Archive for January, 2012

Cleaned up

31/01/2012

In Lagos this week – the difference in the city between my first visit in 2007 and today is huge. Cleaner, better organised.

Change can happen.

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Fascinating news

21/01/2012

I love the Arab News. So much useful info. The cost of renting a wedding hall has shot up by 15% in Saudi, apparently.

“Referring to the hike in maintenance cost, Abdul Jaleel, manager of a wedding hall at a hotel in Jeddah, said that there was an increase of 15 percent in the rental cost of a single chair. “The cost per chair has shot up to SR264 in January 2012 from SR220 during 2011,” he added.”

Fines and fees rage

10/01/2012

Frustrations. I wonder if anyone who runs some of the systems here ever really thinks very far beyond ‘the process’?

I followed the instructions to get the amount I pay for the municipality fee adjusted – the website simply says ‘your property is already registered’. The news article clearly stated that following the steps they outlined would mean I could submit my already registered property for a review of the fee. Meanwhile, friends of mine continue not to pay anything, even those who have tried to register, years after the municipality fee was supposedly being implemented across the emirate.

I note two violations from Salik on my car fines page. What could be the cause of this? Passing through the gate with no balance. How could this have happened? There is no auto top-up option of course and the sms reminder was sent to my old phone and I didn’t see it because we left on holiday and the 5 day grace period was missed. Never had a violation in all the years of Salik? Clearly have a record of topping up your account well in advance? Naturally no-one could care less. Changing my phone number on the website involves calling the call centre and being asked for a pin I have never had to use before – it can be resent to me of course… but to my old number. The car registration card number will help though, which is down in the car park…

Paying Mrs Saul’s speeding fine online is a smooth process. Annoying that the fine is due to speeding on a three lane road of the type that usually has a 100Kmph limit. Naturally this popular stretch of road has a random 90kmph speed limit. Cynics might suggest this is a great way to collect revenue from unsuspecting, otherwise honest, drivers.

When entering her licence plate details, I got a digit wrong and was horrified to see a huge list of Salik and speeding fines going back three years. I quickly realised my mistake and that I was looking at someone else’s list of fines. But hang on, how come this person has been able to re-register their car year on year, with all these fines unpaid, when I have diligently paid all of my fines?

As the Dubai police are currently running a baffling but welcome ‘50% discount on traffic fines’, people such as the owner of this car can save a huge amount of money, whereas I have paid full price from the start. So drivers like me are being punished for being honest and following the rules. Great.

I am putting off applying for my Emirates ID card as long as I can.

Check ahead for Lagos

09/01/2012

pI’m glad that the advice I got was to a href=”http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-16464922″avoid going to Lagos/a this week!/p

Another mention

09/01/2012

pI didn’t mention this in my blog at the time, but I got a mention in The National’s a href=”http://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/2011-the-people-and-events-that-made-for-a-cultural-year”review of the year./a/p

Evil mobile phone salesmen

09/01/2012

The comments in this article are great.

“Oh Allah! Please give me(us) protection from Yemeni Salesmen who dare to make thousands of fake promises for a sake of One Riyal.”

“I wonder whether you closed your eyes on the other men who tries through several means to hunt the flesh of their taste”.

New Mac

09/01/2012

My new MacBook Pro’s up and running.

Got a great deal on some old stock from a company linked with work – essentially buying the last version of the MacBook Pro, which has a slightly smaller disk than the current version, but saving myself around 400UKP in the process. Nice.

I love the new Mac. What I love most of all is the way I simply transferred all my apps, files and settings from my old Mac to the new one, overnight, over my network at home via Time Machine. Brilliant. The screen is stunning, the mousepad and gestures just great. Lightyears ahead of any Windows laptop I’ve used recently.

I do have one complaint. As with Mrs Saul’s MacBook, when not using a UK three pin plug, you get a slight vibration when touching the laptop’s aluminium body. This seems to be due to connections using the Euro plugs that the devices ship with here not being earthed properly*. Checking out the forums, it seems lots of people have this issue. It’s not the end of the world, but it is a bit irritating.

Mrs Saul got an iPhone for Christmas from me, so the apartment is slowly becoming all Apple.

* The whole of the Gulf uses the British standard three pin plug. Sadly, most of what gets sold here comes with Euro two pin plugs – or worse, crappy US fiddly two pin things. This leads to a huge market for the cheapest and dodgiest power adaptors China can produce being used all over the place.

A public service announcement – location of Nigerian embassy in Abu Dhabi

04/01/2012

UPDATE – the embassy has now moved and has a good website. So, don’t rely on this post for accurate info, make sure you check online. I will miss the photos of the pyramids, but such is progress.

As with many places in the UAE, getting to the Nigerian embassy in Abu Dhabi is extremely easy. If you know how to get there.

Sadly, the website does not provide a map and the street name it mentions isn’t on a sign anywhere – it’s more a nickname than the street’s actual name. Calling the embassy to ask for directions may not yield much helpful advice, or a correct street number either, so here’s how to get there from Dubai.

