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  • Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    Fat Cat Expat Cut

    The days of the fat cat expat are numbered as the real reason for the seniors leaving the big positions comes out. And it make sense. Spread the love and wealth among the people and give them jobs. Nationalisation is not a new issue, and when the emiratisation push started in the early noughties, the question was always about training. Could the Emiratis be trained up to take over? Could they be educated to lead? And with opportunity for education comes opportunity to ride the wave of your country.



    Today's FT talks about a move to rid the fat cats of the country. And while this is the right time to start to move more local skilled Emiratis into these leadership type positions, there will always be a place for the expat in the UAE - at all levels.

    But there are other things in play:


    Hiring more nationals may not, some say, necessarily cut costs greatly but this year’s uprisings across the Arab world have created a sense of urgency behind “emiratisation”, the policy of promoting national employment in Gulf Arab states. “Security is paramount for this country,” says Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a politics lecturer at UAE University. “Unemployment has been a big part of the Arab uprisings and the government doesn’t want to take any chances.”


    Is the speed up in Emiratisation really due to the Arab Spring and a fear of an uprising? Or is it just coincidence?

    ‘Expat fat’ cut as Abu Dhabi shifts focus

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    Monday, June 27, 2011

    The Petroleum Quid Pro Quo

    From an article for Newsweek, comes the revelation that there is a scratch my back type relationship that the UAE has with the US Military. It is alleged that is comes down to this: UAE provides safe haven for US military at Al Dhafra Air Base. UAE (read Adnoc) gets to exclusively supply the US Military in the region to the tune of 200MM gallons a year or, in money terms, $5.2billion.

    Yet, according to contract documents, that money has bypassed the competitive bidding process that is supposed to accompany any -purchase—of firearms, flak jackets, or fuel—by the Pentagon. In Abu Dhabi, “we may be essentially buying our presence,” says Alexander Cooley, a professor at Barnard College who studies U.S. basing strategy. The U.S. regularly pays rents to foreign landowners, but those payments are separate from base rights, which are government-to-government agreements. On bases, Cooley says, “there is a quid pro quo that is tacit.”

    The article is about having fair tender processes and is written by an investigative journalist. However, it should be noted that the journalist has ignored the distinction between dictator and autocrat. or perhaps that was the point.

    Welfare for Dictators

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    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    The Arab Spring

    We're now in the Summer of discontent, but this was the story of the Arab Spring



    by Deng Coy Miel, of the Straits Times, SIngapore

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    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Lego Burj Khalifa

    Last month was the announcement of the lego architecture Burj Khalifa - and now the Burj sits with an elite group of building including the White House and the Empire State Building. Only these buildings have been made into lego sets. And the Burj Khalifa Dubai Lego set is the latest one. Giving it its proper name as the 21008 Burj Khalifa, this lego set is now available to the public and lego addicts worldwide.




    We all know that the actual Burj Khalifa is a whopping 2716 feet tall. The lego version barely makes a foot, but you do get a booklet about the building, how it was constructed and its history.



    Everyone loves Lego. Everyone will surely love Burj Khalifa Lego. From $25


    Next up - the Burj Khalifa Opus...a little late

    Burj Khalifa
    21008 Burj Khalifa
    Win Burj Khalifa Lego at Dezeen

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    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Smurf Village Abu Dhabi

    Weird and wonderful with a whole heap of nostalgia come those little blue people with white hats to Abu Dhabi All governed by their lord and father, the legendary Papa Smurf, and along with the only other real character, the solo female, Smurfette - will be something for the kids to do in the Summer heat. Although this is not strictly the first such smurf land, it's probably the only one at the moment.

