EN: Saudi women in Dubai, a tale of two realities
FR: Saoudiennes à Dubai, la coexistence de deux réalités
France 24, May 2014
More and more Saudi women are travelling to neighbouring countries to
take driving lessons, even though their new licence is not valid back home
It’s about more than just learning how to drive. It is the lifestyle of freedom and opportunities that attracts Saudi women to Dubai : here they can work and live on their own, or simply dress the way they want.
Les Saoudiennes sont de plus en plus
nombreuses à passer leur permis de conduire dans les pays voisins même si de
retour chez elles, il ne leur est d'aucune utilité autorités. Mais plus qu’apprendre à conduire, c’est
tout un espace de liberté qui attire les Saoudiennes a Dubaï: ici, elles
peuvent vivre et travailler seules, ou s’habiller comme elles le veulent.
Video in ENGLISH
Video en FRANÇAIS
EN: Cultural ambitions in the middle of the desert
FR: Des ambitions culturelles au milieu du désert
France 24, March 2014
FR : Art Dubai est aujourd'hui le rendez-vous incontournable du monde de l'art
contemporain dans la région. Comme celui d'Art Abu Dhabi, le salon profite du boom
économique des Emirats. Tout ce que le Moyen Orient compte d'artistes
est présent et les investisseurs du monde entier se bousculent ici pour
trouver les nouvelles pépites de la profession.
Pour affirmer leurs ambitions nouvelles dans le domaine culturel et artistique, les Emirats ne comptent pas à la dépense. La capitale Abu Dhabi, qui se rêve en escale incontournable dans le tourisme culturel mondial a lancé de son côté un chantier pharaonique de 4 grands musées avec pour partenaires le Guggenheim, le Louvre, le Brittish Museum. Le Louvre d'Abu Dhabi devrait ouvrir d'ici la fin de l'année prochaine.
FR: Dubai ou le financement de l'enseignement français par les entreprisesFR : Ils sont près de 2,5 millions de Français à
habiter hors de l’Hexagone. Une tendance à la hausse dans certains pays
émergeants qui pose un grâve problème de scolarisation dans des écoles
françaises aujourd'hui saturées. Alors que l’Etat réduit les budget les
Français se tournent vers le secteur privé pour financer le réseau
d’écoles françaises à l’étranger. C’est le cas notamment de Dubaï.
EN: As Europe continues to grapple with slow economic growth, thousands of French families are moving overseas each year. But ensuring their children receive a French education is proving to be a challenge. Many of the French schools in their host countries are overcrowded, forcing some children to have to temporarily leave the French sytem. With government budget cuts, some parents are now turning to the private sector to develop the network of French schools across the world. This is particularly the case in Dubai.
Video en FRANÇAIS
EN: Dubai Al Maktoum Airport opening to passengers /France 24, 27th November 2013
FR: Nouvel aéroport Dubai Al Maktoum ouvert aux passagers
Video in ENGLISH
Video in FRENCH
EN: Camp Ka Champ: a song contest in Emirati labour camps /
FR: Camp Ka Champ, un concours de chants pour les travailleurs
Oct 2013, on France 24 - A Week in the Middle East
EN : Dubai’s construction workers rarely find time for leisure. But Camp Ka Champ is an exception. This Bollywood song contest was created 8 years ago just for them. There are now more than 80 camps participating across the UAE. Bollywood is a world of glamour and glitter close to the hearts of the 3000 contestants, who can easily relate to the movie songs. Moments of joy and nostalgy.
Video en FRANÇAIS
Ashraful, Semi finalist at the 2012 edition sings a Bollywood song for us, a capela
EN: Dubai, a new heaven for the French with Arab background?
FR: Dubai, un eldorado pour les Français d'origine maghrébine?
Les Français d’origine maghrébine sont de plus en plus nombreux à venir tenter leur chance aux Emirats, fuyant la crise économique mais également un manque de perspectives dans leur pays. Que ce soit pour des motifs économiques, religieux ou sociaux, leur biculturalité se transforme en atout dans le Golfe.
Video in FRENCH
Video in ENGLISH
For the video in ARABIC, click here
EN: Dubai's Iranian business community face international sanctionsSept 2012, France 24
FR: Les sanctions internationales frappent la communauté d'affaires iranienne de Dubaï
Video in ENGLISH
Video en FRANÇAIS
Cubai Airshow 2011: No Rafale deal this year
Nov 2011, for France 24
Video in ENGLISH
Video en FRANÇAIS
Campaigning for elections in the UAESeptember 2011, France 24
Video in ENGLISH
Video en FRANÇAIS
Video: Masdar, une cité dans le vent (France 24)FRANCE 24, 18 janvier 2011
FR: C'est via des véhicules électriques a faible emission de CO2 que l'on arrive au centre international de recherche, Masdar Institute. Le seul bâtiment construit pour l’instant, dans cette ville futuriste, a deux pas de la capitale des Emirats Arabes Unis. C’est le volet énergie qui a donné naissance aux projets les plus concrets de Masdar.
Video in ENGLISH
Video en FRANÇAIS
EN : Sorbonne Abu Dhabi officially inauguratedFrance 24, 13 February 2011
FR: La Sorbonne d'Abu Dhabi inaugurée officiellement
Video en FRANÇAIS
Video in ENGLISH
Video Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2010 (France 24)FRANCE 24, 19 Octobre 2010 (version française)
FRANCE 24, October 2010 (English version)
En prime durant le Festival: Gérard Depardieu (video) :
Il répond à mon micro par une sortie inattendue mais pas inhabituelle de sa part:
"Le Louvre a vendu pour 700 millions des affaires où ils se sont faits avoir. J'adore Abu Dhabi parce que ce sont des voyoux et que je suis un voyou"
Voire la vidéo
FR: Nouveaux Logements de travailleurs à Abu DhabiFRANCE 24, Septembre 2010
EN: New Labor accommodation in Abu Dhabi
Video in ENGLISH
Video en FRANÇAIS
Sorbonne Abu Dhabi: Première promotion d'étudiantsFrance 24
[ 17/08/10 - 01H00 - Les Echos - actualisé à 00:36:32 ]
En plein désert, Dubaï construit Al Maktoum, appelé à devenir le plus grand aéroport du monde avec 160 millions de voyageurs par an. Ce pari ambitieux et coûteux, celui de devenir le hub planétaire, devrait coûter 30 milliards de dollars. Comment financer ? Les clients seront-ils au rendez-vous ? Le rêve n'est-il pas démesuré ? Reportage.
Les étendues de sable se confondent avec la couleur du ciel, laiteuse en cette période de l'année, sous l'effet combiné de la chaleur et de l'humidité. L'immensité de ce terrain de 140 kilomètres carrés et le calme qui y règne par endroits laissent imaginer l'ampleur des efforts qu'il reste à fournir pour en faire, à terme, le plus grand aéroport du monde.
A l'instar de ce que l'ancien émir de Dubaï, le cheikh Rachid Al Maktoum, père de l'actuel dirigeant, avait fait dans les années 1980 pour les ports, Dubaï, l'émirat pourtant le plus endetté de la fédération des Emirats arabes unis - qui en compte sept -s'offre aujourd'hui un deuxième aéroport, plus vaste, loin de la ville, appelé, surtout, à devenir le plus grand du monde.
