Monday, January 29, 2007

Bee Honey

Wandering around a certain Northern Emirate, I noticed a purveyor of Bee Honey. And all these years, I've been buying honey without checking to see where it had come from.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


In the book Leave it to Psmith, the eponymous protagonist places an ad in 'Situations Wanted.' The only responses he receives are numerous offers to lend him money 'On very reasonable terms.'

Now, without even bothering to place such an ad, I am starting to feel like Psmith.

A few weeks ago, a bank (where I keep my pitifully small reserve of cash) called to offer me money, on the usual 'very reasonable terms.' I politely listened, but said I wasn't interested.

The next day, the same lady from the same bank called again, in case I'd changed my mind (I hadn't).

A few days later, she called again, to say that no one could possibly pass up the offer of cash on such great terms.

And again.

And again.

Finally, exasperated that I kept refusing her offer of cash, she said, 'But now there's no interest at all, so if you're a Muslim, you can take the money. In fact, whether you're Muslim or not, how can you refuse an offer of money without interest?'

Of course, there was a monthly fee of 1% of the total amount borrowed, even as the loan was being repaid, so the 'interest free' loan was being offered at 24% interestfee.

I wonder at my stupidity for declining such a generous offer.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Addiction and Taxis

Some people are addicted to drugs and squander all their money on fixes. Dubai@Random is addicted to books and squanders etc.

So I went to a very large mall (which shall remain nameless) which has two large bookstores (and several smaller ones) near the ski slope, and squandered a couple of hours and far too much money.

Then I went to take a taxi home, and the line wound half way around the mall. As I moved into my place at the end of the queue, a man wearing a cardigan said, 'Taxi?'

I've been taken by the 'luxury taxis,' which have a meter, but the meter is set to run at 3 times the regular taxi rates. And I've taken unmetered taxis, which can be cheaper or much more expensive than regular taxis. But this turned out to be a regular Dubai taxi, with a normal meter.

There is a long queue for taxis, where they must wait until dispatched, and an equally long queue for riders, who have to wait until their taxi is released. This enterprising driver thought he'd skip his queue and let me skip mine.

Since his uniform was underneath his cardigan, I was a bit nervous, but it was indeed a regular Dubai taxi, with a normal meter, and a regular Dubai taxi driver, and we both jumped our respective queues.

And the taxi system at the mall remains beyond my limited comprehension.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The 7% Solution (2)

For most properties in Dubai, the 7% limit on rent increases means that there is actually a freeze (since rents increased by more than 14% last year, and the 7% is for both of the last two years).

It is not clear from the newspaper accounts of the ruling whether this only applies to tenants who remain in their lodgings, or to the actual property. Assuming landlords can raise rents for new tenants, enterprising landlords will probably be closing their buildings for ‘renovations,’ which will take about 5 seconds, then re-opening at market rates, which are much higher than what current tenants are paying. Enterprising tenants will be moving out and sub-leasing at market rates. (Advice to sub-leasing tenants: tip the watchman so he won't tip off the landlord.)

Inability to raise rents is one concern for property investors.

Another concern is that a lot of properties are due for completion in 2007. Which doesn’t mean a lot in this part of the world, but some of those properties will eventually be completed. The local newspapers say the total due for completion in 2007 exceeds demand, but, again, not all those scheduled for completion will actually be completed.

A third concern for investors is that the price of oil has dropped by more than 30%. With oil at $78, and with the US freezing the Western-based assets of some people from this part of the world, a lot of oil money was pouring into Dubai property, which, for many investors, was safer than the alternatives. Now those investors have 30% less money that needs to be invested in places like Dubai.

Another UAE Tale of Terror

Fahd suffered a horrible fate recently. Sensitive or squeamish readers should read no further, so ghastly is the tale that follows. This is a grisly tale I have never seen in the West, but I can attest that I was an eyewitness, and all the details of this gruesome story are true:

Fahd lived alone with just two maids who cooked and cleaned for him.

