Archive for August, 2007

Passport confusion


I was a bit confused by an article in today’s Gulf News. It mentions people who have absconded from their job and sponsor as having ‘managed to keep their passports’. The article makes it sound like they did something wrong by keeping hold of their documents – this contrasts with numerous previous articles in the paper saying it is illegal for a sponsor or employer to keep hold of an employee’s passport against his or her will.
I’m sure a future article will shed some light on the matter.

Karachi for the day


Karachi for the day today – 0800 from Dubai, arriving at 1100 and landing back in Dubai at 2330. Plenty of time for two or three customer meetings. WiFi is broken in the lounge, as it appears to have been for more than a year now, but the connection on the three PCs they have here is pretty speedy.
The crazy driving standards have not improved since my visit last October, but at least I got to feel rather important standing in the passport queue for ‘Diplomats and Foreign Businessmen’.
Despite the chaotic approach to road safety in some of the places I go to, driving can be more relaxing than in Europe – in Europe I often hire a car and drive myself, but elsewhere the partner usually has one of their drivers shuttle me around. I might have to close my eyes for significant parts of the journey, but at least I don’t waste time getting lost.

How to treat your customers well


As I’ve mentioned before, one of my main bugbears regarding our new apartment has been the property company’s inability to say if we would be allowed to buy a second car parking space or not. Yes we could, no we couldn’t, we were on a list, there was no list, we could lease, etc, etc, etc.
Hooray – it now turns out we can buy a second space. After two and a half years of never getting a straight answer, finally we have been allocated a space.
During this entire two and half year period, we had always been told to expect to pay around 85,000 to 95,000 Dhs. In the adjoining development, spaces were recently being sold for 95,000 Dhs.
How much are we being expected to pay now? 190,000 Dhs. At the last minute the price has doubled.
I am not pleased.

Even the blast walls are nice


A friend of mine has just come back from Baghdad, where he was visiting a customer. He’s Iraqi/British and his colleague South African.
Some choice comments (slightly paraphrased, sorry Mo!) –
‘Everything’s worse that it was the last time I went – I was shocked’.
‘My security guards nearly got into a gun battle with the guards manning a checkpoint’.
‘I didn’t visit anyone in Baghdad. Everyone I knew has left or been killed.’
‘We went to the Kurdish area, which was really nice. Even the blast walls were nice, with nice pictures of penguins painted on them.’

Close your doors


We went to the cinema yesterday in one of Dubai’s megamalls. I found myself feeling pretty hot and sweaty while walking around – the AC didn’t seem to be coping with the heat very well.
To be fair, it was pretty hot yesterday, but not unusually so for this time of year. Despite the fact I am not an air conditioning engineer however, I have some great tips for generally keeping the building cool in future:
Close the doors.
For some strange reason, lots of the doors on the top floor from the car park to this mall don’t close automatically. People leave them wide open of course, so 50C humid air blows like a gale into the mall, whilst ice cool air flows outside. Similarly, people hang around the automatic doors on the lower floors, keeping them open while waiting for people, apparently to enjoy the cool breeze flowing through.
This seems incredibly wasteful and very impractical. You don’t even need automatic doors on the top levels – a mechanical method of closing them would be fine and would make a massive difference. Lower down at least a simple sign to ask people to use some common sense and let the door shut would be a start.
Somebody in management needs their pay package to include an energy saving incentive.

Close your blinds


We went to see the Bourne Ultimatum last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Not the best of the three – my preference is for number two, The Bourne Supremacy – but still very good. It’s rare to get to see bits of Europe in a US film, but this had some great ‘real’ locations. The scenes in Tangiers and around Waterloo station in particular were great fun to watch.
Bourne seems to develop almost ghostlike power of evasion in this installment. One word of warning to the CIA though – if you’re trying to protect your offices, even from someone of Jason’s abilities, you really should put some blinds on your office windows, make sure the next door building isn’t empty and post some security guards on your fire escape and backdoor entrance.



