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  • Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    Welcome to Abu Dhabi

    ....where things are rarely as they seem.

    Another forget Dubai - check out what's going on in Abu Dhabi article, and these are the key things to look out for: big mosque, shangri-la from where you can see the mosque, going to be a grand prix, daynight yada yada, Emirates Palace, big big... OTT, regurgitate copy from other newspapers, blah blah yada yada.

    Here's a taster:

    George Mallory climbed Everest because it was there. The Emiratis, it seems, have turned theirs into lawn because they can. Welcome to Abu Dhabi, where things are rarely as they seem.
    Most of the world's economies are in retreat, but the capital of the United Arab Emirates pushes on with business and leisure developments of the highest specification, all funded by petrodollars. When the oil does run out, Abu Dhabi hopes to have established itself as a haven for high-end tourists.

    Thanks Daily Mail.

    Amazingly, no mention of Manchester City! Unfortunately, they didn't cover Masdar, but no problem - Venture Beat to the rescue:

    Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s state-owned energy company, announced over the weekend that it will be raising between $300 and $600 million to start construction on Masdar City, the massive planned hub for cleantech research and innovation, especially in the renewable energy sector. As its name suggests, the development will also be a zero-carbon, zero-waste city for about 50,000 residents, the government in the United Arab Emirates capital claims.

    Today, the company followed up with more news that Masdar City will be home to the Persian Gulf’s first geothermal energy facility, which will be used to power its 5-megawatt air conditioning system. Engineers will start drilling wells as soon as Nov. 1. Water will be pushed into these hot wells to be converted into steam, which will then turn turbines. This project alone is estimated to cost $11 billion. So far, it has signed one $1.6 million contract with Reykjavik Geothermal, a company from Iceland, where Geothermal expertise runs deep. Masdar says it plans to recruit five to six more contractors by the end of 2009.

    Abu Dhabi looks to raise $600M for renewable energy hub, Masdar City

    But the most worrying story of the week that noone has picked up on is about water...the water in the desert is running out:

    According to the environment agency in Abu Dhabi, current consumption rates of underground water are 24 times higher than a sustainable level, said Raouf. “We have to do studies on how to make our water use sustainable. The fact we don’t have much agricultural land means we need to identify our agricultural capacity accurately and if required, import food,”

    Now that's a real story.

    Is the Gulf Running Out of Water?

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    Monday, September 28, 2009

    The Dark Side of Dubai (the cake)

    The Darth Vader Cake available from House of Cakes (Dubai) - with Caramel Creme filling if required.


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    Sunday, September 27, 2009

    Michael Jackson Island Dubai

    The concept of a Michael Jackson Island in Dubai resides in the imagination of 3 individuals. But imagination they do have:

    In the first of the entries entitles "The Jackson islands", the islands are made up around the lines of Michael Jackson's face, with artificial hills, and renaming The World islands as We are the World Islands. Nice.

    The second entry build upon having Michael Jackson as an island but instead of personifying his face, this looks to make his iconic dance move into an island. Not the moonwalk, not the balancing at 45 degrees, but the stand on your tippy toes made famous in the Billy Jean Video and the legendary Motown 25 performance. Interesting.

    The third entry takes it to a whole new level. Building on the previous entry of creating the Michael Jackson dance move, this one comes off the top of Palm Jumeirah. There is an area called The Moonwalk where all the yachts can dock. From there is the PYT Promenade, a New Neverland amusement park surrounded by a wildlife preserve called Bubbles Jungle! There's Pepsi New Generation Town and to top it all off the whiter than white sands of Vitiligo Beach. Oh and to get across the island there is the Speed Demon Monorail which will take you between the Thriller Pavillion showcasing his work.

    Could it really be true? Or is this just made up for the press? Actually it's the Michael Jackson Monument Design Competition where these three entries from many relate to the former late great King of Pop. What's interesting is that the three entries were from individuals not related to the Dubai, the UAE or the Gulf. They were in fact from Vienna, New York and Louisville. What does that say for Dubai? It says that Dubai's stamp on the world map is that crazy things could happen - where the impossible is possible. Could the Michael Jackon Island be built? Perhaps? And if it were to be built, where would it be built? Dubai. Will it be built? No. As I said, it's in the imagination of 3 people. Shamone! Hee Hee.

