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

28 January 2008

Keep It in Your Pants in Sandland

Gulf News reports that there were 650 cases of STDs (Sexually Transmitted Disease) reported over the last 16 months in Dubai. Most of these cases were in women who caught it from their husbands. Thats 1.3 cases per day for the engineers in the audience. Officials think the number is low because private clinics do not report cases of STDs.

Ironic isn't it that a Muslim community has this level of sexually transmitted diseases.

25 January 2008

Censorship in the Sand

An interesting article from Arab Media and Society:

"I am tempted to provide an example of this sort of censorship, but I have been asked not to. While the incident between the government and Time Out is common knowledge amongst journalists in both my company and in other publishing houses, Dubai isn’t ready to admit that it breaches the media’s right to freedom of speech. But I’ll allow myself this: the piece that offended the government was a guide to alcoholic beverages sold legally in Dubai; it is neither news nor a surprise that the emirate has licensed liquor outlets within its borders.

You can blame it on companies being unaccustomed and overly sensitive to criticism, or you can look at the reality of being an expatriate journalist in Dubai. One of the problems we face is that we rarely hear an Emirati voice. They haven’t had a chance to develop one that foreigners can understand or relate to just yet. They will in time, but until then, the expatriate community will have to continue guessing which subjects we can tackle without having to deal with censorship or corporate bullies.

Such incidents of sporadic censorship have made me, as well as other journalists hesitant to tackle the real stories. As mentioned, it isn’t that the stories aren’t there, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a journalist who’s willing to have their career shredded for a 300-word article.

The result is that Dubai’s stories are rarely told. The truth about the conditions within labor camps throughout the city, where the men who toil for hours in the region’s unforgiving sun live, isn’t exposed. And the women who suffer the injustices of a so-called traditional society, while their men indulge in the freedoms of a modern world, rarely have their say.

But like most journalists, I make mental notes of the laborers forced to defecate on street corners for lack of toilets, and the Emirati woman who calls me once every four or five months to remind me she’s willing to talk, but not today; I hoard these stories, knowing full well that if I pursue them I’ll get barred from the emirate. But I’m waiting for the day I leave and have the freedom to write with the sort of brutal honesty these stories deserve."

Here ia a link to the entire article: http://www.arabmediasociety.com/topics/index.php?t_article=140&p=0

21 January 2008

The World Was Not Enough!

Nakheel, one of the developers of mega-projects in Dubai, has announced the construction of The Universe, another group of man-made islands off Jumeirah Beach in Dubai. This one is inspired by the solar system. Never mind that only about half of the islands being built for The World have been sold. Never mind that the whole ecology of this part of the Gulf has been destroyed by the continuous dredging.
You can never have enough private islands.
The Peripatetic Engineer says don't buy any land on these islands. The sea will reclaim them by eroding the sand, grain by grain, until they no longer exist. If you want a job with long term security, get the job to replenish sand to these icons of hubris.

17 January 2008

Culture Clash

From Gulf News:

Academic blasts disapproval of women judges

By Barbara Bibbo', Correspondent Published: January 11, 2008, 23:40

Doha: A renowned Qatari female academic has reacted with disdain to comments by male lawyers in a local debate saying that women are not fit to become judges.
A decision by the UAE to allow women to preside over courts has stirred a discussion in Qatar, which has no female judges and only a few work as lawyers.
"A woman is perfectly fit to be a judge. What matters is not the gender but the skill, qualification and training of an individual. Any comment stating the opposite is groundless," Aisha Al Mannai, dean of the Sharia Faculty at Qatar University, told Gulf News on Friday.
"Only prejudice and traditions, which relegate women to a certain role, can lead someone to state that women are unfit to be judges," said Aisha, one of Qatar's most respected female personalities.
After the UAE Justice Minister announced that women would be entitled to assume the position of a judge, lawyers in Qatar expressed their disapproval for a similar move here.
"A woman is emotionally and physically not geared to fit into the role of a judge since the job demands a balanced disposition," Walid Abu Nida, a lawyer, told local daily Peninsula.
Lawyer Mohsen Al Suw-aidi said justice is "entirely the male domain" and added that women's judgment and balance "can be triggered by the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and delivery".
"Ridiculous," replied Aisha, who believes women's presence on the contrary would improve the performance of the male-dominated judiciary, especially in the family courts.
"I would like to also remind all that our Constitution states the equality of men and women and grants them equal opportunities in all working fields.
"Our judiciary is formally open to have a woman judge. It is just prejudice ... to keep women away from the post," Aisha said.

