Thursday, August 25, 2011

Eee, great!

I have previously blogged about the inevitable half-hour queue to enter Qatar after arriving by air. More recently, I noted the tendency of Immigration officials to find a fresh page in my passport every time they want to apply a stamp. The way to avoid both of these is to have an E-Gate card, a magic piece of plastic that speeds the bearer’s way through immigration and avoids a passport stamp.

Given that immediately after the Eid Al Fitr holiday, the entire population of Qatar will attempt to enter Doha through the same passport control and the queue will be out of the door and halfway to Wakrah, I really wanted to deal with this before my next international trip. And the government will be shut all next week, so today was the last available day.

According to the Firm’s Human Resources department, the procedure for obtaining an E-Gate card “is easy, and takes about five minutes,” so off I naïvely trotted.

1. Go to Doha International Airport
I parked, then asked the security guard at the door to Departures. He directed me down there to the right where, sure enough, was a door and a large bilingual sign: “E-Gate Card Issuing Office”. Bingo. The door was locked, so I asked someone in uniform when the office opened. “Eight o’clock, but it’s Ramadan, so...”

At a quarter to nine, having observed several other would-be applicants knocking on the door like cats stuck outside in the rain, I asked another man in uniform.

“They don’t do E-Gate cards here. You have to go to the Ministry of the Interior Immigration Department.”

It is beyond the wit of Man to erect a sign to that effect, or at least to remove the existing misleading sign.

2. Immigration Department – Door No. 1
Having paid the ludicrous parking charges for my stay in the airport parking, I headed off to Madinat Khalifa to look for the elusive parking space. Traffic signs direct Immigration customers through the forecourt of a petrol station, and the adjacent roads are emblazoned with “No Waiting” signs, even where there is marked on-street parking. One road is signposted as a one-way street, but it’s a cul-de-sac. So crazy, it’s like living in a Monty Python sketch.

Behind Door No. 1 was a seething mass of humanity. There was nobody at Reception, so I queued at the nearby desk and eventually got to ask for an E-Gate card. “Typing,” said the man behind the counter. “Outside.”

3. Typing
Outside was, of course, devoid of typists. I spotted a sign advertising “Typing, Cafeteria & Studio” and headed over there. Again, it was a zoo, but I finally found the one bloke behind a desk who, when he wasn’t busy doing the male equivalent of the shayla dance, checked my ID card, called up my details, printed these on to a form, and charged me QR8.

4. Door No. 1
Back to Mr Outside. This time he directed me to another desk. It seems Mr Outside works for a bank, and undertakes cashier services only. But he couldn’t tell me that the first time, could he?

5. The Business End
At the actual Reception I eventually made my way to the front of a Middle East queue (50 ft wide, 2 people deep) and explained that I wanted an E-Gate card. I was issued with a number and directed to sit and wait.

6. Biometric Data
My number came up, but it then turned out that I first needed to get mugshots, iris scans and fingerprints done. This is exactly as was clearly not explained to me by the bloke at Reception. Over to the booths where a very nice bint in black inspected my ID card, called up my details, and then directed me to stand and provide exactly the same set of biometric data that is already on the system. Why? For crying out loud, why? What is the point of collecting a duplicate set of iris scans?

7. The Business End – again
After going back to Reception, getting a second ticket, waiting, and finally approaching the desk with my form, I had almost finished. The man in white behind the counter needed to see my ID card; the same thing that I’d already shown at Typing and Biometric. Now he charged me QR300.

“Just a minute, it’s QR200 for the E-Gate card. I don’t want anything else.”

“But we will upgrade your ID card with a chip in it, and that’s an extra QR100. Next year the ID card will be combined with the E-Gate card, driving licence, and health card.”

I see: an Ident-I-Eze card.

Then 20 minutes into the “five-minute wait”, I was handed my new ID card which now incorporates the E-Gate information, and instructed to activate it at the machine “over there.”

Job done. Three and three-quarter hours, this “five-minute” job took. I have had to pay an additional QR100 to replace an ID card only two weeks after it was originally issued. The general roll-out of ID/E-Gate combined is scheduled for next year, so I get it early. But if chipped smart cards are available, why didn’t I get one a fortnight ago?

Summary: How to do it right.
1. Immigration Dept, Madinat Khalifa.
2. Go to Typing.
3. Show ID card and get a printed form.
4. Go to Door No 1.
5. Show ID card at booth. Mugshots, dabs and iris scans.
6. Go to Reception and get a number.
7. Show ID card, pay the money, get the new ID/E-Gate card.
8. Activate the E-Gate part at the machine by the door.
9. Get back to your life.


Sunday, August 21, 2011


The original version is brilliant. Now comes mine.

After being made redundant unexpectedly one day,
I needed a new passport, so flew back to the UK.
I crossed the River Severn, and then all day I spent
A-waiting for my passport in the town of Newport, Gwent.
Cheap flights, cheap flights,
What a fantasy!
There’s no such thing when flying
To UK from DXB.

A new job in the UAE did not materialise.
“There’s loads of jobs,” the Agent says. Regrettably, he lies.
New Zealand and the Gulf I tried, then hearing from the latter:
An interview and job offer came from the State of Qatar.
Cheap flights, cheap flights,
They wanted to meet me.
An early morning Fly Dubai
That turned out to be free.

