Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Winter Begone!

Since the Dubai 7s the weather in Dubai has been unseasonably cool with the odd rainy days. I am sure that the "boys in blue" or construction workers have appreciated more than others the cooler months.

I have missed the sun a little and have been enjoying the summer in Johannesburg, South Africa this week. On my previous two trips, security aspects have ruled my thoughts. This time however, while I am still ultra cautious, I am feeling much more relaxed and am enjoying my time here. The weather has helped a lot - dry, warm (35C) and sunny - this has led to a number of outdoor coffees and al-fresco dining. Even having breakfast outside at 6.30am seems to lift my soul and mood for the rest of the day.

Once again the local team and business partners have looked after me really well providing a packed agenda and excellent entertainment. However I am continually reminded where I am when I pick up the newspaper and read about the latest gun crime or I go to the office to find the power out for most of the day.

Still this has continued to add flavor to this trip and hopefully there will be more when I visit Cape Town this weekend. I hope the snow has melted in the UK by then....

A Little Piece of Dubai in the Sky

When I arrived in Dubai back at the end of June the amount of tall buildings and tall buildings being built is something that you can not help but notice. At the time I was ignorant of the Burj Dubai tower and surrounding development. However after finding out that the Burj Dubai is goaled to be the world's tallest building had led me to following its progress closely.

June the 28th the Burj Dubai was 54 stories high. Just recently the tower passed the 100 floor mark and had
has joined the league of only six super-tall buildings in the world that are 100 or more. I find this startlingly a floor every 3days! The final height of the tower is a closely guarded secret but it is thought it will be at least 800 meters and maybe as high as 900 meters with over 160 usable floors.

Across Dubai there are numerous other tall buildings going up being built by the major developers Emaar, Nahkheel, Dubai Properties and Damac. By far and away the largest is Emaar whose projects in Dubai Marina, Downtown and villa developments such as the Springs, the Meadows and Emirates Hills have all been in staggering demand from new release and on the re-sale market. This has been predominantly driven by the lack of completed properties and influx of expatriates (like myself) coming to Dubai as well as people speculating on this fast moving market. The net effect of this is that rent is expensive - though now capped at only 7% a year (a great move) and the housing market continues to surge.

As a result of this I have made the decision to buy into the Emaar dream, and have purchased an apartment in Dubai Marina. It will be a year before it is ready but I can watch it being built from my current rented apartment. Quite a unique position...roll on January 2008

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Dubai Reds

After some press speculation it looks like the Football Club I have been a life long supporter of will be taken over by the Dubai International Capital Group.

I am pleased Liverpool FC have found investors of this nature and I think the long term success and outlook of the club will be assured. The promise of a new ground and some further investment into a few key players will really bolster things.

It took an old friend and even bigger Liverpool supporter than myself to find the Dubai Liverpool Supporters club - know as the Dubai Reds. Checking their website one of their goals is:

"To make watching televised Liverpool matches an ‘event’ to be enjoyed with fellow supporters."

This really is the tradition I got use to during the four years I lived in Liverpool. The "match" was usually a major family event with food and drinks put on and many people invited over. Even if the result did not go Liverpool's way - it was always good humoured and enjoyable.

My only question is will the Dubai Reds be serving scouse?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

To Wii or PS3

Just prior to Christmas Nintendo with their Wii and the Sony PS3 went head to head for the "hot" new console of the year. The battle was over really before it had begun with the latest figures showing Nintendo outselling Sony 3:1 - which shows that playability and a low price seemed to have more appeal than graphical eye candy and Blu-Ray movies.

Dubai being a consumer playground both consoles were available the day after the release. Some stores were charging as much as 6000AED for a 60GB PS3 - similar to the launch of the Xbox 360. Post the festive season the PS3 in Dubai can now be picked up for almost half that - making it close to the UK launch price. The same is not true for the Nintendo Wii while only $249 in the US it is still consistently 2500AED everywhere I have looked. So going against the market I brought a PS3 and will import a Wii from the UK for more sensible money.

The PS3 has received a lot of criticism since its launch for being too expensive, too heavy, needs firmware patching out of the box and a poor selection of launch titles.

However I look at the PS3 as providing -

1. A quiet Blu-Ray player - the HD-DVD drive for the Xbox 360 just makes too much noise (great picture though)
2. A simply stunning photo album style slide show - putting to shame anything even Apple has delivered
3. 1080i/720p - is excellent for gaming on large screen displays
4. Resistance: Fall of man - is a great game and will be a classic - I prefer it over Gears of War the stand out title for the Xbox 360 right now
5. Breathes new life into my old PS2 collection

I also can not wait for the first lot of triple A titles - Tekken 6 and Heavenly Sword in particular. In the mean time anyone know where I can buy Blu-Ray movies in Dubai?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Going a bit barmy

I am now back in Dubai following a couple of weeks in Australia. It was very relaxing and actually it was nice to get some warm weather as Dubai has been decidedly cold and wet.

After spending a fun filled week in Perth I headed over to Melbourne to stay with an old friend of mine and also to go and watch the Day 3 of the 4th Ashes Test. A lot has been written about the capitulation of England to Australia in this series and the Melbourne and Sydney tests were about as comprehensive wins could be.

I found solace in that spending a day with the "Barmy Army" was really a great cure all. For eight hours I sang and drank with them. Wickets were tumbling (14 that day) but this only encouraged them to sing louder and longer. The Australian fans were all a bit bemused by it - to be fair English sports supporters have decades of refining their songs to have poke fun with good humor at not only the players and the away support but themselves as well.

Here is a little example of "Jimmy" one of the Barmy Army's Generals leading with his "one song":

After England had suffered an innings and 99 run defeat - the Barmy Army were not to be moved. They stood there and sang their Anthem for 90 minutes till moved on by the police "We are the army, the Barmy Army, we are mental and we are mad, we are the loyalist cricket supporters the world has ever had" and repeat...

However the song is true in so much " we are the loyalist cricket supporters the world has ever had" - I left with the feeling that England's cricket team on their recent run of form are very lucky to retain such supporters. Good on you lads.