    Here's the PR:



    "Abu Dhabi, UAE. 21 June, 2011: The world’s first first Smurf Village, a mini-world dedicated to the small blue fictional creatures created by Belgian cartoonist, Pierre ‘Peyo’ Culliford, is a keynote attraction at this year’s ‘Summer in Abu Dhabi’ line-up at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC).
    Divided into 12 separate districts, Smurf Village features specially-created activities areas for children, including ‘Papa Smurf’s Story Corner’, ‘Smurfette’s Land of Beauty’, ‘Smurf Fun Park’, and ‘The Promenade’ - a tricycle track through the entire 42m-by-24m enclosure in Hall 11 - one of four multi-purpose halls housing this year’s ADNEC activations, which run from June 30 to July 30.

    In Smurf Village kids can meet and play with the Smurfs in the ‘mushroom houses’ made famous by the loveable characters’ comic book adventures. In one of the main houses - ‘The Reel Mushroom’ – back-to-back episodes of the ever-popular Smurfs’ TV show will be screened.
    “Part of Smurf legend is that outsiders cannot find their village except when shown the way by a smurf; thankfully Summer in Abu Dhabi has solved this problem,” said Faisal Al Sheikh, Events Manager, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), which organises the festival. “The Smurf Village is only one component of what we believe is our most exciting ADNEC activation yet. There really is something for everyone - young or old.”

    Currently in the midst of a renaissance in global popularity, the characters’ international appeal will be further boosted when ‘The Smurfs’ movie is released in cinema screens across the world from July 29. Katy Perry, the American pop star, will voice Smurfette, while Hank Aazaria, one of the main contributors to the long-running US TV hit ‘The Simpsons’, will bring sorcerer Garamel, the Smurfs’ sworn enemy, to life.

    Elsewhere at ADNEC, the all-new ‘Adventure World’ will find a champion who completes the 11 ‘telematch’-style activities in the fastest time; ‘Career World’ lets kids can dress up and try their hands at any one of 12 dream careers, and ‘Show World’ - a specially-constructed, 120-capacity theatre - will feature twice-daily shows by international favourites such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora The Explorer, as well as Marvel’s Thor, Wolverine, Captain America and Dr. Doom.
    ADNEC entry rates are AED20 for children aged up to 12 years old – toddlers up to two years old go free - and AED40 for adults. Visitors can try out a host of activities and receive two free tokens for fairground rides. More details are available from www.summerinabudhabi.ae or www.abudhabievents.ae."


    Happy smurfing - and beware of Gargamel!

    Knowledge of the Smurf defined a generation. That generation will be taking their nintendo ds/iphone obsessed generation kids to see the blue people. Who knows how they will take to the little blue people?

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    Abu Dhabi and the case of the Chicago Parking Meters

    When I heard about this, some months back, I was slightly bemused. What exactly was the investment? Was it a joke? Was it an urban myth? Well, it's took me more than 6 months to follow up and I can confirm that it was reported as true. It doesn't necessarily mean that it is true, but it looks like a sturdy investment.

    It was December 1, 2008. That morning would be the first time that the Chicago City Council would be formally notified that Mayor Richard Daley had struck a deal with Morgan Stanley to lease all of Chicago's parking meters for seventy-five years. The final amount of the bid was $1,156,500,000, a lump sum to be paid to the city of Chicago for seventy-five years' worth of parking meter revenue....He then gave them the details: he had arranged a lease deal with Morgan Stanley, which put together a consortium of investors which in turn put a newly created company called Chicago Parking Meters LLC in charge of the city's meters. There was no mention of who the investors were or who the other bidders might have been. ... The council at this time has no idea who's actually behind the deal. "We were never informed," says Hairston. "Not even later."

    Assuming that cars remain part of every day life and that people will continue to drive and that flying cars won't be able to "hover park" in the sky, then assuming the numbers add up, this is a solid investment. Who knows the number of parking meters. There probably are quite a few - Chicago is a big city - and so the calculation of days of the year and usage is a simple calculation - somewhat similar to RevPar with hotels.

    And no doubt, the revenue that was brought in probably developed an idea to enforce MAWAQIF in Abu Dhabi - the bane of the Abu Dhabi driver.

    The selling off of a bread and butter operation of parking revenue is short termist, but no doubt filled the short terms needs - but the Chicago driver must be feeling the pain of price rises and no free parking on holidays. There's no give without take!

