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06 January, 2003

Malicious bureacracy

There are many administrations in western and developing worlds that deserve this accolade, but perhaps none so much this week as that of Dubai, specifically Dubai police. And perhaps their roads and traffic planning department.

The case in point was applying for a "good character" form - ie proof of not having a criminal record. After several hit and misses at various police buildings all over Deira, I was directed to "man in red turban" at some Police Criminal Office.

Searching round for the relevant sikh gentleman, it was soon realised that "red turban" referred to a dishdash with the red-and-white-check tablecloth headdress, as opposed to the regular white napkins normally used in the UAE.

"Typ ths in Arabeek."

I am given a form covered in the evil squiggles. Where to go? Turban directs me to the "Labour Office" across the road. Then the realisation hits. There is no way to cross Al Ittihad Street by foot. There is no crossing, no road-bridge, no underpass. The central reservation isn't even scaleable, it is a seven-foot high concrete wall. The only way to get from one office to the next is by taxi - drive several miles up the road, find a roundabout, and drive all the way back. Once the form is "typped", repeat same in reverse.

Ten out of ten for the food at tonight's BMW launch. It started off as an eight, pipped to a nine by an excellent chilli soy dip and a fine array of non-gelatine-coated fruit.

But what must give this sportscar-spread the ultimate award was a large bowl of white chocolate mousse. It tasted like the distilled essence of Nestle Milky Bars.

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