15 December 2008

Welcome to the Emirates

Melanie has run up against the facts of life of living in a Muslim country. A minor irritation, to be sure. But its a slow erosion of rights Americans take for granted and often have to give up when overseas.

01 December 2008

Head Count

The Kingdom executed three murderers and one rapist in November bringing the year to date total to 88.

Mohammud Kohail has lost his appeal but there is no word yet about his fate or if he will be pardoned. His younger brother, in a strange twist of double jeopardy, will be tried a second time but as an adult this time. The death penalty is in play as opposed to the 200 lashes he was to receive as a juvenile. The brothers are accused of murder during a school brawl.

26 November 2008

Maybe Not

In my last post I said that the tribulations of the infamous Brits were over. Well, maybe not. A recent article in Gulf News indicates that the prosecution may yet appeal the ruling that suspended their three month jail term and 1000 dirham fine.

"The Criminal Rulings Execution Section will refer the case to the Cassation's Public Prosecution, sources from whom, told Gulf News that they will study the verdict reasons after having them typed and decide whether there are any legal grounds to appeal the verdict. "

In a further twist to this international soap opera, the couple told the court that they were going to get married.

"The couple had earlier handed the court the written undertaking in which they explained that they started their marriage procedures in Dubai. However, they failed to obtain certain documents, which they vowed (in the undertaking) they will submit after they get a marriage approval from a church in London. "

How do you say "shotgun wedding" in Arabic?

25 November 2008

Finally Over

The Dubai Appeals Court has finally ruled on Michelle and Vince's conviction for smooching in the sand. Their 3 month prison sentence has been suspended. They have to pay 1000 dirhams and are deported.

Why this wasn't done months ago is a mystery to me.

14 November 2008

Safety on the Job

The following quote from a story in the Gulf News should send fear into all expat construction supervisors and engineers.

Consultant engineers and contractors are responsible for overall safety in a construction project throughout the implementation period and thereafter, according to the prevailing laws and local order in this regard as per the Safety Manual for Construction Works.

This means that I, as an engineer on a construction project, could be held liable for an accident on the construction site. Given the appalling lack of safety on Dubai's construction projects and the frequency of accidents resulting in fatality, this causes to think whether the risk of working in Dubai is worth it. Typically, the engineer has little control over the day to day safety on a construction site. Contractors often take short cuts or modify plans without the engineers knowledge. I, for one, do not plan to spend any time in al Slammer. Now, where is that hold harmless clause again?

10 November 2008

Kohail Confusion

The press has conflicting reports concerning the courts decision about Canadian citizen Mohammed Kohail’s appeal on his murder conviction. Some Canadian newspapers say that the appeal was rejected. But, according to Arab News, the Canadian embassy has issued a statement that “no official ruling has yet been rendered”. In any case, it is bound to be a sticky issue for Canada and Saudi Arabia.

07 November 2008

Guns, Guns, Guns

Seabee over at "Life in Dubai" kicked over a hornets nest with his recent post about Obama. The comment section turned into a web based discussion for the 2nd Amendment. I won't try to continue that discussion. However, I want to point out that Emiratis have a fascination with firearms as well. When I am in Dubai, I frequent the Jebel Ali Shooting Club and the Saharjah Shooting Club. Both places have indoor pistol ranges and organized competitions. I can't count the number of times times I have seen Emiratis trying to shoot the .357 magnum at Sharjah. Usually, they can't control the power and have difficulty hitting the target. I think the attraction for it is the macho factor of shooting a big handgun and the big "boom". Myself, I prefer accuracy and would rather put 8 shots in the 10 ring and a double tap to the head.

Saudi Appeals Court Upholds Death Sentence

In a blow to Canadian Mohammud Kohail, the Saudi appeals court has upheld his sentence for murder. The story is here. His younger brother is also to be re-tried and could face the death penalty. It is not clear how quickly the courts will act on the verdict on Mohammud. It appears that only a pardon by the King can save him.

04 November 2008

Head Count

Saudi Arabia played a little catch up and executed 13 last month. One was a rapist and the rest were for drug charges and murder. This brings the year to date total to 84, not quite on track to equal last years record head count.

In other news, the fate of the Canadian Kohail brothers, currently in jail for murder, is still in question. There has been no news about their appeal.

29 October 2008

Dueling Appeals

In a new twist in the beach sex scandal, the Dubai Public Prosecutor is appealing the 3-month sentence given to Michelle and Vince. He is saying that it is normal for a longer sentence to be imposed and is looking for at least 6 months. They are due back in court on November 18 to hear the results of the defendant’s appeal to their sentence. It’s not clear if the prosecutorial appeal will be decided at the same time.

The point that there will be no “public displays of personal affection” in the Emirates has been made. Every Ex-Pat in the Middle East has got the message. It is time to stop beating this camel, deport the offending infidels and let life go on.

22 October 2008

Appeal for Amorous Expats

Yes, an appeal has been filed. We now need to wait until November 18 to hear the final result. Stay tuned.

The news about their conviction was international news for a couple of days. Everywhere you looked on the net you saw the story of the couple arrested for having sex on the beach. Why does Dubai want this kind of publicity? If I were sheikh, I would send them home and blacklist them from ever returning. I would do it quietly and quickly. It would protect the sensibilities of Emiratis and, at the same time, send a message. And it would do it without negative international publicity. (And the same goes for those found with miniscule amounts of drugs or OTC drugs purchased abroad. Send them back and don't allow them to return.)

20 October 2008

A Good Way to Slow Down Growth

Dubai recently invited New Orleans Recovery Czar Ed Blakely to speak at a conference in Dubai. It seems that he was invited at the request of Sheikh Mohammed.

Ed Blakely is a classic example of the axiom, “Them that can’t do, teach.”

His performance in New Orleans has been dismal. Hurricane Katrina gave him a clean slate. He bragged about “cranes filing the skyline” as he led the rebuilding effort into a glorious future. In truth, he has nothing to show for his time in New Orleans despite being given an almost free hand to do as he wanted. Brad Pitt has done more to rebuild New Orleans than Ed Blakely - and he has done it for free.

If Dubai’s objective is to slow down their exponential growth rate, then Ed Blakely is the man for the job. In fact, the people of New Orleans would welcome Dubai hiring him away.

Take Ed Blakely, please! We’ll keep Brad.

16 October 2008

Sex on the Beach Finale

They were given 3 months, fined 1000 dirhams and will be deported at the end of their jail sentence. So ends the saga of the amorous affair on Jumeirah Beach.

The international publicity can't have done Dubai and the Emirates in general any good.

Hanoi Jane receives Lifetime Achievement Award???

Gulf News has the story that Jane Fonda has received a lifetime achievement award at the Middle East International Film Festival. There are some that think she just deserves life, with no parole.

And Barbarella would be banned in the UAE.

13 October 2008

Dubai Going Broke?

This story in Bloomberg hints that Dubai may be approaching a credit problem.

This is a quote from the article:

While Dubai's economic model ``has proved successful to date, cumulative liabilities are currently rising faster than investments are able to generate returns, which increases Dubai's medium term susceptibility to execution risks and necessitates a clear understanding of wider implicit federal support when rating key government-backed corporations,'' Lotter said.

Sounds like economics-speak than means the debt is rising faster than Dubai's ability to pay the monthly note.

10 October 2008

Infrastructure at Capacity

The National has a story about the recent sewage dumping and beach closing. Its another indicator that the infrastucture in Dubai is at capacity and must be expanded if growth is to continue.

08 October 2008

Put The Gris Gris on 'em

It seems a UAE footballer (that's soccer player to you) was arrested recently for witchcraft.

