Thursday, 19 August 2010

Britons sentenced to a month in prison for kissing in Dubai restaurant

Ayman Najafi, 24, a marketing consultant who lives in Dubai, and Charlotte Adams, 25, an estate agent from North London, were said to have been touching each other and kissing passionately as they dined with friends in a beachfront restaurant.

They were arrested and sentenced to a month in prison after which they were told they would be deported.

But the pair told a hearing at the Dubai Appeal Court on Sunday that they were the victims of a "huge misunderstanding" and had simply exchanged a friendly greeting.

"We kissed each other on the cheek as a greeting, nothing more,” Mr Najafi told Judge Aysar Fouad. Miss Adams pointed at her cheek to show where contact had taken place.

The two are not the first Britons to fall foul of the strict laws in the conservative Muslim state. Last year Michelle Palmer, 36, and Vince Acors, 34, were sentenced to three months imprisonment for having sex on a beach.

The latest incident took place when Miss Adams and Mr Najafi met along with four other friends for dinner at Bob's Easy Diner on the beachfront at the Jumeirah Beach Residence complex on November 27.

The police were called at around 2am by an Emirati woman sitting at a nearby table with her children and claimed her daughter had been upset by the display of affection.

"My daughter told me that the accused were kissing on the mouth,” she said.

“Then I spotted them doing so myself. I also saw them touching each other, as they were seated two to three metres away from our table. A number of customers witnessed the scene as well.”

After being arrested, the two were tested for alcohol and shown to have been drinking, though the readings of 22mg/dl are less than the drink-drive limit in Britain.

At the appeal hearing on Sunday, their defence lawyer Khalaf al Hosany said the couple admitted kissing each other on the cheek but denied any intention to break the law.

“It’s part of their culture to kiss on cheeks as a greeting,” he told the judge.

But their pleas of not guilty to indecency were rejected and they were sentenced to a month in prison followed by deportation.

They were also fined 1000 dirham (180 pounds) for being in a public place after consuming alcohol – an offence in Dubai, though drinking alcohol itself is not.

Mr Najafi has lived in Dubai for 18 months, where he works as a consultant for the Hay Group, a marketing firm.

Miss Adams, 25, was visiting the country and staying with another friend.

Her flatmate Jade Christa Williams, acting as a spokesman for Miss Adams, said what had happened was simply "a huge misunderstanding".

"She is completely innocent and is looking forward to coming home soon to carry on with her life and put this behind her," she said.

The pair were released on bail and are awaiting an April 4 verdict.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Dubai Property - Price Report from Collier International

Prices for UAE property came down again in the last quarter at an average of 4 per cent, with villas performing the strongest, according to Colliers International House Price Index, suggesting a trend for the remainder of the year.

"We anticipate a further slowdown and we have an ongoing concern of the new supply entering the market, which will further impede recovery," said Ian Albert, regional director, Colliers International.
Another 33,000 units expected to come online by year end are the main reason to be less optimistic about the market despite stabilising since the steep high and subsequent drop of 2008 and 2009. However, some of the supply could be further delayed into 2011, but current occupancy figures suggest that there is enough on the market as it is.
"There are already more than 340,000 residential properties in Dubai with an average occupancy rate of 87 per cent, with further declines anticipated. The market simply cannot absorb the additional supply unless the population grows and/or the release of stock is slowed down," Albert said.
House prices are back to the earlier parts of 2007 yet, according to the Colliers Index, house price values overall still enjoyed a 7 per cent increase when comparing the second quarter of last year with the current one. The index is based on statistics of lenders transactional prices and sets the blended average house price for the second quarter at about Dh1,014 per square foot.
Villas are tops
Villas fared better than apartments, comparing this quarter to the first of this year. The former decreased by only 3 per cent, whilst the latter's prices fell 5 per cent. Interestingly, townhouses took the biggest hit of an 8 per cent price reduction.
"The reason why townhouses have taken a larger hit than villas is simply because as the market corrected, many families upgraded to villas as more became available and affordable," said Tom Bunker, Investment Sales Consultant, Better Homes.
Reason he says, villas are typically larger and in most cases have a half decent back yard, sometimes absent in townhouses. "Many of the townhouse communities are a little more out of the way," he added.
Villas also trumped on the number of transactions with 49 per cent of the total, followed by apartments with 34 per cent and the 17 per cent remaining going to townhouses. Interestingly, buyers seem to spot value, the number of transactions has been 15 per cent higher this second quarter than in 2009's.
Hot spots
Popular villa communities are in the Emirates Living District thanks to the quick and easy access to Shaikh Zayed Road and beyond, said Bunker. The favourite within is The Lakes, reckons Kim Robinson, residential sales and leasing manager, Cluttons.
"The Lakes is an upgrade to The Springs. Prices dropped so much that families who are looking for space, better feel and facilities can now afford The Lakes independent villas. We recently sold one upgraded to a five-bed for Dh3.6 million net," she detailed. Others in vogue are the Montgomery Maisonettes, luxury townhouse type.
The average occupancy rate in Dubai's existing 340,000 residential properties is 87 per cent and is expected to decline, according to Colliers. With rents at half of what they were in 2008 the lack of return on investment is further subduing buyer's appetite, Albert said.
Top five by price
  • 1 The Palm Jumeirah — Villas
  • 2 Downtown Dubai
  • 3 The Palm Jumeirah — Apartments
  • 4 Dubai Marina
  • 5 The Lakes — Villas
Top 5 developments by number of transactions
  • 1 Arabian Ranches
  • 2 The Springs
  • 3 Victory Heights
  • 4 Downtown Dubai
  • 5 Green Community

Dubai Property Prices (Aug 2010 Update) - Still going down

-Dubai property prices fell 4% during the second quarter of 2010, compared with the first three months of the year, the first quarter-on-quarter contraction in 12 months, U.K.-based real-estate consultancy Colliers International said Sunday.
Despite the second quarter slide, Colliers said its quarterly price index showed a 7% increase in overall house price values compared with the second quarter of 2009.
The average price of property slipped to 1,014 U.A.E. dirhams ($276) per square foot in the second quarter of 2010, compared with AED1,061 in the first quarter, Colliers said in an emailed statement.
The real-estate consultancy warned that forthcoming housing supply and declining rental incomes are likely to put downward pressure on Dubai house prices moving forward.
"We anticipate a further slowdown and we have an ongoing concern of the new supply entering the market, which will further impede recovery," said Ian Albert, regional director at Colliers International.
Dubai's property market has been hit hard by the global financial crisis and prices have slumped close to 50% since their peak in 2008 while many of the emirate's most ambitious projects are on hold.
Colliers said it expects around 33,000 units to be released onto the Dubai market by the end of 2010, down from its earlier estimate of 41,000 following project delays or rescheduling. However, given Dubai's history so far, a large number of these units may not be delivered on time and may cross over into 2011, it added.
"There are already more than 340,000 residential properties in Dubai with an average occupancy rate of 87%, with further declines anticipated. The market simply cannot absorb the additional supply unless the population grows and/or the release of stock is slowed down," said Collier's Albert.
Compounding the situation are dwindling rents in the emirate with Dubai's overbuilt residential market contributing to more than a 50% decline in average rental rates since 2008, discouraging ownership and further dampening demand, said Colliers.
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