Expat relocation Egypt Saudi Middle East ..
Mobility Management Middle East

Alexandria to launch its first surface metro project at $2.5 billion

Alexandria is underway to start implementing two transportation projects set to transform the city; the first being development of the al-Raml tram line, and the second to establish a metro from Abu Qir in east Alexandria to Burg al-Arab in the west at a cost of US$2.5 billion.

Governor of Alexandria Mohamed al-Sherif held extensive meetings in coordination with the Ministry of Transport, to implement a high-density metro project from Abu Qir to Burg al-Arab in two stages, and a second project to develop and rehabilitate the Raml tram line.

According to the plan drawn up by the Ministry of Transport, the new metro aims to reduce traffic congestion in the coastal city streets and extends for a length of 43 kilometers.

The project will be implemented in three phases, the first of which includes relying on the current Abu Qir railway route which extends for 22 kilometers from Abu Qir to Misr station.

It includes 18 stations - Abu Qir, Tousoun, al-Mamoura, al-Salah, al-Muntazah, Mandara, al-Asafra, Miami, Sidi Bishr, Victoria, al-Souq, Dhahriya, Sidi Gaber, Sporting, al-Hadrah, Gabriel, Bab Sharq, and Misr Station, in addition to the train overhaul workshop.

The speed of vehicles will be 80 kilometers per hour.

The second stage begins from Misr Station to al-Max area at a length of about eight km, while the third and final phase extends from the al-Max area to the end of the line at a length of about 15.5 km.

The train will run six kilometers on an overpass, and the rest of the track will be on the surface.

The project's trains will reach 120 km per hour.


Egypt presses ahead with reopening as Covid-19 cases edge higher

Egypt reopened some mosques for Friday prayers despite a rising daily tallies of coronavirus cases in the past week that validated official warnings of a second wave of infections if preventive precautions are not taken more seriously.

Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli and Health Minister Hala Zayed have been calling out Egyptians for ignoring rules about wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing in public.

"The occurrence of a second wave is mostly associated with a false sense of security that the pandemic is over and that prompts them [Egyptians] to be lax about adhering to precautionary measures," Mrs Zayed was quoted as saying during a meeting with the prime minister on Wednesday.

The number of new cases reported daily in August has ranged between 150 and 200, a dramatic drop from about 1,500 in June and the first half of July. However, the number of daily infections has been rising steadily since August 22, from 89 to 237 on August 27, according to a tally of reported cases kept by Worldometer.

The number of people in Egypt who contracted the disease since the pandemic began six months ago stood at 98,062, including 5,342 fatal cases, as of August 27.

Officials have said the risk of a second wave will increase significantly in the next two months as schools and universities reopen after a six-month closure that included the summer break.

The reopening of mosques for Friday prayers comes with the same precautions laid down when they were reopened for the five daily prayers in July. Besides wearing masks and keeping safe distance, worshippers will have to bring their own prayer mats, while washrooms for the pre-prayer cleansing will remain closed. The Friday sermon will be limited to 10 minutes and the mosques will be closed immediately after prayers.

Egypt's government has reopened the country gradually, returning it to near normality in late June after a three-month lockdown that hit the economy hard and forced it to seek billions of dollars in loans from the International Monetary Fund. A surge in infections could force the introduction of another lockdown that would deal another body blow to the economy.

Egypt's Covid-19 cases are relatively low for a country of 100 million people and a poor health system, although officials have speculated that the actual number could be 10 times the figures reported. Thousands may have been treated outside the health system or recovered from the disease without suffering severe symptoms. Many patients may have chosen to keep their illness secret because of the social stigma associated with the disease in some segments of society.


Egypt requires negative COVID-19 tests for airport travelers

Egypt will require all passengers arriving the country's airports to present a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test for coronavirus starting September 1.

The PCR test requirement, which also covers Egyptian nationals, must be conducted a maximum of 72 hours prior to the scheduled flight, instead of a previous 48 hours, according to a circular issued by the civil aviation ministry, local daily Al-Ahram Online reported.

Children of all nationalities under the age of six are exempted from the decision, the report added.

Cairo authorities required all travelers arriving in the country to present negative PCR result after noting 'increasing infections in some countries.' Foreign visitors are now only allowed entry into the three coastal governorates: South Sinai, Red Sea and Matrouh.

Egypt started a gradual resumption of international flights in July, after suspending them in March due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

A total of 126,000 tourists visited the country since international flights were resumed.


Egypt approves $743.3m housing, sanitation agreements

The Egyptian Parliament has approved two international agreements, worth $743.3 million, covering housing projects and sanitation, said a report.

The agreements, signed with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), will go towards financing housing projects and the establishment of a wastewater system in Egypt's Bahr Al-Baqar region, reported Daily News Egypt, citing a senior minister.

These agreements come as part of the Ministry of International Cooperation's cooperation with international partners in three core areas, namely: People at the Core; Projects in Action; and Purpose as the Driver, said Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al Mashat.

To put 'people at the core', the ministry has been implementing projects across multiple sectors by signing the first agreement with the IBRD, a member of the World Bank Group, last July.

The agreement was undertaken with $500 million in additional financing for the comprehensive programme to finance the housing project, she stated.

This aims to primarily improve the lives of low-income Egyptians so they can access their right to adequate housing.

This helps achieve the first of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and is also related to poverty eradication. The agreement also covers the SDG 11, related to establishing sustainable cities and communities, she added.


Vestas consortium to build 250MW Egypt wind power plant

Egypt's New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA) has signed a major contract with an Italian-French-Chilean consortium led by Danish turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems to build a 250-megawatt wind power plant in the Gulf of Suez.

Involving an investment of around ?228 million ($270.2 million), the project will be financed through an umbrella agreement between the Egyptian government and several European entities, including the EU, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and German and French development banks, according to a statement by NREA.

The project site is located on the west coast of the Gulf of Suez in the Red Sea Governorate.

The NREA had awarded Vestas the tender earlier this year after both Siemens Gamesa and Germany's Senvion retracted their bids late in 2019.

