Saturday, September 30, 2006

TV During Ramadan

In the West, around Christmas and Easter, TV stations put on special, seasonal shows. In the Middle East, normal programming is completely replaced for the month of Ramadan.

The Arabic channels carry special Ramadan shows, related to the season.

My first year in Dubai, the Dubai English language TV station had special programs on Islam, the life of The Prophet (PBUH), and the meaning of Ramadan.

Since then, during Ramadan, the schedules on the English language TV channels all change completely, but the meaning of the change is difficult to discern. The TV series The Biggest Loser replaced the TV series Lost. Seinfeld replaced Third Rock from the Sun.

And, for some reason, they are running a British series about a police inspector set during WWII that is replacing Oprah.

But I haven’t seen a single show on the English language channels broadcasting from the Middle East that have any obvious connection with the month of Ramadan.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Red Backed Spiders for Iftar

Around the end of the normal time for iftar, about an hour after sunset, I got a call from Farook.

‘What that animal in Dubai before a few months, if it catch you, you dead?’

I knew the answer, the Australian red-backed spider, which is said to be common in the Emaar developments, and which has been seen elsewhere in Dubai.

‘It’s the red-backed spider,’ I answered.


‘Alhambra spider.’ I knew the Alhambra is the famous Red Palace of Andalusia. I heard someone in the background say something al hambra, but I missed the Arabic for spider.

‘Thank you,’ and Farook rang off.

How red-backed spiders had gotten into his iftar dinner conversation, I will probably never know.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Iftar with Farook

Farook called me Tuesday night a little before midnight. I was asleep, but saw the missed call, and called him today.

‘I have appointment yesterday with Saudi Emir and want you join me, but you no answer. You join me iftar today?’

‘Yes, I’d like that.’

‘I be in my office all day. You come before iftar.’

I made it to Farook’s at 4:30 p.m. Farook, of course, wasn’t there. Outside his office was a large box, of the sort Ikea furniture comes in, and his door was open, so I went in.

Shortly after I arrived, another box like the one outside his door arrived and was set down in front of me. Inside were about 40 iftar dinners. All had an inscription that a property company (not Farook) had donated them.

Farrok arrived, and asked me if I knew what Zakat was. I do. Muslims are required to donate 2.5% of their money to the poor during Ramadan, and this is called zakat. He explained that the meals were zakat, and one of them was for me. He had this month’s secretary hand it to me.

Quite a few people arrived between 4:30 and 5:30, and all got one or more of the zakat iftar dinners.

Then Farook said, ‘We go,’ and we left. He dropped me somewhere in Karama.

When I finally straggled home, it was about 5 minutes after iftar, and I opened my iftar box.

It consisted of a ½ pint box of juice, four dates, an apple, Arabic pita bread, fried chicken parts, and spicy goat fried rice, called biriani.

Farook invitation to iftar did not mean iftar with Farook.

But I ate everything except the goat.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Main Post Office: Karama

Back in the West, I checked my mail daily. Every few days, a bill would arrive that had to be paid before it accrued interest, penalties, and/or having the utilities cut off. If I left my mail for two or three days, the junk mail would fill the mailbox to overflowing.

In Dubai, all my bills are paid by direct withdrawal, and I only get a few important items by post, so I don’t check more than a few times a month. Since Faysel, I haven’t been able to walk, so I hadn’t checked at all.

But today, with the aid of Proxen®, I decided to check my mail.

When I reached the post office, it was under construction. The sign said, ‘Sorry. Work: Expansion of Public Hall.’

And, as usual, there was nothing of importance.

As I left the post office, I heard the cannon signalling magrib, the time for iftar, which meant that the take-away iftar I had found on Sunday was already finished.

Luxury Taxi???

I was invited to iftar yesterday. After waiting an hour for a bus, I realized I’d be late, so I went to the taxi stand.

‘You want taxi?’

I was, of course, standing by the taxi stand because I was hoping that a yacht would sail by.

I told the driver where I was going. ‘How much?’ I asked.

‘Regular meter taxi.’

So I got in.

I make this trip often, and the fare is always around €2. Half way to my destination, the meter read €10.

‘I’ll get out here. The fare should have been around €2. What is this?’ I handed the driver €10 and started to get out.

The driver said, ‘This luxury taxi.’

‘This is a Chevy. Chevy’s cost less than the Toyotas the regular taxis use.’

The driver handed me back €5, turned off the meter, and said he’d take me to my destination.

