Category Archives: Red Tape

Address to Impress

One of the most confronting things about moving to Dubai – and there was stiff competition – was the lack of a proper postal addressing system.

“Wah wah!” I hear those back home mocking me, but I challenge you to question if you don’t take for granted how easy it easy to write your address on a form and know it will ensure items large and small arrive at your door without fail. We can’t fill out a form like that. We don’t have street names, street numbers or post codes. There is no residential ‘address’ system as such in the UAE.

If you order takeaway, you give your building name and apartment number and general vicinity – then you describe your location using a prominent landmark or two, “opposite HSBC” or “after the butterfly roundabout”. But can you imagine trying to squeeze this information into the change of address form from your bank back home?

Lucky people just have mail delivered to their company’s post office box. Others purchase a mail box and drive to the opposite end of the city whenever they remember to check it.

But change is in the offing. Late last year, I was elated to hear that Emirates Post was commencing residential postal delivery in the UAE,  but the geek in me (well, perhaps the control freak in me) was doubly excited to read that Abu Dhabi’s Department of Municipal Affairs had started implementing a comprehensive new addressing system across the emirate.

They’ve already setup a database to log, code and file names for geographic locations. Addresses will include a building number, unique street name, city name, the emirate and postcode. (A postcode!!!) They say this database will be used as an official reference for the street names. (An official reference!!!)

The Municipality project will create around 12,000 new street names and at least 20,000 street signs over the next two years and a half years.

Just to prove the UAE capital is bringing in a system just like any other, they say streets will be named after prominent people in the UAE, historical people from the Islamic religion and from other countries. I wonder if there will be any embarrassing oversights or strange inclusions like we see the world over?

Advertisements

Dubai 2.0

Seeing Dubai through a visitor’s eyes is a rejuvenating process

I’ve been entertaining my Dad in Dubai for the past ten days and it’s been surprisingly wonderful. Whether it’s that we’ve both mellowed enough to enjoy a more extended dose of each other’s company, or whether it’s having T around as the defuser, or much needed pressure valve, I don’t know. All of the above?

I was explaining this to my colleague, Greg, and he said ‘isn’t it wonderful having guests and showing them around and rediscovering all the things you love about the place!’. It hit me that it was exactly what had been happening. Everywhere I’d been going, I was thinking to myself, ‘wow, isn’t this a wonderful place’. I was falling in love with Dubai all over again.

The past year has been levelling. A lot of old friends moved away and the transient nature of this expat hub was drawn into all too sharp a focus for us. I’ve been finding it too easy to fixate on this young city’s room for process improvement and have let myself lose sight of the rich and wonderful parts of living here. Having Dad’s fresh eyes has helped me see through the crap. Not only his fresh eyes, but he managed to bring another set of fresh eyes into my life – kind of. Let’s just say, last week I met a friend he’s known since studying Mandarin with her in Sydney a decade ago, she’s just moved here on her own journey making New Memories and I really look forward to hearing about how she finds her feet and sharing her discoveries.

I’m right in the middle of my Dubai renaissance and I’m going to start talking it up, and shift the balance of this blog to ‘travels’ from ‘travails’. Perhaps you might start seeing a hint of the effervescence of fellow Dubai blogger Britney of Arabia and just maybe on my way, I can even convince the doyenne of all things Shamelessly Salacious to fall in love with Dubai again with me.

Unglamorous travel

Growing up in Sydney and living as an expat for most of the past ten years, I’m quite used to the long-haul flight. I’m quietly amused when Europeans express how arduous they find a four or six hour flight. The key to surviving ten to twelve hours in the air (or five hours transiting inside an airport terminal) is not to peak too early.

As soon as I get in a plane I try to own my tiny little bubble of space (this girl is no business class traveller). Then, I assess what amusements are available: in-flight entertainment? Interactive or not? Magazines? English or not… If none of the above apply, I’m left to whatever novel and newspaper I’ve brought with me. Lucky I’m a good sleeper.

I’m not a fan of Air China. Before even taking off I had discovered grains of rice stuck to the blanket I’d been given. Then, upon opening the magazine, I realised it had become attached to me by the wad of crusty old gum stuck on the corner of it. Not impressed. It’s hard to own a space that revolts you.

Likewise, strategy is important in transit. I assess the smoking situation first, then coffee, then wi-fi capabilities as prerequisites: free? how strong? how much censorship?

Duty-free shopping rarely figures, I have to admit. Except if I’ve forgotten something, or to sniff around at local artisan-type stuff. I wasn’t going to sniff one item I discovered last night at DXB: a product packed with enough herbs and spices to make The Colonel envious. A product that goes some way to explaining why men in Dubai have the reputation of punching above their weight, perhaps.

Right now, I’m an hour into a four-and-a-half hour layover at Beijing International. It took me forty-five minutes to sign up for free wi-fi using a complicated passport scanning machine (the first one of which was broken). Then I discovered I couldn’t even get my social media fix as Facebook and Twitter are blocked. But to be fair, I did know this, and at least I was able to check-in with FourSquare.

Then to find coffee. There aren’t many airports in the world where you have to trek from one end to the other to find caffeine but there is a distinct lack of Starbucks, Costa, Pret a Manger etc at Beijing Capital. I don’t believe I even spotted a McDonalds in my marching. Lucky Lei Cafe came to my rescue, with a bitter cup of something I winced at with first mouthful. At least now I can think.

The smoking rooms here are not too bad here however, as far as those dens of iniquity go. Well-ventilated, with lighters on hand. Convenient, given that Customs managed to locate four lighters in my hand luggage and stole every one of them. Two unopened bottles of water taken too, that were purchased at the departure gate in Dubai. I don’t know what they think I could’ve done to them in the mean time to make them a threat. But then, I remember a strange instance in Shanghai a few years ago before boarding the Maglev train.

The surly guard told me if I wanted to keep the water I had to take a sip of it in front of him before proceeding. The logic is bizarre – obviously to prove to him it didn’t contain any chemicals of a poisoning nature. Not the time to crack jokes, but I do wonder what would’ve happened if I doubled over, gasping and clutching my throat.

So, this has taken up another thirty minutes. Onwards and upwards to the consideration of food. Maybe after another cigarette.

Licence to Drive (me to distraction)

One of the things I need the most is a local driver’s licence. You’ll have noticed me whinging a lot about taxi drivers if you’ve been reading my drivel avidly. So in order to hire a car I need a local licence. (NB. I wouldn’t have needed one if I’d hired one before I got my residency)

I went to the RTA office in Deira City Centre, near work and picked up the form. Passport, photocopy of passport, certificate from eye test, 2 x passport photo, letter of no objection (NOC) from employer, form signed and stamped by employer, together with one’s home licence. Too easy.

I return to the RTA with my neat bundle of papers and join the queue. A chuckle to myself as a man is turned away for not having a copy of his passport. I snigger when a woman is told she needs two photos, not one. I politely present my sheaf to the Emirati slouched behind the counter and he looks at each item.

He studies my licence, turns it over, turns t back again and asks where it is from. I tell him “The Northern Territory of Australia”. He says that he has seen many many licences, but never this one. I admit it is a small place but a territory – like an emirate – of Australia nonetheless.

He makes a call, rifles through lists in a cruddy plastic folder and tells me I need to go to a different office for this one, or come again another day between the hours of 10 and 3.

That was three days ago. I’ll work up the courage soon.

I’m official!

Well, well, well. After a week of feeling completely deflated by this place and all its crazy antics, I have scored a minor achievement. I’m now officially a resident. This is brilliant news because now I can do some very essential things like open a bank account, sign on to a rental lease and hire a car.

%d bloggers like this: