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Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Airlines face huge demand as two festivals coincide

Al Ain - Oct 20:Holidaymakers are thronging travel agencies for last minute arrangements for vacations to celebrate Eid Al Fitr and Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, next week.

Both festivals are coinciding this year with Diwali falling on October 21 and Eid Al Fitr expected to be on October 22 or 23, respectively.

A large number of South-East Asian expatriates are travelling home to celebrate the occasions with their families.

Some airlines have also arranged extra flights, deployed bigger capacity aircraft and also planning to alter routes of some flights to provide maximum number of seating capacity to the holidaymakers.

There is also a rush to different Middle Eastern destinations such as Cairo, Damascus and Amman. According to travel agents, the destinations are in high demand as many Arab expatriates living in Al Ain and Abu Dhabi are booking tickets to go home for Eid.

A travel agent in Al Ain said Pakistan and Bangladesh sectors currently have a big demand and people have booked their seats a month ago to avoid last minute disappointment.

Some airlines have also increased their fares but that is not deterring passengers keen to secure a seat on the required dates.

Tariq Ahmad, another travel agent, said passenger demand on New Delhi and Mumbai flight has increased due Diwali.

"Most of the people are booking seats on the October 19, 20 and 21 flights," he added.

He said high demand has made booking very difficult on all first tier airlines for the Pakistan, India and Bangladesh sectors.

The majority of travellers, Ahmad said, is bachelor workers particularly from Pakistan and Bangla-desh who want to be with their families on the festive occasions.


Dubai traffic will be smooth within three years

Dubai - Oct. 20: Motorists in Dubai will experience smooth traffic flow within three years once the major road and public transportation projects are completed.

"The RTA [Roads and Transport Authority] takes the responsibility to combat traffic congestion in Dubai within three years and we have already put a strategic plan to develop road networks and public transportation in Dubai up till year 2020," said Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of RTA, at a Ramadan Majlis yesterday that discussed traffic problems and future solutions.

He said 350,000 vehicle trips are being made every hour and there is a 15-minute delay in each 25-minute trip during rush hours and there are about six rush hours in each working day and there 250 days of the year include rush hours, according to studies conducted by RTA.

Traffic congestion causes an estimated loss of Dh4.6 billion annually for the economy, and therefore the need to have effective measures to combat congestion is imperative.

RTA has taken a number of measures such as increasing the capacity of the road network through expansion as well as development of the network.

Development of public transportation will also provide effective alternatives for use of personal cars.

However, improvements of road networks and public transportation system, though very important, RTA officials believe that it will not alone curb the problem and other measures are necessary to secure a smooth traffic flow.

New policies and rules are expected to be applied soon in order to curb the traffic flow in the country such as road pricing, mobility management, collective transportation and travel demand management policies.

"A committee has been drafting a proposal for new traffic rules that will help in easing the traffic flow in Dubai, and a draft will be send to the interior ministry," said Al Tayer.

Travel demand management policies such as ban on importation and registration of old cars and increasing car registration fees are under study in RTA and great emphasis are put on them to reduce the traffic flow.

"I believe such policies will help in combating the problem. There are 541 cars per 1,000 resident in Dubai and if it continues in the same trend there will be 1.57 million cars by 2010 and 2.6 million cars by 2020," said Al Tayer.

Mohammad Obaid Al Mulla, CEO of Dubai Public Transport Agency at the RTA, said that the RTA is proposing a change in private sector working pattern to ease traffic in the Dubai and has been having talks with major companies about the possibility of finding solutions together.

"We have been discussing with companies the possibility of having flexible working hours as it will decrease the traffic flow by 30 per cent," said Al Mulla.

500km to be added to road network

RTA is conducting several projects to develop a 500km road network with 96 bridges at a cost of Dh44 billion.

Expansion of the Shaikh Zayed Road, and the Parallel Roads as well as Al Khail Road and Emirates Road and the Outer Bypass Road are part of the new projects, which will cost Dh22 billion.

