Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Female UAE expats face new visa curbs to travel to Oman

From : Arabian Business

Non-GCC female UAE residents have been banned from travelling to parts of Oman without the permission of their employer or male relative.

The conservative UAE emirate Sharjah quietly introduced the new requirement last month. The regulation applies only at the Dibba border crossing with Oman, Sharjah’s only international land border, which is popular with UAE expats travelling to the picturesque Zighy Bay or joining a dhow cruise. It means female expats living in the UAE who do not have a passport from one of the other five Gulf Cooperation Council countries will need a no objection letter from their sponsor, typically either their employer or husband.

It does not apply to those on tourist visas.

The female visa follows a broader visa requirement introduced in September last year that requires every UAE resident that is not a GCC citizen to receive an Omani tourist visa in advance if they cross at Dibba. The restrictions are impacting on tourism operators near the Dibba border, many of whom rely on last minute bookings from UAE expats unaware of the new procedures. Sheesha Beach Travel and Tourism public relations manager Dylan Mangan said the new requirements were a “serious, serious” problem affecting the dhow cruise operator’s business, which relied on UAE expats for about 70 percent of its business.

“The majority of our business is from expats so it’s a huge, huge thing that’s going on. It’s driving us crazy,” Mangan said. The changes also were driving away business from large tour operators who were now choosing other activities to fill their itineraries. “We’ve got to get large numbers of people over the border and due to the new rules in place if all the passports, visas and letters etcetera aren’t given to us within a week of departure it’s even more difficult to get them across,” Mangan said. “It’s a serious headache in our eyes.”

Luxury resort Six Senses, on the shores of Zighy Bay, also is expecting the advance visa requirement to impact its business during the summer.
Spokeswoman Monica Majors said there had been little impact since the broader rule was introduced in September because majority of the resorts’ guests were from Europe and travelling on a tourist visa.

But they were concerned that the effects would be felt during summer when they relied on weekend escapes by UAE expats. Majors said many coming from the UAE booked at the last minute but that would now be too difficult, meaning the resort would lose business. Most potential clients were unaware of the new requirements and therefore did not book far enough in advance. “The problem is that they don’t publish the changes and regulations,” Majors said.
“We can’t entertain that last minute business because we won’t be able to assist our guests ... to ensure there are no issues at the border.”

The advance visa also is costing Six Senses Zighy Bay because the resort has chosen to process the visa free of charge for its clients in a bid to avoid any confusion at the border. A copy of the passport and UAE residence visa needs to be sent to the resort at least four days in advance. Women also need to send their letter of no objection, unless they are travelling with their husband, father or brother.

Sharjah authorities could not be reached for comment.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Amusement Parks in Dubai

The Atlantis Marine and Waterpark is the latest of Dubai's attractions. The Dolphin Bay, Aquaventure(slides and rides), the Lost Chambers (65,000 marine animals in aquariums) and the Atlantis Dive Center are its main attractions.

Wild Wadi used to be the most popular water park until Atlantis burst on the scene. It is still more reasonable though. The Jumeirah Sceirah at 33 meters is the tallest and fastest free fall slide outside North America. Wipeout FlowRiders allows you to try body boarding, knee boarding or surfing.

Wonderland is a family fun park with multiple rides. The space shot which goes from 0 to 130km/hr in 2.5 seconds, the terminator which weaves in every possible direction and water rides at Splashland are what you can look forward to.

The Al Nasr Leisureland has rides for little kids and sporting facilities that include an ice rink, tennis courts, squash courts, swimming pools, boxing rings and bowling alleys.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Unusual Experiences in Dubai

Desert Safaris
There are multiple companies offering this in Dubai and you will need to shop around for one that will suit you best. You can look forward to dune driving, sand skiing, camel riding, exploring wadis (dry river beds) and a Bedouin village sojourn ending in a feast in the middle of the desert.

Creek Tours
Creek tours along the Dubai creek are a wonderful way to see and contrast old and new Dubai along its banks. Abras are the local taxis and you can catch the one the locals use for 2dhs to cross the creek or you can opt for the evening cruises which include dinner aboard a dhow.

Helicopter Tour
There are a couple of companies which specialize in helicopter rides above Dubai. Most tour agencies have tie-ups with one of these companies and can book a trip for you.

Balloon Ride
Early morning hot air balloon rides offer a different way of viewing Dubai's skyline, the Hajar Mountains and giant sand dunes.

