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  • Thursday, April 30, 2009

    Dubai Rental Price Index - 2009

    Rera have updated their data again, and everything seems to be going downwards. Is that good or bad? Well, it's good for residents - if you actually belive the data to be real, and so renewals are now moving downwards as people start to shop around. According to bi-me, "But, crucially, the landlord would not be able to automatically bring a very low rent into the range published in the guideline." - so there is some protection for those below the bracket.



    The numbers seem a far cry from January - and from last year - are according to Arabian Business - Landmark are to issue even lower figures next month. Compare the date for yourselves - do you believe it?


    Dubai Rental Price Index
    - xls spreadsheet of January and April 2009 data
    Dubai Rental Price Index 2009
    New Dubai rental index likely to shave market rents
    Rera
    Dubai’s soon to be official April Rental Index
    Dubai rents plummet in new RERA index
    Dubai rents seen falling further next week - rival index

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    The video will be investigated

    After the brutality that has been viewed by thousands, if not millions, of a man abusing another human being, this was only going to go one way. The fact that this video has been in existence for some time, the fact that the case had been closed and the fact that you can supposedly get away with something if it is "not part of a pattern of behavior" is worrying. Even more worrying that had ABC and the general media outside of the UAE not exposed this story, there would be no justice. With all that said, it is a breath of fresh air that the UAE government are now reopening the case. Of course, proof is in the pudding but quote:

    Official Statement of the Human Rights Office, Abu Dhabi Judicial Department:
    The Constitution of the United Arab Emirates guarantees a number of fundamental rights including those set forth in Article 25 providing that all persons are equal before the law, without distinction in regard to race, nationality, religious belief and social status. The Human Rights Office (HRO) of the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department has viewed the contents of a video containing graphic scenes of physical abuse that has been widely circulated online and reported in international media. The Government of Abu Dhabi unequivocally condemns the actions depicted on the video. The HRO of the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department will conduct a comprehensive review of the matter immediately and make its findings public at the earliest opportunity. Based on the statement made by the UAE Ministry of Interior, the HRO of the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department understands that the matter depicted on the video was resolved between the two parties and that no criminal charges were brought by either party. However, the HRO believes that the events depicted on the video appear to represent a violation of human rights and therefore these events should be fully reviewed in their own right.

    Further:

    Today's statement represents a sharp change of course, and one person familiar with the matter told ABCNews.com, "the government would like to put the Sheikh on trial if one his victims makess a formal complaint."


    This video was not about the UAE - this video was about cruelty and torture. It was also about people allowing this to happen. What needs to be done now is prevent anything like this ever happening again.

    UAE Now Condemns Torture Tape; May Re-Open Royal Sheikh Case
    UAE says investigating torture video
    Abu Dhabi to probe royal torture claim
    Sheikhs, lives and videotape

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    Monday, April 27, 2009

    Ziggurat Dubai - the pyramid of the future

    Ziggurat Dubai has been touted as many things, from a new age pyramid in desert, to a monstrosity that will fail. Since it was launched at last year's Cityscape, not much has been heard about this audacious project which falls under the same umbrella as Masdar. It is an enormous project planned at 2.3km square, so it's not one that will form at the side of the Sheikh Zayed road over night.



    Indeed, this will be a project for 2020. If it ever does get fulfilled, it could house and sustain 1m people. Yes you read that right. 1 million people.





    How do you even fathom something of this magnitude. YOu will already have seen the videos of engineering work and the like being undertaken on Masdar, but this kind of pyramid makes you think of black and white films and Ben Hur and the like.







    Forget history - there are even some overlaps with the thoughts of the Matrix trilogy.














    It's future fiction becoming future perfect!


    Timelinks
    Revealing the pyramids of the future

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    Dubai, street style

    A view on why people wear what they wear in Dubai. (old but current) - from Current TV.

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    Saturday, April 25, 2009

    Mubadala and its 3 billion dollar loss

    With all the weight that it carries in investment circles, the numbers speaks for themselves. Mubadala was not immune from the global economic meltdown. Indeed, it got hit pretty badly. Whatever ratio you look at, $3.23 billion is a chunky amount. The majority of that 3 billion is associated with writedowns - not surprisingly given the investments that they have bundled into globally over the last couple of years:


    In its annual report, Mubadala said its total assets grew last year from 39 billion dirhams to more than 54 billion dirhams, or about $14.79 billion. Amid its acquisition spree, the company -- owned by the government of Abu Dhabi, the oil rich emirate that is the capital of the United Arab Emirates -- said revenues for the year increased 370% to 6.7 billion dirhams, or $1.84 billion.

    But Mubadala said it wrote down the value of its global investments by 8.8 billion dirhams, or $2.41 billion, contributing to its big annual loss. The company said it had a profit of $1.3 billion dirhams, or $356.2 million, in 2007.


