Saturday, September 12, 2009

Nothing is easy. Everything is complicated. And confused.

Don't know about you but it seems like this kind of crap only ever happens to me! (although, deep down, I know that that's not really the case, but still...)

In today's lesson, we will discuss renewing your driver's license, and how to drive a person to ultimate frustration.

First, the facts:
1) I've had a license for 10 years here.
2) It was time for it to be renewed.
3) It was originally issued in Abu Dhabi
4) I now live in Dubai (and my residence visa is issued there too).

Chapter 1: Abu Dhabi

I head to Abu Dhabi Muroor last week. This is where they inform me that they will complete the renewal procedure in Abu Dhabi but that I'll have to pick up my license in Dubai because that's where my visa is. Fair enough.

So I do the eye test (20 dhs), pay for the renewal of my license (110 dhs) and get my picture taken, and they give me a bunch of papers and tell me to head to the last counter.

I go to the last counter and show them my papers and they hand me a driver's license (!!!). Slightly confused but not really thinking much about it, I head out of Muroor and get into the car. As we were about to hit the road, I get a call. From Muroor. Asking me to hand the license back because I need to get my license from Dubai.

OK fine, so I go back up the 100 steps of the Muroor building, hand over my short-lived license, and get a letter confirming the file transfer to Dubai.

Chapter 2: Dubai

Back in Dubai. I call RTA to find out where I can pick my license up. The man on the phone (sounding like he knows what he's talking about) tells me I need to go to Deira to get it. I get annoyed because the last time I went to Deira was probably 3 years ago...or something like that!.

Not satisfied with my answer, I call Tasjeel in Barsha to see if I can pick it up there. They say no but give me the number of the Bur Dubai Police station (which is located in Barsha right next to Tasjeel...go figure!). I call them and some woman says she has no idea but to call the RTA (she gives me another number). I call that number over and over again, but no one answers. I call Bur Dubai station again and the same woman picks up. When I complain that no one's answering, she says "well you know it's Ramadan, and we have Ramadan hours". I ask her what the Ramadan hours were and she says "9AM-2PM" (anyone know how I can get myself a 9-2 job? Please?). Mind you, it was 12PM when I called.

Anyway, I finally reach someone the next day who says that I can get my license at the Bur Dubai police station (in Barsha) which is a relief cause I actually know how to get there.

So I go the next day, and go straight to the information desk. The woman tells me I need a no objection letter, copy of passport, pictures, eye test...

Me: "No no you don't understand, I already did all that and gave the documents to Muroor in Abu Dhabi...I just need to pick up my license"

Her: "No I'm sorry you need to do the whole procedure all over again"

Me: "But this letter here confirms the transfer...I do not have a no objection letter anymore because I gave the only copy I had to Abu Dhabi Muroor"

Her: "No I'm sorry you need to do the whole procedure all over again"

Me: "Can I speak to a supervisor"

So I speak to a supervisor who confirms that "There is a misunderstanding between Abu Dhabi Muroor and Dubai Licensing Department...there is not transfer of files that actually takes place. You need to do the whole procedure all over again"

Me: "But this is ridiculous, I already paid and did the eye test..."


The man was nice enough to try to help me on the spot by saying that if I got someone to email the No Objection letter he would issue the license for me...But I knew that was a long shot because:

a) It was lunchtime and the odds of me finding someone from my HR department were slim to none
b) The letter needs to be issued by Media City, and needs a few days

So now I have to go back in a few day's time, once I have the stupid No Objection letter (what's with this whole no objection crap anyway??? Why would someone object to me having a driver's license? Is there any other country in the world that requires a friggin no objection letter to get a license???)

My father called Abu Dhabi Muroor to ask them to clarify, but of course, no ones there could give him an answer because they were simply clueless.


Oh, and I am sooooooo looking forward to renewing my car registration next month!

Phew...That was a rant and a half!!! I feel much better now. Thank you for reading.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Consistency is key!

I flew on Etihad for the first time last year, on a trip to Paris. The experience was impressive to say the least. I had heard a lot of negative comments about Etihad and their planes from many people, but I was pleasantly surprised by my experience. Planes were new, service was good and so was the food.