Fahd invited Farook, a terrible man with an evil eye, over for dinner. Farook said it wasn’t fair that Fahd had two maids while Farook didn’t have any. Then Farook put his evil eye on Fahd’s maids.

Sure enough, both maids left, even the one whose passport remains locked in Fahd’s safe.

The evil maids didn’t even leave Fahd any toast for his breakfast: all he could find was half a loaf of bread.

The maids used to order food and cigarettes from a nearby grocer who delivered, but they did not leave the number.

Poor Fahd is starving, suffering horribly without his cigarettes, and doesn’t even have any clothes to wear.

Never, in all my long years, have I ever seen a more evil fate befall an innocent man, and all from Farook’s evil eye.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Video.exe Virus

I received an e-mail titled "British Muslims Genocide" with an attachment Video.exe.

I suspect all .exe files, so I ran it by my virus checker, which said it was OK. Fortunately, I didn't have time to try to watch and see what the video was about.

I got my latest virus (and worm) definitions, and it's a new worm which passed inspection with the old definitions.

In Europe, the e-mail says it has photos of damage from the recent storms.

Here, the tag line is different, but the payload is the same.

Friday, January 19, 2007


The world is in unusually good shape when the headlines are about a reality TV show.

An improvement over recent headlines.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


I am working on a project for a wealthy (I hope) Saudi client named Fahd, whose home/office is about 30 km from my flat. Our agreement was that I’d take the bus to his place sometime after noon (when he gets up), and he’d give me a ride home when we were both too tired to continue. Even if he paid enough for me to afford a taxi (which he doesn’t), it’s hard to find a taxi in a remote neighbourhood at 3:00 a.m.

Lately, though, he has been asking me to stay until we’ve finished with the entire project. Since his project is largely on spec, this means giving up everything else I have to do, which isn’t really an option. He says his project is more important than anything else I have, and we have to finish faster than is possible—the usual: if a secretary can type 80 words a minute, why does it take so long to type in a few hundred technical instructions? And surely if you didn’t take breaks, you could finish a lot faster. And what’s there to think about, just type! Why do you need me? You’re the expert. You should know what I need you to do. Etc.

So, Friday morning at 3:00 a.m., he said he was too tired to drive me home, and I was trapped in his villa.

Fahd spent most of his life in the US, but he left after the post-9/11 paranoia made him nervous. His children were raised in the US, but with Saudi attitudes, so his boys kept getting into fights in the UAE, and he finally sent his wife and children back to his house in Texas.

Now he lives on the ground floor of his villa, on a couch in front of his 72” flat-screen TV. The first floor bedrooms, where he used to sleep with his family, are deserted. The second floor is the servants’ quarters.

He said I could sleep anywhere on the first floor.

His boys all had rooms with a double bed and a TV. The oldest boy’s TV does not have parental control, but the younger boys’ TVs are restricted to appropriate programming. In Arabic at that.

One room has about six foam mattresses on the floor. This was the girls’ room.

And one room has a king-sized bed. That was the master bedroom, for Fahd and his wife.

I slept in the oldest boys’ room with the TV on for a night-light. The bed is designed for someone who weighs about half as much as I do, so I did not get a good night’s sleep. The beetles crawling all over the bed didn’t help, either.

Friday, we couldn’t work until sunset. Friday morning, Fahd slept, and Friday afternoon he had to attend the service at the nearby mosque.

Finally, after sunset we resumed work. Saturday around 2:00 a.m., we were too tired to continue, and he wanted me to stay over and start again Saturday morning, but I finally managed to get him to drive me home.

So I finally got home around 3:00 a.m. Saturday. And the visitors that had invited themselves into my place a week ago Friday were not around.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Caveat Student

I met a friend who tried to get into a Canadian university, but had been rejected by quite a few. Her English is less than perfect, and she didn’t understand the reasons for her rejections.

