Category Archives: Housing

Outrage at Traffic Jams

Boy do people get steamed up when they drive here!

I notice a big difference between the Netherlands (or Australia) and here in Dubai when it comes to this.  A lot of drivers here seem to have great difficulty coping emotionally with the constraints of big city traffic.

I’m not sure why this is the case… are traffic jams actually new to most of the people driving here? I would have though traffic jams were just as common in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan et al as they are here??

Why do people seem to have such difficulty adjusting to the impact traffic has on their lives?

I often get the impression that people are shocked that traffic jams exist in the first place, and are somehow unable to calculate extra time into their journeys to accommodate them so they are not late.

This article below highlights the frustration levels of local residents of The Greens (which is where we live).

The traffic ALWAYS sucks here.  True.

It needs to be improved. True.

But since it always sucks is it hard to anticipate a delay? Not really, no.

Solution? Leave earlier.

I dunno. Maybe I am being too simplistic.  There must be a logical reason why this causes people so much pain here.

Drivers take the illegal road

Tim Brooks

Last Updated: September 16. 2009 1:37PM UAE / September 16. 2009 9:37AM GMT

The Greens Flyover - Image Source: Paulo Vecina / The National

The Greens Flyover - Image Source: Paulo Vecina / The National

DUBAI // Motorists are taking an illegal shortcut over a flyover that has not yet been opened to avoid ongoing traffic at The Greens.

Drivers, frustrated by heavy congestion at the traffic hot spot, are moving barriers and cones to access a bridge over Sheikh Zayed Road that will link the area to Internet City, Media City and the Marina, residents say.

Sandra Glover, 33, an Australian resident at The Greens who witnessed the reckless driving yesterday morning, said drivers were so angry at the delays to road developments that they were flouting the law and taking great risks.

“I had been queuing for around 20 minutes when I saw that a driver was getting agitated and waving his arms in anger,” she said.

“Then he just pulled his car over to the side of the road, pushed the barrier blocking the entrance to the flyover aside and sped into the distance. He was so angry that I’m not sure he cared whether it was completed or not.”

She added: “Traffic in The Greens has been an issue for over a year, and there have been so many delays that people’s patience is at breaking point. It has caused this reckless and irresponsible behaviour.”

The Roads and Transport Authority and the police were unavailable to comment.

Entering a prohibited road and entering a road dangerously are both violations, punishable with a fine of Dh600 (US$160) and four black points.

Shanwar Shamshudeen, an official with Emaar, the developer responsible for The Greens, said security guards had witnessed the flyover being used and had notified the police.

A large sign was put up yesterday at the entrance to the bridge saying that no unauthorised personnel should proceed beyond that point.

“The flyover has been completed for three weeks but has not been opened due to delays in payment of the construction company,” he said. “The flyover cannot be used until signage is erected and traffic lights on the approach to the bridge have been activated.

“We are aware of the problems our residents face with traffic congestion. Originally the development was built with only a single lane access to Sheikh Zayed Road. We recognised that this was insufficient and have been pressuring the RTA for an additional lane for over a year.”

The flyover, intended to clear congestion by providing direct access to Media City and the Marina, was meant to be completed in March.

Kevin Poyntor, 27, an Irish resident of The Greens, said: “It is not acceptable that this problem still hasn’t been solved when work began in 2006.

“People are late for work and children are late for school because of this. Solving it should have been a priority. While I don’t condone what these drivers are doing, I admit that it must be tempting to use an empty stretch of road rather than be stuck in traffic. People pay a lot of money to live in this area and deserve better infrastructure.”

Last Ramadan the traffic situation became so bad, with drivers facing queues of more than an hour just to exit the area, that The Greens residents’ committee launched an online petition to force Emaar into action.

The residents’ committee has repeatedly demanded that Emaar provide access to Sheikh Zayed Road through the company’s business park, which can be accessed only by using an electronic pass issued to staff. The requests have been denied.

