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  • Friday, October 31, 2008


    Those of you that have read the grapeshisha blog for some time may remember that just under 2 years ago I predicted that Barack Obama could be the first black president. On the eve of the American Elections whether Obama wins or not, the US has catapulted a real leader, to within a touching distance of the presidency. That, in itself, is a great thing. Obama should not be viewed by the colour of his skin. He should be viewed as a man who will talk sensibly, who will be truthful and who will serve his country well. He is a man of stature, and a man of morals.

    For those who are yet to be inspired by him, you must watch his 2004 DNC speech which is truly inspirational.

    What does it mean for the UAE? What does it mean for the Middle East? Well, we're not quite sure. His policy doesn't yet seem defined, but there will be logic - and there wont be a war just for the sake of it. While the power of the US will wane over the coming years, the US is still important in a global context. In scale alone and GDP it is big, and will always remain so, no matter how smart the Middle East, China and India get. The good thing is, that if Obama does become president, the Middle East will be dealing with a stand up guy.

    But, as you know, US elections are a close thing to call - and this year it may result in a dance off between Obama and McCain:

    And, so if you are in America, and want to make a difference, YALLA VOTE!

    This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands.

    Yalla Vote

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    Monday, October 27, 2008

    UAE property prices will fall - crunch crunch credit crunch

    In some news that we already knew was happening, the FT make some observations on the current situation in the main markets that have property, namely Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Both are very different markets.

    “A real estate correction could happen, but UAE banks are cushioned... the banks are safe,” Sultan Nasser al Suweidi, the central bank governor, said at a conference held by the Arab Monetary Fund in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE.
    Despite many warnings of corrections in recent years, property prices have continued to soar in the UAE, driven by booming economic growth, negative real interest rates, and a vast influx of expatriates.

    The real worry is whether the banks will be able to survive, but that shouldnt' be a problem. The real issues is the rememdy of the current situation. Whether there is was going to be a global economic downturn, there is an argument that Dubai is oversupplied but at the wrong price, and Abu Dhabi is undersupplied, thus driving rental prices up. Dubai's price may therefore be driven down over the medium term as landlords look to rent their property. As for Abu Dhabi - if there ain't a place to stay, there ain't a place to stay - and rental prices will remain at that level until property gets released onto the market. Abu Dhabi, now, is reminiscent of Dubai in 2003 - but different in a whole lot of ways.

    UAE property prices set to fall

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    UAE Spending Consumption

    An interesting set of boxes depicting the spending consumption of some key states in the world. The UAE spending patterns are this:

    Clothing and Footwear - $4.1bn
    Electronics - $1.0bn
    Alcohol and Tobacco - $0.3bn
    Household Goods - $3.9bn
    Recreation - $2.3bn

    The UAE spends nearly double in clothing and footwear than it does on recreation. (The UAE spends a lot to look good, but doesn't go out much?)

    The UAE spends almost as much on household goods as it does on clothing and footwear. (The UAE spends as much on fridge freezers as it does on tailoring its clothing?)

    The UAE spend less per capita on alcohol and tobacco than most countries (Duh - alcohol is haram!)

    UAE Recreation Spending

    UAE Household Goods Spending

    UAE Electionics Spending

    UAE Clothing and Footwear Spending

    UAE Alcohol and Tobacco Spending

    Data is one thing - interpreting it is another thing. Compare differences with other countries and see what comes out. It makes for an interesting exercise.

    People in Greece spend almost 13 times more money on clothing as they do on electronics. People living in Japan spend more on recreation than they do on clothing, electronics and household goods combined. Americans spend a lot of money on everything.

    New York Times - What Your Global Neighbors Are Buying

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    UAE Growth Data

    Will the UAE be hit by the credit crunch? Will Dubai's growth be hit by the financial crisis? How will Abu Dhabi fare in light of the current recesion and economic downturn? These are all big questions that noone really is sure about. But it's always good to see where the UAE has come from with some hard data. Below are three graphs, showing a comparison to China and India (because they are the markets always mentioned when one mentions growth) and also included is Saudi Arabia, because that is the biggest economy in the Middle East and people often discount it because they don't understand it. Despite all the headlines that Dubai and Abu Dhabi bring, Saudi is the holy grail, if you would, of the Middle East. The charts show UAE GDP trends, ie specifically UAE Nominal GDP, UAE Nominal GDP per capita, UAE Real GDP Growth. The data comes from the IMF, and shows trends from 1980 to 2007 with projections for 2008, 2009, and onwards to 2013. Although the credit crunch and global recession, it's interesting to see the UAE relative to some key economies.

    UAE Nominal GDP

    UAE Nominal GDP per capita

    UAE Real GDP Growth

    As they say, Shanghai, Mumbai, Dubai - buh-bye!

