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  • Friday, August 28, 2009

    Ramadan Photos from around the globe

    If you haven't seen the selection from the Boston Globe, it's worth 5 minutes of your time. Unfortunately no pictures of the UAE:




    Ramadan

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    Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    Yahoo, Maktoob and the Big Switch

    There's not much to talk about in the Middle East Online Space. Occasionally, you'll hear of something cool at startup arabia, but the acquisition of Maktoob by Arabia is a biggie. A biggie for the Gulf and Middle East, and a big eyebrow raise by the rest of the technosphere. Why is this important for Yahoo? Well, it's all about the future and potential. In itself, maktoob is the most dynamic of sites, but it keeps the local populations engaged - it has local content and is made for region. In sum, it works. Works so much that it has 16.5m people. A drop in the ocean if you consider the potential of many many more coming online on a daily rate. Here's what they had to say in their blog:


    To put this in perspective, Maktoob reaches one in every three people online throughout the region –- or 16.5 million people. This will be Yahoo!’s biggest geographic expansion in years. This deal is part of Yahoo!’s broader strategy to grow our international business, particularly in emerging markets. In many countries, vast populations — and advertisers — are just starting to come online. The potential is tremendous. Yahoo! has a large and growing audience in these markets today, and our acquisition of Maktoob represents the kind of investment we’re making to cater to the needs of these promising regions. We plan to join forces with the Maktoob team, the strongest in the region, to create locally relevant content, services, and programming. That’s no easy task when you consider the differences between countries like UAE, Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. But we’re committed to literally translating our winning formula for this growing market in many ways, including through locally-based editorial teams. Initially, we’ll plan to introduce Arabic versions of Yahoo! Mail, Messenger, Search, and our homepage and then eventually local versions of properties like News, Sports, and Finance. We’ll also focus on creating content and services tailored to the region. No other global company has made this kind of investment in local relevance for the Arab world. Arabs are vastly underserved by today’s Internet offerings. The World Bank estimates that there are 320 million Arabic speakers around the globe, yet less than one per cent of online content is written in their language (despite a vibrant Arabic blogosphere). We have a big opportunity to meet this growing demand, and we think Yahoo!, building on Maktoob’s local expertise, brings the scale and heft to draw many more people online in the region –- and we plan to give them compelling reasons to log on. We also recognize the Middle East is deeply complex, a complexity mirrored in the online world, and that it will present certain challenges. As an Internet pioneer in the emerging markets, we’ve learned important lessons and we’re committed to responsible global engagement. This means being sensitive to local laws, customs, and norms while also protecting and promoting the rights of our users. We believe our engagement in the Middle East can be a positive force for people by increasing access to information, supporting a thriving marketplace for the exchange of ideas, and bridging local, regional, and international communities.
    It’s easy to forget the fastest growing Internet audiences are in the emerging markets. That’s not lost on us. We’re passionate about growing our presence in places like Southeast Asia, India, Latin America, and Africa. And we can’t wait to yodel in the Middle East.



    The founders (and Abraaj Capital) have done well - $85m - thank you very much - and it has been a smart move by Yahoo. But what's more interesting is what they haven't bought. You'll all be familiar with the like of souq.com etc. Well, none of those properties are included. Techcrunch says this:

    However, the deal does not include a number of Maktoob’ products, including Souq (an eBay-like auction site), CashU (prepaid card payment system), Araby (search), and Tahadi MMO games. These will become part of Jabbar Internet Group, which we hear may be headed by one of Maktoob’s founders.

    But why? We suspect that the real value is in these milions of Arab Internet users who will all be accessing information. While all the other products are all interesting they are all distractions in the acquisition. Yahoo doesn't have any value for them - it's not its core game. And if all of these areas become core one day, they will have developed them for a global audience and rolled it out, rather than for a niche regional audience.

    Also, the return is the uptake of Arab users, the increase in advertising dollars being spent and the risk of not doing something like this. I mean how many maktoobs are there? And if there aren't that many and if the future is about access points to a greater mass of information and processing, yahoo's strategy is on the money.

