Monday, June 25, 2012

Classic Ligier on Dubai’s Beach Road

A Ligier for sale on Dubai's Beach Road
In a city of 4x4s and luxury cars, it is always refreshing to see a Classic on the roads of Dubai.
Jumeirah Beach Road seems to be the place to park for maximum attention. That’s where I spotted an Oldsmobile “Ninety Eight” last year and where I spotted this oddity.
After passing the little yellow and blue car for a couple of days, just after the Al Manara traffic lights, I had to stop and have a look and take some pictures.
I didn’t know what it was, even after seeing the brand “Ligier” on the side step. But it was interesting to do the research.

Turns out, thanks to Wikipedia, Ligier is a French automobile maker created by former racing driver and rugby player Guy Ligier.
The firm entered the automobile business with the Ligier JS2, a mid-engined sports car for the road initially powered by a Ford V6 and from 1971 by the same Maserati V6 engine as the Citroën SM. The 1973 energy crisis caused such a decline in the market for the JS2 that production ceased soon after, and the firm changed its focus to microcars.

In September 2008, Ligier Automobiles completed its acquisition of Beneteau Group's Microcar division. The merger effectively brought into being Europe's second largest microcar manufacturer after Daimler's Smart unit. It also produced the largest manufacturer of drivers’ license-exempt vehicles.
The Ligier model range currently consists of the Ixo line of mini cars, the X-Pro line of small commercial vehicles, and the Be Up/Be Two line of open air, roadster-type vehicles, such as the one on Beach Road.

Ligier is best known for its Formula One team that was in action from 1976 to 1996. It entered Formula One in 1976 with a Matra V12-powered car, and won a Grand Prix with Jacques Laffite in 1977. Ligier also competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 1970 to 1975.
The Ligier Be Up/Be Two was featured at the Geneva Motor Show in 2002 and the Paris Motor Show in 2006. Its quadricycle’s space-frame is powered by a 505 cc two-cylinder diesel engine, putting out a ground-pounding 4KW (about 5.5 hp) through a continuously variable transmission.
I wonder how much this Ligier is going for. It’s cute and fun, but I would certainly not risk driving it on Sheikh Zayed Road!

Related post:

Olds Classic cools its wheels in Dubai – April 13, 2011

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My journey of passion turns two

Mich Café turned two last week.
When I pressed “Publish” on that first post on June 16, 2010, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I didn’t realize I was embarking on a journey of passion that would absorb every minute of my days.
I was reading so many interesting and diverse posts by friends and strangers all over the world and wanted to be part of this group that had so much to say and so many ideas. I also wanted to be part of the growing blogosphere in Lebanon aggregated by my friend Liliane Assaf (known as @FunkyOzzi on Twitter) on one of her several blogs, Lebanon Aggregator.
So on the blog’s second year, I was thrilled to be featured in RAGMAG, one of Lebanon’s most popular magazines.
Liliane started Lebanon Aggregator in 2006 to group all the “URLs of blogs written by bloggers, be it Lebanese or not, writing about Lebanon and living in Lebanon or not!” It now has more than 400 blogs listed.
Every month, Lebanon Aggregator picks three blogs around a certain theme to be included in RAGMAG magazine, which has dedicated two pages to the Lebanese blogosphere titled “World Vision.”
RAGMAG is a social, educational and entertainment Beirut-based periodical. Published by Gina Gabriel and edited by Fida Chaaban, it covers art, theater, film, nightlife, music, cuisine, fashion, health and more.
And now, 196 posts later, Mich Café has made it on the pages of the June edition of RAGMAG!
Everywhere I go, everything I see is now in relation to the blog, how it can be shared and what I can say about it.
With so much to read on the Internet, I thank my readers for dropping by Mich Café, coming back and commenting. You truly make it all worthwhile.
Thank you to Liliane for her kind words, Lebanon Aggregator and RAGMAG magazine for making it a great Blog Birthday!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Seven ways to wipe off Dubai’s debt