I flew Etihad again recently on a trip to Beirut, and it felt like it was a different airline! On the way there, we were on one of those old planes that have the TV in the middle of the individual TVs. Food was OK...airplane food. But on the way back, it was even worse! There was NO TV! I honestly cannot remember the last time I was on a flight where there was not a single screen!

The flight attendants actually had to demonstrate the safety instructions manually...the way they used to do it around 15 years ago!

But then the worst part was the baggage claim. I cleared customs quickly (have I mentioned that I love e-gate?), and waited for my luggage. I saw a family friend waiting for his luggage as well, and he got his around 15 minutes later. I was still waiting...and waiting...and waiting...

A few suitcases would drop down onto the carousel, and then the belt would stop. And then a few more. And then stop again. This went on for about an hour, until I realized that the bags that started dropping down were for the next flight, not mine!

There were still quite a few people waiting for their bags, and a few of us dashed over to the lost baggage counter. I was FUMING!

Luckily, a young man told me to wait again at the carousel, because the Etihad luggage was still I went back, waited a bit longer, and FINALLY, around an hour and 20 minutes after my flight landed, I got my suitcase.

Another case in point is that my friend flew Etihad the day before I did, from Beirut. He got to Beirut airport 2 hours before his flight, only to find out that his flight was delayed 3 hours. Poor guy had to roam around Beirut airport for 5 hours before he finally got on his flight!

All this to say that if an airline is to establish itself as the "country's national airline", then it should do a better job at being consistent with its service. That is the only way a brand will survive in the long run.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Emirates ID

A few months ago, I registered online for an Emirates ID appointment...which is supposedly sometime in August..And I was bracing myself for a disastrous, chaotic experience. Given the experience some people went through to get it, and given the government's complete incompetency in communicating the right information to the population, I was ready to spend a few days running around, trying to get all the papers I needed and waiting long hours for my turn to come up.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, we got an email from our company's HR director telling us that an EIDA office was set up in Media City (Du building) and that there was no need for an appointment or anything of the sort.

So I filled up the online form, printed it out, and headed out the next day to submit my application. It took all of 20 minutes! There were 2 people ahead of me, and when my turn came around, all I had to do was show a passport/residency visa copy, the form I had filled out, a copy of my Media City ID. I paid, and was told to show up the next day for the fingerprinting procedure.

My appointment was at 9AM and I was there at 9 sharp and quickly got ushered into the fingerprinting room. That process took 15 minutes and they asked for my original passport and the receipt and initial application form. I was asked questions (such as what my last degree was and from which school, my mother's name, my religion, my address...), and got all 10 fingers scanned several times (my whole hand, and the side of my hand was scanned too!), and I was on my way back to the office.

My ID is supposed to arrive within the next 10 days.

My sister, on the other hand, had to get hers done in Abu Dhabi because her residence visa is under my father's name, and her ordeal was much more complicated. She managed to do the whole thing in one day, but had to be shuffled around from one office to the other for about 3 hours, and had to deal with some really rude attendants. At one point, she was "forgotten", as it was lunchtime, and all fingerprinting machines were shut down. She caused a small scene and was finally fingerprinted after about 3 and a half hours of waiting.

A few questions must be asked (not sure who will answer them, but still...):
1) Why is the service not consistent across all EIDA outlets?
2) Why can't the Media City system be adopted across the country?
3) Why was a simple process (such as the Media City one) not established from the very beginning, to avoid the drama and chaos that so many people went through?

Anyway...I'm just glad I got this over and done with. Not sure what will happen to my August appointment...I wouldn't even know where to cancel it!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Etisalat, Blackberry, and the whole fiasco...

The news over the past 10 days has been about Etisalat's Blackberry patch fiasco that has drained the batteries of many BB users. And to add insult to injury, it turns out that the patch is not really a "sofware update patch", as originally claimed by was, in fact, a spyware patch that gave Etisalat access to BB users' email and messenger information (which should have technically been secure).

Now, the fact that Etisalat is trying to "spy" on its users is disturbing to begin with, but what's even more disturbing is Etisalat's ridiculous response to the whole fiasco. If ever there was a PR case study made out of this, it would be to showcase how NOT to handle a crisis situation.

