Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Infamous Brunch.....

Brunch. Such an innocuous word. Before I came to Dubai it conjured up images of a good old English fry-up, usually on a Sunday, with friends dissecting the antics of the night before. It took about an hour or so in one of Manchester's many cafes and greasy spoons.

Now, well. Brunch has a whole different meaning since the infamous beach incident here (see my previous posts). Lots of braying ex-pats draped in streamers drinking straight from the bottle and dancing on tables.

My reasons for bringing up these pre-conceptions....well, we went for brunch this Friday. But before you jump to the wrong conclusion, if the brunch you had imagined was as above, (let's call it the Ford Focus of brunches) you're wrong. We went to the Bentley of brunches, at Nineteen, a restaurant within the most stunning golf club. And I don't like golf.

The golf club in itself is a marvel; so much greenery, in the desert! The restaurant was divine. Quite intimate, dark wood and very grown up. In a refined, not boring way. If the Lowry did brunches then this is what they would be like.

So much food to choose from, and all in little taster dishes so you could try everything. A salad station (and if you can't choose from the hundreds pre-prepared, the chef will create one especially for you, naturally), a cheese/deli station, a seafood station with fresh fish, shellfish, sushi, and then an a la carte main course which you choose from an actual menu.

The food was divine, the service was wonderful, the atmosphere was just right. Free flowing wine, beer and cocktails for three hours, and yet everyone managed to get just the right side of 'refreshed'. No one danced on tables, or performed any indecent acts. Perfect!

I really can't understand why no-one has thought of introducing the brunch concept to England. Then I think of Brits abroad and it makes sense....

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Setting the Record Straight

Judging by the amount of texts and emails I’ve had in recent weeks, everyone in the UK has heard about a young lady called Michelle and an, ahem, indiscretion on a Dubai beach. As I’ve had virtually no free time since I’ve been here to keep up with news in the UK, this article came as a bit of a shock to me when I finally got on-line to see what’s been going on back home.

I have to say this Daily Mail article in particularly (why am I surprised) had me in total shock. I fit a lot of their generalizations – I’m early thirties, work in pr, new to Dubai. But I can honestly say that my life is nothing like the one that is described here – nor is that typical of anyone that I work with or have met so far in the six weeks since I arrived. I’ve been for a couple of these infamous brunches but they have been civilized affairs and more about catching up with people after a very long working week (I worked a 70 hour week last week) and relaxing. Not a binge/booze frenzy at all.

In the main I don’t go out much here nearly as much as I might like, or used to in Manchester – I’m working so much I have no time to and am too exhausted for most of the week.

And in terms of ex-pats not immersing themselves in the culture here, everyone I know has been to visit the Jumeirah mosque which explains more about Islam and it’s background and belief system. I love the melting pot of all cultures here – the advance of Ramadan in September is completely fascinating.

This very sensationalized view no doubt sells papers – much moreso than: ‘well there are some people who over-do it but they are a small minority’, but I still think this is very sad and sloppy journalism. Shame on you Daily Mail.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Thanks Sian!

So, I had afternoon tea at the Burj yesterday. You know, the world’s only 7 star hotel. It’s funny – the first time I saw the Burj, on my very first day in Dubai, I actually squeaked with excitement. It’s absolutely stunning when you get close to it, and being such an internationally iconic building, it is impressive to see it in the flesh.

That was day one. Since then I must have seen it a hundred times. I used to be able to see it from my bedroom window, and I’ve driven past it often. Amazing how quickly one becomes blasé to something so impressive. Oh, there’s the Burj. There’s the Burj again. And again.

But actually paying it a visit, and going inside, well that’s quite an experience. To get to it you actually have to drive across a bridge. Or, of course, land on the helipad on the roof. As I am not a rock star, and hate helicopters (Maggie, remember New York 2006?!), I went for the taxi across the bridge option.

Before you’re allowed across the bridge, your taxi has to pull up at a welcome centre. Here a very nice man checks your booking reference number before you’re allowed in. Well, it keeps the riff raff out. And there was plenty of that – if you are old enough to remember ‘Bros-mania’ or even the scenes when Take That descended on the BBC in the height of their fame, then you can imagine the kinds of crowds that are at the gates. A LOT of tourists taking photos and videoing. (maybe Bros/Take That were actually inside….?)