I'd hate to think what would happen to sports in the US if players were not allowed to have their superstitions and rituals. But I guess trying to put a hex on the other team is a serious crime.

02 October 2008

Head Count

September coincided with Ramadan so the Saudi swordsman had the month off. There were no executions in the Kingdom. The total to date for 2008 remains at 71.

In other legal news, the President of the UAE granted a pardon to the British DJ “Grooverider” who graced this blog last February. He was one of some 700 pardons given out during Ramadan by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Alas, there was no pardon for the British couple arrested for boffing on the beach. (shagging by the shore?) They still have to face the judge next week.

17 September 2008

Separation of Church and State

A non-Muslim couple have been fined 1000 dirhams (about $275) for drinking juice in public in Dubai during Ramadan. You see, Dubai law (not just religious tenets) prohibits eating and drinking before sunset during Ramadan. It is punishable by one month in prison and fines up to 2000 dirhams.

This is why our Founding Fathers insisted on the separation of church and state.

11 September 2008

Where I Was Then

I was working in the 50 story building owned by a major oil company in New Orleans. I had dropped my wife off at the airport that morning. She was going to Connecticut via Atlanta for a meeting. I first heard about the towers when I went downstairs to the coffee shop. I came back to my office but was unable to get into CNN to get the news. I had to go through BBC to find out what had happened. Shortly after that, the major oil company decided to evacuate the building feeling they may be a target as well so I left the office and walked to my car. While I was walking, my wife called me. She had finally gotten to a phone and was stuck at the Atlanta airport. I told her I was on my way and would find her - somehow. As I left NOLa, I saw that the Superdome was surrounded by State Police. I wasn't sure what I would find on the highway, whether it would be roadblocks or crazy people, but I headed for Atlanta some 8 hours away with the clothes on my back and no side arm.

It turned out that all the police were on duty guarding buildings so I had a free run on the interstate. I put the hammer down, set the cruise control on 80, and went to get my wife. She eventually called me and told me she was in a Holiday Inn. It seems the mayor had asked local hotels with empty rooms to send vans to pick up people at the airport and take people out. My wife got a ride and a room. Thank you Mayor of Atlanta and Holiday Inn.

My wife told me that the airline had told them very little - only that they had to land as a problem in the northeast had grounded all air traffic. The passengers soon learned what happened when they started making phone calls about their changed plans. She sat on the runway for a few hours before getting to a gate. Then all passengers were told to get out of the gate area and go to the main lobby of the Atlanta airport.

We spent the night at the hotel and then drove home the next day.

09 September 2008

Sex on the Beach

Michelle Palmer, the female half in the “Sex on the Beach” scandal in Dubai, failed to show up in court for her scheduled hearing citing “stress”. The hearing has been postponed until October 7.

PE wonders what Dubai is trying to prove by keeping Michelle and Vince Acors, her partner in crime, hanging around awaiting trial in the Emirates. They were arrested on July 5 and have been in limbo, stuck in Dubai, since then. They have lost their jobs and reputations. They face jail time followed by deportation. The news story mentions a lack of any DNA evidence indicating that sex, in the classic sense (meaning penetration and ejaculation), had taken place. This means that Michelle was subjected to a vaginal swab, possibly against her will, to gather this evidence. The accused admit to heavy petting and that’s all. The only witness is the policeman that found them. The case is weak but the Dubai legal system has pounced upon it like a pit bull on a mouse.

This continuation of this story in the international press is damaging Dubai’s reputation as a progressive and rational nation. Dubai needs to let this case drop from the news by deporting them and never allowing them to return. Why Dubai wants to keep hammering home the point that “public displays of personal affection” are illegal is beyond me. And in addition, it’s a waste of time and legal resources.

Ramadan is an excellent excuse to show some mercy and send them home.

03 September 2008

Trade with Iran

There is a very good article about the cross Gulf trade between Dubai and Iran. The most amazing thing is that it happens out in the open along Dubai Creek. PE remembers seeing dhows from Iran in Dubai back when they were holding the US hostages and pictures of the Eye-o-tolla (sp) were all over the creek. (PE was in Dubai when the rescue operation failed)

Trade between the two countries has been going on for centuries. I always thought it was a few sailing vessels but the article outlines the sheer extent of trade that is taking place.

It might help explain why the fundamentalist Muslims leave Dubai alone.

Oh, the major Navy base mentioned in the story is merely a single dock out on the edge of Jebel Ali with no logistics support (cranes), maintenance buildings or any permanent structure. The biggest installation there is the USO tent. So, if you happen to be a US citizen and you are in the Emirates, drop a donation off at the USO because they are the only folks taking care of our guys over there.

01 September 2008

Head Count

Five people were executed in Saudi Arabia. They were mostly for drugs with a rapist thrown in for good measure. Year to date total is 71.

There was finally news about the Kohail brothers, two Canadians convicted of murder in The Kingdom because of a death that occurred during a brawl. The older brother got his appeal approved but the younger brother, who was sentenced to 200 lashes and 1 year in prison, may get retried as an adult, which seems in violation of anyones double jeopardy rule.

29 August 2008

I'm Baaaack!

I’m back after a little vacation. The Mrs. and I cashed in some frequent flier miles and took a trip to Paris and into Provence. I thought I was totally away from The Sandbox until two Lamborghini showed up one day and parked in front of the Hilton Tour Eiffel. They both had Abu Dhabi registrations. (But not low numbers so they must have belonged to a low level sheikh) My wife asked my why they would have Abu Dhabi license plates if they were in France. I explained to her that the sheikh probably loaded his personal cars into his personal jet airplane before departing for France. She found the concept of someone having that much wealth difficult to reconcile with her life experience. But, as she is fond of saying, “The rich are different”.

On scanning the Gulf News, I see that Ras al Khaimah has instituted a special plan to arrest beggars during Ramadan. It seems they use the Holy Month to take advantage of people’s charity and the police are only trying to protect the citizens. And besides, this was in the works before Ramadan. I may be a lapsed Anglican, but I thought that charity, and giving Zakat, was one of the main points of Ramadan. Anyway, stay out of RaK if are a panhandler.

I’ll have an update shortly on the fate of the Kohail Brothers and their arrest in The Kingdom. These are the two Canadian boys that ran afoul of the law and were subsequently tried for murder.

07 August 2008

Pump It Yourself Coming to Dubai

Emiratis will now be forced to pump their own gas at several stations. It's the end of an era. Of course, the west made this shift years ago. Gone are the days when a young man checked your oil , water and air while he filled your tank. Many a senior citizen had their first job as a gas jockey back in the 50's and 60's. But in the Emirates, I fear for the safety of the public. Most Emiratis are not familiar with manual labor and mechanical devices. The operation of a gasoline pump may be beyond their ability without extensive training. Second, too many Emiratis like to smoke and pump gas at the same time. And I always took advantage of the free windshield wash that came with the fill up. In the dusty atmosphere of the Emirates, washing your windshield is a continuous job. And don't forget the heat. Who wants to jump out and pump gas in 130 degrees? And finally, there's the man/woman thing. I can't see Emirati women (and they do drive in the UAE as opposed to KSA) pumping their own gas.

PE thinks its a bad idea, and possibly a dangerous one. And the poor guys working at the station don't earn enough for there to be an economic reason for the change. Anyone care to wager which station has the first fire?

01 August 2008

Head Count

July was a very slow month for the executioner. Only one murderer was beheaded in Saudi Arabia bringing the year to date total to 66.

17 July 2008

Cross Dressing Mecca

Dubai is evidently a worldwide Mecca for cross dressers. Dubai police have arrested 40 tourists for cross dressing in the malls. They stress that those arrested were tourists and NOT residents. This amount of trans-sexualism seems extreme and raises the question: What is the attraction of Dubai for transvestites?

