The National editorial salaries

Someone is in big trouble. The pay of 250 staff at the recently launched “The National” newspaper in Abu Dhabi have been leaked online via Wikileaks.

You can have a read of the list here. Or here (Right click on the link to save to your desktop)

As a guide, divide the sums by five for a rough euro conversion. The sums are monthly net pay (no income tax). Rent must be paid out of salary, so the figures might not be as good as they first appear.

The Guardian reports it here.

Mr Newland, the editor, is on 132,834 dirhams a month. At today’s exchange rate that’s €28,000 a month, tax free. Nice if you can get it. R

Burj Dubai 2008 (Google Earth)

I see Google Earth have updated some of their satellite imagery of Dubai. The update included recent photos of The World island complex, the Burj Dubai and the Palm Jumeirah (with the Atlantis hotel half built).

The Burj Dubai is pretty tall in this photo, with the newly completed Dubai Mall to the north. It is among the world’s largest shopping centres.

burjdubai

The World is about this far along:

theworld

While the Palm Jumeirah is further along than this photo shows:

palmj

Dubai has certainly changed enormously since my first visit there in 2001.

Decency in Dubai

You really have to laugh. Authorities in Dubai are cracking down on lewd behaviour by Westerners, after a British woman was allegedly caught having sex with a colleague on a beach. One of her fellow expats writes in the Guardian:

The Friday brunch that Michelle enjoyed, for example, has been an institution among Middle East expats for years. On the holiest day of the Muslim week, five-star hotels entice customers with all-day feasts and unlimited alcohol from as little as £10.

“With all the ruckus surrounding Michelle Palmer, I thought about not coming to the brunch today,” says Kelly Fields, a 28-year-old editor from Manchester, and Dubai resident of 18 months, who is dining at international restaurant Yalumba a week after Michelle’s brunch there. “But it was just too tempting with the 40-degree heat outside. And the deal is so ridiculously cheap.” At Yalumba, one of the city’s higher-end eateries, it is £57 a head to eat as much as possible, with unlimited champagne.

Friday Brunch is a national institution. I went out on many many Fridays in Dubai to be greeted by pubs in midafternoon that were akin to nightclubs at home at 2am. Such was the level of boozing that people were plastered by at least 6pm. And bars stay open until 3am. You can imagine how messy it gets. And the local papers are up in arms over falling ethical standards:

“You are all as guilty as Michelle,” said one Dubai resident in the UAE’s leading local newspaper 7days. Like many of the UK’s red tops, it blames unruly British conduct for Michelle’s downfall. “You all get drunk in public and you have all dabbled in sex before marriage at some point. The only difference between you and Michelle Palmer is that you haven’t been caught yet!” The following day another reader took a shot at Dubai authorities. “It is a shame that these laws are not enforced more often in such obvious cases … Why should the residents here (and I mean expat as well as Emiratis), whether Muslim or not, have to endure the worst of ‘western’ society?”

It is laughable. Dubai is a city of contradictions. One contradiction is the apparent moral superiority of the local Muslim population as evidenced by the comments above. It is nonsensical. The muslims in Dubai are no more or less moral than the rest of us. Except they claim to be so.

The last time I was in Dubai myself and my sister went to do some shopping in the late afternoon. Spinneys is the Middle Eastern answer to Tesco. We got a taxi from Sheikh Zayed Road to the city centre and as we approached Spinneys we noticed all the pairs of girls, walking up and down outside the shop. All from south-east Asia and all plying their trade in the evening sunshine. Whatever about the rights or wrongs of prostitution itself, this is, we are told, a Muslim country with all the supposed intolerance for this type of behaviour. Yet it goes on in broad daylight. That’s Dubai.

Dubai is being propositioned in bars by Eritrean, Ethiopian, Romanian and Russian prostitutes. All of it known to the police force, and every single local that has a pair of eyes.

Dubai is wealthy sheikhs flying groups of young prostitutes from Russia to Dubai in first class on Emirates Airlines.

Dubai is a city where a Western woman can be kidnapped by several locals, brought to the desert, brutally gang raped and then beaten and left for dead by local Emiratis. And where she gets the blame for “dressing provocatively”. ]

Dubai is a city where workers are routinely tested for HIV, and if found positive are summarily sacked, escorted to the airport by police, and deported.

Dubai is a city where workers from the sub-continent routinely fall from building skyscrapers, and have their deaths go unreported. Those same workers earn about $200 a month for a 12 hour day, six day week. And if temperatures reach 50 degree celsius or above, they may be allowed to take the day off.

Dubai is a city where everything that happens like this is common knowledge among people who live there. But where it is never reported by the media.

And they complain about Western moral standards?

I am not saying that Westerners are moral or immoral. Nor am I saying Muslims, Arabs or Emiratis are moral or immoral. What I am saying is that you cannot accuse Westerners of double standards. But you can accuse Emiratis.

Alan Johnston released

Thank god for that.

BBC correspondent Alan Johnston has been freed from kidnappers in Gaza after almost four months in captivity.

Television pictures showed Mr Johnston, 45, leaving a building and entering a white car, accompanied by armed men. He said he was tired but in good health.

During his time as a hostage, three videos were released featuring images of Mr Johnston or of his belongings.

Calls were made for his release in rallies worldwide and in an online petition signed by some 200,000 people.

Mr Johnston was handed over to officials of the Hamas administration, reports say.