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Bahrain climbs the expensive rankings ladder

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Nine places to be exact, according to the International Cost of Living Rankings released in April 2010 which using New York as the benchmark and the ranking is for expatriate living.

Bahrain, according to the report, is the most expensive country in the world for clothes, 66th most expensive in the world with only Dubai from the Gulf being more expensive at 26 than Bahrain and Qatar at 41. Dubai is the most expensive for eating out, restaurants and hotels (still).

The currently “happening” place in the Gulf, Abu Dhabi, is at 74, Saudi (Riyadh) at 130th, Kuwait at 134 and Oman is at a comfortable (and best, in this case) at 241st.

Given the huge development happening in both Qatar and Abu Dhabi, I wonder how their rankings are going to be affected next year. I personally think that theirs will actually get better due to the global downturn in the economy, ironically. Qatar’s rents for instance has reduced by 4% this year according to reports, with I daresay a bigger and more substantial drop in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.


Amsterdam reflections

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Blackcat, originally uploaded by malyousif.


After a very hectic but immensely satisfying week, I am back home again. It’s good to be with your family and good to sleep in your own bed again.

In the week we’ve been away, we produced two news reports [1·2] which were aired on the same day they were shot, while another 3 are in progress and shall be released soon based on the footage we acquired during the Power-Gen Europe exhibition and conference at the RAI.

It was a nostalgic trip as well. I’ve been going to the RAI to attend the International Broadcasters Convention for years. I just missed the last 2 years due to my changing the business direction of the company. It was good to be back in Amsterdam. It was different this time too, Apart form going to the city centre on the first and last day of the stay there, we spent all the other time near the RAI. An expected thing really as we started work at around 5.30 am and didn’t finish until about 10pm every single day!

Just by chance, while the exhibition was being set up in the RAI, a smaller hall there was hosting a Tattoo Convention. I didn’t require much encouragement to take some time off and visit! I met some very interesting people there. Some even allowed me to take videos of them being tattooed and others pleasantly posed for my photographs. Unfortunately all I had with me then was my iPhone. I know. Ironic, considering what we were commissioned to do in Amsterdam! I’ll finish and post the video once I get some time. Enjoy the pictures for now though…

I am absolutely proud of my crew. Every single one of them pulled an ace out of their hats and worked well under immense pressure and succeeded to deliver fantastic products which exceeded the client’s expectations.

It’s fantastic working with clients who continuously challenge us and allow us to innovate and push the envelope. We’re looking forward to two more international productions with PennWell Corp; Doha and Singapore are coming up in October and November this year. We can’t wait!


It’s all about SEX.

Yesserie Bob. It’s aallll about the sex.

First, my good friend SaudiWoman is angered by the resurgence of that infantile fatwa designed to – wait for it – Shari’a compliant gender integration by condoning and encouraging women to breast feed unrelated men in order for them to be considered milk-mother and son; hence, allowed under the Shari’a to mingle.

The practical consideration is that us men – being completely and utterly aroused by such an action with bombs going off in our heads that now suckling is concluded, we now just have to get to third base, a feeling which somewhat nullifies the intent of creating a mother/son relationship at best.

Another practical consideration SaudiWoman reminds us of is that for a women to be considered a “milk-mother” in Shari’a, she must have suckled a child of under 2 years of age, a minimum of 5 complete meals at breast. Now, in order for a woman to lactate, she must have been with child very recently, but the quantity of milk produced is hardly enough to satiate a babe and she is right to question the ability of any women’s capacity to produce 5 full meals enough to fill a grown man.

I guess the guys issuing that fatwa just didn’t realise that such production is not actually on-tap, nor is it generated by pressing a ubiquitous button. It’s simple biology. Scientific, in other words, rather than esoteric hearsay. That is, apart from all the other moral, ethical and yes, even practical considerations.

Talking about practical considerations, there is a brouhaha brewing in our fair isle. Again concerning sex. But this time, a (presumably Sharia-compliant) sex-shop owner is on a slippery slope due to poking tongue at a Customs officer. Said officer apparently had umbrage with some of the more salacious products she was trying to slip through his unusually tight nets.

The 32-year-old mother-of-three appeared before the Lower Criminal Court yesterday, accused of insulting a Customs officer in a row as she tried to import some of her products, which include sex aids and games.

The case was adjourned until September 15, but Ms Ahmed, who denies the charge, says it has already cost her a night in a police cell and lost income on products blocked by Customs.

Customs officials say some of the products which Ms Ahmed tries to import are unauthorised.

But Ms Ahmed argues that some are already on sale in pharmacies and other stores and that she is doing nothing wrong, since her target customers are married couples.

GDN – 25 May 2010

While I shall not hazard a guess at what those products might be, the statement that they are actually already are available at “pharmacies and other stores” is really troubling, from health rather than pleasure considerations. But I shall reserve judgement on those until more details become available.

The interesting thing in this particular matter is that we actually have such a shop already operating for a couple of years, situated in the middle of Jid Ali, which I suspect is a conservative village attached to Isa Town, and that the creative businesswoman has built up a large customer base. Good on her. I hope her business continues to flourish, and that she should stop justifying its existence by psychological and religious grounds. If adults are into what she sells, then more power to them.