    IMF Data Mapper

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    Thursday, October 23, 2008

    Camel Milk Chocolate

    First there was camel milk ice cream, now Dubai has introduced Camel Milk Chocolate. This is the first time that camel milk has been introduced.

    Al Nassma announced in their press release:

    Al Nassma, the first company in the world to produce camel milk chocolate, today introduced its exclusive product to the world during a press conference in Dubai. Al Nassma, a Dubai company, has been working for the last two years with a team of international experts to realise this unique Arabian product. Al nassma - the brand name of this extra-ordinary chocolate has been chosen with care. It has its roots in the Arabic language and depicts a seasonal breeze which brings respite to the people of the desert. In the same way this breeze indulges people in the desert, Al nassma chocolates aims to indulge your senses. Al nassma has been created by people dedicated to the manufacture of finest chocolates and pralines. These chocolatiers from around the world have teamed up to create this sensational chocolate superlative for Dubai. Al nassma is a true innovation in the chocolate industry and one of the first luxury food products with deep roots in Dubai, deemed to conquer the world as the sweet ambassador of Arabia. “This is a historic moment, we at Al Nassma are very proud to present the world’s first camel milk chocolate, the most sensational and tempting form of camel milk,” said Dr. Ali Ridha, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Al Nassma Chocolate LLC, who is joined in the board by chocolatiers and camel milk experts.
    Camelicious is the sole supplier of camel milk to Al Nassma.

    Globally the chocolate industry is valued at more than $41.6 billion with Europe accounting for 45% of global revenue and America with a third of market share. And with tourism expected to surpass the 10 million mark by 2010, there is clearly a strong market for a novelty, premium chocolate brand in the UAE for tourists, visitors and chocolate loving residents.

    There are 5 different types including Arabia, delicately flavored with local spices; Dates, Macadamia Nut - Orange, 70% Cocoa and Whole Milk. The pralines range is delicately filled with pistachio, nougat and coffee cream.

    Will camel chocolate becomes the next dates? Indeed, will people buy less dates when they have to buy a quick present on holiday in the UAE? Or is camel milk the next dark chocolate (ie healthy)

    Either way Don't forget the benefits of camel milk:

    - Doesn't curdle and is easy to digest.
    - Good for those with lactose intolerance
    - Low on fat
    - Contains five times more vitamin C than cow's milk
    - Longer shelf life than cow's milk
    - If you're lost in the desert with only your trusted humpy friend, the options are endless

    Dubai launches camel-milk chocolate
    Al Nassma

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    Dubai Dj fired for offending God

    We don't know whether God was offended, but Virgin Radio DJ Revin John was fired because "he quoted an article about a U.S. court throwing out a lawsuit against God."

    But it appears that people power played a part in Virgin's decision. The facebook group states:

    On October 20th at 7:15 am Revin John called 'God'. Yes you read it right, he called God. He then went on to have a conversation with God with a deep voice answering in the name of God. One of the questions in the interview was "God what is on your agenda". The voice replied: "World peace, MADONNA & BRITNEY.". An apology has not been issued by Virgin Radio Dubai nor have they commented on the incident. This is not a laughing matter and he should have respected God irrespective of which religion he comes from. We all live in the UAE and we all respect all religions and beliefs.

    Mariam Zarouni or Mariam Z goes on:

    Anyways, Revin was spoken to earlier, straight after the incident, and when asked about it, his defense was that he was speaking to the 'Christian' God and not the 'Muslim' God. If there's any idea you might have, let me know in the discussion board. Please invite everyone you know. I was on radio this morning, 93.9. Don't worry our voices will be heard. Someone asked me if I minded if a lawyer would contact me and I'm most happy to. We won't stay quiet !!!!!! Yesterday, they announced that Revin was fired, and he publicly apologized.

    Should he have been fired?

    Read the story, then join the debate on Facebook

    Dubai radio fires DJ for mocking God
    Facebook group Against Virgin Radio Dubai God call
    Virgin Radio Dubai RJ fired

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    Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    Dark Dubai by Davidson

    In the FT, Roula Khalaf reviews "Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success" by Christopher Davidson in her article "Glitzy Dubai has a darker side". And, I would agree, with every ying comes yang. Although the misunderstanding about why the book was banned or not banned does not really seem clear, it can be put down to the fact that Davidson's book gives an accurate picture of the Emirate and how Dubai has pushed itself into the everyday conscience of the man on the street in the West and the East.

    For those of you who have not read the book, read the review, and see if it is your chai nana. For those of you that read the book, remember, this book was banned. If you like it, you'll love Dubai Inc by Aamir Rehman. And for those of you that prefer something a little racier, try a real banned book - Dubai, by Robin Moore.

    If you prefer a less balanced view, read a newspaper.

