Sunday Jan 17, 2010


This has to be the best use of the word 'disgruntled' I have ever seen.

The article's full headline doesn't contain the word, but the link does -

Disgruntled Saudi man cuts off his own genital

I also love the detail about the Egyptian man 'warming up the knife'.

Gruntled - a new medical term?

Doctor's reported that Charles, now to be called Sharon, had undergone a successful procedure and was now thoroughly gruntled.

Saturday Jan 16, 2010

Skoda Rapid

A friend from home is selling his beloved Rapid.

A real classic. If I had the storage space I'd buy it in an instant. Not sure if Mrs Saul would approve, but this is a car that must be preserved, as the final bid price reflects!

Soft driving

I am keen to get my hands on this report.

Women drivers, eh?

I have to say that my experience of the UAE's roads suggests that it's men who drive appallingly badly - too fast, too slow, too much in the wrong lane, too much problem.

The one thing I do notice lady drivers doing is talking on the phone whilst driving too slowly and veering from lane to lane due to lack of concentration. But for every one of those ladies, there are ten men doing the same thing...

I am against soft driving in all its forms.

Wednesday Jan 13, 2010

Strange conversations

I do end up having some strange, circular conversations here.

- Hello, I'd like to book at a table for Friday evening at your restaurant.

- No need, sir, you can just turn up.

- But what if it is full?

- No problem sir, they will give you a table.

- What if there are no tables?

- Hmm. There will be a table for your sir.

- Can I make reservation so I know for definite I will have table?

- No, sir, just come.

- Not possible reservation?

- No sir.

- So not possible reservation?

- Yes sir, reservation possible.

- Ok. Can I make reservation.

- Yes sir. Call at 5 when the staff are there, they can take all details and make reservation for you.

- Erm, thanks. I will again at 5.

Monday Jan 11, 2010

Call to prayer

I can hear the azaan from where I sit in the Sun office, these days. It seems the imam at the recently built mosque in Dubai Internet City has either turned up the volume or changed the speakers' positions.

I like hearing it. DIC is new, modern and shiny. Hearing the call to prayer is a reminder I'm in the Middle East - a bit of local colour in the midst of global, mostly Western, brandnames on the office buildings.

Sunday Jan 10, 2010

Two interesting new blogs

Well, new-ish.

One is Peter's Place - excellent insight and commentary on Dubai and UAE related issues.

Secondly, A Lady Among Ye Men - a young American lady teaching in Yemen for a year.

Yemen's a place I've been to for work and would love to learn more about - this blog's a fascinating insight from a Westerner living and working there. Particularly topical, what with Yemen's unfortunate rise to prominence in the world news over recent weeks.

How to fix your cooker hood

Yes, we should have noticed it ourselves and yes the switch for the cooker hood's extractor and light were hidden behind various kitchen related bottles, but...

On second visit (when he came back with the right tools) the repairman noticed the switch, switched it on and everything worked.

I am placing the blame 50/50 here. Not sure how we missed it - baffled that the repairman did too.


Top tip - look really carefully for all the possible switches that are hiding out there before you call the repair people.

Thursday Jan 07, 2010

Google dictionary

I wonder when Google will implement their own dictionaries?

I love the fact that I can do a Google search on timezones and currencies and get an answer in the search results, rather than having to click on a site that the search throws up.

I'm finding myself having to write a few emails in French these days and need to check words online, since my enormous Collins French dictionary is sitting on my father's bookshelf back in London and would be rather impractical to keep in my laptop bag. There are lots of online dictionaries I can use, but for the odd word or phrase, I'd love to see the answer pop up from a simple search.

Wednesday Jan 06, 2010

Sorry to rub it in, but...

...the weather here is rather better than it is back home.

I will be working from home on my balcony this afternoon. Do feel free to drop by it it's too chilly in London.

Monday Jan 04, 2010

Burj Dubai/Khalifa opening

The Burj Dubai - or Burj Khalifa as it has been renamed - was formally opened on Monday.

The event was truly spectacular. Mrs Saul, two friends and I grabbed a spot as close to the Burj as we could get, just across the lake in the Souk Al Bahar. We got there at five and the public event started at eight, but it was well worth the wait.

The video I took using my little Sony camera is below - it seems to capture things quite well. The sections that go dark are when water from the fountains returned to earth, soaking us all! Part two has the best of the fireworks.

The mix of fireworks, fountain and music was perfect. The Burj's light display was fantastic too.

The whole area is turning out beautifully. I am biased, as I live here (see the picture below for where we are), but Emaar have done an incredible job. It could have been tacky and mismatched, but the development looks good, is well planned and is starting to be real joy to live in. The Burj itself could have been a monstrosity, but it looks very stylish as well. I much prefer this part of Dubai to the Palm, for example. Hopefully the independent, surrounding towers that are going up in Business Bay will be more cohesive in style than, say, the variety of architecture that makes up Jumeirah Lake Towers.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the event was the mix of people that were there. There were lots of local Emiratis in the crowd, along with expats from all over the place and from various levels of society. This was a real first for me - we were all together, enjoying a common spectacle. I hope Dubai has more moments like this in the future.