I’m not very good at math, due to some kind of dyslexia. I rarely have enough cash in my purse to count, so understanding the articles I tried to read about Dubai’s debt, since the 2009 financial crisis, was a no-no.
It seems, the emirate is “on its way to completing $34bn in debt restructuring, largely to a policy of ‘bail out bondholders, burn the banks.’” (Source)
One I did understand was a June 10 article in Emirates 24/7, saying there were one million traffic offenses in Dubai since the beginning of the year.
Around 205,000 offences were recorded by the emirate’s traffic police in January; 215,000 in February; 231,000 in March; and 225,000 in April. May recorded the lowest number of traffic offences of around 164,000, nearly 16 percent below those in the previous month.
Emirates 24/7 adds, “In May, speed offences, detected mostly by police fixed and mobile cameras, totaled around 89,000 while there were about 7,000 parking violations, 6,482 seatbelt offences and 603 fines for jumping the red lights.”
The above figures seem massive to me, but here are a few simple ways I think could wipe out Dubai’s debt burden in a couple of weeks:
  • Fine every car that doesn't signal
  • Fine every car that doesn't put its lights on at dusk/night
  • Fine every car that has its headlights on for no reason
  • Fine taxis that wreak havoc on the city’s streets
  • Fine the companies of “white van man” that break all the road rules
  • Fine drivers using mobile phones
  • Fine joy drivers on Jumeirah Beach Road on weekends
The above will also save a lot of lives. And you’re welcome.
If you can think of others ways, do share.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Plea to Saudi King Abdullah: Let us drive

The first thing I did on my 18th birthday was register for driving lessons. I got my driving license a month later -- and it was a milestone. I did it not as a female, but as a person. It was the natural thing to do.
Many years since teens, I still feel a thrill getting into my car.
It is with this feeling that I wholly support the right of Saudi women to drive. It is in solidarity and sympathy with a right that seems so natural for women around the world, especially now that I live in the UAE, another Gulf country.
A year ago, on June 17, 2011, about 40 Saudi women took to the wheel in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam in a landmark defiance of the ban forbidding them to drive. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the word to ban women from driving.

A month earlier, seven women were arrested for driving. Manal al-Sharif, who had posted a video on the Internet of herself at the wheel, was held for 10 days. She was made to sign a pledge not to drive again and banned from talking to the media. Last month, Ms Sharif was awarded the prestigious Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent at the 2012 Oslo Freedom Forum.
Since then, a Women2Drive campaign was created and has issued a plea to Saudi King Abdullah to lift the ban on women driving in the kingdom.
The English text of the petition was published on June 11, 2012, on Eman Fahad Al Nafjan’s Saudiwoman’s Weblog. Ms Nafjan, who herself drove around her neighborhood last year, wrote last June: “In an interview on a weekly discussion show, Suad Al Shammari, a leading Saudi women rights activist presented the following statistics: only 45,000 Saudi women have licenses which they can only acquire from abroad, 40% of cars purchased in Saudi are purchased by women and that there are currently over a 1.2 million foreign men brought into this country for the sole purpose of driving our cars instead of the women owners. FYI the Saudi population is 27,140,000 a third of which are foreign workers.”
The following is the post by Ms Nafjan and the petition, which is aiming for 100,000 signatures:
My Right to Dignity has published an open petition addressed to the King on the occasion of one year since the beginning of the June 17 [2011] women driving movement. The petition renews the request to lift the ban. You can sign it by going HERE. Below is a translation:
To His Majesty, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, may God save and bless him.
Peace and God’s mercy and blessing be upon you,
We address Your Majesty with thankfulness and gratitude for the utmost care that you have granted to Saudi women issues and the progressive steps that you have taken to involve women in the national development projects. These steps that you summarized in your historical speech on September 25th 2011 when you said, “We will not approve the marginalization of women.” This was followed by the two decrees concerning women membership on the Shura Council and women participation in the municipal elections.
