At any one time, there are only one or two issues that dominate conversations in the UAE. At the moment, talk is rarely about anything other than the price we pay for rent and the ongoing conflict in Gaza.
For too long, rises in the amount paid to keep a roof over our heads has outstripped inflationary pressures, supply-demand imbalance and annual pay rises.
But there may now be a light at the end of the tunnel, and it was bright enough to attract the highest level of interest to Emirates Business online weekend pages.
Reporters Ryan Harrison and Safura Rahimi wrote of the current confusion in the housing market in the UAE – and concluded tenants have never been in a better to position to renegotiate rents downwards.
The overdue rent cap for 2009 has yet to be announced but Rera unveiled its official rental price index on Wednesday.
At the same time, tenants are downsizing, so stripping away demand for high-end properties, job losses mean more properties are coming onto the market, and newly-completed developments have been coming on-stream.
However, working against tenants is the fact banks and mortgage lenders have tightened their restrictions on new applications, forcing people who were considering taking their first step on the property ladder to remain in the rental feedback loop.
As Firas Maskji, Branch Managing Partner at Dubai-based real estate broker Conqueror, said: "Rent prices have softened and are likely to ease further as traditionally a lot of units are released onto the market by developers at the start of the year.
"Last year, tenants couldn't negotiate rents with landlords, but now they are in a stronger position and are asking for more flexibility on the number of cheques they pay and the rental price." He said a four-bedroom villa in Jumeirah Beach Road four months ago could have been rented for Dh450,000 a year. Now a landlord would be lucky to charge Dh350,000.
All of which, should it transpire, will be nothing but welcome news to tens of thousand of expatriates who choose – and, more recently, struggle – to make the UAE their home.
In other news, and once again making it into the top five of best-read online stories from last weekend, was the ongoing crisis in Gaza (see panel left).
The UAE has made a concerted effort to deliver aid to the impoverished territory, donations are flooding in from across the Arab World, and collections are being made for essentials, such as first aid kits and personal hygiene items.
President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and High Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, last week each ordered 600 homes to be built in Gaza to replace those destroyed by the Israeli armed forces. Our second best-read online story last week recapped more than three pages given over to the economic fallout of Israeli aggression from the previous week. If nothing else, this goes to show the strength of feeling – both empathy towards Palestinians caught up in the violence and antipathy towards the instigators of more than three weeks of bloodshed.