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29 April, 2005

Jailhouse block

Fly away for a couple of days and return, straight back into the Stone Age.

Exhibit I: The courts manage to jail a female tourist for seven weeks without trial for having legal prescription drugs in her blood. Codeine in the form of a paracetamol-based painkiller: a pill available prescription-free in any normal chemist in any normal western country, where informed and educated medical people set the rules for science and medicine.

Very happily, the story has made the international media, in the UK Telegraph, Sun, BBC, as well as newspapers in Egypt, India, Italy, South Africa, Bahrain and others:

"It is understood that Ms Wilkinson, from Balcombe, West Sussex, was then asked to provide a urine specimen which was found to contain codeine and temazepam given to her by her GP in the UK.


"Ms Wilkinson, who was on holiday when arrested, told The Sun that the authorities in the UAE had refused to let her go despite her GP sending a letter saying he had prescribed the drugs.

"They just won't believe me. I've had reports from my doctor sent over but they say they want them translated to Arabic."

Seven weeks to get a few words translated into Arabic? Hardly. This whole incident is an appalling fuck up, and the wealth of bad publicity and damage to the "western, tolerant" tourism-friendly image of the Emirates is thoroughly deserved.

Exhibit II: Etisalat has blocked IP telephony provider Skype. Despite IP telephony being legalised from 2005, the Big Golf Balls apparently couldn't bear that people might be able to communicate with overseas loved ones at a less than extortionate rate:

"When the New Year comes, residents here may start making international phone calls via the internet without the fear of being penalised, industry officials said."

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Blogger Keef said...

Big Golf Balls, I like it! I think the point about VOIP and Skype here is that BGB will only allow it if they get revenue from it. The Skype model clearly cuts out the payment aspect, and so Etisalat block it. Etisalat will indeed be encourqaging the use of VOIP, but on their terms - you will have to pay for it (even though it could theoretically be free) - probably at similar price levels to POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service), and Big Golf Balls will make even bigger profits!

30 April, 2005 00:45  
Blogger secretdubai said...

I can't test at the moment, as my Skyped-computer is currently out of action, but have they managed to block the app from working as well?

30 April, 2005 00:52  
Blogger Keef said...

I can't test it either, but there's really no way they can do anything to software that you have installed on your computer. comes up with
'Network Error (tcp_error)
A communication error occurred: "Operation timed out" '

rather than the usual Big Golf Balls filthy pervert message.

01 May, 2005 15:37  
Blogger secretdubai said...

I Googled and found some high end techie stuff about how an ISP could (theoretically) block the Skype app, but if it went over my head you can well imagine it flew straight over the BGBs as well.

I'm getting "timed out" errors too for, which is a little odd. I was definitely getting the "cultural and moral values" crap before.

01 May, 2005 18:12  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can still download the latest version from a Dubai / UAE ip address using another mirror other than Google for "download Skype" which is the latest version that includes video. Use the page from which is
Shouldn't be a problem. Happy skype.

26 June, 2005 05:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

09 August, 2005 17:39  
Blogger secretdubai said...

I don't agree that Etisalat employees suck. On the contrary, I have found the ones I have come into contact with exceptionally helpful and intelligent. The IT support guys, for one, are all amazing, and available 24/7 to sort out even the dumbest problems.

And nearly all the senior execs oppose censorship and the proxy, but are forced to run it because of federal law.

I do think they have issues with accountability: but they have been a monopoly for a long time so this is no surprise. They need to discount people's bills when massive outage occurs, and they need to be more informative and more responsive (there should have been a recorded message immediately on the helpline about the cable, for example) but they are improving.

The problem is that from what I can work out, the number of users is surging at a rate the proxy server capacity can't keep up with, hence the appallingly slow http browsing all the time. If you download via P2P (obviously when the cables are in one piece) you can see that you are in fact getting the full bandwith you pay for, but surfing http even with broadband feels like a 28k dial-up much of the time.

09 August, 2005 18:54  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Sorry, I'm going to have to censor the post two above, because I also don't want refererrals coming for that phrase either. Here's the post with one line removed:

martijn said:
Don't you get fed-up with a provider that shamelessly blocks traffic to clearly non-adult sites?

The idea was that Etisalat would filter anything that is 'bad' / 'naughty' or 'dangerous' because apparently you can not decide for yourselves..

Instead you even get banned from windows update, orkut, MSN, skype and just about every other 'community' site. Imagine, people might start to communicate!

I do not understand how a whole country puts up with this...

09 August, 2005 19:00  
Blogger samuraisam said...

Etisalat probably removed from their DNS servers, if you try and ping it, or somehow resolve it you will find its IP address, add /index.php or /index.html or /index.htm you should be able to access it once more.

10 October, 2005 19:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if you get to download skype, you won't be able to use it. Down with the BGB!!!

07 November, 2005 21:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if you get to download skype, you won't be able to use it. Down with the BGB!!!

Is this person referring to Skye to Skype, Skype Out, Skype In, or what?

I've heard that Skype does work in the UAE, you just cannot recharge it. I also heard that Oman lifted its ban. Any comments?

21 November, 2005 05:57  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At this point (5Dec) you can use skype, the program; you just can't connect to BTW, if you want to download the program just go to The main thing you can't do with skype is the skypeout service, where you buy credits from skype for a quite reasonable call from your pc to a phone. Otherwise, pc to pc skyping is still able to happen. (although stay tuned -- they're talking about nixing that too!)

