Wasta is a word often heard in Dubai in the UAE. It is Arabic and translates as something like authority, influence, political (or other) power, connections, or a combination of those terms. In practical terms it means that some rules can become more flexible if you have wasta, or know someone who has wasta. Also, a bit of wasta can smooth or speed up business transactions, bureaucratic issues, and other official procedures. At its best (or worst, depending on your point of view), a good dose of wasta could keep you out of jail or save you from other unpleasant consequences of dubious activities.
The common English expression "it's not what you know but who you know ... " is a rough equivalent of wasta.
On the wasta scale (not that there is an official one), things that can make a difference in the UAE are your nationality, your profession, who you work for, who you know, your political position in the country, your connections to people in positions of authority. Money and how long you have lived in the UAE don't usually directly affect your wasta level but indirectly they do since longer term residents may have built up a larger network of high-wasta friends, and rich people often associate with other rich people who may be high-wasta individuals.
Many expat residents learn about wasta through a driving experience. In simple terms, the more wasta someone has, the less likely they are to cop a fine and/or be blamed if there's an accident. Wasta can result in some unusual situations for example, green lights were actually red when you went through them because the person who crashed into you had enough wasta to change the color retroactively. Indications of higher levels of wasta on the road are dark tinted or mirror tinted windows (30% maximum is the law so anything more than that means it's likely they have enough wasta to get around this rule), number plates with fewer than 5 digits (but anyone can buy them now if they have enough cash so it's not as good an indication as in the past).
Wasta is something that many expats, especially westerners, find difficult to come to terms with but you'll find it easier to enjoy Dubai if you get used to that rather than try to fight it. And of course it helps if you can elevate your own wasta level somehow.
Wasta and Bribes
Don't confuse wasta with bribery. If you try to bribe a government official, for example a police officer who has just pulled you up for driving though somebody's garden, you should expect to be punished fairly harshly for trying to bribe them. And if the owner of the garden that you drove through has some wasta, then you'll probably be even worse off. In the business world, things may operate a little differently. Just as anywhere else in the world, the negotiation of business transactions and contracts is not always done on a level playing field, and bribes ... er gifts ... might be part of your discussions with interested parties.
Alcohol licences obtaining one
Alcohol Licence - obtaining one and why you should have one
An Alcohol Licence (or License) gives expats in Dubai and the UAE permission to drink alcohol - they need a residence visa before applying for an alcohol license. It is shown at off-licences or liquor stores in Dubai when making purchases. In theory it could be asked for at a bar or club but in practice it almost never is. Apparently the law says that only hotel guests may drink at hotel bars but it's unheard of for that to be enforced.
14 Nov 2006 news. A court case acquitted a resident for drinking in a bar because he did have an alcohol license, although the police arrested him because they claimed the license only allowed residents to drink alcohol at home.
Tourists do not need an alcohol licence since they are not in Dubai on a resident's visa.
Muslims are not permitted to have an alcohol licence (the application form asks what religion the applicant is).
Alcohol licenses are a legal requirement when buying alcohol from bottle shops like MMI, and A&E, and Spinneys in Abu Dhabi. How often it is asked for varies depending on emirate. Almost always in Dubai, sometimes not in Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah, and rarely, if ever, in Umm Al Quwain and Ajman.
Alcohol purchases can be made without a licence (illegally) at several establishments in Ajman and Umm Al Quwain. Or you can present your license and buy alcohol legally. Where you're likely to get into trouble is if you have an accident between shop and home, and the alcohol is found in your car. Sharjah especially would be more risky as it is a dry emirate. Checkpoints with car searches are a possibility but very rare. If you do have a license then you are permitted to transport alcohol for personal use between shop and home. However, for those living in Dubai, you would be expected to buy alcohol in Dubai.
On 03 July 2006 there was a report in the Gulf News of alcohol purchasers being followed from Ajman into Sharjah by conmen, made to pull over and threatened with being reported to the police unless a ransom was paid. Figures were reported as being 2000 dhs to 10,000 dhs. An Ajman police official apparently told the reporter that non-Muslims were allowed to transport legally purchased alcohol through any emirate to their home. Note that you need to present your alcohol license in these 'hole-in-the-wall' establishments in Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, etc to become a legal alcohol purchaser.
The licence shows a monthly limit for purchases which depends on the applicants salary. Usually the limit is somewhere between 500 dhs and 1500 dhs per month.