Perhaps the culture committee should look into it.

09 July 2008

Head Count

June was a slow month for the executioner in Saudi. Only three people were beheaded. All of them were convicted for murder. Year to date score is up to 65.

In other news, the fate of the Canadian teenager convicted of murder is still unknown. There is no news about his appeal, which may be a good thing.

20 June 2008

Now Hear This, THIS WAS A DRILL!

Gulf News reports that a conversation between two drunk Arabs started the whole Dubai Terror Alert thing.

"A diplomatic source said the warning was issued based on a personal conversation between the two Arab men in the Hemingway bar in the Hiltonia Hotel in Abu Dhabi. The bar is frequented by hundreds of Britons and Americans.

One drunk man told the other in jest: "If someone wants to scare all these people and make them run away, just say there is a bomb. A belt bomb will kill hundreds of them."
The source said it is believed that Britons sitting near the men overheard the conversation and thought it was serious.

They reported the matter to their embassy who immediately issued the terror alert. "

They need to learn that that s**t isn't funny anymore. PE has a couple of observations. One, what about the Muslim prohibition against drinking? The morality police need to find these guys and arrest them. Two, didn't anybody learn anything about faulty intelligence with the whole Iraq thing?

Oh well, I guess its better to safe than sorry - and it did make for an exiting couple of days. And it's always a good idea to have a drill or two before the reall deal. As you were. Carry on.

18 June 2008

Advice to Expats in the UAE

I have taken a page from Col. Jeff Cooper's personal defence training and adjusted it to situations you may face in the UAE during the current terrorism alert. Col. Cooper taught four levels of personal awareness: white, yellow, orange and red. These corresponded to increasing levels of alertness culminating in a fight response at the red level. Here are my interpretations of those alertness levels applied to a terrorist attack.
  • White: Unaware and unprepared. If attacked in Condition White, the only thing that may save you is the inadequacy or ineptitude of your attacker. When confronted by something nasty, your reaction will probably be "Oh my God! This can't be happening to me."
  • Yellow: Relaxed alert. No specific threat situation. You should always be in Yellow whenever you are in unfamiliar surroundings or among people you don't know. You can remain in Yellow for long periods. In Yellow, you are "taking in" surrounding information in a relaxed but alert manner, like a continuous 360 degree radar sweep.
  • Orange: Specific alert. Something is not quite right and has gotten your attention. Your radar has picked up a specific alert. You shift your primary focus to determine if there is a threat. You formulate a plan of action.
  • Red: Your flight or fight trigger is tripped. You implement your plan.

While these levels were originally developed for an armed response, they are equally applicable for the average citizen in formulating an unarmed response to a situation. Typically, your response will be to evacuate the immediate area. Your planning should include a knowledge of the location of emergency exits and safety equipment (fire alarms, extinguishers).

Enshallah, there will be no problems and driving the SZR will still be the most dangerous thing you do all day.

17 June 2008

UK Raises Terror Threat in UAE

The British Foreign Office has raised the alert level for terrorism attack in the UAE to their highest level. There was no indication of the reason for the increase in alert level. No similar notice has been posted by the US Department of State, however the US embassy in Abu Dhabi posted the following on their web site:

As we enter the busy summer travel and holiday season, including plans for 4th of July celebrations around the UAE, Embassy Abu Dhabi and Consulate General Dubai wish to remind American citizens about the general security situation in the Middle East, as outlined below in the current Worldwide Caution. The Embassy and Consulate General wish to advise Americans that potential exists for terrorists to plan and carry out violent actions in the region, including the UAE, and for this reason Americans should maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times, particularly in public places.

Certainly, the UAE is a target rich environment for terror attacks. It also provides naval support to the US fleet in support of the War on Terror.

Royals Behaving Badly

Sheikh Falah al Nahyan will be in a Geneva court this week on charges that he assaulted an American citizen who refused his homosexual advances. The alleged assault occurred in 2003 and the plaintiff, Silvano Orsi, claims he has been unable to work since then due to injuries he received during the alleged attack. The Sheikh could get two years.

In other news, Issa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has been accused of torturing an American businessman. The lawsuit, originally filed in 2006, names five members of the royal family and seeks $1 billion in damages. The plaintiff, Bassam Nabulsi (a naturalized American citizen) , has videotapes of the torture sessions. Not surprisingly, he has had problems serving papers on the royals. A US District Court judge has given him until June 30 to serve papers or the case will be dismissed.

These guys are brothers to Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi. He can't be happy about the publicity his relatives are getting, especially in light of the recent concern about national identity in the UAE.

10 June 2008

Three Real Estate Execs Detained

Three execs from Deyaar have been detained by Dubai police, Arabian Business reports. Deyaar is Dubai's second largest publicly listed developer and a subsidiary of Dubai Islamic Bank. Is there a connection here? And why doesn't this story show up in the Emirate's newspapers?

06 June 2008

QE2 - Rescued from the Harem?

The British government is seeking a legal opinion to see if they can block the sale of the QE2 to Dubai's land development company, Istithmar. Lord Inglewood, who chairs a government committee on the export of works of art, is asking for the legal opinion. A group protesting the sale, the QE2 Consortium, argue that the ship and its contents are of "national and historic importance". Cunard Lines sold the ship with its contents intact. The contents includes several works of art. Istithmar, who paid $100 million for her, is going to convert the ship into a luxury floating hotel berthed at the Palm Jumeirah and is under no obligation to preserve the interior of the ship.

05 June 2008

British Banker in Custody

Bahrain based banker and UK multi-millionaire Charles Ridley has been detained in Dubai without benefit of legal representation for almost one week, Arabian Business has revealed. Also detained with him is his business associate, Rayan Cornelius. Specific charges are not known but it is assumed his detention is related to certain investment funds. It is believed that Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) may have invested in these funds.

Although the paper has not indicated any relation between the two actions, A former VP of Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB), Rifaat Othmani, a Pakistani national, has also been detained for "bribery allegations and receiving kickbacks from clients in return for favours". DIB is the UAEs largest Sharia compliant lender.

Big Mo - Still Watching

A couple was in court the other day accused of that most heinous of crimes, namely "indecently gesturing in public by kissing, hugging and cuddling". They were seen commiting this crime in a car in a mall parking lot by an undercover policeman who then informed the local constabulary.

The accused couple plead not guilty and said the claimant was too far away to see clearly. It was only a kiss on the cheek and not a full fledged lip lock. There was no indication as to the courts decision.

03 June 2008

Problems on The Palm

This story from the Guardian describes some of the issues going on with the first residents to move to the Palm Jumeirah. It seems the brochures and hype were a little misleading. Villas crammed together, no air conditioning included in the price and white mans guilt for the laborers who built it all.

Magic Stone Update

The appeal has been heard and a decision handed down.

The government was not able to test the veracity of the gem dealers claims because "because they lacked proper scientific methods or equipment to test whether the onyx stone was bulletproof or to decide its real value. Dubai Police, Dubai Municipality and Dubai Metals and Commodities Centre did not have the necessary equipment to carry out the mission."

I think all they really had to do was call Mythbusters and set them to work. The court reduced the gem dealers sentence from 6 months to 3 months. And deportation, of course. This was probably very close to time served already but his lawyer is not satisfied. He wants a full acquittal.

"We will appeal yesterday's verdict before the Cassation Court... I am seeking my client's innocence and not a reduced term. My client has pleaded not guilty since the beginning," Q.M.'s lawyer Saeed Al Ghailani, of Saeed Al Ghailani Advocates and Legal Consultants, told Gulf News on Monday.

02 June 2008

Head Count

Saudi Arabia performed 9 executions in May bringing their year to date total to 62. Most of the executed were convicted murderers.