    Mubadala receives cash from the government, which underpins their investments, and that will continue, but no doubt, Mubadala will bounce back from this. The best piece of new from all of this is the transparency with which they have disclosed the information. They don't need to share the information, but they have done. It's a smartly produced report with all the required information and it is worth reading.

    Abu Dhabi's Mubadala says lost $3.21 bln in 2008
    Mubadala Posts $3.23 Billion Loss on Investment Impairment
    Mubadala issues first annual report
    Gulf fund reveals $3.2bn loss as it releases first report
    Mubadala’s 2008 annual Report

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    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    Pirates & Laundry

    The independant muddies Dubai's name in the somailian pirates extravanza. How?

    Organised piracy syndicates operating in Dubai and other Gulf states are laundering vast sums of money taken in ransom from vessels hijacked off the Horn of Africa.

    Investigators hired by the shipping industry have told The Independent that around $80m (£56m) has been paid out in the past year alone – far more than has previously been admitted. But while some of this money has ended up in the pirate havens of Somalia, millions have been laundered through bank accounts in the United Arab Emirates and other parts of the Middle East.



    The so-called "godfathers" of the illicit operations, according to investigators, include businessmen from Somalia and the Middle East, as well as other nationalities on the Indian sub-continent. There have also been reports that some of the money from piracy ransoms has gone to Islamist militants.


    That's a big claim - and I assume the powers that be will not be happy. I'm sure "independant" doesn't mean anything positive to them.

    Pirates: the $80m Gulf connection

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    Dubai Architecture in Recession

    Real estate may be in recession, or property to the Brits, but so is architecture, and not just in Dubai.

    As of early February, more than half of Dubai's real estate projects were on hold or canceled, from the 3,281-foot-tall Nakheel Tower designed by Woods Bagot to the Hydropolis, a 220-suite underwater hotel envisioned by designer Joachim Hauser. Analysts predict that Dubai property values, in total, will decline up to 60 percent in 2009 after years of record growth. Given this drastic turn of events, architects are being forced to reconsider their prospects in the region.

    "Everyone is taking a real wait-and-see approach," says Wayde Tardif, an American designer who in 2007 co-founded POSIT Studio in Dubai. Tardif remains optimistic, noting that the slowdown will normalize the market and allow architects to catch their breath. He predicts a rebound in 16 to 18 months; he doesn't foresee a forgotten city full of empty towers. "Dubai has too much pride for that," he says.


    Can you wait for a 2 year rebound?


    Architecture in Recession: U.A.E.

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    Sunday, April 19, 2009

    GCC property at the bottom of the barrel?

    Depending on how you read it, the Colliers report paint a grim picture, with an opportunity over the next few years. If indeed, you read it that it has reached the bottom of the bottom, and belive what Sheikh Mo, himself, has said, we have passed the worst. You could read it that there is more to go, depending on what you see in the yields. Here's what Zawya found:

    Dubai
    * 39% decrease in average office sales prices between Q3 08 and Q1 09
    * 40%-42% decrease in average residential sales prices since Q4 08
    * 20%-40% decrease in residential rental rates dependent upon the circumstances of the landlord
    * Average yield of 8.9% on residential property and 8.8% on office property
    * Demand projections for Dubai retail property can only absorb a further 140,000 m² of GLA before being oversupplied

    Abu Dhabi
    * 20% average decline in capital value of residential property launched in Q2 08
    * 24% decrease in office rentals between Q3 2008 and Q1 09
    * Average yield of 9.9% on residential property


    Is it low enough? with residential sales - you would look at it and say, so much so quickly - how much of a risk is that? For those who havent got the meant to speculate for a return, property in general looks too risky. Many will expect a little more than a hunch that property is on a rise, especially in a region that has been painted as boom or bust.

    Colliers Report
    Colliers International releases GCC Overview Report at Cityscape Abu Dhabi
    Dubai property prices to fall further

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    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    IMF data on the UAE

    It's that time again when we get data from the IMF. Worryingly it's my favourite time of the year - the reason being that this is as independant a view as you are going to get on the UAE economy, and while the government's data is pretty sound, you're always worried that it's the marketing machine that is painting a warped picture. And while it's OK to skim the news articles on that key percentage point of growth for 2009, sometimes it's better to read directly from the IMF. And so, if you really care about the UAE, living there, doing business there or considering moving there, download the PDF and read what they say. If you are not numbers inclined get someone to interpret the data for you. What I will pull out for you is this:

    Discussions were based on a staff scenario projecting growth to slow to about 3 percent in 2009 on the back of the worsened global outlook, before gradually recovering to around 5 percent during 2010–13.

