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  • Friday, February 27, 2009

    The Haram Car

    If you are into your green, then you will know about E85 and ethanol powered cars. Unfortunately, there is an issue:

    Saudi scholar, Sheikh Mohamed al-Najimi has expressed his opinion that under Islamic law the use of ethanol could be considered a sin, as it is a form of alcohol: This opinion is based on a statement by "the prophet that prohibited all kinds of dealings with alcohol including buying, selling, carrying, serving, drinking, and manufacturing."

    If you go by that rule, then you might need a driver to drive you somewhere as long as you didn't have to pay. Jurisprudence eh? What do the people of Masdar have to say about this?

    Driving or Riding in an Ethanol-Powered Vehicle Could Be Sin: Islamic Scholar Opines
    Islamic Scholar Suggests Using Ethanol-Powered Vehicles May Be a Sin

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    Thursday, February 26, 2009

    More Cartoon Capers

    UAE bans anti-Islam Israeli cartoon on YouTube.

    The United Arab Emirates has blocked an Israeli cartoon on the video sharing website YouTube due to content that mocks Muslims and insults the UAE, the country's two internet service providers announced on Wednesday.

    The controversial cartoon, called Ahmed and Salim, is a set of satirical skits that center on the title characters who are more interested in Western pop culture than their father's aspirations of having them die as martyrs by carrying out terrorist attacks on "filthy Jews or Americans," which the boys continue to fail at.

    Of course we are NOT going to link to the cartoon!

    Full story here at Al Arabiya

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    Dubai's Debts

    How did Dubai get in trouble? Because it was leveraged up to the hill. That's no bad thing in times of boom, but when we are in dark times such as now - you could be in deep trouble. Where do those debts lie? Well, the Economist spells it out:

    So while there is significant value in what Dubai has created, it's not as if Dubai can sell itself to reap the returns. It could... if it were desperate - but selling DPW for example is like selling your soul or your essence:

    On the other side of Dubai’s ledger, the government claims to have $90 billion in assets on top of the $260 billion held by its corporations. But it has not revealed the composition or liquidity of its holdings. The very fact that it had to turn to its neighbour for help suggests that its own family silver is not that easy to sell.

    The big question that the Economist asks is: Abu Dhabi bails out its neighbour. What will it ask in return?

    Dubai will now have to be more accommodating of its neighbour’s wishes, he says. It will, for example, have to forgo its independent foreign policy, which had seen it become Iran’s outlet to the world, even as Abu Dhabi kept a careful distance.

    Dubai will also have to “lose its ambitions to become the Monaco of the Gulf,” Mr Davidson says. Abu Dhabi will insist on greater prudence and Dubai’s go-getting rulers may also now feel defeated. Their economic ambitions were driven partly by their political insecurities. “A lot of the urgency we saw in the last ten years was fuelled exactly by Dubai’s need to keep its autonomy,” Mr Davidson says.

    Expect a little less gusto from Dubai in the years to come. That's no bad thing - it's like a teenager having to grow up a little earlier after having learnt its lesson. And Dubai will be a wiser adult for it.

    The outstretched palm


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    Tuesday, February 24, 2009

    The Israel Deal

    When Dubai prevented Peer playing in the tournament, the world frowned so much so that it dealt a further punch to Dubai's image. The fact that a satellite deal is currently under process between Israel and Abu Dhabi seems surprising:

    Abu Dhabi has signed a multi-million dollar deal with Israel's ImageSat International, which is co-owned by the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and several private investors, that own and operate two EROS satellites, Their services will now be open to the Gulf state as well.

    A few years ago, one would have thought that it would be the other way around. Abu Dhabi seems to be making all the right moves at the moment, and the world is watching and taking note.

    Abu Dhabi Recognizes It's All About Image(Sat)

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    Smoke from fire?

    Abu Dhabi wanted Kaka, but Kaka din't want to move. So it looks as if Abu Dhabi are now interested in AC Milan, which have Kaka on their books. It is all speculation, but two things remain. Abu Dhabi love Serie A - and Abu Dhabi have money.