30 May 2008

National Identity

The blog Experiencing the Emirates has a summary of news articles concerning National Identity. Here is the link.

Obviously, this issue is of great concern to someone. IMHO, the actions of the Emirates government are shaping the National Identity. You can't make mega construction projects that require large labor forces a national priority and then complain that expats are diluting the Emirati population. You can't claim to embrace openness to all cultures, open your doors to thousands of foreigners and then complain that Arabic is not being spoken enough or that Muslim values are being diluted. You can't promote an Emirati Identity if the only people tourists interact with are outsiders that you hire because you don't want to do the work.

28 May 2008

British Birdman Completes BASE Jump from Burj Dubai

A British man has made a BASE Jump from the Burj Dubai to set a new world record. See the story here. Unfortunately, he now faces a year in jail and a fine of about $1400 for "illegal entry".

Some people will do anything to avoid the Salik tols.

Garbage in Dubai

The National ran an article about waste. Dubai produced 27 million tonnes of waste in 2007. This was from a population of 1.5 million people. If you do the math, the per capita production of waste in Dubai in 2007 was a little over 20 tons per person. The average per capita waste production in the USA is a little less than 1 ton per person.

You can argue that much of this waste is generated by the hotel and tourism industry as well as all the massive construction projects. But you can’t escape the fact the Dubai, for all its glitz and glamour, generates one hell of a lot of trash.

Dubai likes to brag about their “green” buildings. But you cannot escape the fact that living in the desert and building such unlikely venues as indoor ski slopes and mega mega shopping malls, requires a lot of energy and generates a lot of waste.

For the record, I’m not a believer in the Cult of Global Warming and I think Carbon Footprints are load of BS, but even I can see that Dubai needs to do something to clean up its act. If the Sheikh put the effort into waste disposal that he puts into building monuments to hubris, Dubai could become a world leader in recycling and waste disposal.

This could offset the perception that Emiratis are a rich, spoiled, wasteful and lazy people who have no concern for the welfare of those outside their tribe.

27 May 2008

UAE National Identity

I've noticed a great deal of discussion in the press lately about a UAE National Identity. What puzzles me is that in all the rhetoric on that topic, I haven't seen anything describing what the UAE wants that identity to be. Two issues always surface: language and expats. Leaders are chagrined that Arabic is not spoken more often and blame the hoards of foreign workers for dilution of the culture. Finally, there has been absolutely no assessment of the current perception of the UAE by the rest of the world and how that differs from the identity the UAE wants to promote.

If you want to take the journey of developing a National Identity, it seems to me that you first have to determine the current status of that Identity and then define what needs to be changed to meet your ideal. That will require that leaders hear some rather unpleasant criticism, something the Arab culture is not good at giving or receiving.

26 May 2008

Head Count

Saudi Arabia executed 16 people in April bringing their year to date total to 53. Ten of those executed were convicted for drugs, 4 for murder and 2 for rape.

The case of Mohammud Kohail, the Canadian convicted of murder during a school ground fight is still working through the appeals process amid international political pressure.

Another Dead Canary

SeaBee posts about a real estate project in trouble in Umm Al Quwain (another lesser Emirate). The project cannot get, you guessed it, electrical power, water and sewage. The government claims that providing those services is not their responsibility so Tameer, the developer, is putting the project "on hold". I don't know how it works in the real estate game, but in oilfield construction projects that phrase was the kiss of death that no project manager wanted to hear. I'm sure the investors feel the same way.

Methinks the bubble is looking a little thin right now. People who prepaid for these developments are losing their investment. It won't take long before concern for the stability of Emirates real estate investment is called into question and potential investors will dry up like spit in the Rub' al Khali. It will make the sub-prime crisis look like pocket change.

Big Mo is Watching You - Follow Up

I told you I'd follow up on the two women arrested on the beach for "sleeping like married couples". It seems they got one month jail followed by deportation.

Can't have any of that dangerous cuddling going on can we?

Heil Dubai

Dubai is cracking down on transvestites. They will be questioned and possibly arrested for "public indecency and behaving like a man or woman". In announcing the five day crackdown, the chief of police stressed the "danger" they pose to society. (Well, there was that little crime spree down in New Orleans a couple of years ago.)

PE suggests that Dubai capitalize on their population of transvestites by opening a tranvestite stage show or a restaurant where the wait staff is made up entirely of transvestites. Perhaps Dubai can become a destination for those seeking sex change operations. PE is also not sure how one differentiates between a transvestite, a dyke lesbian or a fashion model wearing a mans shirt and tie? Could a Scotsman in a kilt be considered a transvestite? What about a woman wearing pants (its considered a no-no by the more conservative Baptists, by the way).

The whole issue stikes me a little silly and xenophobic.

21 May 2008

Harrasment in Any Culture....

Melanie, a relative newbie to the Emirates, tells of an interesting intercultural experience of a semi-sexual nature. I didn't know that solicitation by mothers was part of the culture.

20 May 2008

Big Mo is Watching You!

In the first case of its kind to hit the Dubai Court of Misdemeanors, two women were charged with indecent behavior at a public beach. Said behavior included kissing, cuddling and "sleeping like married couples." (I wonder if that included snoring and flatulence) The ladies are currently out on bail pending a judgment. I'll keep you posted on this serious offence as the case unfolds.

In other news, you'll be glad to know its OK to carpool and help reduce traffic, providing you first get permission from the RTA, list your passengers, make sure they have a background check done and keep to a 4 passenger limit. After all, we can't have serial carpoolers running amok.

And in an update to the abandoned baby story, Abu Dhabi authorities are going to take a sample for DNA. It's not immediately clear who they are going to check the sample against. Or maybe they'll just take DNA samples from everyone. They could start with the carpoolers.

19 May 2008

Suffer the Little Children....

A three week old baby was found abandoned in an Abu Dhabi park. Two hospitals refused this baby treatment and she was taken to a third.

The baby was taken to the Corniche hospital first and then to Al Mafraq hospital. After both hospitals refused to admit the baby to neonatal care, the child was taken to Shaikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC).

What does it say about a culture that does not protect children?

Story is here.

Utility Problems

It seems that the lesser Emirates of Sharjah and Ajman are having public utiilty issues. It is taking as long as five years to get electricity, water and sewage connections to new construction projects There are some 30 high rise apartment buildings in Sharjah and Ajman that are unoccupied because of it. The story is here.

The problem is not the result of slow bureaucracy but a reflection of municipal systems that do not have the capacity to keep up with the demands of the rapidly growing emirates. Ahmed Al Abdullah, CEO of New Dubai Property, which operates in Sharjah and Ajman, said population growth had made it difficult to resolve a current lack of capacity despite efforts to expand infrastructure in both emirates.

Some developers are thinking about building their own power plants. The promise that power is about to be provided is a commodity that increases the value of a property before anything is built.

This problem is the canary in the mineshaft giving warning about the runaway growth in the Emirates and failure of infrastucture to keep pace.

09 May 2008

Divas Defer

Mariah Carey and Fergie have either cancelled or postponed their upcoming concert in Dubai, depending upon which news source you prefer. Gulf News' version is here. The stated reason is the logistics problems caused by the short time frame of a concert announced 10 days ago. The singers are, of course, "disappointed". However, a line in the Gulf News story makes me wonder if other factors might be in play. The promoters say that the "cancellation had nothing to do with the singers themselves".

Given that both divas have a penchant for diplaying their rather bodacious bosoms, I wonder if concerns about Emirati sensibilities were a factor.

