Archive for May, 2006

Soda Water Swindle


Hmmph. Our local supermarket used to sell a local brand of sparkling water at 1.5Dhs for 1.5 litres. It’s now selling the same water, albeit with a new logo and funky bottle shape, for 4Dhs for 1 litre. This is a swizz, if you ask me.
It’s cheaper to buy cans of Schweppes soda water, which works out at 3Dhs for 1.09 litres, is easier to carry around and the local grocery will deliver a crate during the summer heat. This is crazy, as well as wasteful in terms of filling the bins with cans, but there you go.


Three hours at Addis airport – or just go to the front!


Am enjoying fairly priced internet access in the Nairobi Holiday Inn before my second leg back home to Dubai after flying in from Addis early this morning. Am looking forward to writing up my African trip later.
Some words of advice to any Google searchers who find this…
If you’re flying from Addis Ababa airport, make sure you turn up three hours before your flight. Reconfirm your flight a day before flying so you don’t turn up to be told it’s cancelled. If you haven’t had a chance to confirm it, you might be lucky like me and get it ‘uncancelled’, but you might not. Expect to queue a lot, so use your hotel facilities before flying, particularly if you’re on your own and don’t have someone to hold your place in the queue for you! (Thank goodness I did).
I think the situation at the airport could be improved if people were actually given an incentive to turn up on time. Whilst the vast majority of this morning’s travellers did turn up early and waited in the queue, there were significant numbers who turned up at the last minute and were sent straight to the front of the checkin, immigration and gate queues. I suggest that this practice be curtailed as it probably gets abused – your choices are to queue for a long time or arrive late and go straight to the front. I’m not surprised many people choose the latter option.

Police laundry assistance antics


Looks like I’ll call the police next time my laundry do odd things with my suit. It worked for this bloke!

Police laundry assistance antics


Looks like I’ll call the police next time my laundry do odd things with my suit. It worked for this bloke!

Why was the Bedford Rascal all we could come out with?


Being in Africa again and seeing the hundreds of Toyota ‘Hiace’ minvans and Nissan ‘Caravans’ plying the streets in various states of disrepair, Arsenal and Man U stickers obscuring the rear windscreen and huge metal bumpers threatening to slice off pedestrians’ legs, it’s evident that Toyota and Nissan really got things right.
How come the British car industry never managed to produce a design that was as practical, durable and popular? Whist we were making the Bedford Rascal (albeit based on a Suzuki design), Toyoya and Nissan were building the cars that would keep Africa moving ten years later. You don’t see any transits on the road here either. Tragic.
The same goes for Land Rover – for the last three years the Kenyan authoritues have switched to using Land Cruisers. The safari operators also all use Toyotas now, with Land Rover seeing its market share apparently dwindle to around 30% in what used to be a core market for it. Presumably selling Range Rovers to the Gulf countries is keeping them afloat.
I wonder if African countries that drive on the correct side of the road end up getting a better or worse deal for their secondhand cars? Japan, from where most of these models seem to come, seems to produce plenty of vehicles to satisfy market deman, but do countries driving on the wrong side of the road have more choice and more favourable pricing?
ps I’ve always loved the name ‘Bedford Rascal’. It’s a shame they didn’t extend the brand – we could have had the ‘Bedford Scallywag’ and the ‘Bedford Cheeky Monkey’.

Sheikhy spelling


These things shouldn’t matter, but I can’t help being riled by them.
About two years or so ago, the better English language paper in Dubai changed the way it spells ‘sheikh’ and ‘Mohammed’.
‘Shaikh’ with an ‘a’ suddenly became the norm. This irritates me – I’ve never seen it spelt with an ‘a’ anywhere other than here. To my mind ‘sheikh’ is the standard spelling and changing it with no explanation, with apparently no reason, just seemed odd. And annoying. Like beginning a sentence with ‘and’.
The other change that followed a while later was the way the name of the Crown Prince and current Ruler’s name was spelt – Mohammed became Mohammad.
Mohammed has always been the standard spelling of the name in English, as I understand it. Grabbing R. L. Trask’s ‘Mind the gaffe – a guide to common mistakes made in English’ off the shelf, I see that the modern accepted spelling is Muhammad, with Mohammed also being perfectly ok. Mr Trask’s advice however, is to accept whatever spelling an individual prefers, or to use the standard Mohammed or Muhammad. No mention is made of Mohammad as a standard, whilst individuals are clearly welcome to spell their names as they wish.
All of the signs for roads in Dubai with ‘Sheikh’ in their names, use my preferred spelling.
Faced with this evidence, Mr Trask’s advice and my own prejudices, I declare ‘Shaikh Mohammad’ to be wrong and ‘Sheikh Mohammed’ to be right. Who better to ask though than the man himself.

Washing at the last chance laundry


The mind boggles.
After my last visit to the laundrette resulted in all my clothes being returned stinking of dry cleaning fluid an ultimatum was issued – give me back my clothes smelling normal, like you used to, or I go elsewhere. Not too unreasonable, is it?
Picked my things up today – everything smells of chemicals.
What goes through the minds of the guys that work there, if anything at all, is a total mystery to me. Why I continue to go there is also a mystery, but I’ll give them one more chance. They’re nice guys, but I suspect the reason they’re always so pleased to see me if because they think I’m a complete mug.

Off to East Africa


Picked up my Doxycycline anti Malaria tablets today in preperation for 10 days away in East Africa.
I’ll be spending two days in Nairobi, two in Kigali and the rest in Addis Ababa. It’ll be my first time to Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia and I’m really looking forward to it. As with last year’s trip to Tanzania I’ll be going with Sun’s answer to Indiana Jones, Mike Eberhardt, our Zurich based, Sub Saharan Africa business development manager for education.
In Kigali I’ll be staying in the hotel that was featured in the film Hotel Rwanda.
I used to share a house in London with a girl who managed to get herself smuggled out of Rwanda via Uganda and onto the UK during the troubles they had there. She’s now been granted permanent residency in the UK, as has her brother. Strange to think that I’ll now be going to her home country on business for Sun. Not somewhere I ever thought I’d visit, but for what it’s worth I’m glad that things are now at the stage where the infrastructure is being invested in and life can start to return to normal.

Fruit Pastilles drought disaster


Fruit Pastilles are nowhere to be found in Dubai.
Not having access to my favourite sweets is causing conserntation. They’re ideal when you’re hungry and stuck somewhere travelling, slightly tense before a meeting or presentation and need something to chew and lubricate a dry throat, sitting in a Dubai cinema and need something to throw at someone who can’t stop talking.
Mrs Saul laughed at me the last time they were on the shelves and I bought an entire box in case they disappeared. Now my box if finished and Spinney’s, Lal’s, Al Maya and Lifco are completely out.
If you’re in the UK and coming over here soon, please bring me some with you!

Dubai pics


Mrs Saul took some good pics of the view from our pool area, on the top of the car park behind our building.
The Burj Dubai takes shape, with part of the Dubai International Finance Centre finished on the left.

The mosque behind the Sheikh Zayed Rd ‘strip’, with our building in the foreground to the right and an ‘old’ tower on the left. The unfinished tower to the right hasn’t had any work done on it since December, for some reason.

The Emirates Towers. Fantastic building that simply looks amazing from any angle. Sun have a lot of events there.

Our building. Officially called The Tower, known to all taxi and delivery men as the ‘UP Tower’ after the owners, Union Properties. Not to be confused with the UP Tower on the other side of the road. We’re on the other side on the 34th floor, where the first row of crosses starts. Below us are 33 floors of Emirates Crew.

Yet more construction on the Sheikh Zayed Rd.