05 December, 2005 12:59  
Blogger horrified said...

orkut is blocked in uae. i need help accessing it. i dont thnk it should be blocked

08 July, 2006 19:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, Etisalat is now overstepping their authority. They blame the VOIP on TRA. They have just removed from their DNS server, so you can't download any software period!

I have a suggestion for Etisalat. Please block the entire Internet. I think people will get the message loud and clear. First of all you charge us an arm and a leg - $75 for a decent internet connection at home. Then you strip the engine out, give us the 4 tires and a steering wheel controlled by you and call it the Internet.

I hope that Etisalat blocks every site imaginable. Everyday, you are making businesses turn away from considering UAE and those already here are being asked to pack up and leave. Let's see who wins this battle - the Businesses or Etisalat

25 August, 2006 12:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Down with UAE

We were just about to purchase a family appartment in Dubai. That's over. Finish. I can't cope anymore with this "country".
Blocking VOIP and preventing us to call our family in Germany is clearly NOT acceptable.

Dubai wants to play in the big players' courtyards, but they are acting like North Korea.

No investment from our side. Etisalat: you lost.

27 August, 2006 07:38  
Blogger Corsair said...

Well, let me give you a brief run-thruu on what exactly BGB has done to Skype. I use Skype for almost 3-4 hours of calling every day, and most of it is Skype out. I have threee machines on which Skype is installed. On two, it never signs in, giving the error that "your pc might be behind a firewall...blah blah blah......" on one of the laptops, it is always signed in...but any messages i send to anyone get delivered after 2-3 days. I cant make any calls to a PC, as i get the error "no proxies found" Skypeout doesnt connect 70% of the time as well. OTHER PEOPLE CANT CALL ME AS WELL!!!!!!!!! Also, their messages are delivered after 3-4 days. Now, the only way i think BGB can achieve such a level of Big Brotheresque control, is by blocking specific traffic to the Skype servers, in which case they are smarter than we give em credit for.. and as for the Skype site not working, im riskin discovery, but there is an easy way to bypass it. Think intelligent, think smart, think installed HTTP traffic rerouters, think GH***S
**F..... So i do buy Skype credit to use SkypeOut... any me and a few friends are working on sumthin to stop BGB dead in their tracks, and will let yall know if we can fix sumthin up...

07 September, 2006 12:27  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still waiting impatiently for Corsair's fix to the SKYPE problem.

Any progress?

06 October, 2006 17:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I arrived in Dubai yesterday morning and spent most of the day trying to get Skype working. I tried various methods found across different forums but in the end I decided to bite the bullet and part with $39.99 for personalvpn from WiTopia, The setup takes about 10 minutes and I have to say I'm very impressed. Skype now working fine and all "restricted" pages are now available. I'm no expert but I think it's pretty good value for money if you're spending time in Dubai. Up until this morning I didn't even what a VPN was so it's been an education. Guess there's a postive in somewhere! Thanks Etisalat...

13 October, 2006 18:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am raged with anti-Etisalat Feelings! or whoever responsible for this stupid censoring. *UCK YOU MOTHER *UCKERS!!

12 March, 2007 17:35  
Blogger Ish Sagar said...

It is really sad for people in UAE.

Etisalat are really going be a pain..

Dont Expect anything from ETISALAT...

ETISALAT dont provide service... they provide... problems...!!!

04 July, 2007 13:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, ORKUT was working just fine till yesterday night. all of a sudden Etisalat blocked it.I wrote to Etisalat, Gulf news & report it to google...see what happens.. lets start a campaign for Orkut. .and if some body is calling it a dating site or whatever they should block mobile phones.. because these phones are the worst X rated device the modern world has ever seen. .if you know what i mean.

04 July, 2007 16:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why have they banned orkut.. the last resort to get in touch with your folks and friends is over.. is du offering internet services?

04 July, 2007 23:17  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well there Are A Few Ways To Unblock Everything Free As well As paid
if Intrested Mail Me At

05 July, 2007 13:42  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If You want to Unblock Orkut,
Skype and Any other voip or blocked softwares, then visit this blog today and it
will solve all of your problems...

05 July, 2007 14:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If skype is blocked that is just not fare so i found a way around it and no one can stop me from calling with skype when its "blocked" :) I use a service from the following site

VPN Connections

Hope it helps others too.

P.s. they also will provide a new connection if the isp block the ip you connect to to establish a vpn.

Read all about it on the site.
Skype Unblocked

16 August, 2007 14:18  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I use Witopia personnalVPN to call with Skype and to access censored contents when I am in Dubai or in China.

It works very good and is very easy to use.

You can download it from the Witopia personnalVPN Homepage.

Contact me by email if you need more informations :

26 May, 2008 18:35  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it bizarre that I cannot access any site that might be by some stretch of imagination be called a "dating" site while in Dubai, but if I wanted I could go to one of the five-star hotels and have a choice of the hundreds of prostitutes working there! There's a lot more whores in Dubai hotels than I have ever seen in Europe, apart from the red light area of Amsterdam! What a bunch of hypocrites they all are, and it has put me off ever wanting to live there.

04 January, 2009 03:42  

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