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  • Friday, October 30, 2009

    Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Hello World!

    Yasalam! It’s the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. And it's been a long time coming. And I aint talking about the grand prix. I'm talking about Abu Dhabi's grand entrance to the world stage. This is the biggest event to hit Abu Dhabi and the world is watching. It's not about oil, it's not about Manchester City - it's about Abu Dhabi cementing its place on the map. Hello World, yani.

    Abu Dhabi is definitely reving up the wow or yasalam factor as the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix takes place this weekend. The local and expat community in Abu Dhabi are excited and proud to finally have the honour of holding one of the most prestgious sporting events in history on their soil (or sand!) But many, far away from the desert are opposed to the idea that such a historical sporting event can be staged for a few million dollars in a country simply because they can afford it.

    Since talks about the potential demise of Britain hosting the grand prix for 2010, fans of motorsport are becoming more and more critical of ‘new’ host cities and their ability to build glittering grand prix circuits on a smaller capacity but charge extortionate seat prices.

    Abu Dhabi, the latest new track on the block, is built on an artificial island – Yas Island, dedicated to the Yas Marina Circuit. Its is planned that aside from hosting the Grand Prix every year till 2016, the island will be utilised as a full on entertainment hub, hosting concerts and visitors will choose to stay on Yas Island as an alternative to Abu Dhabi city with its many five star hotels including the flagship Yas Hotel. For leisure means, a Ferrari theme park will open in 2010 and a Warner Bros theme park to open thereafter. In true emirates style, a spectacular mall is in the making along with luxury residences.

    This may all sound exciting but why is it that only 50,000 seats were built for the race track? In the past, races have pulled in crowds in the 6 figure mark, however the trend now seems to be flashy purpose built tracks with smaller availability of seats and high ticket prices. Many argue that this is the game plan of Formula One’s commercial rights holder – Bernie Ecclestone, who seems to only care on how much he can make charging promoters on running a race. Obviously, high ticket prices will deter many genuine race fans from attending. However the Abu Dhabi race was sold out weeks ago, but it raises a question as to what type of crowd it has pulled in, with tickets being sold from USD$400 to USD$750 and some tickets even charging USD$1000, its not exactly affordable. But having a seat is the place to be seen do business rather then keeping the eyes on the track. And, holding a ticket has the added advantage of allowing access to the exclusive Yasalam After- Race concert with performances over the weekend from Beyonce, Jamiroquai and Aerosmith. Mhmm, seem justifiable? Probably not, if you’re just interested in watching the Grand Prix, but the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is not just going to showcase a race, it’s the whole enchalada or everything and more.

    The organisers want to keep people entertained and include the entire family. That is what Abu Dhabi is all about and probably also that this is a fantastic way of once again putting Abu Dhabi in the spotlight. Who cares that this image booster has cost a gazillion dollars. This is a beauty parade. The citizens get a new island to spend their leisure time on, holiday makers to Abu Dhabi have somewhere new to visit (and more hotel rooms!) And Abu Dhabi is on the modern sporting map – now that’s not a bad result?

    Does it matter that the contest is over? No. Does it matter that next year Abu Dhabi won't be the last circuit of the contest? No. Does it really matter that this is the first day to night grand prix. Not really.

    What matter is today is that Abu Dhabi has been borne again. Hello Abu Dhabi.

    Yas Marina
    Abu Dhabi F1 track - virtual tour news

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    Death Star Dubai, the technosphere

    Funnily enough, whilst this looks like the seat of Darth Vader, this building brings eco sustainability and the works with it - as Dubai looks to the reality of what the future requires of its buildings. Whilst not completely novel, and looking a little like the previous depictions of what could fit within Dubai as a death star type futuristic building, this is the feature building of Technopark - a quasi future techy type place to live and work for techy type people and companies. Here's the official spiel about technopark:

    TechnoPark is an exceptional place to live and work. We not only attract direct investment in manufacturing and research and development, but also lead the way in the fields of applied science and technology. Key Features and offerings of TechnoPark are

    * Covers 21 million square metres of land, about 30 percent of which is open space areas.
    * Brings the most advanced organisations in the world together, fostering shared understanding through research into and development of new technologies.
    * Aims to cultivate greater knowledge for the future, by promoting continuous innovation and progress.