    Michael Jackson to live forever as an island in Dubai
    Michael Jackson Monument Design Competition - Live Forever

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    Thursday, September 24, 2009

    Blue Crystal Floating Iceberg in Dubai

    It sounds proposterous, but inhabitat is reporting about a new project for Dubai - a sustainable blue crystal floating iceberg lodge. It is not clear whether this is a hotel but Blue Crystal will have luxurious restaurants, an underwater lounge and a ballroom on 5 levels. It's being billed as sustainable architecture - but with the amount of solar power needed to keep this thing alive, I'm not sure that is the best use of power:

    Dubai’s arid desert climate doesn’t easily lend it to ice sculptures–especially not ones with 6 stories of luxury entertainment including an underwater lounge and ballroom. The German design duo Frank and Sven Sauer claim that Blue Crystal will harness the world’s natural energy sources, keeping it self-sufficient. It will supposedly be powered by solar cells embedded in the icy facade and employ an ‘energy recycling system.’

    So far it isn’t clear how much energy the structure will be able to produce and how that will be distributed amongst lounges, cafes and the most massive task of keep the ice frozen. Even if it does manage to stay off the grid I’m not convinced that a refrigerated iceberg in the middle of the desert counts as sustainable architecture.

    Blue Crystal by Day

    Blue Crystal by Night

    Blue Crystal from the inside

    Is this a crazy idea to push the imagination - or is this simply fiction? Who has this kind of money to spend in this climate - and how long will it take to make a return?

    Blue Crystal Profile

    Blue Crystal: A Sustainable Iceberg Lodge in Dubai?
    Blue Crystal


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    Burj Dubai in New York

    This is what the Burj Dubai would look like if it was placed in Manhattan, New York:

    From Kottke.org


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    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    Fake DVDs in Dubai

    Everyone's done it - or at least considered it - wherever you are in the world. And Dubai has cracked down in recent years with whole operations shut down. But the life of a fake DVD seller is difficult one, and echos the hardship felt by many other migrant workers in Dubai and the UAE. But this is a mafiose type business. Why? Because the margins associated with the fake, illegal DVDS are so high. There is payment for intellectual property, so the cost is essentially the cost of the DVD and minimal overhead:

    X.W., who declined to give his real name, is one of the only visible elements in a vast and shadowy criminal enterprise, which is now more lucrative for mafia gangs than the drugs trade. Officials say that DVDs are copied for around Dh3 each and are then sold on for Dh10 — offering a 230 per cent profit. A kilogramme of heroin, on the other hand, can offer a profit of just half that. ‘There are also less risks attached,’ said Khalid Babiker El Nour, a senior adviser at the Legal Affairs Department of Dubai Customs.‘DVD sellers face only around three months in jail, compared to 10 years for selling drugs. It’s a logical choice for most mafia gangs today,’ he added.

    You need an army of people to sell to get to the actual amounts of profit associated with drug dealing in dubai, for example. But the risks are a lot lower. 3 months in jail versus your life is perhaps a risk worth taking for some individuals.

    We have talked about the business of dodgey DVDs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi before. What's the solution? The solution would be to make it a crime to buy counterfeit goods. Place in front of a generally law abiding expat the fact that there is 1 month in jail plus deportation associated with buying counterfeit goods from anyone - whether that's in Karama market or from the DVD lady or man who come to your appartment on a monthly basis - and you'll see a drop off in this sort of mafia lead business.

    And it will remove the uncomfortable moment when the DVD seller asks you whether you want to look in the "special" bag, you realise that "special" doesn't mean latest blockbuster but means that special type of movie that could probably result in a jail sentence in its own right, and may even ruin your realtionship...or make it spicier.

    The Private Street Life
of a Fake DVD Seller


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    Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    Dubai Metro Commercial (Video)

    Everyone loves dominos. And I'm not talking about thick base with extra jalapenos. I'm talking about the game you played as a child. Dominos remind you of the good times, the life of carefree and bring you warm feelings of happiness. Trying to create the ultimate and longest domino toppling attempt in the Guiness world of records were aspirational thoughts and trying to catch the latest attempt on TV.

    The Dubai Metro commercial brings back all those warm fuzzy feelings of happiness, but one worries that the analogy of Dubai and dominoes collapsing compared to the the collapse of the real estate market is not the smartest one, with the Western media grasping at every opportunity to knock Dubai.



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    Cleaning the Burj Dubai (video)

    This could probably be one of the worst jobs in the world, and probably ranks up there with crime scene investigator, exorcist, embalmer and bomb expert. And if you are acrophobic, or if you are scared of heights, abseiling with a water hose down the Burj Dubai can't be the best job in the world. Enjoy the video!

    And then, when you get to the bottom, the chief window cleaner points out - "you missed a bit".

