UAE National Day - Car Celebrations

Every year on 2nd December it's UAE National Day to commemorate the date of the signing of the union between 6 of the 7 Emirates (Ras Al Khaimah joined a bit later). It's a public holiday and it is marked in different ways, i.e. by fireworks, posters and decorations throughout the emirates and laser-light displays on prominent landmark buildings. It's all very nice.
In the month prior to the occasion, the supermarkets, car dealers and petrol stations are full of UAE-branded merchandise to dress up one's vehicle for the event. That seems to be what most locals and some expats really do on their own: pimp their ride Emirati style. 
For a nation that has come such a long way since it was founded only 42 years ago, it seems that it is the car that best symbolises the wealth and prosperity of the Emirates. Some would even say that the UAE went from camel to Cadilac in 25 years, so perhaps it is indeed very appropriate that patriotic affection for one's country be shown through the appearance of one's means of transport. One thing is certain: cars mean the world to most people in the emirates. 

Some people and companies do it modestly: a flag mounted on a pick-up or a poster in the rear window. Others go the full monty and spend thousands of Dirhams doing their car up with everything from complete body wraps to posters of Emirs and Crown Princes to really show their love for the ruling royals.
So elaborate are some of these festive decorations that Dubai Police has found it necessary to issue a Decree to ascertain that road safety is not jeopardized too much by the bling.

Congratulations UAE on this 42nd anniversary of the union - and have fun with the celebrations. Just be careful, please.

It's real, It's from Karama

I reckon everyone who has ever lived in Dubai or been out seeing friends will know just why this is funny.

Dubai awarded World Expo 2020

Today, Dubai has won the World Expo 2020 after a vote in Paris.
Congratulations to Dubai and its people on the win.
The venue will be located near the Jebel Ali Equestrian facilities and a huge, purpose-built, sustainable exhibition centre will be constructed to house the event.
By orders of Sheikh Mohammed, all schools are closed for the next 6 days from tomorrow to celebrate the World Expo award and the UAE NAtional Day on 2nd December.

Bringing the Dubai Expo 2020 theme to life |

Signs in the UAE - Part 2

For years, I have had it as a hobby to collect photos of funny and/or strange signs whenever I came across one. Dubai and the rest of the UAE is one of the easiest places I have been to spot them. The multi-ethnicity and cosmopolitan nature of the city and its inhabitants from literally all corners of the world makes it difficult not to loose things in translation from time to time when trying to convey an otherwise appropriate warning or message in English.
Here are some examples from different parts of Dubai and a couple from Sharjah too:

No public, straight parking.
Tecom Area.

Sharks not allowed either.
Dubai Metro.

Nudes only.
Union Coop Hypermarket, Al Barsha Mall.

No flashy cameras.

Meet the birds up for sale
Sign on Al Rashadiya Road.

4991.5 graduates later...
Exiting Dubai Emirate on Sheikh Zayed Road.

All you need for furnishing the tent of your nomadic bride.
Al Khan area, Sharjah.

Poor lift!
Sharjah Aquarium.
Frisking coming your way.
Near Jebel Ali Club.

The company returns in 3 days.
Al Noor Tower 2, Tecom.

"Waste" clothing charity collection bin.
Discovery Gardens.

You can see more strange and funny signs from around the UAE in my previous post:

Construction of Dubai Frame to begin

The latest of the long range of ambitious, Dubai-build-projects will soon be launched.

The Dubai Municipality announced on Wednesday that it will start construction-work on the iconic Dubai Frame project adjacent to the Stargate theme park in Zabeel Park next month. The Director-General of the Dubai Municipality, Hussain Nasser Lootah, said: “We have opened tenders and will be giving the assignment to the apt contractor according to our plan.”

The implementation of the Dh120 million project, a window-shaped structure that will give panoramic views of old and new Dubai from a 150 feet-high glass bridge, was ordered in July 2012 with a plan to complete it by this year end.

In May this year, the municipality said the project would be completed by the end of 2014. However, the civic body on Wednesday said the unique structure was expected to be ready by the second half of 2015, after a one-year delay from the last announcement made six months ago.

In the latest statement, the municipality also gave the exact location of the tower at Zabeel Park. Lootah said the Dubai Municipality conducted extensive studies and research to identify the most ideal location for the project. “It was after an (intense) study and extensive consultation that the (location) was decided — near the Stargate of Zabeel Park — which is a famous point for visitors and tourists,” he said in a media statement.

Stargate, an edutainment theme park, is located near the Gate 4 of Zabeel Park in the heart of Dubai. The image released by the Dubai Municipality on Wednesday showed the tower with transparent glass walls  in dusk bronze colour.

"Dubai Frame will become one of the most attractive tourist destinations of Dubai, which will bring around 2 million visitors per year from across the globe. We are looking forward to a unique architectural landmark that matches to the global status of Dubai. We expect it will bridge the past and future of Dubai and may become a name linked to Dubai like Burj Khalifa and Burj Al-Arab,” Lootah said - although it is a bit unclear how that number has been calculated, i.e. compared to the number of visitors who go to Burj Khalifa yearly.

The conceptual design proposal of the tower by Fernando Donis of the Netherlands was among 926 entries for the 11th ThyssenKrupp Elevator Award and had won $100,000.

As Dubai awaits a positive result for its bid to host the World Expo 2020, it is observed that projects like the Dubai Frame will boost Dubai’s status among other global cities. As the Frame is a unique concept with splendid aesthetic and architectural charm, it is expected to contribute to the tourism economy of the emirate.

- from Al Khaleej Times

Relief efforts underway as UAE hit by worst storm in years

It's the season in the UAE where you can expect a bit of rain, which, due to lack of proper drainage can cause some disruption of traffic. Like every 5th year or so. People might have to take their car to the car wash an extra time when the drizzle stops.
Boozy Friday brunches may even have to move indoors.

Our thoughts are with you all in this dark hour...

Read more about this breaking news story:

Relief efforts underway as UAE hit by worst storm in years | The Pan-Arabia Enquirer

Miss Camel 2013

A dusty track in the remote western region of the United Arab Emirates, on the verge of what is known as “The Empty Quarter” of the country is one of the last places you'd expect to find a beauty competition.
But the leggy, doe-eyed lovelies on parade here are of the four-legged variety.
The Al Dhafra Camel Festival held every year is a celebration of the ancient bond between humans and the "ships of the desert," which have traditionally provided Bedouins with food, clothing and transportation.
The highlight of the event, which draws more than 1,500 camel owners and 25,000 camels from all over the Arabian Peninsula to Al Dhafra, about 150km west of Abu Dhabi, is the Camel Beauty Contest.
The judges in this high-stakes contest rate the animals - the females of which are considered better looking - on criteria including firmness of ear, straightness of leg and the size of their toe cleft.
“The big size of the bones, the big foot, the height of the camel, the neck," explains one of the judges, listing the most desirable attributes.
"The smoother the neck the better, the longer the neck the better."
It's a job he takes seriously, as the spoils of victory can be significant.
The festival is an important auction market for purebred camels, and as well as commanding high prices, award-winning specimens can confer immense prestige on their owners it’s a competition between tribes as well. Everybody wants the prettiest camel to be owned by their tribe – preferably by themselves.
According to the rules laid down in the festival program, owners are required to swear religious oaths that the stated age and lineage of their animals is correct.
As well as the beauty contest and auctions, the festival also has contests in traditional pursuits such as camel racing, camel milking, falconry and date packaging. There is also racing of purebred Arabian salukis, the slender sight-hound that is one of the world's most ancient breeds of domesticated dog, as well as handicrafts displays.
While the SUV has replaced the camel as a means of transportation in the modern Emirates, it's clear the animal retains an important place in the nation's heart.
In a country about which it is often said that it went from riding camels to driving Cadillacs in 25 years, the younger generation seems aware of the importance of preserving the culture of their forefathers where camels were equal to wealth and status.

May the most beautiful camel win.

New Dubai rent dispute centre open

If you are having a dispute with your Landlord in Dubai over the size of your rent there may be new hope for you.

From this week, things should be easier, authorities have promised, as a new forum to resolve disputes about rent commences operations.
The Dubai Land Department (DLD) on Saturday confirmed its new Rental Disputes Settlement Centre is to begin operations on Sunday, operating out of the department’s headquarters.

The centre will handle all disputes arising between leaseholders and tenants located in the emirate, including its free zones, a DLD statement said. Either side of a dispute can file a claim at the centre and request temporary judgment or interim relief. However, the rulings of the DLD can be tested in court.

Sultan Butti bin Mejren, director general of DLD, said the centre “will allow us to address disputes occurring from real estate issues in a timely and professional manner consistent with the department’s highest standards”.– bin Meiren said to 7Days.
The Rental Disputes Settlement Centre will aim at providing transparent resolution services that have been designed to help all parties to work and live in Dubai in an environment governed by clear rules, according to bin Meiren.