Al Maktoum International, du nom de la dynastie régnante, comprendra à terme 5 pistes d'atterrissage parallèles de 4,5 kilomètres, 3 terminaux passagers et 16 terminaux cargos. Quelque 160 millions de voyageurs pourraient y passer chaque année, soit trois fois le trafic de Roissy - Charles-de-Gaulle en 2009, quatre fois le flux actuel. Y transiteront également 12 millions de tonnes de fret (contre 1,9 million traitées l'an dernier). Pièce maîtresse du projet de Dubai World Central (DWC), avec une composante résidentielle et commerciale, c'est le plus gros projet d'infrastructures de Dubaï.
Le site se trouve à 40 kilomètres à l'ouest du centre-ville historique, aux frontières d'Abu Dhabi. Pour y accéder, on quitte Dubaï par la fameuse Sheikh Zayed Road, cette autoroute à deux fois six voies qui éventre la cité de tout son long. Une fois passée la forêt de tours, on entre dans un espace plus disparate de zones industrielles en marge de la ville : Dubai Investment Park, Jebel Ali. Des groupes d'entrepôts ici et là, des terrains vagues, une usine, du sable. On est à la fois dans le désert et l'on n'y est pas.
Longeant la zone de Dubai Investment Park, une route très fréquentée relie le port de Jebel Ali à l'hinterland, vers la ville d'Al Ain, puis Oman. Elle conduit à Al Maktoum. Inauguré en juin dernier, l'aéroport comprend déjà un terminal cargos d'une capacité de 250.000 tonnes, une piste d'atterrissage adaptée aux Airbus A380, une tour de contrôle de 96 mètres. A quelque 200 mètres de là, un terminal passagers est en construction. Il aura en mars prochain une capacité de 5 millions de voyageurs. Une infime partie de la structure finale.
Pour l'heure, Al Maktoum International ressemble encore à un rêve, mais le rêve est ambitieux et planifié. Outre l'aéroport en construction, ses environs immédiats accueilleront aussi un gigantesque port de redistribution en eaux profondes ainsi que la plus grande zone franche industrielle de la région, tout cela au croisement de routes qui relient l'Asie à l'Europe et aux Amériques. Au centre de ce carrefour, Dubaï, bien sûr, ainsi transformé en gigantesque hub par lequel transiteront tous les moyens de transport et où se croiseront marchandises et passagers.
Ce faisant, Dubaï, dont le port était dès le siècle dernier le refuge commercial des familles marchandes persanes et indiennes, renoue avec la tradition. Après le marasme du commerce des perles, c'est sur son accessibilité que la cité a porté ses premiers efforts. La construction du nouveau port de Jebel Ali, en 1979, a donné naissance à la compagnie dubaïote DP World. En rachetant le britannique P&O, elle est devenue le troisième opérateur portuaire au monde, derrière Hutchison Whampoa de Hong Kong et Temasek de Singapour, avec un chiffre d'affaires de 2,8 milliards de dollars en 2009 et 11,1 millions de conteneurs EVP traités à Dubaï. Le port de Jebel Ali assure en rythme de croisière la manutention de 110 conteneurs à l'heure. Plus tard, en 1985, a été construite la zone franche Jafza, aujourd'hui un pôle industriel de plus de 6.000 entreprises. L'aéroport sera la nouvelle pièce de ce dispositif. Avec une idée fixe pour les dirigeants de l'émirat : faire de leur pays la Singapour du Golfe. Sortir aussi de la dépendance au pétrole et, par extension, à Abu Dhabi, détenteur de 93 % des ressources.
Un projet tout en superlatifs
Al Maktoum disposera de sa propre zone franche, Dubai Logistic City, avec déjà quelques grands noms comme l'allemand Kuehne+Nagel et le suisse Panalpina. Plus au sud, Aviation City, un espace encore vide, hébergera des compagnies de jets privés et des entreprises liées à l'aéronautique.
Point clef de cette stratégie multimodale, un pont franc (encore fermé) reliant l'aéroport à Jafza permettra le transfert des marchandises en zone extraterritoriale, sans jamais entrer aux Emirats : pas de droits de douane à verser et à se faire rembourser, pas de paperasse.
« Ce corridor nous permettra de faire des allers-retours instantanés entre les installations maritimes et aériennes, selon Claus Schmidt, le patron de Panalpina à Dubaï, qui a investi dans un entrepôt de 4.000 mètres carrés pour desservir la région et l'Afrique. C'est une stratégie très attractive. Les entreprises qui ont des stocks ici peuvent réagir très vite et réexporter dans la région en fonction de la demande. Il suffit de concentrer les stocks sur Dubaï au lieu d'avoir un entrepôt dans chaque pays. On peut en disposer tout aussi rapidement et faire des économies d'échelle. »
Ambitieux, impressionnant, le projet ne manque pas de superlatifs. Ni de questions. Quid, par exemple, de l'énorme aéroport actuel ? Sa capacité va passer de 60 à 75 millions de passagers d'ici à deux ans, avec l'achèvement de Concourse 3, un terminal dédié spécialement aux A380 d'Emirates. C'est déjà le 6 e aéroport du monde en nombre de passagers sur les vols internationaux et 5 e pour le fret international. Sa capacité cargos va passer de 2,5 à 3 millions de tonnes sous cinq ans.
« Je ne peux pas annoncer de scénario à l'avance, affirme Khalifa Suhail Al Zaffin, le PDG de DWC. Aurons-nous un ou deux aéroports ? Il est encore trop tôt pour le dire. Mais la plate-forme actuelle a une capacité d'extension limitée. Nous allons croître bien au-delà. »
Pourtant, l'émirat n'est pas seul. Ras Al-Khaimah, Fujairah et Sharjah ont leurs aéroports internationaux et Abu Dhabi a lancé un plan d'expansion agressif pour soutenir sa jeune compagnie Etihad. Sans parler du futur aéroport du Qatar, l'an prochain. Conséquence : la question de la surcapacité est sur toutes les lèvres.
Khalifa Suhail Al Zaffin insiste sur la croissance phénoménale de la demande. Le trafic passagers, il est vrai, a augmenté de 9,2 % l'an dernier, à 40,9 millions de voyageurs, et de 5,6 % en trafic cargos, à 1,9 million de tonnes, et ce au pire moment de la crise internationale. C'est le secteur qui marche le mieux dans la région. A Dubaï, on prévoit 100 millions de passagers d'ici à 2020.
Du village de pêcheurs au grand hub
Emirates Airlines, le fer de lance de cette croissance, est devenu un monstre desservant 220 destinations avec une flotte de 149 avions et 174 autres officiellement en commande. C'est déjà la plus grosse compagnie du monde en capacité internationale. « Quand je suis arrivé ici en 1991, nous n'avions que 8 avions », raconte Peter Sedgley, vice-président de la section cargos à Emirates Airlines. Emirates a triplé ses bénéfices en 2009 et vise le milliard de dollars pour cette année. Un développement à l'image de celui d'un pays dont la population a bondi de 60.000 habitants en 1960 à 1,8 million aujourd'hui.