Newspapers, the blogosphere, Twitter, word of mouth...EVERYONE was talking about this, but how did Etisalat choose to respond? By avoiding the situation. By not releasing a statement until a few days later, downplaying the story, saying only "300 customers were affected".

In an era where dialog with the consumer, transparency and honesty are key in ensuring a brand's credibility, Etisalat has got it all wrong...really!

I was not affected by this because just a week before the patch was released, I switched my BB service to Du...Yep...Du...And in all honesty, I am very happy with their service so far.

1) The coverage is good (there was only 1 location where I had Etisalat coverage but no Du coverage at all).
2) They are MUCH cheaper than Etisalat...even their international calling rates are better.
3) Turns out that changing my number to a Du number is not so complicated after all...All it took is one email and a few messages to advise my contacts that my number has changed. I still have my Etisalat number for a couple of months, and then I plan on completely discontinuing it.

I do hope Du benefits from the whole Etisalat mess. Not because I love Du (refer to some of my previous posts), but because any company that acts in such a moronic manner NEEDS to suffer some consequences!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Oh drive me nuts!

I've said this time and time again, but there is a serious problem with customer service in this country...and this is applicable to almost anything, from moving companies, to banks, to restaurants...and of course, telecom companies. Given that Etisalat is practically a monopoly, it doesn't really make the effort to invest in its customer service.

Case in point, my sister wanted to get her phone service changed from prepaid to postpaid, AND she wanted to get roaming service as well. Did she manage to do both these things at once? Of course not. She had to change to postpaid first, wait for a couple of days, then go back to get roaming service. And of course, she had to present a passport copy every time, because God forbid Etisalat keeps these on record in their files.

A couple of months ago, I also switched to postpaid. I had a business trip during the month of April and needed to expense some of the calls I made. I waited for the bill but did not get it. I got an SMS from Etisalat telling me what the total amount was, but I did not get a detailed bill.

I thought it was an address issue or something along the lines, but then I got my May bill, and the address was fine. So I called Etisalat to ask them for a detailed bill for April. You'd think that it would be a simple request...I mean, how hard is it for them to contact their billing department and ask them to send me a copy of the bill? Or to give me access to my detailed bill on my online account?

Noooo....of course not...because that would make it too simple and far too efficient...

Instead, I have to go to an Etisalat office (and not just any branch at a HAS to be an actual office), with a copy of my ID of course, to get them to either give me a copy of the bill OR to get them to give me access to my detailed bill online.

Totally, absolutely ridiculous! Almost as ridiculous as having to go to a bank and fill up a form in order to set up Internet banking!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Is getting jailed for being drunk legal?

I recently heard the story, from a friend of mine, that his friend was found outside an Abu Dhabi bar by policemen, drunk, and was taken into custody. Granted, the drunk guy had fallen (or passed out), so he was found laying on the street. He was first taken to hospital to get his alcohol level checked, and was then taken to jail where he's still being kept to this day.

He's been there for 5 days now and does not know when he will get out. The police moved him from one prison to another then back to the first prison, then again to the 2nd prison.

Is this legal? I mean, the guy was not driving, and as far as I'm concerned, if there are clubs/bars in the UAE, it means that you are allowed to drink. The guy did not get into a fight and he did not hurt anyone. He is Christian, southeast Asian, but does not have a liquor license. I understand that the police would jail someone for a day or two, but 5 days??

Can anyone shed some light on what the law says about this?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I did not sell out...

...I am still here (unlike what Mory and Coloman insinuated in their comments to my previous post). I've just been busy over the past month due to:

1) A weeklong work trip
2) Coming back to a pile of work at the office
3) A move

Ever since my sister moved in with me, we've been in dire need of a bigger place. Poor girl was sleeping on a not-so comfortable sofa bed, and had not place to hang her clothes! We searched for a good 3 weeks before my lease was about to run out. We waited till the last minute because people said that it is very easy to find apartments...and cheaper...especially now.