    Also:

    The short and medium-term outlook is subject to a number of downside risks arising from the difficult global environment as well as domestic financial vulnerabilities in the wake of the recent real estate and credit boom (especially in Dubai). The main risks to the outlook stem from (i) a more severe global weakening; (ii) further tightening of foreign financing for investment projects; (iii) an increase in the demand for domestic financing adding to banks’ stress; (iv) a correction in the real estate market leading to a deterioration of asset quality in financial institutions; (v) a drop in oil prices that constrains the scope for fiscal policy to support growth; and (vi) an unexpected re-emergence of inflationary pressures.


    Here are some other real gdp growth rates worth looking at:

    2005 (a) 8.2%
    2006 (a) 9.4%
    2007 (e) 6.3%
    2008 (e) 7.4%
    2009 (p) 3.3%

    Well, that's the headline for you. If you are that way inclined read the PDF and draw your own conclusions.

    United Arab Emirates: 2008 Article IV Consultation - Staff Report; Staff Statement; and Public Information Notice on the Executive Board Discussion (PDF)

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    Dubai's largest investment bank to close?

    There is worry in the air. Can you smell it? Can you actually believe it? Well Wednesday is D-Day:

    Dubai-based investment bank Shuaa Capital SHUA.DU said shareholders will meet on Wednesday to decide whether it would continue operations or be dissolved, adding that it has enough equity to carry on.

    Can you actually believe that Shuaa has to go through this? Fine it has made a loss, but due process means that it needs to jump through the hoops. They've jumped before, and they'll jump again, but to close - that would be ludicrous and another nail in the coffin in Dubai's

    If you are a shareholder and voting, you are no doubt voting for it to remain. Downturns are all about staying in the game, and if you weather the storm, you will be victorious at the other side.

    Fingers crossed.

    Dubai's Shuaa to vote on whether to shut down

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    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    No breathing allowed in Dubai

    Yes, the latest advice is not to breathe if you are on the beach. The warning came from the head of Dubai’s Marine Environment and Wildlife Section.

    He was responding to concern from local media about a “red tide” of potentially harmful algae that has hit the coast of Dubai, leading to the closure of two beaches, including an area near the ultra-luxurious Burj Al Arab hotel. “People are advised not to venture onto these beaches,” said Hassan. “They should make no contact with the water, nor consume the dead fishes that are washed ashore. Care should also be taken not to inhale the air after a wave hits the shoreline. This can prove hazardous to health.”


    Don't consume the dead fishes?!?!? Are those the same fishes that have been living with the algae and sewage. The algae must be pretty lethal no?

    The algae, identified asCochlodinium polykrikoides, can cause respiratory problems and eye irritation in humans, and is lethal to fish. Similar blooms have plagued the nearby emirate of Fujairah in recent weeks.


    Well, if you were prepared to brave the sewage, warning of thie nature about algae must mean that it is pretty hard core.

    I'm holding my breath.

    Dubai advice: hold your breath

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    Sunday, April 12, 2009

    Johann Hari

    What a week for Dubai. First the Panorama programme, slumdogs and millionaires, then the article about how to not build Dubai, and then the article in the Independant by Johann Hari. It gained significant exposure:

    The article, itself had numerous comments, as did the syndicated version in the Huffington Post. No doubt, if it had been syndicated further, all hell would have let loose. But then Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi wrote a piece in reply entitled, If you think Dubai is bad, just look at your own country. It didn't address the points that Hari made and so Hari came back hard at him in his blog: Johann Hari: How to spot a lame, lame argument:

    He did not react to my article by responding to the many criticisms I made of Dubai. He can't. He knows they are true. Instead he wrote a piece for the Independent asking: But what about Britain? He listed many things wrong with Britain - homelessness, detention without trial, the abuse of trafficked workers - and cried: talk about them instead!

    And so, that's where it is. Johann Hari has the power to say what he wants, and have his opinion - and isn't that his right? But perhaps not - when he nullfies a nation without balance, it doesn't really sit right.

    In a previous article entitled Johann Hari: Why should I respect these oppressive religions? he says:

    To the people who demand respect for Muslim culture, I ask: which Muslim culture? Those women's, those children's, this blogger's – or their oppressors'?

    All people deserve respect, but not all ideas do. I don't respect the idea that a man was born of a virgin, walked on water and rose from the dead. I don't respect the idea that we should follow a "Prophet" who at the age of 53 had sex with a nine-year old girl, and ordered the murder of whole villages of Jews because they wouldn't follow him.

    I don't respect the idea that the West Bank was handed to Jews by God and the Palestinians should be bombed or bullied into surrendering it. I don't respect the idea that we may have lived before as goats, and could live again as woodlice. This is not because of "prejudice" or "ignorance", but because there is no evidence for these claims. They belong to the childhood of our species, and will in time look as preposterous as believing in Zeus or Thor or Baal.

    When you demand "respect", you are demanding we lie to you. I have too much real respect for you as a human being to engage in that charade.


