Archive for August, 2012

The digital signage apocalypse is nigh


Great news. Our developer are building nine – NINE – ‘led signboards’ around the junction next to where we live.

My guess is that they will advertise themselves or advertise things we already know about. Odds on they will be flashy, tacky, distracting and pointless.

Perhaps this is karma – the more I complain about digital signage, the closer it comes.

I’ve asked the developer what the strategy is for our area – is it to make it as tacky as possible? Does someone patrol up and down every day, identifying things that can be ruined?

Not happy.

New Rangie in Dubai


Here’s some spy footage of the new Range Rover.

This is just near where I live!

Eid is here


There goes the cannon. Eid is here.

I’ve not done enough Ramadany things this time around, but I’m glad for my muslim fasting friends that the hottest, longest, toughest fasting period I’ve been there through has finished.

New Camry


You can use conventional measurements of time to work out how long you’ve been in Dubai, or you can base your calculations on how many versions of the Camry have passed through the ranks of Dubai’s taxis.

I think this is the fifth version we’re starting to see on the streets now?

I’ve burbled on here before about how reliable they are and how they’re preferred by all the drivers. They have rear AC, unlike the Hyundai’s and Altimas, never seem to break, but have always looked pretty Japanese and jelly mould blobulous*. I’d never consider buying one – even if they can do 850,000Kms in three years without breaking down once, they’ve always been weird looking Japanese cars.

The new range is a bit different though – as well as being an excellent car, it actually looks good too. If I were in the market for a new saloon, I’d consider it.

You can have a look here.

The interior looks pretty good as well – the dash is fairly uncluttered. The version used by the taxis even has a leather look covering the top of the dash that wouldn’t look out of place in a much more upmarket vehicle.

My one complaint is that the taxi companies still don’t seem to give their drivers a version that comes with cruise control, which always leads to the situation described in this news article.

* ‘Blobulous’ is a technical term.

More construction


Took a quick drive around our area yesterday – lots of hoardings have come down and you start to get a feel of what the finished item will look like.

There’s a new mosque being built near us. If it’s anything like a lot of the new mosques that have come up in Dubai recently, it should look very stylish. I’m hoping it won’t be noisy enough to wake us up, but I do enjoy hearing the azan when visiting friends in Jumeirah, for example. It’s easy to forget you’re living in Dubai when you are where we are.

Business Bay is starting to look good and you now have a great view of Executive Towers. My worry is that a lot of the empty space in the area will end up having more disparate towers shoved in, turning that part of town into the same crowded nightmares you find elsewhere. A little space and a little parkland would really make it stand out. I don’t hold out much hope though, based on the nightmares that have been put up in Barsha, JLT, JBR, etc. Perhaps some common sense will prevail? I honestly believe that people would make more money out of an area that’s truly aesthetically pleasing and attracts people who want to live there and will pay a premium to do so.

More worryingly, the developer seems to be rushing ahead to fill up the Boulevard with as many shiny things as it can think of.

New access areas for the underground car park have been built. Naturally they are shiny, block existing views and, in some case, are built bizarrely close to the road. It’s not going to take long for someone to drive into one.

A new pointless bit of digital signage has gone up near Dubai Mall. Like its cousin on the other side of the road, it is used to advertise the Dubai Mall to people who are already going to the Dubai Mall. Still, this is better than the digital signage on Sheikh Zayed Road that is used to advertise itself.

Six small concrete bases with power points have been put in around our junction – ready for tasteful, helpful signs or garish digital hideousness? I’m really hoping it’s the former, but based on the current plans to crowd the area with as much tackiness as possible, I’m not holding my breath.

I would love to be a fly on the wall at the meetings where this stuff gets planned or decided…

New Rangie’s out


Can’t wait to see the new Range Rover in the flesh (or metal?).

The thing I’d like to hear about most is reliability, both for the current version (secondhand prices probably set to improve) and what they’ve done to ensure the new version doesn’t fall to pieces as regularly as its predecessors.

I write this as Mrs Saul’s 2003 Vogue is in the garage once again for mysterious undiagnosable enginey geary issues. The car is nine years old and has not been trouble free, to say the least.