The wind power plant is scheduled to be completed and brought to operation within 35 months, said the statement.

Once in operation, the new facility will generate an estimated 840 gigawatts per hour, which would save about 175,000 tonnes of oil equivalent, it added.- TradeArabia News Service


Schools reopen under strict health measures

Amman, Sept 1 (Petra) -- More than two million students headed to classrooms across the Kingdom Tuesday morning for the start of the academic year 2020/2021 with a strict health protocol in place after a six-month closure as part of precautionary measures to counter the coronavirus pandemic.

Some 3,940 schools in cities and villages in the various governorates, 2,235 of which function under the rotation system and at least 36 apply the double-shift system to avoid congestion and accommodate rising numbers as an estimated 42,000 pupils have so far moved from private schools to public schools.

Education directors in the various governorates pledged adherence to health safety and prevention measures, including wearing masks and physical distancing, noting that schools have undergone maintenance and been provided with the necessities to start the new year.

"This is day one. We pin hopes on parents to educate their sons and daughters continually, and I am confident that the school principals, administrators and teachers are ready," said Education Minister Tayseer Nuaimi as he attended the morning lineup at an Amman secondary school.

In Al-Salt Governorate west of Amman, 106 public and 52 private schools were supposed to welcome 47,000 pupils, but half of them attended due to the rotation and health instructions, according to education director Harun Rahahleh.

He told Petra during a visit to a secondary girls school that schools have switched to the odd-even rotation system in keeping with the health protocol, with each pupil allocated 1 square meter inside the classroom.

Rahahleh said textbooks will be distributed inside the classroom to avoid gathering as part of the health requirements and that the education directorate has drawn up a plan to spread awareness about the risks of and prevention from the pandemic and ways to curb infection. He said teams will be assigned to enforce the precautionary measures to ensure the students' safety.

In Tafileh, about 120 public and private schools in the governorate have been sterilized and their facilities underwent the necessary maintenance as part of the health protocol before opening this morning, according to education director Lubna Hajjaj. She said the directorate will start new classes in public schools to accommodate pupils who moved from private schools.

In Aqaba, about 45,000 students headed to classrooms this morning, including 33,000 in 78 government schools and 12,000 in 55 private schools and kindergartens, while observing strict health procedures. Three schools ran the double-shift system to absorb the growing number of students.

"Schools may face a challenge in the first days of the year, which is expected, but things will settle down," said the education minister, reiterating his concern for the health of the students and teachers.

Parents across the Kingdom hailed the health measures taken by the Ministry of Education to protect their children, and lauded the teachers for their efforts and commitment to teach in-person in the classroom under high health standards to safeguard pupils' health.


Lebanon enters new partial lockdown to curb coronavirus

Lebanon imposed a partial lockdown for two weeks starting on Friday in an effort to counter Covid-19 infections which have spiralled since the catastrophic explosion at Beirut port.

The spread of Covid-19 is compounding the woes of a country still reeling from the August 4 blast that killed at least 179 people and wounded about 6,000, and a financial meltdown that has devastated the economy since October.

"In this area those who escaped death have relatives who are wounded, there are no homes or cars, frankly we have forgotten corona," said Nabil Nahed, 50, a teacher whose house in the Gemmayzeh area was badly damaged in the blast.

"But we have to take precautions as much as we can because in the last two weeks everyone has been mixing, and corona certainly increased," he said.

Lebanon recorded its highest 24-hour tally of new infections on Thursday, with 613 new cases. The infections have spread in the aftermath of the blast as hospitals were flooded with the casualties, medics say.

"We've gone back to square one," the caretaker government's health minister said on Friday, adding however that the government was better prepared than at the start of the pandemic.

"Before the explosion, the total cases were 5,000-6,000, now we are approaching 10,000 and above," Iman Shankiti, the World Health Organisation representative in Lebanon, told Voice of Lebanon radio. "In the last two weeks, the total is equal to everything from February to the day of the explosion."

The shutdown, which includes a curfew from 6pm to 6am, allows for clearing rubble, making repairs and giving out aid in neighbourhoods demolished by the explosion. The airport will remain open, with travelers having to take a PCR test before boarding and on arrival.

Three hours before curfew, shops were closed and traffic was light. A security source said compliance was good in the Beirut area though less so in northern Lebanon.


Flexible office space likely to be in demand in Middle East

Two interrelated trends - the increased demand for flexible offices and the growth in remote working and working from home (WFH) - have combined to shape and define demand for office space at the global and regional level in recent years, according to global property consultant JLL.

While both of these trends predate Covid-19, the global pandemic has exacerbated their influence, and their impact on how office spaces are reimagined for many years to come, it stated.

JLL's latest report highlights the evolving nature of office spaces and the attractions, limitations and market trends that will emerge as a result of flexible space being applied on a sustained basis.

The report indicates that flexible space will take a different form than it has in the past, but will continue to grow as corporates and investors respond to the increasing demand for flexibility brought on by Covid-19, it added.

"While we believe there is some short-term pain as demand for flexible office space contracts, it seems certain to grow in the mid-to-long term as businesses adjust and adopt solutions that increase their agility and reduce their response times," said Dana Salbak, Head of Research for JLL Mena.

"The impact is also expected to translate onto the business models of flexible office operators, resulting in a shift away from common facilities, shared services, and hot desks, to a corresponding growth in the proportion of private space, which ensures corporate privacy and data security," explained Salbak.

"In reality, in-office work and remote work are complementary, and neither can completely replace the other. The post-pandemic workplace will involve a combination of three distinct office environments: the corporate office, flexible co-working facilities and remote working," she stated.

The challenge for occupiers will be to establish the right mix and balance between the different settings and working patterns, she added.

Toby Hall, the Director (Head of Office and Business Space Leasing) for JLL Mena said: "On a regional scale, extensive strides have been taken by Dubai to ensure flexible workspace frameworks are fixed and maintained in line with intensified measures aimed at combating Covid-19."