The project is set to expand Shaikh Zayed road and Emirates Road and transform a number roundabouts to intersections.
New roads are being constructed to connect to new areas. Two new main roads from the north to the south, namely Nad Al Hamer and the Academic City roads are also being constructed. These roads will be about 115-km-long and will have 30 interchanges and bridges with an estimated total cost of Dh7.9 billion.

Some 15 main roads with a total length of 200km are also being improved with a budget of Dh1.7 billion.

Factors contributing to the increase in congestion
- Insufficient road network capacity: 61%
- Accidents: 16%
- Events and festivals: 9%
- Poor driving behaviour: 8%
- Road work and detours: 5%
- Bad weather conditions: 1%


Residents get ready for long-awaited Eid festivities

Dubai - Oct. 20: Thousands of fairy lights dot various areas in the emirates as the UAE gets ready for Eid festivities.

Residents are making brisk preparations for Eid Al Fitr after a month of fasting and prayers. Ladies salons are stocking up on henna powder and many have cancelled leave for their staff.

"During the last three days of Ramadan, we are prepared to work until 3am because of the rush," said Radhika, a manager at a salon in Dubai.

"A day before Eid, I get a haircut and put henna on my hands," said Hessa Mohammad, a 19-year-old UAE national student. "I love Eid. I already bought new clothes a month ago," she said.

Many women purchase new abayas and sheilas for the three days of the Eid festivities, when they usually go visiting friends and family.

Families have also stocked up on Halwa, a traditional sticky sweet that is eaten on such special occassions, with the Omani halwa being the most popular among UAE nationals.

"I make it a tradition to always send halwa on the first day of Eid to my neighbours, family and friends. Eid would not be the same if it was not for the sweets," said Jassem Obaid, who was waiting in line to collect sweets from a Lebanese Roastery.

Tailors have stopped taking orders from clients two weeks ago as the workload has become too much for them to handle.

"Eid is a special festival to spend with relatives," said Ahlam Hussain, an Egyptian PR officer. "It gets lonely here, so I call my family in Egypt the night before to congratulate them. Eid is a good time to go shopping," she said.

The price of lamb whch is used in the traditional Eid dishes has stayed constant since the start of Ramadan, at an average of Dh25 per kilo. This is despite the fact that Indian mutton is not available, butchers said.

Municipalities are also gearing up to make arrangements for Eid prayers and in Sharjah alone 14 Mussalas (prayer grounds) and 56 mosques are being spruced up.

The main prayer grounds in Sharjah areas include Al Badeah, Samnan, Al Khan, Al Falaj, including the huge King Faisal Mosque. The Qanat Al Qasbah is also lit up as are popular areas as the corniche.

In Ajman, arrangements are being made at nine prayer grounds and 11 mosques. In Dubai, the main prayer grounds are in Deira, Bur Dubai, Karama, Umm Suqeim and Rashidiya. Eid prayers can also be offered at 130 mosques.


Post offices shut on first day of Eid

Dubai - Oct. 20: All post offices will be closed on the first day of Eid Al Fitr.

During the rest of the holidays, the following post offices will be open from 9am to 1pm: the Abu Dhabi Central Post Office, offices at Hamdan, Al Butain, Musafah, Beni Yas, Nadi Al Seyahi and Al Ain Main Post Office.

In Dubai, the Dubai Central Post Office, Satwa, Al Khor, Jumeirah, Rashidiyah, Hor Al Anz and Jebel Ali post offices will remain open from 9am to 1pm.


Engineer challenges degree verification

Abu Dhabi - Oct. 20: "Even if thousands of criminals escape, one innocent should not be punished."

This is the simple argument of a man who is challenging the credibility of the degree verification programme launched last year by the Labour Ministry.

Zulphee Esmail, a 41-year-old civil engineer, had his degree reported as fake with IntegraScreen, the company responsible for verification, receiving a confirmation from his university of the same.

Though Esmail praises the verification system as an effective means to detect fake certificates, he wishes a number of loopholes will be rectified.

