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  • Thursday, September 30, 2010

    The Salt Building in Dubai

    The great thing about Dubai architecture is that it bends the mind. And for every crazy design, there are those that don't quite make the grade, and are left in the minds of the designer.

    This building is called the GeoTube building and the concept is that it features a self-built exoskeleton made from accumulated sea salt deposits.

    Yes, people design this stuff and think it will fly.

    Pigs (haram) will fly first.

    GEOtube Building Grows its Own Lace-Like Sea Salt Skin


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    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    Dubai and Abu Dhabi - a tale of two cities?

    A tale of two cities or the story of the UAE. The tide seems to be changing. Dubai seems to be on the way back from near disaster (or challenges) as His highness would put it. If you haven't seen the interview, it is worth a quick 5 minutes of your time. "We're back!" he proclaims and then talks of unity with the whole of the UAE which put's strength behind the notion of what the UAE can achieve as one:

    Dubai Ruler Says ‘We Are Back’

    It's nice to know that someone is back. It implies that they were away for some time. In any case, I'd say Dubai is on the way back, and the UAE will be harder, better, faster, stronger, to quote Kanye West, recently announced for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, along with the Small Sheikh of Pop music - Prince. Yes, huge names for Abu Dhabi - and huge names for the UAE. This wouldn't have even been possible 3 years ago in Abu Dhabi, but times have changed. This weekend gone, the New York Times devoted many column inches to Masdar:

    Yes, the nouveau green looks to be a reality, and while the Telegraph in the UK want to maintain the negative picture of Dubai with it's article that "Dubai may have to knock down buildings constructed during boom", it's the overall picture of where the UAE is going long term that is important.

    Yes, Dubai is back, Abu Dhabi has arrived. And the UAE is on the up and up. Yes, this is Mission Impossible 4.

    Dubai may have to knock down buildings constructed during boom
    In Arabian Desert, a Sustainable City Rises
    A tour of Masdar
    Prince, Kanye West confirmed for Abu Dhabi

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    Monday, September 27, 2010
    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Antar the Black Knight

    With media and film all the buzz from the UAE, it's all the more important that Arabian characters are taken to the big screen. Due to take to the big screen in 2012, we potentially have on our movie screens the coming of the first Arab hero. Antar the Black Knight certainly looks exciting, and we spoke with Michelle Nicholson who heads up Mirage Holdings, the company behind the project.

    How did you find out about Antar?

    I get asked a lot about how did I find out about the Antar character? I was introduced to the story by an Emirati business associate. After getting a short brief, I decided to do research into the character and story.

    Who is Antar the Black Knight?

    While Antar historically was a slave son of the Arab Prince Shedad and an African slave woman, Zabiba, his story is one everyone can relate to. In structure, it adheres to the classic “Hero’s Journey” or “Monomyth” as described by American writer and scholar, Joseph Campbell. This being; “That a story or myth from disparate times and regions, share fundamental structures and stages.” The narrative of these stories, no matter what the background of the story is, is familiar to all cultures.

    Is Antar a hero or Superhero?

    While the legend of Antar has some “super human qualities” it is important to remember that such a person did exist. He is remembered still by his legacy of poetry contained in the Mu’allaqat, also known as the Hanged Poems. This was a collection of pre-Islamic poems, which were hung in the Ka’aba in Mecca.

    We always hear about Gulf projects that have not taken off and crossed over to the West? Is Antar the one?

    The project is being done as a Hollywood film for an International audience. However, the essences of Antar’s character remains true to the legend of the Arab hero. We feel this is the story’s strong point and why it has been well received in Hollywood. Antar’s story is the journey we all take; are we good enough? Can we succeed against insurmountable odds? Who will stand for the oppressed and the weak? What about love?

    Who would you compare Antar to?

    Antar the Black Knight is a new breed of Hero, and one that is long overdue. Half Arab and half African, he follows in the path of other classic movie heroes, Luke Skywalker, Prince Aragon, King Arthur and Robin of Loxley.

    More from the National


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    Friday, September 17, 2010

    Camel Tickle

    No explanation. Just Camel tickling. Weird, but funny.

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    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Arabic Robot

    An update on Ibn Sina at the Interactive Robots Laboratory at the UAE University in Al Ain. But it needs money...

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    Friday, September 10, 2010

    Vimto & Ramadan

    Eid Mubarak. Vimto is not just for Ramadan, y'know - you can drink it all year long, if you want. But in reality, Vimto has established itself as a preferred drink of choice to break fast during the holy month. For a UK company, getting such a high percentage of export sales from the Middle East is impressive stuff:

    ..shipments to the Middle East increased ahead of the start of the Ramadan festival on August 11. The level of export sales will be lower in the second half because of the extra shipments coming in the first half. About 16.5pc of Nichols' revenue came from outside the UK last year. The Middle East is by far the biggest export market, but it is also sold in Africa and Europe. The drink comes in more conservative packaging in the Middle East, where it is distributed by a family business. It is sold in a slightly stronger version of the concentrate, used as a squash, sold in the UK.