"To meet the growing demand, there has been a rapid increase in total supply of flexible office space in the emirate. Although the effort is gaining momentum, the level of flex space in Dubai remains below the EMEA average of 2.3%, suggesting there is room for further growth," stated Hall.

JLL's report identifies several key trends which will continue to drive demand for flexible space in the region over the long term. These include:

"While the increase in remote working will result in less demand for office space in the future, the reduction in densities due to new social distancing measures will increase the amount of space required to house a given level of office staff," observed Salbak.

"It is clear that the long-term impact of the coronavirus on office demand is far more nuanced than many are suggesting, with a broad range of factors impacting demand," she added.- TradeArabia News Service


UAE expats with expired visas may be exempted from overstay fines

The employer may be responsible to pay the overstay fines, if the employee registers a complaint with the MoHRE.

Question: My visa expired last June, however, my employer had not paid my dues, hence my work permit had been pending for cancellation. They are finally releasing my dues tomorrow and cancelling my work permit, too. I understand that they need to pay my overstay fines till tomorrow, but what if they do not settle the penalties? Will there be a problem when I leave the UAE? How many days do I have to leave UAE?

Answer: Any individual who has a UAE residence visa should leave the country or change his visa status within 30 days of cancellation of its cancellation, in case the visa is cancelled before its expiry.

If the visa is cancelled after its expiry, the individual should leave the UAE or change his visa status within the remaining days of the 30-day grace period, which is granted from the date of visa's expiry.

This is in accordance with Article 21 of the Federal Immigration Law: "Any foreigner whose visa or residence permit has been revoked or whose residency has expired...and has not renewed it within 30 days from the expiry date, a fine of not more than Dh100 for every day of illegal residence in the state (must be paid) as of the date of expiry of the time limit."

As your residence visa has expired in June, you may have to pay the penalty, as applicable, as we assume that you have not filed any complaint against your employer for the non-payment of your end-of-service benefits and for not cancelling your visa.

The employer may be responsible to pay the overstay fines, if the employee registers a complaint with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE).

This is in accordance with Article 11 of Ministerial Resolution No. (707) for 2006 Regarding the Rules and Procedures of Conducting Business in the State for Non-citizens.

It states:

"The employee shall not be charged any fees or fines for the cancellation of the sponsorship, work permit, or other fees or fines, if he desires to leave the country and initiated a communication with the ministry for the same during the required timelines as per the provisions of this resolution."

However, currently, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, you may be not required to pay any overstay penalties, based on an announcement made by the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship on August 17. It said those with expired residence visas may be exempted from overstay fines, provided that they leave the UAE before November 17.

Based on this, you may request your employer to pay your end-of-service benefits and cancel your work permit and visa. It is recommended that you approach the visa issuing authority in the emirates where your employer has applied for your residency for further assistance.


Vehicle testing certificates in Dubai now paperless

Motorists in Dubai will no longer receive paper certificates when they get their vehicles tested for registration. Instead, e-certificates will be issued and e-mailed to customers, the emirate's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced on Monday.

Besides making the process more convenient and cost-efficient, the step was taken in line with the Dubai Paperless Strategy, a key project initiated by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council. The strategy seeks to transform the Dubai Government into a fully digital one in a couple of years.

"The RTA is always keen to support the government's plans and strategic objectives of Dubai and the Green Economy initiative features high in the RTA's core goals," said Jamal Al Sadah, director of vehicle licensing at the Licensing Agency of the authority.

Avoiding the use of paper amid the pandemic also supports efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the official added.


Supermeal adds online food ordering platform to the UAE's home dining scene

UAE CEO Qutaiba Al Ali believes what has made Supermeal so appealing in Britain is the availability of cash back and other rewards with every single order placed

Photo courtesy: Supermeal UAE

If there was one business segment in the UAE that has really blossomed during the Covid-19 pandemic it's home delivery services.

The combination of lockdowns, curfews and public anxieties over restaurants and bars has meant that people wanting chef-prepared food have been resorting to food delivery platforms in ever greater numbers.

Deliveroo, Talabat and Uber Eats might have already an established part of the country's dining scene, but 2020 was the moment they became ubiquitous - and essential. For one Dubai-based entrepreneur, though, there was still room for one more player in the market.

Qutaiba Al Ali is the CEO of Supermeal UAE, which he has introduced to the region after its successful launch in its native Britain. What has made Supermeal so appealing on its home territory is the availability of cash back and other rewards with every single order placed - and those same goals will be the bedrock of its offering in the UAE, too.

The main question, though, is whether there is sufficient demand for another online food ordering platform in a market where competition has already made profitability a distant prospect for even the most established players.


Dubai's first dog water park

Caring for pets during the hot summer months can be difficult , but Dubai always has innovative solutions to offer!

Water-loving dogs can now enjoy their very own spa day at "Petsville" in Al Quoz with the latest pet attraction "Aqua Pawk" consisting of two refreshing & safe pools for dogs.

Since the opening of pools last month, "Petsville" has become one of Dubai's success stories offering the perfect place for pups to cool-off in the scorching summer heat, and a distinctive addition to the Dubai's pet care facilities.


Etihad Airways expands air-rail partnership with AccesRail in Europe

Etihad Airways has announced the expansion of its partnership with AccesRail, the world's leading provider of air-rail intermodal solutions.

The partnership allows Etihad to use AccesRail's expertise to enable its customers to book train and coach tickets in Europe in conjunction with their air fare using the airline's online booking platform, or through their travel agency, the airline said in a statement on Tuesday.

Etihad's guests can connect to and from their international flights to rail routes operated by major European railway companies using the airline's 'EY' code. It includes an expanded network of seven rail routes on Germany's Deutsche Bahn from Frankfurt Main Airport.

The partnership with AccesRail has also been extended to the United Kingdom to include 16 destinations westbound from London Heathrow on Great Western Railway, and subject to final government approval, to 28 cities across Italy on the country's primary rail operator, Trenitalia.

The expansion will also see additional inter-city coach services in the United Kingdom operated by National Express to 28 major British towns and cities from London Heathrow, and five from Manchester Airport.

