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

Friday, July 31, 2009

Baby Croc Causes Scare on Flight from Emirates to Egypt

Oman Sinan reports:

An official at Cairo airport says a foot-long baby crocodile wriggled out of a passenger's hand luggage and caused panic on a flight from the United Arab Emirates.

Read the rest of the story at this link:

Omar Sinan, Egypt: Foot-long baby croc causes scare in the air, Associated Press, 31 July 2009.

Aerially Related Articles
Can Emirates Airline Give a Safety Spiel Like this Rap Artist from South West? ETE.
Why Emirates Airline Flight Attendants are Flying High, ETE.
See if UAE Airports Make the World’s Worst and Best Airports to Sleep In, ETE.

Dr Geoff Pound

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

Image: Baby croc comes loose in hand luggage and fails to have its safety belt firmly fastened.

The Smart Cars We Soon Might Drive in the Emirates

With the cost of gas and the need to curb carbon emissions, the recommendations are flying around about the need in the UAE for electric cars and even hiring cars to get from home to public transport systems like the new Dubai Metro.

Someone rather humorously has come up with a Smart Car version of some popular car models.

Posted above is the Smorvette.

See the rest of the exciting range in my photo gallery at this Facebook link.

Dr Geoff Pound

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

Image: The Smorvette, just one in an exciting new Smart range.

Rental Cars and New Vehicle Designs Could Fix UAE’s Transport Challenges

I love TED Global Talks because TED's mission is about ‘Spreading Ideas’.

At a recent gathering of TED’s Talks, MIT’s Ryan Chin shared ideas about urban transport.

Do you reckon these ideas could help solve the energy and congestion problems of the big cities in the Emirates like Dubai and Abu Dhabi?

Here is a summary of Ryan’s talk, courtesy of blogger and TED Blog Assistant Editor, Matthew Trost:

“Today's automobile weighs 20 times its driver, MIT's Ryan Chin said. It takes up valuable urban real estate. It's designed to go 100 MPH, while its driver often needs only a quarter of that speed. The supply chain for its petroleum-based fuels is problematic. In New York City, 40% of total gasoline used by cars is wasted on drivers looking for parking spots.”

“Chin outlined two possible remedies: highly individual transit and mass transit. He looks at Taipei as an example of the former: Scooters are extremely popular there. But a huge "sea" of scooters is cumbersome.”

“Mass transportation, on the other hand, does not cover an entire city; it's inconvenient and inflexible. The "first mile, last mile" problem: How does one get to and from public transit?”

“Chin is designing a "Mobility-on-Demand" system of transportation, where users can rent electric cars, scooters or bicycles at hubs located all around a city.”

“Chin and his team are also designing vehicles. In his electric car, each wheel is a module that has independent steering, power and locomotion. Without a central engine or drive line, the whole car design scheme changes: you can now fold the car. Each wheel can turn 180 degrees, so the car can turn on its own axis, and move sideways.”

“These vehicles will be able to plug into renewable energy sources -- and sell unused energy back to the grid. Each vehicle will have GPS, so we always know where available vehicles are, where they're going. Chin proposed a variable pricing structure for his vehicle-sharing system -- based on the number of people waiting for vehicles, the number of parking spaces nearby, and proximity to any local rental hub.”

Can you see any of this having a useful application to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the Emirates?

See more detail on this and other summaries on TED Blog, 29 July 2009.

Monk Says If You Want to Find Yourself Don’t Use Google Search, TED Global, SFS, 29 July 2009.
Dr Geoff Pound

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

Image: TED Audience and presenter, Ryan Chin. (Photos courtesy of TED Global at the above link).

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hang Loose in the Untied Arab Emirates (UAE)

This news was Twittered this week by Joan of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Vancouver.

She wrote: “Biggest typo of the day—seen on the script prepared for broadcasting on Canadian radio: ‘The Untied Arab Emirates.’”

Joan said, it was her colleague, Craig, who made the Freudian slip or was he being prophetic?

Is the United Arab Emirates loosening up a little or do you think things are tightening up, what with law enforcement in regard to expat arrests and men in Sharjah having their jewelry confiscated?

Dr Geoff Pound

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

Image: Hanging loose in the Untied Arab Emirates.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Property Market Update in Dubai, UAE

Microscope on Dubai Market
Hand-in-hand with worldwide economic downturn is the expectation of bankruptcy, liquidation, mergers and acquisitions; and, likewise, in a bid to reach a (hopefully) smooth road to market and economic recovery, cautious lending and property valuations in the sales and rent markets.

Here we point the microscope at Dubai’s market.

Merging Markets
Two major property management and property development companies have been granted by the government the right to merge, which will bestow upon them a shared 70% control of the country’s mortgage market sector in order to stimulate lending and boost the Dubai real estate market.

Protection Regulations Implemented
Following suit, the regulatory authorities have recently intervened with the current economic crisis, formulating laws which protect property developers and shareholders under the threat of defaults and a moreover menacing, huge financial loss. Meanwhile, however, recovery of the property market will continue to be bound by the high rates that have been imposed (standing at 7.5% - 9%) by the mortgage market, where we see that lending is still being held on tight reigns.

Key Feats
Key feats within real estate strategising therefore include scraping the barrel somewhat. It has been noted that a trickle of houses for sale are now being put forward for auctioning by some real estate firms, whilst, although the situation is not as dire as it was in this year’s first quarter, property valuation is still dropping in some areas for the time being.

Promise of Recovery
It must be said however that, despite the current climate, there is promise of recovery as far as property valuation is concerned (supposing that the recently identified recovery of local stock markets is lasting, and that the economic situation does not take a further turn for the worst).

Rental Prices Lowered
Moving onto rental prices, the rates of apartments for rent in Dubai have lowered as job losses have increased. This is a state which will fluctuate in response to external factors such as future instances of job creation, the mobility and potential employment of residents belonging to nearby cities (given that the lower rent has become appealing), and the state of the capital market – all of which, of course, appear to be mutually vulnerable.