« En vingt-cinq ans, l'émirat a complètement changé de visage, explique Peter Sedgley. On est passé de quelques villages de pêcheurs à l'un des plus grands hubs commerciaux du monde à une vitesse phénoménale ! »
Il reste que, pour l'instant, les clients ne se bousculent pas à Al Maktoum. En raison des retards de construction, l'aéroport a manqué de peu l'installation de FlyDubai, la nouvelle et agressive compagnie low cost qui compte 1 million de réservations en une année de service. Seules trois compagnies aériennes (Rus Aviation, Skyline et Aerospace Consortium) et 12 opérateurs cargos se sont d'ores et déjà enregistrés.
Eliska Hill de Freeman Chapman a décidé pour sa part de patienter. Comme tous les professionnels du fret aérien, elle a été invitée en juin dernier à visiter le site. « On nous a proposé de nombreuses incitations pour nous encourager à venir », dit-elle - espaces de bureau à prix bradés, tarifs aéroportuaires réduits, accès au fioul plus intéressant. Mais la distance entre les deux aéroports est encore dissuasive. « Il faut d'abord que des vols réguliers démarrent, ce qui finira bien par arriver, avant de voir venir les compagnies charters, puis les groupeurs comme nous », dit-elle. Khalifa Suhail Al Zaffin assure, lui, ne forcer aucune compagnie à venir : « Elles doivent le décider elles-mêmes pour des raisons économiques. »
Une dette colossale
Autre défi de taille, le financement. « Nous avons déjà investi 3,3 milliards d'euros, affirme Khalifa Suhail Al Zaffin. Nous n'investirons pas moins de 30 milliards de dollars au total. » Les analystes, eux, restent sceptiques, vu le manque de liquidités de l'émirat et la difficulté à lever des fonds sur les marchés financiers. La dette de Dubaï est estimée à plus de 100 milliards de dollars. L'économie du pays s'est contractée de 0,7 % l'année dernière, selon le Fonds monétaire international (FMI).
Dubai Aerospace Enterprise, un client important de Boeing et d'Airbus, vient en effet d'annuler cinquante de ses 220 commandes d'avions passées en 2007.
Depuis l'éclatement de la bulle immobilière, Al Maktoum a, du reste, revu son design. On ne parle plus de l'énorme composante résidentielle qui aurait dû accueillir 250.000 habitants, ni de tours de bureaux ni de golf à 18 trous. Selon les experts, le marché immobilier est saturé et, dans certains zones, les prix ont chuté de plus de 50 % en deux ans. Près de la moitié des bureaux pourraient même rester inoccupés l'an prochain. L'aéroport, cependant, poursuit ses travaux. Tel qu'on l'aperçoit, le projet semble encore irréel. Mais, après tout, le rêve a toujours été un moteur de croissance à Dubaï, où l'on se projette volontiers des décennies à l'avance.
« Nous connaissons les programmes de vol même pour 2020 », affirme M. Al Zaffin. « Nous savons quelle sera la demande sur les ponts, les places de parking, les services de restauration en vol, le fioul, tout. Nous sommes sûrs de la direction prise. »
Pour le cheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, l'émir de Dubaï, DWC doit être à l'aérien ce que Jebel Ali du temps de son père a été au fret maritime. « DWC est plus important que Meydan et Burj Khalifa, affirmait récemment le cheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, président de l'Autorité des aéroports. C'est le retour de Dubaï à ses fondamentaux, celui d'être le centre logistique du Moyen-Orient. » L'époque d'avant la diversification vers le tourisme et les loisirs, l'immobilier ou la finance, ces secteurs aujourd'hui en difficulté.
NATHALIE GILLET, Les Echos
La première promotion de la Sorbonne d’Abou Dhabi vient de sortir, fraîchement diplômée. Cette branche de la prestigieuse université française n'atteint pas encore sa capacité d'accueil de 2000 étudiants. En cause notamment, le coût des études.
Quatre ans après le lancement de l’université Paris-Sorbonne Abou Dhabi, la toute première promotion d’étudiants à y avoir été scolarisée en est ressortie diplômée, dimanche. Au total, 180 diplômes, notamment des licences et des masters, ont été directement délivrés par Paris-IV. "Tous ces diplômes sont exactement les mêmes que les diplômes français", assure le professeur Georges Molinié, président de la célèbre université parisienne.
La branche délocalisée de la Sorbonne a été créée en 2006 par un accord de coopération internationale signé entre Paris-IV et le ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la recherche de l'émirat d’Abou Dhabi. En décembre dernier, elle s’est définitivement installée sur l’île d’Al-Reem, dans un complexe ultra-moderne financé par l'émirat.
L'objectif de ce projet, qui s’inscrit dans la droite ligne de celui du Louvre, est de faire rayonner le prestige d’une université française au Moyen-Orient. L'enjeu est de taille, la jeunesse de la région se tournant, en priorité, vers les cursus anglo-saxons et les filières plus techniques.
Malgré sa capacité d'accueil qui s'élève à 2 000 étudiants, la Sorbonne d’Abou Dhabi est encore loin d’afficher complet. Pour l’heure, moins de 500 étudiants, dont une minorité d’Émiriens, occupent les bancs de la faculté.
Le phénomène peut s'expliquer en partie par le coût élevé des études à la Sorbonne, l'inscription dans la prestigieuse université s'élève en effet à 12 000 euros par an pour une licence, et près de 20 000 euros pour un Master.Mais la barrière de la langue constitue un autre défi, comme l’explique Obaid al-Jeraishi, diplômé d’un master en Marketing et Communication. "Il ne faut pas oublier qu’aux Émirats, la deuxième langue est l’anglais, rappelle celui-ci. Donc, pour nous, améliorer notre français et le parler est un véritable défi".
The National newspaper--
Nathalie Gillet, "The National", April 24. 2010 5:24PM UAE
Bidding farewell doesn't have to be bitter, as long as you follow the right steps.
most people, leaving the UAE to return home, or to begin a new life
somewhere else, is a considerable challenge. But it’s an eventual
reality for most expatriates.
Since moving to the Emirates, odds are you know someone who has moved on. Perhaps they accepted an exciting career opportunity, became homesick, or were made redundant in the wake of the financial downturn.
Whatever the reason, slogging through paperwork, packing, paying the bills, looking for health insurance, and taking the children out of school can be a costly headache.
To avoid the hassle – and the debts – some people choose to do a runner, jumping on a plane with no intention of coming back.
But this is hardly a prudent option, nor is it an ethical one.
Expatriates who abscond from debts could be blacklisted from re-entering the country for years to come – if not forever. And as soon as you enter an Emirati airport, even in transit, you could end up having problems with the local authorities.
Absconding will also eliminate your end-of-service gratuity and
final payment, which in this country are linked to proper exiting
Fortunately, for the majority of us, departing from UAE life is a sweet sorrow, and it pays to end your time here responsibly. If you follow the right steps, the process can be relatively painless.
For Vincent Bouquain, a farrier at the Equestrian Club in Abu Dhabi, leaving the UAE has been smooth.
arriving from France in April 2009, Mr Bouquain, 38, found a job the
following month, and signed a one-year renewable contract.
“But before I finished my first year, I had to undergo back surgery for a hernia, which got me stuck home for a month and a half,” he remembers. “A staff member told me two months before the end of my contract, in March, that it would not be renewed.”
Despite the unpleasant circumstances, two months’ notice was more than enough time for a single man with no children to think about the future, update his CV and plan the transition.
“Since I am living in a company flat, I will need to leave the
place, but they have not given me any deadline yet,” Mr Bouquain says.
“It is not like they are kicking you out.”