    But, if you were to think that he was just anti-Islam or anti Dubai, you would be wrong. He appears to be a journalist who sparks controvery, full stop. He once compared Israel to excrement - and if that be the ying to your yang, then so be it. But it is not a case of being anti this or anti that, he's just an opinionator, Unfortunately he has an opinion on everything and wont consider that there is another view on an issue or that there may be a flipside. Either way, he doesn't seem very nice:



    The only plus is that, after this furore, Dubai, knows what those who despise Dubai are thinking, and can start to make ammends.

    Johann Hari

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    Monday, April 06, 2009

    Dubai - how not to build a city

    The dubaibashing continues. It's happening so much that Dubaibashing or dubashing should become part of the Collins English Dictionary (any lexicogrophers out there - do lexicographers exist any more - maybe urbandictionary have picked it up?) Anyway, this time it's Canada's The Star that deals the blows. Canada, the country of liberty - yes that same country. But, funnily enough, the article is less negative than the title paints it to be - until the killer sentence:

    The truth may be that this city will be obsolete in less time than it takes most communities to figure out who and what they are.

    In a brave new world, where transformation is looked at with a frowned eyebrow, outsiders usually look at such ups and downs of growth with a misunderstanding and expectation that the change will happen overnight. But growth of this nature does not happen overnight. Much of the western world transitioned from nothingness to somethingness over centuries. Dubai and placed like Dubai have had to put their foot on the gas to reivent themselves to a brighter future.

    It goes on:

    Dubai resembles nothing so much as a cross between Mississauga and Las Vegas, but on a massive scale; it's not that there's no there there, but that there are so many.

    Is Dubaibashing newsworthy? Probably, because in this space there is nothing else as interesting. Everyone wows when the growth happens - and most will join the bandwagon when the brakes are on. With Dubai, many people misunderstand, many people are jelous - but mostly, it's just something to talk about - that people like to read.

    The BBC have a programme devoted to it this evening in the UK. It's called: Panorama: Slumdogs and Millionaires - Dubai: From riches to rags. Again the title paints a very bleak view, which will no doubt result in the viewing figure increasing. And no longer will people think of the tallest building in the world or money banked the speculators that drover up the prices. They will think of the migrant workers - they will think of the pittance paid to these people, and they will think of all the negatives associated with class. They wont think of the blip in the success story.

    Everything is this world is complex. Dubai is not a case of black and white. It's a case of somewhere in between. Unfortunately no-one likes grey.

    One must listen to Simeon Kerr in the FT to understand the reality of what went wrong in this blip:

    The emirate's marketing strategy during the petro-dollar boom helped transform the Gulf commercial hub into a global tourism and investment destination. The city has also carved out a niche as a financial hub for overseas institutions seeking to tap the region's oil-fuelled liquidity.

    But a lack of transparency in financial matters, overlooked in the boom years, has come to haunt the emirate. Investors and ratings agencies bemoan the poor disclosure, helping to fuel concerns about the government's finances, which at one point saw credit markets betting that sovereign-linked entities could default on their debts.


    And while no one expected growth to be plain sailing, WPP have got their work cut out to make rid the world of Dubaibashing.

    Dubai: How not to build a city
    Dubai: From riches to rags
    Dubai turns to PR to revive its image

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    Sunday, April 05, 2009

    The Helix Hotel, Abu Dhabi

    They're calling the Helix hotel a number of things, from pancake to corkscrew. Whatever people want to label it as, it truly is a distinct piece of architecture that will no doubt be prominent as a futuristic building in Abu Dhabi's brave new world.



    What is amazing is that it features a rooftop deck with glass-bottom swimming pool so you can see the people on the floor beneath you.



    Luxiast takes the criticism beyond pancakes:

    The design for the Helix Hotel in Abu Dhabi's Zayed Bay have been released. The unique structure from Leeser Architects looks a bit like a stack of toliet seat lids but there is a method to the madness. Inside the building is a continuous spiral with a hollow center. One standout feature is the glass-bottom swimming pool suspended high in the air on the left. The Helix is part of the new waterfront development in Abu Dhabi near Zaha Hadid's striking Sheikh Zayed Bridge.




    As more details come out, we find out that this is greener than green:

    Helix Hotel, which nearly floats right into the Persian Gulf, will maximize use of local natural resources likes sun, wind, and ocean water while keep guests comfortable in all 208 rooms.





    Leeser are the architects.

    The Abu Dhabi landscape is shaping up as bold and defined, and whilist on the ground it may feel like things are happening over night, this is a slow thought out master plan to build a place of the future.

    Leeser
    The Other Guggenheim Abu Dhabi?
    Abu Dhabi’s Spiraling Helix Hotel
    Abu Dhabi's Helix Hotel Will Feature Glass-Bottom Pool

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