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Expat wanderer

Spectacular Diamond Find

On my Christmas wish list, LLOOOLLLL!


From BBC News

One of the largest, high quality diamonds discovered to date has been found at a mine in South Africa, mining group Petra Diamonds has revealed.

The 507 carat stone, which could be worth in excess of $20m (£12.5m), was found with three other large diamonds.

They were discovered at the famous Cullinan mine, where the largest diamond in history was found more than 100 years ago.

The new find is being analysed by experts to determine its true value.

A 480 carat diamond found at the end of last year fetched $18m.
“The Cullinan mine has again given the world a spectacularly beautiful and important diamond,” said Petra’s chief executive Johan Dippenaar.
“Initial indications are that it is of exceptional colour and clarity, which suggest extraordinary potential for its polished yield.”

Petra said the stone is one of the 20 biggest, high quality diamonds to have been found.

A 168 carat stone was also discovered, alongside one of 58 carats and another of 53 carats.

The largest diamond to be discovered, named the Cullinan, was 3,106 carats. It was cut into nine separate stones, many of which are in the British Crown Jewels.

September 30, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Christmas, Shopping, Technical Issue | 4 Comments

Everything Old Comes New Again


I love the Sephora ads, even if they won’t mail anything to me in Qatar. I have to use all my points when I am back in the USA. I still love seeing what I am missing, and if I really really want something, I can usually find someplace to order it or someone to take a run to Sephora to get it for me, especially when I am getting low on just-the-right-shade-of-eyeshadow. And no, no, the Sephoras in Kuwait and Qatar don’t carry all the brands that a full-fledged Sephora in France or Germany or the USA will carry. No Urban Decay for sure.

But this – this has a familiar ring to it. When I was young, even a kid, I think there was some lipstick that made the same claim, you put it on and it turns the right color for you.

So how does it do that?

September 30, 2009 Posted by | Beauty, Doha, ExPat Life, Humor, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Shopping | 3 Comments

Apartment With a Gulf View? Not so Fast!

Not so fast! Make sure you know who really owns those flats before you fork out the big bucks! This happens everywhere; people selling or renting property they don’t own, taking deposits, and disappearing!

From today’s Arab Times

Kuwaiti, wife make big money selling ‘sold out’ flats;

KUWAIT CITY, Sept 28: Eight Kuwaitis have filed complaints with the Al-Shaab Police Station accusing a compatriot and his Arab wife of cheating them, reports Al-Rai daily. The complainants said they bought apartments overlooking the sea from the compatriot and the wife received money on behalf of the husband. The complainants said each of them paid KD 100,000 in advance upon receipts and contracts only to discover the apartments have been sold to other people. The daily did not say in which country the complainants purchased the apartments.

September 30, 2009 Posted by | Community, Crime, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Lies, Living Conditions | Leave a comment

Massouma: Kuwait Women Key in Liberation

GREAT article from today’s Arab Times

Kuwaiti women played key role in liberating nation: Maasouma

GENEVA, Sept 29, (KUNA): Member of National Assembly of Kuwait Dr. Masouma AI-Mubarak said that during Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and the Liberation War in 1991 the Kuwaiti women played a major role in liberating their country. Addressing the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) conference in Geneva, she stressed that the Kuwaiti women put up a remarkable resistance against occupation and struggled in every front for the safety of their country.

“It is a fact that no society can prosper when women do not contribute to its progress. It is a fact also, that we hold only a very small percentage of public offices, very few women are involved in politics and even fewer run for elected offices,” Dr. Al-Mubarak said. In her speech, “The Role of Women: Expectations and Challenges,”

Al-Mubarak said that the Kuwait Constitution does not discriminate between women and men with respect to their citizenship rights, but social customs. “Women make up more than 50 percent of the Kuwaiti population. They compose 24.5 percent of the country’s total workforce, and more than 40 percent of the Kuwaiti workforce, and about 70 percent of students at university level. More than 85 percent of the honor graduates are women,” she said. And added that Kuwaiti women hold prominent positions. However, Dr. Al-Mubarak said that one of the first obstacles faced as the first female MP was in running for in-house elections. “Another experience was in the election of the Parliamentarian committee for Women’s Affairs; all four female MPs won, in addition to three male MPs,” she said.

