For the heck of it

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Weekend at Jebel Hafeet

The climate in Dubai is cooling down a bit right now, with winter just around the corner. Well don’t say “Yay!!” yet. The temperature has been hovering around 26-30 degrees – usually it is well over 40! So, if you are in Dubai or anywhere in the UAE, now is the right time to visit places such as Ras Al Khaimah, Al Ain, or better still… Jebel Hafeet. Why? Because according to a study, the Jebel Hafeet road has been awarded “the best road to drive in the world”! So, it was weekend for us, and we HAD to check it out.

The Road Going Towards Al Ain.

We (me and two of my roommates) took off at 3:00 pm on Friday (28th September 2007). A drive to Jebel Hafeet takes around 1.5-2 hours. So we were planning on reaching Jebel Hafeet by 5 pm, because by 6 pm, it would start getting dark and hence we would miss the panoramas and the view of the winding roads from the hilltop. Since it is the holy month of Ramadan here, we figured it would be great if we could pack some munchies from some restaurant. McDonalds was the obvious choice. Then, we went to Spinney’s, grabbed a couple of water bottles, some snacks and candy bars.

My roommate's Peugeot 206.

For those ignorant enough, the holy month of Ramadan spans an entire month. During this month, many restaurants are shut during the day, and they only open at Iftar timings. Smoking, drinking or eating in public is prohibited by law in most countries such as UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, and so on – so if you are caught doing any of these, you might end up in jail for up to 3 months, in the UAE. It might be worse in other countries such as Saudi Arabia. So, we were careful enough to not be seen eating in public.

The beautiful desert on both the sides of the road.

Here's one more view of the endless "sand land".

The introduction of Salik has been a pain in the ass and my roommate didn’t have a Salik tag on his Peugeot 206 – so taking Garhoud Bridge was out of our options. We hit the Business Bay Crossing, before coming on to Emirates Road, and driving towards Al Ain.

Inside Al Ain. Beautiful trees on both the sides of the road.

And we were on our way to Jebel Hafeet. It was amazing to see that on both the sides of the road, we could only see dunes and dunes of sand. We couldn’t resist stopping for a while to snap up some images.

Getting ready for a photo shoot.

We didn’t have any maps on us and this was our first time towards Jebel Hafeet. So, we had to follow each and every sign on the road – we couldn’t afford to miss one.

Yay! We found the desert!!

Luckily the signs were as easy as they could get. Every road sign had an entry such as “Tourist Destinations”. Need we say more? So we followed the “Tourist Destinations” sign, till we came across a sign that yelled “Jebel Hafeet” with an arrow pointing to the left. And we liked what we saw.

I can jump, too!

Though we weren’t yet on the Jebel Hafeet road, we could see a mountain in front of us with beautifully lit winding roads, all over it. It seemed as if the mountain was decorated with a bunch of twinkly lights! So we started to drive up the mountain – the roads were as smooth as butter. It was a piece of cake for my roommate’s hatchback.

The zigzag roads were amazing to drive on. The roads were clearly marked – two lanes going upwards and one lane coming down, with barricades on the edges. Finally we reached the top of Jebel Hafeet – it’s something like a table-top mountain, except that the “table-top” bit is man-made.

The Jebel Hafeet Table Top.

We got a really nice view of Al Ain below and the Oman road. By the time we reached the top, it was Iftar time already. We had a quick cuppa, before we started descending from the mountain and hitting our way back home.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Are You a Tour Guide?

I got an e-mail, from The web site is run by Jeff Goldsmith, a Photographer. The mail that was sent to me, asked me whether I knew of any tour guides in the Middle East, who might be interested in sigining up at as Tour Guides.

The mail also asked me to post the e-mail on my Blog, to spread the word around. Since I don't know any Tour Guide in the Middle East, I went for the "posting"part of the mail. No, I don't know Jeff Goldsmith personally, and so, cannot vouch for the authenticity of this site. But if you are interested, read on. So, Read on!!

We saw your blog on life in the United Arab Emirates and as a foreigner, we thought you might know interesting tour guides who might want to join A "tour" guide can be a professional deep sea fishing vessel captain - or a person who can get you past the velvet ropes of exclusive clubs.

We're interested in signing up both people who help travelers with common experience, like finding great boutiques,to unique idea, like bungie jumping in very remote spots. Both of these experieces are available on the site right now. If you feel this service is appropriate to announce on your blog, please do.

And if you want to pass our information on to people you know in the United Arab Emirates, that would be appreciated.

