Dubai Consumer Mirror

Monday, December 24, 2007

Great Comment by Anonymous: Please read

I don't usually re-post comments, but the one below is a must-read.

It is by an anonymous commenting on a old blog I did on our failure to brand our culture. Copy/pasted as is and without any edits:

I am a western catholic (not much into it though) expat in Dubai so I'm going to give you the non-muslim POV.

I spent the last week wondering. I remember spending Eid in morocco a few years back and it was something else, the spirit was vibrant and you could tell by the way the city atmosphere changed that something big was going on.

Countless neighbors invited me and my friends for teas, meals, even for the sacrifice. We had a wonderful time there, we met countless of people, learned a lot about religion and the kindness of people. And how to kill a sheep.

In Dubai, I heard about it in gulfnews, noticed that most Emiratis where still hanging out at coffee beans and MOE and the mosque weren't much louder than usual.(not that they should, but everything felt like a plain old saturday). Decoration none, aside from the Christmas displays of course.

Oh and funny things, the only e-mail/postcard/oral greetings I received was from a non-muslim German guy trying to "fit into the culture" and wishing happy Eid to his whole address book and from the filipina waitress at the aforementioned coffee beans.

Every time I tried to wish an Happy Eid, in English or in my clumsy Arabic I was received with a blank stare and a little laugher that left me wondering if I totally missed the pronunciation or was off with the date. So I stopped.

As far as a Ramadan is concerned for non-muslim it's just a boring period where you avoid being outside or in public as much as you can. Eat junk food hidden in the crampiest room that was dedicated "for non-muslim" by your company Unless you can afford to eat at one of the "hidden" restaurant of the 5 stars hotel. The upside is the short work day.

As for spirit, It's difficult to feel anything, maybe it's lost between Nakheel and Jumeirah's PR stunt about the biggest tower or the biggest residential units or new villa or the toll gate or the new bridge. I don't know.

I was invited for Iftar/Suhoor by countless of Hotels and Companies myself or my wifes works with but not a single time by an individual.Of course I could have been if I went begging for it at the "Mutual comprehension" (or something) booth that I saw once in a mall, but I really didn't feel like having to ask for it.

People (old timers) told me to prepare some small gifts and candies to give children that would come knocking at the door. A tradition or so I've been told. I didn't see anyone and ate those myself. It was kinda sad.

I had very different experience in Egypt were every other day my coworkers took me for shopping spree of gift basket (dates, oil, sugar, chocolate, ...) that we distributed in the company to the less fortunate than us. (office boys, cleaners, etc..) so they could enjoy a nice Ramadan Iftar without denting their finances. Invitation for Iftar were also flying all over the place, and not a day could pass without having to apologize five or six time because of a prior engagement. And yes, even white catholic expats were organizing Iftar dinners for their friends. Even the huge coptic community there seemed to be enjoying the event and taking part in it.

I was in Kuwait last week and it was mostly identical to Dubai. Big fat Christmas trees everywhere and no sign of Eid or any other Muslim religious holy day coming. And people say Kuwait is supposed to be more conservative. *shrug*

So as kj said it would be great if muslims in Dxb would take their expats co-worker and acquaintance by the hand a let them discover the inner working of a family Iftar dinner or Eid Al Adha lunch.As for the PR and lobby it is badly needed. Maybe internally I don't know but externally that's for sure. Try to put yourself in the shoe I shared with most European (and american are worse off). for a month do not watch any news channel originating from an Arab country. Stick to the BBC, CNN, (and not the "orient" version which has stuff as business middle east and Doha debates). Get the original ones which mostly ignore those countries unless something blows up.

And then just for fun, write down the topic of the news item every time middle east or muslim are mentionned. I can tell you it doesn't look good.

Nowhere to be heard of is Dubai care, the kuwait fund, the red crescent, any other muslim ONG that actually helps people instead of distributing explosive belt. Never is heard the voice of any intellectual or even educated Muslim. Only people grunting in the street, a riffle in one hand, a burning flag, of whichever bad western country of the week, in the other.

Dubai's (was it UAE?) first election last year. Do you think anyone in europe has heard about it? Answers no but here we get news about the French president new love conquest in local papers.

So yes PR, PR, PR. The other, good, face badly needs to be shown. And maybe one day my relatives back home will stop asking me if I am "really sure it's safe to stay in Dubai."

Take care and enjoy the festive season.

Greetings from the land of the Nile

Friday, December 21, 2007

Redoing Riyadh

Few years ago, i was on an assignment in Saudi. For a few months, I had to spend a couple of weeks per month in the Kingdom. Sometime it was in Jeddah , others in Riyadh.

Jeddah was cool back then. Very chilled out and relaxed, and most of my friends were there anyways. I can say that i had a decent time there.

Riyadh, on the other hand, was a bit of a mission for me. Back then, I used to walk down the street with a haunting sense of self intimidation. Although no one actually bothered me, but its just how way the streets, buildings, the whole vibe of the place made me feel.