Beloved Wife stays in Dubai, pursuing her career.
I s'pose four hundred kilometres counts as fairly near.
So every other weekend, to my chagrin and rage,
Official immigration stamps another empty page.
Short flights, short flights:
Doha - DXB.
My ten-year passport isn’t going
To last much more than three.

Now Ramadan draws to a close, and we of course all know how
The world, his wife, his kids, his dog all want to exit Doha.
The airlines take advantage: they don’t have any trouble
With elevating normal fares to make them more than double.
Eid flights, Eid flights
To the UAE:
At fourteen hundred riyals,
This is how to take the pee.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pie and a pint

It was a quiet birthday. Beloved Wife is visiting her side of the family on her side of the Pond, it’s Ramadan so all pubs and bars are shut, and I’m new in town. Friday will be our fourth wedding anniversary. I look forward to the anniversary phone conversation in lieu of presents and a meal out somewhere posh.

As I’m not a great lover of cake, I have made myself a Birthday Pie, complete with several candles. The number of candles bears no relation to the number of years; it’s simply several arranged in a quincunx.

Please note the healthy vegetables. There are leeks and sparrow-grass, both lightly steamed, and served without great lashings of salt or butter. As it turned out, the pie was full of chicken and more vegetables, so add carrots, sweetcorn and broccoli to the list. There’s my five a day.

And because eye yam what eye yam, I added chips and lashings of gravy. Oh, look: Potato. Another healthy vegetable.

The beer was Fuller’s London Pride. It was from a tin rather than hand-pulled, but nevertheless an approximation to proper English Bitter Ale.

As it turned out, I had picked up a packet of those hilarious comedy candles that refuse to stay extinguished once blown out. The problem was lighting them in the first place. My apartment is all electric, and because I don’t smoke I have up to now had no need for naked flames. So suddenly this evening I discovered that I had no source of ignition. However, an electric ring up on full blast eventually got a candle to light.

Remaining on the subject of candles, I was wandering around one of those tourist tat shops a few days ago, wondering if there really is a market for dozens of rotary-dial Bakelite telephones beyond theatrical props, when I came across this caprine sculpture. I have no idea what it is supposed to be; possibly an ash-tray, maybe a plant-pot holder or even perchance somewhere for business cards. I have assigned its function as Candle Stick.

Q-tel’s promised birthday visit came to pass. I shall have to continue to wait for my broadband to be installed, and the flat continues with an inertweb connection rather than the interweb that I would prefer. I’m sitting at work after everyone else has gone home, pumping this post up into the blogosphere with my MiFi device that steadfastly refuses to work at home.


Sunday, August 07, 2011

The mouse problem

Dubai follows Abu Dhabi’s lead, and is, according to this article in the Gulf News, going to offer discounts on traffic fines.

Think about the purpose of a traffic fine for a moment. Officially at least, it is punishment. The money that you were saving up for your holiday, new fridge, school fees or beer is instead directed into central government coffers. That’ll learn ya! A more cynical Goat might believe that traffic fines, especially those incurred after being detected by a speed camera, are simply a means of raising revenue.

Look how easy it is to pay most traffic fines. Go on-line and quote your credit card number. Visit a shopping mall and stand at one of those fine Fine-Payment machines. Wait until the end of the year and simply add the payment on to the inspection and registration fees.

If the intention were punitive, the perpetrator would have to take time off work, attend court, and then be given a right royal runaround across town, collecting rubber stamps on official forms in order to obtain permission to pay. In truth, this punishment is reserved for those attempting to recover their security deposits before leaving the country. It is true that some traffic offences incur a version of the time-wasting palaver. According to the Goat’s spies, driving on the breakdown lane (for example) can involve an invitation to stand in front of the Police Captain to receive a dressing down and then to apologise. (Fifth Amendment inserted here for the avoidance of doubt.)

What can possibly be the reasoning behind reducing traffic fines, then? Previously they were increased: speeding now starts at Dh600, whereas it used to be Dh200. That ‘zero tolerance yields zero crashes’ no-messin’ attitude seems to have had minimal effect.

The Goat reckons that the increased fines simply cause more and more cases of non-payment. Either can’t pay or won’t pay. It’s impossible to register a motor vehicle without paying the fines, so logically the non-payers are punished by not being able to use their vehicles, right? Of course not! The number of unregistered and consequently uninsured vehicles on the road increases. By reducing the fines, they become easier to pay. Result: fewer unregistered and uninsured vehicles. A further benefit for the government is that 50% of some income is better than 100% of buggerall.

Abu Dhabi, and soon Dubai seem to be following advice from Monty Python’s The Mouse Problem sketch. “The only way to bring the crime figures down is to reduce the number of offences.”


The opinions expressed in this weblog are the works of the Grumpy Goat, and are not necessarily the opinions shared by any person or organisation who may be referenced. Come to that, the opinions may not even be those of the Grumpy Goat, who could just be playing Devil's Advocate. Some posts may be of parody or satyrical [sic] nature. Nothing herein should be taken too seriously. The Grumpy Goat would prefer that offensive language or opinions not be posted in the comments. Offensive comments may be subject to deletion at the Grumpy Goat's sole discretion. The Grumpy Goat is not responsible for the content of other blogs or websites that are linked from this weblog. No goats were harmed in the making of this blog. Any resemblance to individuals or organisations mentioned herein and those that actually exist may or may not be intentional. May contain nuts.