She explained that historically, this committee was not on the radar screen of Parliament “it only succeeeded in becoming so after the granting of women’s political rights in May 2005 where female voters became an attractive asset to those running for elections.

“One of our first decisions upon being elected into the committee was to suggest an amendment to the bylaws of the Parliament to include this committee among the roster of permanent parliamentarian committees thus cementing its importance to the nation,” said Al-Mubarak. Al-Mubarak explained that the committee is currently studying two proposals for social and civil women’s rights, and several proposals to amend discriminatory articles in several laws as: the Public Housing Law, the Civil Service Law, the Passport Law, the Labor Law, the Social Security Law, and the Immigration Law which affects the stability of families comprised of Kuwaiti wives married to non-Kuwaiti husbands.

She added that the committee also succeeded in putting women’s issues on the priority list of the Parliament which is comprised of 23 priorities for the upcoming session starting on October 27, 2009.

“The Five-Year Development Plan of Kuwait has allocated an entire program to support and develop the role of women in society and to incorporate them in the workforce, by training 19,416 women during the current Plan,” said Dr. Al-Mubarak. She stressed that until women are fully represented in local, national and international decision making bodies, their issues will not be priorities and the necessary resources will not be allocated.

September 30, 2009 Posted by | Character, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Kuwait, Leadership, News, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | 1 Comment

Drive to Reduce Traffic Deaths in Qatar

I am a great admirer of Brig Mohamed Abduallah al-Malki. I remember once, when Qatar was much smaller, when he printed his phone number in the paper and told people to call him when they saw drivers misbehaving. What a brave man, a committed man, and a courageous man.

I admire his persistence, his sincere desire to bring down traffic deaths in Qatar.

Yesterday, as I was driving, I noticed most drivers slowing down – when that happens, you know there are new speed cameras set up, and you slow down too. You slow down – or most of us do. There are a visible few who seem to believe that the rules do not apply to them.

There is a persistent rumor that traffic fatalities fell dramatically when the new laws were introduced – and enforced – equally – against all law breakers. As long as laws are enforced equally against ALL nationalities, the death rate will lower.

To me, it is a huge national tragedy that so many young Qatteri men lose their lives, or are seriously physically damaged, in traffic accidents that could have been prevented. It is like a huge national resource, just wasted, all that potential, gone.

This is from today’s Gulf Times

Drive to raise students’ road safety awareness

Traffic department and IBQ officials at the launch of the campaign yesterday
By Riham el-Houshi

The ‘Schools without Accidents’ campaign launched yesterday for the second year running by the Traffic Department is aimed at cutting the number of road accidents in Qatar by half, a top official has said. The campaign aims at raising awareness about road safety among students.

Traffic Department expert and general co-ordinator of the National Campaign for Road Accident Prevention, Brig Mohamed Abduallah al-Malki, said “there has been a decrease in the number of deaths in 2009 but a final picture will emerge only by December.”

The number of road accident deaths in the country fell by 20% in 2008 compared to the previous year. The total number of road accidents last year was 20,455, with approximately 200 deaths, according to the Traffic Department.

The initiative, launched within the framework of the ‘National Campaign for Road Accidents Prevention,’ is a programme to raise awareness on the importance of road safety among students across Qatar.
Al-Malki added that 35% of road accident victims were pedestrians who were usually expatriates.

“Therefore the campaign this year will focus on expatriate schools as well as local ones,” al-Malki pointed out.

The campaign will be funded by the International Bank of Qatar (IBQ), who has given QR500,000 to the Traffic Department. The bank donated QR250,000 to the cause last year. According to al-Malki, the money will be spent on brochures, signboards, and competitions.

“Too many of our young people never have the chance to realise life’s opportunities as their lives are cut tragically short by preventable road accidents,” said IBQ managing director George Nasra.

“We can and must do even more to reduce the number of traffic accidents and fatalities – especially among our youth.”

A recent survey conducted by Gulf Times had shown that 41% of the respondents feel that Qatar was the worst country to drive because of the number of accidents caused by reckless driving.

September 29, 2009 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Law and Order, Leadership, News, Qatar, Social Issues, Statistics | 2 Comments

Changing Times for Qatar Divorcees?