As for the visa cancellation, he says his company is in charge of the procedure.
“I have no idea how long that will take, but so far nobody has asked me for my passport and we are three weeks from the deadline,” he explains. “The only thing I signed was the letter of non-renewal of my contract.”
Mr Bouquain also visited his bank and asked if his account could be
kept active. He’s leaving the UAE next month, but hopes to return in
mid-August to find another job. Therefore, the bank agreed to keep him
as a customer.
“But I will need to cancel my credit card because it is linked to the employer,” he explains. “I can still keep my ATM card.”
Mr Bouquain says he plans on leaving furniture with a friend, eliminating the hassle of shipping his possessions.
However, not all cases are this straightforward. Many expatriates
have far more variables to consider, such as children, pets, furniture
and outstanding loans. And since we are all different, each one of us
will have to deal with unique situations and challenges.
For example, Laura, a teacher at a British school in the capital, is worried about her faithful, long-term maid.
The 40-year-old Briton preferred to withhold her full name, as she has yet to inform her employer that she’ll be leaving in the near future.
“She has been with us for almost eight years taking care of the
kids,” say Laura, the mother of two children, aged eight and three.
“The maid is part of the family now. It breaks my heart to have her
sent back to her home country because I know that she does not want
that. But if we leave we should put an end to our sponsorship.”
Indeed, Laura will be legally obligated to do so by visiting the immigration department. Both she and the maid must present their passports and the maid’s labour card.
Another expat, Philip Agius, a 39-year-old architect from Australia,
had a hard time selling his car and closing his bank account when he
left the Emirates last summer.
“I was very conscious all the time about having any debt left when I arrived at the Abu Dhabi Airport,” he says.
“I was just paranoid about it because of the stories I have heard about being caught and who knows what.”
Mr Agius had reasons to be concerned. In fact, he had two loans from his bank – one that he took out to cover a six-month rent advance on his apartment in Dubai, and the other for a car. He did not wish to reveal how much money he owed.
“Selling my Ford Focus was a nightmare,” he remembers.
After posting a handbill advertisement on a Spinneys bulletin board, Mr Agius received incessant phone calls from people for weeks offering what he considered to be ridiculously low sums of money for his car, a 2005 model.
“They were all telling me that I would never get more than Dh12,000, because there are so many cars on the market and everybody is leaving,” he explains.
Mr Agius held out, and was eventually rewarded for his patience, selling the 2005 Focus for Dh20,000.
But other problems soon presented themselves to the departing expatriate.
His car was registered in Dubai, while the buyer lived in Abu Dhabi. Therefore, Mr Agius had to transfer the registration.
“I am lucky I was not working, because it took me three days of my time,” he remembers, saying the process was arduous.
Mr Agius took the car to the Dubai registration office, where he was
required to fill out several forms. His license plate was then removed,
and a special temporary plate was issued to him.
Next, he drove down to Abu Dhabi, picked up the buyer and processed the rest of the paperwork and registration at the licensing department in the capital.
Of course, Mr Agius had to pay off his car loan before he could actually sell the vehicle, and he had to spend his end-of-service gratuity payment to do so.
He experienced other hiccups with his bank. At one point, after
salary transfers from his employer ended and he still had loans with
outstanding balances, the bank froze all of his accounts. Mr Agius says
he had to visit the bank and have an extended meeting with several
representatives to explain the situation.
Even his final airport experience was a hassle. As Mr Agius approached the check-in counter, thinking all his troubles were behind him, the attendant told him he was carrying excess luggage to the tune of about 10 kilograms.
“I had to either pay an exorbitant amount to take it on the plane,
or go to a special counter where I can send it by post,” he says.
For Dh14 per kilogram to New York, or Dh10.30 to London, Etihad Crystal Cargo, for example, will ship your excess luggage. Note that it will take three to five days for you to receive it on the other end, including flight and customs.
The whole process of exiting the country took Mr Agius a good six weeks. But in the end, after a meaningful and productive time in the Emirates, he is happy to be home.
“It has been very tough going home,” he says. “I have been back for
nearly a year and I have worked only six months of it. I only got a
full-time job recently. But although it was a tough transition, it has
been really enjoyable.”
Nathalie Gillet, Mike Gimignani and Jeffrey Todd
- Last Updated: April 22. 2010 2:21PM UAE / April 22. 2010 10:21AM GMT
Deciding when to leave
you have children, it makes the most sense to move three to six weeks
before your destination country’s school year starts (and bachelors
might want to avoid another summer here).
But the vagaries of contract employment in the UAE can make choosing when to go difficult.
Leaving before the end of your contract, for instance, could leave you owing your sponsor for some benefits, such as previously paid air tickets or bonuses.
Furthermore, if your company paid the cheque on your flat, you will
be responsible for the balance if you leave before the end of that
contract. Because your housing and employment terms may end at
different times, it becomes an exercise in damage control to figure out
whom you would owe less if you had to choose.
You can mitigate some of these problems by asking your company and your landlord about finding a replacement tenant. Note that this isn’t a right, especially if your landlord has banned this in your housing contract.
Never expect to sever all your ties with your sponsor in just a day
or two. Even the most ambitious departure plan will take at least a
couple of weeks to implement.
And it’s always important to plan for the possibility that your end-of service benefits won’t come when you expect them, especially if your post-resignation relationship with your employer is less than cordial. If you’re worried about your flight home, it might be beneficial to plan your departure at off-peak travel times.
Another transport consideration is your
“exotic cargo” – different destinations have different rules for
handling pets, for instance. Most airlines won’t ship your best friends
when the temperature either in the Emirates or at your destination
airport rises over a certain comfort level.
Finally, consider the tax liability at your destination. If you move to your new country in the middle of a tax year, you may be responsible for taxes on all of your income that year – even what you’ve earned in the UAE!
It may not be easy to leave at the “perfect” time, but sacrificing small benefits here or there can help avoid major liabilities later.
Making sure your financial affairs are in order is perhaps the most essential step before moving on from the Emirates.
When you cancel your work visa, your company is expected to notify all of your banks of your imminent departure, and any final salary payments must be marked as such by law.
Be warned – if you have outstanding debts, your bank accounts and credit cards will be frozen immediately until the amount is cleared, or until the institution is notified that you have the means to make the necessary payments.
The point of freezing your account is to ensure that there are funds in place to cover any debts. Some banks will take a lump sum from your current account and place it in a temporary holding account to guard against your possible absconding.
In order to receive your final salary or severance package, your
employer may also ask you to produce a “No Liability Certificate”
stating that you have no outstanding loans or credit card bills that
your bank may try to force the company to pay if you default. But keep
in mind that, depending on the bank’s procedures, obtaining this
clearance can take two days – or two months.
You are also expected to close bank accounts and cancel credit cards before leaving, because they have been opened under the sponsorship of your employer. This will also take a couple of days. Be sure to take your passport to the local branch, along with all your banking information.
According to Antoine Mourad, a manager at the National Bank of Abu
Dhabi, you can subsequently open a non-resident account and deposit any
funds you wish. However, no chequebook is included, and your credit
card limit will likely be lower.
The best advice, Mr Mourad says, is simply to plan ahead and get your financial house in order before taking the leap.
Banks are very reluctant to let you leave without clearing your debts, and can even take preventive measures to ensure expatriates settle up.