In the past six months the problem has been exacerbated by the sharp rise in residents in the neighbouring Tecom district, which shares the same access roads, and by taxi drivers seeking to avoid Al Barsha Salik gate by taking a detour through the area.

Their anger has been vented through the online petition, which now has 539 signatories, and a noticeboard.

One forum member, Markus Wischy, wrote that plans and a timetable of the road improvements should have been made public and that properties should not have been sold without sufficient roads.

The longtime committee member and campaigner CK Prasad, 55, an Indian resident at the Green, said traffic problems had marred the reputation of the area, forcing prices down and causing many people to leave.

“The traffic issue is significant,” he said. “Many people have left the area due to it and it has had an impact on the reduction of house prices. What is the incentive for people to stay when they can get a flat in another area, without the traffic problems?

“I have lived here for five years and it has still not been resolved. Emaar and the RTA should have worked together on this issue, then perhaps it would have been solved by now.”

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Spot the Stray Cat – UPDATE

Spot’s adoptive home didn’t work out.  Not because of Spot – but for other reasons.

So he is back at the vet along with four other kittehs.  Strangely, all five kittens are ginger.  Although Spot has been voted Mr Congeniality by the vet staff, for having the best personality.

We went to visit him and he gave me the biggest cuddle. And a smooch!

I truly hope someone will give him a home!  They will be most fortunate to happen on an adoptive cat that is so full of personality and affection.

Spot: Litter trained and ready for smooching!

Spot: Litter trained and ready for smooching!

Sexual Harrassment – East versus West

I was recently approached and leered at in a rather unpleasant manner by a creepy guy in a construction worker’s outfit (blue jumpsuit).

This happened while I was walking from my apartment building to the local supermarket in The Greens, which is a very Western-style community where people regularly walk around wearing a LOT less than I was at the time.

It is also private property  which is owned and controlled by Emaar, whose head office is within the community.  The surrounding gardens and pathways are patrolled heavily by security, as well as the always polite gardeners and cleaners that are employed here.

It made me uncomfortable enough to go home and change out of outfit I was wearing (navy knee-length dress and red shoes) and lodge a complaint with the Greens’ Security Office.  The security team was excellent; very kind and reassuring; and immediately went in search of the perp, which they found quickly.

The next day I was flipping through a magazine (Desert Fish) and found the very interesting Dubai Code of Conduct.

Desert Fish Magazine (for more about this great mag go to http://www.desertfishmag.com/template/about.html)

Desert Fish Magazine (for more about this great mag go to http://www.desertfishmag.com/template/about.html)

I was encouraged by the Security team to bring in the police, which I didn’t want to do.  Now I realise that my very Western belief in giving someone a warning, and not charging them,  is what saved this guy from almost certain deportation (see 1.4 Public Displays of Affection).

It was a very interesting cultural experience to see how these things are treated in the East, where the good of the community is seen as paramount to the rights of the individual.  But as a Westerner I just couldn’t get past my ethical imprinting that having a guy lose his job (and possibly his family’s livelihood?) was too high a price for any individual to pay for this.

I always thought of myself as a committed feminist.

But today, as I went outside feeling a little fearful of strangers, I have to ask myself, do I hold a set of ethics that enables sexual harrassment of women, in an effort to protect the rights of the men that do this?

This is a question that I never anticipated having to ask myself.

Dubai Code of Conduct

1. Social Ethics:

Dubai is characterised by the interaction of a large number of cultures and nationalities. However, the culture, customs and traditions of the United Arab Emirates and its people shall be respected by adopting courtesy and moderation and avoiding all types of improper behaviour in the Emirate.

1.1. The symbols of the state:

It is the duty of every citizen, resident and visitor to show respect for the symbols of the United Arab Emirates’ rulers, flag and national emblem. The abuse of any of those symbols is a crime punishable by law.

1,2. Decency:

An official business or business casual dress code shall be adopted by all visitors of Dubai’s official government buildings as well as business buildings and office towers. Access to Dubai’s official and business buildings may be denied if dress code is considered inappropriate.
In all other public places such as streets, shopping malls and restaurants, shorts and skirts shall be of appropriate length. Moreover, clothing shall not indecently expose parts of the body, be transparent, or display obscene or offensive pictures and slogans.