    James Law’s Technosphere is an Eco Deathstar for Dubai
    Technopark, Dubai

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    The Frame Hotel Dubai

    Apparently Tarzan will be swinging from this one:

    An urban and vertical garden has been the response to the massive hotel building, as an inverse piece, a friendly opposite that complements and allows the dark prism of the hotel to breathe. The force of the metaphorically plant-like structure cut-out from the constructive frame it supports is what provides meaning for the vertical garden. To walk among these structural elements covered in vegetation is like living among and within the trees.

    Villamoda Galleries Dubai


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    Art and Creativity in Abu Dhabi and Arabia

    Abu Dhabi is keeping it real - and who is central to this - twofour54.

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    Saturday, October 24, 2009

    Middle East Banks and Brand Value

    It's always useful to look in context rather than remain in your own bubble. These global banks paint the picture, in this interesting infographic:

    The Middle East Banks figure in a small way, and you can see them in a bit more detail:

    The only bank to figure in a big(ish) way is National Bank of Abu Dhabi. There is more analysis of these brand value figures at Brand Finance who conducted the study.

    Business Management ME
    Brand Finance Report


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    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Gitex in Dubai

    Gitex is the largest tech exhibition in the Middle East. And as far back as I can remember, it takes over Dubai, the hotels, the traffic - and I'm never quite sure that it delivers. Consumers think it's for them. Trade thinks it's for them. And it becomes a mish mash. But this year was very important. If you missed Gitex - this is what you didn't experience:

    Hat tip to englishmanindubai


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    Dead Camel

    In a new life, if I'm bad, I may come back as a Camel Beauty Assessment Valuer. How do I know that such a job exists? Because Saudi Aramco were sued for SR1M (that's £160,000) when the beautiful camel fell into a hole in the desert.

    Oil company sued for £160,000 over dead beauty pageant camel


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    Monday, October 12, 2009

    The Damage to Damas

    Buying gold is almost a past time in Dubai. Dubai is sometimes even known as the city of gold, which, if you were to visit the gold souk, you would know why. There are many small gold companies dotted around Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but there is only one high end premium brand - Damas.

    And today, Damas was hit hard. Was it due to the downturn? No. It was due to one of the founders pulling money out of the business in an authorised fashion. How much money? $165M, Yes, one hundred and sixty five million dollars. That's one expensive habit.

    The chief executive of Damas, the largest jewellery retailer in the Middle East, resigned Monday after disclosing to the board of directors “unauthorised transactions” worth US$165 million (Dh605m), the company said in a statement to NASDAQ Dubai.

    Amusingly, the company IPOed last year raising $270m. Who knows what's happened. And despite assurances that the money will be repaid, one can only think that Damas is now at the mercy of the shareholders and the market. I'm not sure that they'll take too kindly to running away with the money.

    Damas chief resigns after telling of $165m deals


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    Saturday, October 10, 2009

    Toothpick City of Dubai and the World

    Imagine a world made out of toothpicks. A world that could collapse at any minute. Well, Stan Munro is creating a toothpick city of the world with all the famous building and is planning to finish and complete the city in December just as the REAL Burj Dubai catches up to Stan's 5 meter (16 foot) re-creation of the tower. This is the second exhibition from the artist/creator. Toothpick City 1 was all about the History of Skyscrapers and the Burj Al Arab featured prominently. Toothpick City 2 features temples and towers and the Burj Dubai is the pinacle.

    It's a truly amazing feat with hours of concentration and patience, and get this - the towers are only made from toothpicks and glue. The FAQs are interesting and funny. Here are a selection:

    What kind of toothpicks do you use?
    Round, square-centered toothpicks, found in most grocery stores.

    What kind of glue do you use?
    Elmer’s glue, regular. (not the "school glue").

    What is your "real" job?
    This IS my real job. I believe that if you put your heart and soul into an idea you truly believe in, you will succeed. I already did succeed with Toothpick City I, but I also believe… the first one was too small.

    How long did it take you to make Toothpick City I?
    Almost 2 years, full-time, limited potty breaks.

    How long did it take you to make Toothpick City II?
    Well, I’m still working on it. But by the time it’s finished in the Summer of 2009, it will be 4 years, full-time, overtime, and Depend undergarments.

    How long does it take to make a toothpick structure?
    It all depends. I did the Washington Monument in a day. Yankee Stadium took a month. The Vatican took two months. The Chrysler Building, since it was my first, took 6 months… thanks honey, I love you.

    Where do you get the toothpicks?
    I buy from the wholesaler. The truck driver is a good guy. He used to work at a brewery, but he likes this job much better. He gets to be his own boss and he brings that same level of customer service to the masses.

