All posts by umar

Seven years in Dubai

This January marks my seven years of living in Dubai.

It might not be a long time for some, but for me it’s a big deal. I have never lived that long at one place. Because my father was in Air Force, we moved to a new place every couple of years when I was a child. When he retired we settled in Karachi where I lived for 4 years until I moved to US for higher education. During my 4 years in US, I lived in Buffalo, New York and Dallas, Texas so it was not 4 years at the same place. Then I moved back to Karachi and lived there for three years until I moved to Dubai. So there you go, a recap of last 15 years of my life. Four countries and four cities.

It’s also an import period of my life as I was newly married when I moved here and now I am a proud father of a 6-year old daughter and a 3-year old son.

It’s also a time when I grew from someone who had nothing to someone who owns a house in Dubai.

Dubai is where I transitioned from twenty-something to thirty-something.

Dubai is from where I traveled to Holland, Germany, Jordan, France, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and rest of the Middle East.

I don’t know how much longer I will in Dubai, but I know that where ever I live, Dubai will always be in my heart. It might not be the best place in the world, but it has treated me well, and for that I will always keep Dubai dear to me.


Maintain your life journal with STEP Journal

Our life on the internet is scattered over so many portals. There is Facebook, of course, but there is also Foursquare, and twitter, and Instagram, and lots of other places where critical information about our life is stored. And then there wearable devices now which also store valuable information about our life.

Many at times, I feel the need to consolidate all information spread across the internet and put it at one place, and look at the big picture.

Don’t you feel the same way?

Well now there is an app for that!

Enter STEP. The app that documents every step of your life.

Please check out the video review above. In short, the app connects with different data sources like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your device’s location data, activities tracking devices, and more. Once you connect the app with these portals, and let it run for a day or so, then you will see the app’s home page showing you different “steps” during your day. You have the option to edit the step in any way you want by including pictures, changing the date, editing the location in the map, or adding notes.

Over time, you will have a complete history of your activities, consolidated from different sources.

You can download the app for Android here.

Try it, and let me know your thoughts.

Kids App – Let’s Play with DingDong

If you are looking for a fun and harmless app to keep your kids occupied for hours and hours, then this app is your answer.

Let’s play with DingDong is a music app for kids which let’s the kids familiarize themselves with different aspects of music in a fun and exciting way.

The app features an animated character called DingDong, who is fond of music. You do different activities with the character, like dress it up, sing songs, play musical instruments, and so on.

While doing these activities, the kid gets familiar with music in a non intrusive way and that’s the beauty of this app.

You can see my detailed review in the above video. I let me daughter play with the app and she loved it. It’s now installed in her own tablet and she plays it every day.

Let me know your comments about this app.

Android Download

Get out of bed with Alarmy

If you are like me, you struggle getting out of the bed in the morning. Even if you have the loudest of the alarms (the rest of the family would hate you because of that, but that’s besides the point). It’s very easy to just snooze the alarm and go back to bed.

If only there could be a way to make me get out of bed when the alarm goes off.

Well, now there is. And it’s called Alarmy.

The concept is out of the box but simple.

Here is how it works.

You set up the alarm normally, but during the setup process you take a picture of any object (ideally as far away from your bed as possible, for example the shower or sink or perhaps the view from your window). Now when the alarm goes off, you cannot turn it off until you take the same picture. This will force you to get out of bed and use your camera, take the picture and turn off the alarm. The result is that you are up and alert. After doing all this there is no way I am going back to bed.

Alarmy is my permanent alarm app. Now I can never be late for work.

Download link for Android

Download link for iOS

Why I purchased property in Dubai

Few years ago I purchased a house in Dubai and I am living in it now, rather happy and satisfied.

I am often asked, why did I decide to buy in Dubai specially when it is considered a very volatile and unstable market for real estate investment. I will try to answer this question in this post.

When I moved to Dubai, I had no option but to rent a place. The property values, or Dubai bubble as some may call it, was at its peak. The rents were super high. But still, I had to rent a place, like many others who live in Dubai. But what bothered me most was that I was paying very high rent to live in this city, and I didn’t know how many years I was going to live here, but at the end of my stay in Dubai I would have nothing to show for it. I probably would have paid hundreds of thousands of dirhams in rent over a decade or so (assuming I was going to live here for 10 years) but I would still be empty handed.

And then the property market crashed. Real estate prices dropped like a stone. Interest rates plummeted. It was a buyer’s market. The banks offered highly attractive deals for a mortgage. So I talked to a bank and applied for a mortgage. Meanwhile I also started looking for a nice apartment or house to purchase. Until that time I wasn’t sure I would actually purchase something, but I wanted to see how to goes.

Turned out luck was on my side. So the bank approved my mortgage application, and I found a beautiful newly constructed town house, perfect for my family and ideally located. I made my offer and the seller accepted it. Rest of the paperwork took a few weeks and before I knew it I found myself moving into my very own house in Dubai. It was surreal!

I have been living in this house for a few years now, and I can say for sure it was one of the best decisions of my life to purchase a property at the peak of a downturn. It was a big risk but it was well worth it. The peace of mind is just priceless. I don’t have to worry about rent increases, finding and moving to a new place every couple of years, the stress and hassle of moving, and settling down all over again. Many of my friends are still doing it.

The two biggest factors that influenced my decision to purchase were:

1. I was paying the rent anyway. So why not pay the bank in form of mortgage and have this peace of mind that my money is not going to waste. I can sell my property and get my money bank. The fact that property value has more than doubled since the downturn means I will earn a decent profit when I sell it. I can even rent it out and live off the rent since mortgage payments are so low because of low interest rate, I will be left with enough cash even after paying the mortgage.

2. There are no property taxes in Dubai. And despite all the speculations, it is a pretty safe form of investment. The property value in Dubai will only increase in long term. Yes, there might be some minor corrections here and there, but in the long term the value will not be lower than what I purchased at.

If you ask me, I would say If you have enough money to pay the down payment, and if your mortgage is going to be more or less same as what you are paying as rent, then go for a purchase. Another factor is if you are planning to live in Dubai for long term then it makes most sense to buy your own property and sell it when you leave, for a decent profit.

Needless to say, the above circumstances might not apply to you. So do your own research and analysis before making a decision.