A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Archive for the ‘Dubai’ Category

window-shopping the want ads

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 21, 2009

Most days I love my current job – just like I love each and every pair of shoes in my closet. But just like with my beloved shoes, I’m always on the lookout for a new pair of heels – er, job – to love.

Hence I eagerly scroll through the job postings that AME Info sends my way. I’ve never seen a job that I would actually 1) qualify for and 2) be interested in, but I do love reading the descriptions.

The latest featured position – that of general manager of a Saudi Arabian radio station – caught my eye at once:

Our Client in KSA is urgently looking for a General Manager for their radio station. The general manager would be reporting directly to the CEO of the Media Group. Salary will not be a bar for the right candidate.

“Salary will not be a bar for the right candidate”? Since when did radio become such a lucrative field?

At least with that job, the applicant knows the industry. Here’s a more mysterious want ad:

CEO
Location : Kabul – Afghanistan
Salary:  $100,000 – $150,000 per year
Applicants should have over 15 years experience and be prepared to be based in Afghanistan. This is a challenging yet rewarding role for a senior candidate.

“Challenging yet rewarding” – I bet. Challenge number one: identifying just what you will be the CEO of.

Finally, I took a peek at all the jobs currently listed with a “Lebanon” location. There were three:

Finance Analyst – Dubai

Senior Business Planning Analyst – Dubai

Human Resources Manager – Lebanon.

Um. Just to recap: I chose the “narrow by location” option and selected “Lebanon”. Guess the sour economy hasn’t soured the Lebanese on the Emirati exodus.

Posted in advertising, Afghanistan, Arab world, Dubai, economics, Lebanon, radio | Leave a Comment »

Sheikh Mo and the “family business”

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 22, 2009

This morning I had another chance to count my blessings. The Internet has given me so much: information, news, opinions, and many new friends.

You may have heard of my latest friend – he runs a city-state known for its real estate boom, not to mention its Burj. Yes, that’s right: my newest friend is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. And boy-oh-boy, does he have an interesting view on Dubai and the rest of the Maktoum clan.

Here is his latest email, with the usual commentary:

Dear Friend,

Regarding possible investment. I wish to bring to your notice my interest to partnership with you in this great business opportunity.

[Sheikh Mo, your eloquence seems to have deserted you – as has your fluency in English!]

As an investment minded entity, it is my desire to fund already existing business as well as set up new business structure provided there is security for the investment.

[“Entity”? Have you moved beyond the “royal we” to some non-human status?]

I officially bring to your notice my interest to partnership with you in this investment venture with me funding the investment.

But we must agree on working modalities/an agreement that will guide the investment.

[Absolutely. I believe in transparency for all business deals – not only the ones involving state leaders.]

I run a family business and will not want any of my family members to be aware of my intention to invest outside our family business venture.

[Um. I’ve often wondered how the Maktoums see Dubai – and now I know. Sounds like a great family, too – very trusting and supportive.]

Secondly, your presence will be required for proper signing of all contract documents and fund hand over.

[No problem – I have several friends in Dubai and would love a chance to visit. When will you be sending me my ticket :D?]

You have to draw-up a business proposal and forward a copy of the business proposal to Mr. Edward Gibson, My foreign investment adviser (PA), for a proper study and we shall get back to you with

{A}: Funding Modalities

{B}: Working Agreement

I am interested in this deal but for security reasons, I will not like to be directly involved.

[Right – because your family wants all the family money put into Dubai. I understand – and love the capital “M” in “My”. But isn’t “PA” shorthand for “personal assistant”, not “foreign investment advisor”?]

Please contact my foreign investment adviser in London, U.K. to arrange for a formal meeting and funding modalities.

Your contacts:

Direct Mobile:

Home Tel:

Office Tel:

Your Position :

You can contact him with the following:

Name: Edward Gibson

Email: info.gibson.ward@gawab.com

[“Gawab”? As in, jawab but with a masri accent? Why does this not sound British to me?]

Endeavor to update me with your agreement with him.

Thank You.

Sheikh Al Maktoum

almaktoum.sheikh@gmail.com

Will do, my sheikh 🙂 .

Posted in advertising, Arab world, Dubai | Leave a Comment »

when honesty becomes a test

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 6, 2009

Yesterday I came across this very interesting piece from Abu Dhabi’s The National, written by Hani Bathish (formerly of the Daily Star), called “Honesty is not always the best marriage policy“.