Big Bus Tour
Big Bus tours operate in Dubai too and offer both a day and night tour. The day tour mostly covers shopping malls, but does have guided walking tours in the historical districts. The night tour is a once round, 2 hour trip.

Wonder Bus Tour
Wonder Bus Tours uses amphibious vehicles that can move on road and in water. The tour is a 1.5 hour ride around town, but does not have the hop on, hop off facility of the Big Bus Day tours.

Camel Racing
Races take place on Thursdays and Fridays in winter. The race track is on the outskirts of the city and a traditional market comes up overnight and is dismantled when the races are over.

Horse Racing
Nad al Sheba is the country's largest racing track with races held during the cooler months. Gambling is prohibited but there are plenty of free raffles that are very popular for their generous prizes.

Bird Watching
Khor Dubai is the largest bird sanctuary in Dubai and is home to over 400 species and upto 15,000 birds in the winter season. The Mud flats – a tidal wetland – is a resting spot for thousands of flamingos, herons, ducks and shorebirds during their annual migration.

Special permissions are required to visit and it is best to contact a company that specialises in bird watching tours.

Birds of Prey Show
The Birds of Prey show features trained falcons, owls and vultures. The kids will love this one.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Picnics and Parks in Dubai

Most parks in Dubai have special play areas for children and areas demarcated for picnics, which may also have barbeque areas where you can carry your equipment and food and grill onsite.

Mushrif Park is the largest of all at 24,500sq m. An international village here is home to 13 model houses from different countries. It has a large sports playground for basketball, football or volleyball. 56 barbeque sites are equipped with modern grills.

Creekside Park has beautifully landscaped gardens making it the most scenic of parks in Dubai. A 2.5km cable car ride offers a completely different view of the Emirate from 30 meters above the ground. Bikes can be hired inside the park to cover more area. You can also catch a show at the Dolphinarium. Children's City is an educational city devoted to children between 2 and 15. Abra rides give you a wonderful view of Dubai creek.

Zabeel Park is a 47 hectare technology based recreational theme park divided into an Alternative Energy Zone, Communications Zone & Techno Zone. The ornamental boating lake offers pedal, rowboats and battery powered motor boats for hire. There's also a mini-cricket pitch & football pitch. The panoramic tower, IMAX theater and space maze modeled on the planetary system are other attractions of this park.

Safa Park is the earliest park in Dubai with a range of sporting facilities. An electronic games parlor, giant wheel, Traffic village for children and a waterfall make this an interesting place for children on a picnic.

The Jumeirah Beach Park has sunbeds and umbrellas for hire and is one of the best beaches to visit with children because of the facilities available.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sightseeing in Dubai

While Dubai may seem like a very young Emirate, it does have some historical sites that have been converted to museums and attractions. Entry to most museums is free and the maximum you will pay is 5 dhirams.

Dubai Museum
In the Al Fahidi Fort, is the most popular of all the Heritage attractions in Dubai. It’s a good place to catch up on the history of Dubai, with a peek into Commercial, Domestic and Desert life of yore. There is also a section on pearl diving – the original economic activity of Dubai. Except for a few dhows and cannons, the exhibits are all inside and air conditioned.

A short walk from here will take you into the Bastakiya area, with the largest concentration of traditional houses within the city limits.

Heritage House
Originally built in 1890 and restored in 1994. The house gives visitors an idea of what a traditional Emirati furnished accommodation would look like right down to the bathroom (al zawiyah) and a brides room (al Hijla)

Al Ahmadiya School
The school is located right next to the Heritage House. Religious teaching was started here in 1922. This museum chronicles the development of formal education from religious education

Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House
Built in 1896, this was once the seat of the local government. Its a fine example of Islamic art and design. Definitely explore the barajeel – wind towers – perhaps the world's earliest form of air conditioning.

Naif Museum
Situated in the Naif Fort in Deira, was the first headquarters of Dubai police and was also used as a prison. The museum explores the origin and developments in the police force of Dubai.

Heritage & Diving Villages
Handcrafters and Arab performers provide an insight into the traditional culture and lifestyle of the people of the UAE.

Jumeirah Archaeological Site
Believed to be over 1000 years old, excavations at this location are ongoing. But so far they have already identified residential buildings, a market, caravan serai and a mosque.To visit you will need to apply for permission from the Dubai Museum (04-3496874)

Hatta Heritage Village
This Heritage Village is 115km Southeast of Dubai located in the rocky Hatta Mountains. The history of the village can be traced back around 3000 years. There are 30 buildings made from different building materials. Special live events are held here during public holidays and the Shopping festivals.