    For those of you that don't know, the song in the background is George Formby strumming away on his ukelele singing "When I'm Cleaning Windows". Appropriate.


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    Friday, September 18, 2009

    Why Al Ain?

    Why not? Al Ain is one of those places that you sometimes think of as a sleepy city in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. But for Shirin Karsan, it means something a little bit different.

    Karsan, will conduct research on Muslim perspectives on the ethics of emerging sciences and bionanotechnologies in the United Arab Emirates. She will work with a team from the College of Medicine and Health Sciences at the UAE University in Al Ain, along with the philosophy department at the American University of Sharjah. Karsan will also coordinate with the UAE’s Chairman of the Human Research Ethics Review Committee. Karsan has also been awarded a Critical Language Enhancement Award to learn Arabic. “The emphasis of my research in the UAE will be on the impact of religion -- Islam in particular -- in defining the limits, if any, of new technologies,” Karsan says. “I will be conducting research related to neuroethics in neurosciences and neuroengineering, and in reproductive ethics in the UAE regions.”

    No doubt an interesting subject, but this Fulbright scholar is not just in Al Ain for the research. In her blog, she is keeping all up to date with her adventures thus far. Always great to find a blog in its infancy telling all of what they see of a new culture.

    Shirin Karsan
    Penn Medicine Bioethics Graduate Awarded Fulbright Grant to Conduct Research in United Arab Emirates

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    Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    Dubhabi - a rebranding of the UAE

    I think there is an argument to rebrand the United Arab Emirates. What do you think of Dubhabi? It combines the names of the two biggest Emirates or two biggest cities in the UAE. Or how about Abu Dubai as it's often mistaken. People find it difficult to remember that Abu Dhabi and Dubai are two different place, apparently, hence "abu dubai". Perhaps that is because since The United Arab Emirates was founded in the 70s, the two emirates have been in competition to a degree - a little bit like two brothers born a year apart, both skilful at different things, both competitive, but both part of the same family. There are other brothers and sisters, but Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the brothers that are known in school. They are the popular kids, the dubhabi brothers, popular in and out of school with some shared, but differing friend circles. Should they be called Abu Dubai, Dubhabi - or perhaps the UAE should now be called Abhai or Abudu or even Dubu or Dabu.

    I jest. It would be ludicrous to rebrand to any of those names. They mean nothing - a bit like anderson consulting becoming accenture. There is no takeover here and there is no merger, but I believe a refinement is needed.

    It actually annoys me that people ask the question - where is abu dubai - or - is UAE in Dubai - or is Abu Dhabi part of Dubai. That's just a level of ignorance. But there is another issue: The UAE is young, in country terms - and it has a name that is not in English, and therefore it needs to revert from its official arabic name of Al-Imarat Al-Arabiyah Al-Muttahidah to the translated/anglicised version of United Arab Emirates, and then shortened even further to UAE. My question is - why should countries be anglicised to a lingua franca, and why should countries or states have to converse about their country in the anglicised form?

    And while the term Arab ties countries together, I can hear the nasal tones of - "the United AYYRAB Emirates" with all negative conotations associated with the whole of the Arab world.

    I vote that the United Arab Emirates/UAE rebrand to become Al-Imarat Al-Arabiyah Al-Muttahidah or Al Imarat for short. Is there a Brand UAE office that can help with this?

    As a final thought:

    The special combination of Dubai and Abu Dhabi in my view gives the UAE a significant advantage as a country. Why? Not many countries have two cities that can hold claim to being business hubs in a region, let alone two that have shown themselves to be visionary, open to change and dynamic in their ‘can do’ approaches.

    Of course, it therefore goes without saying that there is an ongoing healthy competition between these two super successful cities! So which city is better than the other? In my opinion, it is not Dubai vs Abu Dhabi – it is Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Both the cities mirror elements that not only position them as a cut above the rest but also complement each other perfectly. They collectively contribute to the success of UAE. While Dubai is known for its property boom, luxurious hospitality and shopping, Abu Dhabi, as the oil capital and industrial giant brings the stability and backbone to the region.

    Two cities together are better

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    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    Herve jaubert v Dubai

    It's a real life espionage thriller. Former spy gets a job in Dubai making submarines for the government, falls out with government, is under investigation, charged with embezzlement, escapes Dubai on a dinghy, moves to Florida, threatens to tell all with book, sues Dubai, Dubai sues him........


    What next in the Herve Jaubert saga? This certainly won't go away in a hurry.