Government Protection Crucial to Recovery
Intervention from the government and the Dubai real estate regulatory authorities are crucial to ensuring that Dubai, and in particular Dubai’s property market, continues to thrive and hold a high position next to other economic centres worldwide; widespread are plans for various fiscal stimuli and the protection of local markets to ensure rates of inflation begin to grow upwardly and confidently at some point in the next year.

Sourced from research carried out by Hamptons International, residential estate agents specialising in UK and International sales, lettings and property management.

Dr Geoff Pound

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

Image: “There is promise of recovery as far as property valuation is concerned.”

The UAE Must Raise the Price of Oil for the Sake of Americans

Fill ’er Up
It does sound rather counter-cultural. $20 a gallon when you fill up in America is the recommended price.

This is not suggested because oil-producing Emiratis hate Americans. On the contrary, they may well show their love for Americans by bumping up the oil price. Here is the rationale.

Expensive Gas is Good for Americans
Author, Christopher Steiner, claims that higher gasoline prices will make the USA ‘healthier and safer’.

According to his calculations, for every $1 that gas rises at the pump, American obesity rates drop by 10% because people walk more and they don’t patronize the fatty, fast food, drive thru restaurants as much.

Steiner suggests there will be lots of other benefits and all in all, “the future will be exhilarating.”

From the Horse's Mouth
Read the author’s summary and promotional spiel.

Read some of the reactions that are posted on Metafilter, the site that alerted me to this wonderful new book.

Responses range from ‘interesting' (such a neutral word) to 'bullshit' (‘bovine excrement’ as Robin Williams calls it) and to 'wild speculation.'

As for me, I am yet to read and review this book but at the moment I accept this author’s theory 100%. It will be good for the UAE—we need some lifting from the financial doldrums—and it will be great news for all my American friends, colleagues and students. I want them to become healthy and I want America to become a safer country.

If His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum proposes a hefty increase in the price of UAE oil he has my vote and total support. Everybody is a winner. God bless the UAE and God bless America.

Are you in favor of this recommendation?

Dr Geoff Pound

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

Image: The cover of $20 Per Gallon.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Alarm at High Number of Australians on Wrong Side of UAE Law

Aussie Alarm
People in Australia have recently been learning that more than 90 of their countrymen and women have fallen foul of the UAE law since January 2008.

Many of the charges appear minor but news (27 July 2009) of the six month detention of two property executives in a Dubai prison has highlighted the issue for the Australian public and raised fears that many others will be locked up.

Some journalists are saying that Australians are being unjustly ‘caught in a corruption cleanup’ and quoting business sources who believe Aussies are being used as ‘scapegoats’ for the Dubai property downturn. Several stories are part of the popular Dubai-bashing genre with references to the Dubai ‘mirage’ and the city’s ‘supposed development miracle’.

Insights Arising
One’s heart goes out to people who may be detained or imprisoned unjustly but there are some important issues to note about life in the United Arab Emirates, especially if one chooses to live, work or establish a business in the country.

Through a Glass Darkly
It is difficult to get information in the UAE. In Australia there is a desire and a demand by the people that leaders and authorities be transparent. UAE leaders are not voted in by the people and protesting is illegal. There is a remarkable amount of trust shown by the people who believe that the Sheikhs will do the right thing, make wise decisions and disclose information when they judge it appropriate. Furthermore, it is against the UAE law to criticize the rulers and government authorities. The prevalence of high walls and veils symbolize the cloudiness and lack of clarity that abounds. Michael Palin’s comment about a neighboring country being a ‘land of secrets’, also resonates with life in the UAE.

Lost in Translation
The official language of the UAE is Arabic so when dealing with the police and other officials, non-Arabic speakers will automatically be at a disadvantage and this adds to the uncertainty and lack of clarity as to what is happening.

When in Rome
As a fundamentalist to moderate Islamic country, the UAE follows a version of the Sharia law. The differences between the law in Australia and the UAE are many (check out this summary for starters).

Australian journalists have rightly noted that in the UAE it is common for those facing criminal allegations to be held until charges are laid. This action also applies to many apparent minor breaches of the law. Sometimes when new staff are welcomed by their CEO or Director of the College they will be given his/her mobile phone number “just in case they end up in prison!” They will be told that if they are involved in a car accident they may well be detained in custody until the matter is sorted out or at least their passports will be taken, presumably so they will not flee the country.

Criminal Offences
What is pertinent in the economic downturn is that presenting a bouncing cheque, getting into debt and going bankrupt are often viewed as criminal offences, not commercial matters and these violations may lead to a prison sentence.

Far from being isolated and rare occurrences the official statistics issued in May 2009 and published by Dubai’s Gulf News, indicate “that 544,196 bad cheques were written in the first four months of the year across the UAE. On average, one of every 20 cheques written during that period was sent back by a bank marked ‘Refer to Drawer’ or ‘Insufficient Funds’.”

Zawya news service reports (20 July 2009) that mortgage default rates in the UAE could have gone up by almost 25 per cent in the past six months, according to analysts and that the situation is only expected to get worse in the coming months.

Such is the enormity of the problem that Gulf News has prepared an Interactive to inform people ‘What Happens When a Cheque Bounces in the UAE’, a video interview of a UAE lawyer who explains the consequences of a cheque bouncing and a video interview of a ‘bounced cheque suspect’ who explains his plight on condition of anonymity.

Go to Jail
A report in The National (26 July 2009) entitled, ‘Pay up or Go to Jail, Banks Tell Debtors’ cites some heavy-handed actions by UAE banks to get their money back. Some banks, however, are justifying their action because “the Emirates has no institutional framework, such as a credit bureau or a bankruptcy court, for dealing with bad debts.”