Commenting on the partnership, Ali Saleh, Vice President, Alliances and Partnerships at Etihad Airways, said, "This is a tremendous product, which provides convenient rail or coach connections at some of our key gateways in Europe, enabling customers to commence their Etihad journey from multiple domestic points with the best fares available, all on the same itinerary and ticket.

"As we aim to personalise the guest experience in-flight by providing more choice and greater customisation, we continue to source more strategic partnerships which will mirror this on the ground, giving options and benefits to the many who choose to travel with us in Europe. We soon hope to expand the partnership with AccesRail to more continents."

Etihad Airways has operated a similar agreement with France's SNCF, providing codeshare services to 20 destinations on the French domestic rail network from the airline's Paris gateway.

For his part, Andrew Popescu, Vice President Business Development of AccesRail, said: "We are excited to be deepening our Etihad-AccesRail cooperation and look forward to continuing with Etihad on a global scale. Through this enhanced AccesRail partnership, Etihad will be able, now and in the future, to offer its customers more destinations and more possibilities."

In operation for more than 20 years, Montreal-headquartered AccesRail is present on most global distribution system, GDS, and partnering with major rail companies in Europe, USA, Canada, Korea, and Japan, making it possible for customers to book and purchase air and rail travel on the same itinerary.


New approved plans to reopen private schools in Abu Dhabi with physical attendance

The Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Committee for COVID-19 pandemic, in coordination with the Department of Education and Knowledge, ADEK, has approved plans to reopen private schools with physical attendance for the new academic year.

This allows parents and students to opt for online learning for the whole first term of the upcoming academic year, subject to prior coordination with the schools, an ADEK press release said on Sunday.

The committee also approved strict health and preventative measures, along with a new compliance policy for all private schools in Abu Dhabi. The policy also stipulates having a no-objection certificate from ADEK before reopening schools.

At the start of reopening, ADEK will coordinate with schools to conduct COVID-19 testing for all teaching staff and students above ages 12.

ADEK has approved the five models for private schools in Abu Dhabi to implement physical attendance, including policies and guidelines to analyse physical capacity.

The models are: Full in-class (face-to-face) learning: with students going to school every day; Partial in-class (face-to-face) learning: students to go to school every day but for half a day; and Alternating days: two days a week for in-class (face-to-face) learning.

Also, Alternating weeks: two weeks for in-class (face-to-face) learning, and two weeks for online learning each month; as well as Hybrid model: in-class (face-to-face) learning for two days, and three days for online learning for the first week, and three days for in-class (face-to-face) learning and two days for online learning for the following week.

Students' return to the classroom in-person will be staggered. Students starting in KG1/FS2 to Grade 5/Year 6 will return in-person from the first day of school. All other grades/years will return in-person four weeks after school starts.

This will enable schools to monitor and evaluate how students adapt and respond to the measures in place, and plan accordingly for the return of other students.

Starting from next week, an ADEK compliance team will visit all 205 private schools to evaluate their readiness for reopening and compliance with all guidelines, in order to approve the reopening.

At the start of reopening, the ADEK compliance team will conduct regular field visits to all private schools to conduct risk assessments. Non-compliant schools will face warnings, penalties and even school closures if deemed necessary.

A dedicated compliance hotline 800ADEK (800 2335) has been set up for parents and teaching staff to report any complaints and compliance issues. ADEK is set to investigate all complaints registered, said the press release.


Coronavirus: Four more parks to reopen in Al Ain as restrictions ease

Four public parks in Al Ain have been given the green-light to reopen as part of a phased plan to ease Covid-19 restrictions at leisure spots.

Abu Dhabi's Department of Municipalities and Transport revealed Al Waqin Park, Al Shuwaib Park, Al Basra Ladies' Park and Al Aamerah Park can now welcome back visitors.

Parks and beaches across the Emirates were closed to the public in March to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Authorities have gradually resumed operations at many attractions in the months since, with safety measures in place.

In July, nine public parks in Abu Dhabi were granted approval to reopen at 40 per cent capacity.

Officials said thermal cameras would be placed at entrances to check the temperature of the visitors.

A maximum of five people were allowed per group and all must wear face masks.


AXA Gulf offers Covid-19 cover for travel policies

In response to a growing demand from travellers, AXA Gulf, one of the largest international insurers in the GCC, has introduced a cover for Covid-19 to all its travel insurance policies.

The insurer has moved quickly to adapt its travel cover after research from IATA (International Air Transport Association) revealed that 44% of travellers would increase their likelihood to start flying again if Covid-19 insurance was made available, said a statement.

As travel restrictions are relaxed, customers are looking to get away and an increasing number of destinations are opening up to them. AXA has identified the top 10 countries where visitors are not required to quarantine, and the good news is there's something for everyone.

The countries are: Seychelles; Greece; Tanzania; Bulgaria; Czech Republic; Italy; Croatia; Kenya; Indonesia and Austria.

For anyone testing positive AXA's travel policies now include the cost of Covid-19 emergency medical expenses and the insurer will also meet expenses associated with the rescheduling of a return flight caused as a result of the virus, the statement said.

Franck Heimburger, Chief Personal Lines Officer at AXA Gulf, said: "Covid-19 has had an unprecedented impact on global travel and with many people in the region spending time in isolation over the last few months, it's no surprise that they are eager to travel and seek a change of scenery. Vacations and travel are clearly a top priority post-lockdown purchase for many people and in line with our purpose to protect what matters, it made sense to provide the necessary peace of mind to those individuals and families looking to travel safely.

"As one of the largest global insurers, our team is available around the clock for any medical emergency assistance you may need worldwide."

AXA will reimburse its travel insurance policy holders for an amount of up to $5,000 for irrecoverable travel costs. Should customers find themselves having to be placed in quarantine whilst overseas, the insurer will pay up to $100 per day for a maximum of 15 days if they cannot isolate themselves safely in their booked accommodation, it said. - TradeArabia News Service


UAE villa, townhomes in demand as Covid curbs ease, says expert

As Covid-19 movement restrictions ease and residents embrace the 'new normal,' the UAE's real estate sector is set to witness a significant change with more and more tenants moving into villa/townhouses from apartments, according to Colliers, a global leader in commercial real estate services.

With working-from-home gaining popularity as companies' and employee's realise its advantages - a study room/ working space is now as essential as a bedroom or a kitchen, it stated.

Additionally, young professionals/students occupying studio units are looking for flexible unit design, with extended/ built-in workspaces to accommodate both living and studying spaces.

With the country now easing movement restrictions, tenants and homeowners will be gradually move into the 'new normal' where community and open space are in proximity; a change from a "nice to have" to "must have" as it becomes an extended part of the home/work life, stated Colliers.

Alfresco dinning, cafes and restaurants will extend from serving a socialisation need to encompass the role of workstations/ virtual meeting rooms empowering the work from anywhere concept.

Colliers 2017 research suggested that walkability within a residential community increased home values up to 9%, while a park/garden view can achieve a 4% - 6% price premium.

Moving forward, it is likely that residential communities without open and green spaces will diminish in attractiveness and demand, it added.

Historically in Dubai, most, if not all, villa/townhouse communities are built with communal parks, play areas and pools, according to Colliers.

However, as the purchaser profile moved towards affordable units, developers adjusted their projects footprints. The result has been a reduction in plot size, BUA and communal spaces, it pointed out.

The mature villa communities, such as Emirates Living, Arabian Ranches 1, Jumeirah islands, Jumeirah Park and The Villa project developments generally have large plot sizes, comparatively high BUA and significant parks, play areas, lakes and other community facilities.

However, the newer wave of developments which have been released into the market since 2016, are targeting customers looking for affordability such as Mira, Townsquare, Arabella, Serena and phases of Dubai Hills, it stated.

These communities have built a large proportion of townhouse style properties with reduced plot sizes and included more rooms of a smaller size into the layout. They also cut back on lakes, large parks and have reduced the sizes of communal swimming pools and play areas.

The latest developments, Maple, Sidra, Arabella amongst others, have further reduced the communal spaces including the areas around the communal pools and reduced the width of paths, it added.

According to Colliers, the coronvirus has had an enormous impact on the world's economy. The long-term impact is presently hard to quantify; however, the global economic recession is expected to change the future consumer preferences across the real estate sector including the residential market, it stated.

A survey was recently carried out by the real estate expert in Dubai to assess the impact of Covid-19 on the residential market. The following were its key findings:

In post Covid scenario, communities will start to become more of a place called 'home' rather than being a temporary transitional place where people often come and go, this is also something that could be linked to the increase in renovation culture, stated the expert.

Colliers pointed out that as a result of remote working and distance learning, the layout and design of a home should be flexible to convert living space into office space and vice-versa to suit both working parents and children studying at home.

Both remote working/distance learning are expected to become the "new normal" in the foreseeable future, thus flexibility is also expected to remain one of the key features desired in future homes.

Flexibility is not just confined to provision of office/distance learning space, but conversion of living area / bedroom to children play area, stated the top industry expert.

New pragmatic approach will be required in home designing and especially in interior designing, focusing on 'modular wall systems, it added.- TradeArabia News Service


UAE approves 'work from home' for mothers as schools reopen

Mothers with children in grade six and below or those with children of determination are permitted to work remotely from home so that they can monitor and take care of their kids during the e-learning classes, reported state news agency Wam, citing the Federal Authority for Government and Human Resources (FAHR) sources.

The decision has been issued based on the UAE cabinet resolution to ensure balance between meeting business requirements and helping families fulfill the requirements of distance education for their children due to the Covid-19 pandemic in a way that supports the education drive in line with the directives of the UAE leadership, it added.


Dubai Metro Red Line stations upgrade work 40c complete

Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said steady progress was being made on the Dubai Metro Red Line upgradation project work with the Dubai Internet City, Damac Properties, and UAE Exchange stations nearing 40 per cent completion.

The scope of works include the construction of an additional Western entrance at Dubai Internet City station and improving the link between Damac Properties station and Dubai Marina Tram station to cope with the growing number of passengers, especially during the morning and evening peak hours.

An additional Eastern entrance will be built at UAE Exchange station to ease the arrival of passengers at the station, said the statement from RTA.

Civil works will also be made at the Eastern and Western sides of the station's entrances to improve the integration of transit means and the accessibility of metro stations. The work also includes the construction of pedestrian crossings, shaded rest areas, landscaping and signage, it added.

"The improvement of stations along with the surrounding infrastructure aims to bring happiness to commuters and enhance the experience of pedestrians and cyclists, besides providing safe and smooth mobility for people of determination," remarked Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer, the Director-General and Chairman of the Board of RTA Executive Directors.

"This project is part of a master plan to improve the infrastructure of 40 metro and marine transport stations by 2025. The plan calls for improving the link between the stations and the surrounding urban and tourist destinations in a radius of 500 metres," stated Al Tayer.

"It also ensures safe and smooth accessibility of those areas to pedestrians, cyclists and drivers," he noted.

"The selection of those stations was based on several criteria such as the number of passengers, number of people of determination users, population density, geographical distribution in the surrounding areas, and the number of mobility journeys between transit means," he added.- TradeArabia News Service


Historic Israel-UAE flight lands in Abu Dhabi

A US-Israeli delegation, led by Jared Kushner, Senior Adviser to US President Donald Trump, arrived at the presidential airport in Abu Dhabi on Monday, reported Emirates News Agency (WAM).

The delegation left on Monday morning on board the first Israeli commercial plane to UAE, on which the word "peace" was printed in Arabic, English and Hebrew above a cockpit window. The plane landed in the UAE capital Monday afternoon.

The delegation, comprised of representatives from the investment, finance, health, civil space and aviation, foreign policy, diplomacy, tourism, and culture sectors, will meet with a number of representatives of UAE government agencies to discuss ways to develop relations in related fields and promote joint action and opportunities for cooperation.

The meeting will touch on ways to promote joint action and opportunities for prospects of cooperation


Oman real estate market 'under pressure' over low oil, Covid

The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and lower oil prices will place both the residential and office space rental sectors in Oman's capital Muscat under further pressure over the coming months, according to leading global real estate advisors Savills.

As a result of this twin effect, Savills expects to see increasingly challenging economic conditions and an acceleration of the exodus of the expatriate population.

Market conditions in both the residential and office space rental sectors in Muscat were already in slowdown/recession prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, it cautioned in its latest market report for Oman.

The report highlights the historic correlation between Oman's GDP trends and movement in oil prices, and an assessment of the impact of macroeconomic conditions on the real estate sector. It also offers an in-depth analysis of the office and residential rental markets, and the impacts of Covid-19.

According to Savills, the total population of Oman grew from 3.6 million in 2012 to 4.6 million in 2016 and has levelled off since then.

This growth was driven primarily by the expatriate population which grew from 1.5 million in 2012 to 2.1 million in 2016, it stated.

Current evidence suggest that a net exodus of highly qualified expatriates began in 2016 due to economic conditions and increasing restrictions on expatriate employment. The number of highly qualified expatriates dropped by 17.6% between 2016 to Q1 2020 while the total number of expatriate employees dropped by 6.8% during the same period.

Savills expects that the reduction in the expatriate population will be accelerated by recent events.

Ihsan Kharouf, the Head of Savills Oman, said: "Expatriates play a significant role in influencing demand for real estate. Market conditions in both the residential and office space rental sectors in Muscat were already in slowdown/recession prior to the Covid-19 pandemic as a result of slow economic growth and negligible net population growth."

"The ongoing pandemic has further deteriorated the economic landscape. While the longer-term impacts of the pandemic on the sector are currently unclear, it is evident that there will be increasing challenges over the coming months, he explained.

According to Ihsan, recent years have seen a gradual decline in achievable rental values in Muscat as a result of increasing supply relative to moderate demand.

Savills estimates that there is currently around 350,000 sq m of better-quality office space for the rental market in Muscat with a further 100,000 sqm of office space under construction between Qurum and Muscat Hills which is due to be completed in the coming 12 to 18 months.

In Savills' experience, the majority of recent demand has been focused on smaller, fully finished office units with around 90% of demand coming from companies with an existing presence in Oman: demand from new market entrants has been limited.

The longer-term impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and lower oil prices on the office rental market in Muscat will only become clear over the coming months but the sector is highly likely to experience downward pressure in terms of both demand and achievable rental values in the short term.

With rental values at historically low levels, however, Savills considers that landlords are increasingly likely to agree to incentives such as extended initial rent-free periods and/or assistance with office fit-outs for shell & core space rather than notable further drops in rental values.

Good car parking and property management will remain key features in attracting and retaining tenants.

On the Muscat residential rental market, Savills said it has also seen a notable increase in supply over recent years, although the supply of mid to higher grade apartments with facilities and compound townhouses/villas remains relatively limited.

"The residential rental market in Muscat is driven by expatriates and the drop-in expatriate numbers since 2017 has resulted in a shrinking market size for residential rental properties," remarked Kharouf.

"As a result, realistically achievable rental values for better quality apartments were generally around 30% to 40% lower at the end of 2019 in comparison to 2014. In comparison, rental values for villas and townhouses in the prime locations of Shatti Al Qurum, Muscat Hills and Al Mouj saw greater resilience," he said.

"While better quality residential units are likely to show a more stable performance, the expected drop in the number of expatriates in Muscat over the coming months will place the residential market under increased downward pressure in terms of both reduced demand and achievable rental values, he explained.

"Savills does, however, foresee potential interest from existing tenants to look to upgrade from their existing rental property at more affordable values," he added.- TradeArabia News Service


Oman: Third mobile service provider to operate soon

A third mobile services provider will be ready to begin services in Oman by next year, the Ministry of Transport, Communication and Information Technology said.

Responding to a tweet, the Ministry said, "It is hoped that the third operator will be ready to start providing services during 2021."

In September last year, Oman Future Telecommunications Company signed a strategic partner agreement with Vodafone to establish the third mobile operator in the Sultanate.


Kuwait housing authority working on $3.26bn projects

Kuwait's Public Authority for Housing Welfare (PAHW) is currently working on 43 projects worth over KD1 billion ($3.26 billion) - ranging from plot projects, homes and services and public buildings and also road projects for residential cities, reported Arab Times.

These contracts include the construction of 1,040 apartments, 509 homes, and 31,548 housing plots.

The public buildings include the construction of 18 kindergartens, 38 schools, 58 mosques, 58 housing units for imams and muezzins, 5 suburban centers, 4 central markets, 34 groups of stores, 4 cooking gas branches, and 5 police stations, it stated.

The infrastructure works include the construction of a number of roads complete with lighting, the extension of cables and main and subsidiary power transformer stations, a surface asphalt layer, ground tanks, underground wells, linking alternative services and roads, and building water lines, it added.


Jazeera Airways launches 'Duo Seat'

Jazeera Airways has launched 'Duo Seat' that enables passengers to book the middle seat next to them in addition to their seat when travelling, giving passengers more comfort and security on their flight.

The price of the seat excludes taxes making it an attractive option, with discounts of up to 40% off a regular ticket price. Duo Seat can be booked online at jazeeraairways.com, on the Jazeera App or through travel agents.

Jazeera Airways has taken every safety and precautionary measure on its aircraft and Terminal 5 to ensure passengers fly safely.

Passengers must check-in online and download their boarding pass on the Jazeera App or print it from the website, and are mandated to wear face masks and gloves at all times throughout their journey, an airline statement said, noting that social distancing is in operation throughout Jazeera Terminal 5. - TradeArabia News Service


410,000 civil id cards handed to expats since work resumed

The Director General of the Public Authority for Civil Information (PACI), Musaed Al-Asousi, affirmed that the authority has completed issuing a total of 105,000 visas to all citizens since 20 August, and pointed out that citizens' visas are now issued within 24 hours as long as there are no barriers to issuing the visa or a need for review such as an address change, Al Jarida reports.