‘My boss get meter charge much more than regular taxi. I sorry. My boss big cheater, not me. Yesterday I take people to from Clock Tower to City Centre for €20.’

So I ended up paying €5 for a €2 taxi ride, but I thanked the driver for his honesty.

I arrived about half an hour before iftar. My host, knowing I’m not a Muslim, had one of his servants give me a cup of tea. Finally, it was iftar, and I went to wash my hands. By the time I’d finished, iftar, consisting of three dates and three sips of water, was over. My host was praying.

‘Where you go?’ he asked after he’d finished praying.

I made my excuses, then we sat down to a dinner of normal fare: rice, chicken, and goat stew. Nothing special for Ramadan, but still very nice.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Second Day of Ramadan: Traffic and Iftar

Yesterday, I was on the bus, (actually, for the most part, waiting for the bus). Today I went out walking.

There is much more traffic at 4:00 p.m. than usual, as businesses and schools adjust their schedules so that people can be home before iftar. Traffic is also going much faster than usual.

By 5:30, most of the traffic is gone, but what’s left is going even faster.

By 6:00, with only 16 minutes until iftar, of the very few cars still on the roads, the red cars are looking blue from the relativistic colour shift. The drivers are hoping (with good reason) that time dilation will get them home in time for iftar.

The medium scale and upscale iftars in Dubai have increased in price quite a bit since I’ve been here. Five years ago, there were many €5 iftar buffets; this year, I saw a typical iftar in Dhiyafa for €20.

While iftar is recommended to be just three dates and some water, followed by the evening prayer, followed by a light dinner, these iftars are massive buffets, usually available for just 30 to 45 minutes, so everyone races to eat before the iftar is removed.

However, for the people who wish to dine at home with their families, there are small cafeterias with take-away for iftar. While the newspapers advise against fried foods for iftar, almost everything was fried, rather like a spicy tempura.

There was a ball of potatoes and onions, battered and fried. Also battered and fried were a whole chilli, and a couple of things I couldn’t identify. The only non-fried item was something baked inside a banana leaf, rather like a South American tamale, but with different spices and more cocoanut.

And all for much less than €1.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

First Day of Ramadan

I was at the bus station today, waiting an hour for a bus. The islands where one waits for busses, normally full since the drivers must leave the busses while they take a required break, were almost half empty.

To get to the bus station, I waited an hour for a bus at the Ibn Batutta Mall (which has an excellent historical exhibition), and finally took a private bus.

Islam says that Muslims should break their fast promptly at sunset, and UAE law requires that most businesses must let their workers out early enough they can make iftar on time. Those who have to prepare iftar were crowded into the supermarkets around 5 p.m. (I was in the Carrefour’s by the bus station; all the stations were open, and all had a long queue).

By the bus station, an iftar provider had rolled out two 30-meter rolls of plastic table coverings in parallel strips. Lined up along both rolls were 100 ml cartons of juice, and on a large table they had laid out an iftar buffet. The savoury aroma reminded me, sharply, that I hadn’t eaten all day, and I really wanted to buy some of the fried items (deprecated by the local newspapers) to take home, but my bus came and I went home to an iftar of salad.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Ramadan Starts Tomorrow

For people not familiar with Islam, tonight the Moon Sighting Committee went out to look for a crescent moon. The moon was new today at around 4:00 p.m. in Dubai, so (according to my computer) they could not possibly have seen the crescent. However, according to the Internet, someone in Saudi saw a crescent (by faith, not sight) so all of the Gulf will start Ramadan tomorrw, Saturday. (The crescent will be clearly visible in the Western hemisphere tonight, so this way most of Islam will observe Ramadan together.)

This means that, beginning tomorrow, from one hour before dawn, there will be no eating, drinking, nor smoking in the UAE until sunset, and this will continue until 22 October.

Travellers are not required to fast, so some hotels have ‘secret’ rooms where travellers may eat a normal lunch (and smoke), but these places are hard to find.

When I was in Al Ain several years ago, I was led to one of the ‘secret’ Ramadan rooms, where I saw people having alcoholic drinks with their lunch; I was later taken to ‘secret’ rooms in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where they served food but no alcohol.

At sunset, cannon may be heard in parts of the emirates to let people know that iftar has started. Out of earshot of the cannon, the muezzins sing the call to prayer.

The newspapers say that, when one hears the cannon and muezzins, one should eat three dates, drink a small amount of water, and go to pray. After prayer, one should eat a light meal. Additional, voluntary prayers are appropriate until around two hours before dawn when one should have another light meal of slowly digesting foods, and drink lots of water. The money saved by fasting should be given to the poor.