1.3. Beaches:

Beachgoers — men and women — shall wear conservative swimwear that is acceptable to Dubai’s culture. Swimwear shall not be worn outside the beach, as decent dress is the rule in the rest of the city. Nudity is strictly forbidden in every part of the city and is liable to be punished by imprisonment or deportation.

1.4. Public displays of affection:

Displays of affection among couples — whether married or not — in public places does not fit the local customs and culture. Holding hands for a married couple is tolerated but kissing and petting are considered an offence to public decency.
Public displays of affection, as well as sexual harassment or randomly addressing women in public places is liable to be punished by imprisonment or deportation.

1.5. Dancing and music:

Loud music and dancing are forbidden in public places like parks, beaches or residential areas and must be restricted to licensed venues only.

1.6. Public facilities:

Public facilities (i.e. public parks, benches, bus stops, etc.) shall be kept in good conditions. Concerned authorities must be informed of any damages.

2. Substance abuse:

The consumption of alcohol as well as any other drug or psychotropic substance is strictly prohibited in Islam and is punishable by law. Due to the large diversity of cultures and nationalities present in Dubai, alcohol consumption is closely regulated.

2.1. Drugs:

Holding, consuming, buying or selling any kind of drug — in any quantity — as well as being tested positive to any drug by the authorities in the UAE is considered a crime.

2.2. Alcohol consumption:

Alcohol consumption shall be confined to designated areas (i.e. licensed restaurants and venues that serve alcohol to their clients). Being caught under the effect of alcohol outside these places (even in light doses) can lead to a fine or incarceration.

2.3. Driving and alcohol:

The UAE has adopted a zero-tolerance policy in terms of driving under the effect of alcohol. Being caught driving with even the smallest dose of alcohol can lead to a fine, incarceration or deportation.

2.4. Purchasing alcohol:

Buying and selling alcohol is controlled by very strict laws. Alcohol is exclusively sold by specialised licensed stores. It can only be bought by holders of an alcohol-purchasing license (this license is only attainable by non-Muslims). Buyers shall respect the local culture by carrying their alcohol in paper bags such that it cannot be seen.

2.5. Smoking:

Smoking is not allowed in government facilities, offices, malls and shops. Smoking outside designated areas is subject to fine.

2.6. Prescriptions for some medicines:

Some medicines containing psychotropic substances are forbidden in the UAE. Their holders must carry a prescription from a UAE-licensed medical doctor. Visitors shall verify that their medicines are allowed in the UAE before entering the country.

Letters from Holland

One of the reasons I decided to write a blog about our experience moving to Dubai was that I had lost a lot of ‘letters home’ about our first international move to Holland.

I found a few today as I was tidying up my folders on the netbook.

Here is one from 2001.

Hi Win,

A busy couple of weeks have we had.  On the 1st August (ed: 1991) we moved from our previous abode to our current rental accommodation. 

This was not without incident due to an incompetent and infuriating makelaar (real estate agent).  Makelaars have much the same reputation in Holland as they do in Australia but this guy was particularly deserving. 

 Despite the fact that I had specified our lease caveats verbally and twice in writing, he had neglected to inform our landlord that we required a) a double bed in the guest room, and b) repainting of the children’s rooms to a neutral colour. 

The House in Dahliastraat, Badhoevedorp.

The House in Dahliastraat, Badhoevedorp.

 It was Richard who actually attended the key handover and final inspection and relayed back to me over the phone that the bed was missing and the bedroom walls remained shades of bright pink and yellow with gold stars. 

I was very pissed off to say the least and threatened to pull the pin on the whole deal if the bed wasn’t installed by tomorrow when my mum and her husband arrived from Oz for a week. 

(ed: What kind of fantasy world was I living in not following up to make sure this stuff was done?  And who the hell has visitors one day after they move into a new house?  God we were green!)

