Sunday, 14 September 2008


This last weekend I went to go and see an apartment in Dubai Marina. The apartment block has fantastic finishes and great facilities. It seemed too good to be true... it was. This is the Marina View from the balcony.

It looks great until you notice the tower crane about to start building the next tower, slap between my potential view and the Marina. So it was a no. I've decided that the Marina is still too much of a building site and isn't quite ready for me yet. It's also about 70km from my office. It's a shame, the view fom the other side is fantastic, but unfortunately well outside my budget.

I'll end up paying about double the rental for a one bedroomed unfurnished apartment in Dubai as I'll get for renting out my three bedroomed detatched and fully furnished house outside Edinburgh. I just can't understand what's driving this property market. Rentals here are generally required to be paid a year or six months in advance as well. It's madness.


I've just realised my blog must seem like a constant gripe. Don't get me wrong, I'm having an absolute blast. I just seem to typify the "Grumpy Old Man" who enjoys a good moan. Which brings me to todays blog post:

I've had my licence for just over two weeks now and I've been an incredibly restrained driver up till this morning. Today I used my hooter for the first time, whereas the rest of the population use it about as often as they use the brake pedal!

The traffic was impossible this morning, it took me two hours ten minutes to drive the 20km to work. If it wasn't 40 degrees and 80% humidity outside I could probably have walked it quicker. I'd travelled about 50m in half an hour and this huge black 4x4 with totally blacked out windows forced his way aggressively in front of me from a side street, but because his vehicle is such a behemoth, couldn't turn within a single lane, so was trapped in my path at about a 45 degree angle for about 5 minutes. I lined him up in my sights and let rip on the hooter. While it made absolutely no difference to the traffic situation, it made me feel better. Have I just become one of THEM?

The bus driver who takes the other staff to work from the same hotel left 40 minutes after me and arrived at work 15 minutes before me. He drives like Michael Schumaker and getts a regular hooting at. Perhaps it's me that needs to change.

The main street in Sharjah has been blocked off and dug up and will be closed for 2 years. I have a SatNav which insists on directing me back to this main street that you cannot travel on or cross. It's hopeless. Why don't SatNav's allow you to program in streets to avoid? The roads / diversions change here on a daily basis with diversions and new construction changing continuously. SatNav mapping can at best give you a rough idea of the direction you should be heading.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Worlds largest construction site

It is often said that Dubai is the worlds largest construction site and that a quarter of the worlds tower cranes are here. Even if it's not true, I could easily believe it. The amount of construction work is truly mind boggling. Quite who is going to live in these buildings when they are all finished intrigues me.

At the moment there are hundreds of thousands of Expats working here to do all this construction work (myself included) and we need place to stay, but who's going to live in all these properties when the construction industry slows down.

Burj Dubai (under const.) currently the worlds tallest building.

We are also in the process of constructing the worlds largest traffic jam. The transport infrastucture around all these tower cities is limited to say the least. Most towers have sufficient basement parking for the occupants, but in my humble opinion, the service roads seem totally inadequate (apologies to any Dubai Transport Planners reading this). An ex-colleague of mine used to tell a story that 'Elisha Otis', the man who invented the safety elevator, was also responsible for inventing the traffic jam, as high density accomodation became a reality.

Jokingly the other day I said to colleagues that I hoped that Dubai wasn't in a seizmic zone or else we could be in for the worlds largest game of toppling domino's. What happens today... we had an earthquake. OK, the epicentre was across the Gulf in Iran about 120 km away, but we cerainly felt the tremors. Fortunately there's been no damage that I've heard of, but it does make one think.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Becoming a local

I finally got my Sharjah drivers licence the other day. I had to pass a blood test and an eye test but fortunately for me not the drivers test (UK licenses are a straight swap), which apparently can take several attempts, multiple lessons and several months.

I was concerned about driving on the right hand side for the first time, but it's been a breeze. Í've probably racked up 500 km in the first weekend and can't imagine what I was worried about. I can now drive almost like a local, although I still haven't picked up some of the local habits such as changing lanes randomly to gain a miniscule advantage, while talking on my mobile phone and hooting randomly at anything and everything.

The one error that I have been making is trying to leave a two second space between me and the car in front. When the local drivers see such an extrordinary sight they just can't help but change lanes to fill the gap, forcing me to slow down and leave another gap, etc. etc. I could end up going in reverse if I'm not careful.

I was invited out to my first Dubai Friday Brunch last Friday. What a brilliant concept! You go to a swish hotel, pay up front and eat and drink as much as you like from 12:30 till 4pm. I had the privelage of being invited join a party of 42 at one of the top Dubai hotels, the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. The food, drink and company was absolutely superb! I look forward to the end of Ramadan when such cultural activities can resume.