With the rise in the number of Saudi women granted the King Abdullah international scholarship to 27,500 recipients, many of them have returned hopeful to take part in building this nation side-by-side with their brothers. Due to your advocacy towards opening more fields to women and the implementation of your wise decree this past January to allow women to work in retail, more than 300,000 job opportunities for women have been created and billions of our immigrating riyals have been nationalized.
Thus it is our hope that you take into consideration our campaign I Will Drive My Own Car to encourage women who have obtained driving licenses from neighboring countries to forgo their male drivers and start driving themselves when they need to. This encouragement is nothing more than the practice of a right ensured to us by all religions and national and international law. A right that has been denied us by some customs and traditions that are not of God. We also hope that you advocate the opening of women driving schools and the issuance of driving licenses to women who qualify.
This campaign does not seek to disrupt the government or to violate any national laws or regulations. Here it is important to point out that there is no explicit law banning women from driving. We are not in cooperation with any foreign organizations or bodies nor do we represent a political party or opposition. We do not intend to start a public protest. We merely request that any woman who needs to go about her daily business and does not have a man to help her be allowed to help herself. We want this right to be an option for those who want or need to. As King Faisal (God rest his soul) historically said when he decreed girls’ education, “No one will be forced nor will anyone be turned away.”
Open petition to King Abdullah: "Let us drive"
Our Precious King, we trust in Your Majesty and our guardians but we are trying as adult capable women to do everything in our power for the betterment of our families and society. We seek to facilitate the affairs of our lives and the lives of our families while maintaining respect and loyalty to the values of our gracious nation and to the principles of our faith. We are optimistic that our campaign will succeed, as did other campaigns and projects such as ARAMCO, KAUST and women in rural areas.
Our initiative comes as an inevitable result of the failure of ongoing initiatives that began more than 30 years and have included directly appealing to officials, writing in the media, and sending petitions and demands to the members of the Shura Council. These have all had no real results on the ground. Our hope is now hanging on the generosity of your response and support for this campaign. We hope that Your Majesty will instruct all those who have in their capacity to support us to do so, such as the regional princes, the police and the Commission for Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue. We hope that you will command them to enable women who have valid licenses to drive their own cars when running their basic daily errands and thus lift the financial and social burden on some families that has lasted far too long.
We hope that Your Majesty would hasten the enactment of laws and regulations that criminalize and punish those that harm or harass women drivers. In this the government could gain from the experience of the other GCC countries. We also hope that Your Majesty will hasten the establishment of driving schools and the issuance of licenses for women. Until then, we raise to your Royal Court a number of urgent demands from those who have been gravely affected by the women-driving ban. These demands are that these families and women be compensated by waiving the Saudi entrance visa fee for migrant drivers and be granted by the government a monthly stipend equaling the amount it takes to employ, board and feed a driver. Another demand is that the salary transportation allowance be increased for women to three times what men are paid. The final demand is that government ministries and institutions and private employers be required to provide their female employees the option of safe institutional transportation.
We are still in great anticipation and hope that public transportation projects will see the light of day soon.
Your Majesty is well aware that the simple yet essentially important request to allow women to drive is practiced easily by all women in the world. Hence lifting the driving ban should not be difficult here in the country of security and safety and under your wise leadership. With sincere efforts we are confident that our wise leadership will realize the ban lift in our compassionate and gracious nation for the benefit of our sons and daughters.
We pray that Your Majesty will remain our pride, strength and empowerment and that God grant you and the nation perseverance and blessedness.
Date of petition 20 Rajab 1433, corresponding to June 10, 2012 

