Sunday, 15 February 2009

Rental Renewal – in hard times

We’ve done our year – and a couple of weeks ago, our rental agreement was up for renewal.  Given that we are (still) waiting for our house to be handed over to us, we have had to extend our rental on this place for just that little bit longer.

Tim went off to sort the contract with our landlord.  Given that the whole world appears to be in financial turmoil – Dubai being absolutely no exception (house prices have tumbled because few banks are lending any money and surprisingly, rents have also decreased to their Q1, 2008 level), you would have thought that it would be relatively easy to renew our rent for 3 months.  Oh no.  Despite Sheikh Mohammed issuing a decree that there were to be no rent increases in 2009, our darling landlord demanded a 5% increase.  He also wrote an amendment to the contract stating that when we move out on 30 April, we are contract bound to leave the “garden infrastructure”.  In simple terms, we are to leave the patio, the garden sprinkler system, the water tank etc – all that we installed!  What a cheeky man.  In all honesty, we weren’t going to rip up the patio or take out the sprinkler system anyway, but that’s not the point.  He is a greedy greedy little man, with no compassion.  If we do need to extend our rental agreement, he has assured us that we will not be able to and that he will take us to the rent courts.  Such a pleasure to deal with!

What I am secretly hoping is that rents will decrease again, so that he doesn’t get as much from his next tenants. 

I will keep you updated with updates on our new house – when it is finished!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Black Points

I have referred to the terrible driving in Dubai many times before.  There are countless stupid drivers on the road – mostly from the Indian sub-continent who just weave in and out of traffic as if it were Mumbai . . . . Abu Dhabi drivers also leave a great deal to be desired and frankly, just drive too fast.

Regularly on the front covers of the newspapers out here are photographs of cars smashed out of all recognition with the title – Speed Kills.  I quite agree.

In the UK, you get points for speeding or doing anything wrong on the roads – the same is true of Dubai.  You are “allowed” 24 black points in a year before you lose your licence.  Black points can be awarded for anything – from driving without licence plates (24 points) to opening the left door or a taxi (traffic side) which gets you 3 points.

You also get informed of any traffic violations via email or text.  As Tim is the registered owner of our cars, he is the one who gets the notifications.

I was horrified the other day when Tim received a text and email to say that my car had been fined for parking with wheels up on the pavement.  I had incurred a fine, but it was a “special” kind of fine because I had to present myself to the fines department and was not able to pay online.  We were informed that if I did not “present” myself, when the car’s registration was due for renewal, my car would be confiscated for a month!  (Yes, I swear this is true.)

I bumbled on down to the fines department with my heart hammering away to find out the detail of what I had “done”.  My crime was to park my car with two wheels up on the pavement.  My defence is that my car is so wide, I believed I was being considerate in letting cars still pass me.  So very naive.

Not only did I have to pay a fine (£40), I received a 10Dhs fine (£2) called a Knowledge Fee, which I can only assume is that now know I must never be considerate to other drivers again.  I, to my horror, received TWO BLACK POINTS!!  Now, in theory, I have absolutely no problem with being punished for my crime – black points included – but I then referred back to the black points list.  It appears that I could be driving up to 50km/h over the speed limit with bald tyres and not receive black points.  In a country where the police admit that speeding is a major problem – this is utterly crazy and disproportionate.

So, I handed over my licence – and my money – and in return I was handed a sheet of paper to sign (one in Arabic and one in English) which basically stated that I was terribly sorry for my crime, I did know better, I respected the laws of Dubai and would not do it again . . . . . As I presented myself, my car will not be impounded upon re-registration.

Tim and I drove away from the fines building and got onto the motorway – only to be stunned to find a motorist, who had taken the wrong turning, reversing down the motorway as he had missed his turning (sadly, something you see quite a lot here).  A police car happened to be behind me so I was quite interested to see what they would do – guess what – the police car just drove on by . . . . .

That’s Dubai.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Ski Dubai


I thought this entry should be all about the cold, given that the UK is currently experiencing the worst snowfalls for about 20 years. Whether that is true or not, most of you guys are experiencing a harsh winter.

In solidarity, we decided to take a trip to Ski Dubai - a man made indoor ski-slope with real snow and its very own snow park where there are a few children’s snow rides and a great toboggan ride - and general snow activities. We arrived, and were handed our clothes for the session - long ski trousers, a heavy jacket and snuggly snow boots. The children got helmets too. On top of the shorts and t-shirts went all these layers, along with extra hats, gloves and scarves. It felt rather strange, but lovely and cosy.DSC01323

Through the turnstile we went and re-discovered what -6 degrees felt like.  Chilly chilly chilly. 

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The kids had a great time on the rides and in the snow, even though Ella thought snow was more for eating than for playing in!  But, I have to confess that we only lasted in that cold for about 1.5 hours – by that time, our feet were freezing and it just wasn’t fun any more!

Maybe next time, the adults will go back on their own to do some real skiing!