An experienced Dubai Court judge will chair the centre and parties will be able to appeal decisions made by the centre.

Licensed to Speed

New dedicated high-speed road suggested in the UAE

In spite of countless empirical studies over the years finding that speed kills and regardless of most other countries having put a maximum speed limit for road traffic, the head of Dubai Traffic Police has suggested making a specially dedicated road in the UAE for cars that want to drive at 200kph.
The force said the luxury highway is just an idea at this stage but a study would be conducted to see how viable it is. The road would be between Abu Dhabi and Fujairah and only those wanting to drive at high-speed could use it. General Mohammed Saif Al Zafeen said: “The idea can become a true reality. Maybe we need a road for motorists with powerful cars who want to drive 200kph. It would also be good for people who drive on a daily basis between UAE cities.” - he was quoted as having said to 7Days.
He added: “There are studies saying that high speeds can’t make accidents unless there are other factors. Accidents can happen when a car driving with 140kph and then surprised with a car in front of it with 60kph.”
Al Zafeen’s suggestion came during the launch of the second year of the white points system which rewards drivers who have not committed any traffic offenses during the year for their good behaviour.
He said that the highway would need certain specifications and four lanes in two directions.
The speed-savvy Police General was also the driving force behind the recent acquisition by Dubai Police of a number of Lamborghinis and Ferraris to join the force's fleet of patrol cars for high-speed pursuit purposes.

The stunning Dubai Marina

Meanwhile in Dubai

Meanwhile in Dubai...

Rustic artisan bread rolls with sun-dried tomatoes

It's the season for indoors activities such as baking in Autumnally Europe - and it's the beginning BBQ season in the UAE.
These rolls are perfect as companions with many different types of meals and especially great as rolls for a BBQ. 
They are even delicious on their own with or without butter or i.e. cheese spread.

This recipe is my very own creation although you might be able to find a product in a bakery or in a supermarket that has (almost) the same properties. I have called them: "Italian-inspired rustic artisan bread rolls with sun dried tomatoes". Italian because of the herby and garlicky content. They are not particularly Danish at all, but they go very well with a variety of Danish dishes because of its savory properties and delicious harmonic flavors. The rolls are best when heated in the oven before serving. They have a great crusty surface and are amazingly soft inside. They are the perfect companion to Italian dishes like lasagna al forno, carbonara and other pasta dishes. You can even eat them as a snack with butter and/or cheese or eat them with some nice, homemade tzatziki.

Ingredients: (12-16 pcs.)                                   

400g all purpose flour                                        
6 dry sun dried tomatoes
25g fresh yeast or 20g dry yeast
3 cloves crushed garlic
2 tbsp(!) dried oregano (Yes: a LOT. Fresh does not work well here.)
2 tbsp olive oil
200ml lukewarm water
2 tbsp low fat milk
1 tbsp dried rosemary

Chop the sun-dried tomatoes finely. You can use a small food processor. Make sure you use the variey which is dry - not kept in a jar with oil or brine. Put the lukewarm water in a bowl, add the yeast. If using fresh yeast, make sure it is dissolved in the water by stirring with a tablespoon. Add the oil, sun-dried tomatoes, oregano and garlic. The add the flour little by little whilst stirring with the spoon. Hold a bit flour back and make sure the dough does not get too firm. It should still be a bit sticky. Let rest in a warm spot for 30mins. On a flour covered table, work the dough through for a couple of minutes, then roll it out as a "sausage". Cut it into 12-16 portions. Form each piece of dough to a small roll. Place on a owen dish covered with baking paper. 
Set the owen at 200C. While it heats up, leave the rolls on top for a second rise for approximately 15-20mins. Pestle the rolls with the milk and sprinkle rosemary on top of each roll. 
Bake for 10-12mins. Leave to cool down.

The reason for using the relatively big amount of oregano is that most of the fragile, volatile oils in the herb will evaporate during the baking process leaving only a warm, savory and pleasant hint in the finished rolls. The same happens to the garlic.

Tip: the rolls freeze very well and can be kept in the freezer for 2-3 months. Take a few rolls up and heat in the oven at 150C for 4 mins whenever you need them.

Tip: use a spray-bottle with cold water with a couple of squirts (lol) 2-3 times while the rolls are baking. This gives a great crust and a very soft roll.

Ingredients as QR-Code:

Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia

Speaking of women not being allowed to drive a car...