Its a sexy title, but the actual article addresses a much more substantive issue, and shows the Dubai Courts’ family section in a very progressive, pro-woman light. The “policy” in question belongs to husbands who ask their wives to provide the details of their romantic pasts (and, since this is Dubai, “romantic pasts” seems largely limited to crushes, phone conversations, and maybe some handholding) as a sign of trust and full disclosure, and then hold these pasts against them.

I’m not sure that I agree with family counselor al Hamadi’s view that “anything that hurts a partner’s feelings must not be revealed”, but men – or women – who invoke honesty as a test are merely being manipulative.

Here’s the article:

DUBAI // The Dubai Courts’ marriage guidance section yesterday took the rare step of issuing a public statement advising women not to reveal details of previous relationships to their husbands.

The Family Guidance and Reformation Section warned that absolute honesty in a marriage may turn “from a blessing to a curse and may serve to destroy a family” if the information undermined trust or hurt a partner’s feelings.

“It is not the husband’s right after marriage to demand his wife tell him her life history nor ask her questions which would only contribute to increased divisiveness in married life,” wrote Abdel Aziz al Hamadi, a family counsellor in the guidance section.

The statement was prepared after a woman’s query to the section, which offers counselling to couples seeking divorce. The service seeks to resolve marital differences and, where possible, prevent divorce.

The Government has said divorce rates in the UAE have risen significantly in recent years.

In May, the Islamic Authority issued a sermon on divorce, urging men, who often initiate divorce, not to do so lightly.

A sermon in August urged parents not to force their children into unwanted marriages.

Mr al Hamadi said it was counterproductive for a wife to tell her husband about any previous relationships.

He said such revelations would in most cases sow the seeds of doubt and mistrust and have a psychological impact on a husband that would take him years to get over.

“A smart husband would do better not to ask his wife after marriage to reveal her life history, as by so doing he shows that he entered into a relationship with a woman without knowing anything about her,” Mr al Hamadi said.

He added that it was a man’s right to ask such questions before marriage, but not after.

“Such questions as ‘who did you love before me?’, ‘to whom were you engaged?’ or ‘with whom did you go out?’ only serve to increase divisions between a couple and are a warning sign of the imminent end of the relationship.”

He said honesty was a pillar of a happy married life, and that there was no alternative for developing a loving, intimate relationship, but opinions differed over whether such honesty should be absolute or selective.

“Honesty between couples is not as some suggest absolute, since by such a definition honesty turns from a blessing to a curse and may serve to destroy a family, especially if either or both spouses are not mature or understanding enough or have enough trust in each other to accept certain truths,” Mr al Hamadi said, adding that anything that hurts a partner’s feelings must not be revealed. At the same time he stressed that honesty remained the “spinal column” around which a sound family life is built.

“Many forget that a believer is commanded to be discreet concerning events in his or her life in which he or she veered of the straight and narrow,” he said.

“As for a spouse’s life outside the home, whether in relations with friends or a spouse’s own family, such details must not be revealed to a partner, as revealing them does not serve any purpose and friends’ and family’s confidence must be kept.”

The guidance section often deals with requests from wives in desperate situations, either suffering from husbands who are abusive or fail to provide for them adequately, seeking a divorce.

The section’s counsellors endeavour to resolve their differences.

Posted in Arab world, Dubai, family, romance | 1 Comment »

Listening In: Arabian Business reader comments on Dubai’s cancelled New Year

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 3, 2009

I enjoy reader comments, particularly on newspaper sites, and particularly in response to articles of local (or, in small countries, national) importance. I learn a great deal from them – well, at least from the ones that don’t degenerate into name calling, as some do! – : they tell me how local readers, for whom the article’s subject is a pressing and personal issue, feel.

Recently, I have been following reader comments on an Arabian Business article about Sheikh Maktoum’s decision to order all public New Year’s celebrations canceled.

The first responses – and many subsequent ones – were positive and wholly supportive, like this one, by a reader named Na:

God bless the ruler!!!
And may our blessings be with all the palestinians at this tough time.

Others were less moved by Maktoum’s decision, like Rob Tolley, who wrote:

Do you think not celebrating New Year is going to make a difference? Instead of canceling all celebrations if UAE feels that strong about the issue, send in some financial aid and military to assist.