Go Directly to Jail
The threat of jail for non-payment of debts has led to numbers of expatriates leaving their cars at the airports and skipping the country. Defaulting on payments and skipping has in turn created a police crackdown and thus the vicious cycle continues.

Do Not Collect $300
A Gulf News article gives a telling case study of Mark, a British expat who, like many expats, moves to the UAE to make his fortune and overextends himself financially. Instead of skipping the country Mark ends up in prison due to bouncing cheques and debts. “I have no way of paying the money back,” he says. “I'm out [of jail] for the moment, but I can't get any access to funds. I have nothing, I'm living with friends and I'm going to go back in unless I pay it off - which I can't do.”

Online ‘Get out of Debt’ counsellors are working overtime advising expats how they can avoid getting jailed in Dubai for debts and answering queries such as ‘Will Banks in Dubai Hunt Me Down in Canada’ and demand the money or issue a warrant for their arrest.

Review, Honour Promises and Awareness
Judging by the discussion on this subject most people believe that jail is not the right solution and that laws regarding the bouncing of cheques should be reviewed. Most people believe that skipping the country and defaulting on financial agreements is also unacceptable and, whether there are changes or not, individuals and business owners need to be understand and abide by the laws of the land.

Dealing With Debt in Dubai, ETE, 14 February 2009.
Thousand Skip UAE Without Paying Debts While Honest Ones Pay Dearly, ETE, 25 May 2009.
Beware Bouncing Cheques in the UAE, ETE, 5 June 2008.
Australians Falling Foul of UAE Law and Tips for Tourists and Residents, ETE, 15 July 2009.
Essam Al Tamimi, Setting Up in Dubai- a Review, RBM, 26 December 2007.
Bryan Denton, Emily B Hager & Robert F Worth, Reporter’s Notebook: Dubai’s Car Culture on the Block (YouTube Video), The New York Times, 18 February 2009.

Check It Out
Check out the new site America’s Cup in the UAE.

Dr Geoff Pound

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

‘Shawarma’ Makes it to English Dictionary But What About These Arabic Words?

Huda Tabrez reports in the Gulf News that Shawarma (hear it pronounced), the Arabic fast food, has entered, along with 100 other words, into the latest edition of the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary but Gulf News readers are making a case for the inclusion of these Arabic words:

Khalass: Done; over; enough; finished.

Yalla: Let’s go!

Falafel: A fried ball or patty [thanks D].

Salah: Prayer

Bukra: Tomorrow (a little like the Spanish maƱana)

Majnoon: mad.

Fil mish-mish: ‘When the apricots bloom.’ Check link to see how this is used.

Mafee shai jaded: Nothing is new [Thanks Zahid].

Yakhi: Literally ‘my brother’ but colloquially, ‘bro’, ‘dude’, ‘guy’.

Shoo Hadha: Means ‘What is this?’

Zain: Fine; beautiful; wonderful.

Habibi: A term of endearment meaning Beloved; dear friend.

Mafi Mushkil: No problem.

Khalli Walli: Dismissed; Leave this.

Tamam: OK; good; fine; healthy; generous.

Check out the full article and offer your suggested words to be added to the English dictionaries at:

Huda Tabrez, 'Now, Say Shawarma in English', Gulf News, 17 July 2009.

Please leave a comment below if my definitions are not correct.

Learn Arabic in the UAE to Combat Alzheimer’s, ETE.
Learning Arabic in the UAE and the Gulf, ETE, 8 November 2007.
Why We Should Learn Arabic, ETE, 17 June 2008.
Spoken Arabic Step-by-Step by John Kirkbridge, Reviewing Books and Movies, 8 November 2007.
Teach Yourself Gulf Arabic, RBAM, 22 November 2008.
Goodword English Arabic Dictionary, RBAM, 9 November 2008.
Don’t they Know it’s Friday, RBAM, 6 June 2008. (Great book on customs in the UAE and Gulf region).

Dr Geoff Pound

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

Image: Delicious Chicken Shawarma.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Laying the Foundations for New York University Abu Dhabi

Foundations and False Starts
The National (24 July) posts the second part in the series written by John Gravois on the emergence of NYU Abu Dhabi.

As the foundations are being laid for Abu Dhabi University, Gravois writes about the reasons why the George Mason University failed to get off the ground in the emirate of Ras al Khaimah.

Attracting Teachers and Students
The article looks at the process by which the new faculty will be formed (half of which will be of the fly in-fly out type) and the recruitment process for the elite students which will lead to “the world’s most astounding student-faculty ratio.

It appears that money is no barrier for attracting professors and students yet the article examines conflicts and concerns from local educationalists as well as those at the foundation university in New York.

Learning on a Cultural Island
The article supplies some vital details which clarify that NYU Abu Dhabi will have an exceptional status with the same academic freedoms enjoyed in the USA. It will be untouched by the laws and cultural values of the UAE, including no censorship of NYU’s computers. What impact will this have on the education process when learning takes place within an American enclave in a gated community?

Part Two in the series by John Gravois, ‘The Blueprint’, The National, 24 July 2009.
Part One in the series by John Gravois, ‘Make No Little Plans’, The National, 17 July 2009.
Sexton Raises New York University’s Flag Over Abu Dhabi and UAE, ETE, 20 July 2009.

NY University Abu Dhabi Has Not Clarified Human Rights Issues, ETE, 19 November 2007.
President Bloom Appointed to New York University Abu Dhabi Campus, ETE, 30 September 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

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

Image: Aerial view of Saadiyat Island, where NYU Abu Dhabi is being located.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Obama Raises US Image in World but Little Change in Muslim Countries

While President Barack Obama has succeeded in improving the global image of the United States, many Muslim countries have scarcely revised their views of Obama’s America, according to a new report by the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

Surveying 25 nations and testing between 750 and 3,169 respondents in each country [the UAE does not appear to be included], Pew found U.S. favorability ratings had increased virtually everywhere — and nowhere more sharply than in Europe. It said the higher ratings were “being driven much more by personal confidence in Obama than by opinions about his specific policies.”