The naysaying in the British press has already begun - extravagance, Ozymandian dreams, towers of Babel, the usual yawn. I would like to see an article that truly recognises the engineering achievement here. We'll be hearing rumours about cracks, sinking, windows falling off and all sorts of horror stories over the coming months and years I expect. People still claim that the Burj Al Arab is subsiding, years after its completion, despite the complete lack of evidence that it is.

Yes, the Burj Khalifa was built with the expertise and hard work of people from hundreds of nations. No, I don't think I would like to live in one of the apartments on the 3,000th floor and yes, I am still a bit worried about the traffic generated by all the people coming in and out of it is going to be handled.

Despite that, the project has been headed up by Emiratis and built in the heart of Dubai - it's a Dubai and a UAE achievement and it's already in the black, according to Emaar.

I do use this blog to enjoy a whinge or two about the way things can work in this part of the world and, like anywhere, there are things that could be done better. At this point, however, I have to give in to pure admiration of what's been achieved. I'm also grateful that I've been privileged enough to see the project go up from start to finish.

Here's where we live, as viewed from the Burj observation deck, courtesy of Bujassem.


Opening, part 1.

Part 2.

Passport renewal again...

I need to renew my passport as it's completely full with stamps and visas again.

The main problem is Saudi visas. They are only ever issued to us here on a three month basis and require two full pages. Typically I go to Saudi about once... every three months. The visa also has to be applied for in advance, which usually takes three or four working days. Strangely, visitors from Europe coming on one-off trips have told me they usually get a year long multiple entry visa. I'm sure every Dubai based business traveller who has to go to Saudi would welcome the same privilege being granted to us here, considering the frequency with which we visit.

It would also make life easier if other countries, even those kind enough to give us Brits a visa on arrival, could use smaller visa stickers. Using an entire page for a visit to Yemen, followed by a page for Egypt, quickly fills up my 48 pages.

Algeria and Nigeria take up similar amounts of space, as does Russia, although I do get a year long multiple entry. Russia requires an HIV test, which I absolutely hate.

When I get my shiny new British 48 pager, I will have to travel with it attached to its older brother, which contains a still valid UAE residence visa. My shirt pocket is going to be weighed down for at least the next two years, it seems.

The Burj Dubai opens!

I'm looking forward to the official opening of the Burj Dubai this evening - and have decided to work from home to avoid the expected traffic chaos.

Lots has been said about the Burj but not much about the logistics of living in the surrounding area - apparently access roads are to be closed from 5pm onwards, but there's not been much in the way of warning...

Regardless, it should be a good event. Cue lots of articles from The Times and Johann Hari about wastefulness and extravagance, I expect. What I would really like to read is a clear overview of the financials behind the project. It's apparently already in the black, which is pretty astonishing.

It also looks absolutely stunning, particularly at night. The lighting is incredible. I will try and post some pics tomorrow.

How on earth did I end up living next to all this? Not something I would ever have imagined just over seven years ago, when I left the semi-detached house I was sharing in a London suburb with 4 other people. I need to make sure I count my blessings more often.

Sunday Jan 03, 2010

The sound of teeth gritting

I need to get in touch with my favourite kitchen appliance repair people again - a quick Google search found their customer care website page with the phone number to call.

I was interested in the last item on their list of customer focused solutions:

With the assistance of our experienced team of service personnel we hope to equip you with solutions that match your requirements.

  • Trouble-shoot maintenance issues
  • Verify warranty information and terms
  • Clarify model-specific features on old and new products
  • Help with product operation or set-up
  • gkghkhgk

'gkghkhgk' is presumably a catch-all for the noises caused by the various states of rage they induce in their customers when people don't call back, engineers turn up seven years late, stare blankly and giggle when they realise they have come out with no tools, etc.

Thursday Dec 31, 2009

A what?

The last day of 2009, with intentions of blogging more in 2010 - I've tailed off over the last few months. Time to get back on to it! I enjoy it, as do my 80 or so regular readers, I hope.

My last post for the year...

My father fell on the ice over Christmas and has spent the holidays in hospital, all of which is worth several posts in itself.

Whilst visiting him, I noticed that when serving food to the patients, one of the nurses was obliged to wear a brightly coloured vest with 'nutritional co-ordinator' written on the back of it, just so we knew what he was.

Nutritional co-ordinator?

On that note, I say goodbye to what was, quite frankly, a pretty rubbish year for all of us.

Monday Dec 14, 2009

The joys of filling in expenses

One of the nicest things about not travelling so much earlier this year was not needing to fill in expense reports.

Today I have finally knuckled down to the task of getting up to date with things after being away pretty regularly over the last two months.


I would like to find the person who configured our system in a way that forces you to enter the exchange rate for every single foreign currency entry. This alone adds hours to the job.

On the plus side, expenses days motivate me to work much harder so that I can get promoted as high up as possible - at some point, surely I would qualify for my own personal assistant to fill in my expenses for me?




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