Thanks so much.

This is what it says on its "About Us"page - helps global travelers find authentic, local experiences and insider adventures - by connecting them with personal tour guides from everywhere. We simply let independent tour guides tell everyone what travelers can see chez eux - and we let travelers rate guides. is, pardon the jargon, a one-to-one destination marketing platform. Go beyond the guidebook. Go everywhere. Get into everything. Pre-launch, VIAmigo signed up 1500 tour guides from every corner of the planet - with a great many more expected soon. Professional tourist guides to diving instructors to archeologist to connoisseurs of every sort, you name the adventure.

So, if you are interested, sign up here.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Saving is Sin. Spending is Virtue.

Came across this piece of reasoning by one Professor Jagdish N Bhagwati, Department of Economics, Columbia University. It's titled "Saving is Sin. Spending is Virtue."

Japanese save a lot. They do not spend much. Also Japan exports far more than it imports. Has an annual trade surplus of over $100 billions. Yet Japanese economy is considered weak, even collapsing. Americans spend, save little. Also US import more than it exports. Has an annual trade deficit of over $400 billion. Yet, the American economy is considered strong and trusted to get stronger.

But where from do Americans get money to spend? They borrow from Japan , China and even India . Virtually others save for the US to spend. Global savings are mostly invested in US, in dollars. India itself keeps its foreign currency assets of over $50 billions in US securities. China has sunk over $160 billion in US securities. Japan 's stakes in US securities is in trillions.

Result: The US has taken over $5 trillion from the world. So, as the world saves for the US , Americans spend freely. Today, to keep the US consumption going, that is for the US economy to work, other countries have to remit $180 billion every quarter, which is $2 billion a day, to the US ! Otherwise the US economy would go for a six. So will the global economy. The result will be no different if US consumers begin consuming less.

A Chinese economist asked a neat question. Who has invested more, US in China , or China in US? The US has invested in China less than half of what China has invested in US. The same is the case with India . We have invested in US over $50 billion. But the US has invested less than $20 billion in India . So, why is the world after US?

The secret lies in the American spending, that they hardly save. In fact they use their credit cards to spend their future income. That the US spends is what makes it attractive to export to the US . So US imports more than what it exports year after year.

The result: The world is dependent on US consumption for its growth. By its deepening culture of consumption, the US has habituated the world to feed on US consumption. But as the US needs money to finance its consumption, the world provides the money. It's like a shopkeeper providing the money to a customer so that the customer keeps buying from the shop. If the customer will not buy, the shop won't have business, unless the shopkeeper funds him. The US is like the lucky customer.

And the world is like the helpless shopkeeper financier. Who is America 's biggest shopkeeper financier? Japan of course. Yet itʼs Japan which is regarded as weak. Modern economists complain that Japanese do not spend, so they do not grow. To force the Japanese to spend, the Japanese government exerted it self, reduced the savings rates, even charged the savers. Even then the Japanese did not spend (habits don't change, even with taxes, do they?).

Their traditional postal savings alone is over $1.2 trillions, about three times the Indian GDP. Thus, savings, far from being the strength of Japan , has become its pain. Hence, what is the lesson? That is, a nation cannot grow unless the people spend, not save. Not just spend, but borrow and spend. Dr. Jagdish Bhagwati, the famous Indian-born economist in the US , told Manmohan Singh that Indians wastefully save.

Ask them to spend, on imported cars and, seriously, even on cosmetics! This will put India on a growth curve. "Saving is sin, and spending is virtue." Before you follow this neo economics, get some fools to save so that you can borrow from them and spend. This is what US has successfully done in last few decades.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Xbox 360 Rocks!!

Yes, I know I am a bit too late in saying this, but I finally got my hands on an Xbox 360. While the gaming console launched in 2005, in the US, it took a little over 2 years for Microsoft to bring it to the Middle East. The gaming console finally launched after a few hiccups in April this year.
We then received the 360 pack at PC Magazine's office some time back from Microsoft. Not that we hadn't reviewed Xbox 360 - we had reviewed the console long time back. But I was hoping that Microsoft could deliver a sample review unit for use in our PC Magazine Labs. This is because, we recently extended our Gaming section in the magazine to a whopping eight pages.

And the console finally arrived. It's now set up at my bachelorpad, where me and my roomates spend hours battling the demons of darkness!! :)

Yes! We are playing "The Darkness" right now, and I agree that the graphics and audio quality is awesome. Expect a full-on review soon!