    Last week he sued Dubai World:

    To clear his name and counter a multimillion-dollar embezzlement conviction returned against him after he fled the U.A.E., Jaubert is suing Dubai World Corporation, charging the government-backed investment firm with fraud, false imprisonment and defamation.

    Today Dubai World sues Herve Jaubert:

    Dubai World is sueing a former employee and convicted criminal, whose elaborate escape from the Gulf state made international headlines, for fraud and breach of contract. The state-owned conglomerate said on Tuesday it has filed a lawsuit against Herve Jaubert in U.S. federal court, accusing him of "fraud, theft and related charges" linked to his time as CEO of the company's marine subsidiary Exomo. Dubai World said it is "fully confident" the U.S. court will come to the same conclusion as a Dubai court did in April that Jaubert "misrepresented his ability to design and build submarines to obtain his position as CEO of Exomos and then used that position to steal millions of dollars from Dubai World".

    What's the next scene in this thriller? The spy brings out the book...on halloween.

    Escape from Dubai


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    Monday, September 14, 2009

    Sheikh Zayed Mosque Abu Dhabi

    A little treat this Ramadhan from CNN. Ejoy the view through the mosque.

    More about Sheikh Zayed Mosque Abu Dhabi
    Top things to do in Abu Dhabi


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    What is Dubai's Culture?

    What is the culture of Dubai? It's difficult to define because Dubai is still defining its own culture. If you term culture in the context of cities, culture could be construed as that which defines a city - ie what is the society, how its perceived to the outside world, what the people are like, the traditions that are followed as well as the history that has made Dubai what it is. And, in that context what is Dubai Culture? Dubai's culture is difficult to define - and it is probably being defined as we speak, and won't have that catch all of culture that older cities in the world. Dubai culture is a meshing of different things - there's the Arabian Bedouin History and there is the forward thinking business focussed mindset. There are the new generations of Emiratis working with best in breed professionals from other parts of the world. There is the balance of West, Arab and Indian Sub continent. There is a society of entrepreneurial focused business and there is development of new age companies backed by governmental investment. There are leading edge buildings and there are camel farms in the desert. There are mezze and flatbread and there are world beating michelin starred equivalent restaurants. There is the bikini and the abaya. There is the suit and the kandura. Dubai is a mixture of old and new, old school and new age, forward thinking and traditional - and the balance and conflict of these extremes is what is Dubai Culture.

    What is the culture of Dubai? How would you define it?


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    Saturday, September 12, 2009

    The End of the World (in Dubai)

    There have been many soothsayers recently. Some stated that 9999999 was going to be the end of the world. Some have stated that the end of the world is on December 12th 2012. And earlier, the millenium was going to go bong in multiple ways.

    “The World has been cancelled. It doesn’t even look like the world. Basically there is one island that is maintained that is said to be owned by the Sheikh [Dubai’s ruler] and the rest looks like a pile of muck,” said one local property agent.

    They were designed to make Dubai the envy of the world: a series of paradise islands inhabited by celebrities and the super-rich reclaimed from the azure waters of the Arabian Gulf and shaped like a map of the Earth. It was called The World.

    As millions of tonnes of rock were dumped into the sea for the foundations, timely leaks suggested that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were to buy Ethiopia, Sir Richard Branson was tipped to occupy England, while Rod Stewart would border him in Scotland.

    Instead it has become the world’s most expensive shipping hazard, guarded by private security in fast boats and ringed by warning buoys to keep the curious away. A development that was meant to send Dubai’s star into the firmament of First World cities has been left to the mercy of the waves and the baking winds.
    Related Links

    Mile after mile of breakwater built from boulders brought hundreds of miles by ship has been laid, but inside its man-made lagoon, work has completely stopped. The expected map of the world of 300 islands is instead a disjointed and desolate collection of sandy blots — a monumental folly just out of sight of Dubai’s shore.

    Those who bought into what was the world’s most ambitious building project were not celebrities. Many were more ordinary investors who put down 70 per cent deposits, some of them Anglo-Indians. John O’Dolan, who fronted a consortium that bought Ireland in 2007 for $38 million (£27 million), committed suicide earlier this year. The others have little prospect of seeing a return. Now The World has stopped they can’t get off.

    My question is, will the world end before the world ends?