Jumeirah Mosque
The only mosque in Dubai that is open to non-Muslims. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding conducts guided tours (1.5 hours) on every Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday at 10am for 10dhs each. The purpose of the tour and the Centre itself is to bring down the barriers between different cultural groups residing in the UAE. Photography is permitted, remember to dress appropriately.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Shopping in Dubai

During the summer months, when the sheer heat forces you indoors in air-conditioned environments, malls are your best bet for a day out. Malls in Dubai aren't just for shopping, they include entertainment, adventure and cultural outlets too. Options span from the High-end Burjuman mall and Boulevard for haute couture, the Gold Souk at Dubai Mall or Deira to the more reasonably priced Deira City Centre, Lamcy Plaza and Dragon Mart.

Most of the malls are based around a theme, which make them a sight seeing experience in themselves.

The Dubai Mall with its fountain to rival the Bellagio, largest single tank aquarium in the world, SEGA Republic and ice rink is currently the largest mall in Dubai.

The Ibn Battuta Mall is divided into sections designed to resemble the countries travelled by legendary traveller Ibn Battuta and is home to the UAE's only IMAX screen. Wafi City Mall has a Pharaonic theme to it and has a wonderful souk downstairs called Khan Murjan from where you can pick up souvenirs and local handicrafts.

Mall of the Emirates is home to Ski Dubai where you can enjoy the experience of Skiing on snow slopes even when the temperature outside is nudging 50C. DUCTAC - Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre is also on the premises with a wonderful library and theatre.

The Souk Madinat Jumeirah is a mall but designed in the style of a Souk - semi-open and semi-air conditioned. You can take an abra ride here in sanitized conditions. The Madinat Theatre here normally has very high quality international companies performing.

Global Village is an outdoor shopping and entertainment destination that is usually only open in the evenings for 3 months in a year (November to February) with stalls and products from across the globe.

If the temperature is conducive to outside walking, you may want to explore the more traditional shopping souks that are so filled with character. The gold souk in Deira is bordered by the spice souk and a very well stocked fish and vegetable market across the road. The textile souk across the creek has materials from across the world and in every kind of fabric, colour and price range.

Karama is a shopping zone mid-way between a traditional souk and a low price mall. It’s a good place for daily shopping or bargain clothes. Do polish your bargaining skills before you head to this area.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Complete Works of William Shakespeare - Abridged

Watched a play after 3 long years. For some reason, although we did watch more than a couple of ballets, operas, music programs and stand up comedies in Egypt, we never really had an opportunity to watch a play in English.

We had heard good things about this play: Complete Works of William Shakespeare - Abridged which was to cover all 37 of Shakespeare's plays in 97 minutes, so we were really excited to hear that it would be playing at the Madinat Theater.

Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield's script did not disappoint. It was brilliantly funny. The acting by Nick Barclay, Chris Hampson and Peter Brooke, was masterful and it was an out and out comedy.

My favourites were Othello being performed as a rap song and Hamlet being performed in reverse in 30 seconds. The other highlights were Titus Andronicus as a cooking show and the entire histories as a game of American football!

Chris Hampson's two minutes or so of nothing but expressions, just before the interval were theatric brilliance.

But what truly moved me were the 2 speeches. The fact that they could move an audience that was rolling in the aisles with laughter into a serious, pensive mood, just by a change in lighting and dialogue delivery was stupendous.

I'd love to go on, but that would ruin the play for someone who hasn't seen it yet.

Its a must watch. We caught it on the last day, but if it does come back to Dubai, grab your ticket, fast!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Medical Insurance in Dubai

After getting back from our holiday, dh has been laid low with some horrid symptoms which just got worse today. His sister is a doc back home and recommended some blood tests. So I spent the 1st part of the day checking out if there was a a diagnostic center in Dubai where I could get his blood tests done without a local doctors prescription.

Turns out that regular tests like sugar, cholestrol, liver function, malaria etc can be requested by a patient without a doctors prescription.

I called my husbands company to find the closest diagnostic center recommended by the company insurance providers (so I'd be sure we were going to a good facility) When we reached the diagnostic lab, the receptionist said that we would need to have a local dr prescribe the tests for the insurance cover to work on diagnostics.

They had a GP on the premises who fortunately did not seem to mind that we had recd advice from another dr, when he figured out that his sister knew his case history much better than any other dr ever could. But he also asked us some thorough questions and tried to get to the bottom of the problem and added a few more tests to those that his sister had recommended.