    Is there anything you wanted to build, but you couldn?t?
    I never thought I could build the Burj al Arab Hotel in Dubai. I was giving a presentation to a grade school class in Honeoye Falls, NY, and a student asked the question: "Why don’t you build the Burj Hotel?" I said it was way to complicated. The child responded: "Didn’t you just say that you love a challenge?" That little annoying kid was right. Now I have to ask myself that question every time.

    Check out all the toothpicks


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    Friday, October 09, 2009

    Many Muslims

    Pew have just released a report: Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Muslim Population. It's an interesting study from a pure numbers perspective. From its numbers nearly a quarter of the world are now Muslim. And, as you can see from the diagram, Indonesia is the most Muslim country from a scale perspective at 202 million, but that only represents 88% of the total population. Places like Iran and Iraq have 99% Muslim penetration, if that's a phrase! The UAE with all its non Muslim expats comes in at 76% Muslim.

    The total numbers are crazy - there are 1.57 billion Muslims of all ages in the world today, about 23 percent of the global population of 6.8 billion. This is second only to Christianity which is estimated to be about 2 billion. The other interesting fact is that more than 300 million Muslims, or one-fifth of their global population, live in countries where Islam is not the majority religion. Muslims are a minority in India but it has the third-largest Muslim population (161 million).

    Ten to 13 percent of Muslims are estimated to be Shias and most Shias live in just four countries: Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq. Sunnis account for 87 to 90 percent of the Muslim population.

    It's all interesting stats in this day and age, and if anything, the executive summary is worth 30 seconds of your time, whatever your religion!

    A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Muslim Population
    Pew maps the Muslim world


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    Thursday, October 08, 2009

    The Road to Masdar..

    ..should be paved with solar panels. Who knows whether Masdar will become the greenest futurehub of the world? With the amount being pumped into this quasi real life experiment, you'd bet that Masdar will be successful. And with all the solar panels in place on every Masdar building plan, I think there may be room for a few more.

    According to AskMen: Solar roads is a concept developed by an inventor in the US called Scott Brusaw. His idea is to replace all that asphalt with solar panels laid under a high-strength plastic layer. The planned system also uses LEDs for digital striping. Right now, the tech costs about $7,000 for a 12’ x 12’ slab, so replacing America’s highways will be a costly process. That being said, replacing the 25,000 square miles of roadways across the lower 48 with solar panels would create more energy than the U.S. consumes.

    Scott says:

    Instead of trying to spend our way out of our economic crisis, and leaving a huge debt for our children and our grandchildren to pay, implementing the Solar Roadways would allow us to produce our way out - creating millions of “green tech” jobs while simultaneously swapping out our archaic highway system for a modern intelligent system that just happens to collect all the energy we need and pays for itself!

    He certainly believes this is the future. Whether the solar panels could handle the heat for all that time is another question. But as Thomas Edison said: "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait 'til oil and coal run out before we tackle that." Abu Dhabi are tackling the sun before the oil runs out and hopefully they will succeed in the leading the the world to a whole new way of life.

    Solar Roadways
    Top 30: Things To Look Forward To In 2033

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    Friday, October 02, 2009

    Largest Candy Store in the World in Dubai

    You know candylicious? Well they're making dubai the sweet capital of the world with the largest sweetshop in the world. Candy Time! Based in the Dubai Mall, and 10,000 sq ft of sugar coated sweet stuff counds like a combination of heaven and hell and hyperness all in one go. Think Charlie and the Choclate factory for real, without the weird Willy Wonka!

    Prices range from lollipops costing Dh1 to hampers packed with chocolates, T-shirts and toys worth Dh500. Sunaina said: “We will sell popular products that everyone knows about as well as premium products like Conti, which are imported Italian chocolates that are our most expensive at Dh249 a box. “We even have gourmet Garrett popcorn, which is Oprah Winfrey’s favourite brand and is a completely different experience from the normal popcorn. “A good 80 per cent of what we sell is only available in this store which you won’t find anywhere else in the Middle East and South East Asia.”

    I feel though, that despite the exclusivity of all thoses sweets, one would feel sick after being there more than 5 minutes. Hey, you gotta have some will power to work there. No doubt they are headhunting oompa loompas as we speak.

    Candylicious the World's Largest Candy Store Opens in Dubai
    Candylicious affair: Sweet elation


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    Dubai Building Checklist

    How the world perceives Dubai's buildings:

    From CRACKED.com


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    The Most Spectacular City Skyline (N)ever Built

    Nice representation of the Burj Al Arab amongst some of the old timers.

    From Pelfusion


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