Al-Asousi stated that the Commission also issued the last batch of domestic worker visas (Article 20) during the weekend which rose to 26,000 visas, bringing the total of visas issued since the resuming of work on 5 July to approximately 115,000 visas for domestic workers.

As for expatriate visas, Al-Asousi mentioned that 190,000 civil id cards have been issued since work resumed on 5 July, so the total visas issued is 410,000 civil id cards, and the focus next will be on issuing civil id cards for expats in the next phase.

Al-Asousi noted that the Kuwait Mobile ID aims to replace the civil id cards in all transactions in the government and private sector, based on the decision of the Council of Ministers, in addition to other features such as authentication and electronic signature.

Lauding the efforts of all employees of PACI, Al-Asousi thanked them for their great efforts while working for 12 hours a day, from 6 am to 6 pm, to achieve what has been accomplished within 40 working days.


Students in Saudi Arabia begin the new school year with some uncertainty

JEDDAH: Around 6 million school students and half-a-million teachers in Saudi Arabia began the first week of the new academic year virtually on Sunday, but with shared frustration and a difficult start.

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Education (MoE) announced a test launch of its new Madrasati (My school) platform for distance learning last week before the start of the academic year, but many students and teachers have been struggling with their registration since the initial announcement.

A hashtag on the new educational platform was trending in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, where many students, parents, and teachers asked for help or expressed their frustration and confusion.

Secondary school student Mariam Harthi from Jeddah told Arab News that she preferred how things went last semester.

"It was much easier before this platform, we used to arrange everything with the teacher via our Telegram group and attend classes with her on ZOOM or Microsoft Teams, and things were going well. I still cannot register on the new platform and I don't know why yet, although I followed the instructions. Something is wrong," she said.

Secondary school student Saleh Omar from Makkah was able to complete creating his account on the platform, but said he doesn't know how to use it yet.

"Thankfully, I was able to access the platform but I think it is just a matter of time to get used to it, but I know many people who are still struggling, but I think the problem can be fixed before next week."

Many private schools had their own subscriptions to other educational platforms, and have already begun implementing their virtual education experience plan.

Reema Mohammed, a private school teacher in Jeddah, said that her school would begin classes starting Monday this week.

"Our school has experience with such platforms, therefore adapting to the new normal was a bit less challenging for us," she said.

"I think confusion at the beginning of an academic school year is normal. The ministry has offered many other services for teachers that everyone is benefitting from, such as Ein website, YouTube and a number of TV channels. Students can still study until the unified platform is entirely functioning properly with everyone. We will eventually find a solution."

Parents of students starting a new level are the ones finding the current situation the most uncertain.

"My son has just begun his intermediate level this year, and he still does not know anything about his teachers and schedule because I'm not able to use the platform yet," said Maha Hazmi.

"It is a new level and he has to connect with his new school, teachers, and friends. The beginnings of such experiences are important and I hope he starts his first week the right way."

On Saturday, the ministry announced that the first week of this school year will be a trial period so students, parents, and teachers can complete the registration process, get trained on how to use it and receive technical support to set up their accounts and become familiar with the platform.

Students' and teachers' attendance won't be tracked during the first week, though everyone should follow their schedules starting from next week. Madrasati is a free platform that is set to facilitate students' evaluation and communication between teachers and students as well as their parents.

It imitates a normal day at school that begins with the national anthem and some physical exercises before students start their classes.

It also allows teachers to create virtual classes and offers students a wide variety of content including presentations, educational videos, textbooks, exercises, and courses for different levels: Elementary, intermediate, and secondary.

It is one of the ministry's steps in activating and enhancing the distance learning concept nationwide.

Earlier in April, Education Minister Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al Al-Sheikh said distance learning could eventually be a strategic choice for Saudi Arabia and not just an alternative following the coronavirus disease crisis.

"We must adapt, live with the new normal, and estimate future risks that can affect students and that all faculty members may face in various settings," said Al-Sheikh on Friday.


Bahrain publishes new rules on ultimate beneficiaries

The Bahrain Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism (MOICT) has recently passed a resolution concerning the standards, requirements and rules to determine the ultimate beneficiaries (UBO Resolution).

The resolution aims to prescribe rules and guidelines for determining who falls under the definition of an Ultimate Beneficial Owner (UBO). The MOICT has also published supplementary guidance and clarification as to the application of the UBO Resolution, said a statement from Al Tamimi & Company.

With the exception of entities which are licensed and regulated by the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB), the UBO Rules apply to all natural or legal persons who are registered with the MOICT and have a Commercial Registration (CR) (Registered Person(s)). Such will include registered companies as well as branches of foreign companies, it said.

Amongst other obligations, the Registered Person must now provide the MOICT with all prescribed information and copy documents relating to its UBO(s), and has a continuing obligation to update such information and documents immediately (if applicable) upon a change of UBO(s) or their details.

Definition of a UBO

As per Article 3 of the UBO Resolution, any natural person or persons who satisfy any of the following factors will be deemed to qualify as a UBO with respect to any Registered Person:

1. Owning or controlling, directly or indirectly, 10% or more of the Registered Person's capital or voting rights;

2. Having the ability to make or influence decisions of the Registered Person either directly or through other means such as personal communications or through participation in the financing of the project, a family relationship, any contract, arrangement or understandings, or through a hierarchical entity (in the ownership chain of legal entities);

3. Contributing towards the financing of the business of the Registered Entity or its assets or benefiting from the Registered Person's transactions;

4. Having effective ultimate control of the Registered Person through a series of ownership or other control instruments other than direct control;

5. Having direct or indirect control over the operations of the Registered Person, whether through a management agreement, power of attorney or similar instrument;

6. Where the Registered Person is an entity owned by another entity, then the UBO is the natural person who is the ultimate owner of the ownership chain or who has effective control over it; and/or

7. Exercising control through management positions within the Registered Person in such a way as affects the strategic decisions or influences the general direction of the Registered Person.

Where with respect to any given Registered Person, the application of the above factors results in there being multiple UBOs, then the relevant information and documents must be submitted to the MOICT with respect to each of the UBOs.