    The only question is why did it take so long for something like this to happen? Are you ready for the cloud?

    Press release
    Yahoo Blog
    Maktoob

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    Monday, August 24, 2009

    Gucci Seatbelts

    Gucci seatbelts, yes you read that right.

    What price for safety? Apparently, it's not cool to wear a seatbelt - and thus, given the death rate on the UAE roads, it must be cool to risk one's life. The stats are shocking:



    “Gucci seatbelts” will be designed and distributed in a nationwide campaign to encourage fashion-conscious youngsters to be safer on the roads. Only 11 per cent of Emiratis and 44 per cent of expatriates wear seat belts, according to the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD). And according to research commissioned by the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy many young drivers say they are embarrassed to be seen wearing seat belts by their friends. “Young people like fashion in general,” said Maytha al Habsi, the director of the public awareness programmes at the EFP and head of the initiative. “Many people would love a Gucci seat belt, for example. Or a seat belt that carries the name of their preferred football team. Also, Emiratis like so much to carry their national flag. “It may very well be that fashion is the way to go. Maybe this would encourage them to wear it.”

    The retail price for gucci seatbelt accessories are USD42. When it's free to belt up, 150 odd dirhams seems a lot to spend to encourage common sense. I ask again, what price for safety?

    This is not a case of uae needing bling - surely an education programme would be a better spend of the money?

    Gucci seatbelt plan to get young drivers to buckle up
    Gucci Seatbelts
    Will ‘Gucci’ style persuade younger drivers to buckle up?

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    Herve Jaubert

    About 2 weeks ago, the story of Herve Jaubert popped up in the WaPo and his story of his escape from Dubai, with his upcoming book looking to expose the inner going on of Dubai. We covered Herve Jaubert then. Who is Herve Jaubert. He is or was the spy in Dubai. Since then, his story has started to gain traction across the net. This weekend just gone, the British Press have jumped on the story. The Times, The Telegraph and the Daily Mail all gave column inches to his story:



    The Times says:

    The dream ended in 2007 when, he said, Dubai World began to claim that expensive equipment was missing. Jaubert claims that the accusations were a pretext for the company to get rid of him and that he provided receipts proving that nothing was missing. He claims that Dubai World then falsely accused him of smuggling weapons and called the police. He said that officers interviewed him three times, threatening to torture him."I knew then that I had to escape,” he said. “I sent my wife and two children back to the United States. Once I was alone in Dubai, I turned to what I used to do before as an intelligence officer. “When I was a secret agent I was a ghost, but here it was different, I was not a ghost any more; these people had my picture. I decided to disguise myself as a woman and then I became a ghost. When you are covered from head to toe in an abaya and veil nobody talks to you, nobody looks at you. Wearing the abaya nobody bothered me, it’s like I never existed. That’s the best disguise you can find because even a police officer cannot talk to you.”

    The Telegraph gives Dubai World's side:

    A spokesman said: "As with any large enterprise anywhere, from time to time financial wrongdoing is uncovered. "We take the necessary legal steps when that happens and hand the matter to the police. "After due and proper legal process, the court found Herve Jaubert guilty of embezzlement and he has been sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to repay 14â million dirham. This is entirely appropriate." But the organisation is also fighting for its own reputation. Of all Dubai's numerous government-linked companies, Dubai World is the most closely associated with its rise to glitzy pre-eminence in recent years, and the most closely associated with the debts that have followed.

    The Daily Mail:

    'The police had interrogated me for hours and threatened me with torture,' he said from his home in Florida, where he now lives with his wife and two children. 'I lived with a ball of fear in my stomach.' He said that if he hadn't left, he'd be 'stuck in the same nightmare as the others', referring to the dozens of expatriate businessmen who are languishing in Dubai jails for alleged 'economic crimes'. As the economic slump deepens, foreigners are being jailed for misdeeds not generally considered as crimes, such as the bouncing of a cheque. To the Emirati authorities, however, Jaugbert - who is writing a book about his experiences - is a liar and convicted fraudster. He was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison after his escape in the dinghy. A spokesman for Dubai World said Jaubert had been dismissed because 'he was found stealing from the company', adding that his five-year sentence was 'entirely appropriate'.