"The system should not take for granted statements from universities, because this means errors will not be discovered and corrupt officials in some institutions will get away with their crimes," he told Gulf News.

In his case, he added, his university issued two conflicting statements to two different bodies - It testified to the Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi two years before that the degree is genuine and to the verification company that the same degree is fake. How come this can be accepted?

He stressed the verification company, the Labour Ministry and other authorities should ensure that innocent people are not harassed due to this procedure.

Paul Kane, Middle East Business Development Manager at the company responsible for attestation, agreed his company "has to depend on statements from universities, giving degree holders the right to dispute the verification findings by submitting a new application at a further cost of Dh500, enabling the Labour Ministry to re-validate the educational qualifications."

He added his company is investigating the case, which he termed as the first ever to happen in the company. "We are confirming with the university concerned."

But Esmail's problem does not end here. For one month now, he has been going from pillar to post to submit a new application to re-confirm his degree. His efforts failed because the system has no facility to accept this measure.

"The system does not allow for submitting a new application for disputing the verification findings, despite the fact that both IntegraScreen and the Labour Ministry agreed to my right to the measure," Esmail said.

Ahmad Kajoor, assistant undersecretary of the Labour Ministry, admitted the system has no facility to accept an application for challenging the verification result. "But the ministry is working to sort out the problem soon."

Esmail also complained that IntegraScreen "just post the results online without considering consequences in the case the result was wrong."

He suggested that in the case of negative results, there should be a meeting with the person concerned to further check the degree before the result is published or passed on to the Labour Ministry or the Residency Department.


Needle left in man’s mouth

Dubai - Oct. 20: A man who claims part of a needle was left under his tooth has filed a dhs 38,000 civil case for damages against the dentist who treated him. The Yemeni man, identified only as NM, went to the clinic in Deira and was advised his teeth needed cleaning, a crown had to be placed on a tooth and treatment was needed to a nerve.

But a civil court heard that during the treatment the dentist broke a needle being used to treat him and left part of it under his tooth. It is alleged she failed to inform NM and he left the surgery unaware what had happened. The court was told he started to feel the pain shortly after the procedure, but when he returned to the clinic the dentist told him his teeth were fine.

After several more visits, the man told the dentist he intended to visit another surgery and it is alleged she then admitted the mistake. The man filed the lawsuit after visiting various dental clinics more than 25 times, the court was told. A verdict is expected at a later date.


Man didn’t film up womens’ skirts: lawyer

Dubai - Oct. 20: A man accused of filming up a woman’s skirt in a supermarket had no images of her on a video camera examined by police, his defence lawyer claimed. The Briton was arrested after an employee at Spinneys in Mirdif spotted the man filming at the store in August.  He was apprehended by security guards as he tried to flee the scene when challenged.

Dubai Court of First Instance was told yesterday how 12 images from the man’s camera had been seen by a Spinneys employee. But defence lawyer Ali Ismail, representing the accused known as PS, said no such images were found by the police laboratory when they confiscated his video camera. He added: “First of all there wasn’t any physical contact between them and even if we said this incident happened, how come the girl didn’t notice him even after my client had been arrested.”

The court also heard from a 22-year-old Spinneys employee who said he saw the images on the camera that day. He said: “He put the camera under the girl’s skirt and started recording, so I approached him and took the camera from him. He tried to escape but the guards stopped him. When the police came, I saw with the police 12 scenes. The girl wasn’t aware of him because he was filming her from the back.”

The 34-year-old denied the charges at an earlier  hearing. According to the prosecution, the man fixed a small video camera onto the front of his shopping trolley and then pushed it close to women wearing skirts so that it was filming up their legs.  He was arrested on August 8 when the supermarket employee spotted the camera as it was filming under the skirt of 14-year-old girl and called the police.

Police say the accused confessed to the charges after his arrest but he denied them in court.  According to police, he said it was not the first time he made such recordings. The judge refused to grant bail for the accused and a verdict will be issued next month.



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