Archive for March, 2010

Car festival nearly over


February and March are always car time. Both cars need re-registering and re-insuring and both always seem to need full services.

Mrs Saul’s car went back and forth to Triple A with air suspension issues, eventually solved by having a new air spring fitted. Fortunately, this cost me abuut 2,000dhs less thanks to my discovering these guys. They do original and OEM Land Rover and Range Rover parts for between 50% to 80% less than the official dealer. All genuine parts, just cheaper. They will deliver to the garage of your choice. I had them drop the part off at Triple A, who did a good job fitting it.

Following on from the new airspring, the Range Rover needed a full service, which had to be done at the dealer. The 120,000Km service is a biggie – 3,600Dhs. During the service a leaky radiator was discovered – thankfully this was repaired under the extended warranty I bought just over a year ago, saving me 5,500Dhs. That warranty, bought for 6,000Dhs, has already paid for itself nearly three times over. The heights of joy that driving a full functioning Range Rover can bring can easily be cancelled out by the depths of despair of servicing costs. Thank goodness for extended warranties and non-dealer parts suppliers.

The extended warranty expires in January 2011. After that, I think that Mrs Saul will have to drive around in something Japanese, unless I can be hugely successful at Oracle and afford a newer model – allegedly more reliable than the 2003 version we have.

The Jeep fared better – a service that didn’t yield any major hidden problems. That said, the steering box needed refurbishing – it didn’t cost a lot, but the garage gave it back to me with way too much steering play. I found myself wobbling around all over the road thanks to it not being fixed properly. Four quick visits back to the garage and it’s still not right – I need to leave it with them for a couple of days. This is infuriating – not so much because something needs fixing, but because they gave me back the car in an obviously incorrect state. When it’s in next in it’ll also need a new AC switch – I can’t currently turn the AC off. Not usually a problem in the UAE, but useful when driving in the dunes and needing a bit more oomph.

Driving Mrs Saul’s car the other day, it became clear that the AC isn’t working properly – the gas needs refilling. Another trip to a garage somewhere…

So, things are still outstanding. Grr. Hopefully this will all get sorted soon – I am sick and tired of being in and out of the garage.

So, what to do, yanni? I really don’t want to sell the Jeep. The newer Wrangler doesn’t appeal, mine is still working well and is a bit of a classic in its own right. Generally reliable and great fun to drive. I am just getting fed up with all the little bits and pieces that are starting to go wrong. The appeal of having two newer cars that are under warranty and built with some Japanese expertise is growing ever stronger.

The solution is simple. I need to earn vast amounts of money and maintain a stable of vehicles for every situation, with a driver who can manage all the maintenance for me.

Alcohol cooking ban clarification retraction clarified


This must be a record turn around! Never before has a clarification been clarified so quickly.

Microwaved water


I hope the waiter at our local Indian restaurant reads this.

The other day, Mrs Saul asked for a ‘cup of hot water’, as is her wont. Out came a glass full of near boiling water, along with a half empty bottle of Aquafina. It took a while to get to the bottom of the situation, but it turned out the waiter had put the bottle in the microwave to heat up the contents. Even I know that is a silly thing to do and I am often Clueless in the Kitchen.

Wie komme ich am besten zum…


…Passport Processing Zentrum?

I wonder why British passports are now to be printed in Dusseldorf?

Is there no British company capable of doing this? I’m all in favour of government getting value for money, but this seems an odd choice. Surely a combination of security requirements and the government’s general tendency to favour British companies would have meant this could have been done in the UK? I’m sure that ze Germans are capable of doing the job very well, but still… This seems like taking outsourcing a bit far.

It looks like the turnaround will be similar to that currently offered by the Consulate here in Dubai, which is good. The last but one time I renewed my passport, it was a good thing that it was being printed locally though – my first name ended up getting spelt wrong in my new passport and had to be reprinted. It took less than a day – I imagine that it would have taken a lot longer if it had had to be sent back to Dusseldorf and reprinted. I’m sure errors like that are pretty rare though.



Another excellent column in The National from Sultan Al Qassemi.