    The UAE press have only talked of his sentencing:

    “The Dubai court convicted him in absentia on charges of embezzling $3.8 million and handed down a five-year sentence, plus a big fine,” the officer said. “The complaint was lodged against the French suspect at Murraqabat Police Station for issuing a dud cheque of Dh14,000,000.”

    Worryingly for Jaubert, they look to be tracking him down:

    The officer, who asked not to be named, said the police had handed over the man’s passport and was coordinating with Interpol to track down the man to serve his five-year prison sentence handed down in June, along with a hefty fine, for embezzlement charges.


    Worryingly for Dubai:

    Now, Herve says, ending on a triumphant note, "Dubai does not understand yet, that they messed with the wrong guy. I will dedicate the years to come to denounce this state, which I consider corrupt and criminal. I will speak for those who cannot, because they are trapped like I was or locked up. Like I read somewhere on a blog, the Dubai government overlooked my resume. Well, it is too late now. And once again, thank you India and Mumbai."



    And so I see an intriguing situation. Jaubert's book will come out in October. Between now and then, he will no doubt try and get as much exposure as he can from his beach house in Florida.
    And between now and then Dubai will do all that is necessary to extract him from the US so that he speaks no more. There is a book. There is man. And whether or not he is telling the truth, he will talk, and will continue to. This story won't go away, and the mroe stories that propogate the net, the more that people will talk about it and the more that people will comment.

    Former spy Herve Jaubert tells of James Bond-style escape after ‘torture threats’

    Hervé Jaubert: Great Dubai escape of French 007

    Arrest Warrant for Absconding Former Spy

    With scuba gear under a burka, French spy Herve Jaubert made his escape from Dubai

    French 007 tells of great escape from Dubai wearing a wetsuit under a burka

    Escape from Dubai

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    Friday, August 21, 2009

    Ramadan Prayer Times in Dubai and Abu Dhabi

    Ramadan Prayer Times in Dubai 2012
    Ramadan Prayer Times in Abu Dhabi 2012

    After my post on Ramadan, all I keep getting are emails are about prayer times in the UAE during Ramadan. Maybe I was naive. And so in keeping with the generousity vibe, here are the Ramadan prayer times for Dubai and Abu Dhabi:

    Ramadan Prayer Times in Dubai




    Ramadan Prayer Times in Abu Dhabi



    Ramadan Kareem / Ramadan Mubarak

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    Thursday, August 20, 2009

    Origami Tower Dubai

    Origami is a traditional Japanese art of paper folding where one must create a representation of an object by folding and creasing patterns. No glue. No cutting. back in the day I liked to think my paper boat and aeroplanes were origami, but am not so sure they were.

    The Origami Tower in Dubai is oddly named for multiple reasons. And whilst it is not yet complete, it doesn't really have the hallmarks of anything origami. Maybe the penned name of The Origami Resedential Tower is based on Mr Origami, or maybe you have to fly paper planes from the windows. Or maybe this is a ploy to get the world origami body to move it's headquarters to Dubai.









    Anyway, as with all of these things, there is a pre-wow factor to it, and some love it and some hate it. Just like Dubai. There is obviously some similarity but I just cant see it. Maybe it's a bit creased.

    Arch Daily

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    Ramadan - what's it really all about?

    It's that time of year - the run up to Ramadan. The media start to write the regular articles to tell everyone what Ramadan (or Ramadhan, as it is sometimes spelt) is really all about. But the big questions concern practicality. What are the office timings in Dubai and Abu Dhabi? Re there different rules for expats and locals? And are there different rules for government institutions and private companies. Although we know more or less what these should be, it always follows the same flow, with announcement after announcement - and every company will announce what its rules are to its employees. Shouldn't these be set in stone - are there some mysterious forces in play that mix things up every year to make it necessary to announce it. Why don't we set up law number 13472453 article 458263 stating that all companies should work 2 hours less, unless the company opts out. Or more specifically for those that have 10 hour work days - 9 til 2. Easy. The only exceptions should be places like the stock market and hospitals etc. Done. No need for an announcement on work hours or office timing for Ramadan.