Monday, June 11, 2012

How many more Child Brides must die?

A Saudi Child Bride
A child is a child, is a child! Children should be loved, cherished, protected and educated.
Yet, last month, another Child Bride in Yemen bled to death on her wedding night. The 13-year-old’s uterus was torn during intercourse with her 30-year-old husband.
Local rights group Save the Children said the tragedy underscored the need for the state to issue a legal age limit for marriage and to begin a national awareness campaign. The husband rejected all liability, blaming the tragedy on his late wife's "poor health and refusal to be considerate to his needs."
Save the Children activists warned against Yemen's new trend of marrying off daughters too early, saying "abject poverty and a lack of education" were to blame.
Support Yemen, a non-profit independent campaign to establish a democratic civic state in Yemen where “the constitution gives people freedom, equality and social justice to every citizen,” is also fighting to preserve the childhood of little girls.

The group composed of young female and male activists, journalists, videographers, photographers, web designer and bloggers have released a video (above) asking:
“How much innocence of little girls’ childhood must fade away? How many mothers must die due to inadequate healthcare? How much illiteracy must develop before education becomes free and mandatory? How many victims must suffer before a law criminalizing domestic violence is issued? How many revolutions do women need participate in so that they find place in the government and parliament?
“Women's rights are part of human rights... I will fight for my rights and break the silence...”
While there are great efforts to tackle the issue of “child marriage,” it is still a common practice in many countries worldwide.
A recent article in Dubai’s Gulf News notes the UAE is at the forefront in tackling this issue and the minimum age for marriage has been set at 18. Permission to marry at a younger age is needed from a judge who must seek approval from the Ruler’s Court.
The minimum age in the UAE is higher than in Kuwait and Bahrain, which is set at 16. Yemen in 1999 eliminated the age limit altogether. Attempts by MPs to re-instate it in 2009, coupled with protests on the streets and campaigns by Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman, have not succeeded.
Application of this policy in the UAE led to a significant decrease in early marriages. Gulf News says the percentage of young women married between 15 and 19 years of age dropped from 57 percent in 1975 to an astonishing eight percent in 1995.
Child marriage is a worldwide problem but is most prevalent in Africa and Southern Asia. Although its practice has decreased somewhat in recent decades, it remains common in rural and some other areas and among the most poverty stricken, according to the map released by UNICEF.
On “child marriage,” UNICEF says: “The right to free and full consent to a marriage is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) with the recognition that consent cannot be ‘free and full’ when one of the parties involved is not sufficiently mature to make an informed decision about a life partner.
The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979) states that the betrothal and marriage of a child shall have no legal effect and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age of marriage. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommends this age to be 18.”
An Afghan Child Bride
Child marriage is a violation of human rights, whether it happens to a girl or a boy, but it represents perhaps the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls. The harmful consequences include separation from family and friends, lack of freedom to interact with peers and participate in community activities, and reduced education opportunities. Child marriage can also result in bonded labor or enslavement, commercial sexual exploitation and violence against the victims.
Because they cannot abstain from sex or insist on condom use, Child Brides are often exposed to such serious health risks as premature pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and, increasingly, HIV/AIDS.
UNICEF facts and figures
  1. Globally, 36 per cent of women aged 20-24 were married or in union before they reached 18 years of age. (This figure does not include China. Unless otherwise indicated, figures are from United Nations Children’s Fund, The State of the World’s Children 2006, UNICEF, New York, 2005, p. 131.)
  2. An estimated 14 million adolescents between 15 and 19 give birth each year. Girls in this age group are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth as women in their twenties. (United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 2005: The Promise of Equality: Gender Equity, Reproductive Health and the Millennium Development Goals, UNFPA, New York, 2005, p. 50.)
  3. Marriage of young girls is most common in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In Niger, 77 percent of 20- to 24-year-old women were married before the age of 18. In Bangladesh, this rate was 65 percent.
Child Brides in Yemen
UNICEF says the role of government and civil-society institutions is to develop and implement systems to prevent or discourage this practice. Because child marriage is closely associated with poverty, government commitment to poverty reduction is likely to lead to a decrease in child marriages.
Governments also need to establish 18 as the legal age of marriage for girls, as well as boys, and ensure the rule is upheld. Addressing attitudes and customs that promote or condone the practice is vital to changing the acceptable age for marriage.
As always, education is the magic world. Expanding children’s knowledge and empowerment is crucial, particularly for girls. Educated girls are less likely to agree to marry at a young age. Attempts to close gender gaps in education can include the establishment of child-friendly schools, cash incentives for parents and the expansion of non-formal education.
One way UNICEF is addressing the issue of child marriage is through the promotion of girls’ education. Research shows that higher levels of education for girls prevent child marriage. (United Nations Children’s Fund, Early Marriage: A harmful traditional practice: A statistical exploration, UNICEF, New York, 2005, pp. 12-13.) UNICEF is the lead agency for the UN Girls’ Education Initiative, which works to ensure that by 2015, all children everywhere will be able to complete primary schooling.
FORWARD, the Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development -- an African Diaspora women's campaign and UK-registered support charity established in 1983 -- says there are numerous detrimental consequences associated with child marriage, with physical, developmental, psychological and social implications.

FORWARD notes Child Brides are likely to become pregnant at an early age and there is a strong correlation between the age of a mother and maternal mortality. Girls aged 10-14 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than women aged 20-24. Girls aged 15-19 are twice as likely to die. Young mothers face higher risks during pregnancies including complications such as heavy bleeding, fistula, infection, anemia and eclampsia which contribute to higher mortality rates of both mother and child. At a young age a girl has not developed fully and her body may strain under the effort of childbirth, which can result in obstructed labor and obstetric fistula. Obstetric fistula can also be caused by the early sexual relations associated with child marriage, which take place sometimes even before menarche.

There is also a clear link between Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child and early marriages. Communities that practice FGM are also more likely to practice child marriages. In some FGM-practicing communities, FGM is carried out at puberty and then marriages are arranged immediately afterwards. It is also common in FGM-practicing communities for a man to refuse to marry a girl or woman who has not undergone FGM, or to demand that FGM is carried out before marriage.
According to a 2008 study by the Gender Development Research and Studies Center in Sanaa, just over half of the girls are married before their 18th birthday -- some as young as eight. Admittedly, the problem is not unique to Yemen. In April 2012, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh suggested girls can be married by age 10-12.
As with all change, child marriages may take generations and decades to eliminate completely. It is certainly through education, awareness and enlightened government. Each Child Bride death is one too many…

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ghassan Tueni, the press baron I knew