    "Perhaps most irritating to the Dubai authorities is Davidson’s depiction of the more seedy side of the city, where he says smuggling, arms trading and prostitution are rife. Though the government has stepped up efforts to curb illegal activity, including money laundering, the openness of Dubai has been a magnet for legitimate business as well as illicit activities."

    Glitzy Dubai has a darker side

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    Sunday, October 19, 2008

    Abu Dhabi goes Hollywood. (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Goat)

    Riz Khan report on Abudhabiwood - more about imagenation, middle east international film festival, Arab cinema with an interview with Ed Borgerding and Nashwa al Ruwaini.

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    Thursday, October 16, 2008

    Dubai Beach Sex Sentence

    No, not a sentence to have sex on the beach. This is a sentence for having sex on the beach, allegedly. Found guilty, Michelle Palmer and Vince Acors were sentenced to 3 months in jail and 1000 Dhs fine. If they are guilty, that's a light sentence, and they should consider themselves lucky. It could have quite easily been 3 years.

    But here is the balance that the 3 months gives - does it keep the Locals happy without upsetting the tourist industry:

    ...a decision that risks alienating tourists or upsetting Emiratis angry at the government's willingness to relax moral standards in the name of economic growth. "These are testing times for Dubai, a sunshine state where everything always goes right," said Christopher Davidson, a Dubai specialist at Britain's Durham University."They cannot let badly behaved Brits off scot-free," he said. "But if they throw the book at them, what would that do to Dubai's tourism industry?"

    There is more to this story though: The appeal will be heard within the next 15 days. Put that date in your diary.

    British couple jailed for sex on Dubai beach

    Sex-on-beach trial exposes Dubai's cultural divide

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    Sunday, October 12, 2008

    TwoFour54 (Abu Dhabi Media Zone)

    On April 19th 2007, HH Sheikh Khalifa issued a decree establishing a committee for the Abu Dhabi media free zone. Today, that freezone was announced and given a name "TwoFour54" (2454, twofour 54, two four 54) which is the GPS location of Abu Dhabi. Over the last year and a half, there has been some a lot of pre work to get the right partners involved to differentiate this proposition from the equivalent in Dubai, and with partners like AOL Time Warner (CNN), the BBC, Pearson (FT), Bertelsmann (Random House) and NewsCorp (HarperCollins), the best media companies in the world have descended on Abu Dhabi, knowing it is the real deal for the future. And not only have the Western Media companies joined up, Rotana is part of the founding few - and no doubt there will be many more that sign up - or are invited to sign up. There will be companies that are developed out of Abu Dhabi to become the future big players in Media tomorrow.

    Dubai Media City and Dubai Internet City, have had significant creativity, but have really been real estate plays. If you wanted to set up in the UAE, you go to the freezone, you go into DMC or DIC. Abu Dhabi are playing it differently because their media city is a different strategy. The strategy for media is for media to underpin culture. You can not create culture from scratch - you need some substance behind it - and this is the marriage that has been developed.

    Mubadala is backing this new media zone and is chaired by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed. His backing is crucial, as he is the architect for all the changes that are happening in Abu Dhabi. Mubadala invests in a wide portfolio, notably including 5% of Ferrari, but also has backed some of the University establishments in the Abu Dhabi.

    Abu Dhabi, has been playing second fiddle to all the world attention that has been focussed on Dubai thusfar, but with roughly 9% of the world's oil reserves and significantly more land mass than Dubai, Abu Dhabi has time and money on its hands, and its strategy is watch and learn while progressing at a slower pace. This pace is starting to pick up. Going forward, Abu Dhabi's position as a cultural hub for the Middle East is a smart one.

    From Wikipedia: Abu Dhabi is trying to position itself as the "Cultural hub" of the Middle East, taking this mantle from such neighboring cities as Beirut and Cairo. It is home to a number of cultural institutions including the Cultural Foundation and the National Theater. The Cultural Foundation is home to the UAE Public Library and Cultural Center. Various cultural societies such as the Abu Dhabi Classical Music Society have a strong and visible following in the city. The recently launched Emirates Foundation makes grants in support of the arts, as well as to advance science and technology, education, environmental protection and social development. The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) will be based in Abu Dhabi.

    The creation of a major "up-scale cultural district" on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island has begun with the groundwork for a US$200 million Guggenheim Museum. The Frank Gehry-designed museum will display a "prestige collection" of modernist and contemporary art and is scheduled for completion in 2011. Upon completion, it is expected to be the largest exponent of the prestigious Guggenheim Museums.[11] In addition, there will be three further cultural focal points [12]: The Performing Arts Centre, The Sheikh Zayed National Museum and The Maritime Museum.