Confidence Booster
The new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, conducted May 18 to June 16 2009, finds that confidence in Barack Obama’s foreign policy judgments stands behind a resurgent U.S. image in many countries. Belief that Obama will “do the right thing in world affairs” is now nearly universal in Western countries, where lack of confidence in President Bush had been almost as prevalent for much of his time in office.

In most countries where opinions of the U.S. have improved, many say that Obama’s election led them to have a more favorable view of the U.S.

Obama’s Cairo Speech
The polling in the Muslim world took place around the time of President Obama’s Cairo speech. In some countries, interviews took place both before and after the speech, providing some gauge of the effect of Obama’s remarks on his image and opinions of the U.S. more broadly. In Turkey a sufficient number of interviews wereconducted before and after the speech to allow for an analysis of how much impact it had on public opinion. This analysis suggests that the speech had little measurable impact on views of the U.S. or Obama himself. However, the pre-post comparisons were rudimentary ones that could only have detected a major swing in public opinion.

Favorability ratings for the U.S. have increased slightly in Jordan (+6), Egypt (+5), and Lebanon (+4), although positive views have declined in America’s closet ally in the Middle East: Israel. While 71% of Israelis continue to express a positive opinion of the U.S., this is down from 78% the last time Israel was surveyed in 2007.

Many in Muslim World Still See U.S. Threat
Despite increases in favorable ratings of the U.S. in some Muslim nations, the perception remains widespread among many Muslims that the U.S. could pose a military threat to their country someday.

Majorities in six of the seven majority Muslim nations where this question was asked say they are very or somewhat worried that the U.S. could become a military threat to their country. The only exception is Jordan, although even about half (48%) of Jordanians are very or somewhat concerned.

Rating the American People
The American people receive largely positive ratings in this survey, with majorities saying they have a favorable view of Americans in 17 of 24 nations.

The worst ratings for the American people are in three mostly Muslim nations: Turkey (14%), Pakistan (20%) and the Palestinian territories (20%). In all three nations, attitudes towards Americans have shown little change in recent years.

Confidence in Obama Lifts US Image Around the World: Overview-Pew Global Attitudes Project, 2009.
Full Report, PDF, Pew Global Attitudes Project, 2009.
Slide Show with Commentary, Pew Global Attitudes Project, 2009.

Barack Hussein Obama Says Assalaamu Alaykum to Egypt and the World, ETE, 4 June 2009.
Obama in Egypt Calls for Religious Freedom, Interfaith Dialogue and Service, ETE, 4 June 2009.
To Polish His Speech to Arabs and Muslims Obama Should Watch Al Jazeera, ETE, 31 May 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

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

Image: President Obama speaking in Egypt.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Shoppers Watch the Sharks at the Dubai Mall

The Dubai Aquarium within the Dubai Mall is one of the largest tanks but it possesses the world’s largest aquarium viewing panel.

More than the size of the 50m long aquarium is the view that spectators can get. The two glass tunnels at varying levels, offer windows to see a range of marine life as well as opportunities to come face to face with sharks, stingrays and other species of fish.

There is something wonderful, relaxing and soothing about watching fish (unless they’re eating each other or you are visiting at 4.00pm when the sharks are feeding).

Watch the Fish
Take a look at this video that was filmed at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquararium in Japan which is almost the same size as the Dubai aquarium.

Kuroshio Sea - 2nd largest aquarium tank in the world - (song is Please don't go by Barcelona) from Jon Rawlinson on Vimeo.

Further Details
Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, Dubai Mall.

Record Hungry Dubai Makes a Splash in the Guinness Book with New Aquarium, ETE.
Like to Ski After Shopping? Skate? Or Squizz at the Aquarium? ETE.
The New Dubai Mall and the Decline of the Mall in the Emirates, ETE.
UAE Malls: Shopping the Emirates, ETE.

Dr Geoff Pound

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

Image: Shoppers Watch the Sharks at the Dubai Mall.

Friday, July 24, 2009

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed—Leader With a Life Outside of Work

At this week’s end it is timely to think of our world outside of our work.

Sometimes work can be all-consuming and we make little time for hobbies and other activities that rejuvenate us physically, refill our ‘emotional tanks’ and replenish us in all aspects of our being.

Eloquent Photos
There is a photograph album on the personal Facebook page of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the Vice-President and PM of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai.

It is entitled, 'Beyond Work'. It contains only six photographs:

The first photo is of Sheikh Mohammed kissing his horse with the caption, “My enduring passion.”

The second photograph is of Sheikh Mohammed with his two dogs in the desert and holding high a falcon on his hand. The caption reads: “Tapping into our heritage for my hobbies.”

The third photograph is of His Highness face to face with a camel and the caption: “A special moment with a newborn camel.”

The fourth photo is of a bare-chested Sheikh pausing from a swim as he comes up from the water with a jellyfish in his hand—“At a public beach, spotting a jellyfish.”

The fifth photo is taken at the same location and is entitled, “Enjoying our waters with the people.”

The final photo in this album (pictured here) is a rear view of the Sheikh in traditional dress as he walks off into the desert with his horse and a walking stick. The caption reads: “My companions on a timeless journey.”

Practical Modelling
It is important for anyone to have a life beyond their work but especially a national leader.

These photographs and captions reveal something of how this leader is being refreshed and inspired. To get away with horses, dogs and falcons, to immerse yourself in the desert and in the sea must be bliss and will no doubt afford necessary perspective.

The Part that Nobody Sees
This is the vital part of leadership that nobody sees, yet we, through these photographs are afforded a small insight into how this UAE leader is being nourished and sustained.