She had attended a UAE university that claimed to meet all international standards, so their bachelor’s degree would qualify the student to enter a post-graduate program, all credits would transfer, and a degree would count toward a Western visa.

The university claims to be in complete conformance with the university standards of a certain Western country.

Universities in this Western country give a three-year degree and call it a bachelor’s, but this degree is not recognized by Canadian or British universities. The universities in this Western country offer a fourth year, and call this a bachelor’s with honours, and this is the degree Canadian (and British) universities require. The fourth year is not offered by this UAE university.

The university guarantees (orally, not in writing) that its students in the UAE automatically qualify for student visas in the Western country so they can transfer all credits and (if desired) take the fourth year. But this proves much more difficult than described.

And she had even managed to find some Canadian universities that wouldn’t accept her into their undergraduate programs based on her transfer credit from this UAE university, though they would have accepted her had she applied based on her high-school marks.

The UAE has some reputable universities. But not all.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A Printer for Farook

When I first met Farook, he had a computer in his office. Only it didn’t have a hard drive or any RAM. He just had the almost empty case so he would look up to date.

Then he got a secretary who can type, only she needed something to type on, so Farook got one of his children’s old computers, brought it to the office, and his new secretary started typing up ads, contracts, and other things Farook needed.

But Farook cares about his children, so, when one of them needed a printer to do his homework, Farook took the printer from the office and replaced it with a printer another child had abandoned years before. The printer wouldn’t print, so Farook called me.

The printer needed a driver, which I managed to obtain and install. With the driver, the printer returned the message ‘Out of Ink.’ This was about two months ago. I told Farook he needed ink for this printer, removed all the ink cartridges, and told Farook to go to a computer store, show them the cartridges, and get new ones that were identical to the ones I’d removed. Only the new ones cost €50. The store also had fakes for €20, so that’s what Farook got.

Last week he called, and asked me to install the fakes. They didn’t fit. I showed Farook the originals and the fakes, and said the printer needed cartridges identical to the originals. Farook said it had been working fine with fakes before. I pointed out that the cartridges I’d removed said, ‘Original Xerox,’ and the fakes said, ‘Not Xerox product.’ The printing (all in English) was quite different. But, to Farook, infidel printing is infidel printing. In the Latin alphabet, Xerox and xylophone look identical to Farook. As do Xerox and Not Xerox. (To be fair, the same can be said about Arabic and me, and I once got fired for confusing ‘similar’ with ‘identical’ on a Top Secret document I’d been sent to fetch.) Still, I got a KFC meal out of the trip to see Farook.

So this week Farook called again and invited me over. And he had the same fake cartridges. He said he’d tried to get a printer that would work with his old computer, but they didn’t make them any more. Cross examination revealed that a printer that would work with his computer would cost €150, which Farook will not pay when new printers sell for less than €40. It seems that Farook thought that, after a week’s reflection, maybe I’d figured out a way to get the fake cartridges to work.

I hadn’t.

So another two hours wasted. And this time I only got a cup of tea and a cup of coffee for my trouble.

Which was, perhaps, healthier than KFC.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Nocturnal Visitors: Epilogue

The previous night, or actually, early the previous morning, some self-invited visitors had spent some time in my flat. One of them had left her mobile behind, perhaps deliberately, and had called to say she would be coming by to pick it up...

As I was writing the first 500 words about my Nocturnal Visitors, Svetlana's mobile rang. It was Svetlana. 'You at your flat now?' I answered, 'Yes.'

'I come by pick up mobile now?'


About half an hour later, the doorbell rang. I left my computer and opened the door. The Brit and Julia were standing there. The Brit said that Svetlana had asked them to pick up her mobile, as she really didn't want to come back.

I invited them in, but they said they had other plans and really had to run.