    The Media City that Abu Dhabi is creating will be significantly different to Dubai Media City and Dubai Internet City which up to now have been freezones for anything that vaguely fit the category. However, most of the "media" comes out of Dubai apart from Abu Dhabi Media which, in addition to Arabic TV Channels, Arabic Magazines, Radio Stations (English and Arabic) runs Al Ittihad news and The National, the new English Language newspaper. ADMC will be moving into the media zone as well. These all compete with propositions in Dubai, Lebanon, Egypt and the rest of the Arabic World.

    Abu Dhabi Media City will be focussed around TV Production, Online, and Distribution (as this is where the the gaps are in the Gulf), but there may be more coverage.

    From the press release:

    Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - 12 Oct 2008

    'twofour54' unveiled as abu dhabi launches media content creation zone. Media and content industry spotlight shines on the Middle East for new market opportunity.

    Abu Dhabi today unveiled a new media content creation zone called 'twofour54'. Representing the geographical co-ordinates of Abu Dhabi, twofour54 will establish the city as a centre of excellence for Arabic content creation that is internationally renowned.

    The launch of the initiative, which was attended by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, creates a new industry opportunity for the region by providing a collaborative and fully-equipped centre that brings together local, regional and international companies from across the breadth of the film, broadcast, digital, publishing and music industries.

    With some of the world's leading content companies already onboard and announcing major plans, twofour54's advanced ecosystem offers production facilities, infrastructure, training and a new business incubator - all on one site - for the development of world class Arabic content by people from the Middle East region for its 300 million Arab audience.

    Speaking at the launch, Tony Orsten, Chief Executive Officer of twofour54, said, "The Abu Dhabi 2030 vision seeks to establish the Emirate as a regional centre for culture with a 'global capital city' as its hub.

    "An extremely important part of achieving this vision lies in creating a thriving international media industry which, to be successful, needs to be local at the same time," he continued. "With twofour54 we are launching a major initiative that will encourage, stimulate and support Arabic content creation by Arabs in the Arab world, embracing films, television and music through to animation, digital media and art. Providing a collaborative campus where all types of media company can work together will see Abu Dhabi become a centre and catalyst for content creation and culture throughout Middle East region and beyond."

    twofour54 has already attracted several of the largest and most influential content creation companies worldwide, including CNN, BBC, Thomson Foundation, Random House, Harper Collins, Rotana Studios, Financial Times, Abu Dhabi Media Company, C Sky Pictures and the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    According to a global study by PWC (Global Entertainment and Media Outlook report, 2008-2012), the Middle East Media market is forecast to expand at double-digit annual rates over the next five years, by far outstripping the average of 6.6 percent growth across the rest of the world.

    These partners have recognised the vast opportunity that this represents for growth in the Arab world and have committed significant investment and resources to business initiatives that will be led out of twofour54's preliminary campus in Khalifa Park, due to open in 2009.

    "Today we are not just launching a business, we are creating an industry and an ecosystem for true Arabic content creation by the people and for the people in the Arab region," said Wayne Borg, Chief Operating Officer, twofour54. "The market opportunity is substantial by any measure, but the industry needs more than just a location - it needs a cohesive environment that supports education, investment, collaboration and creative partnerships. twofour54 places media right at the heart of the Arab world and offers the tools and infrastructure for driving international-standard quality and success."

    twofour54 is built around four pillars - twofour54 tadreeb, twofour54 ibtikar, twofour54 intaj and twofour54 tawasol - located within a campus style environment that promotes cooperation and creative partnerships amongst the companies involved.

    twofour54 tadreeb will be the region's premier vocational training academy, targeting young Arabs and graduates considering a career in the media industry as well as providing existing media and entertainment professionals with opportunities to develop skills, up-skill and re-skill across a comprehensive range of media and content industry disciplines.

    twofour54 ibtikar will provide innovation support and funding for new, local businesses and promising creative ideas across print, online, mobile and television platforms in the Middle East and North Africa. This fund will not only provide financial support but also practical advice and input from industry experts and specialists to guide initiatives to successful fruition.

    twofour54 intaj is focused on supplying state-of-the-art production and post-production facilities, media asset management, broadcast and technical support services for use within twofour54. It equips companies with all of the latest communications technology required, including playout, uplink and downlink services.

    Finally, twofour54 tawasol provides a one-stop-shop facility to support the relocation and establishment of content organisations, making it simple for local, regional and international companies to move into twofour54.

    The partners that have already committed to twofour54 include:

    CNN will be broadcasting a live daily prime time news cast out of a new broadcast and production facility at twofour54, set to open in early 2009 as its fourth global hub

    BBC will be providing international standard situational training programmes in Arabic exclusively at twofour54. This is the first time the BBC has entered into this type of partnership.