Unfortunately this album is located on Sheikh Mohammed’s earlier Facebook page which is now superseded by his public pages. Hopefully this album will be transferred to the public page for many to enjoy.

I have reposted the album on my Facebook page so feel free to connect with me (link below) to see the album.

Make Sure to Connect with Sheikh Mohammed’s Correct Facebook Page, ETE, 16 July 2009.
Sheikh Mohammed Gets Public Page on Facebook and Thousands of Fans, ETE, 15 July 2009.
Sheikh Mohammed Showered With Birthday Greetings and Facebook Gifts, ETE, 31 July 2009.
Connect With Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid on Facebook, ETE.
Sheikh Mohammed Gains Too Many Friends on Facebook, ETE.
Follow Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai on Twitter, ETE.
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Judged One of the 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century, ETE.
Poems Give Most Revealing Glimpse of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum, ETE.
Sheikh Mohammed Hailed as Most Powerful in Horse Racing Industry, ETE.
Sheikh Mohammed Pays Record Price for Aussie Horse Racing Deal, ETE.
Sheikh Mohammed’s Ambitions for Middle East, ETE.
Sheikh Mohammad Models Rare Style of Leadership, ETE.
Sheikh Mohammed’s Leadership is Honoured, ETE.
New Website for H H Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ETE.
Dubai and Sheikh Mohammed on 60 Minutes Video, ETE.

Dr Geoff Pound

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

Image: This is photo #6 in the album, ‘Beyond Work’ by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid (Photo courtesy of His Highness).

See if UAE Airports Make the World’s Worst and Best Airports to Sleep In

Airports from Hell
Everybody has got their ‘Airport from Hell’ story to tell.

I got so mad with the way an airline in one airport abused its customers that we organized the passengers, called the local TV station, gave a press interview and when I finally got home I commenced a protest blog.

The web site Sleeping in Airports has given ordinary people a voice with which to evaluate airports and warn other customers. It is mainly focused on the sleepability of airports but the reviews reveal something wider—often the need for sleep is created because of delays and the lack of any accommodation offer by an airline experiencing a delay.

Worst Airports
Melbourne’s Herald Sun has helpfully created this picture gallery of the Worst Airports to Sleep In. It counts down from #10 to the airport that gets the wooden spoon.

This article in the Herald Sun (21 July 2009) has a little more description of these worst airports.

Best Airports
Check out the list on this link of the Best Airports, read the reviews and see why people love these places.

You can even submit a review, cast your vote or send a photo. This is a case of power to the people.

The lists change each year and maybe this web site is helping to create positive change in an attempt to stop the bleeding.

UAE Airports
Note the UAE airport that gets a mention and see what people like and dislike about it.

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

Dr Geoff Pound

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

Image: Dubai’s Terminal 3 Airport.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

UAE Camels Working Hard to Produce Camel Milk Chocolate

Making Humps Around Globe
Since it was announced in Dubai that the world’s first camel milk chocolate was going global, they have been talking about this product all over the world. New outlets are being established in the USA and Japan (Gulf News, 15 August 2009).

They are anticipating this sensation in Mauritania, Kenya, India, Kuwait and Austria although there is in many of the reports a hint of caution—‘Will we like it?’ ‘Are you game to give it a try?’ The St Louis Post is running a poll today, asking its readers, “Would you drink camel milk?”

Why Try It?
Many will have a go because these chocolates are new. “You’ve got to try the latest chocolate innovation,” says More Inspiration. Why not let your taste buds experience some new sensations?

Camel Milk Chocolates for Your Health
Most important are the health benefits of eating these camel milk chocolates. Camel milk chocolates are being made from camel milk which is sold in UAE supermarkets as Camelicious.

A Wall Street Journal article about camel milk production in the USA reports the ways Arabs have benefited from camel milk for centuries:

“Camel milk is a centuries-old staple for nomadic tribes across the Middle East and Africa. It is also drunk by elderly men to enhance virility; by the sick to treat a variety of ailments; and by those who believe it has magical properties.”

Much has been written in recent years about the nutritional value of camel milk with its rich vitamin C content (three times as much as cow’s milk), its iron, unsaturated fatty acids, B vitamins, less lactose and insulin. Camel milk is being touted as a panacea for many ailments.

Some Humps to Overcome
The Al Nassa company (founded and owned by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum) is a new company and while it aims to produce 100 tons of camel milk chocolate a year it may struggle to supply the international demand.

Its Dubai farm has 3,000 camels but if the demand is sustained there may well be more camels and farms needed to produce the ‘Lady Godiva’ gifts for the luxury global market. These chocolates will not be sold as regular products in supermarkets but in luxury shops in malls as well as online.

In the Meantime
In the meantime, if you cannot get a box of camel milk chocolate see if your supermarket can stock bottles of the therapeutic Camelicious. Also, see if your pharmacy might stock these healthy bottles of ‘oral insulin’.

All I Want For Christmas
When your relatives ask you what you would like for Ramadan or Christmas, put in your order for a box of camel milk chocolates. Make it several boxes because this gift will do wonders for your health and virility.

Camels up Close
Camels are intriguing animals with much to give you delight.

If you’re visiting the UAE, here are 10 Good Reasons to Ride a Camel.

Try Camel Milk, Camel Meat and Now Gourmet Quail in the Emirates, ETE.
Taste and See, SFS.
Celebrating Camels in the Emirates, ETE.

Dr Geoff Pound

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

The UAE camels are working hard to produce offspring to supply the international demand for camel milk chocolate. (Photo courtesy of The Economist, 10-16 September 1994).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lesson #2 for UAE’s Culture Test Towards Residency Visa

Ready to Take the Test?
The Emirates News Agency WAM recently informed readers that “Expatriates applying for residency visa in future will be tested in their knowledge of local culture.”

Test Hints
In making this announcement, Ahmed Shabeeb Al Dhahiri said questions could include this question: ‘What is the country's flag?’