When I last checked the comments, there were 83, amassed over several days. This article – and Sheikh Mohammed’s decision – touched a nerve, and people were clearly eager to comment on it. I don’t want to overstate the tenor of these comments, but I did notice a few trends. Those who approved of the cancellation tended to emphasize ethnic solidarity or religious behavior, like Yaseen:

Sheikh Mohammed has demonstrated what an exemplary leader he is. Muslim nations need to show a strong stand against Israel and demonstrate clear support of Palestine…. Well done Sheikh for doing exactly that!!! Esp in the month of Muharram – a time when the sahabe demonstrated their true faith in the face of aggression!

Muharram is the first month of the Muslim calendar, and historically a time when wars and other military ventures ceased (in the Christian world, Lent and other feast/fast times were also periods of truce). The “Sahaba” were Muhammad’s companions, who stood by him despite the many hardships that the early Muslim community endured.

Those who disagreed with Maktoum’s decision tended to say that it was either unhelpful or unrelated to Palestine, or that it would harm Dubai’s growing reputation as a tourist destination.

For example, Bahraintaxi suggested that Dubai’s ethical behavior might be better off if it started with a focus on the moral issues of domestic life:

Personally, I’m no great fan of New Year celebrations, but this is very odd. What on earth is the connection between New Year celebrations and what is happening currently in Palestine? What right does ANYONE have to tell us what we can and cannot celebrate and when? This is facile gesture politics: if Dubai wants to take a high ethical stand on political and social issues, it doesn’t take a genius to think of 101 things that ought be be banned in the city before New Year celebrations are!

Wael put the cancellation in terms of tourists and the individual’s right to choose: I think this is very bad for Dubai’s image as a touristic destination. There is no respect for the individual choice. I guess the end of the Dubai mania has already started.

And some suggested that a more effective tactic would be to ask hotels to donate a percentage of the night’s take to aid the people of Gaza.

In addition to calling for solidarity or religiously appropriate behavior, those who supported the decision described it as a triumph of “conscience” over “business” – a sign that Dubai would put humanity first.

I understand that in the end only the big public parties were canceled, or were restricted to eating and drinking, no dancing or loud music. I’m torn about the value of this: my parents and I did talk about the incongruity of celebrating the New Year – or any celebration – while people elsewhere were suffering. But we agreed that staying home, in and of itself, would do little to ameliorate their situation. Our feeling was: celebrate, but lift your voice in support of those suffering, and send money to aid those in need.

You can read the ongoing discussion here.

Posted in Arab world, Dubai, holidays, Islam | Leave a Comment »

the power of Dubai

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 24, 2008

I was out of town this past weekend and largely Internetless – my apologies to you and my now-overloaded Gmail for the silence.

On my flight home, I noticed this advertisement in my in-flight magazine:

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The advertisement is for a company called Energy in Focus, a company that evidently produces a newsletter that reports on trends in the energy industry. The website is a bit bizarre: the URL energyinfocus.net defaults to another one called secureyourfinancialfuture.com; includes only the home page; and has a short video that focuses heavily on military images and praying Muslim men. Apparently the “protein for your portfolio” that it promises is fuel for the fear its reportage inspires.

Anyway. Fascinating as this company is, it wasn’t the sample text of its newsletter that attracted me to the advertisement – it was the cocktail napkin from the five-star “Hotel Regent Geneve Dubai”.

Let me start with what is really a side-note issue: This hotel doesn’t seem to actually exist. At least, I can’t find any mention of it online, which is rare for five-star hotels.

Why do I say that this is a side-note issue? Because most people reading this magazine would not have heard of the “Regence Geneve” hotel brand in any case. But they can see the five stars, and they can see that the name is French. And they can definitely see “Dubai”.

What this tells me is that “Dubai” and accompanying signs of luxury living are now becoming signs that the American public is expected to recognize. Here I would argue that the reader is meant to take away the message that the business professionals who truly know the oil and gas industry read Energy in Focus as a briefing document when they travel the region on business trips.

I can’t imagine a Dubai reference appearing in an advertisement five years ago – much less a Dubai hotel napkin. Its fascinating to me how the world changes – both in reality and also in our perception of it.

Posted in advertising, Americans, Arab world, Arabic, Dubai, economics, hotels, media, words | 3 Comments »

learning to brunch

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 16, 2008

Last week I received a charming news update from AME Info, titled: “Dubai hotels issue guidelines on brunch etiquette”.

Interesting, I thought to myself, wondering what exactly this entailed. In the US, brunch seems to be either a wholesome post-church family activity or a sluggish friends & lovers post-Saturday night-drinking gathering. Happily, the two groups usually brunch at different times (the churchers are up-and-at-’em a bit earlier than the partiers) and different venues – but both seem to do fine without guidelines.