Many Westerners think all Qattaris (and Kuwaitis, and Emiratis, and Saudis) are rich. The movies tell us so, just as they tell the rest of the world that all us US citizens live on large ranches outside of Dallas and have big hair and wear cocktail dresses during the daytime and lead immoral lives, LLLLOOOOLLLLL. The truth, as I see it, is that in every country I live, we all face similar problems.

Qatari divorcees call for review of law on housing
Web posted at: 9/29/2009 1:8:46
Source ::: The Peninsula

DOHA: Qatari divorcees are entitled to free government housing only if they remain unmarried (after divorce) for five years in a row, so many of them with no job and children to support are urging the authorities to review this rule.

The divorce rate being very high in Qatar and many divorcees taking custody of their children as well prefer to live away from their parents in rented accommodation.

And since not all divorcees are employed and financially independent they struggle to make ends meet with meager monthly maintenance amounts they receive from their former husbands.

Government housing rules in the country specify that Qatari women who remain unmarried up to the age of 35 are entitled to free state housing.

One of the divorcees told Al Sharq on grounds of anonymity that life for her and her children had become miserable as the monthly rent she had to pay for the rented accommodation was quite high.

Living off meager maintenance amount, she said she was finding it extremely hard to make ends meet, especially as children’s education is to be taken care of which is an expensive affair.

“We, therefore, want the government to review its housing rules and consider our plight on humanitarian grounds,” she said emphatically.

“More than the spinsters, we need a government house because spinsters can anyway stay with their parents,” said the woman.

According to her, living in rented accommodation with children for five years consecutively after divorce is near-impossible due to the fact that the maintenance amounts given by their former husbands are fixed while rents have been going up.

September 29, 2009 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Doha, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Qatar | Leave a comment

Qatar Rents Expected to Fall Further as Supply Exceeds Demand

Hot off the press, in today’s Peninsula:

Experts expect house rents to fall further
Web posted at: 9/28/2009 0:55:46
Source ::: The Peninsula
DOHA: Real estate experts estimate that some 6,000 new housing units have sprung up in Doha and its suburbs for uptake this year alone.

With supplies having gone up, the experts expect house rents to fall by a further five to 10 percent over the short term.

House rents are believed to have dropped between 30 and 40 percent until now, says the manager of a real estate company, Falah Matar.

“So due to higher supply, tenants now have a lot of option,” he added.

According to Khalifa Al Muslemani, another real estate expert, some 6,000 new housing units have come on the market this year, further pushing supplies higher.

These are both private and semi-government projects. “Higher supplies have led to a fall in rents,” added Al Muslemani.

Talking of the existing rent law which was enforced in early 2008 for two years, Matar said there was the need for a new legislation to replace it once it expires in February next year.

The proposed law should either lower the limit by which landlords can raise rents annually to five percent, or retain the existing limit of 10 percent.

He allayed fears among tenants that once the current rent law expires landlords would begin to raise rents unjustifiably like they did in the previous years.

He said that due to excess supplies, tenants facing this kind of pressure from property owners would have the option to leave and look for alternative accommodation.

Agreeing with this view, an official from a real estate agency, Mahmoud Al Jirsha said tenants need not worry about landlords raising rents unjustifiably because of huge supplies.

The situation in the previous years was different because housing supplies were limited and the demand was far too more. “Reverse is the case now as supplies far exceed demand,” he added.

September 28, 2009 Posted by | Building, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, News, Social Issues | Leave a comment

Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa AlSanea

“Have you read Girls of Riyadh?” my friend asked me on the phone, and when I said I had not, she said she would bring it to me.

“It’s an easy read” she said, “it will take you an afternoon.”

Sometimes life intruded. It took me a little longer. I had expected this to be lightweight, along the lines of the shopaholic books, read ’em and forget ’em. Airport reading, stuff you save to read when you know you will have time to kill.

I was surprised. I guess I had gotten the impression it was lightweight because I had seen it discussed on some of the blogs, and there are some light-hearted moments in the book. The four young women are well drawn, and their experiences are handled with sensitivity. She never reveals which character from the book she is, but I have my suspicions. 🙂

Each girl has her own unique experiences as she reaches young womanhood, and mating. Although the experiences are treated deftly, there is a serious undercurrent that belies the light tone. The underlying circumstances surrounding the mating rituals in a country so tradition-bound as Saudi Arabia turn mating into a dark ritual, full of unseen pits and minefields.