    Thomson Reuters Foundation will be hosting vocational training workshops in subjects such as writing international news, sports or photo journalism, television news coverage and writing business news

    Thomson Foundation will provide exclusive, tailor-made training courses and study visits covering every aspect of radio, television and online journalism, from reporting and production to media regulation

    Abu Dhabi Media Company, formerly Emirates Media Inc (EMI), will relocate to twofour54 in phase two to capitalise on the proximity to global media companies, the international standards of training and access to a large pool of skilled media professionals

    imagenation which was established by ADMC in Abu Dhabi to create full length feature films and digital content for the Arab world, will be a founding partner of twofour54. One imagenation initiative will be the establishment of National Geographic films producing Arabic programming about the region

    Random House, who announced their presence in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, will be creating an Arabic publishing house, creating fresh material and adapting some of its existing content for the region while investing in developing a stable of successful Arab authors

    Rotana Studios plans to develop, produce and co-produce with Abu Dhabi Media Zone, projects initiated out of the Gulf area

    Financial Times launched a Middle East regional edition based in the United Arab Emirates in April this year. The operation of this regional edition will be located in twofour54

    Thomson Reuters are setting up a photo agency and establishing a Sharia compliant financial information portal which will provide financial information that is in accordance with the principals of Islamic law

    HarperCollins Publishers (part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp) will be introducing their bestselling Reading Scheme, Big Cat: a guided reading scheme for children, localised for the Arab market and creating a totally new range of Arabic dictionaries into English, French and Hindi - effectively Arabic for the 21st Century

    C Sky Pictures a leading film production company from Kuwait, best known for the award-winning documentaries around the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and September 11th, will be establishing its new operations in twofour54

    Comedy Arabia will set up in twofour54, led by Ahmed Ahmed of comedy group Axis of Evil. This new initiative aims to encourage budding Arabic comedians and discover the hidden talents of the Arab world through an interactive portal, www.comedyarabia.com

    Flash is the music promoter and event production agency behind the raft of global acts that have headlined in Abu Dhabi, including Justin Timberlake, Bon Jovi and Elton John. Flash will be establishing its head office in twofour54.

    "twofour54 is not an office development or a themed industrial park," concluded Orsten. "It is both a habitat and a centre of excellence where content creation for the media and entertainment industries can grow and flourish.

    "twofour54 even provides a team of experts that understand the region and the metrics that drive success here, as well as global standards in regulation and licensing. Our aim, in time, is to have a truly Arab creative economy in the Middle East that has grown out of Abu Dhabi."

    This is huge news for Abu Dhabi. You hear of of projects around construction, that are essentially about gloss, sheen and ego. The news of twofour54 is all about giving Abu Dhabi a heart that will transcend generations. The news today of this new media zone defines the future of Abu Dhabi and is another piece in the puzzle of what Abu Dhabi will be in the years to come.

    According to the Gulf News, Tony Orsten, the new CEO of twofour54 said: "Abu Dhabi has the opportunity of becoming a creative hub for the media as well as arts and culture," He said in five to 10 years, there will be a broad media industry in the UAE capital. "Production companies, editing and content will be made here not because it is cheaper than Cairo or Beirut, but because the quality of the content and the talent is here." - That's not a local play, that's a regional statement that veers on being global. Now THAT is what Abu Dhabi is all about. Exciting times for Abu Dhabi and the UAE.

    TwoFour54 website
    Reaching for a Higher Profile, Abu Dhabi Opens a Hub for Western Media
    Meeting the challenge of setting up a media park
    Abu Dhabi's media free zone opens on Sunday
    Abu Dhabi launches media hub
    Abu Dhabi launches regional multi-media centre
    'twofour54' unveiled as Abu Dhabi launches media content creation zone
    Abu Dhabi plans to be region's media hub; twofour54 part of ambition to join league of global cities
    Media wars?
    Media Parks of the Future - Twofour54 Abu Dhabi
    The new media zone: an opportunity, and a challenge
    Liz Murdoch's Shine eyes Abu Dhabi for push into Middle East

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    Saturday, October 11, 2008

    Hijab Fashion

    This is an old cartoon of hijab styles in Syria. But worth a quick look! You will recognise them whether you are in Dubai or Abu Dhabi or anywhere in the Gulf/Middle East. Enjoy!

    Journal of an axis of evil citizen (now closed)

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    Friday, October 10, 2008

    Investing in Dubai

    Sameer Al Ansari tells us how it is. DIC is bearish on what is going on at the moment.

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    Dubai property market faces pressure

    Has the credit crunch affected Dubai property?