Noone wants to upset anyone – we just need to know what the rules are and have them enforced in a fair and consistent fashion. My inner dictator wishes we could have something similar in the UK to encourage people to keep their tattoed beer bellies and other unsightly body parts covered during the summer months.

In other news, I wonder how long this issue will continue to run? These sorts of situations are baffling – there is a law that was introduced in 2003, but never enforced… I wonder why not? More importantly, why ban alcohol rather than simply adapt the rules so that food prepared with alcohol is kept well separated from other dishes, as is done with pork? Menus already clearly mark dishes that contain alcohol and alcohol is served in most hotel restaurants. I don’t understand what the ban is supposed to achieve.

I am sure the authorities will clarify the matter shortly.

What goes around…


I’ve been enjoying listening to La Roux recently. Shamelessly retro, but excellent pop songs.

Here they are/she is performing on the Ellen Degeneres show. I like the very British handshake at the end. Classic case of not being quite sure whether to give the host a kiss, shake hands or simply smile and ending up with an awkward version of one of the three choices.

It’s interesting to note that whilst 80s style and sound might be back in vogue, it’s not all exactly as it was. I remember watching Top of the Pops in the 80s and always being surprised at how the synthesisers always wobbled around on their stands. Modern technology seems to have solved this, finally.

Qatar’s new prohibited page


Paraglider mentions the new, friendlier, ‘page blocked’ page.

Du, my provider in the UAE, has a similar approach, with a character from the local cartoon ‘Freej’.

I may be putting myself at risk of sounding pro-censorship, which I’m not, but the level of web censorship here doesn’t really bother me any more.

I do find it very annoying that Flickr is blocked in the UAE – this seems to make no sense, particularly when it’s unblocked in Saudi.

Apart from that, it’s rare I find a site I want to visit that’s blocked and I can understand why various sex sites are blocked for internet users here. I’m not a parent, but if I were, I would be quite happy to know that that sort of thing is hard to access.

Beware of other’s faults


There’s a new road safety campaign going on the in the UAE. This one’s catchphrase is ‘Beware of other’s faults’ (sic).

The new line strikes me as being a bit more effective than direct messages telling drivers themselves to be careful – I think it turns things on their head a little and sounds less hectoring. It’s certainly more catchy than some earlier campaigns, some of which were quite baffling – I can’t remember the exact phrasing and can’t find an online reference, but it was something along the lines of ‘silly flathead speeding racer what you arrive never for’. Or something equally mystifying, involving shop dummies.

The National has a good article on how effective some of the new posters are.

The most interesting part of the article is the quote from Dalia Sufian, surely a woman in danger of becoming the UAE’s most despised road user. She seems to represent the heart of the problem – various fines, suspended licences and even a death on her hands, yet she proudly boasts that she still drives dangerously. I wonder why on earth she still has her licence at all – what can you do with someone who happily tells a national newspaper of her past driving transgressions and her total disregard for other people’s safety? Astonishing.

The driving issue is a strange one. Having grown up in the UK, where driving standards are extremely high, I find it impossible even to start to empathise with the idiot drivers that flood the UAE’s roads, whether it’s the speeding tint-mesiter in his Patrol or the dawdling Nissan Sunny doing 80Km in the middle lane of the motorway. Do they all want to be involved in accidents? Are they that lacking in imagination to consider the consequences of the way they drive? Do they really enjoy the stress of all the constant speeding, dawdling, lane changing, tail-gating, headlight flashing, horn honking halfwittery?

To give Dubai its due, driving standards have definitely improved over the past few years, but there’s clearly some way to go. Whilst these sorts of road safety campaigns are probably helpful, the biggest difference would be made by having more traffic police actively pulling over dangerous drivers. Hopefully a great police presence is part of ‘Beware of other’s faults’…

What is the world coming to


Health and Safety is taking over the world.

Gone are the days when a business traveller could happily sit in his hotel room, fire up his soldering iron and use it… presumably for something that needed soldering.

It’s a disgrace.

Whatever next? I suppose I am going to have to start leaving my bunsen burner at home.

An Education


After Friday’s cinema disaster, watching the abysmal ‘Shutter Island’, balance has been restored.

I watched An Education on the plane to Jeddah. Fantastic, thoroughly British film. Watch it.