What could these guidelines be? I wondered. A step-by-step guide to following either of the US models seemed excessive; and more basic hints like “napkin in your lap” seemed both condescending and also, if truly necessary, important for all meals – not only brunch.
Several hotels in Dubai have begun to inform guests of the etiquette expected of them at Friday brunches, Gulf News has reported. Al Qasr Hotel, part of the Jumeirah Hotel Group, has started leaving cards on dining tables that list the do’s and don’ts of brunch behaviour. The move comes as a British couple was found guilty of having sex on a Dubai beach after consuming a large amount of alcohol at one of the city’s brunches.

I typed in “Dubai brunch guide” and happily this article, from Australia’s Daily Telegraph, soon set me straight: brunch was the occasion for distributing the guides – not their focus.

Guests at one of Dubai’s most popular hotels are being handed ‘etiqutte guides’ at brunch to avoid being arrested for showing too much public affection after two British tourists were convicted for having sex on the beach nearby.

The Madinat Jumeirah hotel advised that guests should “employ discretion” and “anything more than a peck on the cheek” could result in police involvement, reports the UK’s Daily Mail.

The guides suggest the hotels guests could be arrested for inappropriate public displays, are left on tables at the hotel’s weekly brunch event.

Not quite as much fun as imagining a guide that instructed people following model one in the fine art of determining whether orders of sugar-spike items like cinnamon rolls and pancakes are really the best choice for one’s children. Or instructed people following model two in how much grease will soothe one’s alcohol-ravaged tummy, and how much will further irritate it.

But a very interesting testimony to Dubai’s ongoing efforts to navigate between its heavily promoted overseas image as a place of fun and magic, and its need to remain accountable to Emiratis who appear to feel concerned that their culture and mores are slipping away.


Posted in advertising, Arab world, church, Dubai, family, food, nightlife, parenting, tourism, words | 1 Comment »

ahlan w sahlan: guests welcome

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 5, 2008

Now that we have started the moving process, its a good time to look around for extra help friends. So when H mentioned that his friend M would like to come from Dubai to visit us for a few days, we were both delighted.

H is happy because 1) M is his friend and 2) hosting him means that H now has a legitimate excuse to eat out every night. No more fussing with napkins, silverware, or a fussy diamond for the rest of the week – Hallelujah :)! And I am happy because having another strong male in the house for a few days means that I am off the hook when it comes to moving our “vintage” television – not to mention the 75″ bookshelf and 87-lb. air conditioner.

As for M, it might sound like he is getting the raw end of the deal. But the longer he stays, we’ve realized, the better his creature comforts will be. When he arrives tonight, all we have to offer him is a spot on the couch. But the new inflatable bed arrives tomorrow, and if he can hold out until Thursday, a matching set of high thread count sheets will arrive as well.

Of course, by Thursday M will be leaving us for a weekend in Las Vegas – for “work”, which I suppose is a legitimate reason if one is coming from Dubai. When he comes back next week for another few days with us, he’ll have all of the above, and more. By then, we should be fully ensconced in the new apartment, and M will have been our first New York guest – twice 🙂 .

Posted in Americans, Arab world, Dubai, friends, home, travel | Leave a Comment »

Crossing the Gulf

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on May 20, 2008

Yesterday I received this jpg of the latest issue of Time Magazine, from the Europe edition:

Argh. Its a striking cover – some bright graphic artist has used bullets to replicate the Dubai skyline. And the title of the “special report” is cute: “A Gulf Apart: the Divided World of the Middle East”.

But the contrast between Lebanon and the Gulf, like the article itself, is a bit shallow. And it seems to be justly irritating a number of Lebanese bloggers, including M. (Or maybe its just that we all received this jpg from the same source :).)

At any rate, Time has a number of good correspondents active in Lebanon – meaning that this “special report” should have more substance and less fluff. And at a minimum it should acknowledge that much of the Gulf’s success has been due to the hard labor of Lebanese expats!

Posted in Arab world, Beirut, Dubai, Lebanon, media, words | 7 Comments »

Road closed: a holiday in Dubai

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 13, 2008

I’ve been spending this chilly Sunday catching up on a few odds and ends (the desk in my salon is directly below my heater, so its the best place to be). My friend S, who lives in Dubai, came online mid-afternoon with some intriguing news.

Apparently tomorrow has been declared a public holiday in Dubai, thanks to President Bush’s visit. No, not to honor him – to protect him. The emirate will be closing so many roads, starting with Sheikh Zayed (the city’s main artery), which closes at six this evening, that maintaining normal working conditions was deemed impractical.