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    Zabeel Investments and Charlton Athletic FC

    You may remember that Zabeel were the outfit that were interested in Newcastle not so long ago. Well, if there are returns to be made, Charlton is a good way to do it, potentially. Of course the approach needs to be approved. And bearing in mind that this is a long term game, Zebeel are in it for the medium to long term:

    Charlton could become the latest club in English football to move into foreign ownership after receiving an indicative offer from a group of Dubai-based investors.
    The Addicks, who currently lie 14th in the Coca-Cola Championship having been relegated from the Barclays Premier League in 2007, are the subject of an offer from Zabeel Investments. The board at The Valley have already made it clear they recommend the offer should be accepted, which could then see a huge cash injection for the south London club. A statement from Charlton read: "The board of Charlton Athletic plc announces that it has received an indicative cash offer from Zabeel Investments, a Dubai-based diversified investment company. "The indicative offer is subject to a number of (waivable) preconditions, including due diligence, however, it is at a level at which, should the offer be made formally to shareholders, the board would recommend shareholders to accept it. "There is, however, no certainty that a formal offer will be made nor as to the terms of any offer. "In spite of being approached by various English football clubs as well as a number of well-known clubs in Europe and South America, Zabeel Investments believes Charlton is the right club for them."

    What's interesting is that they could have had their pick of many clubs in the world and they picked Charlton - why - because once Charlton return to the premiership, probably in a couple of years, they will start receiving Murdoch's Sky cash that underpins the whole of the Premiership division. And then, there is huge potential.

    But who are Zabeel? They basically do a bit of everything. They have equity stakes in the following: Abraaj Capital, Advanced Industries Group, Arzaq Holding, Asteco Development Management, Asteco Property Management, Capital Club Limited, Depa United Group, Emaar Industries & Investments, Empire Aviation Group, European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), Madaares (National Bonds), Sony Corporation, The Light Group, Tiara Hotels & Resorts, Zed Communications, ZSML. That's basically a business that is Property, private equity, hotels, and general asset management. And now with Charlton, you can see even more diversity. Zabeel are a company for the long term. If Charlton are wise, they should accept this offer. Zabeel are not the type to strip assets bare - they are a company to invest and build.

    Zabeel Investments

    Press Association

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    Wednesday, October 08, 2008

    Middle East Film Festival in Abu Dhabi

    The Middle East Film Festival (MEIFF) in Abu Dhabi, which some are calling the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, will compete against the established Dubai Film Festival and stage its second film festival between October 10th – 19th with the largest total cash prize amount at over USD 1M for a film festival ever. There will be a total of 60 films from 32 countries categorized into long, short and student films covering feature, documentary and animation. There will also be awards for best actor and best actress, as well as best artistic contribution.

    A line up of top Hollywood celebs are invited to the event including Goldie Hawn, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith. The prestigious Black Pearl Award will be presented to Jane Fonda. Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve will join in the panel for Cinema Verite which concentrates on socially conscious cinema.

    The MEIFF is under the umbrella of The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH). Their vision, as stated on their website, is “…to make Abu Dhabi the cultural centre of the region, while promoting national culture and identity as a source of pride and inspiration to the people…”
    It was launched last October along with Abu Dhabi Film Commission (ADFC).

    Middle East International Film Festival
    The aim of MEIFF is to pay tribute to all arenas of film making and support networking amongst financiers, government film agencies, studio execs and film makers from around the globe. During the festival, it will exhibit international productions as well as regional thus providing audiences with a range of flavours suiting the experienced film buff to the social movie goer.

    The Abu Dhabi Film Commission

    The ADFC aims to provide a one-stop shop service to support film production in the UAE. This will include assistance in location, finance, permits, manpower, logistics and anything else related to commissioning a film. ADFC will also support filmmakers in providing funding in order to help local talent showcase their work globally.

    The chairman of ADACH, His Excellency Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan said: 'With these two initiatives, we are aiming to establish Abu Dhabi as the essential destination for international filmmakers.'

    The Emirates Palace will be the main venue for MEIFF, one of the world’s most luxurious hotels. It will be managed by Pyramedia, one of the most successful production companies in the Middle East. The event will kick off with a screening of Rian Johnson's crime caper “The Brothers Bloom” at the Emirates palace. Ticket information available through the MEIFF website.

    MEIFF official website

    Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage official web site

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    Tuesday, October 07, 2008

    The Mickey Mouse Fatwa

    To think that our beloved Mickey Mouse has a fatwa against him still perturbs me. According to Sheikh Muhammad Munajid, a former Saudi diplomat assigned to the Saudi embassy in Washington D.C. is claiming Disney's Mickey Mouse as "one of Satan's soldiers".

    A couple of weeks ago, in a stunning turn of events for Islamic Sharia law, all cartoonish or lovable depictions of rodents are impure, spoiling everything they touch.