“If somebody wants to leave the country with a loan and no intention to pay, we inform the airport, and if he leaves we contact the collecting agency abroad in his country,” Mr Mourad says.
Leaving your home
can be a tricky situation. If the lease is under the name of your
company (or accommodation is provided by the employer), you may need to
vacate the property just days after visa cancellation.
This time period will vary depending on your contract, and whether you have good relations with the company. Therefore, it is a smart move to determine where you stand, as you may need to make alternative housing arrangements before leaving the country.
There are two loose ends you must tie up regarding housing.
The first: utilities. At least a week before flying out, plan to visit DEWA or ADDC – each have several locations in their respective emirate – to pay your bill and receive a utilities clearance certificate.
Be sure to take your passport along, as well as your DEWA or ADDC
reference number, which can be found on the utility meter at home.
The deposit you made when you first opened the account will be returned to you, after being used to pay off any remaining balance on the bill.
But before acquiring your final clearance, DEWA and ADDC will send out a representative to read your meter and clear up any remaining fees; this typically takes a few days.
The second chore is your “media” – telephone, TV and internet. If
you have a landline, take a trip to Etisalat, get your telephone
disconnected, pay the final bill and receive a clearance certificate.
Home internet gets more complicated: you may need to wait for a technician to come to your flat to physically disconnect you, which will take a few days.
Satellite subscription services, such as Orbit Showtime or ART, will also require you to wait for a technician, or even take your decoder box to a retail location.
Note that prepaid subscriptions, such as Wasel with Etisalat, do not
need to be cancelled. However, any kind of mobile subscription, such as
on your iPhone or Blackberry, must be cancelled in person at your local
Etisalat or du office.
Finally, if you found your own apartment, but your company paid the rent, you must provide a maintenance clearance from the owner of your apartment, confirming that everything is in good shape for the next tenant.
Cutting ties with your job
Whether you are resigning or being laid off, the minimal notice period is generally 30 days.
Fortunately, once you have passed this threshold, most of the bureaucracy should be handled by the company – although you’ll need to be patient with your own (much smaller) pile of paperwork.
Of course, the company will want copies of most of the clearance letters listed on this page, including those from your bank, utilities provider and landlord. But visa cancellation is the most important task.
First, the company will ask for your passport, along with the
passports of any family members living under your sponsorship. These
documents will then be taken to the Immigration Department, and when
they return the visa will be stamped as cancelled.
This can take anywhere from a few days to two weeks. There is no charge for the process.
But once this step is complete, expatriates are suddenly on the clock. You will have a maximum of 30 days to leave the country. If you exceed this deadline, there is a charge of Dh25 per day for the first six months, and up to Dh100 every day afterwards.
If you need extra time in the country to sort your affairs, one
helpful way to avoid fines if you come from a qualifying country is to
acquire a visitor’s visa at the airport, entitling you to an additional
In terms of transportation, your company will be expected to provide a one-way ticket to a location of your choosing.
If you have completed more than a year of service, you are entitled to an “end-of service gratuity” or severance package, which amounts to a minimum of 21 days of basic salary (listed on your contract) for each of the first five years of continuous service, and 30 days for each following year. Meanwhile, if you are laid off, you can expect a severance equivalent to three months of basic salary.
Your final payment or severance package will be issued once your
work visa has been cancelled. Your sponsor will deduct the balance of
any unpaid loans or school/housing fees from this pay packet.
Overall, leaving your job is not complicated, but it is essential to budget your time properly once the visa clock starts ticking.
Shipping your stuff
Theoretically, shipping by sea
costs less than transporting your goods as air cargo, but important
considerations can bring the final prices much closer together than you
Many items can’t be shipped by normal sea cargo, such as pets (see next section), and furniture or other large pieces would cost a fortune to send by air.
First things first. Categorise your belongings into lists of what you want to send onward and what you want to bin, donate or sell. Many items are obviously one or the other – for instance, that Dh300 Ikea sofa in your guest room would cost much more than its actual value to ship.
Items you’re on the fence about selling may be worth an ad on souq.com or dubizzle.com to see what you are offered.
It’s best to ask several moving companies for quotations. Make sure that the company gives a full door-to-door quotation. Some of them give door-to-port quotations only, which would require you to separately move your goods the rest of the way.
There are different ways of shipping goods by boat. Paradoxically, the larger and more voluminous your stuff, the faster (albeit more expensive) sea shipping can be.
“If your volume is small, you can use a groupage and share with
others – but this can take about 15 to 18 weeks,” said Kevin Wieczorek,
the branch manager of Allied Pickfords.
Most companies have ever-larger options up to full shipping containers. According to Mr Wieczorek, a family of four sending belongings and furniture would need about 24 cubic metres of space, which would cost about Dh30,000 to ship to the UK.
If you need it there faster, air is the way to go, but airline cargo
operations are much cheaper than popping your things in the post.
Etihad Crystal Cargo charges about Dh14 per kilogram to New York and Dh10.30 per kilo to London, although their office is at the airport, so bringing your stuff there for a quote takes time. It takes three to five days for you to receive your baggage, including flight and customs clearance.
Finally, consider sales tax or VAT liabilities. If your goods are relatively new, you may have to declare them with customs.
Cars and pets
To ship your car home, you must first
eliminate any outstanding loans. In fact, expats require a clearance
from the finance department, or your bank needs to certify that you
fully own the vehicle.
The next step is to deregister the vehicle from one of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) centres in Dubai, or the Traffic and Licensing Department in Abu Dhabi on Al Saada Street. Take your registration card with you, along with your driver’s license and the license plate number. However, be sure all speeding or parking fines are paid before arriving.
These authorities will then inspect of the vehicle and provide you with the paperwork needed to ship it overseas.
Customs clearance and delivery takes about five days to the UK and US. Everything must be paid upfront. Fees will vary, but expect to pay at least Dh10,000, and perhaps more depending on the location and size of the car.
Many people prefer to avoid the time and hassle of shipping, and instead sell their car. Try posting an ad on online marketplaces such as autosouk.com, uae-autos.com, autodealer.ae or dubizzle.com.
While you may consider selling your vehicle rather than shipping it home, beloved pets are an entirely different matter.
This process can be long and expensive, and you should consult a veterinarian, as rules vary based on your destination.
Core documents include a valid health and rabies inoculation certificate, signed by a qualified veterinarian, so make sure these procedures are up to date. Timing is especially important, because many countries, such as the UK, will require a six-month waiting period after the most recent shots before admitting the animal. If you enter the country before this point, your pet may have to be quarantined.
A good place to look for pet shippers is The Independent Pet and
Animal Transportation Association International. Visit their website at
www.ipata.com for a list of companies worldwide.
And at the end of the day, be prepared for a hefty expense.
Shipping your pet to the UK, including the price of a rabies test and travel crate, is Dh13,279. Shipping to the US will cost about Dh15,000, while Australia tops the list at nearly Dh18,000.
Taking kids out of school
If you have children at school, there are two main documents you must obtain prior to departure.
The first is a “report card”, or a certificate showing the grades the child has received throughout the year. This record is essential for proper placement in the next school he or she attends.
The second document is the official transfer letter, which will enable your child to switch from their UAE school to one in your destination country.
“People just need to tell me beforehand, either by phone or in
person,” said Layal Saraieddin, a registration secretary at the ABC
Private elementary school in Abu Dhabi.
“I will provide them with the forms, which takes usually about a week.”
