x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

My chance to meet Tony Blair again as well the myriad owners of my flat

Frank Kane's Notebook: Our writer ponders meeting the former British prime minister Tony Blair yet again, and wonders why his Dubai flat keeps changing ownership.

Sound chap, Tony Blair, always thought so. Voted for him in 1997, and bliss it was that dawn to be alive.

Even met him a few times, the last being in (of all places) Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, a couple of years ago when the former British prime minister was speaking at that benighted country’s economic forum. Shook his hand briskly that day.

Oh, and there was that time earlier this year, at the Dead Sea Resort in Jordan. I didn’t get to meet him then, but I was in the same room with him, the US secretary of state John Kerry, and a couple of thousand other people. No handshake that day, security was too tight.

Mr Blair was announcing a new plan to bring peace to the Palestinian Territories with US$4 billion worth of backing. Details were sparse, and I never had the opportunity to quiz him, despite many attempts via his global office in London.

But I may get the chance again next month, when TB (as his aides call him) will be in Dubai addressing yet another forum. He just loves the region, apparently, and can’t get enough of it.

Either that, or he’s just getting extremely well paid for his expert views on Middle East matters.

The word from sources close to the upcoming forum is that TB will walk away with a cool $250,000. An official spokesman, after many unacknowledged emails, eventually says: “This is a speaking event arranged through his agency in Washington. We do not comment.”


Flipping of property is back in Dubai, I can well and truly confirm.

I guess this isn’t news to anybody who attended Cityscape this month, and witnessed the chaotic scenes as “investors” fought to get their hands on off-plan properties at one of the much sought-after Emaar developments.

But personal experience over the past couple of months had reinforced the idea we’re in a real estate bull market. It turns out that my apartment has had three owners in a few months, and could be sold several times again in the next few.

I call it “my” apartment, but of course it never was. For four of the five years I’ve lived in the 44th floor flat overlooking Dubai Marina, it belonged to a true paragon of globalisation: a native Indian, with Swedish nationality, who lived in Manchester, England.

He was easy-going and amenable to deal with. At the start of this year, I was paying about the same as I had been in early 2009, when I first moved in.

That all changed a few months ago, when he told us he was going to sell. A stream of callers asked if they could view the apartment, and we got used to the steady flow of people through the place, before a Saudi gentleman politely introduced himself one day as the new owner. All very civilised, and we promised to talk about lease renewal nearer the expiry time.

But within a month, that changed too. The Saudi had decided to sell, and a new string of callers began to arrange viewings.

When it got to four or five visits per day, it began to be obtrusive, and my wife complained to the agent. He offered her Dh500 per visit to ease the inconvenience, but she declined, unsure of the ethicality of the proposal.

The stream of viewers reduced, until one evening a Jordanian gentleman announced himself as the new owner. Again, all very polite and civilised.

We’ve more or less decided to move in February, when the lease is next up. But I wonder how many “owners” there will have been by then?