Most of the stretch of the Sheikh Zayed Rd that I use regularly has had its speed limit reduced from 120Km to 100Km. Signs have also gone up advertising the new minimum speed limit of 60Km.
The reason for the reduction given in the newspaper was that ‘speeding causes the majority of accidents’. I think something was mistranslated here. Speeding, to me, means driving above the speed limit, as opposed to simply driving at speed.
Personally I wish that the signs included instructions telling drivers to keep to the right. As I keep on moaning, we now have lovely 6 and 7 lane motorways that are blocked by drivers wobbling along too slowly in the wrong lanes.
I expect minor chaos for a while as the slowsters drive more slowly, people who don’t look at the signs carry on at 120, the nutters continue to speed unabated and boring people like me who obey the rules try to muddle through.
Whilst I’d prefer to keep the 120 limit, force drivers to keep to the right and to have people who drive badly pulled over and fined, I suspect that the intention is to move towards a more American model. Thanks to people simply not knowing how to drive and wanting to learn, we’ll all have to bumble along extremely slowly, albeit in any lane we choose.
I’ll get used to it and it’s probably safer according to the consultants who’ve recommended this model, but I think it’s going to grate for a while to come.

First visit to new flat


We went to see our flat in the Old Town for the first time yesterday.
A little bit smaller than I imagined, but nevertheless I’m very pleased. The property company rep even hinted we’d finally be able to buy the second car parking space we’ve been asking for for over two years now. Great progress…
The place isn’t quite finished – keys are due to be handed over on Sept 30, but we wanted to look at it now so that we can decide if we definitely want to move in. Even though things are still being finished off I was impressed with the quality. We went there with a lady from, who might possibly be interested in renting the place out for us and who will do the snagging later in September. Trudy was also impressed, which was a good sign.
Everything here is within easy reach – unlike most places in Dubai, you don’t need to get into your car to go to the shops, cafe, restaurant or bar. There are two pools and a gym nearby, everything is pedestrianised and a new mall and metro station are also within walking distance. The gym was orignially supposed to be free, but now there are wafflings coming from the developer that we’ll have to pay for it, which I’m less than pleased about.
Enough grumpiness though – I’m amazed at the place. Mrs Saul has chosen very well. It’ll be more expensive to live there than where we are now, if we do move in, but it’ll be lovely.
The view to the left out of the balcony is of the Burj Dubai, currently the world’s tallest building.

General pedestrian area.

One of the pools, seen from the balcony. Mrs Saul can check if I’m actually doing lengths and not just mucking around in the shallow end.

Fittings look good. So far.

Courtyard area.

The Burj is starting to get its nice silver clothing put on. As seen from the Al Manzil Hotel.

Madame is coming


My quiet state of temporary bachelorhood comes to an end tomorrow as Mrs Saul touches down in Dubai at 0810 after her annual mammoth school holiday. She’s been away since early July, although we did spend three weeks together at the end of July and early August.
Her return won’t only brighten my life up, but also apparently those of our security guards, the staff at the restaurants I go to and the lady who runs the Sun office cleaning team. No longer will I have to be faced with a disappointed look when someone asks ‘where is madame?’ and I tell them that she is away for a few weeks. My presence doesn’t really seem to make up for Mrs Saul’s absence. Now they can once again experience madame in full force, as she bustles in with me, beaming away, dispensing advice, top tips and locations of shopping bargains to all and sundry.

A Memory of Partition


This short video interview on the BBC, giving one lady’s experience of Partition is fascinating.
I have heard some of the stories of what Mrs Saul’s grandparents went through during this time, but my frivolous blog isn’t the place to talk about their personal experiences. Unfortunately I don’t speak Punjabi or Urdu and my remaining grandparents-in-law don’t speak enough English to tell me what happened in their own words. Maybe they wouldn’t want to, like many British war veterans who don’t want to relive old memories?