"Your walls are very high here," I once pointed out to a Riyadh resident friend of mine while driving around in Riyadh.

I noticed that walls surrounding houses, villas and compounds are 5 to 6 meters high. That's almost the same height of 2 floors in a typical building. Those walls completely blocked out any exterior or architectural detail. Making Riyadh's residential neighbourhoods look like a set of plain and adjacent concrete blocks and an endless series of walls.

"People are very private here,"my friend abruptly pointed out. " Whether they like it or not."

Last Sunday I landed in Riyadh after a being away for about 4 years. I have to say that things were different.
  • Buildings and streets where much cleaner and neater. The city looked really modern and renovated.
  • Streets and traffic were a bit more organised and less chaotic than last time I was there
  • In malls, more women were walking around uncovered.
  • Young married Saudi couples were walking around next to each other. I think i spotted one holding hands.
  • Though walls are still there, add armored vehicles, heavily armed guards and road blocks/spikes..etc, but the overall atmosphere was a bit more chilled out than before.
  • I JUST REMEMBERED! I started seeing outdoor ads with human/people faces and figures. (until very recently, no ads with any human photo or drowning were allowed in Saudi)
The plan was for me to stay for two nights. I had to leave after one. I managed to find an early flight on the new Saudi budget airliner SAMA. But that's another story I'll tell you later.

I am off to Egypt in 2 hours.. will catch you all later


Thursday, December 20, 2007

I can't think of a title for this post.. really [Video]

Graphic/violent content. Viewer discretion advised

I am not sure where this took place, its sounds like a Saudi accent.

Via AYYA's blog.

UPDATE: Thanks to AYYA, you can see the clip on Google Video here

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

We can brand anything, except our culture

Every year it is the same story. Many Muslims whine and moan about how Eid El Fitr and Adha festivities are virtually invisible comparing to Christmas and even Dewali.

Well, you know what, they are right. Because here in Dubai - I am feeling Santa much more than Adha Sheep. Heck, I can still see leftover Dewali decoration here and there.

One might argue that Ramadan spirit is visible in Dubai. But its only because businesses find it as a killer opportunity to make a killing. Every ad during Ramadan is for an Iftar/Sohor special.

But no Ramadan symbolism like -for example- the hanging lanterns (Fanous) all over Egypt or the Msaharati (Ramadan drummer) in Damascus' old neighbourhoods.

Eid Al Adha in Dubai is just another another long weekend.

Conspiracy theorists cry: "Conspiracy lead by evil western -and subcon- infidels!"

I say: Poor marketing, branding and almost non-existent emotional attributes.

Its not a big secret that someone, I don't know who, needs to hire a PR agency to enhance our image in the west.

Check out the Jewish state. Thanks to a brilliant, consistent 50-year old PR strategy, Israel dominates the US Senate, US mainstream media and -consecutively- the public.

Whereas we, can't even properly promote our culture to our own people.

Eid Mubarak to everyone, if you can ever find it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dubai Taxi Poll

I was browsing Dubai Taxi website and noticed an Opinion Poll that asked the following question:

"What do you think about installing a surveillance camera in the Taxi?"


This is not only protection for customers and passengers, but even for the Taxi drivers themselves.

You can vote here

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Syrian Working Girl

Best Arab photo for 2007.
Taken by Wasim Khair Beik of Sana (Syrian Arab News Agency).

7 year old girl doing her homework while selling candy on the sidewalk in Damascus. Enough said. Via [Al Raiya newspaper, Qatar]

Monday, December 10, 2007

I know its old...

But I love seeing this video over and over again...

Dubai Motorists: brace yourselves!

Because Salik is back ....and this time, its back with Vengeance.

The Salik road toll system is to be expanded to all major roads and bridges in Dubai in a major push to get people to use public transport, Emirates Business 247 has learned.

OKAY.... it doesn't take a rocket scientist to say that this strategy is doomed to fail.

If ALL major roads have Salik, and majority of car owners still can not and will not use public transportation, one might as well use the road with shortest distance.

And that is, ladies and gentlemen, taking everyone back so square one.

Challenge me..

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Victoria's Secret bikini's in Jordan

Sorry to burst your bubble, but its about Jordanians girls in Victoria's Secret Bikinis.

Its actually a very sad story.

D.K. Garments is a subcontract factory with 150 foreign guest workers (135 from Bangladesh and 15 from Sri Lanka), which has been producing Victoria's Secret garments for the last year......

...The Victoria's Secret workers toil 14 to 15 hours a day, from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., seven days a week, receiving on average one day off every three or four months....

....Workers who fall behind on their production goals, or who make even a minor error, can be slapped and beaten.

Bloggers: if you are in Jordan, do something about this. Contact the named company, involve the press, do something to help out these people.

This is not Jordan we all know and love.

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PTO is over, back in business

Hey there...

A while back, I took an unannounced time-off. It was nice a refreshing.

Now yours truley is back in business and will resume regular blogging again, I hope.