    MILAN, Italy (AP) — AC Milan has denied a report that the Abu Dhabi United group will purchase 40 percent of the club.

    Milan and club president Silvio Berlusconi's Fininvest holding company issued a joint statement saying that "the news has no basis."

    Italy's leading newspaper, Corriere della Sera, reported Tuesday that after failing to purchase Milan playmaker Kaka, Abu Dhabi United had switched its focus to buying part of Milan. The paper did not cite any sources, but said the offer would be $640 million.

    Last month, Kaka rejected a reported $145 million-plus transfer offer from Manchester City, which is controlled by Abu Dhabi United.

    "Fininvest Spa, which controls AC Milan, denies in the most categorical manner press speculation concerning possible changes to the football club's assets," the company said. "This is a journalistic hypothesis without any basis."

    No smoke without fire....

    AC Milan denies Abu Dhabi report of purchase

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    Whatever you want to call it - the world sees it that Abu Dhabi has saved Dubai. Lex has coined the phrase Dubailout. We predict that there will be more dubailouting happening over the next year or so. The markets think otherwise, with trading up on announcement of the injection/bonds/bailout. But that might just be because there is now an acceptance that Dubai and Abu Dhabi are now bound by more than just being neighbours. As Lex says:

    All together now. Dubai’s $10bn cash injection from the United Arab Emirates’ central bank has eased concerns about the struggling emirate’s ability to make good on $13bn in debt payments due by the end of this year. Just as important as the deal’s dollar figure, however, is the political message it sends. After weeks of uncertainty, Abu Dhabi, the Emirates’ oil-rich sugar daddy, has demonstrated its willingness to stand behind its poorer relation.

    Strictly speaking, the UAE central bank’s purchase of $10bn of five-year Dubai bonds – part of $20bn in new bonds priced at 4 per cent interest – was agreed at the federal level by all seven emirates. But at its core, the move amounts to a bail-out by proxy of Dubai by its bigger, wealthier neighbour, Abu Dhabi, which is the biggest contributor to the UAE’s federal budget thanks to a quirk of geography that left it holding 8 per cent of the world’s oil reserves.

    And Lex finishes with:

    But, by making its implicit backing explicit, Abu Dhabi has given its neighbour valuable breathing room.

    Breathe in now.....


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    Monday, February 23, 2009

    Employee No. 861

    The foreman tapped on the dump truck's window and broke the news: The project was slowing and fewer workers were needed. Muhammad Munir Bahadar's next paycheck would be his last.

    Read the full AP article


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    Is $10bn enough to save Dubai?

    The marker is down and the UAE central bank has lent Dubai $10bn to ease its debt repayment - and about time too. The question one must ask, is whether that is enough? There are numerous issues in play here: repayment and the projected growth that was built on that investment, as well as the future growth based on tourism, trade and property. There is not much of that around at the moment, and it will be tough over the coming couple of years - and so will there be further injections? Or will there come a point in time where things will have to change. Could the huge projects be shelved? And which ones? If you read into the lists, those that have been put on hold could quite easily go away - because without projections, without being able to repay the debt, there certainly aint no money to be ploughed into the future.

    If you ask the pessimist what this was they would say that it was an exercise in image saviour. Dubai is on the ropes at the moment and needs to come fighting back. It hasn't lost the bottle, but now appears to have a fighting to chance to recover.

    Dubai to take up $10bn UAE loan
    U.A.E. Central Bank Steps In to Support Dubai Debt
    UAE federal govt throws Dubai financial lifeline
    UAE to Help Dubai Ease Debt Load


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    Thursday, February 19, 2009

    An American Dubai

    This could be bling being taken back. This is the kind of project that Dubai would come up with.

    Could nearly 4000 oil rigs soon to be decommissioned in the Gulf of Mexico be retrofitted into an American Dubai of offshore luxury hotels?

