Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Avez-vous un permis pour ce chèvre?

Beloved Wife, who’s lived in the UAE longer than the Goat, went through the rigmarole of renewing her driving licence a couple of years ago. It’s a ritual every driver in the UAE will experience every ten years. It was the Goat’s turn recently, and Beloved Wife assured him that the procedure was a doddle. His licence was going to expire in August 2013. As he now has a Dubai residence visa, he turned to the Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai, even though his old licence was issued in Sharjah. Driving licences are now administered at a federal level, which means in practice that the licence retains a record of which emirate first issued it, but it can be renewed anywhere. This is the UNITED Arab Emirates, after all.

Here, then, is what happened to the Goat, offered here as a sort of public service. Useful information is shown in Bold, and lies irrelevant and superfluous items are indicated by Italics.

The Goat first went to one of the RTA-approved opticians for his eye test. He had to produce:-

Residence Visa
ID card
One recent mugshot
AED150 (The Goat later learned that Sharjah does the eye test at the Traffic Police for nuppence)

He was then advised by the optician that he had to go to the RTA office roughly opposite Dubai airport Terminal 2, and no other.

At the said RTA office, the Goat was given a letter for Sharjah Traffic Police.

Sharjah Traffic Police would provide an NOC to transfer the licence details to Dubai. Having got this NOC, the Goat should bring it to Dubai RTA with:-

Passport copy (Why?)
Residence visa copy (Why?)
ID card copy (Isn't this supposed to eliminate the need to produce the passport and visa at every encounter with Officialdom? And isn't the chip in the card supposed to eliminate the need for a photocopy? Apparently not.)
Eye test certificate
Original driving licence
Driving licence copy
Letter of No Objection from the Goat’s sponsor (Beloved Wife)
Sponsor’s passport copy
Sponsor’s visa copy
Sponsor’s ID card copy

So off the Goat trotted to Sharjah Traffic Police where, because the time was by then 13h10 and it’s Ramadan, he was told to come back tomorrow with:-

Passport copy
Residence visa copy
ID card copy
Driving licence
Driving licence copy

The following morning, the Goat eventually found a parking space in the mayhem that is the parking outside the Sharjah Traffic Police office. He queued for over an hour, and was then told that the computer system was down, and to come back tomorrow. He asked for the NOC letter so that he could do the licensing process in Dubai, and thereby avoid yet another trip to Sharjah. The Traffic Police refused, first because the system was down, and then because the NOC is not required; it’s possible to renew a driving licence in any emirate.

The Goat returned to the RTA where it was confirmed that the system was indeed down. But he also learned from the RTA - the same office; indeed the same desk where he’d been spun this dit about having to go to Sharjah - that licence renewal did not require an NOC from Sharjah. It could be renewed in Dubai at pretty much any RTA office.

Another day passed, and the Goat chose to park in the shade at Rashidiya metro station and to take the train one stop to the RTA’s quiet and civilised Umm Ramool office. He produced:-

Passport copy
Residence visa copy
ID card copy
Driving licence copy
Original driving licence
Eye test certificate
AED540 (Because that’s what Sharjah charges, and it’s gotta be cash)

And behold: a new UAE driving licence! Job done for another ten years.

So the process is indeed a doddle, once the fictional elements have been removed.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

No pictures!

Tarmac Tantrum
It's been well documented, first in the UAE media and then internationally, that the way to deal with a minor hit-and-run traffic collision is not to hunt down and assault the other driver.

In this recent case, it seems that the Indian van driver nudged an Emirati's Toyota Land Cruiser and failed to stop and await the police. The Emirati chased the Indian and stopped him; I would have done the same, as would many drivers, I suspect. But then the Emirati set about assaulting the Indian. Common assault in a public place in front of eye-witnesses. (Believe me, I was tempted to rearrange someone's face with a tyre iron following his attempt to kill me with a blunt instrument (a GMC truck), but I value my liberty too much and instead awaited the arrival of the Law.)

Anyway, back to the recent case. One of these witnesses had a video camera, and he caught the assault on video and then chose to post it on YouTube, from where it proliferated. Despite the YouTube video being taken down, the images are now on the internet until the end of time. This in itself is worth remembering: if you upload something on to the internet it'll be there for ever.

It seems that in the UAE, it is against the law to photograph someone without their permission. It is also possible to defame someone by telling the truth, as Alexander observed over on Fake Plastic Souks.

My dictionary defines 'defame' as "attack the good name or reputation of, as by uttering or publishing maliciously or falsely anything injurious..." I suppose "publishing maliciously anything injurious" is what this amateur videographer seems to have done; I had always thought that "publishing falsely" was the critical bit. Merriam-Webster says that defamation is the same as slander, and that is definitely "...utterance of false charges." I think I'll leave the courts to sort out this one.

EDITED 30 JULY: According to The National, all charges against the Emirati and the Indian videographer have been dropped. The Emirati was fired from his job over the incident.

And then something occurred to me. If it's illegal to photograph me without my permission, even if I'm committing a criminal act, and post the pictures on the internet, then in principle all traffic cameras are illegal. If you go to the Dubai Police website and type in your (or anyone else's) car registration number, up will pop all outstanding traffic offences complete with a link to a nice picture of the offending vehicle's licence plate.

If I gave implicit permission to be photographed if I exceeded the speed limit or ran a red light when I took to the road, then surely all of us give our permission to be photographed when we enter a public place.

I'm not the only one this has occurred to. The Arabian Business website ran an article on 20th July that suggests that the law may be changed to decriminalise taking pictures of illegal activity. But if you catch an illegal act on camera, you have to submit the images to Dubai Police. Uploading to YouTube remains mamnua'a.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

I'm melllting, mellltiiing!