Flagging the Questions
Here are some questions about the UAE flag to get you into training to take the official UAE Culture Test towards the residency visa:

1. Which of the 4 flags (pictured) is the UAE flag?

2. Can you name the other three flags (for 3 bonus points towards your UAE visa)?

3. When was the UAE flag first adopted and raised?

4. What is the significance of the four colors of the UAE flag grouped together?

5. What is the meaning of the individual colors that make up the UAE flag?

6. Where is the world’s largest flagpole located?

7. When was the world’s largest aerial flag or banner ever flown?

8. On which day of the year will you see the most UAE flags flying?

Scroll down when you are ready for the answers.

Any person cheating will may have their UAE Residency Visa or application cancelled!

1. The UAE flag is at the bottom left.

2. Top left: Egypt
Top right: Kuwait
Bottom right: Oman
(One point for each right answer)

3. The UAE flag was first adopted and raised on 2 December 1971 when, at the Dubai Guesthouse Palace, four other Emirates agreed to join Abu Dhabi and Dubai and enter into a union of six Emirates called the United Arab Emirates (Ras al-Khaimah joined later, in early 1972).

4. Red, green, white and black are the Pan-Arab colors which symbolize Arab unity and are found in the Arab Revolt Flag and the Arab Liberation Flag which may well have been the inspiration for the design of the UAE flag.

5. Green is the color of fertility and change (remember the green used in the protest of the Iranian elections). It is also an important color in Islam, hence, it is used in many of the towers on a Muslim mosque.

White: the color of neutrality.
Black: the color of the flag of the prophet Mohammed.
Red: the color of unity

(One point for each right answer).

6. The world’s largest flagpole is located in Abu Dhabi. WAM reported 29 November 2007:

“As part of the celebrations to mark 36th national day anniversary, Sheikh Zayed bin Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan yesterday hoisted UAE flag on top of the world's largest flagpole at the breakwater area in Abu Dhabi. The flag-hoisting ceremony was held under the patronage of General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. The flag, which is 30- meters long and 15 - meter wide, was sewn by more than 400 students from the Abu Dhabi Centre for Rehabilitation of People with Special Needs, under the supervision of the Armed Forces Officers Club.”

7. The largest aerial flag or banner ever flown was on 2 December 2007 over Abu Dhabi. Gulf News reported:

“The world's largest flag was displayed above Abu Dhabi on Sunday afternoon as celebrations for the 36th UAE National Day got under way.”

“The 50,000 square foot flag of the UAE was towed by helicopter above the Corniche.”

8. The day of the year when the most UAE flags are flying is UAE National Day, 2 December.

How Did You Score?
10-13 points: You should have your visa approved right away.

7-9 points: You still have some work to do.

0-6 points: No visa for you and if you have one it should be cancelled and you should be deported to Oman while you prepare to undertake a new test and visa application.

Lesson #1 Culture Test for UAE Residency Visa, ETE.
The Flags of Fujairah, Fujairah in Focus, 22 July 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

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

This article and its author have no relationship to the authorities who grant residency visas for the UAE.

The information and questions are not official and cannot be relied upon for residency application.

Men, Leave Your Jewellery at Home when you Visit the Emirates

Bassma Al Jandaly at the Gulf News has come up with an interesting story that highlights an old law in the UAE or at least in the emirate of Sharjah:

Thirteen-year-old Mohammad was with a group of friends in Al Qasba area when he was reportedly approached by a police officer and taken to the police headquarters. His silver necklace had to go.

Another resident, Jeril Jaison Varghese, says he was in front of the Multiplex in Mega Mall to watch a movie when a CID officer asked him for his identification.

"I was taken to the Sharjah Police office inside the mall by a security guy from the mall. My silver bracelet was confiscated by the CID," he said.

When Varghese asked why his bracelet was being taken away, he says, police said men are not allowed to wear bracelets or any fashion accessories in Sharjah malls even if it is silver and not gold.

The article states that Islam forbids men from wearing gold and silk but it suggests that there is insufficient information about the reason for this law and inadequate promotion to citizens and tourists about the fact that males may have their jewellery confiscated.

Is this law only applicable to Sharjah or to the entire UAE?

Link to read more examples and the entire article:
Bassma Al Jandaly, Sharjah police enforce old law against men wearing accessories, Gulf News, 21 July 2009.

To find out more about the uniqueness of the UAE culture and law follow the links from this article.

Dr Geoff Pound

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Heralding and Evaluating the Growth of Twitter in the Emirates

A study by PR firm Spot On reports there are more than 12,000 Twitter users in the Arab world, reflecting a surge from 100% to close to 300% over the past few months in the region.

An ITP news item (21 July 2009) states, ‘UAE leads region in Twitter growth’ reporting that the UAE has 4,952 users compared to 1,741 users in Egypt and 1,405 Saudi Twitterers.

Tweeting in Perspective
Tom Gara from The National (20 July 2009) puts this growth into perspective with his headline, ‘Facts show Twitter yet to lure Middle East users’. He adds:

“The most promoted website in the country has as many customers as the average corner store.”

Twitter Prediction
Gara believes Twitter has not and will not change “the dynamics of a Middle-Eastern internet culture that has shown a clear disinterest in the kind of open, public self-expression that Twitter is all about.”

Facebook v Twitter
He draws a comparison with Facebook where 780,000 people have set up an account, of which 75,000 use the site in Arabic.

Gara believes the ‘walled garden’ privacy of Facebook is the advantage that Facebook has and he reckons that issues of honor and protecting the name are powerful deterrents from the open-for-the-world to see style of Twitter.

Your Social Media Preference
What form of social media do you prefer and why?

Is Twitter likely to gain any significant and lasting traction?