It is possible, of course, that Svetlana and Olga really work as shop assistants or some similar profession (their English is good enough) and thought it would be a good joke to pretend they worked in a very different profession to see how I might react. Before their first cigarette break (of many) Svetlana had acted as one would think a lady of negotiable virtue might act, but not after she returned from that first break. So maybe she thought better of the idea, and, the next evening, was a bit shy about coming back to see the butt of her joke.

The whole day Svetlana's mobile was with me, it only rang twice, and it was Svetlana both times. I believe call girls usually get more calls than that, especially if they are successful enough in their profession to be able to send $200 home every night.

It is also possible that I might have been repeating deja vu all over again: I've been to visit several houses of ill-repute (on several continents) where all the young ladies said to me, 'I'm very sorry, but tonight is my night off, and union rules are very strict about our not working on our nights off.'

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Nocturnal Visitors: 2 2 0

At the beginning of the evening, with the Brit and Julia also present, Svetlana had seemed to be in marketing mode, but all marketing had been switched off for some reason after she went outside to smoke. Now that the Brit and Julia were gone, I was alone with Svetlana and Olga, who were both drinking whiskey and cola...

I asked Svetlana and Olga about themselves. Svetlana said she was from Siberia, and Olga said she was from Stalingrad. I asked them what they did in Dubai, though the Brit had already confided their profession to me. Their English was quite good, better than any of the other women of their profession I've met in Dubai, and I wanted to hear their story.

Svetlana didn’t speak, but Olga responded. Her voice was flat and numb.

Olga said that salaries in Russia for women with her training and education were just $300 a month, out of which she had to pay for food, housing, school expenses for their children, and other expenses. $300 was not enough. If they didn't go hungry, she couldn't pay her child's school fees and buy schoolbooks.

Then she'd heard of a way to get rich quickly by coming to Dubai. She knew that there is only one kind of work that pays so well for a woman without any technical business skills, but she came anyway. She wasn't foolish enough to think that Dubai paid secretaries and shop assistants huge salaries, as Julia had. She'd known what to expect.

Olga said that, when she works, she earns enough to send $200 home every night after paying all her expenses in Dubai, and that she generally works twenty nights a month. I asked her where she worked, and she gave me the name of a well-known nightclub near the Internet and Media Free Zones. She said it had been very hard work, much harder than she'd expected, and she was now completely exhausted. Her voice sounded drained. She said it was time for her to go home for good.

For some reason, Olga and Svetlana had become quite cool and distant, as if we’d concluded a certain transaction that we had, in fact, never even initiated. They were like this even before I tried to get them to talk about themselves. What had happened when they went out to smoke together, I never knew.

We tidied up a bit, I packed the leftover food in a plastic bag, and told them they could take it and, perhaps, give it to Julia.

They asked me to get them a taxi, because, they said, they might be picked up by the police if they were spotted standing outside my building at 6:30 a.m., so I got Svetlana’s mobile number and left them in my flat while I went to flag down a taxi. As I stepped out, I saw a rather large pile of cigarette butts beside my door.

I stepped outside and waved until a taxi stopped. I dialled Svetlana's mobile, but, as I was calling, the taxi drove away.

I went back up and got them to come down with me and wait in the lobby of my building. I flagged another taxi, told him to pick up the two women waiting in the lobby, and watched as they rode away.

When I went back up, I found they had left behind the plastic bag of food and the bottle of cheap vodka, but they had taken the expensive whiskey. I tossed the leftover food and the vodka in the bin.

Then I noticed that one of them had left behind her expensive mobile. I tried using my mobile to call the only number I had for them, but I only rang the mobile that was sitting in my flat. Then I started calling the contacts on that mobile, and I reached Olga, who said she usually only sees Svetlana when they are both invited to birthday parties. Then Svetlana called to say she would drop by to pick up her phone later in the day.