    Recently on al-Majd television, an Arab network based in the United Arab Emirates, Mr. Munajid gave a sermon on Islam's view toward mice. The translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (a monitoring service of the American Media) reported Mr. Munajid saying "The mouse is one of Satan's soldiers and is steered by him. If a mouse falls into a pot of food – if the food is solid, you should chuck out the mouse and the food touching it, and if it is liquid – you should chuck out the whole thing, because the mouse is impure. According to Islamic law, the mouse is a repulsive, corrupting creature. How do you think children view mice today – after Tom and Jerry? Even creatures that are repulsive by nature, by logic, and according to Islamic law have become wonderful and are loved by children. Even mice. Mickey Mouse has become an awesome character, even though according to Islamic law, Mickey Mouse should be killed in all cases."-

    During the Olympic games in Beijing, Mr Munajid called the games the "bikini Olympics", "claiming that nothing made Satan happier than seeing females athletes dressed in skimpy outfits."

    Responding to the criticism, the judge complained that his words had been twisted. He declared he knew all too well that Mickey Mouse was a fictional character with “no blood to be spilled and no soul”.

    Saudi clerics and the threat to economic progress

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    Monday, October 06, 2008

    The tallest building in the world will not be the Burj Dubai

    The problem with aiming to be the tallest building in the world is that once you set your stake in the ground, someone will announce a taller building. And so, when the property market doesn't seem to be doing too well, and everyone at cityscape is worried about Dubai property prices tanking, Nakheel decide to announce another huge building: Nakheel Harbour & Tower

    Nakheel is poised to build a tower that will be more than one kilometre high, as part of a 140 billion-dirham ($38.12 billion) project that will include the world’s first inner city harbour, company executives said.

    FT: Nakheel, which is owned by the government of Dubai, at the weekend launched the project to build the world’s tallest tower and inland harbour. On Monday another government company, Meraas Development, said it would redevelop a swath of the city over 12 years in a Dh350bn project to be called Jumeira Gardens. The intention is that this scheme too should include another of the world’s tallest towers and reclaimed islands off the coast.

    Here's the press release

    Inspired by Islamic design and geometry, master developer Nakheel announced today that it is building Dubai's capital, Nakheel Harbour & Tower. The new community was launched at a VIP event hosted by His Excellency Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Chairman of Dubai World.

    At the core of the Nakheel Harbour & Tower development is a tower more than a kilometre high and the world's only inner city harbour. The development will cover an area of more than 270 hectares and become home to more than 55,000 people, a workplace for 45,000 more and attract millions of visitors each year.

    "There is nothing like it in Dubai", His Excellency Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem said at the launch. "Nakheel Harbour & Tower is located in the heart of 'new Dubai', where we have focused on creating a true community, a location for living, working, relaxing and entertaining, for art and culture. All of this is concentrated in one area."

    Nakheel Harbour and Tower

    In line with Nakheel's role in shaping Dubai's future and creating some of the world's most iconic developments, Nakheel Harbour & Tower incorporates elements from great Islamic cities of the past - the gardens of Alhambra in Spain, the harbour of Alexandria in Egypt, the promenade of Tangier in Morocco and the bridges of Isfahan in Iran.

    "With Islamic influences governing its design, Nakheel Tower has been able to reach its height of more than a kilometre. This inspired approach has enabled us to achieve a number of amazing feats of engineering, for example the Tower will be the world's tallest concrete structure," said His Excellency.

    Nakheel Tower will have four individual towers within a single structure – a groundbreaking engineering feat. A distinctive crescent-shaped podium encircles the base and complements its remarkable height.

    "Nakheel has sought inspiration not just from Islamic design but also from the Islamic principles of inclusion, innovation, diversity, excellence, growth and progress. These are the same principles that have motivated and guided Islamic culture and helped create its great cities throughout history. Now they are shaping the cities of the future," enthused His Excellency Sultan Bin Sulayem.

    Not only has a development of this shape and scale not been attempted before, but it is also a further example of Nakheel's innovative projects that have changed the way the world looks at Dubai.

    The multibillion dollar Nakheel Harbour & Tower development will include 250,000m2 of hotels and hospitality space, 100,000 m2 of retail space and huge expanses of green spaces including canal walks, parks and landscaping. The new development is geographically central to the Emirate of Dubai, at the intersection of Sheikh Zayed Road and the Arabian Canal; and will also complement Nakheel's surrounding developments including Jumeirah Park, Jumeirah Islands, Discovery Gardens and Ibn Battuta shopping mall.

    The Nakheel Harbour & Tower development minimises car use and maximises train, bus and water transportation. A complete transportation hub blends into the harbour area with metro transportation combined with a unique water transport interchange, with Abra & Dhow station links.

    Sustainability and safety will be key to the planning and design of Nakheel Harbour & Tower, with the latest standards and technology incorporated in the development.

    "The inspiration for the project came from Sheikh Mohammed's vision for building for tomorrow," said His Excellency. "He is famously quoted as saying that 'before evaluating the future, we have to take a quick look at the past. For it is the foundation of tomorrow'.

    "It sends another message to the world that Dubai has a vision like no other place on earth."

    The real question is this: how much is this about building confidence in Dubai and building interest in the property market - and how much is this about building interest in another huge building?