Tax on Alcohol
There is a 30% tax added to all alcohol purchases made when presenting an alcohol licence (last confirmed June 2006).
Your company obtains one for you. There'll be fees of around 200 dhs per year to pay, and you'll need the usual paperwork (passport with residence visa, photos).
You apply for one yourself. The easiest way to do this is through one of the alcohol shops in Dubai - A & E or MMI. They have the forms and will obtain the license for you (about 200 dhs per year).
KURBAN TOURS-the worst travel agency ever
Hi! Our recommendation is to be very carefull when buying trips with the travel agency. This one, KURBAN TOURS, took our money, but did not paied the hotel, not anything else of what we had booked. We arrived in Dubai at night, without hotel, with all our plans ruined, no New Year's dinner, no view to thw fireworks, anything! And the only thing they done after all that, was to blackmail us by all the possible ways, is order to make us sign a letter as we renounced to our right to complaint against them...Just, please, be very carefull when giving the money to a travel agency, we don't want anybody to live the nightmare we lived in Dubai...
In several places in Dubai, paid parking is applied.
Especially in business hour, in certain locations, parking cost 1 Dirham for one hour. (It depend on how long you will park).
Get a ticket and display it on the your car dashboard.
Be careful, disobey this rule will cost you 150 to 200 Dirham.
After 9 PM and public holidays, usually parking is free.
"Highway to the Danger Zone" - UAE Driving
Driving in the UAE is a daily adrenalin-rush: fearing for your life. This is no laughing matter - the UAE has the highest death rate on the roads per capita in the world. On average there is an accident every 2 minutes, and 1 person perishes in a road-related accident every day.
Residents' lives are ruled by the city's roads where huge volumes of traffic & poor driving etiquette can make a 20min journey into a 3 hour grid-lock nightmare.
In 10 years I've managed to "only" be involved in 2 accidents in rush-hour, when both times it was an Arab, and both times they rammed into the back of me...
The ratio of vehicles per person is 5.4 (compared to 2.1 in the UK & 1.3 in the USA) & fatalities per 100,000 vehicles are 10 times higher than in the UK, 6 times higher than in the US & 4 times higher than in Qatar.
Basically, lane-ettiquette doesn't exist: as soon as you indicate to change lanes the person behind you will make sure to close the gap so you cannot "get in his way".
The worst time is on Thursday afternoons & evenings, when many Arab & Expat youngsters fly into Dubai for a weekend of partying, racing their buddies on the way. They zig-zag inbetween cars on the highway at top-speeds. When you see them coming, it's best to just stay in your lane & keep the speed your driving at. Any attempt to get out of their way may prove fatal.
Bad fog & idiotic speeding caused a massive 6-car pile up in March 2008 with over 350 people injured!
And remember: during Ramadan people may get a bit ratty towards the end of the day due low blood sugar level or desparate for a cigarette! I NEVER drive 30min before and 30min after Iftar, because people are in a mad rush to reach home to break their fast. Every year in Ramadhan, the accident rate in Dubai shoots-up by 200%! So it's best to stay off the roads around sun set...
There's the added problem of gardeners/delivery-boys cycling without any lights on the wrong side of the road, and desparate suicidal labourers running onto the highways trying to get killed on purpose (!) so their families in Asia can benefit from the "Blood Money" that has to be paid by the driver.
Add to this many overloaded, speeding trucks loosing everything from cardboard boxes to wooden beams to blown-out truck tires - a true obstacle course!
Check this link for the danger of camel-related accidents: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tp/16cfbc
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"I can't get no sleep!"... Construction NOISE
If you are visiting Dubai as a tourist, inform yourself about the location of your hotel: otherwise you could find that your dream-holiday in Dubai is spoilt by 24hour construction noise, turning your stay dream holiday into a nightmare.
Dubai is built around the whole "touristy thing" idea:
We have an indoor ski slope, soon the tallest building in the world, the highest this, the longest that, the biggest cake, the heaviest tree, the deepest cup, etc, etc, etc.
Dubai is geared-up and ready to furnish tourists with everything in their wildest dreams... so the entire city has turned into one massive & endless construction site.