What’s the connection between the two events then you might ask? Sex. Is the first thing that comes to mind. The second of course is that if our government doesn’t let her go about her business in the presumably legal manner she has already been operated under, and is banned from selling her products based on some man’s squeamish perception of what is good and proper, or worse, on convoluted religious grounds, then convergence might just happen, and like the illustrious Saudi and Egyptian clerics, our home grown clerics will dare to best them!

Do we really want that eventuality?


Battle of the Telcos has started!

Battle of the Telcos has started!

Here’s the VIVA ad this morning thanking the people of Bahrain for their welcome and for the unmitigated success of their number launch campaign:

VIVA\’s Ad

and a couple of pages later we find Bateclo has taken the top half of the page with this:

Batelco\’s Ad

Which is a deep poke in VIVA’s eye!

The background of this story is that when VIVA launched their number booking campaign, their servers crashed horribly for a few DAYS, allegedly because of the huge load they experienced with people trying to reserve their favourite numbers. That wasn’t a good sign at all, especially that VIVA claim that Broadband is their main product surpassing that of mobile telephony.

Batelco’s not letting them get away with it, of course, as with this ad, they’re reminding people that words are cheap and when the chips are down, VIVA already lost the battle because of that gigantic crash of their IT infrastructure, which, of course is the backbone of any Internet connectivity product AND that VIVA’s infrastructural reliability leaves a lot to be desired.

“The crash” is undoubtedly an extremely embarrassing event for VIVA, especially when you consider that they have advertised the number booking website ( very heavily and encouraged people to book through the web rather than go and wait in line for hours to book their favourite number.

While I have no doubt some heads must have rolled due to that royal fuckup, Batelco – and most probably every other telecoms company in Bahrain too – will never let them forget it.

What would you think is the best course for VIVA to surmount that embarrassment?

In my humble opinion, running “Thank you” ads, while admirable, is not enough. It’s time for VIVA to double their investment and more importantly redouble their effort into intelligent (and humble!) PR, backed up with solid and transparent messaging to regain the ground they’ve lost.

This is far from easy, of course, and it will require a lot of creativity and courage. Will VIVA have these required qualities? Time will tell. I know this though: with this new arrival, we certainly are living in an interesting times, with Batelco already scoring a win and it hasn’t even put it’s gloves fully on!


Jaleel Sharaf – Planning for Success

The company you work for suddenly closes but customers still call you wanting their promised projects to be completed. What would you do?

Well Sayed Jaleel Sharaf took on the responsibility to deliver what his erstwhile employer promised, and in the process established one of the most successful ICT groups in Bahrain turning over close to BD4 million a year through a conglomerate of 9 companies catering to the business community from programming through to feasibility studies and real estate.

Sayed Jaleel never lost focus even with so many entities in his portfolio and continue to innovate in every sector. Lately, he won the highly prized Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoom’s prize for the top SME in the Middle East by creating an innovative Arabic content portal catering to the health industry. His passion, vision and drive are not abated.

Winning this prize enthused him even more to follow on from that success to provide more Arabic content for the web, with only 6% of the current content being in the Arabic language, he wants to make a real impact by increasing that meagre ratio as much as he could.


Ammar Al-Aradi

After graduating from the States in Business & Finance and spending 6 years working for one of the top banks in Bahrain going through to managerial level, Ammar felt that he had more to offer and was concerned that his creativity was not being utilised. This drove Ammar to take a courageous decision to leave a secure job and follow his passions: writing, photography and music.

Ammar established a website through which he filled with information about Bahrain, entertainment spots, and other elements he thought would be interesting to both Bahrainis and visitors. He ultimately decided to distill all of this information in a monthly electronic publication he called HalaBahrain and decided to turn it into a self-sustaining project by selling advertising to be published within it. That required a lot of effort on his part to convince prospective advertisers of the efficacy of online advertising in Bahrain. He was successful in doing so and now the magazine (registered with the Ministry of Information & Culture) constitutes one of his sources of income.

The magazine enjoys a monthly readership of 15,000 spread across the world. 60% are from Bahrain, 20% from the Gulf and the rest are from the rest of the world.


Bahraini Views – Abdulla Al Mabad – Raising the Bar

Not succumbing to frustration of having to wait for games to be brought to Bahrain and then made available at extortionist rates, Abdulla took matters into his own hands by researching the games market in Bahrain more thoroughly to take established businesses head-on. A challenge he was happy to take.

He successfully gained the representation of the largest games distributor in the region giving him the opportunity to release games on or before their international debut: even at 1 minute past midnight – resulting in queues of gamers waiting in the dark outside his shop to lay their hands on the latest release at the games suggested retail price or even lower, equating to less than half of what they were regularly sold at his competitor’s!

Abdulla talks here about the birth of Game District and his plans for it in the future.


Moronic job applications

I’m not sure who started flushing, but I’ve been inundated with job applications from morons recently. All I get is this sort of thing:


When I open the document, it’s invariably from some twit who somehow managed to scrape through one of the “educational” institutions in Bahrain – yes, some are from Bahrain Uni too – and must be completely spaced out or think that whoever actually bothers to actually open their attachment (disregarding virus warnings) is completely stupid.

Why do they do this? Do they actually think that an employer would be impressed with their abilities, attention to detail and marketing skills based on the imbecilic email they send?

I think whoever creates a course teaching people how to write their CVs and how to approach employers would make a fortune.

Hey, that’s an idea worth pursuing!