New "Dubai Canal" project to commence

After a few years delay, partly caused by the economic disruptions caused by the global financial crisis, the next super-fantastic Dubai project is shortly going to be underway with the award last week of a AED 500 Million contract to a Turkish company to construct a 16-lane highway bridge on the main Sheikh Zayed Road and associated roadworks over the new Dubai Canal. Traffic will be temporarily diverted during the roadworks, also included in the contract. It will be a 3km long man-made canal connection Business Bay with Jumeira Beach through Safa Park, Al Wasl Road and the posh, villa-dominated neighbourhood Jumeira 2.

The project is devided into 3 phases and is due to be completed by the end of 2016. The huge project includes shopping malls, residences, four hotels and 450 restaurants and is very optimistically designed for - and expected to - attract 20 million visitors annually. Served by pedestrian bridges, including a shopping bridge as well as four marine stations, the canal will see easy movement of people across both the sides.
Another tender will be issued for the two bridges on Al Wasl Road and Jumeirah Beach Road, while the third tender will be to develop the canal. 
Work on the project will begin this month with the construction of alternative routes to allow for the actual construction of the bridge to begin. 
Apart from the three motor bridges, five pedestrian bridges are planned across the canal, one of which will double as a shopping destination, offering merchandise on the go.

Imagery courtesy of Gulf News and RTA.

Too Sexy For Saudi

Since 2005, the Pan Arabia Enquirer - as this satiric "news service" is called - have been taking the mickey out of everything from absurdly fantastic incredible Dubai building projects to leaders throughout the Middle East. They manage to find the real laughs and the right twists to current events, Arabic culture and notabilities in Middle Eastern political and cultural life.
The Enquirer is a much-loved site, especially by the Western expats and their articles are shared by many readers on various social media.
Who is behind it all remains unknown to the general public for obvious reasons, but there is a clear British fingerprint on the articles most of which are written in an almost Punch-like style. They never insult anybody directly (maybe with the exemption of the former Iranian President Ahmadinejad), but their activities are still kept slightly underground as censorship is otherwise tough in the Emirates, always balancing on the edge of the acceptable.

It is easy to believe what the paper says and even more so, if you are used to everything you read being presented as the truth. That's why it is extra amusing to see satire do its job in the UAE. The musings of this media have been taken for granted by (naive?) readers and it is the height of comedy to see people vividly debating the various rambling "news items" produced by the Enquirer on social media and even in real news media.
Stories that they have brought to "lol"-ing readers includes the famous claim that a special Gold Class lane is to be build on the highway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi and a story on the latest addition to the British royal family being christened by the name Qatar Airways following a sponsorship deal - just to mention a couple of the more recent ones.
They recently had their collection of merchandise T-shirts reprinted and they are up for sale. Some examples shown on this post.

If you are not familiar with this excitingly refreshing piss-taking online service, you should check it out here for a good laugh:

The Pan Arabia Enquirer 

- or follow them Facebook: Pan Arabia Enquirer - Facebook

Best Marzipan Cake Ever!

The other half recently baked the most amazing cake for me that I have ever tried. It is spongy, moist and so full of flavour. It must be the ultimate marzipan cake. Some people don't like marzipan, but the marzipan flavour is not overpowering in any way. It's more like an almond favour with benefits. 
The marzipan in the cake, however, helps giving the cake its characteristics and its moistness.

250 grams butter - preferably unsalted (softened)
250 grams marzipan (softened)
150 grams caster sugar
¼ teaspoon almond essence
1 tsp vanilla powder / or seeds from a vanilla pod
6 large eggs
150 grams all-purpose wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda

You will need a 25cm / 10 inch springform tube pan or patterned ring mould, buttered and floured.
Preheat oven to 170ºC/gas mark 3. Chop the butter and marzipan to make them easier to break down, and put them in a bowl and use an electrical mixer, with the sugar. Mix until combined and pretty well smooth. Add almond essence and vanilla powder/seeds, process again, then break the eggs one at a time, mixing again each time. Add the flour and baking soda, mix yet again, and then pour the mixture into the prepared tin, scraping the sides and bottom with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 50 minutes, but check from 40. Then, when the cake looks golden and cooked and a cake-tester or fine skewer comes out cleanish, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin before turning out. 

The fact that you could easily get 12 slices out of this is another reason why it comes in useful when you've got people coming for dinner or tea. That it keeps for a good week is another point in its favour (if you can keep off it!); you don't have to be fiddling around with all the courses just before lift-off. 

It's really a variation over the pound cake. But so much more interesting than the original. It may cost a few pounds to bake it, but its yumminess guarantees that you will gain a few pounds once you start eating it. Not a healthy creation, but it's heaven on a plate. Go on: get baking!