The liquor stores in Ajman and Umm Al Quwain will close tonight shortly after dark and remain closed until the end of Ramadan.

Nightclubs in Abu Dhabi will be closed until after Ramadan.

Nightclubs in Dubai may open after 7:30 p.m., but must close early and are allowed no music or dancing until after Ramadan.

And most of the madams I know tell me their establishments will be closed for the entire month of Ramadan.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

No ‘City that Cares' this Ramadan???

Tomorrow at sunset, the Moon Sighting Committees in all countries with Muslims will go out and look for a crescent moon. If they see it, it will be Ramadan; if they don’t, Ramadan will start Saturday night. (Actually, the moon will be new tomorrow mid-afternoon in Dubai, so they Moon Sighting Committe in Dubai will be able to see the crescent only if they use a lot of imagination.)

For almost a decade, every Ramadan, Dubai has had a big shopping promotion, but not this Ramadan.

Dubai normally has three shopping promotions each year:

There is the winter Shopping Festival, and the Summer Surprises (with Secret Dubai’s favourite, Modesh), and at some time, depending on the Islamic Calendar, there used to be the Ramadan promotion, called ‘Dubai, the City that Cares.’

When Ramadan was in December, the Shopping Festival was in March. When Ramadan was in November, the Shopping Festival was moved forward to January/February. (The idea is to have the shopping promotions spread throughout the year.)

Retailers are charged large fees to participate in these shopping promotions. In fact, any retailer that claims to be having any kind of sale is supposed to purchase a permit (though it’s not clear that Dubai ‘sales’ actually involve any reductions from normal prices). Still, I’ve seen some retailers who posted the permit in their windows to indicate that their ‘sales’ were ‘official,’ and must therefore be real.

This year, Ramadan will begin in September, the same month that Summer Surprises ends; in addition, the winter Shopping Festival has been moved to December/January.

Retailers didn’t want to pay the fees for three shopping festivals so close together, and ‘The City that Cares’ promotion was cancelled. Secret Dubai calls this cancellation ‘The City that Doesn’t Care.

Actually, even without the shopping promotion, most malls are putting up their usual Ramadan decorations, and I saw a truck unloading the booths where people will collect Ramadan donations.

So the only things missing this Ramadan will be the banners that said, ‘The City that Cares,’ for which retailers proved reluctant to pay the large fees.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Dubai Metro Progress

It's been a few weeks since I went by the main Dubai Metro site at what used to be Union Square Park. The last time it promised 1118 days until completion, and now it says 1085. Still too long to know if things are on schedule.

While a lot has been torn up in preparation for the new Metro, the Gulf News says that digging the actual tunnels is set to start early in 2007.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Spam: US vs. UK

When email first came out, I tried to publicize my address as widely as possible, hoping to hear from people. Today, I seldom give my email out as even friends have accidentally given it to spammers (by sending me a free e-card).

In the UAE, during the three annual shopping extravaganzas that Dubai used to offer (now reduced to two, as reported in Secret Dubai Diary) most malls and some souks gave tickets to win cars or gold to all the shoppers who’d bought something. The tickets asked for the shoppers’ email to inform them if they’d won. Since filling out those tickets, I haven’t won anything; however, I do get almost 100 spam messages a day.

In the UK, a group called Spamhaus publishes a list of known spammers. The various spam blockers, including Microsoft and (presumbably) Etisalat use this list, and spammers find they lose millions of dollars a day from their blocked spam, so they have sued Spamhaus in the US courts, and have almost always won both actual and punitive damages.

Spamhaus has neither people nor assets in the US, so, sadly, the spammers have been unable to collect their lost earning. Nor have they been able to shut Spamhaus down.

And no spammer has tried suing in the UK, since they fear ending up like Mr. Wilde did when he sued for slander.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Etisalat's Own Endorsement of Weyak

Today, as previously reported in GrapeShisha I got an invitation from Etisalat to join Weyak.

And, as also reported today in One Big Construction Site, my invitation was classified as ‘spam’ by the Etisalat spam filter.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Market Indicator???

My bank sends out a report about how the UAE stock markets did for the day; the report normally arrives between 3:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. When the report does not arrive, it usually means something unusual happened. Today, the report duly arrived at 4:30 p.m., so nothing unusual about the day’s trading.

The DFM rose more than 2.2%, but then dropped back to close with a gain of just 0.6%. This was on a volume of more than US$1,000,000,000.