So a bed was purchased by our bamboozled owner from Ikea that night and installed by morning when we moved in.  He has also promised to paint the rooms at a date convenient for us.  Poor guy – he has been really great. 

He even offered to register the phone in his name as we would have to pay a 750NLG deposit (700AUD) to have it installed because we are foreigners.  Like most things here, the telephone will take around 2 weeks to connect.

 The house had been on the market for either sale or rental, as the owner occupiers were moving into larger premises in the same area (comforting – given we have some difficulty making sure we are moving into a desirable neighborhood.) 

Desirable neighborhoods here have generally been described to us being “empty of scarves”… a not very benevolent reference to the large population of Moroccans and Turks here.  Initially it felt very strange to us to hear such blatant racism in a country that appears so tolerant to the outside world.

(ed: Okay – I’m not even going to comment on this except to reiterate my previous statement… Green!)

 Expatriates were blasted in a newspaper last week by a local journalist with the headline written in Dutch that translated to “If you can read this, you can stay”. 

Globalisation has begun to erode the Dutch language and customs, with the emigration of skilled workers from English speaking nations, in particular American’s, whose culture is in many ways diametrically opposed to the European way of life. This understandably disturbs the patriotic Dutch population. 

(ed: hah! Globalisation my butt.  More like they were afraid of the non-integration of the Arabs.)

However, not all share such a hard line view as this journo. Still, it is an interesting lesson to be considered a ‘foreign pest’ when you have been a member of the powerful middle-class majority all your life in Australia, and when traveling, one of the world’s more popular tourists. 

The experience as an English speaking expat was exemplified by an encounter my mother and I had with a couple of very nice local women who were walking their dogs in the park near our new home.  Mum struck up a conversation with them about their dogs and they were very friendly and chatty, in perfect English naturally.  They asked mum if we were from Australia and then how long we were staying.  When Mum explained she was here for a week there was much nodding and smiling and concern about “such a long trip”.  When she explained that I was living here they smiled politely and said nothing more before they excused themselves. And that’s pretty much about it as far as social interaction. For better or worse, that’s the way it is.

 (ed: And that was nothing to do with being an English speaker.  That’s perfectly polite and normal behavoir for the Dutch (and many other cultures0.  Australians tend to invite you around for a barbeque as soon as they meet you. Not everyone does this.)

On to matters we have some control over… my mum arrived from Oz via London last week and stayed with us for 7 days.  I was able to take off two days from work to help her, and husband Ron Menz, see the sights. 

The reason I mention the last name is to explain one of my more embarrassing incidents on the telephone to their London hotel.  “Can you put me through to the Menz room please”, I asked politely. The receptionist was strangely silent.  Once I realized my mistake I sheepishly asked to speak to Mr. and Mrs. Menz. 

I’m sure that was the lobby joke for the evening. 

I was truly mortified. 

Anyhow, they were great guests and I think they had a great time.  We did the usual stuff and took them down the red-light district – their eyes might still be stuck to any number of objects down that street.  Mum tried to convince us to go for a smoke and a sex show which Richard though hugely amusing – because I had previously explained to him that it would be cold day in hell when I attended a sex show in the company of my mother.   

Our cats (katjes) arrived from Melbourne on the Saturday the same day that mum and Rob departed for their 8 week European tour.  We had to go to the airport to collect them and clear them through customs which was all very exciting and extremely stressful.  I did the sooky thing and cried when I saw them! 

They were fine and only Mozzle seemed slightly the worse for wear after their 24 hour flight.  He fell asleep constantly throughout the day and his back legs were a little stiff for the first day.  Overall, I’d venture that cats travel better than humans on long-haul flights!

 

 The season has changed with fierce rain and hail driving at the windows, giving us a very mild taste of what the winter will be like (god help us).  I am off to Paris next weekend to spend a couple more days with my mum, while Richard minds the cats. 

