and nobody is picking up the phone.”

The CEO Has Flown
I have written a letter to Mr. Kang on behalf of Mr. Catubag asking for the money to be refunded to passengers and giving the courtesy of a reply. Mr. Kang was eager to hit the airwaves and market his airline earlier in the year but now his evasion, silence and desertion amount to illegal acts.

The UAE police must work hand in hand with police in Britain, the Philippines and other countries to track Mr. Kang down, bring him to justice and demand that all passengers get their refunds as soon as possible.

Mr. Kang has not played his cards right. He has gambled with the money of honest, hard-working people. He must be told that he has lost and the game is over.

If you also have booked and paid for seats on Kang Pacific Airlines and you have not received a refund do send me an email at geoffpound[@]

Note: Mr. Catubag has supplied me with the names of the KPA employee, the police officer and the other passenger cited but as I have not asked for their permission I have withheld their names.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Paul Kang (photo courtesy of Arabian Business which conducted an interview with Mr. Kang and posted this article in August before the business went belly up).