    There are approximately 4,000 oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico varying in size, depth and mobility that will be decommissioned within the next century. If a deck on one of these rigs is about 20,000 square feet, then there is potentially 80 million square feet of programmable space just off the coast of the United States. The current method for rig removal is explosion, which costs millions of dollars and destroys massive amounts of aquatic life. What if these rigs were recommissioned as exclusive resort islands? Could the Gulf be America’s “Dubai” and the rig the artificial island on which to build it? This project examines the possibilities of creating a self-sufficient, eco-friendly high-end resort experience in our own backyard – the Gulf of Mexico.

    If this ever did happen in the US, there would be something ironic about this full circle reversal of bling.

    Hotelier at Sea

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    Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    The Anti-Dubai crowd

    The Anti-Dubai crowd have started to come together. What started with a few media reports that haven't necessarily looked at the bigger picture or the right information are starting to make judgements:

    Pulling on odd bits of "information", sites like smashing telly are having a field day:

    Dubai threatens to become an instant ruin, an emblematic hybrid of the worst of both the West and the Middle-East and a dangerous totem for those who would mistakenly interpret this as the de facto product of a secular driven culture.

    It feels like a super rant to me. Be prepared to feel the full force of random ranting.

    Goodbye Dubai


    Posted by at 2 comments :

    Monday, February 16, 2009

    UAE Recession?

    What's the definition of a recession?

    "A period of general economic decline; specifically, a decline in GDP for two or more consecutive quarters."

    Standard chartered have stated that they predict the UAE economy’s growth rate could contract by as much as one percent in the first half of 2009.

    If that is consecutive quarters, that's a recession. That's a decline - and the UAE are close to it. Any more downturn, there is more chance of a recession. It may not be deep, but technically it will be a recession. And the proviso for getting out of this situation is clear:

    “With the right policy response - sorting out monetary policy and increasing fiscal spending - it should allow us to see the recovery in the second half and mainly last quarter of the year that will allow us to recover from the first half and see positive growth,” he said.

    3 years ago, this situation was unthinkable. Now we are very much on the brink.

    UAE economy predicted to contract by 1% in H1

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    The Unemployment issue of Dubai and the UAE spreads further

    Looking at unemployment in Dubai, one must look at the context of the region, and how one move in the labour transfer game impacts many many others on the chain:


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    The scapegoat

    The scapegoat of the Arab Israeli conflict is an Israeli tennis player. The repercussions for a move to block an athlete from playing could be huge.

    "We are deeply disappointed by the decision of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) denying Shahar Peer a visa that would permit her to enter the country to play in the Dubai Tennis Championships," said Larry Scott, chairman and chief executive of the tour.

    "Ms. Peer has earned the right to play in the tournament and it is regrettable that the UAE is denying her this right.

    "Following various consultations, the Tour has decided to allow the tournament to continue to be played this week, pending further review by the Tour's Board of Directors.

    This could be bad for Dubai. Not a good move.

    UAE denies visa to Israeli tennis player


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    All eyes on Abu Dhabi

    ...for more reasons that one! But the latest Time article talks of Masdar and Green:

    Abu Dhabi's leadership is all the more necessary at a moment when once vibrant green businesses are flagging, thanks in part to the plummeting price of oil. In the U.S. and Europe, new wind- and solar-power installations are slowing, energy start-ups are starving for funds and some green companies are laying off workers. But it's still full speed ahead in Abu Dhabi, where last month's World Future Energy Summit (WFES) attracted more than 16,000 visitors and companies that ranged from General Motors to modest Chinese solar manufacturers.

    Abu Dhabi is leading at a difficult time. Eco will be the future. It may not seem important now with all the issues of the world. But Abu Dhabi has stuck to its guns, and if there is one way of getting the world to talk - this seems to be working.

