Monday, 17 January 2011

Our New Home

View Of Central Courtyard From Balcony
(pool, BBQ area & kids playground)

Our Balcony - Outdoor Dining

The Living-Dining-Kitchen

Spare Bedroom - Lacking a Bed!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

More Paperwork

Dubai seems to exceed even the Bahraini's for paperwork. Kevin received his residency visa and work permit a few days ago. So now armed with lots of copies of them we could move on to the next stage and acquire the services like utilities and TV & broadband for our apartment.

This morning we had the assistance of the relocation company to see us through a number of the hurdles we need to go through. Ana kindly drove us around and knew where all the offices were as well as exactly what was needed. Two hours later, a whole tree's worth of paper and over a thousand dirhams the poorer, we have a DEWA account and Kevin has a driving licence. On the way we also picked up forms to apply for an alcohol licence and a Du account.

DEWA is the utility authority for water (supply and drains) and electricity. They required copies of (deep breath); the tenancy contract, the landlords passport, Kevins passport and residency visa and our landlord's proof of ownership [of the property] document. In addition they required sight of Kevin's passport, a completed form detailing our PO box and phone numbers as well as the property's DEWA account number plus a 1000 AED deposit and 110 AED connection fee (a total of around £195).

Once you have your residency visa it is illegal to drive on a foreign driving licence here so it was imperative that Kevin obtained a UEA driving licence as soon as possible. This can be acquired at a municipal office as long as you have the relevant paperwork (another deep breath); a sight test (100AED), a passport photo, copies of both sides of a UK drivers licence (the photo card one), a copy of the residency visa in your passport and a letter from your sponsor ie Kevin's employer. He handed over another chunk of cash, they took his photo again and created his photocard style driving licence on the spot. I'll get mine once I have my residency visa and Kevin has written a letter giving me permission to drive. The former is waiting on my passport renewal as it has less than six months on it and the latter is needed as he is my sponsor here! Thankfully UK passport holders don't have to take a series of lessons and a driving test.

All that's needed now is a company stamp on the alcohol licence application form then Kevin can pop along to any alcohol store to get his licence as he already has a letter from his employer stating they are a Free Zone company (no idea why but its a requirement). The one item outstanding is a Du account, this is the company that provides cable TV, broadband and landlines to the estate where we are going to live. An application form for a new connection is in our hands but we need to check with our landlord whether they want us to go ahead or whether we should pay them for their existing connection... if we request a new connection they'll lose their residential phone number(s).

I am very glad that guiding us through all this paperwork we have a relocation company and a PRO (Kevin's company have two PRO's whose sole function is to obtain visas and similar paperwork for both the UAE and any country employees visit in the course of their duties).

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Wonderland

Looking Like Minature Skyscrapers
A view frm the Burj Khalifa
Well our friends Paul and Eileen have headed for the airport today (Jan 12th) and despite spending ten days exploring our new hometown and its surrounds I am still bemused by where we've landed. It really is a surreal city. Where else can you be whisked up 124 floors in a few seconds and look down on a mass of sky scrapers appearing like minature Lego towers at your feet? Where else can claim so many records for the biggest, the only, the tallest, the grandest etc etc? Big and brash, this wonderland is one crazy place to be. Only in Dubai would four Irish comedians perform their more than slightly risque (judged by the mores of the locals) acts outdoors under a band of steel-blue lights rising up an empty 30-40 storey block across from the garden we were in. The lights courtesy of one of the audience who apparently was the project manager responsible for the building and having attended the night before thought it a suitablely grand gesture for the finale of the Irish comedy festival at McGettigans bar. 


Four By Four Adventures
Yet go out in the desert and you can find yourself a place where there is no noise; no aircon humming, no traffic and no planes overhead, just you, the wind and the birds! A village arrayed around a huge empty square tucked away in the sand dunes with just a dirt track for access to the 21st century. Nearby fenced compounds clustered around a few trees held camels or protected green crops, and a small troop of donkeys wandered across the stoney scrub at the foot of the mountains. Mountains of limestone etched by the wind with huge dunes of red sand reaching alomst to their summit on the windward side, a couple of four by fours perched high up.

Birmingham on Sea?
Speaking of remoteness, back in the city you can find a beach that is almost deserted, ten minutes by car from our apartment in the Jumierah area, north of the Burj Al Arab. It is a place where clear blue seas lap gently at golden sand, completely lacking in any amenities except somewhere to park your car and a rubbish bin, it is overlooked only by a row of suburban villas a few hundred metres back. Have a quiet picnic, a gentle swim, lie in the sun enjoying the peace or wander along the shore to collect a few more exotic seashells. A complete contrast to touristy JBR further south with its Walk and Plaza full of trendy shops and cafes. I laughed when a friend called JBR "Birmingham on Sea" due to the rows tower blocks which crowd together just back from the sand. To me, from the sea, they look lined up as if about to attack some unknown giant invader, the silver "caterpillar" containing a ski slope that rears up over the Mall of the Emirates maybe?

Desert Donkeys
We spent a morning in the hustle and bustle of a souk; gold, textile or spice where the sound of Arabic, Punjabi and other tongues together with traffic and horns compete with the smells of nutmeg, cinnamon and coriander while at every turn another alley reveals new sights leaving your senses battered and overwhelmed. Old Dubai with it's abra's (water taxis), trading dhows and souks is in total contrast to New Dubai yet simply adds to the feeling of being in Dreamland. A world plotted and planned orginally back in the 1950's in a small, plain council chamber down by the creek, not much bigger than the average lounge. Later that day, on searching for the ladies loo after a late lunch in a slightly tacky pizza restaurant, our hunt revealed us to be in a classy four star hotel with glamorous facilities! The Arabian Courtyard is in central Dubai opposite the excellent underground museum and proves that it pays to look beneath the dusty outer shell as sometimes as not everything is as scruffy as it seems!
Burj Khalifa viewed from underneath