    Why Does Abu Dhabi Own All of Chicago's Parking Meters?

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    Copycat Dubai

    Another day, another article slating Dubai. And this time it is from Slate magazine. There's the obligatory buzzword bingo moment - transient population, dark side. But to be honest if this was a slating by Slate, it was a pretty poor effort. There's talk of how appalled the author is about the buying in the names of the Louvre and Guggenheim. Well once upon a time, the US wasn't discovered and there wasn't any history and a certain pinnacle city was named after a place in England. Yes, New York was ultimately named in honour of the Duke of York and York. I love the USA like the next person, but everything has a beginning. Actually, the argument of that there is no past is a poor one:

    To me, it seems stultifying as well as strange: Like Harriet Martineau, I feel as if I had been in another planet. Yet there have always been people who dream of escaping from their culture, who long to forget their history, and who are content to live without the past. And now, in Dubai, they can.

    In fact, there is a past in Dubai, and it is alive and well in the culture that governs the ethos of the city. It appear that the writer didn't visit the Creek. And perhaps they didn't speak to a true Dubai Emirati to understand the real history of the Emirates. And I am quite sure they don't know that there was a monastery dating back to 600 AD located on Sir Bani Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. They probably didn't realise the United Arab Emirates is an evolving country, but one that is holding true to its past. They probably didn't realise all this because they only saw what they didnt like and chose to believe what they wanted to believe. Enough.

    They probably wanted a reaction. I fell for it.

    If you can stomach another one of these articles, here it is:

    The New New World

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    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    The Streets of Abu Dhabi

    No Comment required. The real feel courtesy of John Rosenblatt.

    A Drive in Abu Dhabi with a GoPro from John Rosenblatt on Vimeo.



    Backstreet of Abu Dhabi

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    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Powerpoints, Presentations and Freezones

    An interesting piece in Business Insider regarding the impact of the presentation which kicked off a whole chain of events, not only for Dubai but for the wider emerging economy:

    In June 1990 I drove with my business partner at the time, to meet with His Excellency Mr. Sultan bin Sulayem, who was then the Chairman of the Jebel Ali Free Zone.

    The meeting had been set up because Sulayem had been invited to speak at the Confederation of British Industry in UK about how British companies might like to invest in the Zone. The head of the Dubai Promotion Board had figured it might be nice if someone wrote his speech and perhaps coached him a little on his delivery technique. We were a boutique consultancy doing work for the Board, so we were asked to “lend a hand”. Anyway, we put together a 20-Slide presentation, and wrote a script to go with the slides. Sulayem did his homework like he was told, and submitted to a practice session, and off he went. The trip was a success, he kept to his 20-minute time-slot (one minute per slide); and at the end, everyone clapped; mission accomplished. From then on for about five years, we wrote all of Sulayem’s speeches, and not just for him, for other Excellencies too; after the word got around that people tended to clap when you delivered one of our presentations, rather than going to sleep and having to be woken-up at the end.

    The whole point of this is that if you have policy and someone can spiel the detail of the vision so that the crowd gets enthused, you are able to push through ideas more effectively.

    During that time, we managed to sell the idea that if the Zone was to be successful, then it might be a good idea to devote some very modest resources, as in put money into our pockets – (since the “speech” thing was a complete loss-leader for the time we spent), to find out (a) who were the potential customers, and (b) what they might want, that the Zone could offer? That was a pretty radical idea at the time. So we got hired to do research, we pulled together information on all the Free Zones in the world, we did cross-section analysis, and we interviewed everyone who had expressed an interest the zone (mainly on the telephone). Based on that we kind of eased the marketing strategy away from “this is what we got, take it or leave it”, into “this is how we can meet your needs and exceed your expectations”. Whether we had any effect is impossible to know, but from flat-lining for the ten previous years, the numbers of new arrivals and also the exports from the Zone went up by 40% a year (compounded) for four years.And whether what we learned applies directly to America’s story, I don’t know, most of the “customers” were European, or from the region. The point of that story is that we found out a lot about why corporations, Europeans, in particular, some Americans, were moving out of the “safety” behind the wall that keeps the “Great Unwashed” separated from the “Great Washed”, into the “danger zone”. Seeing as that was twenty years ago (or so); and when we started off there were only 300 companies registered in the Zone; now there are over 6,000, so I don’t think I’m breaking any client confidentiality by “sharing”.