Only 20 stocks were traded at all, with just 6 (TAMWEEL, EMAAR Properties, Dubai Investments, Islamic Arab Ins., Amlak Finance, and ARAMEX) representing more than 80% of the value traded.

The Gulf News reports that Habib Al Mulla, chairman of the Dubai Financial Services Authority says that the DFM does not have enough companies.

Which seems like rather an understatement.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ramadan is Coming

Today is the 20th of Sha’aban in the UAE. On the 29th, the Moon Sighting Committee will go out and look for the moon. If they see it, Ramadan has begun and will probably last for 30 days; if they do not see it, Ramadan will start the following night and will probably last for 29 days. Since the start of Ramadan depends on each country’s Moon Sighting Committee, Ramadan can differ by a day or two between different countries.

Farook told me a story about the Moon Sighting Committee. In a country that he did not name, the Ruler offered US$1,000 to the first person who saw the moon. A man came in on the 29th of Sha’aban just after sunset and claimed the award. He came back an hour later, and said he was also the first person to see a second moon, and to claim a second award.

When I first came to the UAE, there was to be an iftar presentation about Ramadan to explain its meaning to non-Muslims, and I paid the admission fee. Iftar is the meal eaten at sunset during Ramadan.

Devout Muslims fast during Ramadan. Islamic fasting means no food, no water, and no smoking from about one hour before sunrise until sunset, but, once the sun sets, Muslims eat the iftar meal, which is an important part of the day during Ramadan.

At a typical public iftar, the food is set out a little before sunset, and all the persons at the iftar fill their plates and set them on the table, so they can begin eating the minute the muezzin announces sunset.

Finally, at the iftar presentation I attended, the muezzin began chanting, everyone began eating and drinking water and fruit juices, and a man stood up on the podium. He announced that Ramadan is a time for family, so the scheduled speaker, in accordance with Ramadan tradition, was spending iftar with his family and would not be able to attend our presentation and explain Ramadan.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Breakfast with Farook. Again.

Yesterday, Farook invited me to breakfast and kept me (‘Please, just a minute more. I have something very important.’) until 6:00 p.m. I had an appointment with Fahad yesterday, and Farook knew about it, told Fahad to meet me at Farook’s office, then talked to Fahad in Arabic until I tried to leave (‘Please, just a minute more.’) until, at 6:00 p.m., I’d had enough. I told Fahad, ‘Tomorrow. I will come to your place in Sharjah at 1:00 p.m. Please be in Sharjah.’

Fahad said, ‘You must go? I be here maybe several more hours. You wait, I take you home. I really need talk to you.’ Fahad is very wealthy, and said he desperately needs my help.

‘Tomorrow. 1:00 p.m. Your place.’

‘OK, you come, I bring you back Dubai before six.’ And I left Farook’s office.

Today, at about 8:15 a.m., Farook called. ‘I waiting to take you Fahad’s. Come now. I park beside your flat.’ I wasn’t even dressed.

‘I can come in 30 minutes.’ ‘No. Too late. You must come now.’ I began to get dressed. The phone kept ringing every 5 minutes until I got down. Farook seemed very annoyed.

‘I know you go Sharjah today. I help you. Why you keep me waiting here in car? Car very uncomfortable. I try help you, and you no respect me.’ He sounded very hurt at my inconsiderate behaviour.

So off we went. First to the hospital so he could visit an old friend. Then to breakfast in the cafeteria marked ‘Staff Physicians Only!’ Farook quite likes the fact that he can get away with breaking rules that apply to almost everyone else. Then to try to sell some real estate. Then to distribute some sweets for an occasion he said he couldn’t tell me about, that my asking was like pouring salt on something. I couldn’t quite make out from his Arablish what the salt was being poured on. Then we had to drive around Deira looking for flats Farook could sublease.

We finally got to Sharjah at 3:00 p.m. I was annoyed by now. ‘Why you annoyed? I give you ride.’

‘I could have worked until noon, taken the bus, been at Fahad’s at one, and finished his project.’

‘You take bus? Only Indianos take bus. Bus very bad. Maybe you meet another Faysel on bus. And you no need five hours with Fahad. You arrive, say hello, goodbye, get back to Dubai. You no help Fahad. Fahad Arab. Arab help Arab. Western help Western.’

After we arrived at Fahad’s, Farook and Fahad talked about life and Islam. All in Arabic. Fahad speaks English, but refrained since Farook was present and he didn’t want to be impolite.

Promptly at 6:00 p.m., the time he’d promised to have me back in Dubai, Fahad gave us dinner. As soon as dinner was over, he left.