    Abu Dhabi: An Oil Giant Dreams Green

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    Dubai, Mumbai, Shanghai or Goodbye

    It used to be the phrase that identified the change in power, the shift from west to east, the centering of the world around a different part of the world. And while that shift appeared to begin at the beginning of this century, the world has come to a screeching halt. In fact, it doesn't know where to turn. The whole world is troubled, and the new guns are a little shy of taking the lead:

    Yet if the old standbys are reeling, it now seems that the new guys are not as ready for prime time as was widely believed. The price of crude oil tumbled from $147/barrel in July 2008 to $32/barrel in December and the global economy was rocked. The loss of revenue had differing impacts worldwide.

    But who will lead us through these years - who will lead us this century. Is this the end of the west and the beginning of the east - or is this time of the world to join together?

    Dubai, Mumbai, Shanghai : Destiny or Hype?


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    Sunday, February 15, 2009

    Dubai, adjective

    It looks like the word Dubai is officially being used to mean bling:

    So people want to look understated?
    Yes, I don't think anyone is going to want to look overly flashy, overly glitzy, too Dubai, whatever you want to call it. I just don't think that's the moment. But I do feel an emphasis on quality and longevity and things that really last.

    From an interview with Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue.

    Just Asking: Anna Wintour

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    The Media on Dubai

    Two further reports after the NYT and The Times- the Guardian reports, some first hand and some second hand about the downfall of Dubai and talks of the indicators that demonstrate where Dubai is versus its peak. Their indicator of sentiment is sentiment itself:

    "Drink your last cocktail and get out of here," said Sasha Reynolds, a 33-year-old airhostess. "My boyfriend is an engineer and work has dried up. He's been offered work in Qatar but who wants to go there? People are still making money here but the parties aren't quite the same. I'm lucky ‑ I didn't buy."

    Again the call is on Abu Dhabi to save the day....if possible.

    The LA times talks of the lack of spending at DSF.

    "The mood in Dubai has certainly changed," Trevor Lloyd-Jones, managing editor of Business Intelligence Middle East, said in a telephone interview. "Everybody is more cautious in their spending. People are saving for a rainy day. We are in a wait-and-see period."

    If you weren't in Dubai and just read the press, you would think that Dubai has no hope.

    Dubai's six-year building boom grinds to halt as financial crisis takes hold
    Even Dubai Shopping Festival is feeling effects of economic slump

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    Thursday, February 12, 2009

    Something needs to happen soon

    Another article highlighting the situation in Dubai. Everyone around the world is talking about Dubai because of pieces like this and the one in the Times. To be frank, Dubai is being killed in the press - and maybe it is media frenzy, but there are some inherent issues that wont go away. Something needs to be done soon to prevent the negative cloud that has appeared above Dubai.

    Some highlights from the article:

    Debtor's Prison or Abandon your Car:

    “I’m really scared of what could happen, because I bought property here,” said Sofia, who asked that her last name be withheld because she is still hunting for a new job. “If I can’t pay it off, I was told I could end up in debtors’ prison.”

    Davidson chips in: (can't wait for his new book on Abu Dhabi, btw)
    “Why is Abu Dhabi allowing its neighbor to have its international reputation trashed, when it could bail out Dubai’s banks and restore confidence?” said Christopher M. Davidson, who predicted the current crisis in “Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success,” a book published last year. “Perhaps the plan is to centralize the U.A.E.” under Abu Dhabi’s control, he mused, in a move that would sharply curtail Dubai’s independence and perhaps change its signature freewheeling style.

    Salary squeeze:
    Hamza Thiab, a 27-year-old Iraqi who moved here from Baghdad in 2005, lost his job with an engineering firm six weeks ago. He has until the end of February to find a job, or he must leave. “I’ve been looking for a new job for three months, and I’ve only had two interviews,” he said. “Before, you used to open up the papers here and see dozens of jobs. The minimum for a civil engineer with four years’ experience used to be 15,000 dirhams a month. Now, the maximum you’ll get is 8,000,” or about $2,000.

    And my favourite last paragraph:
    We are all just sleeping, smoking, drinking coffee and having headaches because of the situation.” - it sounds like a druggies haven.