We told him which meds his sister had recommended that he take and the dr gave us a prescription for the local variants after making a few changes and additions of his own (which all seemed very logical)

We just had to pay 50 dhs for the consulting and a bit more for the general meds that weren't covered under insurance. (most of the medicines were covered under insurance) Ended up saving over 500dhs over the evening. This is the first time I am using an efficient insurance system, so I'm truly appreciative. Back home insurance only covers hospital stays for procedures that can't be done on outpatients and there so many complications with the paperwork, so I'd not even thought about insurance for diagnostics until the receptionist at the lab told me about it.

Its great to be in a country where some things work efficiently.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Barakat - Jallab

Picked up this drink from Spinneys the other day. It was my first time to taste this, but the ingredient list made it sound tasty (dates, raisins, pine nuts and rose - What's not to like?

Really enjoyed the drink, now looking for recipes which seem hard to come by.

The taste was akin to a nicer Roohafza (the ubiquitious instant "soft drink" served in Indian homes before Rasna's packets (powder and liquid in ighly concentrated colors) were widely available. Needless to say this was way before Coke and Pepsi gained a foothold in India.

The pine nuts floating on top gave a wonderful contrasting crunchy texture to the drink.

I've read online that any nuts ranging from pistachios to almonds to cashews can be used in a jallab, but I think I prefer the taste of pine nuts with this drink.

I hope it will still be available even after Ramadan (didn't see it before)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Michael Jackson Concert @ Mazaya Center

Had seen it mentioned in the newspaper and thought it would be a good evening outing on a Friday.

Wrote to the organisers, got a invitation emailed to me as was instructed in the article and print out duly in hand, we headed over to the Mazaya centre on Friday evening to arrive at 6:30 for a 7:00pm show (to find seats since it was free entry)

There were hardly 50 chairs and by 6:30, the place was already full and overflowing and people were seated on the stairs and central courtyardish raised platform behind the chairs and stage and a vast majority were also standing. The print out did not guarantee a seat and only contributed to global pollution.

The sheer human density in an otherwise empty mall, led us to believe that this would be a high quality program to have got such a large turnout. This was misconception number 2. We later figured that most of them were related to the performers and had come early to drop off their charges.

Since there was no seating space, we thought we would take a quick walk through Homes R Us to browse and perhaps buy articles for the home that are completely unnecessary, but look good in the shop. Fortunately we emerged outside by 7:00pm without opening our wallets.

On coming out, we saw that some children were standing in line in uniform blue silk shirts. This led us to believe the show would soon start. Huge misconception number 3. To spare you the boring details of how we whiled away an hour, lets just jump to the chase to state the fact that: The show did not actually start until 8pm. Mind you, over 50% of the audience was still standing around the stage till 8pm.

While waiting for the show to start, we headed upstairs to the restaurant overlooking the stage, in the hopes of having a coffee and getting a box seat view of the proceedings. They had a buffet on, very reasonable (50dhs a person and there were at least 3 varieties of prawns among 7-8 laden tables of food spanning Indian, Levantine and Persian cuisines) but just about average quality. Our Indian parents would love the extent of the spread for the price, but for us, we may only return there when our folks are in town to show them that it IS still possible to get a decently priced meal in Dubai.

The show started at 8pm and kicked off with those previously mentioned kids in blue singing "We are the world" One adult male, with a guitar took center stage for this song and had his mike volumes on high, with the kids mikes on low volume. We realised the wisdom of this decision a few minutes later.

Except for one South East Asian woman who had a rich, smooth and powerful voice and one male adult dancer, the rest of the show was excruciating to watch/listen to and we regretted our box office seats. Being Indian and having to pay full price for a buffet since we had already started, we would not be able to sleep well, if we hadnt maximised our returns on our money. So what if it was just 103 dhirams (3dhs for the large bottle of chilled Masafi water) and we were already on the 2nd course before the "show" began? Its genetically imbibed in us, that you have to get full value for what you are paying for! And so we sat there (scooted to the further end of the table) and ate and grimaced when someone hit a particular bad note.

The problem with airing shows like "So you think you can dance" and "Dancing with the Stars" is that you create millions of armchair critics. Suprisingly, none of these critics seemed to have made their way to this venue (or maybe not so surprising, as we too will now stay clear of such events) and the entire audience clapped enthusiastically when someone endlessly repeated the only step they could get right and so on.

Note to self: Only attend performances after confirming quality of talent.

With due apologies to parents whose children performed that day, who think their kids are just awesome. I'm sure they are, but excuse me for not being able to see it.