Interviewing the late Ghassan Tueni in the late 1970s

It is with great sadness that I woke up today to the news of the passing of Ghassan Tueni, one of Lebanon’s great statesmen and the most illustrious trailblazer in Lebanese press industry.
It is maybe the end of an era for the many hats he wore as a publisher, editor, writer, ambassador and government minister. It is also a blow to lose one of the staunchest advocates of an independent Lebanon he loved so much.
If you lived the 1975-1990 civil war, you would surely remember how we cheered when, as Lebanon’s ambassador to the United Nations between 1977-1982, he pleaded, roaring at the UN Security Council: “Let my people live!” and then told the UN General Assembly: “My country is not for hire nor for sale!”
Mr. Tueni, who was the owner, publisher and then honorary president and former chairman of the board of Lebanon’s authoritative and independent daily an-Nahar, passed away overnight at the age of 86.
He took over running the publishing house’s newspaper from his father Gebran Tueni and quickly transformed it into Lebanon’s number daily over the past 60 years.
It was always a privilege to walk the few hundred meters from the offices in Wardieh of Monday Morning, the English-language magazine I worked for, to the offices of an-Nahar at the beginning of Hamra Street to interview Mr. Tueni.
I knew that I would come out with a good piece, given his unparalleled understanding of Lebanese and regional politics. His impeccable English made life easy at a time when interviews were still conducted with a tape recorder and notes. His flow of ideas and arguments were always spot on and transcribing and editing the interview was a pleasure. There was always a scoop in what he said that would be picked up by the local and international news agencies.
Not once did he refuse me an interview, always welcoming warmly. We invariably enjoyed sharing our Turkish coffee and cigarettes during the sittings that at times lasted a couple of hours.
Mr. Tueni, a through and through champion of Lebanon’s independence, was publisher/editor and editor-in-chief of an-Nahar from 1948 until 1999. He also served as deputy prime minister and information and education minister in the early seventies.
From 1975 to 1977 he was minister of tourism, social affairs, industry, labor and information. You were never short of interesting Lebanese or regional subjects to interview him about and probe his thoughts.
Rest in Peace Mr. Tueni.
Lebanon will deeply miss your wisdom, insight, honesty and leadership.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Help find missing UK sailor in Dubai

Help find Timmy

Our thoughts and prayers today are with the family and friends of British sailor Timmy MacColl, missing in Dubai since May 27.
According to 7Days, MacColl was last seen being put in a taxi by mates in Dubai at 2 a.m. on Sunday, May 27. His friends paid the driver Dhs70 and asked him to take him to their ship, HMS Westminster, which was docked at Port Rashid. He has not been seen since.
The family is appealing for the driver to come forward.
MacColl has two children, six and four. His wife Rachel is expecting their third child in October.
I can’t imagine what Timmy’s family must be going through and pray we get some good news soon. 

Related site:
Bring Timmy Home

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Trash meets art on Dubai streets

A bunch of tulips

Banksy it isn’t! Still… I’m sure most of you living in Dubai have noticed the beautiful trashcans littered around the streets.
I don’t circulate much – my driving issues, remember? But I’ve seen them on Wasl Road, Jumeirah Beach Road and Sufouh for starters.
The different flowers on the Dubai Municipality trashcans are a breath of fresh air. I found no reference to the project on the Municipality’s site. I emailed them with some questions but have had no reply yet.
There are many flowers depicted. I only caught the tulips, roses and hyacinths. The others are in places where it is more difficult to park the car.
One of the first things I noticed on arriving in Dubai six years ago was how spotless the city was. Because it is so clean, people are more reluctant to throw garbage in the streets, in shops, supermarkets or on mall floors. Unfortunately, recently I seen more people throwing out tissues and other things from their car windows, but I think if spotted by police, they would be fined.

Hyacinths and roses (above)
Although not exactly “street art,” I find the trashcans part of beautifying the city, together with the planting schemes.
Street Art is a very popular form of art that is spreading quickly all over the world -- on buildings, sidewalks, street signs and trashcans. Street Art has become a global culture and even art museums and galleries are collecting the work of street artists. Some people deem it a crime and others think it is a very beautiful new form of culture. Art experts say the movement began in New York in the 1960s as graffiti. 
Andy Warhol's "Trash Cans"
Maybe the most valuable rubbish bins are Andy Warhol’s 1986 stitched photographs of “Trash Cans.”
I don’t know if the Dubai trashcans are painted or stenciled, who did them, how many there are, whether the project extends to other emirates… Many questions remain unanswered.
If you have any more information about these bins, or other pictures, do share them. In the meantime, let’s continue to keep Dubai clean.