It was 6:30 a.m., and I was finally able to go to bed and get some sleep. I wondered what might happen when Svetlana came back, alone, to pick up her mobile.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Nocturnal Visitors: 3 2 2

Prolog: In a previous post, I mentioned that three attractive women (and a middle-class Brit) had invited themselves into my flat at 4:00 a.m. to celebrate the birthday of the young woman named Julia. The woman named Svetlana had asked me if they could come in, and I let them. Svetlana called a Russian restaurant and ordered home delivery. Then Julia left, tired after a day of celebrating with the Brit, who was her fiancé, and I was left with the Brit, Svetlana, and Olga.

Of the two people who read these memoirs, one asked, How could a single man be so stupid as to let several attractive women invite themselves into his flat at 4:00 a.m.? I'm afraid answering such difficult, existential questions is beyond the scope of this blog. My other reader asked, what happened next? Answering such questions is the raison d'etre of this blog.

The conversation between my three remaining visitors somehow turned to which of the three of them was the best in bed, but the discussion was purely speculative since none had ever been in bed with any of the others, nor had Julia confided any intimate details to her two friends. Olga said something about the Brit’s hands indicating that his prowess must be in the moderate to good range, but Brit and Svetlana disagreed, the Brit claiming his prowess was excellent and Svetlana disparaging his claims. Obviously, when a middle class Brit begins to make any statements about his sexual prowess, it means he has consumed nine drinks, or, as the British say, ‘one over the eight.’

The food arrived—hearty pilmeney soup, Russian salad, and blini with red caviar. They’d ordered five of everything, and, after the hearty soup and salad, we only ate about half of one of the orders of blini. One and a half soups and salads were also left. We were all stuffed.

Then the Brit said he had to leave, and departed. Alone.

This, of course, left me alone with Olga and Svetlana, both of whom still had about half of a large whiskey and coke, which they both continued to nurse.

I asked them what they did, and they explained that they were women of negotiable virtue, who plied their trade at a popular nightclub near the Internet and Media free zones.

The sound of the dawn call to prayer wafted in through the window, and the skies began to lighten.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Nocturnal Visitors: 4 2 3

I had four visitors in my apartment at 4 a.m. One was a middle-class Brit. He introduced the brunette, Julia, as his fiancé, and the other two blond women as her friends. He said that the four of them were celebrating Julia’s birthday. The other two women, Svetlana and Olga, seemed quite different from Julia, more wide-awake, and flirting with the Brit and me, while Julia just seemed tired. Svetlana took off her knee-high boots and sat down beside me on my sofa, much closer than necessary, but I raised no objection. Svetlana is a very attractive blond.

Then one of the women said she wanted to smoke, but I said I do not allow smoking inside my flat. The Brit told them they had to go outside to smoke. Svetlana put her shoes back on and all three women went out to smoke.

The Brit remained with me, drinking his vodka and coke, and said that, if I wanted a woman, Olga and Svetlana should both be very cheap, and I could easily have one or both.

While outside smoking, they found menus from a Russian restaurant lying in front of some of the flats and brought one back when they returned from smoking. Svetlana said, “Now hungry. What you like? Pilmeney?” The Brit said he loved pilmeney, and Svetlana placed an order.

Before the food arrived, Julia left. Her friends didn’t want the birthday girl leaving so early (i.e., 4:30 a.m.), and said she must stay and eat with them, because that was their birthday tradition. The Brit said that Julia had been partying since 2:00 p.m., she was tired, and she needed to get some sleep.

This led to a rather heated argument between the Brit and Svetlana. Olga wanted them to spit in their hands and shake to make up, but middle-class Brits don’t spit in their hands, so no reconciliation was forthcoming. Svetlana made some rather nasty comments to the Brit, and he picked her up. I screamed, because I could see them kicking over everything in my flat and making a total mess of the place, but the Brit immediately put Svetlana down and she selected a seat as far from the Brit as is possible in my small flat.

At this point, the Brit was sitting alone in one corner of my front hall, I was sitting alone in another corner, and the two women were sitting together in a third corner.