    Credit crunch signals end of The World for Dubai’s multi-billion dollar property deal

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    Friday, September 11, 2009

    Why 9/9/9 was the wrong date to launch Dubai Metro

    It's just launched, it's not fully finished, but it works, in a way. Dubai metro is driverless, it's modern, it's new age and is the first gulf metro system. That's great. It's a project that's delivered, but was 9th September the right date to launch this? Does it really matter? What's the real reason to create the buzz around 9/9/9. Well, if you think back, Burj Dubai was supposed to be unveiled on that date. So the Dubai Metro launching on 9th September was more a covering up PR exercise than probably what was required. It's not big deal, but think of it like this: Which is bigger news? - an unfinished transport system whose concept has existed in the large metropolises of the world sometimes for hundreds of years or the tallest building in the world. My point is this - Dubai Metro is a great achievement but is news for the region. Burj Dubai is gobal news and continues to put Dubai on the global map. Unfortunately Burj Dubai was late.

    In a few years time, who will care about the year 9/9/9 anyway, it's marketing gimickry whether it was the date for the Burj or the Metro.

    Dubai unveils $7.6-billion mass-transit rail system

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    Wednesday, September 09, 2009

    egabat, google and arabic answers

    The Arabic web is certainly taking big steps. Google has finally played its cards in the race to be the central point for the Arabic speaking world. It's called Google Ejabat and it's an interesting approach as, somewhat different to a maktoob yahoo portal play, this looks like a UGC play allowing users to help each other. So, for those looking for content, this serves the needs of the end user. What is the aim of google ejabat? Well, it is to to boost the amount of Web content available in Arabic.

    Google decided to launch its tool, called Google Ejabat after the Arabic word for "answers," after discovering many of its Arabic users' searches failed to turn up relevant results. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company estimates that less than 1 percent of information online is in Arabic."We recognize that users are the best at answering each other's questions within a community and this product is the perfect way to be able to share and contribute information," said Wael Ghonim, the company's product and marketing manager for the Middle East and North Africa. Google already offers Arabic-language search pages, and its Blogger publishing platform is popular among the region's growing corps of online writers. The company does not offer a service like Ejabat in English, but has launched similar tools in Russian, Chinese and Thai, Dubai-based spokeswoman Joanne Kubba said. "We pushed it ahead in Arabic since we know it to be a very useful tool to help generate ... content," she said.

    Google's approach to the Arabic language has been prudent at best. With new terrtitories, make one mistake and you are kicked 2 years into the past. So, a tailored approach to growing content and helping end consumers of content seems to be a sturdy approach. But, in fairness the race is only just beginning and so the Arabic race is now wide open. But with Google sticking its stake in the ground, you know where your competition is.

    Google launches user-led Q&A service in Arabic
    Google Egabat

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    Friday, September 04, 2009

    News Corp and Rotana

    Hot on the heels of the Yahoo Maktoob deal, it looks like the long rumoured allegiance between News Corp and Rotana will soon be formalised. News Corp are one of the biggest media organisations in the world and you'll know of the companies it owns such as 20th Century Fox, Myspace, HarperCollins, the publisher, Wall Street Journal, Star, Fox, Sky, The Times, The Sun etc. They don't really operate in the Middle East, apart from a supposed strategic position in TWOFOUR54 in Abu Dhabi, and various bureaux reporting news etc.

    Just to understand scale, the Yahoo deal was worth up to about $100m. This is worth between $250 to $350m for a 20% stake in the company. You'll know Rotana as one of the biggest media players in the Middle East, and you'll also know the hotel chain - all part of Prince Al Waleed's empire.

    While this deal doesn't yet seem to be done, it's interesting. Prince Al Aweed is a big shareholder in News Corp, so this might mean he has taken a big hit during the credit crunch months - but its probably more the desire of Western media companies really taking the Middle East seriously. Well Rupert Murdoch certainly is.

    News Corp. circling stake in Rotana

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    Wednesday, September 02, 2009

    Abu Dhabi - the time is now

    In about 2 months time, the spotlight will be on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and millions of people around the world will have their eyes fixed on a new circuit. It has the potential to be a great finale, if Jenson Button continues to falter. And with the race starting by day and finishing by night, there could be more than fireworks to conclude this season.

    While the money of Abu Dhabi has put it on the map and drawn eyeballs to Etihad on the shirts of Manchester City, this will be the first time that the eyeballs will be drawn in such a big way to a large (sporting) event. This is the one of the best ways of getting into the front room of investors and tourists all over the world.

    And right next to Yes Island is Saadiyat island which is building a new world of culture. In 3 years time, when Abu Dhabi will be cemented into the minds of the potential tourists, there really will be the lure to visit....and maybe live.

    And then, one day, Masdar will be complete and will become the future. The latest renditions are amazing:

    Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be first ever day night race
    Masdar City Centre
    Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi: artistic oasis takes shape amid the dunes

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