Once you get the transfer letter from the school, there are still a few other steps to take. You first need to have the letter signed by the UAE Ministry of Education, then the embassy of your country.
Tuition fees are generally non-refundable. Each school has its own
policy, so make the appropriate inquiries ahead of time. Some charge
for tuition per quarter, some per term, and others want the entire
year’s tuition up front. You may be able to get some of your money
back, so why not ask?
And note that it is important to think about the schools at your destination. Decide whether your child needs to go to a private school and whether you need to apply weeks or months ahead of time to enter the school of your choice.
Also, as in the UAE, the school year varies from country to country.
Problems can arise if you pull your kids out at the end of the UAE
school year in May, only to find that the year began in April at your
But remember, you can avoid any potential conflicts simply by planning ahead. If you know you will be leaving your job a few months into the school year, it might make sense to set your children up at their next school ahead of time.
And consider hosting a party or setting aside time for your child to socialise with friends, and encourage them to keep in touch. Moving to a new place can be difficult for young people, and guidance on your part could go a long way.
Abu Dhabi agency awards $1.28bn housing contracts
Nathalie Gillet and Bradley Hope
- Last Updated: April 21. 2010 8:56PM UAE / April 21. 2010 4:56PM GMT
Dhabi developers were yesterday awarded public housing contracts on
projects worth Dh4.73 billion (US$1.28bn) by the Urban Planning Council
The announcement is testament to the UPC’s growing role in supporting the property sector.The organisation was founded in 2007 and is responsible for Abu Dhabi’s urban environments.
Aldar Properties, the largest developer in the capital, was awarded
a Dh730 million deal to help build more than 1,000 homes for Emiratis
in Al Ain, while Al Qudra Real Estate, a smaller private developer, won
a Dh4bn contract to build 5,000 homes. Both are public housing projects
in Al Ain, the emirate’s second-largest city.
“The UPC is delivering on its mission to develop the Emirate of Abu Dhabi,” said Mahmood al Mahmood, the chief executive of Al Qudra Holding. “There is a large gap for the national housing programme, and it will definitely become bigger and bigger over time.”
Property developers have seen low sales for the past 18 months
because of the downturn, leading them to seek new ways of making money.
They have increased their rental portfolios, created property
management companies and sought more government contracts.
Al Qudra will build the first phase of the Ain Al Fayda project, including 2,000 homes on 40.36 million square feet, at the base of Jebel Hafeet. It will eventually reach 5,000 homes and house an estimated 60,000 people.
“In 2008, we decided to shift our portfolio allocation to mid-range housing and now public housing,” he said. “It adds more diversification to our portfolio. It brings stability. It keeps the company working.”
The Aldar project, Shiebat Al Watah, will cover about 420 hectares and is located near Ain al Fayda, about 10km to the south of the city centre.
Aldar will carry out major infrastructure work and hand over 1,045
serviced plots to Emiratis by April 2013, according to the company.
“Aldar will construct the residences later on,” said Matar Mohammed Saif Al Nu’aimi, the general manager of Al Ain Municipality. “We expect the project to be completed in three years.” Aldar will also oversee the development of educational, health and retail facilities.
It is the second
infrastructure contract awarded to Aldar in Al Ain, after the
completion of Shabhat, another Emirati housing project close to the
“The Al Ain municipality expects to add about 11,000 residential units over the next five years in order to meet the demand,” Mr al Nu’aimi said.
The Abu Dhabi Government last year increased efforts to provide housing for UAE nationals. “The Government today has Dh25bn to develop infrastructure and public housing for the Emiratis, to spend in the coming two to three years,” said Falah al Ahbabi, the general manager of the UPC. “But the [total] budget for Emirati housing is much greater than Dh25bn. Emirati housing is the most important item for us right now. It is a hot topic.”
Go-ahead for internet calls – but not Skype
- Last Updated: March 16. 2010 12:53AM UAE / March 15. 2010 8:53PM GMT
finally authorised Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone calls
yesterday – but with a catch. Only existing licence-holders may offer
VoIP, thus excluding popular services such as Skype.
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said it was making it legal for people to place international calls through the internet, but would allow only licensed operators to run such services. The four companies licensed to offer international VoIP services are Etisalat, du and the satellite firms Yahsat and Thuraya.
such as Skype, who are technically breaking the law by offering VoIP,
would have to go into partnership with one of these providers to enter
“People look at VoIP as a technology or as a tool,” said Mohammed Gheyath, the TRA’s executive director of technology development affairs.
“The TRA looks at it as a service. And, as any service, it needs a licence to be provided. This is a mandatory requirement.”
Steven Hartley, the principal analyst at international telecoms consultancy Ovum, said the ruling was “a step change, not a sea change”.
“We are not going to see Skype come in and be able to offer services unless they can make an arrangement with the local providers,” he said.
telecoms companies in the Gulf, fearing the loss of revenues from
international phone calls, have opposed allowing access to services
such as Skype, which use the internet to provide low-cost
telecommunications. Etisalat and du have until now been licensed to
offer VoIP services only for domestic calls within the country.
Skype recently announced plans to open its first office in the Gulf as part of its effort to end the ban on global internet telephone service in many parts of the region.
Russ Shaw, the vice president of Skype for the Middle East and the
general manager of its mobile division, said the office would help the
company lobby regional governments and develop partnerships with
But Raghu Venkataraman, the chief strategy and investments officer for du, ruled out such arrangements. He said the company was looking to launch its own VoIP service this year. “We can launch VoIP but we want to do it ourselves.”
Internet-based calls through Skype have been illegal in the UAE
since 2004 and the website is blocked, but Skype remains one of the
most popular ways for expatriates to communicate with family and
Dan Stuart, 36, a Canadian internet entrepreneur in Dubai, said the impact of the ruling on consumers depended on the decisions of the major telecoms firms. “It could be a real cost-saver for people, but it depends on what kind of a payment gateway they introduce,” he said.
Debt-ridden developers face prison or flight
- Last Updated: December 28. 2009 7:26PM UAE / December 28. 2009 3:26PM GMT
Sharjah House of Justice, where Mr Sassen's case was heard. Nathalie Gillet / The National
145 at the Sharjah House of Justice is crowded with lawyers, clerks and
the friends and relatives of the those about to appear before the
In the back row, Elena Sassen, an elegant Russian, is quietly waiting for her husband, Dirk, a 44-year-old German, who once oversaw plans for a multimillion-dollar project as a property developer in Ajman. Now he is sharing a 40-square-metre cell with 27 other inmates, sleeping on the floor with only a woollen blanket.
Like many of his cellmates, Mr Sassen is in jail because he wrote a cheque without sufficient funds to cover it.
When two guards bring him into a glass partitioned platform adjoining the court with about a dozen other prisoners, his appearance has changed dramatically since he entered Sharjah’s Al Gharb jail four months earlier. He has lost about 10 kilograms and his head is shaved.
“At least he has his own clothes and not this blue prison jumpsuit like his cellmates,” says Mrs Sassen. “I bring him new clothes every week.”
The guards remove Mr Sassen’s handcuffs, but after two hours time has run out for his case to be heard this day. “We did not have time to read through his file,” the judge tells Mrs Sassen in a soft voice. “Don’t worry, we will reschedule it.”
Two weeks later the same judge found Mr Sassen not guilty of one of his charges. Two remaining charges have been transferred to the Dubai courts.