The Brit told me that, after he’d gotten engaged to Julia, he’d paid for her to go to secretarial school and had used his contacts to get her a job as secretary at an accountancy firm which now supplies her residence visa. Then he’d paid for her to learn to drive and bought her a car. Now he pays for her flat and gives her about €200 every month to send home. He said the other two women are jealous. He said his job pays very well but it involves a lot of travelling, so he has to leave Julia alone for two or three weeks every month. He said he trusts her completely while he’s away.

He kept Julia’s two friends from calling and waking her up. So I now had just three visitors.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The US Response to Saddam’s Execution

I watched with a Saudi friend as an US spokesperson answered questions about Saddam’s execution. We were watching an Arabic channel, and I couldn’t hear what the US spokesperson was saying over the Arabic translation of what he was saying, but my friend tried to translate:

Saddam was convicted of crimes against humanity in a fair and just trial, the kind of fair and just trial that he never gave any of his victims. The US acted strictly as enabler, allowing Iraqi justice and Islamic Sharia justice to return to Iraq after decades when Saddam had imposed nothing but injustice on Iraq and Iraq’s neighbours.

The US would not have proceeded at all as the Iraqis did, but this was their country, and they proceeded strictly in accord with Iraqi law and Islamic Sharia law. The Iraqi constitution, the Iraqi courts, and the top cleric of the Muslim religion had all ordered that Iraqi law and Sharia law dictated the time and manner of Saddam’s execution, and their orders had been followed to the letter.

Bush, had he been at all imperialistic and imposed US customs on Iraq, would have given Saddam much more time for legal appeals and would have had him executed under a completely different protocol, but the US is not an imperial power and makes no demands at all on the legitimate Iraqi government. Once the US had enabled justice to return to Iraq in 2003, Saddam was handed over to the legitimate Iraqi government, and after that everything proceeded strictly according to Iraqi and Islamic Sharia law.

The spokesperson painted a verbal picture of Bush standing before a basin of water, saying and performing the lavabo.

My friend asked me if I believed the US spokesperson.

I said, ‘As a Westerner, I know the telltale signs that indicate when a Western government spokesperson is lying or not lying. In the case of this US spokesman, out of the entire press conference, the only times he was lying were when his lips were moving.’

Friday, January 05, 2007

Nocturnal Visitors: 4 x 4

I was working on a project until, exhausted, I had to call it quits at 3:00 a.m. My employer said I could nap on a spare couch in the office for a couple of hours and get back to work, but I prefer my own bed (and eight undisturbed hours), so I straggled home at around 4:00 a.m., which is the same time as the workers in a quite different profession.

I saw a short, attractive blond approaching my lift and held it for her. A tall, attractive blond and a brunette seemed to be following her, but they just stood outside the lift after we got in, so I finally released the button, the doors started to close, and the two girls screamed. I hit the button again, the door opened, and the two girls and a man joined us. ‘What floor?’ I asked, but they said ‘Your floor OK,’ and followed me to my flat. The short blond asked in a Russian accent, ‘Is OK we come in?’ The man, speaking in a middle-class British accent said, ‘We don’t want to bother you, old chap, but would you mind? We know it’s quite late.’

Dubai@Random is afflicted with a morbid, feline curiosity, and just had to hear their story. The Brit pointed at the brunette, ‘It’s Julia’s birthday, she’s my fiancé, and we’re just getting back from celebrating. Julia is a Muslim from Uzbekistan. She works as a secretary by day, and then drives a taxi at night. She has a flat just down the hall, I live in Golden Sands, and I was just dropping Julia off. Right now, her father and son are visiting her, so if you wouldn’t mind, old chap, we’d like a nightcap before we leave and we can’t do that sort of thing in Julia’s flat with her father and son there, so if you’ll just let us come in, you can join us.’