The very worst fear during these years is the wagging tongues of others. I have heard this theme over and over in my own dealings with young women in this part of the world.

“You know, khalto, a woman’s reputation is like glass, it is easily shattered,” explained my young-woman Qatteri friend, solemnly.

(for my Western readers, Khalto means ‘aunt’ literally, and is a term used respectfully for family friends, meaning ‘sister of my mother’)

“I don’t want to get married,” she continued, “They come for you as a bride and they are so nice and they make you feel so in love with them, but then, when you are married, they change. Men are . . . men are . . ”

“Dogs?” I asked.

“Yes! Yes!,” she exclaimed, “Dogs!” (pause)

“How did you know, Khalto?”

LLLLOOOOLLLLLLLLLL! It’s one of those moments when you know we are all more alike than we are different.

Girls of Riyadh is a worthy read. It is thought-provoking, and compassion-provoking. You grow to love these girls, and you hope a happy ending for them.

September 28, 2009 Posted by | Beauty, Books, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 15 Comments

Starting Monday with a Blonde Joke

An old, blind cowboy
wanders into an all-girl biker bar by

He finds his way to a bar stool and orders
some coffee.

After sitting there for a while, he yells to
the waiter: “Hey, you wanna’ hear a
blonde joke?”

The bar immediately falls absolutely silent.

In a very deep husky voice, the woman next to
him says: “Before you tell that joke, Cowboy, I
think it is only fair, given that you are blind,
that you should know five things:

1. The bartender is a blonde girl with a
baseball bat.

2. The bouncer is a blonde girl.

3. I’m a 6 foot tall, 175 pound blonde woman
with a black belt in karate.

4. The woman sitting next to me is blonde and
a professional weightlifter.

5. The lady to your right is blonde and a
professional wrestler.

Now, think about it seriously, Mister…., do you
still want to tell that joke?”

The blind cowboy thinks for a second, shakes his
head, and mutters,

“No, not if
I’m gonna have to explain it five

September 28, 2009 Posted by | Humor, Joke | 9 Comments

Exporting Trash to Poorer Countries

From The New York Times, where you can read the entire article on exporting trash by clicking here

Published: September 26, 2009
ROTTERDAM, the Netherlands — When two inspectors swung open the doors of a battered red shipping container here, they confronted a graveyard of Europe’s electronic waste — old wires, electricity meters, circuit boards — mixed with remnants of cardboard and plastic.

“This is supposed to be going to China, but it isn’t going anywhere,” said Arno Vink, an inspector from the Dutch environment ministry who impounded the container because of Europe’s strict new laws that place restrictions on all types of waste exports, from dirty pipes to broken computers to household trash.

Exporting waste illegally to poor countries has become a vast and growing international business, as companies try to minimize the costs of new environmental laws, like those here, that tax waste or require that it be recycled or otherwise disposed of in an environmentally responsible way.

Rotterdam, the busiest port in Europe, has unwittingly become Europe’s main external garbage chute, a gateway for trash bound for places like China, Indonesia, India and Africa. There, electronic waste and construction debris containing toxic chemicals are often dismantled by children at great cost to their health. Other garbage that is supposed to be recycled according to European law may be simply burned or left to rot, polluting air and water and releasing the heat-trapping gases linked to global warming.

While much of the international waste trade is legal, sent to qualified overseas recyclers, a big chunk is not. For a price, underground traders make Europe’s waste disappear overseas.

After Europe first mandated recycling electronics like televisions and computers, two to three tons of electronic waste was turned in last year, far less than the seven tons anticipated. Much of the rest was probably exported illegally, according to the European Environment Agency.

Paper, plastic and metal trash exported from Europe rose tenfold from 1995 to 2007, the agency says, with 20 million containers of waste now shipped each year either legally or illegally. Half of that passes through this huge port, where trucks and ships exchange goods around the clock.

When we were blogging about pirates in Somalia, a Somali wrote in that part of the problem was that rich western countries were dumping toxic trash off the coast of Somalia and damaging the traditional fishing wealth of the country. Once trash is exported, there is no telling where it will be dumped, or what problems we are causing for our descendants down the road. I can’t help but think that we reap what we sow – and that we need to be paying attention to what we are dumping and where we are dumping it.

September 27, 2009 Posted by | Africa, Bureaucracy, Community, Financial Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues, Values | 3 Comments