There are currently substantial building works going on in the Jumeirah area, and 24-hour construction noise & severe traffic conjestion will affect any visitors staying in some of these resorts:
> The Sheraton Jumeirah Beach
> The Hilton Hotel
> The Oasis Beach Hotel
> Le Royal Meridien,
> The Ritz Carlton
> Le Meridien Mina Seyahi
These hotels are all affected by the developments and the marina project on the land-side and therefore travellers are advised to upgrade to sea view rooms.
Sea view rooms are not too badly affected by the building works.
From the sea, further hotels are affected:
> The Jumeirah Beach Hotel
> The Burj Al Arab
> The Mina A'Salam / Madinat Jumeirah
> The Royal Mirage
The Palm Island works are visible from most hotels in Jumeirah.
Quiet often, a day at the beach can be spoilt by grey chemical foam or floating debris being washed-up from the offshore construction sites.
Plan ahead for your holidays!
City's breaking down on a camel's back,
They just have to go 'cause they don't know wack,
And all I wanna hear is the message beep,
My dreams, they've got to kissin', because I don't get sleep, no...
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Please, mind your language, clothes & behaviour!
In July 2008 the story of a young British expatriate was plastered all over the local and international news: she had been drinking alcohol, then proceeded to have sex on a public beach (unmarried sex is illegal, but that isn't of importance in this case), and then assaulted a police officer by swearing at him and hitting him with her shoe.
Especially the Western media has been criticizing the approach of Dubai's "big-boys-in-charge" as excessive, and have been saying that this woman doesn't deserve a huge punishment and that she is being used as an example towards all other non-Muslims living or visiting the UAE.
Stop and think for a moment, before our media-bred Middle Eastern paranoia takes hold of us again:
Could you have sex in a public place and assault a police officer without any consequences in the United Kingdom, or in Germany, or in the USA?
No, you couldn't.
The woman in question had been living in Dubai for the past 3 years. If after all that time she doesn't know the law, then she doesn't deserve any better. She's currently facing up to 6 years in jail (I highly doubt that the Dubai courts will push for the maximum sentence) and will definitely be deported after her jail time.
So please, before we start pointing fingers at the "backward-thinking Middle East", please remember where you are and how to behave.
FULL STORY HERE: http://www.gulfnews.com/nation/Police_and_The_Courts/10227570.html
And here is the story in the British media: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article1398204.ece
And in case of any confusion, here is the official law:
Article 358 of the Punitive Law No. 52 of 2006 regarding "obscene public acts and violations of public decency" stipulates no less than a 6-month jail term would be handed to violators.
At least a year's jail term and fine of Dh10,000 will be imposed if the act is committed with a person below the age of 15, male or female, even if done in private.
Harassment results in one year and/or Dh10,000 in fines, followed by deportation for expatriates.
Article 360 says anything that provokes promiscuity could result in a year's prison term and/or a Dh5,000 fine. If done with a child of under 15, the jail term would be two years.
And here is a useful slide show on what's allowed and what's not:
With all the glitz and glamour of 5-star hotels, luxurious shopping malls, the beaches and the nightlife of Dubai, it's easy to forget that you are indeed still in a MUSLIM COUNTRY: This also means to adapt to the regional culture and religion by showing respect in the clothes you wear, and also note that SWEARING is absolutely unacceptable and punishable by law. There is also a zero-tolerance on driving under the influence, and exceptions are NOT made. You are also not allowed to drink alcohol in public (in a park, the beach, etc.) unless it's a licensed establishment.
Here is a final recap of all regulations in Dubai and the other emirates:
The UAE is extremely liberal, and I believe that these regulations are not difficult to adhere by. But if these restrictions and regulations seem to strict for you, then I advise that you seek a different country for your holiday destination.
--> UPDATE Aug. 2009: Dubai's shopping malls now have signs and leaflets requesting shoppers to please dress 'decently.' FULL STORY: http://www.gulfnews.com/nation/Society/10338386.html
"So you want to move to Dubai..." Got enough cash?
If you are planning to move to Dubai, make sure that you have all details like salary, housing allowance, medical insurance, etc. in place with your employer. Otherwise, you could find yourself scraping for cash & not being able to live the "city of gold life style" at all.
Dubai has experienced nearly unparalleled economic growth since 2004 - more than 16%. Rents have increased by an average of 55%! Salaries have only increased by 6%...
One of the reasons for this unjust phenomenon is the fact that the UAE government is trying to "push" residents into buying freehold property; but many are sceptical (and rightly so!) due to unclear property & visa laws and extremely poor building quality.