    The only announcement that needs to be made is the first day of Ramadan. Everyone wonders when the first day of Ramadan is. We know roughly when it is going to be because it is based on a lunar calendar. Yet there is inches of editorial associated with the moon sighting committee (a job that I have always wanted). A simple solution is outsourcing. Let's outsouce it to probably the best moon sighting committee in the world whose whole livelihood depends on that moon. A simple call to Saudi Arabia - and when it's announced by them it's done - no country is second guessing each other - there's no mistaking a cloud for a moon. Let's get the GCC to put there monetary union issues aside and centralise moonsighting.

    Next, prayer times. Ramadan is time for to be that extra bit holy. So those that don't usually make an effort, make that effort, but everyone seems to be a little confused that prayer times for ramadan are that much different to regular prayer times. Umm. Let's put it like this. They are the same and they change by a few minutes each day, as they usually do. Dusk to dawn and all that. But yet everyone seems to be obsessed about what time prayers are. We seem to have forgotten about something that happens at prayer time. Yes, you've guessed it - the call to prayer, and to make it easier - they make it that little bit louder during morning prayer, extra big speaker etc, so that you can haul yourself out of bed and scoot down to your local, if you're that way inclined. If you're not that way inclined, then try and sleep through it! Oh and then there is Taraweeh prayers, the extra prayers of Ramadan. if you want to attend the mosque for these prayers, I guess you should really be attending for the regular prayers and you'll get to know when these are. Done. (Addedum: For those of you that want them, here are the Ramadan prayer times for Dubai as well as the Ramadan prayer times for Abu Dhabi for 2011

    Here are some words of wisdom and tidbits of information:

    Be a little careful when driving to return for iftar at the end of the day - that's when everyone has accidents. Why? Because people haven't eaten, don't realise what they are doing and have got food rage while on the road.

    If you don't fast, don't walk down the SZR, gulping down your can can of Coke, flaunting your lack of thirst. It'll piss people off and will get the "Ramadan Police" on to you. It's serious stuff - if you're not wastified you could get banged up for a month. If you must eat or drink during daylight hours, ie between the suhoor meal (dawn) and iftar (dusk), why not do it behind closed doors?

    What does Ramadan mean? The word 'Ramadan' comes from 'Ramida' meaning 'scorched heat' or 'parched thirst'.

    What does Ramadan Kareem mean? Well, it is the greeting of Ramadan and you say to it to everyone in celebration of Ramadan, and it means that Ramadan is generous.

    Why is Ramadan important? Muslims believe that the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammed during this month on the of night of Laylat ul Qadr, which is on one of the last ten nights of Ramadhan - those are the nights when people will be awake all night praying.

    Why generous - if you can't eat? Well, Ramadan is supposed to be a time for giving, giving to the poor, and helping out those in need. That's why you see the charity tents set up around the whole of the UAE, not just in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Generous also, because the shops want you to shop. Just like the Xmas sales in the West, the Ramadan or Eid discounts and sales will get you to buy more than you need and hopefully buy for your loved ones for Eid.

    What's the deal with the buffets? When breaking fast (Iftar), people's eyes are bigger than their stomachs. The stomach has shrunk during the day and thus will not need much to become full. Dont be conned into paying for a buffet when it may not physically be possible to gobble down 25 pizza slices in one setting. Eat as much as you CAN, rather than eat as much as you want.

    Most night clubs close, most bars close, music is not played etc etc. (although some stay open). But with the shisha tents open and there is much business undertaken over a puff of grapeshisha. That said, Ramadan in a downturn means that there may not be as many tents, or as many discounts according to the WSJ.