At first, I thought I was looking at a satire site. There was a parody news article published about how hot the UK was, and how this was the most serious heatwave since 2006.

But no: the article wasn't from The Onion, Newsbiscuit, or The Pan Arabia Enquirer. It was from the BBC.

Apparently, Britons are sweltering under a solar furnace that has pushed peak daytime temperatures up to around 30°C, and the article is full of helpful advice involving staying well hydrated, wearing loose cotton clothes and a hat, and opening the windows. No shit, Sherlock!

The article even goes on to introduce a ready-reckoner. Type in your local temperature, and the computer comes back with places elsewhere in the world that are even hotter. Provided, that is, that they're no hotter than Bangkok at a mere 33°C.

Not a mention of Dubai at 42°C, Baghdad at 46°C, or Yuma, Arizona at 42°C. (Source: weather.com). I'm not Australian, but I suspect that if the BBC compared UK's allegedly high temperatures with
the planet's real hotspots, it would show up the whinging Poms for what they are. Have some sense of proportion, people! I'll start to believe that it's too hot when news articles about the heat don't include people in a state of undress lounging on deckchairs in the sun.

I'm not claiming that temperatures in the low thirties are cool. And I do appreciate that endemically hot places tend nowadays to come with air conditioning. I know of nobody in Blighty who has aircon fitted in a house.

Perhaps the good citizens of Britain should do what we do in Dubai, and spend the day strolling around an air-conditioned shopping mall.

And now I shall go and brave Dubai's outdoor temperatures. As it's the Holy Month of Ramadan, it's Nil By Mouth until sunset, and in public that applies to everyone and not just to Muslims. Consider that, as you tuck into your refreshing ice cream, orange cordial or Stella Artois.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

I didn't expect...

Source: Flickr
Nobody expected this: the Goat has joined a fitness club!

Beloved Wife has been a member of Fitness First for aeons, and has for a similar period been trying to goad her spouse into the gym. It has all been to no avail because the Goat is allergic to being ridiculed by the Fitness Gestapo (and the Cholesterol Stasi, and the BMI Inquisition) because he's let himself go over the past half century.

Previous attempts at keeping fit, or more specifically keeping weight off, have of course been doomed to failure. The two most obvious reasons for this are ale and pies, but there are others. The Goat does not lack willpower, but having tried Atkins for a month and not lost one ounce; having been furiously cycling around Mirdif every day for a couple of weeks and achieved nothing but a sore arse; having fasted throughout a previous Ramadan (because a work colleague said he couldn't, and that's a thrown gauntlet) and not partied at night, again not to lose an ounce, is demoralising.

Last week, Beloved Wife went to renew her gym membership, and noticed that the ridiculous joining and admin fees had been temporarily waived. Following a further "I want a gym buddy" discussion, the Goat finally agreed to join for six months. That's the commitment, and it remains to be seen how successful it will be. The Goat is not expecting to lose 30% of his body mass in six months (it took 17 years to pile it on) but he'll be extremely disappointed if the effort has similar effects to his previous efforts.

The Goat was obliged to go and buy some gym shoes and exercise shorts. It will come as no surprise to learn that he didn't already own any of these and, apart from when using the pool, it's not allowed to exercise barefoot. This is a bit of a problem; the Goat hates wearing shoes and only ever does so under duress.

New membership includes an orientation and a couple of sessions with a personal trainer. The Goat's personal trainer didn't actually say that he was horrified that such a fat slacker had joined a gym. He did set some "ambitious but realistic" targets for weight loss. The method is the usual unsurprising combination of diet and exercise. The super-tech bathroom scales produced estimates of body fat along with body mass, plus where the Goat carries it, and then came up with a recommendation of a starvation diet of 1970 calories a day. That'll surely make the weight fall off: the Goat burns an estimated 2500 calories per day while resting.

As for the Instruments of Torture Fitness Machines, the Goat was introduced to the treadmill, the cross-trainer, and a recumbent bicycle. No Soft Cushions, although the cycling machine does have what might pass for a Comfy Chair. These devices all have digital displays of distance travelled and estimated calorie burn.

The Goat dragged Beloved Wife over to the gym yesterday, and while she swam, he spent 25 minutes each on the treadmill and the bicycle. All he has to show for his efforts are two massive blisters on his heels.

Bloody shoes.


Tuesday, July 02, 2013


My medication is Not Coming in Dubai™. The supply dried up a couple of months ago, and I’m approaching the bottom of my last bottle. None of the many pharmacies I’ve tried have got it. They’re probably all telling the truth, because they all give the same story, which is this: “The supplier hasn’t brought any from Germany. We remind him every day.”

So what is the problem? A local chemist can’t simply have a boxful of pharmaceuticals FedEx’d; anything like that has to be imported under the aegis of the Ministry of Health. Any opiate, for example, may only be imported and then prescribed under strict controls. Panacodol, available over the counter in Boots the Chemist in UK, contains codeine, which would earn you a four-year stay at the Al Wathba Minus Seven Star Desert Resort if you turned up at the airport with some.

But my prescription isn’t on the banned substances list. In fact, it’s available over the counter - when it’s actually in stock. The 50μg pills are on the shelf and for sale, but it’s the 100μg that aren’t available.

My cynical streak infers a conspiracy to increase profits. If I buy the 50μg, I’ll have to take two at a time. The packages are both the same price, so essentially the cost of my medication doubles. Once the 50μg pills have all gone, I’m stuffed.


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