    Laid-Off Foreigners Flee as Dubai Spirals Down


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    New Jumeirah Website

    For a brand so prominent in the Dubai DNA, one used to secretly think that Jumeirah's website was a little stayed. Well, it looks as if their website has relaunched. The site has more gusto and more panache and looks oodles better than it did before. But what about the important stuff - does it look like a luxury brand - yes it does. Does it need to be Web 2.0? - not really - but it does have the things that you need - online reservation for restaurants and rooms as well as a membership section - yes. As Jumeirah's brand extends past Dubai and more of the world come to Dubai, this stands as a shining example of what Arabic brands need to do and be in the online space.

    What is the web about in 2009? Elegant organisation. This is it - it has a good base to build on - and it ain't no jumeira scarer.

    Jumeirah Website


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    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    Radiator spawned from Rotating Building

    Dubai has planned a rotating building. One of the crazy, futuristic buildings that wow people. Now, comes the twisting radiator. I think it looks similar.

    Perhaps this is the radiator that they will use in the rotating building...in case it gets cold.

    Marco Dessi


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    Tuesday, February 10, 2009

    Real Estate Bail Out

    What is Dubai known for? Construction and property.
    What has been struggling over the past few months? Construction and property.
    What will be perceived as the biggest failure if it collapses? Construction and property

    And so, this makes sense:

    The UAE could be preparing to bail out real estate companies in the country and might restrict new supply amid a downturn in property prices, EFG-Hermes said.

    "It is interesting that the government has yet to announce any bailout plans for the real estate sector, though we are inclined to believe that a federal plan is in the pipeline," the Egyptian investment bank said in a research note released on Monday.

    While EFG-Hermes' own real estate index showed advertised prices in Dubai had fallen around 8 per cent in the last few months, anecdotal evidence suggested that transacted prices have fallen by as much as 35-50 per cent in areas such as Dubai Marina, Downtown Burj Dubai and Palm Jumeirah, the note said.

    With all the projects that have been put on hold, this makes more sense for supply, phasing to keep firms in business. In Abu Dhabi, the impetus is slightly different. They need property and they need it now....unless people leave...

    UAE may bail out real estate sector: report

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    Sunday, February 08, 2009

    Abu Dhabi will pay for the snip

    Important news that AFP felt obliged to report, and we felt necessary to pass on:

    The health authority in the capital of the United Arab Emirates said the government-backed insurance firm, Daman, has included circumcision operations in existing insurance policies for new Muslims. Converts will have to present a certificate, issued by an Abu Dhabi court, attesting to their conversion.

    Aside, there comes a point where red tape is just unnecessary. A certificate for circumcision? Surely, there are other ways to check for the snip. No grown man would go through that pain for any other reason other than religion.

    Abu Dhabi to pay circumcision for Muslim converts


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    Thursday, February 05, 2009

    Gossip and a time for unity

    What the UAE hates is criticism, and frowns from others. Whilst no-one really likes criticism or judgment, especially if it is public, it is a particularly Arab trait to hate being gossiped about. Let's look at the chain of events:

    Global slowdown
    UAE slowdown
    Moody's negative outlook on UAE banks
    Abu Dhabi injects money to prop up banks
    Concern that Abu Dhabi hasn't propped up Dubai

    So what's next? Is this the move that signifies Abu Dhabi's power? Or is this a timing game? Whatever happens, the oil is the power - and Abu Dhabi holds that. The smart move would be to arraneg a front to the world that the UAE is united - and that is no doubt what will happen. After all, if either Dubai or Abu Dhabi fails, the UAE fails.

    Focus on Dubai as Abu Dhabi looks to its own

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    Tuesday, February 03, 2009

    Pigeon Smuggling from Dubai

    Someone in Dubai wasn't doing their job?

    Customs officers in Australia have caught a man who was trying to smuggle two pigeons into the country ... in his trousers.

    The 23-year-old man - who had just got off a 10 hour flight from Dubai to Sydney - was initially quizzed when officers found he was carrying a container of eggs.

    But when they took him to a private interview room they noticed he was walking funny and on examination they found he was wearing tights with a live pigeon concealed in each leg.

