x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Frank Kane on UAE embassy parties, and congestion in Dubai Marina

An enjoyable bash with the Brits in Dubai and the misery of living in Dubai Marina.

Another week, another embassy bash.

After the joys of a St Patrick's Day do with the Irish ambassador in Abu Dhabi, this time it was the British embassy in Dubai, where a charitable evening for injured servicemen was held in the Creek-side gardens.

Help For Heroes, as the charity is called, has been going for a number of years in the UAE, and this year raised a stunning Dh1.1 million (US$313,069), largely through the efforts of auctioneer Tom Urquhart, the Dubai radio and TV presenter.

I was worn out just watching him as he pulled every last trick in the auctioneer's book to squeeze an extra dirham from the audience, who seemed to just love parting with their cash.

All in a good cause though, and a credit to the organisers.

The evening, though poignant at times, got off to an amusing start with a speech from Lieutenant General Simon Mayall, an adviser on the Middle East to the British ministry of defence.

The general is no stranger to these parts after stints in Oman and Iraq. ("Don't ask him about Northern Ireland," I was advised.) He told a story, in classic British military "clipped" style, of a previous night out at the embassy.

"Told it was a fun evening, so leave the car at home. Take the bus, they said. Left the car. Had a few drinks. Had a few more. Left the embassy and took the bus.

"Went through a security checkpoint. Waved through, no trouble. Went through a police accident scene. Waved through, no trouble. Got home safe. Surprising really. Never driven a bus before."

 

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I hate people who whinge about traffic in Dubai. It was only a couple of years back the place was in the midst of financial meltdown, yet you could drive the length of Sheikh Zayed Road without barely seeing another car. Parking anywhere in town was easy, but that was because the economy was in freefall.

So when you complain about traffic congestion, remember the flip side is financial disaster.

But I'm going to go against all that in the case of Dubai Marina. The area, often described as the emirate's most successful residential development, is in danger of becoming almost uninhabitable because of traffic congestion.

There are several reasons. The Marina - and Jumeirah Beach Residence next to it - are victims of their own success. People want to live in the high-rises, and visit the waterside restaurants, malls and hotels. Especially now there is an economic feel-good factor in the air again.

This has coincided with a burst of construction: the Al Sufouh Tramway, new road junctions, some deep-level pipelaying.

The entrance to my own building, Marina Heights Tower, is where these three bits of building work collide, and it is an urban nightmare.

Walking my four-year-old to nursery, previously an early morning pleasure, has become a dangerous run through a building site, where no thought has been given to pedestrian access or safety. Hailing a taxi? Forget it. None will even approach the area now because they know they could be stuck for hours in traffic.

A late-night coffee at the little Lebanese cafe with views across the palm trees at Spinneys roundabout? Forget that too. Now it's just fumes and horns blowing. The cafe must be on the verge of bankruptcy through lost custom.

Please, whoever's responsibility it is, make Marina life bearable again. Give it back to the residents, not the construction companies.

fkane@thenational.ae