Its hard to imagine that views such as those expressed above are still held by educated men these days. This is just one example of how fundamentally different the Arab culture is from the USA and Europe.

15 January 2008

A Bush in the Sand

GW's visit to Dubai may be more memorable for the chaos he caused than any political gains. The Emirate declared a holiday and closed all the main roads during his visit. The Russian Information Agency estimates that this caused Dubai to lose $120 million. The road closures caused total gridlock. Traffic is usually so bad that its hard to imagine something making it worse, but evidently GW has done that. I'm sure the laborers were not paid for the day so they won't have fond memories of him. Tourists were told to stay in their hotels thereby cancelling any plans they had - especially if they planned to visit the historical area on the Creek or ride in an abra (Pirogue to the Coon Asses in the audience. Otherwise a small boat used for crossing Dubai Creek).

I found it a little ironic that GW's speech warned Dubai about the dangers of Iran when just down the creek there were hundreds of dhows loading up with goods they would carry across the Gulf to, you guessed it, Iran.

So why visit this little sandy place? Well, for one thing, the US Navy has a "base" there in the Jebel Ali Port. Our Arabian (or Persian, depending upon your point of view) Gulf fleet uses it. I have seen the USS Nimitz there. We need their port.

14 January 2008

French Nuke Deal with the UAE

From Gulf News....

French President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed yesterday plans to sign a nuclear cooperation agreement with the UAE amid reports French firms could construct up to two nuclear reactors in the country. Sarkozy said in an interview with pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat before a three-day visit to Gulf states: "My visit to the United Arab Emirates will be ... the occasion to sign an agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

"I have said often that the Muslim world does not have less rights than the rest of the world to use civilian nuclear power to meet its energy needs in full conformity with the obligations that derive from international law."
French companies Areva, Total and Suez could build two, third-generation nuclear plants in the UAE , Al Jazeera Television said on Sunday.

France has already made similar agreements with Algeria and Libya.
"The sharing of civilian nuclear [technology] will be one of the foundations of a pact of confidence which the West must forge with the Islamic world," Sarkozy said after signing a deal with Algeria last month.

Well, what could possibly go wrong?

13 January 2008

Where is Yaser Said, Still?

Its been almost two weeks (or a fortnight, if you prefer) since it Yaser Said allegedly shot and killed his two daughters. Now, cop show watchers and murder mystery readers know that the first 48 hours are critical to solving a case. We know Yaser is the main suspect yet he remains at large.

He was a taxi driver and probably doesn't the financial means to stay on the run for an extended period. He was on foot. He is also a fairly memorable man. He is a tall man at 6'2" and big at 180 lbs. Not hard to miss. How is it that he remains missing?

My theory is that he has had help. I predict the police will find an underground of Muslim accomplices that have been hiding him. This revelation about the extent of Muslim sympathies will send shock waves through the US. Remember that you heard it here first. My thoughts - Arrest them all and charge them with murder.