01 May 2008


The UAE Community Blog is a site where UAE web diarists can post articles of interest. It's been stuck for more than a week now on one topic, probably because of blocking by the Telecommunications Regulation Authority. (The UAE can block anything they deem to be pornographic or critical of the government and its leaders)

The amusing thing that it is blocked on a story describing the pitifully small payout made to victims of the child camel jockey scandal.

30 April 2008

My Introduction to Middle East Politics

I used to work for a major oil company. Before the oil bust in the mid 80's, we used to take engineers from other affiliates who came to work in the Gulf of Mexico as a training assignment. (Yes, those were the good ol' days when New Orleans and the GOM was the center of the offshore oil industry) One year we got a Saudi engineer from ARAMCO and I was appointed to act as his supervisor. During the welcome and familiarization discussion, I suggested that he may want to consult with one of our other engineers if he had any questions about New Orleans. This engineer happened to be Iranian. He immediately gave me the steely eye and said, "He is not Arab. He is Persian!" in a tone that made his feeling about Iranians in general very clear. That was my introduction to the politics of the middle east.

29 April 2008

The Ongoing Saga of the Magic Stone

The 52 year old Yemeni gem merchant who was trying to sell the onyx with bullet deflecting properties has been released on bail pending his next scheduled court appearance on 12 May. There was no mention of any testing results. His lawyer wants the Dubai Courts to send the stone overseas for testing.

Note to Dubai Courts: You may want to rent the episode of Mythbusters where they tested the ability of a magnetic field to deflect a bullet.

Here's the story.

28 April 2008

Fouad al Farhan Freed

The Saudi blogger imprisoned 137 days ago has been freed. Fouad, who was often critical of the Saudi leadership, was arrested on December 10, 2007 and held without any specific charges.

24 April 2008

Bill Starbuck Comes to Riydah

Evidently not being content to leave things to the Will of Allah, the Saudis have been experimenting with cloud seeding in order to increase rainfall in The Kingdom and thereby increase water supplies. Some 11 aircraft are employed in the effort. Maybe they need to find a copy of The Rainmaker to see how Burt Lancaster did it.

Tomorrow it will rain, enshallah!

21 April 2008

Floating Poetry

A Dutch company, Dutch Docklands, has been contracted to build a series of floating homes as part of the Jebel Ali Palm development. The twist is that the development will be formed into the shape of Arabic letters spelling out poetry written by Sheikh Mohammad. The development will form an inner ring inside the main breakwater of the Jebel Ali Palm.

What does the Sheikh have to say that's so important? The translated poetry follows:

Take wisdom from the wise.
It takes a man of vision to write on water.
Not everyone who rides a horse is a jockey.
Great men rise to greater challenges.

16 April 2008

National Identity II

Shaikh Mohammad reviewed a study on UAE national identity prior to the beginning of the 2 day conference on the same subject. The study was done by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development. He had the following to say about it:

"The creative proposals need deployment of individual and collective efforts to be undertaken in a civilised, practical and scientific methods that could render it a successful model to be emulated locally and regionally as the first study of its kind," Shaikh Mohammad said.

I challenge anyone to find a better example of government double speak. Will someone please explain what this means?

07 April 2008

A National Identity

Sheikh Mohammud is having a two-day conference on forming a national identity for the UAE. The problem is that that Dubai and the other Emirates have little history or identity outside of the one he created.

What is now the UAE was a sandy little crossroads known for its pearl trade. There was little else there to recommend it as a permanent settlement. If it wasn't for British protection, they probably would have been swallowed up by King Saud when he joined all the tribes to form Saudi Arabia.

Today they are known as an elegant, if artificial, oasis for tourism and business, builder of world wonders and architectural marvels. Unfortunately, they are also known as enslavers of children in the camel racing business and owners of Dubai Ports, the port operation deal soundly rejected by the people of the US. They also have an image as lazy, preferring to hire outside labor than get dirty themselves. 99 percent of private sector jobs are held by ex-pats. In a country that is hungry for labor, the unemployment rate among Emiratis is 13 per cent.

And they are invisible. A visitor to the Emitrates could spend his entire trip there and the only Emirati he may see in a working capacity is the passport control officer. (I'm not counting the ones at the shopping malls, of course)

Sheikh Mo has his work cut out for him. If he wants to develop a national identity, he will first have to change the welfare state he has created.

03 April 2008

Business, and Freedom, in Dubai

Bloomberg has an excellent article on Dubai. Go here to read it. It reinforces my personal opinion that Dubai is a good place to make some money but you have to trade off some personal freedoms to do so. It then becomes a decision as to what those personal freedoms are worth to you.

01 April 2008

More Magic Stone

I reported earlier that the Dubai courts had requested an expert to study the magic stone with bulletproof properties. The job was assigned to the police criminal laboratory. In a twist to the ongoing tale, the police lab claims not to have the equipment to test the stone. Therefore, the courts have turned the stone, an onyx that was marketed by a Yemeni gem dealer at 1,800,000,000 dirhams ($450,000,000), to the Dubai Metals and Commodity Center. The DMCC is not a scientific organization but a commodities exchange owned by the Dubai government. In any case, they are supposed to determine the stones value and issue a report by April 14.

Head Count

Saudi Arabia executed 7 people in March for a 1st Quarter total of 37. All 7 were convicted of murder.

30 March 2008

UAE and Afghanistan

It seems the UAE has troops in Aghanistan. Who knew? While their mission is primarily humanitarian, they sometimes have to fight their way out of Taliban ambushes. That's combat in any language.

They got my respect and thanks.

25 March 2008

Sharia, and You

There has been a conference in Abu Dhabi over the past few days discussing Sharia Law as a legal system. The conclusion of the conference that included 32 nations including the US, Australia and France, is that Sharia is equivalent to other legal systems.

Coincidentally, there is an article at the Middle East Media Research Institute web site that discusses Sharia law as it could be applied in Europe. It raised these differences to the law should Sharia be applied in Europe:

1) Permit polygamy for European Muslim citizens, and not punish them for it - [even though] this is considered criminal under European law;

2) Permit European Muslim citizens to beat their wives to discipline them, as the Koran urges;

3) Allow men to unilaterally decide to divorce without requiring any court proceedings, as this is a right guaranteed [to men] by shari'a;

4) Give daughters [only] half the inheritance rights that sons have, while widows receive only an eighth of the inheritance;

5) [Not] consider women's testimony the equal of men's in shari'a courts;

6) Deprive a divorced woman of custody of her children if she remarries;

7) Allow European Muslim citizens to marry in traditional marriages without the need to officially register these marriages;

8) Eliminate adoption, since it is contrary to shari'a;

9) Force a woman whose Muslim husband converts to another religion to divorce him, because he is an apostate;

10) Prevent European Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims

The article also listed the following three concerns regarding the effect of Sharia Law on human rights:

1) The concept of citizenship in Europe will change. There will be [different] classes of citizenship and of citizens, with some citizens being exempt from having the general law applied to them because they belong to a particular religion or belief. There will be a Muslim [class of] citizen, a Christian [class of] citizen, a Buddhist [class of] citizen, a Confucian [class of] citizen, and so on. Each will apply his own laws... Thus, faith will not be an individual freedom or belief; it will [come to] have extremely serious public ramifications.

2) If some or all of these laws were implemented and recognized by European legislative bodies, it would not only seriously damage human rights legislation - it would spell the end [of this legislation]. This is because everything I mentioned above is a negation of human rights principles.

3) Recognizing all, or [even] some, of these laws would take European societies back to the age before the Enlightenment and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As a result, the West would revert to barbarism.

24 March 2008

Magic Stone Followup

On 7 February, I introduced the gem dealer who was trying to sell a stone that gave the wearer protection from bullets. He claims to have tested its efficacy on a sheep. He was subsequently tried, found guilty of attempted swindling, and sentenced to 6 months. Now, in the appeals court, he has asked the court to appoint an expert to examine the stone and test it for its bullet proof powers. The court has done so. There is no indication as to who the expert is or his qualifications. Stay tuned as there is bound to be more to this saga.