    So speech writing is an art - and I'm not surprised at all that the speeches were written. I am surprised that the speeches were a loss leader to get to be able to do the big strategic piece about the freezones in Dubai. And we all know, the freezones were part of the honeypot to Dubai - and one of her big successes.

    It's worth reading Andrew Butter's little story.

    Business Insider

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    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Abu Dhabi Videos

    It's been just over a month since we were graced with Beno Saradzic' time lapse video of Abu Dhabi. It's a beautiful view of Abu Dhabi - and is a work of art. And for those of you who haven't seen it in its beauty, here it is:

    ABU DHABI 2011 - DEFINITIVE VERSION, English intro from Beno Saradzic on Vimeo.


    And today the ADTA released their latest ads to entice the potential Abu Dhabi tourist. In all honesty, the commercial(s) they have created are fantastic, and manage to give a classy view of Abu Dhabi that bring out the potential of what Abu Dhabi is. There is a fine balance between class and cheese.

    To see the Abu Dhabi videos from the ADTA, you can find them here: Abu Dhabi

    And if you want more, here is another:













    Oil on Sand: Memories And Moments of Abu Dhabi & Beyond Slideshow: The’s trip from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates to 4 cities Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah, Al Ain and Liwa was created by TripAdvisor. See another United Arab Emirates slideshow. Create your own stunning slideshow with our free photo slideshow maker.



    And you think you've seen it all. Scroll down and you will see the second one.

    Abu Dhabi Videos

    Feel like visiting? Book now for the peak season!

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    Wednesday, June 08, 2011

    The Most Expensive Sofa in the World

    We have found it - a sofa fit for a Sheikh! If you have a spare €100,000 and fancy sitting in luxury, this is the way to do it. Entitled Aymantion, the sofa is diamond encrusted and limited edition with only 50 been made. And now the search is on to find the buyer for the ultimate the sofa in the UAE. Qatar has bought in, as has Thailand and Brazil.



    But no one has yet bought number 1, the ultimate sofa selling for €130,000. That's nearly 700,000 Dirhams. If this isn't the ultimate in bling. The company is called Plumebanche, from Paris - and if you do have that much money that you are going to rush out and lock down your diamond-studded platinum buttoned super blinging screams of money sofa, then let me know, I'd love to sit for few minutes to say I have had the privilege.

    Diamond encrusted Sofa - Aymantion from Plumeblanche

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    Monday, June 06, 2011

    Grapeshisha Redux

    We've been a little quiet recently, but we have been hard at work. And now we have something to show! We hope you like the new redesigned site. We think it gives Dubai and Abu Dhabi a fresh new look - and we want to thank all those that helped make it happen. Yes, we're new an improved in time for UAE's 40th birthday celebrations!



    If you do like it, you can help us by spreading the word.

    1. Clicking on the Like button above on the right. That will tell your Facebook friends that you like Grapeshisha (the site, and maybe even the flavour!)
    2. By tweeting about grapeshisha
    3. By emailing a friend - especially those who are looking at visiting the UAE
    4. By picking up the phone
    5. By telling your friends (in person) over a puff of grapeshisha.

    When we started grapeshisha, we didn't have twitter, facebook or the like button. But when we started grapeshisha, it was over some grapeshisha, of course. Times have certainly changed.

    You can book hotels and book flights with our comparison engines (for anywhere in the world, mostly.) There are long lists of things to do in Dubai, and things to do in Abu Dhabi as well as many other interesting things. It's always evolving and a work in progress, and we hope to add lots more as the months fly by.

    Thanks again to everyone for your support!

    Grapeshisha

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