    Ramadan Kareem (for when it is sighted, perhaps Friday or Sturday), and enjoy the run up to Eid, in a lunar calendar month's time.

    Ramadan Prayer Times in the UAE

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    Saturday, August 15, 2009

    Why Manchester City and Abu Dhabi have already won

    Will Manchester City win the Premiership this season? Probably not. They'll do well and they'll probably do better than 10th, but Manchester City have already won - all eyes are on the new superstars. They're not doing a Blackburn. That almost feels as if it was a one off. The kind of investment going into Manchester is long term. It's a commitment. And if Robinho coming to Eastlands wasn't Christmas last year, the arrival of Carlos Tevez, Gareth Barry, Emanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure certainly makes this team appear to the making of premiership superstars.

    And ambition doesn't stop there. Whilst there is still talk over Lescott, we must think about the ones that got away. Remember, there was a bid for Kaka, and talk of approaching John Terry. And if you think of all the signings, including Shaun Wright-Phillips and Wayne Bridge, spending is over £200m, since the beginning of last season. Include salaries, and you are getting into the regions of half a billion pounds. Let's throw in a couple more years of salaries and a couple more acquisitions, and you are into Dr Evil type money.

    And why? What would be the return on 1 billion pounds? Let's say that Manchester City came 5th this season and won the premiership next season? Would that be a suitable return for Sheikh Mansour? No, there is no suitable return for amount being spent unless they are able to sell the club for a return higher than that which they spent at a rate higher than they could have received for elsewhere. And will that happen? No. The aim of the premiership clubs is to break even and then make a bit of cash, not to spend like crazy in the hope that something works. With the advent of the Premiership in the UK and the Sky Sports money available, it is a lucrative business making the premiership the richest in the sport, globally. But to the level of return that could be made on the money already spent and committed.

    Abu Dhabi have already realised their return. How? Marketing. This is long term brand marketing. Prior to the 2008 purchase of the club when everyone was wondering who Suleman Al Fahim was, who knew about Abu Dhabi? Abu Dhabi wasn't even on the map. This is the oil that has already been pumped paying to tell the rest of the world - "hey here we are" - and - "while we are at it, check out our airline" - and how many eyeballs read news about football, especially when you are in the same money leagues as Real Madrid' Galacticos reborn. But all this talk of football is not what Abu Dhabi is all about. The interest in Abu Dhabi as a backer of a football team, will one day lead to other things that Abu Dhabi will look to do - how it will become a centre of culture, how it will stand alone from being an afterthought to Dubai, how the future of renewable energy is being lead from Abu Dhabi. Country branding, or Emirate branding in this case is a fine art - but what Abu Dhabi might have done is reinvented the game with more gusto than anyone has ever done before.

    And so, whether Manchester City make it to 5th place this season or not, Abu Dhabi have already won. The Manchester City fans probably haven't slept all week. All eyes are on Manchester City. All eyes are on Ethihad the sponsor. And all eyes are on Abu Dhabi. They have all won. On the advent of the 2009-2010 season, the only person who should be worried is Mark Hughes. He's the only loser here. If he wins, they'll say he bought it. If he flops, his coaching future is history. But the realists will say Rome wasn't built in a day, and despite that and despite Abu Dhabi as part of the big boys, there are always going to be expectations. Whatever happens this season and beyond, it has been invigorating to watch. And it ain't over yet.

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    Friday, August 14, 2009

    Half Price Dubai

    Fast Company have stuck the knife in with their latest article on Dubai, to grace the shelves of your computer screen, with essentially a summation of all the neagtive articles that have come out on Dubai over the last year. In the piece entitled Bye-Bye Dubai. Probably a little one sided, this paint the picture of the end, and that the desert has been deserted. It is a no doubt a sorry state of affairs, but this is all a blip in the long term and whilst the media continues to twist the dagger in the belly of Dubai, the West will view Dubai as a failure. It's not. The financial crisis has hit Dubai hard, but it will come back harder, eventually.