It is also apparent from the MOICT guidance that the same natural person or persons may be the UBO(s) for more than one Registered Person / Commercial Registration (CR).

Submission of UBO information and documents to MOICT

The UBO Rules prescribe a variety of items of information and documents which are to be submitted by a Registered Person to the MOICT with respect to each of its UBOs including the following:

Timeline for submission

For Registered Persons which currently have a Commercial Registration (CR), the UBO information and documents should now be submitted to the MOICT without delay. It is expected that in the near future the MOICT will impose a deadline for existing Registered Persons without registered UBO(s) to submit the information and documents for its UBO(s), failing which sanctions may be imposed by the MOICT.

With respect to persons seeking to register a new Registered Person (for example, establishing a new commercial company) the required UBO information and documents are to be supplied to the MOICT at the time of applying for the Commercial Registration (CR).

In all cases the information and documents are to be uploaded to the Sijilat online portal of the MOICT.

Once submitted to the MOICT, the UBO(s) information and documents shall be valid for one year, with a requirement to confirm (or update) the information and documents annually (or earlier if there is a change in the UBO(s) or their information)

Penalties for non-compliance

Where the Registered Person refuses or fails to provide the MOICT with all required information and documents of the UBO(s) or provides incorrect information or documents, the following sanctions may be imposed by the MOICT:

What you should do next

It is important for your Bahrain based businesses to:

1. Apply the UBO Rules to their business to ascertain the identities of its UBOs

2. Adhere to the obligations imposed on Registered Persons by virtue of the UBO Resolution; and

3. Ensure that the required information and documents are submitted with the MOICT without delay.

How we can help

Al Tamimi & Company, a leading law firm in the Mena region and with strong corporate structuring experience across all industry sectors in the region, is well placed to assess the impact of the UBO Rules on your organisation and to assist you with the relevant application to the MOICT to ensure a successful registration of the UBO(s),a company statement said. - TradeArabia News Service


Bahrain approves new regulations on Flexible Work Permit

Bahrain approved new regulations for issuing the Flexible Work Permit, in order to optimise the work permit system in a manner that strengthens labour market regulations, creates job opportunities for Bahrainis, makes citizens the first choice of employment and preserves the rights of workers.

The new regulations for the flexible work permit policy were approved based on the feedback of the Shura and Representatives Councils and the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), which were shared at meetings held to discuss all available options.

New procedures include intensifying inspection campaigns on flexible work permit holders to ensure that they do not work in professional activities that they may not engage in without obtaining a permit, and intensifying inspection campaigns on irregular workers to take the necessary legal action. Workers who do not comply with the regulatory procedures or who hold a business commercial registration are not allowed to apply for the Flexible Work Permit.

Furthermore, a committee consisting of members from the Ministry of Labour and Social Development, the Ministry of Finance and National Economy, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, the Ministry of Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning, the Ministry of Electricity and Water Affairs, the Labour Market Regulatory Authority, BCCI, and the Education and Training Quality Authority will propose regulatory standards for 20 identified professions and any other professions the committee deems relevant to include.

Recommendations will be shared with the Supreme Council for the Development of Education and Training within two months.

Measures also include barring Flexible Work Permit holders from registering industrial motor vehicles used in construction and transport buses.


Bahrain lifts 10-day quarantine for travelers arriving

Bahrain approved the following measures, effective from 20 August 2020:


Qatar announces changes to labour law including minimum wage

Qatar has scrapped a rule requiring employers' consent to change jobs and said it will also implement a basic monthly minimum wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals ($274).

Sunday's landmark announcement by the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA) is the latest in a series of labour reforms by the country whose treatment of migrant workers and its human rights record have been under the spotlight since it was awarded the hosting of football's 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Under Qatar's "kafala" (Arabic word for sponsorship) system, migrant workers needed to obtain their employer's permission - a no-objection certificate (NOC) - before changing jobs, a law that rights activists said tied their presence in the country to their employers and led to abuse and exploitation.

With the announcement, migrant workers can now change jobs before the end of their contract subject to a notice period.

How wage abuse is hurting Qatar's migrant workers

"Either party must provide one month written notice in the first two years of the contract or two months' notice beyond the second year of the contract," the MADLSA said in a statement.

It added that the ministry will be "working with employers to update all employment contracts where workers earn less than the amount established by the new law [minimum wage], which will come into force after 6 months of its publication in the official gazette".

Earlier this month, Al Jazeera reported how migrant workers said they were struggling to survive in Qatar due to salary delays, non-payment of dues and NOC restrictions.

A report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the country's "efforts to protect migrant workers' right to accurate and timely wages have largely proven unsuccessful".

Addressing these issues, the MADLSA statement added: "As part of our efforts to boost the effectiveness of the Wage Protection System, the new amendments . prescribe stricter penalties for employers who fail to pay their workers' wages and introduce penalties for employers who fail to provide adequate accommodation for their workers."

In addition to the minimum wage, the ministry has also announced the provision of 500 riyals ($137) for accommodation and 300 riyals ($82.2) for food if those expenses are not provided as part of the contract.

The new laws have been welcomed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) which described the announcement as a "huge milestone in labour reform agenda for the state of Qatar".

"The NOC was the last problematic part of the kafala system, this power imbalance that was created between an employee and the sponsor will no longer be there," Houtan Homayounpour, head of the ILO project office for Qatar, told Al Jazeera.

"This will benefit workers, employer and the country. Employers will be able to look for workers that really match the job they have to offer and workers will be able to look for jobs that are more appropriate for them. This really dismantles the kafala system.

"The minimum wage law change really ensures a minimum standard of living and working for all workers from all over the world in all sectors."

Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, described the development as "a new dawn for migrant workers in Qatar to have a fair system, to end the kafala system and normalise contracts with appropriate provisions".

"It has been a long journey," she added. "Frankly it will make the World Cup a much more secure environment for workers knowing that they have secured an industrialised work relations system."

Mobility Management Middle East

Middle East:
Saudi Arabia

Ivory Coast

Other Countries: