Friday, November 28, 2008

Dubai Zoo

Dubai Zoo is believed to be the oldest zoo in the Arabian Gulf. Built by Otto J. Bulart and located in Jumeirah, the zoo was once considered a landmark that indicated the end of Dubai city. With the exponential growth of Dubai city over the last few years, Dubai Zoo now lies centrally located and easily accessible from all parts of Dubai.

There are about 180 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish within the zoo including giraffes, flamingos, gazelles, gorillas and different varieties of lizards. Located on a 2 hectare plot and built several decades ago, the zoo now appears crowded and in some places even over crowded. May be it is now time to move on and re-locate the zoo to a more spacious locaton.

The zoo continues to attract residents in huge numbers and is also a popular spot on a tourist's itenerary. The wide species of animals housed at the zoo also provide the local kids with an opportunity to translate pictures from their school books into something real and is a good learning experience.

Monday, November 24, 2008

National Identity Card

Probably the most talked about topic these days is the National Identity Card (besides the rent and traffic!!). I had been waiting eagerly to experience the entire process so that I could provide the facts.

The National Identity Card issued by Emirates Identity Authority is designed to be a single ID card that will eventually be used for all transactions across the UAE. The new card is supposed to have in-built smart features including biometrics and advanced ID features that will eventually eliminate the need to carry multiple cards.

Ever since the EIA announced the 31st December deadline for professional expats to register, there has been absolute chaos!!. Most of it driven by limited clarity and hence anxiety amongst the category. Till a few days back, it was understood that professional expats (and Emaratis) would be fined and may even have their back accounts frozen if they did not apply for the card by the deadline. The expats however heaved a sigh of relief when it was annouced on 19th November that the expats would not be fined if they did not catch the deadline.

Here are a few facts from my own experience in applying for the card.

The online application process was a drag. I probably tried about 20 times only to have my machine crawl to a stop. This was obviously on account of the thousands of expats scrambling to fill in the forms at the same time. The authorities have since made the form available at multiple points including several govt websites which makes the process easier.

I visited the main Al Barsha centre at about 5.00 am only to find about 150 people already in queue. Some of them had come in with chairs, mats and food stuff to keep themselves comfortable!!.

The centre promptly opened their doors at 7.30 am. and tokens were issued in an organised manner. The waiting areas are extremely comfortable and even had a vending machine inside. I was informed that my turn would come up later in the afternoon. From the moment I was called in to the time I stepped out, the experience was outstanding. The staff is extrmely courteous and efficient and the entire work flows was very smooth.

Hats off to the staff of EIDA for a job well done. While I agree that the website had some big issues with applying online and getting appointments, the entire process at the centre was very efficient.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Deira Clock Tower

It's probably the opportune time to write about the Deira Clock Tower (mostly referred to as Clock Tower)

Just about a week back, the famous Clock Tower got all its 4 clocks replaced with a new set of brand new Omega clocks. The clock tower is probably one of the most famous landmarks in the city. Its an iconic structure situated at the northern end of the Al Maktoum bridge towards Deira.

Here is a short note on the origins of the monument from Dubai As It Used To Be

"Sheikh Ahmed of Qatar was Sheikh Rashid's Son-in-Law. In the early 1960s Sheikh Ahmed gave Sheikh Rashid a Clock as a Gift. It was a very large Clock. Sheikh Rashid did not know what to do with such a large Clock! My predecessor Mr Bulard had just completed building Zabeel Palace for Sheikh Rashid so he made a sketch of his idea for a Clock Tower. Mr Bulard gave the sketch to his Engineer to make the structural calculations and produce a design. The shape and design of the Clock Tower was from Mr Bulard's own ideas and did not represent an Oil Drilling Bit or any other object. In the early 1960s the area where the Clock Tower is located today had become an important road intersection so Mr Bulard suggested this as a suitable location for the Clock Tower. He also suggested the Clock Tower be placed on a traffic roundabout to protect the Tower. This was one of the first roundabouts in Dubai. "

Since its construction in the early sixties, the structure has gone through various changes including a major refurbishment in 1972. But this is probably the most important as this is the first time that all four clocks have been replaced at the same time.
The new Omega clocks are fitted with the latest GPS technology to ensure the highest degree of accuracy.


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