Tom Gara, Facts Show Twitter yet to Lure Middle East Users, The National, 21 July 2009.
Vineetha Menon, UAE Leads Region in Twitter Growth, ITP, 21 July 2009

Follow Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai on Twitter, ETE, 9 July 2009.
Twitter saves a Life in the UAE and Rania the Greatest Twitterer in the Region? ETE, 20 May 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

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

Could You Pass the New Culture Test for UAE Residency Visa?

Residency Test for the Emirates
The Emirates News Agency WAM recently informed readers that “Expatriates applying for residency visa in future will be tested in their knowledge of local culture.”

The new test is motivated by the desire of the Federal National Council that immigrants might have a better understanding of UAE values, traditions and identity.

Test Before Residency
This is an interesting new step that makes one wonder which other countries adopt this same approach.

Does your country have a similar test for people applying for residence?

Citizenship Test
Many countries like Australia administer a test to applicants for citizenship but the application can only be made if people have been permanent residents in Oz for longer than five years. This gives them time to learn the culture (which reminds me of the saying that the difference between Australia and yoghurt is that yoghurt has some culture).

Easy Questions
Ahmed Shabeeb Al Dhahiri, First Deputy Speaker of the Federal National Council, said a committee will draw up a series of easy questions that will comprise a test that expatriates must pass in order to get their residency visa.

He said questions could include the following: ‘What is the country's official religion?’ and ‘What is the country's flag?’

Why should these questions be easy if the test is intended to achieve its stated point?

Questions in Oz
The test in Australia takes up to 45 minutes and is a closed book exam. Questions are slanted towards citizenship (not just residency) and they cover these areas: Responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship, Australian values, Australian history, Australian society and Governing Australia.

A book has been prepared for prospective Aussie citizens to study entitled Becoming an Australian Citizen (look at it in Arabic, English and some other languages).

Test Yourself
Perhaps the best book to read if you are applying to reside in the UAE and the Gulf is Jeremy Williams’ Don’t They Know It’s Friday?

Williams runs seminars for business people visiting the Gulf Countries called Handshaikh. As part of these learning experiences Williams offers the following test.

Test yourself to see if you are ready to visit the UAE (it is designed more broadly for the Gulf).

1. When is Ramadan this year?
2. Doesn't Ramadan mean 'fasting' in Arabic?
3. What does 1427AH mean?
4. Arabs are all the same, aren't they?
5. All Arabs are Muslims, surely?
6. We need to book an appointment in three days' time, don't we?
7. What is an Eid?
8. What should I wear?
9. They all speak such good English the proposal can be in English, can't it?
10. Excuse me Mr Abdullah, but what is your Christian name?
11. Iranians are Arabs, aren't they?
12. He seems to be very nice so shall we have him as our Agent/Sponsor?

Williams says if you ask these or similar questions, don’t go to the Gulf yet (especially the last three!).

Passing the Test
How did you go with these questions?

What questions do you think should be part of the new UAE residency test?

UAE Visa Seekers Will Have to Pass Cultural Test, Report, WAM, 7 July 2009.
Lesson #2 for UAE’s Culture Test Towards Residency Visa, ETE, 22 July 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

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

This article and its author have no relationship to the authorities who grant residency visas for the UAE.

The information and questions are not official and cannot be relied upon for residency application.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sexton Raises New York University’s Flag Over Abu Dhabi and UAE

John Sexton is determined to transform New York University into the first truly global university with its Abu Dhabi flagship becoming an ‘Honors College’ but John Gravois’s detailed essay in The National raises some intriguing questions.

Sextin is an inveterate hugger who hugs pretty much everyone he meets, so how will he curb his tendencies and greet his Abu Dhabi students who have grown up in a non-touching culture?

How culturally grounded will Sexton’s classes be, as the commuting New Yorker flies in from Manhattan to Abu Dhabi each fortnight to teach his students?

If Sexton is seeking students who fit into the top 1 percent of the global talent pool for his “most intellectually rigorous” institution to rival Ivy League universities, why will the initial classes of the Abu Dhabi branch be comprised of only 5 percent Emirati students?

How is it possible for NYU Abu Dhabi to operate outside the supervision of the UAE Ministry of Education and to what extent will this decision make NYU-AD a cultural and educational island?

If NYU Abu Dhabi is beyond the reach of the UAE’s MOE, does this mean that gay students will be permitted to enroll as they can on the New York campus, even though homosexual practice is illegal in the Emirates?

Will the Abu Dhabi Campus be above the UAE law when it comes to a discussion of views on Islam, the separation of mosque and state, the evaluation of the local form of government, the questioning of censorship and the advocating of anything that is ‘inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates.’

The compromise negotiated by Sexton to greet his 13 female and 3 male students with a Barack and Michelle Obama fist-bump would be considered haram (forbidden) between people of the opposite sex in UAE educational institutions, most of which are completely segregated. It will be interesting to monitor the development of NYU Abu Dhabi after the initial fist-bumping is over.

Link to the ‘most read’ article (at least today) in The National:
John Gravois, Make No Little Plans-Part 1, The National, 17 July 2009.

NY University Abu Dhabi Has Not Clarified Human Rights Issues, ETE, 19 November 2007.
President Bloom Appointed to New York University Abu Dhabi Campus, ETE, 30 September 2008.

Check It Out
Check out the new site America’s Cup in the UAE.

Dr Geoff Pound

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

Image: Dr John Sexton.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

UAE Residents Could Be Driving Electric Cars Soon

Electric Cars News Give a Shock
Electric cars for an oil-rich country is shocking news!

Aabar, the Abu Dhabi investment fund has acquired 40 percent of Daimler’s interest in the Californian electric car producer Tesla Motors.

Announcing the deal this week, the company’s chairman, Khadem al-Qubaisi, said that focusing on electric vehicle development and other projects aimed at reducing carbon emissions was one of several areas where the companies had agreed to cooperate.

On 19 May 2009, Daimler acquired a 10 percent stake in Tesla.