    We couldn't get identification for the individual and only know that he likes birds and has hairy legs. He now faces a maximum penalty for wildlife smuggling offenses of 10 years imprisonment and/or a $110,000 fine.

    Man tried to smuggle pigeons in trousers


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    Economic Crisis?

    Hummer H2 convertible spotted in Abu Dhabi.

    Everyone is envious.


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    Dubai's Cancelled projects

    If you haven't received the list on email that has been circulating over the past coupel weeks, you will do soon. It will say something like "Dubai has cancelled $76bn worth of property development projects", "I don't know whether this is true or not but certainly scary or what", "$76 Billion worth of projects down the drain" or something similar. The Kipp Report put it up yesterday, but it would be safe to say that the way that others have circulated it have painted Dubai as collapsing. Kipp puts it right:

    If the list is accurate, then approximately $72.563 billion worth of projects are on hold, and $3.275 billion have been cancelled.

    Kipp called a number of the developers on the list to confirm the rumors, and received mixed results. According to the list, Falcon City of Wonders, which it claims is being built by ETA Star, has been cancelled. However, the development is being built by Salem Al Moosa Enterprise.

    Yet, Damac Property’s projects that are listed as “on hold,” such as Water’s Edge in Business Bay, and Business Bay: Burjside Boulevard are “experiencing delays,” explained the customer service operator.

    So, here is the issue, not much looks to be cancelled - more so things are on hold. This is probably due to needing financing - and so what is happening is that things are being phased, rather than being cancelled. No doubt, if you research some of the list, you will find that some have stalled. But you might find that these will come back to life at a later point in time. Indeed when we get through this lull and we go back over this list, you will find that most of them will be reskinned to bring them to fruition. Or what we will find is that those companies in the UAE who have ready access to cash will be taking these projects on.

    The worrying thing that we need to be aware of is that a hold or a phasing can lead to developers going bust, and whilst that may not lead to projects being cancelled in the end - it may lead to investors losing their money....

    List of losers
    Projects worth $75bn on hold or cancelled, says HSBC

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    Monday, February 02, 2009

    Podcars, Masdar & Abu Dhabi

    To some, Masdar is unbelieveable, but in the background things are happening that will blow your mind. For some cities, to transition from a centuries old transport system would take another century or so. But when you have a clean slate as Masdar do...and the money to back that, interesting things can happen:

    In Masdar, where the streets will be entirely free of automobiles, a network of these compact electric taxis will provide clean and quiet transportation to the city’s residents, as well as commuters. The first PRT cars are set to begin running later this year.

    It certainly is a far cry from the white and gold cabs

    Read the detail at Treehugger

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    The Sphere Hotel, Dubai

    Give a futuristic interior designer free reign to come up with a concept would wow, and you are bound to come up with something impractical like the sphere hotel. Round, probably unsafe, located on a cliff, and you can only get there by helicopter, unless you can do a Tom Cruise and waltz in MI2 style. It will obviously be cool, but as a pod to the future, it doesn't have much life. Cliffs are always eroded away - and that is fact.

    But as with all things these days, there will be some green:

    Apart from offering a secluded retreat in the very lap of nature, the Sphere will also promote an eco-friendly lifestyle. With moist beach air flowing across the structure, the Sphere will make use of natural air conditioning. While the hotel will exploit the natural light coming through the glass panels to light the rooms during the daytime, on the other, the thermal glass facade will generate adequate solar power to fulfill all energy requirements.

    It falls into the "not sure how crazy you're going to get next" category, I believe.

    Sphere Hotel Concept is Stunning
    Milla Rezanova


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    Sunday, February 01, 2009

    Job Lay offs in the UAE

    If the Piers Morgan interview painted a rosey picture over the situation, this paints a realist, for regular earners (normal people) who aren't in the bling. Hard times in the UAE. Indeed:

    Embedded video from CNN Video

    If you are listening correctly, 8% reduction in population, means something - less jobs...in some industries.

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