    Some quotes from the article:




    - "They have no oil, no culture, no history," says Peter Harradine, a prominent landscape architect in Dubai and manager of Harradine Golf. "So what they have been able to produce is a miracle." Or was it a mirage?

    - One American expat says that while Dubai's promise has faded in the economic downturn, "people who dream of a better life dream of coming to Dubai. You can call it the American dream."

    - Kayla, a South African, recalls, "Everyone was talking about how it couldn't go on like this. Then, all of a sudden, everything changed."

    - Now that much of Dubai's construction has ground to a halt, many are being sent home; the number of migrant workers here has reportedly fallen by a third. Of those who remain, many are locked in labor disputes: They can't work, but can't leave.

    - "No one ever said, 'Do you know that if you lose your job, or can't pay your mortgage, you'll have to go to jail?'

    - As anger grew, rumors spread that the island was sinking under the stress of traffic and overbuilding. Fox sees the real estate collapse as "a necessary correction of the market."

    - Dubai once seemed like a sure thing. But as one departing expat notes, "At the end of the day, it's not our country. So if we're made redundant, we have to go home."


    The BBC have an interesting article about auctions and how they could driv sales of property. Given that villas are going for 50% of their peak price, this, to me, feels like the market has neared its trough. The speculating vultures are back. They have held cash since they sold at the peak and now they are back for more. You'll find them bidding in the auction house. When they actually start buying, that's when t he market has hit rock bottom. Keep a watch on this trend.

    Bye-Bye, Dubai
    Property auctions take hold in Dubai

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    Thursday, August 13, 2009

    Burkhini Ban

    We talked a few years ago about the burkini and speculated whether the burkhini would become a big fashion statement in Dubai Abu Dhabi and the rest of the Middle East. Unfortunately that hasn't been the case. Perhaps if they weren't so skintight, there may have been a chance. Perhaps it's because they don't leave too much to the imagination - a commenter said - it's like extreme wet t-shirt competition. Hmm. The reason why I am mentioning the burkhini is that France, in their utmost wisdom, have banned them:



    A Muslim woman has been denied access to a public swimming pool in France for wearing a head-to-toe swimsuit. Emerainville Mayor Alain Kelyor said the 35-year-old woman was not allowed to swim in the pool while wearing the "burkhini". Officials claimed the outfit was unhygienic and potentially harmful to other swimmers. The woman, a convert to Islam, complained to police that the ban is discriminatory. The incident adds to controversy over the wearing of the head-to-toe burkha or other full-body coverings worn by some Muslim fundamentalists. President Nicolas Sarkozy wants them banned.

    Clothes, eh? You'd have never thought they could cause so much controversy

    The Burkhini
    France bans 'burkhini' bathing suit

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    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    Chocolate Float

    Growing up, we would add some coca cola to our chocolate ice cream and, for some reason call it a chocolate float. I didn't particularly like it, but everyone seemed to be excited by it, so I played along. We were care free - it didn't matter.

    Later in life, in the coffee shops, we would order a more refined chocolate float, which was essentially a hot chocolate with ice cream in it. It was great, the mixture of hot and cold, and it probably explains the love handles.

    I would always love chocolate - it was the love of my life and the bain of my life. Gone are the days when I could polish off a large bar of cadbury's dairy milk or decide between a twirl or flake or both. Now it's one square of a 70% lindt dark chocolate to get my fill. It's good enough, now that I've had my fun (and my fill).



    In the Middle East chocolate is classed a lot higher than in the West and you will see many dedicated chocolate shops selling high end chocolates by the kilo, in a nicely presented box, and this gift can replace the wine bottle when visiting someone home. But the west does not know much of the chocolate of the Middle East. There is nothing that really compares with Hershey or Cadburys, for example. Apart from Patchi. And you may remember Patchi behind the story of Harrods offering a £5000 box of chocolates last year. Yes, Patchi are high end - and in the luxury league.