While financial terms were not fully disclosed between Daimler and Aabar, an earlier deal included an agreement for the companies to work together on developing batteries and electric drive systems.

Electric Models
So what might we see in terms of electric vehicles around the roads of the Emirates in the years to come?

Daimler has been testing a fleet of electric-powered Smart for two cars in London and plans to start production of up to 1,000 of the cars at its assembly plant in Hambach, France, later this year.

Aiming to Be Clean Energy Centre
The emirate of Abu Dhabi, is using its oil revenue to become a clean energy centre and the electric car deal follows the emerging carbon-neutral Masdar city (where cars will be banned) and the selection of the UAE capital as the HQ of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Tesla Taste of Things to Come
The Californian-based Tesla remains a niche carmaker in the U.S.

By the middle of 2009 Tesla had produced 500 Roadster electric sports cars even though it is yet to turn a profit.

The Model S sedan is yet to appear but with its greater space it could be the ideal model for large UAE families.

Roadster at a Glance
* It is pure electric
* It goes from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds
* Top speed: 125 mph
* It will run 244 miles (400 kilometres) on an electric charge
* Charging time 3.5 hours (complete) and less for partial charge cycle.
* It has a carbon fibre body
* It costs only a few cents per mile.

More details about the Roadster can be found at this Specification Sheet.

Model S
The U.S. Energy Department last month announced Tesla would get $465 million in loans to engineer and build its ‘next-generation electric vehicle’, the Model S sedan.

Snapshot of Model S
* Expected to go on sale in late 2011
* Cost: Approximately $49,900 after a $7,500 American federal electric car rebate.
* Pure electric powered
* 0 to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds
* Up to 300 mile (480 kilometres) on one charge
* 45 minute quick charge
* More cargo space than sedans
* Carries up to seven people

Link: Daimler and Aabar Share Investment in Tesla, Aabar and Daimler Press Information, 13 July 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

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

Image: The Roadster from different angles.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Can Emirates Airline Give a Safety Spiel Like this Rap Artist from South West?

Airlines like Emirates and Etihad want to maintain high safety standards but they fall into the same rut as most other airlines—the mandatory safety announcement becomes so boring!

Yes, it is true that we fly on different types of planes which do not have the same seating formations but look around the cabin and note that people have already switched off from safety matters and are reading their in-flight magazine or planning their diet of entertainment.

Virgin Travel
When I took my virgin flight with Virgin I was impressed with the way they made themselves distinctive in many ways. Their safety spiel was funny. They even raised a laugh when they said that if anyone wanted to smoke they’d have to step outside for a few minutes.

Once in flight with the safety belt sign switched off the stewards called the children to the front of the cabin and painted their faces like a lion, which is the football mascot of the city to which they were flying. You can guarantee that when the family was planning their next holiday the kids would get their parents to travel with Virgin.

The Old, Old Story
Teachers, priests, politicians and entertainers often have to serve up information that they have given before and on most occasions they say things that their hearers have heard before. The key thing is to be able to communicate important messages in ways that are fresh and captivating.

South West Has Passengers Rapped
It is fascinating to see the way that South West Airlines are seeking to do things differently. The following YouTube video shows a flight attendant who had worked on five flights earlier that day and he is so bored with the normal safety spiel that he is doing a rap version. It is too good to be spontaneous but it appears that way as he gets the attention of most of the passengers. Hopefully they absorbed the information and were not simply enchanted by the entertainment.

Emirates Version?
Rap might be culturally appropriate on a South West airline flying through the United States but I wonder what Emirates, Etihad, FlyDubai and Air Arabia might come up with to do things differently and in ways that are expressive of the Emirati culture?

Marketing guru Seth Godin shares the principle of the purple cow to get this point across: If you are travelling in your car and you see field after field of black, white and brown cows, this is not unusual. But if you spot a purple cow, you stop the car, get out and take photos. Upon your return you tell everyone what you saw.

How does your business, school or organization offer a service that is remarkable?

Dr Geoff Pound

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

Image: “Look around the cabin and note that people have already switched off.”

How Many of the Top 50 Celebrities in Dubai Are Emirati?

Time Out Dubai recently posted a picture gallery of the “50 Hottest Celeb Sightings in Dubai” but how many of the half century of celebrities are Emiratis or Arabs?

There are actors, tennis champs, cricketers, golfing stars, footballers, basketball players, politicians, singers, rock bands, punky popsters, F1 motorcar drivers, entrepreneurs, comedians and celebrity cooks.

They come from different parts of the world to the stages, courts, fairways and kitchens of Dubai and they bring heaps of money into the UAE coffers.

Nothing against international celebrities but wouldn’t it be great to see more and more Emiratis inspiring the cosmopolitan population that makes up the UAE?

Celebrity Leadership
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum is inspiring many UAE residents and people all over the world (check out all his international fans on Facebook and his world-wide followers on Twitter) through his celebrity leadership, innovation, sportsmanship, poetry and diplomacy.

The maturing of a cultural identity as in the UAE requires the cultivation of heroes from its own ranks who perform with excellence not only nationally but on the international stage.

Emiratization of Celebrity Culture
No doubt there are other lesser known Emirati footballers, golfers, singers and entertainers on the rise but it would be good over the next decade to see the Emiratization of these spheres and TimeOut Dubai’s 50 Hottest Celeb Sightings in Dubai in 2019 comprising a goodly number of UAE nationals.

See For Yourself
50 Hottest Celeb Sightings in Dubai, Dubai Pictures Gallery, Time Out Dubai, 14 July 2009.

What’s Your Selection?
If you had to select some Emirati nationals or UAE residents for a 50 Hottest Celebrity List in Dubai and the UAE who would you choose?

Let me get you thoughts flowing by choosing HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.

Dr Geoff Pound

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

Image: A sampling of TimeOut Dubai’s Half Century (pics in this collage courtesy of TOD’s picture gallery at the above link).