“I am very happy because he will now be transferred to Dubai for his two other bounced cheques,” Mrs Sassen says. “I have heard that the new regulations now in Dubai will make bounced cheques no longer criminal cases and are being transferred to a committee. Maybe he will be able to get out of jail.”
But, even if he is freed, his future is not clear.
Whatever the amount, bouncing a cheque becomes a criminal offence in the Emirates if the payee files a case with the police, says David Nunn, a partner with the law firm Simmons and Simmons. Each offence carries a sentence of up to three years’ jail.
A bounced cheque is always considered to be fraud no matter the circumstances. The system dates back to the early days of trading on Dubai Creek, when sellers of spices and garments had no security for payment other than a signed cheque.
More than 500,000 cheques bounced in the first four months of this year, Central Bank data show. That represents about 5.6 per cent of almost 10 million cheques issued during the period.
Last month, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, issued a decree to form a new judicial committee that will examine cases of bounced cheques relating to property purchases and leases in Dubai. Instead of being investigated by police or prosecuted, tenants and homeowners will first be referred to the committee.
For prisoners such as Mr Sassen, the committee remains a hope.
Thousands of people who invested in property during the boom are at risk of losing their money because many developers have been unable to proceed with their projects.
In some cases, developers made promises of huge financial returns using postdated cheques as guarantees.
Developers also write postdated cheques for land. Investors also use postdated cheques, most commonly as a guarantee to banks and other lenders that mortgage repayments would be made. But when there are no funds to cover them, the consequences can be serious.
“We are sleeping here directly on the floor with just a wool blanket,” Mr Sassen tells The National in a telephone interview from prison. He can make one telephone call a day.
“There are no chairs to sit on and we have to eat with our fingers. We can go out in the prison yard only once a week for 10 to 40 minutes.”
Mr Sassen says he is not the type to run away: “I wanted to face it because I am not a criminal. But they just saw the bounced cheque and that was it.”
There are plenty of other examples. The wife of an Indian developer based in Dubai says: “My husband is sitting in Al Aweer jail and is having hearings for different cheque cases almost every day.”
Peter Margetts, a British property developer with a project in the Jumeirah Village development Dubai, was arrested in January and sentenced to 20 years’ jail over several bounced cheques.
In Ras al Khaimah, Frank Khoie, the chief executive of Khoie Properties, the developer behind the La Hoya Bay project, was sentenced to three years in jail for bouncing a Dh57 million (US$15.5m) cheque that was issued to a unit of the RAK Government.
The collapse of property prices has had a severe impact on Ajman, where many developments were launched just before the market started to tumble. As a consequence, many developers have been arrested over bad cheques.
“Everybody is now playing against each other. They all used to be such good friends,” says Jayaid Malik, an architect based in Ajman. “Many of my 60 to 70 clients are now either in jail or have just ran away. They owe me about Dh60m in total. But thank God I have no bounced cheque myself and I am not in jail.
“Once I visited one of my clients in a Dubai jail,” he says. “There were all kinds of beautiful sports cars parked outside. I was thinking these people made so much money and now they are sitting together with criminals. It is a very bad situation.”
Others have fled the country to avoid answering charges over cheques they had written.
Sam Rasool, the founder of PIR Developers, another Ajman-based broker, left the country after launching five towers and bouncing several cheques.
He says he has opened a new business in Islamabad where he now lives and he hopes to raise enough money to repay his debts.
“My master developer asked me to come back to try and help them solve the problem,” he says. “But unless the criminal offences are turned to civil litigation, I just cannot.”
Such cases prompted the decree creating the special committee on the issue.
Ahmed Ibrahim Saif, the chief justice of the Dubai Criminal Courts, says the committee to be created will look into cheque cases related to property transactions. The decree restricts the cases to property buyers and tenants.
Some cases have already been transferred to the entity even before it has been formed.
Shariq Imran Khan, the Pakistani developer behind what was intended to be the tallest tower in Ajman, is in the Dubai Central Jail awaiting a hearing for charges relating to bounced cheques and has had one of his cases transferred to this new committee, says Yasir al Naqbi, his lawyer from Excel Advocates and Legal Consultants.
The surge in official complaints against developers and property brokers has meant that some police stations are already refusing to take criminal claims for property issues, local lawyers say.
“Some prosecutors are also refusing the claims,” says Maroun Saab, a lawyer at Habib Al Mulla in Dubai.
While the new committee may help remove the bottleneck in the court system it is unlikely to represent a quick fix for developers who have written cheques that have bounced, says Karim Nassif, a partner at Habid Al Mulla.
He says the committee will be able to do only one of three things. “Either they will invalidate the cheque or they will order the purchaser to issue new cheques, for instance if there is a construction but there is a delay or a new payment schedule linked to construction; or they will simply send it back to the competing jurisdiction which is normally the criminal one.”
“People are asking me when they will be able to get out of jail,” says Ingvild Moritsch, an Austrian lawyer based in Dubai. “But things do not happen like that. Nobody in fact has a clear idea yet of how the new entity will work.”
France defends reactor design
Nathalie Gillet and Chris Stanton
- Last Updated: November 04. 2009 7:56PM UAE / November 4. 2009 3:56PM GMT
A nuclear power plant in Australia: the UAE hopes to have its own atomic energy plant by 2017. Ian Waldy
French government official has dismissed concerns about a nuclear
reactor design that the country’s firms hope to build in the UAE, after
European regulators asked for changes.
The regulatory agencies of France, Britain and Finland on Monday asked Areva, the builder, to make improvements to the design of the French reactor, known as the EPR, by June of next year. It highlighted the potential for interference between two reactor control systems, which could compromise safety.
Anne-Marie Idrac, the French minister of state for foreign trade,
said on a visit to Abu Dhabi the letter was “quite banal, a quite
ordinary one in the process of constructing plants”.
A French consortium including Areva, Electricite de France (EDF), GDF Suez and Total is one of three teams vying for an estimated US$39 billion (Dh143.24bn) contract to build and operate a fleet of nuclear reactors in the UAE. The initial contract is expected to be awarded soon.
Ms Idrac said the changes outlined by regulators would apply to the
reactor under construction at Flamanville, France, which “is a
reference in our offer for the project for the UAE”. France would
answer the regulators’ concerns this year, she added.
The first reactor in the UAE would not be operational before 2017.
In a letter, the regulators said: “The issue is primarily around ensuring the adequacy of the safety systems … and their independence from control systems.
is important because, if a safety system provides protection against
the failure of a control system, then they should not fail together.
“The EPR design, as originally proposed … doesn’t comply with the independence principle, as there is a very high degree of interconnectivity between the control and safety systems.”
The French consortium, which presented its bid in July, is competing against groups from South Korea and Japan for a contract to build an initial pair of reactors in Abu Dhabi that is likely to be expanded to include a fleet of the same design. US firms have a minority interest in both bids.
Ms Idrac characterised the regulators’ concerns as a question, not a
problem, and said it did not relate to the core of the system, but only
the instrumental control.
“It is of course important but it is not the core,” she said.
Mr Idrac said the public release of the letter showed the French commitment to transparency in the nuclear process, a requirement stressed by UAE officials.
“The letter signed by the three nuclear safety authorities of Finland, the UK and France is a new proof of transparency in terms of safety and security,” she said.