    And although the timing doesn't look great, Patchi looks to be floating in Dubai in order to aid further international growth. Given that it has shut up shop in some locations, it all looks a little bizarre, but if the FT and Forbes are to be believed, expect the Lebanese chocolatier to float relatively soon. And if you thought that the only choclate that came from the Middle East was the camel milk type, think again. One last thing:

    Wolff Olins, the consultant behind the London 2012 Olympics logo and the Product Red campaign, recently tipped Patchi as one of five food and drinks brands from emerging markets that had the potential to become global brands.


    But the real question is - can chocolate float?

    Patchi chocolatiers plan float
    Lebanon's Patchi declines comment on flotation plans
    Patchi

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    Monday, August 10, 2009

    The Spy in Dubai

    Espionage is always an interesting subject area, since it is something that many of us can't really understand. It's a life of excitement, the stuff of films - and why the glamorous side of it makes James Bond so popular. Mr Fleming was onto a good thing.



    But what about real life spies? Do we ever hear their story? And if we did, would we believe them? The spy in Dubai was a French fellow by the name of Herve Jaubert. That's him in the middle:



    Well, he is planning a spill all story of his escape from Dubai. Not sure he has a publisher, but that doesn't mean he wont tell all through whatever route he can. Whether theres is truth in his story or not, he appears to want to stick the knife in to Sheikh Mohamed and Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem. Herve has been on the message boards:

    i spent 4 years in Dubai after i was invited by the chairman of Dubai world, at the begining everything was nice, when they need you, Emirati's are always helping and smiling, i developed a state of the art manufacturing company for Sultan Bin Sulayem, but then they lost interest quickly to move on something else and everything snapped, betrayal, blackmail, my passport was confiscated , i was sacrificed until i reimburse the company expenses! i am not talking about my debts here, i had none what so ever, they blamed me for just normal company expenditures, in Dubai, know that a manager, a CEO are personally and financially can be held responsible for losses caused by their employer's decisions, and jailed with no charges, indefinitely, i had no other choice but to escape on a dinghy and cross the arabian sea for 8 days in order to go back home. There is nothing worth to take the risk to travel or live in this anachronistic and ruthless society, there are so many genuine places and beautiful beaches elsewhere in the world, don' try Dubai, it is a trap, a golden cage, you can lose everything.

    and now the Washington Post has picked it up:

    Today, the former intelligence operative, who fled Dubai last summer in a rubber dinghy, is a wanted man. In June, a Dubai court convicted him in absentia on charges of embezzling $3.8 million and handed down a five-year sentence, plus a big fine. Jaubert, speaking recently at his new home near West Palm Beach, Fla., said he stole nothing and vowed never to set foot in Dubai again. He said he fled because of gruesome threats by interrogators to stick needles up his nose and what he described as constantly shifting, and all bogus, accusations relating to bullets, murder and the finances of Dubai World's now-defunct luxury submarine subsidiary.

    Of course, the Post paints it as another "Dark Dubai" story which seems to get the readers reading, but the real story here is to what extent do you believe Mr Flaubert. Did he overstep the fine line or was he a scapegoat? And was his escape in a rubber suit the publicity that he needed to make this a bigger story or is this all nonsense.

    Judge for yourself.

    Escape from Dubai used to mean the annual pilgrimage of the expat and local away from the hear. Herve Jaubert has cemented another meaning for this phrase.

    As Dubai's Glitter Fades, Foreigners See Dark Side
    Escape from Dubai
    Forum comments

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    Friday, August 07, 2009

    Islamic Art

    Every so often you get pointed at one of those sites, that is low key, doesn't want to shout its own praises, but, in fact doesn't need to. I've recently stumbled upon such a site which is mesmerising in its simplicity. It is called Pattern in Islamic Art and if you are into that sort of thing, you will love this site. It doesn't claim to be the be all and end all, but there is a heap of stuff there. Here's what they say about themselves:



    This website offers a FREE download of over 4000 images of patterns and other design features drawn from the rich cultural heritage of the Islamic world. Historically, the decorative arts have always formed a major part of Islamic aesthetic expression. Its remarkable achievements in this direction (much of which are represented here) make it an invaluable resource for designers of all kinds as well as for art-historians and art-lovers generally.