On another note, it is a little disturbing that a country that could acknowledge even the legal possibility that a rock could hold magical properties is going to become the first Arab country to generate electricity with nuclear power.

21 March 2008


Back on 18 February I posted a story about DEWA (Dubai Electric and Water Authority) raising rates on non-Emiratis in an effort at conservation. Today, DEWA is requesting all residents to conserve water. They say that Dubai uses 136 gallons of water per person per day, one of the highest consumption rates in the world. They advocate short showers ("You don't need to take a 20 minute shower") but they haven't gone so far as to suggest you share a shower with a friend.

I've predicted before that the infrastucture is being strained beyond its capacity. Combine that with poor construction quality and you have a city on the verge of collapse. It will happen slowly. It will start with minor inconveniences and progress to brownouts and rationing. It's time for the sheikh to get some real planning started.

20 March 2008

Tolerant Islam II

The Shoura is what passes as the legislative body in Saudi Arabia. It's members advise the King. They are also appointed by the King, so any resemblance to a Democracy is purely accidental. It recently voted to reject a resolution stating in part:

the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shall work in coordination with Arab and Islamic groups and others at the United Nations to draft an international pact for respecting religions, their symbols and leaders, and prohibit insulting them in any way.”

The objection to this resolution was that it would require the recognition of religions that practiced idolatry (such as Bhuddism and Bahai) and this was forbidden under Islam. The vote was 77 to 33.

In other news, 20 clerics have supported the recent fatwa by Shaikh Abdul Rahman Al Barrak calling for the trial of Saudi newspaper columnist for apostasy. Apostasy is punishable by death.

Happy Mawlid!

Somehow that just doesn't have a "ring" to it. And greeting friends with "Eid al Mawlid al Nabi" seems a little cumbersome. But today is the birthday of the Prophet (PBUH) which is probably one of the reasons Osama (NOT Obama!) came out of his cave and issued his statement.

19 March 2008

UAE Declares War on Denmark

Well, not quite, but theUAE Foreign Affairs Minister Anwar Mohammad Gargash has sent a strong memo to the Danish Ambassador decrying the re-publishing of the infamous Mohammad cartoons (or Motoons). It said in part,

''The UAE has been keen in bolstering and maintaining its relations with countries around the world, including Denmark, because the UAE respects religious freedom and tolerance among people all over the world,''

BUT (isn't there always a BUT?)

''It condemns the unwise stand of the Danish government in not preventing the reprinting of the cartoons, defaming Islam and the Prophet Mohammad..... This will definitely cast a shadow on bilateral relations between the two countries,''

And in a closing that seems to contradict the opening statement,

The UAE refuses to accept the use of press freedom as a cover for defaming ''our religion and Prophet''

They feel that just because the UAE has a tame press that every country should be able to do the same. They somehow cannot grasp the concept of the 1st Amendment and that it applies to stuff you don't like as well as the stuff you do.

Some grocery stores in the UAE have already started to pull Danish products from their shelves. I doubt that a boycott of Danish milk and cheese will have a large impact on the Danes. But just to make sure, eat a Danish Pastry today in honor of our Danish friends.

18 March 2008

Freedom of Speech in the UAE

A local gossip rag, 7 Days, had the following story about the internet block put on the blog Secret Dubai Diary. At least he isn't in jail.

"Secret Dubai Diary, one of the emirate's most popular blogs, has been shut down in a move that has upset the many thousands of its readers. The UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has decided to block secretdubai.blogspot.com, calling it, “a web site for slander, defamation and vilification against Dubai”.

The same site was blocked in 2005 for similar reasons. However, since laws to block web sites were not concrete then, the site was eventually unblocked. This time, the TRA says the content was more offensive.

TRA spokesman Rasheed Joumblatt told 7DAYS: “Many people contacted the TRA complaining about the offensive language and the lies that had been spread on the site, 'mutilating' their beautiful city and twisting facts to dishonour the development and progress of the city…“The TRA browsed the web site and found that it is a site for slander, defamation and vilification against the city of Dubai… and UAE individuals and personalities.”

However, one expat who regularly read the site said he was disappointed to see it had been blocked. He said: “It offered a nice irreverent look at life in the UAE. I do not believe it was slanderous or anti-Dubai. It was just people speaking their mind and giving their own, honest views on people living here. I hope the ban is lifted.”

The good news is that the blog is not blocked outside of Dubai. Follow the link on the left and judge for yourself if the blogger "mutilates a beautiful city and dishonors their progress".

Cat is Out of the Bag

British TV executive, Cat le Huy, recently released from prison in the UAE, tells about his experience. He was held when the Dubai police found 0.03 grams of hashish in his suitcase. (That's the size of a grain of sugar, folks) What is interesting is the numbers of foreigners he met in prison. He said that during the Dubai Shopping Festival, an event designed to attract tourists, that the prison was receiving about 9 foreigners a day. UAE apologists say things that we "should respect their culture" and obey their laws but any free human being can see that the application of the laws and treatment of prisoners are unreasonable. Americans fought a revolution over just such treatment. But I digress.....

I first went to Dubai in 1979. We stayed in company supplied housing. We had movie night on Wednesdays. The first movie I saw there was "Midnight Express". Go find it in your local rental store and it will cure you of trying to commit a crime in a Muslim country.

17 March 2008

"Unfantasy Island"

Secret Dubai Diary sends out an email newsletter that contains items that otherwise might get his blog blocked by the proxy server. The latest issue had this tidbit concerning the expensive villas on the Dubai Palm.

"it's an island dream for Palm residents! Shoreline apartments have lovely eco-friendly ventilation thanks to structural cracks and underground car parks have been turned into free
swimming pools. And replacing the naff fixtures and fittings is easy, with chandeliers crashing from the ceiling! "

Just the Usual Security

Easter approaches and Dubai is making sure that no homicidal bombers attack the Christian churches there. Security has been increased and measures include parking in a remote area and bag searches.

It probably difficult for the subjects of this security to distinguish between a concern for the safety of "people of the Book" and harrassment of non-Muslims.

Tolerant Islam

A couple of newspaper reporters are in trouble with the Saudi clergy over an article that suggests Muslims should be free to follow other religions. The top Saudi cleric is calling for their deaths for committing the crime of apostasy.

10 March 2008

Official Language

I have often said that Dubai and the UAE serve as an example of what could happen to the USA if illegal immigration is not controlled. About 80% of the population of the UAE are immigrants, typically uneducated manual laborers who come to earn money in the Dubai building boom. If you travel the Emirates, you will hear mostly English and Urdu. English because that language is now almost the universal language used to communicate between different cultures, and Urdu because most of the population comes from India or Pakistan and they speak it between themselves.

However, Dubai has now passed a law making Arabic the national language. Obviously, there were concerns about losing the national identity. It will be interesting see what happens because with the majority of the population speaking a language other than Arabic, provisions will need to be made for non-Arabic speakers in government transactions or the system will grind to a halt.

07 March 2008

Battle of the Burj

Saudi Prince Al Waleed bin Talal wants to build a mile high tower. Al Waleed is a Saudi billionaire and grandson to the founder of The Kingdom. The tower, built in Jeddah, could be twice the height of Burj Dubai, currently the tallest bolding in the world and not yet topped out. By the way, this is the same guy that offered $10 million to NYC after 9/11 and that Rudy G refused to accept.

I can't wait to see what Sheikh Mo will do once his precious Burj Dubai is no longer the tallest building in the world.

The problem, you see, is that Arabs have not read the Bible and learned the story of the Tower of Babel.