    Design unveiled for new world's tallest tower

    Press release

    Dubai property on red alert

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    Friday, October 03, 2008

    FlyDubai and Flights to Dubai

    Dubai’s spending spree continues with its recent purchase of five 189-seat Boeing 737-800s. The low cost, no frills budget airline FlyDubai plans to launch in mid 2009 and initially serve the Gulf states i.e. Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia and surrounding areas.

    FlyDubai plans to have a total fleet of 54 aircraft by 2015, which exceeds its rival the well established Air Arabia, which in 2003 became the region’s first low-cost carrier and now operates 14 A320s. Sharjah based Air Arabia, resides in the emirate next to Dubai which has positioned its airport – Sharjah International Airport, as a low-cost hub. Additionally, FlyDubai will compete against Jazeera Airways, which is based in Kuwait but also has a mini-hub in Dubai. Jazeera Airways currently operates 6 A320s but has purchased a further 34. Two other low cost carriers have entered the competition markets but spectators say FlyDubai is the most determined and could attract Abu Dhabi to launch a low cost carrier equivalent too.

    FlyDubai plans to serve those who require more destination choice and of course a competitively priced ticket. Many expats based in Dubai and surrounding emirates find the major airlines too pricey with popular destinations difficult to purchase during peak times. With this in mind, FlyDubai will initially serve about 12 destinations within a 5 hour range of Dubai providing access to 2 billion people.
    Initially, FlyDubai will have the assistance of Emirates Airlines, who by the way do not own the budget airline, during launch phase but by the beginning of 2010 they aim to be completely independent.

    As with most low cost carriers, FlyDubai will follow same method for charging of food and checked bags. It will be based at the new Al Maktoum International Airport in Jebel Ali which when built completely, will be the world’s largest passenger and cargo hub capable of handing 120 million passengers, double that of London Heathrow and 10 times larger than Dubai’s existing airport.
    It is planned that the first of six runways will be ready in time for FlyDubai’s launch mid 2009 with the airport in basic operation and minimal facilities available. The airport and surrounding area plans to be fully operational by 2017.

    Al Maktoum International Airport or JXB will be managed by the newly established Dubai Airports company, and its cost is estimated at USD8.1 billion. As with most of the UAE’s new developments, a fully operational city will be built around the airport initially named as Dubai World Central aviation complex.
    JXB will have six parallel runways, numerous concourses and be fully capable of handling all sizes of aircrafts i.e the mega A380. Of course it will have stunning hotels and malls.
    The two bosses behind this huge project are not short of aviation experience. Gaith Al Gaith, FlyDubai’s CEO worked for Emirates Airlines for 21 years as Vice President for Commercial Operations. Kenneth Gile is the COO and has been in the aviation industry his entire career starting with Saudi Arabian Airlines, Southwest and recently Skybus.

    FlyDubai Official Website

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    Video about Dubai

    This video about Dubai demonstrates what was in planning stage to come to fruition from now onwards. Some of buidings in this video you will recgnise, some you will not know, but will have heard of. Dubai continues to transform. It's like pressing fast forward on your DVD player.

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    Thursday, October 02, 2008

    Dubai Redundancies

    Can you imagine a news article that leads with this. The FT does just that today:

    DIC cuts workforce in rare Arab redundancies

    Dubai International Capital has trimmed a 10th of its staff as it retrenches its global equities exposure and redoubles efforts to boost its presence in Asian emerging markets. The investment vehicle of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has restructured its global equities fund in the wake of world economic turmoil, and cut two senior executives from the team. DIC also shed five staff from its emerging markets division as it makes way for the arrival in November of Alykhan Nathoo, a founding member of Bain Capital Europe.

    But the real story is a refocus of investment:

    DIC will focus on the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East – two areas that the company believes will deliver better returns as the world slips towards recession.
    The company says it remains committed to its area-specific funds, targeting China and Saudi Arabia, launched before the credit crunch hardened this month.

    In times of hardship, one must invest where there is growth.

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    Wednesday, October 01, 2008

    Sponsorship, Credit Crunch, Premiership Football & the UAE

    Back in 2006, who would have thought that AIG would become a brand synonymous with a market crash associated with sub prime mortgages. Manchester United, at the time, picked AIG to be their sponsor above Etihad.

    What has happened in the last month? AIG has crashed. Manchester United bought Dimitar Berbatov for a record price second only to Robinho's world record signing and salary. Robinho was signed by Manchester City who were also interested in Berbatov, and have been taken over by Abu Dhabi United Group. Yesterday Berbatov broke his goal scoring duck with a fine display in the Champions League game against Aalborg.

    And Dubai, Dubai had been interested in Liverpool and had their offer for Newcastle thrown out.

    And Etihad, well Etihad are now a quasi sponsor of Chelsea.... Football - it's a funny old game!

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