An Emirati collection starts life in France
Roland Hughes and Nathalie Gillet
- Last Updated: May 27. 2009 12:18AM UAE / May 26. 2009 8:18PM GMT
DHABI // In its present state, the patch of Saadiyat Island on which
the Louvre will eventually sit reveals little about its future.
Only a few thousand workers are on site as the preparatory work on Saadiyat starts. Not until 2013 will the futuristic dome of the Louvre Abu Dhabi be complete.
Work is already well under way some 3,300 miles away in Paris, where
the first steps are being taken to decide which art will fill the
museum’s 8,000 square metres of exhibition space.
Speaking before yesterday’s unveiling of the first artworks that will grace the new museum, Christine Albanel, France’s minister of culture and communication, said the Louvre would seek to strike the right balance between its French heritage and its new surroundings.
Even though the expertise, the name and the brand are all French,
the museum will be distinctly Emirati; the final decisions on the
collection will be taken in Abu Dhabi.
The gallery will have an annual budget for purchases, on top of what has been spent on acquiring the Louvre name and the 30-year deal to host artworks from France.
“We need to do a project which is a universal museum and one that covers all periods while achieving a coherence,” said Mrs Albanel.
said the Louvre Abu Dhabi was “a great adventure which I believe in,
and is in fact unique in the world”, adding that it was “an investment
in culture and knowledge”.
From the French side, the project is being managed by Agence France-Museums, a body that comprises 12 institutions including the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Centre Pompidou and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
Established in July 2007, it is responsible for sculpting the ethos of the Louvre Abu Dhabi. From next year it will start training UAE staff in the way of the Louvre.
Bruno Maquart, the agency’s chief executive, said it would help
Emirati authorities conceive the Louvre and, during the first years at
least, support the museum in its “cultural, technical and
He said he was in almost daily contact with the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) the developer of Saadiyat Island.
As well as working with the architect Jean Nouvel, the agency is identifying artworks that will “give this universal museum its own artistic and cultural personality”.
However, Mr Maquart said the core collection would not be complete by the time the museum opened in 2013.
“When it opens, you will have 6,000 square metres dedicated to showing the permanent collections,” he said. “There you will find pieces lent by French museums as well as pieces from the UAE collection.
“But acquiring pieces for a museum takes time. This is why, during the first 10 years, there will be loans from France and after 10 years, the Abu Dhabi collection will occupy the area.
“There will also be 2,000 square metres for temporary exhibitions, as in any other museum.”
Art used in the temporary exhibitions will come from museums all over France, not just the Louvre.
Mrs Albanel said: “Certain pieces will also be lent by the Louvre in Paris. There will be temporary exhibitions for something like three months, as with any temporary exhibition, and there will be loans of pieces over two years. This is part of the governmental agreement.
To build up the permanent collection, a committee made up of the
curators of some of France’s largest museums will meet three times a
year to discuss which artworks to recommend for purchase by the Louvre
These recommendations will then be passed on to the TDIC, which will give final approval on all purchases.
The issue, said Christophe Tardieu, a co-director of the cabinet with France’s Ministry of Culture and Communication, was selecting works of only the highest quality.
Mr Maquart said: “We advise the Emirati partners on the constitution
of the collection, which must be coherent with the museum and the
spirit of the museum.
“The Louvre is seen here as the museum of museums, it is the largest in the world. So we want both to follow this tradition and create an original, 21st-century, universal museum for Abu Dhabi that puts into contrast the art of yesterday and today.
“It won’t be a museum of classical art. It will include the
contemporary period and living artists. It will not only focus on
western art but also on Arabic and Muslim art, as well as Asian arts.
“The idea is to show and compare what has been done in the world at the same time and in different areas.
“It is to reinvent a universal museum that is adapted to this country, which is at the crossroads of east and west and which intends to play a key role in the region.
“This is not an extension to the Louvre Paris. We are speaking about
agreements with a completely different museum that will bear the name
during 30 years but is an Emirati museum. We are only bringing the
“The training will be done by the Louvre in Paris. It will have the quality of the Louvre, with the working methods of the Louvre. It will be different but very close.”
Work on training future Louvre staff selected from Abu Dhabi will begin next year, Mrs Albanel confirmed. “The first internships in France will start next year. People from the Emirates will come to the Louvre and different French museums and will be trained to the approach to the public, for instance.”
She said the French ministry was in talks to establish higher
education projects in institutions, including the Abu Dhabi Sorbonne,
to create a master’s degree in arts professions.
Education of another sort will also feature prominently on the agenda. Mrs Albanel said: “Within the Abu Dhabi Louvre there will be a section dedicated only to children. We call it the children’s museum.
“The children will come with their families or with the school. We want to work with the schools here and transfer experiences.”
The project is still some way from completion, but events such as
Talking Art: Louvre Abu Dhabi, artparis-Abu Dhabi and the Picasso
exhibition at the Emirates Palace hotel over the last year are helping
build expectation and knowledge of art in Abu Dhabi.
More taster events are planned, Mrs Albanel said, and a semi-permanent Louvre presence can be expected in Abu Dhabi before the opening of the museum itself.
“All these projects have created big expectations. The idea of these
pre-exhibitions is also to give more reality to these projects.
“It will become very concrete and increase their attractiveness to the people of Abu Dhabi.”
Critics have lost battle, says minister
Roland Hughes and Nathalie Gillet
- Last Updated: May 27. 2009 1:18AM UAE / May 26. 2009 9:18PM GMT
DHABI // Critics of the decision to open a branch of the Louvre in the
UAE have been proved wrong, according to the French minister of culture
The January 2007 agreement to build the Louvre Abu Dhabi was greeted with widespread criticism within the French art world. Some critics expressed fears that key works might be lent to the new museum.
But as further details of the development have been unveiled, the criticism has become more muted.
In February 2007, a motion signed by 39 curators of the Louvre calling for a reversal of the Abu Dhabi deal was handed to the then minister of culture and communication, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres.
An online petition started by Didier Rykner, a French art historian and editor of the online art journal La Tribune d’Art, was signed by more than 5,100 people, among them art lecturers and historians.
Last year Mr Rykner told The National his battle to stop works leaving France had been lost.
He added: “I intend looking very closely at how this will happen, which works will be sent, which will be bought, and whether regional museums will be forced to send their works to Abu Dhabi against their will. I will remain vigilant.”
The culture minister, Christine Albanel, said: “The criticism has stopped now. There is a large consensus about the project.
beginning, there was this concern that the Louvre could become a
commercial brand. But the idea that we were advocating was that this is
part of the France’s worldwide promotion of the Louvre.
“And the fact that people were looking at the Louvre as an outstanding museum was something that could serve the Louvre much more than it could cause it a disservice.”
In February, Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, praised Jean Nouvel’s designs for the museum, which he said were “magnificent, really something quite extraordinary”.
While on a visit to Abu Dhabi, he said the development would help the promotion of Paris and its attractions on a global scale.
“Globalisation should not be just about commerce or crises,” he added. “If you cannot share knowledge and beauty, it is no good.”
Mrs Albanel said: “There was a big debate around culture and business. There was this idea that culture may also become part of the economy.
“Now things have completely changed. We need to diversify and go for ambitious projects. There is no question about this now.
“Critics also came from a certain ignorance about the state of mind
of the Emiratis. But the first time I came, I was very impressed by