The location of the Nigerian embassy and consulate in Abu Dhabi (there is no consulate in Dubai) is 432/2 Al Nahyan Street. Al Nahyan is the nickname. The actual road name is ’26’.

To get there from Dubai, come off the Sheikh Zayed Rd towards Abu Dhabi. The Abu Dhabi’s exit is marked on the exit sign, but it’s always a surprise – it’s always feels like you’re pulling off into a service station, as opposed to taking the main route to the nation’s capital. Stay on the road and go over the Maqta Bridge and into Abu Dhabi.

After a while you will get to a set of lights where the intersecting street is called Hazza bin Zayed St. This is actually the name of the street and is mentioned on the street signs. If you turn right you will get to Al Wahda mall.

Don’t turn right. Turn left. You will go over at least one set of traffic lights (if I remember right). At any rate, you will get to a set of lights and can turn left into 26 street.

Very quickly on your right there is a set of shops. There’s a photographer where you can get some passport photos, or have your children photographed wearing weird sunglasses, judging by the photos hanging on the wall. Be prepared to stand up for yourself if 14 labourers rush into the shop and start distracting the shopkeeper when he’s handing over your photos, causing him to forget about you and focus on the latest person to shout at him.

Next door is a tiny DVD rental shop whose fax you can use for 2Dhs. Very handy if you need an obscure and highly important document faxed to you, in case you forgot to bring it with you or didn’t think that you’d need, for example, a letter from your employer telling the consulate that they don’t object to you travelling to Nigeria on business.

Carry on up 26 street over at least one set of lights (or was it two?). You will come to a roundabout. Naturally you will do a u-turn. About one hundred metres or so down the road on the right is a villa with green paint on its walls, and a security guard’s booth outside. This is the Nigerian embassy. You can park outside on the street. The Moroccan and French embassies are on the same side of the street and are useful landmarks if you miss the Nigeria one and wonder if you’re in the right place.

The embassy has some interesting sofas and seats to sit on if there is a queue. There is also a nice photo of president Goodluck Jonathan, wearing his trademark hat and looking a bit sheepish, with an Emirati flag photoshopped behind him.

When I visited, the Sri Lankan gentleman handling administrative matters was extremely helpful and friendly. I thank him for allowing me to get my ‘no objection certificate’ faxed to me and promising to wait for me if I came back after the official closing time.

I hope this is helpful and saves someone from spending over an hour driving around in circles whilst getting increasingly angry.

When you’re visiting the embassy’s website, check out their photo page. It has some cool pictures of sites of interest in Nigeria. In typically generous fashion, it also has a picture of a site in Tunisia, as well as the pyramids in Egypt.

Skywards Swizz

04/01/2012

I’ve been a victim of Emirates’ new way of calculating Skywards miles this year.

A flight to the UK used to get me 3,414 tier miles. Now it’s 3,000 for a ‘flex’ economy ticket, or 1,500 for a saver ticket. Work naturally books us on saver tickets if at all possible.

All this means that I am getting about 50% of the miles I used to. Grr.

I can understand why Emirates have done this – they have enough passengers, so they don’t need to treat their customers as well as they used to. Skywards was always a very generous scheme and is still not at all bad, however annoying it is to lose out on all those lovely free flights.

Where the new rules really grate is the revised policy around lounge access. As a gold member I could always invite a guest into the lounge. That’s been stopped. It’s particularly annoying when travelling with Mrs Saul – not allowing a spouse to accompany a gold card holder into the lounge in Dubai or anywhere else is intensely irritating and pretty stingy, I think. Of all the recent changes, it’s the one that seems to annoy most people – I think a lot of people have complained (as I will be doing, you’ll be surprised to read), so we may be lucky and see the policy reversed.

Fiddling

04/01/2012

This sort of thing totally baffles me.

Would it not have made sense just to build proper pedestrian access from the Metro to the Dubai Mail in the first place?

Instead of simply designing a route that pedestrians could safely follow, we have to put up with construction of a massive walkway for several years, cluttering up the area further. It will probably be garishly decorated and not fit in with anything around it, based on other recent ‘improvements’ in the area.

Still, it’s not quite as bad as the beautifully designed main entrance to the Dubai Mall – which is totally obscured by a large flyover running along in front of it. You simply can’t see it, unless you’re standing right in front of it – something you’d never do, unless it was by accident and you’d got lost, as you can’t walk to it.

The other major flaw that affects the Mall is the major exit that forces drivers to go in the opposite direction to where they want to go, veer across three lanes and then do a u-turn. This flaw must have been glaringly obvious to anyone designing the place, but it all still got built. Unlike anywhere to stop safely along the entirety of the Boulevard to visit the shops that line it, drop someone off, pick someone up, etc. Not a single lay-by exists, anywhere. I bet that wasn’t mentioned to anyone who was renting a roadside shop or restaurant.

I am feeling grumpy about all of this, as you might have noticed.