My top tips for Land Rover engineers, based on my experience, are as follows –

Don’t have a steering wheel gyroscopic system that breaks.

Don’t use unrepairable air suspension technology that constantly breaks.

Don’t coat door handles and interior surfaces with a substance that peels off in the heat, or when touched by hands (extra tip, handles tend to get touched a lot by hands).

Don’t cover the rear windscreen wiper with a plastic cover whose hooks die in the heat after just six years. That’s just really tacky.

Build in a way of switching the car off when leaving it for a couple of weeks, so that when you return the battery isn’t totally drained and causes the diagnostic system to return constant errors unless it’s at 100% fitness.

Use tires that are provided by more than just two vendors, so that customers aren’t faced with a cartel charging way over the odds compared to similar models.

Don’t put metal edges on floor mats that damage the interior trim.

Don’t place plastic seat edges in such a way as getting in and out of the car breaks them. The people in the driver’s seat will be getting in and out quite regularly.

Use quality components for things such as ignition coils, injectors, etc, so that the car doesn’t break down all the time. Same goes for alternators. And fuel pumps. And air conditioning fan motors. And the transmission. And the headlight covers. And the headlight windscreen wipers and the transfer box and and and and!!!!

Think a bit before launching the car – is it going to be reliable? Or at least as reliable as its Japanese competitors? Reliability has to be a critical factor here!

Mind you, none of these problems seem to have stopped Range Rovers selling well – I just think that they could do so much better. Mrs Saul’s car needs to go and once again my heart is saying another Range Rover, whilst my head is saying Japanese. Let’s see how the combo of common sense and wallet capacity ride this one out when we look at what’s on the used car market…



A sad story, but the names are fascinating.

“Filipino expatriate Rommel Liwanag, 47, claims United International Private School (UIPS) discriminated against his son Miggy (not his real name) when they expelled him just two days after classes opened.”

I wonder if Rommel is named after the famous German general? And if you are going to invent a name for the child featured in the article, why choose ‘Miggy’?

Got to love the Gulf News.

A decade of Dubtown


Yesterday was the anniversary of my arriving on the BA flight from Heathrow, landing at 2230, being astonished by the heat (isn’t it supposed to be cold at night in the desert?) and starting off my time in Dubai.

Ten years later, I’m still here. Although, ironically, I’m posting this from Lagos, where I never imagined I’d spend time or visit.

Coming here has offered me a lot of advantages in life. I have to think about the disadvantages too – I have no intention of leaving, but we’ll need to balance money, career, life, family – and work out if we’ll still be here for the next decade.

I should post a few photos to illustrate the last ten years.

Oh Lagos


In Lagos for another week.

Although it’s improved, there’s so far to go and it’s going to take ages.

The power cuts are really starting to grate, especially when in the shower or in the middle of shaving.

My woes are nothing compared to the people outside my hotel eking out a living selling groceries on the floor or driving motorbike taxis or doing any of the other myriad things needed to make it from day to day.

My ‘stern face’ is obviously improving. The policemen who crowded around the car that picked me up from the airport didn’t even try to block me getting into the car. A grim face and raised eyebrows were enough for them to move out of the way. It is intimidating though. This is simply not a place that cares about welcoming anybody. They can’t even switch on the ACs around the immigration queue.

On the plus side, I like my customers and I like our partners and people are genuinely pleased to see you. It’s all a bit wild west, but at least all the cars I take have seat belts.

Thoughts on the opening ceremony


Only a week and a half late, but…

I thought it was totally bonkers but mostly brilliant.

The skydiving Queen bit was odd – funny, but I thought a bit disrespectful.

I didn’t like the bit where the girls loses her phone and then snogs the bloke who found it on a drunken night out. Perhaps fairly representative of British life, but I felt it didn’t fit.

I’m not an Arctic Monkey fan in general, but I thought they were excellent and looked very, very cool. I need to grow a quiff. Their rendition of ‘Come Together’ showed they are excellent musicians as well – they can play other people’s songs and not just their own. (Jesus Wore Ray Bans steered clear of covers…)

I’m so pleased to see the Olympics going well and the UK generally surfing on a bit of a high at the moment.