I guess the above applies to people who are not as picky as we are. We wanted the right place with the right view at the right price. Took a while but we found it eventually (3 days before my lease was over).

Within the span of 24 hours, movers were contacted (EuroMovers...they were wonderful, helpful, super quick and super cheerful), Dewa was called and Du was advised of the move.

Can I just say how impressed I was with Dewa's customer care department. When I called, the man on the other end of the line was very helpful in providing me with all the documents I needed to make the transfer from the old to the new apartment. Now, of course, the process itself is still very much archaic:

- You have to fax a copy of your old lease, passport copy, visa copy, and a note asking for a final bill (who uses faxes anymore these days! I always worry that my faxes never reach their intended destination...and this was the case with Dewa, who never got my request for final bill)
- I then had to go to Dewa to create a new account for the new location. And pay a new deposit. Why could I not do this over the phone? Or Internet? Oh, and can I point out that Dewa does not accept debit or credit cards? Only cash!
- Of course, since they had not received my final bill request, I had to go to DEWA AGAIN a couple of days later to pay my final bill and get my deposit back.

Du's customer care department, on the other hand, was a disaster to deal with. I was on the phone for 20 minutes with the person at Du who was trying to explain to me what I needed to do in order to switch my services over to the new location (again, fax a letter, visa, passport copy, new lease copy, bla bla bla), and trying to book an apointment for the service guy to come activate my services. The conversation ended with him telling me that someone would contact me within 48 hours to set up an apointment.

55 hours later, no one had called so I called again to check that they had received the fax. They had (hallelujah!) and said that someone would call me by end of day to confirm apointment time. No one called.

So I call again the following morning, and they promise to call back within 15 minutes, which they do. We set the apointment for the service guy to come over. The good thing is that the service guy was extremely punctual and efficient (I was so worried I'd have to wait an hour for him to show up!).

The apartment's still a mess but we are slowly settling in... and at the very least we have electricty, water, internet and cable!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

*Tweet* I'm so bad...*Tweet*

...for neglecting this blog! I have not completely given up on blogging though...I've just been testing out a new form of blogging that's all...

My first foray into micro-blogging started a few weeks ago. Yes, DubaiSunshine is now on Twitter! And in the span of a few Tweets, I managed to get myself 40 followers...Not bad! Thanks to those who have chosen to follow me.

Twitter has gained immense popularity over the past few weeks. Everyone's on Twitter it seems! Even celebrities! Ashton Kutcher recently became the first Twitterer (is that what we are called? Twitterers?) to get 1 million followers (in a race with CNN!). Oprah does it. Demi Moore even helped save someone who was thinking of committing suicide.

I even have friends who send Tweets to their loved ones...while hanging out with their loved ones!

Even I have been guilty of tweeting in a club with a few other least we could communicate without having to scream into each others' ears to be heard!

How long will this Twitter phenomenon last? Is it a fad or is it here to stay for good? Only time will tell I guess.

In the meantime, if you miss me on this blog (if anyone even reads this blog anymore!) check me out on Twitter (@DubaiSunshine). And drop me a Tweet to say hello :)

Until then, Tweet ya later!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Dubai in the media

Two damning articles about Dubai have appeared in foreign publications over the past 2 days.

First on BBC, then another one in the Independent.

What's going on? Why the sudden Dubai-bashing? Again, nothing that's written in these articles is new, but they're shocking nonetheless.

Oh, and as a side note, when I tried posting the link to the first article on this blog's Twitter account, my post got deleted...TWICE! Guess someone's not happy with the bad rap Dubai's been getting.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I was at the Coldplay concert last Saturday, and all I can say is WOW! What a show!

We got there early so we could secure good spots...and what amazing spots they ended up being! Chris Martin was so close, we could almost touch him!

The rain, lightning and thunder show that accompanied the band only made the whole experience even better in my opinion.

The band was incredible...they looked like they were having fun on stage, they interacted with the crowd, they improvised, and they sang their lungs out! Their rendition of "I'm a believer" was amazing, and Chris often burst out into spontaneous rain-related songs such as "Why does it always rain on me" and "Raindrops keep falling on my head".