    But it is not surprising given its marketing campaigns over the years. Culturally on the mark, Vimto continues to grow. In fact, despite its UK roots, Vimto has been in the Middle East close to a 100 years with distributors and producers - and because the packaging is in Arabic, who'd know otherwise.

    Here's one of the adverts that demonstrates why it is so popular. They've really captured the Ramadan feeling.

    And as we end the holy month, it doesn't mean you have to stop your Vimto feel good factor.

    Vimto enjoys boost from Ramadan

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    Thursday, September 09, 2010

    Stuff Middle Easterners like

    You may have already seen the Gizmodo post, entitled Stuff white people like. It's a quasi study on stereotypes from the outside in

    What makes a culture unique? How are whites, blacks, Asians, whoever different from everybody else? What tastes, interests, and concepts define an ethnicity? Is there any way to make fun of other races in public and get away with it?

    How did they do this? - They went to the online dating agency OKcupid and scooped out what they said based on their stated race. Of course, this is probably people of Middle Eastern Descent living in the US, but it's interesting all the same.

    What white people like:

    There are a whole heap more, but here's What Middle Easteners Like:

    What does this say? I'm not sure, but it looks like a whole heap of cultures have been lumped into one - and most of them are studying. I don't think it's aim is to be derogatory - it's just a play on stereotypes and data. Indian like cricket and are software engineers. (Really?) Black people like soul food and playing basketball. Latinos like merenegue and Asians are simple.

    Worth a read if you have 60 seconds.

    The Real 'Stuff White People Like’


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    Wednesday, September 08, 2010

    Asuaq - the craigslist of the middle east?

    Great interview about tech startups in the Middle East. nb - MENA is the fastest growing internet market.

    Raising USD350k on a valuation of $1m with traffic of UV 300k. Sounds like a boom bust scenario. Would love to be proved wrong.

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    Dubai's Internet Censorship

    It's all a little weird. If you don't like it or don't get it, then ban it. Monsieur McNabb posts an articulate post about censorship and specifically the blocking of Google Voice. In summing up, he says:

    For what it's worth, as far as I can see, the move is unlikely to affect Gmail or any other part of Google's services unless Google starts to integrate the voice platform with other Google properties - which is something you could actually see makes a great deal of sense in the long run. Don't forget, bits of Google (Orkut) have long been blocked here without losing the rest (see also Yahoo!'s Flickr). So it's not time to hit the panic button quite yet... Meanwhile, I have to say I think the TRA is looking increasingly Canute-like...

    ie - it's all a little annoying. Indeed it is. Yesterday PC Pro talked through the frustrations and the journalist talked through how the authorities helped him get around the regulations:

    She calmly recommended that I install Hotspot Shield, a free piece of software that ensures your computer flashes a US IP address to any website that comes asking. Unfortunately, Dubai was wise to this particular scam and had blocked the website so I couldn’t download it, along with all other websites offering a similar service. Undeterred, she pointed me towards The Pirate Bay, which somehow remains open for business. I mean how, just how? The UAE has blocked Flickr because there are bottoms on it, and just occasionally, the suggestion of other dangly bits. The Pirate Bay – which offers a range of bottoms to suit every need, including midget and donkey bottoms for anybody having a really slow afternoon – remains blissfully undisturbed.
    It boggles the mind. If you’re going to throw up a firecurtain at least do it properly. It’s been a long time since I tried to look at, erm … Flickr in China, but I like to believe that the second you try somebody abseils through your window, kicks you in the unmentionables and shoots out your screen. That’s what censorship should be. That’s censorship we can all get behind. Dubai’s efforts just seem clumsy, like I’m being blindfolded with an eye patch made of cling film. The very fact that my ISP was telling me how to circumnavigate Dubai’s ridiculously inept restrictions was one thing, the fact that my local friends thought this advice odd only because Hotspot Shield is rubbish, was quite another. They swiftly offered a list of their favourite alternatives, at which point I discovered that when you live behind a wall, everybody has their own favourite shovel.

    An amusing little story, but the fact of the matter is this - if you block and ban, there are ways around such regulations. As with parenting, when you tell a child not to do something, that's all they want to do.

    The TRA should ban NOT using google voice. This would send up usage at etisalat and du, for sure.

    Dubai’s dubious internet “censorship”
    Fake Plastic Souks: UAE Blocks Google Voice

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