I had to ride home with Farook, who had to look at some properties in Sharjah on the way. I got home after 9:00 p.m.

Farook said, ‘You get to spend all day listen Arabic. Arabic language of God. You get many blessings for listen Arabic all day. You should say “Thank you,” because I am really help you. Fahad no need your help. I get him Arab person help him.’

‘You’re right. If I make an appointment with Fahad and take the bus to Sharjah, when I get to his house, they’ll just tell me he forgot about the appointment and is in Dubai.’

So I didn’t get to help Fahad at all. Fahad says he still desperately needs my help. And he’s still very wealthy. But he tends not to keep appointments.

So, if I foolishly decide I still want to help Fahad, I’m going to try to schedule an appointment that Farook doesn’t know about.

Breakfast with Farook

Sunday, when I was busy, Farook called and said he had something very important to tell me. I said I was busy. ‘It will only take 30 minutes. Surely you can take 30 minutes?’ I apologized. ‘As you like.’ So today, I said I could meet with Farook for a few minutes. He suggested getting together at 9:00 a.m. for coffee, so I arrived at his office promptly at 9:00 a.m.

When I arrived at his office, a young man named Ali was there. Farook said we were going to breakfast. As we left his office, another young man was standing outside, wearing a black Western suit, and he began shouting at Farook in Arabic. Of course, I didn’t understand a word, but I think it was about US$500 Farook owed the young man. Farook kept saying (in Arabic) ‘Finished, finished.’ The young man shouted something in Arabic, then got into his car and left. Farook never explained to me what the argument had been about, or who the young man was.

Farook took me to a Karachi restaurant. It’s one in a chain that has branches all over Dubai. We sat down and the waiter appeared with bread and plates of curried garbanzo beans. Ali and Farook said we wanted something else, to tell us everything that was available. I didn’t understand a word, since the conversation was in a pidgin of Arabic and Urdu.

Eventually, Ali got a bowl of goat’s foot soup and bread, and Farook and I got a plate of curried garbanzo beans and bread. All for less than €1 apiece.

Then Farook and Ali fought over the bill, and Ali won. I don’t know who Ali is, except that he’s from Syria, nor do I understand what his relationship is with Farook.

I finally got home at 7:00 p.m.

And Farook never told me anything I consider ‘important.’

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Dubai Getaways in the New York Times

Once again, the New York Times has a major article about Dubai, this time about getaways, i.e., where to get away from Dubai after getting here.

The printed version apparently had a ridiculously low price for the Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa on the way from Dubai to Al Ain. The corrected price, given as US$1,000 and up, appears at the end of the article.

Basically, the article says: 1) Get a big 4x4; 2) Drive it out of Dubai.

Oman got mentioned quite a bit, as did the other Emirates. About the only thing the article recommended inside Dubai were the new bird viewing boxes on the Ras al Khor.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Property Crash???

A friend told me that rents are declining in Dubai. I personally haven’t seen any decline, but everyone seems to be wondering when the Dubai property bubble will burst. Farook, a real estate agent, keeps saying that the Emaar, Nakheel, and Dubai Holding properties are all overvalued by at least 90%.

Normally, property doesn’t suffer the extreme declines seen in stocks, or at least it isn’t possible to observe the extreme declines.

When the amount offered for stocks drops by 60%, there will still be sellers, and one can observe the price at which the shares trade; however, when the amount offered for properties drops by 10%, most sellers will hold out, hoping for a rebound, so the properties don’t trade until the price rises.

Last week, the Gulf News had an ad for properties at ‘15% below market value.’ Is this a first sign of a decline?

The Gulf News also has a columnist who says that he has been here 20 years, and rents have usually gone up every year, have occasionally remained stable, and have never declined. However, I spoke with another long-term resident, who said his rent was cut 15% in 1990. And 7 Days had a story that said landlords should be ‘very afraid’

With an unexpectedly mild hurricane season, and assurances from China and Japan that Iranian oil will find its way onto the world market regardless of what the US does, oil has finally dropped below US$70. With most of the world’s wealthy, energy-consuming population now enjoying a clement fall season, and with their summer driving over, demand for oil should remain low until the winter heating season some three months away, so oil could drop, though OPEC has pledged to keep the price above US$65.

If OPEC fails to keep prices up, as it has often failed in the past, the volume of US$ pouring into the region will decline. Consequently, the volume of people desperate for venues in which to park their oil money will decline as well.