The three women were quite good looking and middle-class Brits are generally harmless, so I let the four in at four a.m. ‘Please, you sit,’ said the short blond, so I sat and she rummaged in my kitchen until she found some glasses and handed them to the Brit. He pulled three bottles out of a plastic bag that had once held a new pair of shoes. One was cheap Russian vodka, one was expensive American whiskey, and the third was a large bottle of cola. The Brit poured the three girls whiskey and cola, and then poured himself a vodka and cola.

The Brit continued, ‘When Julia got here, she’d been promised a job as a secretary to an accountant. A man wearing a tailored suit and looking like a legitimate businessman met her at the airport. She went with him, but he took her passport and told her she had to work as a prostitute until she paid him $5,000.

‘I’ve been in Dubai for 23 years, and I have my regular table where everyone knows I sit every night. On Julia’s first night in Dubai, she came over and sat down beside me and told me her story. I don’t engage the services of prostitutes, so we just talked all night. After that, whenever she wanted a night off, she’d look me up and we’d just talk. This went on for four months. Then, one night she came to my flat, black and blue all over, and crying. She said she hadn’t been earning enough money, so they beat her up rather badly. I told her to sit down and asked her how much she owed to get her passport back. She said, “Three thousand dollars.” I said, “Don’t worry, it will be all right.” She sat there and began crying even harder.

‘I went with her and met her madam, and offered to pay the three thousand, but the madam said, “You must pay five thousand.” I had the book showing how much Julia owed, and how much she’d already paid. I said, “No, she only owes you three thousand.” The madam said, “Now the price is ten thousand,” so we left. There are advantages in having been here 23 years. I called my friend, a chief of police, and he came over to my flat. I gave him some single-malt Scotch, and he said he’d help. We went back to the madam, and she said, “Now it’s fifteen thousand.” At that point, my friend came in and demanded that the madam return Julia’s passport and my money, even though I hadn’t given her any money. She handed me Julia’s passport and five thousand dollars. I gave the five thousand to my friend, telling him, “You can use it as evidence.”

‘Then six police vans pulled up, and they arrested the madam and all her girls, more than a hundred and twenty girls in all. They found $178,000 in cash in the flat. They deported all the girls, but I don’t know what happened to the money. Julia and I went back to my place.

‘My friend came over a few days later and said, “Give me passports, yours and girl’s. And whiskey.” I gave him several glasses of whiskey and handed over the passports. A few days later, he came back and put the passports down on a table in my flat. We didn’t touch the passports while he was there; I just gave him some more whiskey. After he left, we looked and saw that Julia’s passport was stamped with a three-year residence visa. That was four years ago, and Julia and I have been together ever since.’

Disclaimer: When I hear these stories, I report exactly what I’m told. I do not vouch for the stories’ veracity.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Baghdad Burning is Active Again

Posts to Baghdad Burning had become so sporadic I thought the blog had gone inactive; however, recent events have caused a resumption of insightful comments, so I have moved the blog back on the active list.

The 7% Solution

Most of the residents of Dubai (Dubai@Random included) are probably happy that rents for 2007 cannot be increased more than 7%, but some of us pity the poor, downtrodden landlords of Dubai.

Property bubbles form when people buy properties because the property values are going up. Much of the value comes from potential appreciation, so, when the property values level off, they must fall. Sometimes, quite a lot.

Non-bubble property values come from rents. A rent of 100,000 increasing by 15% per year is worth a great deal using business school techniques of analysis: perhaps several million; a rent of 100,000 increasing by only 7% a year is worth much less, perhaps less than one million.

Of course, many landlords will explain that they need to 'redevelop' their property, or move in themselves, in order to raise rents more than 7%. Certainly, The Springs and The Meadows have seen the rent for properties not covered by the rent caps go up more than 100% over the last two years, so honest landlords who only increased 15% last year and 7% this year are charging only about 60% of market rates to stay within the law.

And the law could cause selling prices to drop considerably.