06 March 2008

Canadian in Trouble in The Kingdom

Canadian Mohamud Kohail, 23, has been sentenced to be beheaded for murder by a Saudi Court. It seems he went to a school yard to help defend his 16 year old brother who had been accused of insulting a female. He was met by a group of young men with clubs and knives. In the ensuing brouhaha, one of the young men was killed. Friends and family think the Saudi Court ignored evidence when handing down the sentence for 1st degree murder and want the Canadian government to intervene.

05 March 2008

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

An "Asian" man and his girl friend, both in their 20s, confessed in Dubai Court of Misdemeanor to having an "illicit relation" and also to assault. When asked why they hit each other, she stated that her lover broke wind in bed. A heated argument ensued which then led to blows being exchanged.

It sure seems like a lot of aggravation to go through for a little spontaneous gas. Not to mention the waste of time for the Court.

03 March 2008

Head Count

Saudi Arabia executed a total of 10 people in February for a 2 month total of 30 people. Most of those executed were murderers. Three were for drug offenses. These were all public beheadings.

The UAE is on the scoreboard with 1 in February. They shot a murderer.

28 February 2008

Guns, Emirati Style 2

I spent a fair amount of time at the Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club during a recent assignment to the UAE. I found there were three basic categories of shooters. First was the serious shooter. This was either a civilian enthusiast or a policeman who wanted to improve their hand eye coordination. Second was the young stud (always an expat) who would bring their girlfriend (also an expat) to shoot, probably in the hope that the excitement of holding something warm and powerful in her hand would lead to something sexual. And finally there was the Emirati thrill seeker who wanted to shoot the .357 magnum. He typically couldn't hit the back wall but it made a big noise and had a big recoil. After 25 rounds, his hand hurt so bad that he went home. The .357 will soon be retired as the UAE police have decided that no private gun club can have anything larger than 9mm.

The club is sponsored by an international oil company. I was surprised to see its logo prominently displayed on the firing line. The photo above was taken from the club web site. If you go there now, this photo has been removed. I guess the image of their logo juxtaosed with Arabs with guns was not PC.

23 February 2008

How dare they, the hooligans

Prosecutors in Saudi Arabia have begun investigating 57 young men who were arrested on Thursday for flirting with girls at shopping centres in Mecca. The men are accused of wearing indecent clothes, playing loud music, and dancing in order to attract the attention of girls, the Saudi Gazette reported. They were arrested following a request of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. The mutaween enforce Saudi Arabia’s conservative brand of Islam, Wahhabism.
Earlier in the month, the authorities enforced a ban on the sale of red roses and other symbols used in many countries to mark Valentine’s Day. The ban is partly because of the connection with a “pagan Christian holiday”, and also because the festival itself is seen as encouraging relations between the sexes outside marriage, punishable by law in the kingdom.
The Prosecution and Investigation Commission said it had received reports of 'bad' behaviour by 57 young men at a number of shopping centres in the holy city of Mecca, the Saudi Gazette said.

19 February 2008

Grooverider in al Slammer

BBC 1 DJ "Grooverider", aka Raymond Bingham, has been sentenced to 4 years in Dubai Jail for possessing marijuana. He was arrested last November as he entered Dubai to start a new nightclub. They found a little over 2 grams of Marijuana in his baggage. (This is less than 0.1 oz)

According to the British Foreign Office, 64 Brits have been jailed in the past 12 months for violating Dubai's drug laws.

Guns, emirati style

Gotta love boys playing with guns, even ones too weak and/or incompetent to handle them... (Though the last shooter, who's not even the biggest guy in the video, doesn't have a problem with it.)

18 February 2008

Expats Pay, Emiratis Play

DEWA (Dubai Electric and Water Authority) has announced they will raise rates on heavy consumers of water and electricity as a means to encourage conservation. (DEWA is that series of smoky stacks you can see between Jumeirah Beach and Jebel Ali Port)

The twist is that this rate increase does not apply to Emiratis. And one can assume it won't apply to the hundreds of miles of irrigation tubing needed to keep green spaces green. Sheikh Mo is green, as long as he doesn't have to suffer any privations.

I see this as the first canary to fall and is an indicator that the infrastructure cannot handle the exponential growth in construction that is taking place. Nature may abhore a vacuum, but she allows abhors exponential growth. The dream is starting to implode.

15 February 2008

Woman to be Executed for Witchcraft

No, this is not a newspaper headline from Salem, Massachessetts in 1692. The Human Rights Watch is appealing to Saudi king Abdullah to commute the sentence of a woman convicted of witchcraft in a Sharia Court. Like the Salem trials, she was convicted based upon a confession that was extracted under "duress". Her crime, by the way, was causing impotence in a man.

14 February 2008

Happy Valentines Day - from Dubai

While Saudi, Kuwait, Indonesia and other Muslim countries are trying to stifle the celebration of Valentines Day by forbidding the sale of red roses and calling out the morality police in force, another Muslim country has no problem making a buck from it.

Dubai is trans-shipping 40 tons of fresh flowers for the holiday. Dubai is using high tech thermal blankets and computer controls to keep temperatures within the flower shipping containers within a tolerance of 1 degree in the heat of the desert sun while they are underway to the end user. So, the chances are that the flowers you give to your significant other found their way to her through the grace of Allah, even though he would disapprove of any Public Displays of Personal Affection they might initiate.

13 February 2008

Head Count

Saudi Arabia executed a convicted murderer last week bringing the total number of executions so far in 2008 to 25.

A total of 153 executions were carried out in 2007.

11 February 2008

Message from Bert Tatham

Bert Tatham is the Canadian who was detained in Dubai last year for drug possession. Here is a message he wrote on his web site: http://freebert.ca/