Prices of food, clothes, petrol, water, etc. have also increased substantially: in the summer of 2005 it was been estimated that around 21% of all residents were forced to cancel their annual holidays due to rent increases.
"NO REST FOR THE GREEDY..."
By law, landlords are only allowed to increase the rent by 7% (it was 15% in 2006) per year. But they have quite happily been raising rents by 25, 40 or even 70%! Problem: this law is only applicable to the tenants, not the premises. So if the landlord wishes to "get around" the rent cap he simply evicts the current tenants, increases its price by whatever astronomical figure he sees fit & seeks new tenants.
Currently, Dubai's motto is: "If you can't afford it, get out!"
So all that's left to do is to hope & wait for the "bubble" to burst & for prices to be "corrected"... and we hope it's soon!
Check Gulf News (newspaper classifieds) to get an idea about prices.
Update 2007: The Dirham is pegged to the US Dollar, which is crashing. Now British and European expatriates are loosing even more money. Ouch!
See the below LINK for up-to-date UAE inflation news.
--> Update 2010: Since the beginning of the global economic crisis the UAE's real estate market has CRASHED. This means that rents and freehold prices have dropped by more than 50%! For most residents, this is a hugh sigh of relief as decent housing has now once more become affordable.
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Oooh you can sooo loose your nerves with these people. They will tell you how they know where is the place you need to go, but then they will drive you all around the town and then they will call somebody to ask for directions. They could switch on the GPS, but 90% of them don't know how to use it. Some of them don't speak English well. So ask the driver few times did he understood you and does he know where he needs to go. Also you could use metro if you are not in a hurry.
- Road Trip
can you get me to england?
throughout the whole trip to dubai almost EVERY taxi driver and expats i got talking to or got talking to me asked me "where are you from?", if you say england or even great britain (not sure about the us or australia), the next thing they asked is "can you take me to england?"...after a few days in dubai, it got where when after an expat asks where you are from, it becomes so predictable that you quickly adapt that automatic instinct what the next question they are about to ask, one of them nearly started arguing with me ("why this, why that, but, but etc), even the manager of the hotel asked me to take him...i said to him "sorry mate, its too much weight on the luggage!" i did this to everyone who asked and some got offended while others took it as a laugh...watch out, have your reasons to refuse, they do this all the time!
Dubai is unbearably hot in summer. When we were there in July it went to 48 degrees. Try to make sure you spend a short time outdoors. Keep escaping to air-conditioned places. If you are trying to walk anywhere, take frequent rests in air- conditioned bus stops. Wear a hat and high factor sun screen. Stock up on bottles of water.
you have to know the right places to enjoy Dubai!!
this is more of a warning of getting your value for the money you pay about the general vacation to Dubai. that means, if you dont know the right places to visit in Dubai and the right itenanary for your trip, you can DRASTICALLY change the way you think of Dubai. if you choose the itenanary of e.g. staying in either the jebel ali or the jumeirah area on the beach, shop in the mall of the emirates (best mall in town) take a trip in the fabulous 7-star hotel at the burj al-arab, visit the beautiful and less crowded al-mamzar beach near Sharjah with nice sandy beaches with only a handful of people, do the desert safari trip and only visit ONCE to deira to shop for the gold and the only visit the Bur Dubai area to have a meal and smoke shisha by the creek at al-shindaga...Dubai is virtually the best place on the planet.
However, if you choose to stay at a hotel in the backstreets of Bur Dubai or Deira and do nothing but shop you will think of Dubai a COMPLETELY different city altogether! It is smelly run-down streets with rows of tacky shops and parlours that sell cheap goodsand almost all of the vending machines are rusty and not working. In Deira is a little bit better, but there is nowhere to sit and eat apart from tiny plain cafeterias at the corner of the streets, thus you are having to walk very far out to find a McDonalds in Deira. If you are in Dubai for the arabic culture I suggest you stick around the mall of the emirates area (burjuman mall, wafi mall and ibn battuta malls are good too) as where most of the arabs hang about. I was IN bur dubai hoping to sample the arabian atmosphere and (not to sound racist) I felt I was in Pakistan or India rather than the Middle East, selling saris, robes, curry etc Avoid the Bur Dubai area (go to al-shindaga for the arab culture with the shish kebabs, shisha, architecture etc) and head off to Deira once for the gold shopping. Also dont miss the skyscrapers of Sheikh Zayed rd either...that is also fantastic to experience!
weather can be VIOLENTLY unbearable in summer!!
i went there in late june - early july and the heat and humidity was a killer! it was 37 degrees centigrade and about 75% humidity. when i walked through the streets i was getting through them hanging onto one air-conditioner to another, like an obstacle. in this weather ALWAYS drink water and NEVER get stuck out anywhere. i got stuck out in safa park once and it was closed, and as i was ringing the taxi driver to get a cab straight back to the hotel i LITERALLY thought i was going to die! be careful of that
Dubai - hell for animals
Dubai is modern, shiny, clean and "oh-so-perfect" or so it seems. It is definitely a nightmarish place for animal lovers & people that respect wildlife.
Dubai Zoo is one example: tiny cages, no mental enrichment, untrained staff, and all of this since the 1970's. A new zoo is in the process of being built, and the municipality has assured us that it will be much better... let's hope so. The present zoo in Jumeirah is cramped, with about 1,000 species sharing just 17,500 square metres (including offices). This works out to less than 9 square metres for each animal. (see photos)
Also, Dubai now has wild-caught dolphins performing in "shows" at the Atlantic Hotel, as well as their "Dolphinarium" in Dubai Creek Park. There has been a huge public outcry against this, as keeping dolphins in small tanks, forcing them to do tricks is cruel & completely outdated 'entertainment'. Dubai claims that this will be in the interest of 'conservation & educating children'. This is not true & is already being condemned by PETA and other animal rights organisations. After I contacted them in early June 2005, PETA agreed to post an Action Alert for Dubai on their website.
A disturbing new "hobby" (amongst mainly Arab youngsters) is to throw kittens out of car windows on a busy highway & then betting on how long it will survive before being hit...
Although the UAE has signed the CITES Agreement a few years ago (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) wealthy locals still purchase smuggled exotic animals such as tiger cubs, chimpanzees, cheetahs, etc. into the country as "pets". They are often found in deplorable conditions, malnourished and chained in the heat once they are no longer "cute" or loose their novelty factor.
Don't support cruelty against animals during your holiday!
You can complain directly to the Dubai Department of Tourism (no matter where you live!)
If you have contacts to WSPA, PETA, RSPCA Int'l, Jane Goodall, Animal Planet TV, the Born Free Foundation, WWF, IFAW, etc. please help individuals like myself to spread the news about Dubai's treatment of animals & large disregard for the CITES agreement they signed years ago!
- Travel with Pets
DANGER, DANGER at Dubai Airport!!!!
Don't go to Dubai!! Once you have cleared customs, you may get taken away from plain clothes security guards who will detain you and search through your luggage and accuse you of being a drug smuggler. Welcome to Dubai! This happened to my boyfriend and I. We had a 2 day stop over in Dubai on our way to Greece from Australia. We only stopped over in Dubai because we flew Emirates. It was the most frightening experience of my life. I have travelled widely throughout the world and have never felt this level of fear. The guards were unshaven and casually dressed. At first I thought it was a joke; they asked to see our passports as we were heading out of the terminal to look for a taxi to take us to our hotel. They took my boyfriend aside and told him to stand up straight (we had just spent 10 hours in the air and were tired). They sniffed a bit of fluff and dust in the seam of his bag and told him it was marijuana. They were very rude and surly and we were became like little kids saying yes sir, no sir, when we realised they were not mucking around. I had visions of the movie 'Midnight Express', and that my boyfriend would be locked up, never to be let out. We had no drugs and never would be so stupid as to have anything to do with drugs. This was intimidation pure and simple. This went on for an interminable about of time. We were reluctantly allowed to go free, but before we were clear of the terminal, another plain cloted security guard in a bling baseball cap, stopped us again and asked to see our passports. It was unbeleivable. They were so nasty. We spoke to a South African guy working in the bar of our hotel and he said they detained him for 3 hours when he first arrived in the country to work. We spoke to another Australian when we were leaving the country who said the exact same thing happened to him and that we got off easy. I will NEVER, EVER SET FOOT IN DUBAI EVER AGAIN. It is a souless, humourless place where people toil in misery and the grand hotels and shopping centres were eerily empty of people. I couldn't wait to get out. Horrible Horrible.
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