S lives on Sheikh Zayed itself. I’m not even sure if they will allow us out on the balconies of our apartment, S said to me on MSN.

I bet not. And what an interesting sign all these security precautions are. On the one hand, they are a sign of the power that Dubai’s ruler wields. And on the other hand, they are a sign of its limits. Dubai’s security officials must be deeply concerned about opposition to Bush’s visit – and their ability to keep him safe without resorting to a strong-arm fiat.

Not that most Dubai residents are complaining about the holiday, I imagine – even if they do have to stay indoors!

Posted in Americans, Arab world, Dubai, friends, holidays, politics | 3 Comments »

an overwhelming sense of specialness

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on June 1, 2007

Sometimes life in the Arab World drives me nuts.

There are aspects of life here that infuriate me because they are so far from life in the United States (and other democracies).

One of these aspects is the delusion of irresistible specialness that afflicts people – and especially men – here.

For example, standing in line at General Security the other day, I watched person after person enter the room, look at the line and … go directly to the counter, lean over the person currently at the front, and attempt to jump the line.

After all, why should he (or, in some cases, she) have to wait? He was special.

Thank God the General Security officers were not as impressed with each person’s sense of self-importance as the person him (or, in some cases, her) self was. They told each and every special person that special or no, they had to stand at the end of the line.

Being told to stand in line is not a common experience for people here. I watched their faces, and saw: shock. horror. dismay. How could they not be special? How could they be forced to … wait?

Notions of citizenship and equality can be difficult to come by in this region – particularly when it comes to equality before the law. I noticed this Associated Press article online today, and it made my blood boil:

UAE presses Bush on child jockey lawsuit

MIAMI, Florida (AP) — The United Arab Emirates’ prime minister has asked for President Bush’s help winning dismissal of a federal lawsuit that accuses the country of forcing thousands of children to work as jockeys racing camels.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, also the ruler of Dubai, stressed the UAE’s role as “a key partner in the global war against terrorism” in a letter to Bush filed in federal court last week. Three American military bases are in the Emirates, along the Persian Gulf.

Maktoum asked Bush for his “personal attention” to the lawsuit filed in Miami federal court, which the prime minister said “is causing an unnecessary interference with the good and mutually valuable relations” between the two countries.

Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said Wednesday he was not aware of the sheikh’s letter, which was dated February 11. He added that “typically, the White House does not get involved in legal matters such as that.”

The State Department did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

In December, however, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote a note assuring the Emirates’ foreign minister that her department was watching the case and praising steps taken to address the child jockey issue.

“We appreciate the efforts made by the United Arab Emirates to regulate the treatment of camel jockeys,” Rice said in the December 26 note, also recently added to the court file.

The jockey lawsuit, filed in September, seeks unspecified money damages for about 10,000 boys and thousands more relatives. It alleges the boys, from countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mauritania and Sudan, were abducted and sold over a 30-year period to ride racing camels in various Persian Gulf countries.

The Emirates is trying to persuade a federal judge and governments around the world that it has adequately dealt with the issue by creating a program to compensate, provide services for and repatriate the child jockeys involved. That program was recently expanded and extended through April 2009.

The Emirates’ aggressive legal and public-relations efforts follow the international dispute last year over the purchase of some U.S. ports operations by Dubai Ports World, a deal critics said threatened U.S. security. It eventually went through, although the company is in the process of selling the operations to a U.S. firm.

The attorney for the Emirates, Joseph G. Finnerty III, said the sheikh’s letter to Bush was “part of normal and necessary diplomatic relations between two allies.” More important, he said, was the agreements the Emirates recently completed with the affected countries regarding children who raced camels.

U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga has scheduled a July 16 hearing on the Emirates’ motion to dismiss the case. The Emirates contend the lawsuit should be thrown out because U.S. courts have no jurisdiction and its rulers are entitled to sovereign immunity.

Among other things, the lawsuit contends that Miami is a proper venue because Emirates family members own horse farms in Ocala and because no other court in the world would adequately deal with the claims.

And there it is: that overwhelming sense of specialness that says:

Because we are a global partner in the war on terror, you should bankrupt the US judicial system in order to prevent our being prosecuted for our abuse of little boys.

Maybe we should rethink our choice of partners.

Posted in Americans, Arab world, babies, Beirut, citizenship, Dubai, media, news, politics, tourism, traffic, travel, vanity | 2 Comments »