Think it might be time to invest in some winter woollies while I’m there.  Also feeling a previously unknown urge for a Hermes scarf.  Must be the weather (or an attack of logo-mania).

 I’ll send some pictures of our new neighbourhood and Paris soon.

 Love,

Sophie and Richard

Camel Milk

I was in the local supermarket the other day – Choithram’s – and I saw what I initially thought was a container of Caramel Milk for sale.

Then I realised it said, Camel Milk!

Awesome! I might even try some.

Camel Milk (Image Source: http://jasminengpl.blogspot.com)

Camel Milk (Image Source: http://jasminengpl.blogspot.com)

Rubbish Room

We have a waste disposal system in our apartment block.  To get rid of your rubbish you take the rubbish bag and walk down the hallway to the cryptically-named Rubbish Room. In the Rubbish Room there is a Rubbish Chute. To dispose of your rubbish you pull open the door and throw the rubbish down the chute.

Well, you’re meant to.

It seems a number of people take the sign on the door literally (the room where the rubbish goes?) and place their rubbish bags on the floor of the Rubbish Room.

I find this perplexing.

It’s particularly annoying when you cannot get to the chute because the floor is covered in half-open bags of dinner leftovers that look like the outcasts from an Asian  food hall.rubbish2

The Korean always looks pretty good. Thanks to my next-door neighbour for that one. Apparently she has never lived in an apartment building before with a rubbish chute.  I find this a bit weird because don’t almost all Koreans live in apartments? How do they get rid of their rubbish? That’s one thing I failed to investigate on my trip to Seoul last year.

Needless to say I shall be paying close attention next time.

You’d also be surprised how many dead kitchen  appliances can fit into a 1m square room. Of course, it’s all in the stacking.

I once found a couch in there, upended.

This is how I will die in Dubai…

Killed by some mother*&@$er at a Zebra crossing!

Crossing the road at zebra crossings is probably the thing I hate most about Dubai.  At least half the driving population just drive straight through them! Once some guy actually honked his horn at me to get off the road when I was walking across one!  Damn!!!

Two nights ago I saw a small accident where a car rear-ended a 4wd which was stopped at the zebra crossing in the Greens. The driver of the car got out and waved his arms around at the 4wd driver (who had also alighted from his vehicle) saying something along the lines of, ‘Why did you just stop like that?’

The 4wd guy pointed to the 3 kids crossing the zebra crossing!

What you need to understand about this scenario is that it was a roundabout with zebra crossings across all four entrances to the roundabout.  The traffic was turning right, and the rear-end collision happened when the 4wd stopped at the second zebra crossing it needed to traverse to get through the intersection. The idiot who rear-ended the 4wd had already been through one zebra crossing before he turned to the right.  There is no possibility that another zebra crossing was not there. Anyway, Dubai is like a small town and everyone knows where they are going.  Surprise was not an element at work here.

It was a warm night and the streets were crawling with pedestrians going out to eat al fresco, or kids riding around on their bikes in this residential area.

It really makes me mad when I read an article like this about some poor guy crossing at the Zebra crossing and getting killed while the driver flees the scene.

Yeah, you better flee mother#$)%er!  When the Dubai authorities catch up with you (which they surprisingly often do) you’re ass is TOAST!

I hope he is sweating bullets!

French expatriate killed in road accident

From Gulf News

By Rayeesa Absal, Staff Reporter
Published: March 12, 2009, 10:51

Abu Dhabi: A French man was run over by a car on Wednesday morning while he was getting across the road using a zebra crossing, officials told Gulf News.

The accident happened around 11.30 am close to the Emirates Palace along Corniche Road.

The man has been identified as 45 year old S.J, an official said, on conditions of anonymity.

“As per initial reports, the man was trying to cross the road using the zebra crossing adjacent to the Emirates Palace hotel on the way towards Marina mall”, he said.

The driver who caused the accident reportedly fled the scene.

As many as twenty-two pedestrians were killed and 18 others were severely injured between January 2009 and February 26, according to the latest figures released by Abu Dhabi police.