He even invited a girl to go up on stage with him to celebrate her birthday. Lucky b*&^h :)

The venue at the Emirates Palace was perfect once again (although more traffic on the way out this time around, and it seems that the wristband section was a bit more chaotic).

Abu Dhabi has proven once again that when it comes to attracting the big names and putting on a show, it beats Dubai hands down!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tweet Tweet...

Dubai Sunshine is now on Twitter! So if you're a twitterer (or whatever you want to call yourself), follow me on Twitter...Just click on the Follow me link on the right...

Tweet ya later!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

What's been happening?

I'm averaging out a post a month. Not good at all. I really should pay more attention to my blog...

Not that there's been much happening lately.

Totally busy: which everyone tells me is a good thing. They did lay off a few people though, but not too many. I know it may be sad to say, but at least this financial crisis has helped weed out non-performers, and provided a kick in the butt to those who were granted immunity (myself included!).

Totally unrelated: why is it that Saih Ash Shaib (right at the border of Dubai and Abu Dhabi) has now become Saih Shaib, with the "Ash" erased out of all the signs? Who is it that woke up one day and decided that the "Ash" had to go?

Totally random: How often should one take a vacation to remain sane? Every 3 months? 6 months? Once a year? Why is it that I've felt like I needed a vacation ever since I came back from my last vacation? Huh?

Totally annoying: will traffic in the Greens ever get better? EVER?

Totally serious: looking for a 2 bedroom apartment around the Media City area. Greens, Springs, JBR, Dubai Marina, Barsha...Just NOT Jumeirah Lake Towers. Hate that area cause it feels like a ghost town, although I know deals are pretty good there. I also know that Discovery Gardens is a nice area, but I feel it's kind of deserted. Anyone got any leads?

Totally tired: off to bed now...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

On tennis and politics

I guess everyone in the world has heard about Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer being denied entry into the UAE...and the UAE's cowardly decision to grand another Israeli player, Andy Ram, a visa to participate in the Barclay's tennis tournament next week. Because let's face it, as soon as an Israeli's "rights" are being violated, the world's media goes into a frenzy to make sure everyone hears about it.

When I first heard about Peer being denied entry, I was not surprised. It makes perfect sense to me given that a lot of Arabs who do not have dual nationality are unable to enter Israel. An Emarati citizen for example, could never set foot in Israel, so why should an Israeli be able to come here?

But at the same time, deep down, I was waiting to see how the government would react to the pressure that was being put by the Women's Tennis Association, with threats of canceling the tournament next year, and with the media going into a frenzy about this whole thing.

And of course, they caved. They caved under the pressure and granted Andy Ram a visa.

Which begs the question: why the double standards? Why not stick to your decision and live by it?

I find it absolutely hilarious (for lack of a better word) that just last month, Sheikh Mohammed's Dubai Cares organized a massive drive to help Gazans following the ethnic cleansing spree Israel conducted...and now, less than a month later, Dubai is granting a visa to an Israeli tennis player.

Which begs another question: would an Emarati football player for example be able to get into Israel to play a football match? For some reason, I find that possibility highly unlikely...

Yes, this post may seem harsh, and biased to some, but it's coming from a very personal place. A place where my elderly aunt who lives here in the UAE, and who only has a Lebanese passport, is unable to see her 2 sisters who live in Israel, for the pure and simple reason that she has a Lebanese passport, and they have Israeli passports.

It comes from a place where my siblings and I did not get to meet our cousins and aunts who live in Israel, until we got our Canadian passports...because that was the only way for us to visit the land where my father was born, the land where his father and mother lived and raised them, the land where he went to school, the land where my father formed his earliest memories.

In a way, I hope that the tennis tournament will be canceled next year...Maybe it'll serve as a lesson to all those involved...A lesson on how to stand up for what's right...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

State of the nation...

I haven't been a very prolific blogger this year have I? Apologies for being away for so long...It's almost February and I have no clue where the first month of the year has gone.

Oh ya, I know. Work. Been really busy, which I guess is a good thing these days. But no one's safe, really. I keep hearing of people being laid off, from different industries. And it's not just dozens of's hundreds of people being laid off at once. Scary. So has the bubble finally burst?