    Although there is no "art" or examples from the UAE, it has pretty wide coverage of the
    Islamic world and can be broken down by region, museum, diagram etc.



    Definately worth 5 minutes of your time, if you are that way inclined.

    Pattern in Islamic Art

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    Thursday, August 06, 2009

    TED Dubai

    Yes, TED is coming to Dubai. For those of you that don't know TED, “TED” stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design — three broad subject areas that are, collectively, shaping our future. It's essentially an annual speaker event that started off in California, but is now spreading around the globe, most recently in the UK and soon to be in India. While TED Dubai is operating under license, so not quite the same, the ethos and concept will be. What's that then? It's where the world’s leading thinkers and doers share what they are most passionate about. Simple. And then those videos are placed on their site and viewable by everyone. Love it. For me TED stands for WOW!

    I was first drawn to TED, when a colleague recommended the design of the website, ted.com. I had see it before, but ever since I have been obsessed. I have many favourite videos and they are all free - and depending on what tickles your fancy, you can slice up the videos to get what you want. This is one of my favourites, demonstrating how the future could herald a sixth sense, think The Minority Report - and then some.




    TEDDubai or TEDxDubai is being held on 10th October 2009. I'm sure it will live up to the brand. Let's hope it does.
    TEDDUBAI

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    Tuesday, August 04, 2009

    The Mallwalkers

    Dubai has been hit by a strange plague that turns people into a new type of zombie - these are the mallwalkers. The mallwalkers are out to fight diabetes, kill obesity and make use of the air conditioning that defies the heat of the desert. Once you are coaxed to become one, you die and return as a zombie. There have been survivors who have mistakenly gone to the Mall of the Emirates to find shelter. And at the end of the day when the lights go out, they know that in a matter of hours the mallwalkers will raturn to haunt their path. They inhabit the space you wish to walk. They walk faster than the average human being and they ignore the latest in fashion.



    In a mall, close to you, exist a new form of being - the mallwalker. Beware.

    The mall walkers of Dubai

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    Monday, August 03, 2009

    Crocodile on a Plane

    It sounds like a sequel to the snake on plane movie that came out a couple of years ago, but the difference being that this was real life, there was no Samuel L Jackson, and this wasn't about snakes. And according to recent reports, it wasn't a crocodile or baby crocodile on the plane either. It was about a lizard. In my book, who cares - what the hell is it doing on the plane in the first place.

    There have been jokes about whether it was actually a crocodile skin handbag, someone kids playing "snap", or even a man wearing a Lacoste t-shirt (why would you?). But no, indeed - there seems to be some truth to the story that there was something on board:

    Mr al Zahed said the airline’s Abu Dhabi station manager, Mohammed Saeed, had sent an initial report to EgyptAir’s head office in Cairo.He added that a final report was likely to be released next week. Initial reports described the errant lizard as a “baby crocodile”, but Mr al Zahed said: “It’s not a baby crocodile. It’s not even a crocodile. It was some other animal, I don’t know exactly what, but not a crocodile.” He said it looked like a desert lizard known colloquially in Egyptian Arabic as a “borse”.

    No matter how small this crocolizard is, the question is, what the hell is going on at Abu Dhabi Airport? Assuming that the "crocodile" didnt check in under disguise, and wasn't part of the regular take your shoes off and lets have a look at your laptop - how did it get on? Obviously Eqypt Air will have some explanation, but no doubt there will be some explanation from the GCAA in Abu Dhabi that it was on the inbound flight and not part of its checks. Either that or that the crocodile flew on - or that this is a new era in Open Skies Policy.



    To quote Mr Jackson:

    "You know all those security scenarios we ran? Well I'm smack in the middle of one we didn't think of."


    Airline says ‘baby crocodile’ on plane was a desert lizard
    Panic aboard flight as croc takes mid-air stroll

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