Meanwhile, I’ve read that between 150,000 and 250,000 new housing units are scheduled to appear in Dubai before the end of 2007. Since developers here are almost always late in delivering units, the number actually appearing in 2007 will certainly be less than the number promised, but there will still be a large number of units, many purchased by speculators with a small down payment. Before, speculators needed to put down the balance of the sales price if they hadn't found a buyer before the property was completed, but there is now an active market for mortgages, so the amount of cash needed to hold a property is only the monthly payments. Until the banks get nervous. And even monthly payments will be difficult to maintain if units are sitting vacant.

Right now, The Dubai Marina is said to be mostly empty. It was possible to purchase with a small down payment, but the full sales price was due upon completion. No one understands how the speculators are able to sit on their (empty) properties, unless they are not speculators but investors from the Gulf who used oil money to buy the properties for cash (or wasta), and are currently using the properties as a repository for part of their wealth. So prices might not be under the pressure one would expect for an empty development.

On the other hand, The Meadows and The Springs are mostly occupied. I rode through The Meadows and The Springs in summer, 2005. Many units had For Sale or For Rent signs. I rode through the development a week ago, and saw only two such signs. Prices and rents for The Meadows and The Springs rose more than 60% over the year, but honest landlords, limited by a 15% cap on rent rises, cannot raise rents to market levels. This means that, if rents stabilize, continuing tenants can look forward to a 15% rise next year. And continued support for current prices.

But if 250,000 new units really are coming on the market, it's hard to see how this support can continue unless a lot of upper middle-class people immigrate to Dubai.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Waiting for the Bus

The Dubai Transport has added quite a few new bus routes over the years, and has had to add new islands to the bus terminal officially called Al Ghubaibah, but universally known as Bur Dubai. At first, there was no protection for the new islands, but now there are canvas coverings providing bus passengers a little shade while they wait. (The older islands have a permanent, cement covering.)

I arrived at 3:59, but no sign of the 4:00 bus; however, the 4:10 bus was waiting with its engine running. A couple of workmen were re-painting the red and white post that marks the bus stop, which was a minor problem, as they had removed the sign giving the bus numbers. They were using at least two coats. But I finally figured out that they were working on the post for my bus.

At 4:05, the 4:30 bus arrived, but the driver said he had to take a break, and the 4:10 bus would leave before he returned.

But 4:10 came and went. The two painters finished their job and re-attached the sign with the bus numbers to the now brightly sparkling post.

Finally, at 4:25, the driver of the 4:30 bus returned and opened the doors to the bus, and we departed promptly at 4:30.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Up with the Orange

Today, I was meeting a friend at Lamcy Plaza. A confirmed pedestrian, I hadn't noticed, but my friend was annoyed.

Lamcy used to have free parking; in fact, it had free valet parking (with purchase).

As of today, the car park is filled with orange signs and the orange parking permit dispensers.

(My friend did say that the policeman there to issue tickets was very helpful.)

When I first arrived in the UAE, I worked in Al Ain but came to Dubai every Thursday, always alighting at Lamcy Plaza. I was able to cut across the semi-deserted car park. At its most crowded times, cars could park in any of several sand lots around the paved car park.

Gradually, all the sand lots turned into completed buildings or buildings under development, and the paved lot became full at all hours between 8:00 a.m. and midnight, so drivers had to circle for some time to find a space. But at least parking was free.

The lot is still full, drivers still have to circle to find spaces, but, when they find them, they have to pay.

For which callous pedestrians are glad, since the money drivers have to pay provides municipal services for the rest of us.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Jumairah Beach Road Beautification Project

Today, I was standing at the corner of Al Urouba Road and Jumairah Beach Road.

Al Urouba Road is where I need to press the stop button on my bus if I want to stop at one of my favourite Jumairah supermarkets. For those of us who get desperate for Western food items, the Jumairah supermarkets have the best selection of Western foods (and other Western items) in Dubai.

They are building a fountain labeled 'Al Urouba' on the corner, to make it easier to spot the place to press the stop button on the bus, for which I am grateful.

As of current date, the silver 'Al Urouba' is still covered in black protective tape, but that should be removed soon.

Friday, September 01, 2006

September, and Temperatures are Falling???

I’m not sure why, but I prefer to get the local Dubai temperature from the link to the OMDB (whatever that is) provided by The Desert Weasel.

Today, 1 Sept., the temperature did not exceed 40; however, the heat index was more than 41.

And, beginning tomorrow, construction workers will no longer get a break during the warmest hottest part of the day (except on Fridays).