Bert Tatham
January 28th, 2008 at 4:32 pm
Hello My Fellow FreeBert’ers!
It is I, Bert Tatham. I have been free now for about a month, and and have been keeping a very low profile - other than to chat on Nat’l radio(!) . I did not read a single piece of news about my case because I didn’t think it was healthy to read a lot of press about yourself, especially when you are feeling fragile.
In fact, this is the first time that I have even visited this site (thanks Jeremy) and I am humbled and gratified by all the warm sentiments I found here, beyond words. I would like to thank you all for your concern and countless efforts to secure my release.
For those of my friends that have not yet heard from me, please be patient; I’m just starting to come out of my shell!
I thought you might all be interested to read my experiences and thoughts on why I was not released when I should have been, in last September’s Ramadan Pardon… A little scoop for you all if you haven’t already heard it..
On August 1st, 2007, I and my entire cellblock were systematically beaten and terrorised by riot police with batons and guard dogs for absolutely no reason. What an experience. The results were numerous inmates injured (broken ribs, ankles, and one case of a broken back), and virtually all living in a state of fear of the riot squad’s return, which was promised by the acting warden at the time. I was also told by several ‘lifers’ that this was a regualr occurence in the Dubai Prison System, and that usually the results were much worse. I was also told that complaints from Arab inmates about this treatment always fall on deaf ears…
I felt morally obliated to do something towards not having this abuse occur again. I recounted the entire incident in writing, and had it smuggled out of the prison by a friend, and it was distributed to the Canadian Consulate, several European consulates, the Canadian Dept. of Foreign Affairs, and my family.
Several weeks later I was interviewed by the Dubai Police “Human Rights” personnel concerning this incident retold the story. I waited in line with dozen of other prisoners (all Arab or Persian) and watched virtually all of them justifiably lose their nerve and deny to the investigators that the event had taken place. This only made me feel more responsible to use my priviledged position as a Canadian to fight this abuse.
Two weeks later, I testified under oath to the Attorney General’s office on the events that occurred on August 1st.
In the time between these two interviews, I was called in to the Warden’s office and harrassed for over an hour about what I told the HR investigators. My only response was that it was none of his business and he should know better than to be asking. He threatened that he could make my life even more difficult, and ‘extend my stay’ if I did not cease and desist.
When the News of our release came during Ramadan, I was partially ‘processed out’ (Passport located, bagage collected, etc.) before the Warden sent a note to me via his deputy that I would not be released. Despite this special treatment, the Dubai Police, Prosecutor’s office, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs all denied that I was being ’singled out’. Ludicrous subterfuge by all the powers involved then ensued….
All prisoners in the entire system with the same charges as mine were released over the next couple of weeks. It is clear that I was singled out for my actions in fighting prisoner abuse. I firmly believe that my government was fully aware of this corrupt behavior as well, but drew lines that it would not cross to secure my release from this hostage situation.
Ultimately, the Warden and 20 guards were jailed (very briefly) and deported. The beatings did not occur again. I do not regret my actions at all. I do regret the impact that it had on my loved ones by extending my stay, and I do regret the anemic response displayed by my government (lots of diplomatic activity, none of it meaningful) to rectify the situation.
My thoughts on Dubai: I’ve been through there no less than nine times, and I have never liked the place. It has always seemed to me to be a place where image rules with an iron fist over reality. The press is a joke and is nothing more than a “Sheik Maktoum Fan Club” newsletter. It touts itself as a centre for global high finance and tourism, yet it is a notorious hub for both terrorism funding and drug money laundering, and lucky tourists can be arrested for taking a photo on the beaches when not in their lodgings being harrassed by hundreds of smuggled prostitutes. I could go on at great length, but that would be sour grapes…
But I’m home, safe, and healthy. I can’t say I am ‘over it’ by any stretch, but it could be much worse.
Next time I’ll be a little more careful packing.
I am still considering a longer story for whoever is willing to publish it, but I always return to the question of “what would I be trying to get out of it?”. The reason for being ensnared in all this was my own carelessness and I have caused my loved ones great suffering, so maybe I should not aim to capitalise on the experience.
I will be based in Vancouver again, and have a lot of work to do in re-establishing contact with numerous friends and colleagues, recovering money still owed to me for last year’s work, and getting my career back on track. Something tells me it might not involve Counternarcotics work in Kandahar, though I do miss Afghanistan very much…
OK I am rambling. Thanks so very much again for all your kind words and efforts. I wish you all the very best for 2008.
Much Love,

08 February 2008

As I Said, You Can't Make This Stuff Up!

More warnings to travellers to Dubai about this little Emirate's assinine drug enforcement policy. A tourist has been sentenced to 4 years for having a microscopic (0.003 gram) bit of cannabis on the tread of his shoe. Keith Brown was stopped while in transit from Ethiopia to London. Given that cannabis is a common weed, it is hard to follow the legal argument that having a piece smaller than a grain of suger, that could have been picked up anywhere, constitutes possession, but Dubai is a land where western logic is non-existant.

For a list of banned substances in the UAE, click here.

Dubai promotes itself as a land of tourism. They are basing their future economy on tourists and western business. They brag about Islamic hospitality. But who can feel welcome given the restrictions they place upon visitors. I say spend your travel dollars someplace else and let them eat sand.

07 February 2008

You Can't Make This Stuff Up!

This story is too crazy to not be true. A Yemeni entrepeneur was recently arrested in Dubai for trying to sell a "bullet proof stone" for the tidy sum of US $140,000,000. This stone is supposed to protect the wearer from bullets. As proof that no issue is too far out for some lawyers, his lawyer happens to be the same guy that argued the appeal for the convicted rapist in the story below.

The Yemeni claims to have tried it out on a sheep - successfully. I have spent many hours and expended many rounds at the Sharjah Shooting Club, and if the marksmanship displayed there by Emeratis is any indication, it is more likely he missed the critter than bullets bounced off of it.

Of course, the quick way to end the argument is have the Yemeni gentleman wear his stone and let the police test the efficacy of the talisman.

Meanwhile, over in Saudi, the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (religious police or mutaween) arrested an 37 year old American businesswoman and mother of three, strip searched her, jailed her and forced her to sign a confession for the onerous crime of sitting at the same table with a male colleage at Starbucks.

06 February 2008

Boycott Dubai Redux

If you were following the news last year, you will remember the story of the 15 year old French boy who was raped in Dubai. The locals tried to shine it on, but his mother was a jounalist and brought world wide attention to her son's predicament and Dubai's legal system. The perps were convicted and sentenced to 15 years. She has since brought down the web site but she may want to open it up again.

In recent news, the lawyer for one of the perps is appealing his client's sentence arguing that his client, who has AIDS and hepatitis, could not have raped the boy because the young man has not contracted either disease.

With logic like that, why bother with a legal system at all.

30 January 2008

Ramadan, and the Law, in Sandland

Ramadan, of course, happened last year, but this information, taken from http://www.express4me.com/ is useful at anytime......

The holy month of Ramadan is a new religious and cultural experience for many expatriates in the country.
Conforming to the traditions and cultural norms may be confusing for some of the thousands of newcomers who have arrived in Dubai over the past two years.

Such was the case of an Australian manager and his Filipina girlfriend who were convicted of indecent behaviour during Ramadan last year. The 37-year-old manager and 35-year-old receptionist were convicted after they were arrested hugging and kissing during Ramadan inside a coffee shop on Shaikh Zayed Road.

Court records say a government employee saw the couple exchanging kisses in the coffee shop. The employee said he warned them against the "unacceptable behaviour, especially in public" but they continued and the employee called the police.

The man and his girlfriend stated before the court that "they were unaware that kissing in public is punishable by law".

The Dubai Criminal Court sentenced the couple to one month in jail and fined them 1,000 Dirham [about $250 US].

Religious Offences

According to Fatima Al Mousa, a Dubai lawyer, the laws do not change during the month of Ramadan. In other emirates more stringent punishments are observed during the holy month for indecent acts.

Saif Al Mutawa of Middle East Advocates and Legal Consultants said that crimes related to breaking of the fast or indecency fall under Doctrinal and Religious Offences statutes of the UAE Penal Code. These offences are classified as religious-contempt cases specific to Ramadan and are penalised by one month imprisonment and/or a 1,000 Dirham fine.

During Ramadan, all restaurants and food outlets remain closed during the day with the exception of hotels.

Restaurants are covered from the public eye with blinds or blacked-out windows. They are allowed to sell take-out food only and make deliveries. Eating, drinking and smoking are to be done away from the public eye during fasting hours.

In the event of breaking these rules the penalty is up to one month in jail and/or a fine not exceeding 2,000 Dirham.

Furthermore, forcing someone or even enticing them to eat, drink or break their fast is punishable under the same law.

Shops or restaurants which openly serve food and/or any enticing materials which may lead to breaking of the fast publicly will be closed for up to a month.


All clubs operate only after iftar time [usually 7:00 PM]. Clubs are open until 1:00 AM. However, no loud music or live entertainment is allowed during Ramadan. Non-conformance with these rules could cost the establishment a fine and closure for no more than a month.

"The UAE is a Muslim country, and the laws of the country are all based on the Sharia. Although people from other religions also live in the UAE everyone should conform to the laws and respect the culture of the country," said Al Mutawa.

The Laws

Kissing in public — one month in jail and 1,000 Dirham fine

Eating, drinking or smoking in public during fasting hours — one month jail and/or fine up to 2,000 Dirham

Public indecency with someone under the age of 15 — 6 months to one year in jail and up to 10,000 Dirham fine

Indecent acts towards women — six months to one year and up to 10,000 Dirham fine