11 January 2008

Dubai Factotems 2

  • The vehicle of choice for off road dune bashing is the Toyota Land Cruiser. All the tour companies use them for their sand dune excursion trips. These cars get abused on the dunes for about an hour every day. Gotta be a tough SUV.
  • The loaner shotgun at the Jebel Ali Shooting Club is a Beretta over and under 12 gauge. Not too shabby.
  • The loaner pistols at the Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club are Glock, Makarov or CZ 9mm for autoloaders, and Smith & Wesson for revolvers. All the Arab boys want to come in and shoot the .357. They can't hit anything, they just want to go "boom, boom".
  • Burj Dubai is the tallest building in the world and is still under construction.
  • News Item from June 7, 2007: "The United Arab Emirates has announced an amnesty for illegal workers. Under the terms of the amnesty, which began on June 4, illegal workers have 3 months to either legalize their status or leave. Workers not complying face up to 10 years in prison followed by deportation, while their employers could be imprisoned for one month and fined 50,000 dirhams." ($14,000 US) Makes you wonder why the US can’t institute a similar policy.
  • Loans are easy to get in Dubai. But if you default, you go to jail. Most banks will loan money with only an undated blank check as collateral. If you don't pay, they use the check to pay off the loan and if it bounces, you are guilty of bank fraud. About 40% of the jail population, or about 3000 people, are doing time for non-payment of loans. And you can't get out unless someone pays your debt. And you thought the recent loan industry debacle was tough! There is no concept of bankruptcy in Dubai and debtors prison, even though rejected years ago by the west, is still in fashion in the sandland. Where is Charles Dickens when you need him?
  • Although you might think otherwise, the oil sector supplies only about 5% of Dubai's GDP and that share is dropping. Down to 5.1% from 5.4% last year. Where is the money coming from? Dubai is the third largest re-exporter of goods after Hong Kong and Singapore after a major trade deal with the Chi-Coms. Also, real estate here is crazier than a Florida condo boom. But how many people will buy a one bedroom apartment at $250,000 and up?
  • I go to the Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club to maintain my proficiency with a handgun. There is a very nice pistol range there. The club is also sponsored by Shell Oil Company. There is a large Shell logo over the firing line at the pistol range. I wonder how Shell feels about having its corporate logo associated with an activity involving firearms in an Arab country?
  • Americans take our personal freedoms for granted. For example, I recently read a complaint in a travel blog that tourists coming to Dubai with daughters over 12 years old, were required to rent a second room. Evidently, once a female child reaches 12 years of age, by law, she can no longer share a room with her parents (father). Its a hell of a culture that doesn't trust a father to be in the same room with his 12 year old daughter.
  • And during Ramadan, even though it may be 120 degrees outside, westerners are forced to comply with the requirement for fasting under Islam. No water or fluids may be taken. Restaurants are closed, by law, until 7:00PM. How can a country that wants to promote tourism from the west force tourists to comply with Islamic Law? Oh, and if you are gay, you are violating the law if you want to cohabit a hotel room.
  • A Qatari investment firm is making plans for a full buy out of the UK supermarket firm Sainsbury's. It will be interesting to see what happens. Would it turn into a retail powerhouse like Harrods or would it mean more Islamification of the UK?

09 January 2008

Tip of the Day

Don't tailgate trucks carrying big rocks!

07 January 2008

QE 2 Now Part of Sheikh Mo's Harem

The QE 2 set sail today for Dubai where it will be parked at the Palm Jumeirah and turned into a five-star hotel. Everyone seems to think this is a great idea except for the Scots, who don't like seeing their maritime heritage sold off to the highest bidder. But I guess it's better than the scrap yard, although that's hard to believe, seeing as the old girl will probably be turned into some sort of floating Arab bordello.

This is more proof that, as Philip Caputo said, "The final indignity is that there is no final indignity."

04 January 2008

Where is Yaser Said?

Yaser Said is the 50-year-old Dallas taxi driver who is alleged to have shot and killed his two daughters (ages 17 and 18) on January 1. He left them in his taxi. He has not been found. Now, if he was on foot, how far could he get? Or did he have an accomplice? The story has been ignored by the national media. Stay tuned.

02 January 2008

Sheikh Mo's Folly

Work is starting on the $11 Billion Arabian Canal in Dubai. This sea level canal will connect the Jebel Ali Palm with the Jumeirah Palm via a 75 km long canal that will extend south past the new Jebel Ali Airport and Dubailand before making a loop back north. The canal will be 6 meters deep and will accommodate vessels up to 135 feet in length. Obviously, this is not intended to be an industrial canal but a land development scheme to provide more "waterfront" real estate in Dubai. The sheikh is well known for his massive construction projects but this one may well be the icing on the cake. In order to build it they will have to cross two major highways, Sheikh Zayed Road and the Emirates Ring Road, twice. It will cross the new light rail system currently under construction. It also may take a piece of two golf courses - Montgomerie Golf Course and the Emirates Golf Club. And there is also the utilities infrastructure that will have to be moved. But these issues have never been a concern when Sheikh Mo has a brain fart. My friend, The Peripatetic Engineer, predicts that the canal will turn into a stagnant swamp because there is not enough tidal range to adequately flush the canal and there is no natural flow. Stay tuned for updates.