And what's scarier is that they say (not sure who "they" is but it's OK. Humour me for a second here) that the worst is yet to come. My company has not laid off anyone yet, but that's not to say that it ain't gonna happen eventually. They're being very nice and considerate about it but at the end of the day, there's a bottom line they need to worry about and that comes first, right? So yeah, no one's safe.

I guess there are couple of good things that have come out of this situation so far:

1) Less traffic. Has anyone noticed that there are less cars in Dubai? Is it because there are less people or because more people are leaving their cars at home (or sold their cars)?

2) Less useless people getting paid for doing nothing. I equate this economic crisis to a good detergent, getting rid of a bunch of people who were overpaid and under-productive. And making sure that the people who DO have a job are actually working. Like real estate agents for example. Now, they actually have to do a selling job, rather than just serve as a middle-man between the buyer and the seller.

3) Lower rents? Not that I've experienced that as of yet, and again, "they" say that in a couple of months, rents will go down even more. But is that really true? I am highly concerned because I am on the hunt for a bigger apartment. Not by choice really. If I could, I would stay put rather than having to pay over Dhs 160K for a 2 bedroom. Can I find anything for less than that in the "New Dubai" area? Oh, and is it a good time to be buying? Or should I stick to renting?

Will be back soon. Promise.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dubai Cares

Just got back from the Dubai Cares volunteering campaign for Gaza. A great way to spend the afternoon. It's taking place at the Emperor hall at DIFC, and there were literally hundreds of people already waiting in line by the time we got there a little after 2PM today. But the line moved pretty quickly and that was largely due to the efficient organization of the team running the campaign, who were quick to dispatch volunteers to various stations across the hall. There were two floors that were fully occupied.

When we first walked into the hall, it really seemed like complete chaos. But we soon got a grip on what was happening, as an assembly line was formed. Some people were taping the boxes, others were filling them, some were sent on the hunt for more supplies, while others were closing the boxes and transporting them to the storage area. Everyone was working quickly and efficiently, and it was great to see parents bring their kids along to have them participate in this great initiative. And it was also great to see people from different nationalities participating in the effort.

We were in charge of putting together the hygiene kit which consisted of 2 toothbrushes, a towel, 2 bars of soap, baby shampoo, toothpaste, detergent, 2 combs and 2 toilet paper rolls. Others were putting together a school kit for kids. And I believe there was also a first aid kit station, but I'm not sure about that.

Thousands of boxes were filled today alone, and the campaign has been going on since last Wednesday. The last day is tomorrow and they are starting at 10AM (till 6PM) so if you can, do take the time to spend a couple of hours there tomorrow. It's really worth it.

I just hope that all these boxes will reach the citizens of Gaza sooner rather than later. God only knows that they are in dire need of these supplies.

Friday, January 09, 2009


It's been a while....Haven't posted here since....well...last year!
Not much to report on except for a hectic month of December (out of town family visiting, lots and lots of time spent in malls, lots of work too...whoever said December is a slow month was lying!, plus a trip to Beirut over the New Year holiday).

Been back for a week now, battling a nasty cold that just won't seem to go away.

But I did want to share my disgust about the situation in Gaza. I can't believe the pictures and the reports that are coming out of there. And I can't believe that the only reaction that's come out of Arab leaders is silence. How can anyone be silent when you hear of innocent civilians being killed, of children clinging to their dead mothers' bodies for days, of people living in a state of constant fear, with no electricity, no food, nowhere to go, of people bleeding to death because Israel has restricted access to emergency and first aid vehicles?

The Arab community here and around the region has been extremely supportive, organizing rallies and demonstrations, collecting food, clothes, blankets and medical supplies to send to Gaza. Everyone, even the least politically-involved, has been touched and affected by what's been happening. So why have Arab governments remained silent? Why has nothing been done to stop this genocide?

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Moryarti for informing people about the Aramex campaign for Gaza, and the Gaza care packages that you can buy in pharmacies.

I'd also like to urge you to read Laila's blog. Although she does not live in Gaza, her parents do, and the stories she tells on their behalf are simply horrifying.

May the souls of all those innocent lives rest in peace.