Across the bridge you then go. The taxi driver, who has clearly done this a thousand times and is not even vaguely impressed, slows down so you can ooh and aah and hang out of the window taking photos. (I have no shame.) We pull up next to a fleet of white Rolls Royce/selection of Ferraris, and other sports cars which I cannot name but look expensive. It feels a bit like being in an MTV base video. A team of staff greet you and you sail inside.

The reception is vast, jaw droppingly gorgeous, if you like the gold and flashy look. How is there any gold left in the world – surely they have purloined it all for this hotel! Up some escalators, pasta lot of fountains, past boutiques selling very expensive diamonds, bags, clothes – and the world’s most expensive mobile phone. (700k of your British Pounds, if you’re interested.)

Into a panoramic lift which zooms up the side of the building at a very rapid rate and delivers you into the Sky bar – that’s the sticky out bit at the back which is level with the helipad at the front. If you’re a fan of afternoon tea at the Lowry, then you’d love this. The food is in a similar vein, lots of gorgeous little treats, sandwiches mini buns, pastries, caked, scones, chocolates. And of course, tea and champagne. I realized very early on that the tight trousers I was wearing were the wrong choice! Elasticated waist next time…

All of which is consumed whilst watching speedboats below, helicopters landing on the helipad, and general people watching in the bar itself. A mixture of tourists and locals (that’s us now, bizarre!) and some people who could have been famous or were just acting like they were.

After a very pleasant 3 plus hours (well it would have been foolish to rush off without a cocktail) we reluctantly left. A golf buggy took us back across the bridge to a taxi – well you can’t walk anywhere after all that food! As a pathetic attempt to curb the excess of the afternoon I did 20 laps in the pool later on.

Sian, we love you, thank you so much!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thank xxxx it’s Thursday!

Did I mention that the working week here is Sunday-Thursday? It has caused me much confusion especially as all diaries in the world seem to run Mon- Sunday! The benefit is that as of today, it’s the weekend!! I’ve been in such a work frenzy that I’ve barely had time to breathe never mind blog.

Anyway, some key milestones have been reached this week. My apartment now contains:
A bed
A sofa
A tv bench
A coffee table
A side table
Pots, pans, crockery dull dull dull

This may not seem like much to you, dear reader, but believe me, coming home to an empty apartment at 9 pm each night after working like wild dog was depressing, to say the least. I am now entering my second month of no tv since I left the UK….it’s a challenge but strangely liberating at the same time. It’s not the progammes I miss so much as the relaxing effect on my brain of bubblegum tv. That’s a lie, I miss the news. Although I did make the mistake of reading a UK newspaper last week – what doom!

Sorting out all of the above whilst working each day, and not knowing my way around Dubai, at all, has been an interesting experience. Also, we have managed to lose the car twice this week in a variety of car parks. Again, this might not seem like a big problem, but when it’s 45 degrees, the humidity has kicked in, it’s 11 pm at night, and you haven’t eaten since breakfast, it’s enough to make you lie on the floor in a heap. Which I did! Ok, I didn’t so much lie down as sit on a kerb, but you get the picture.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Work, Work, Work

Well dear readers. Apologies for the lack of posts. No, I didn’t come to a sticky end on Dubai’s roads – although I’m sure drama is to follow on that subject – I’ve just been insanely busy. And ill – with my first cold in about 5 years. Yes, despite living in one of the hottest places on god’s earth, I have a stinking cold! I blame the enormous air con vent right above my head.

What have I been up to – well working mainly. I went to Abu Dhabi last week for a client meeting. I didn’t see much of Abu Dhabi (it’s about as far as Wolverhampton from Manchester, I think) but it does have the most gorgeous seafront, called the Corniche, where people can walk along (in this heat, the fools!). the drive there is spectacularly dull. There are walls all along the road – to stop camels wandering on!

After our meeting we had dinner in the spectacular Emirates Palace Hotel. The Lebanese food was amazing. The lobster alone was stunning. I made the mistake of stuffing myself in the first ten minutes, not realizing that the selection of 15 dishes were only the starters! We all left with boxes of left-overs to take home. Yum!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Office

Some of you asked for photos of the office - here's a feature which tells you more.

Stay Off the Roads!

People of Dubai, lock your doors and stay inside! Yes, I am biting the bullet and hiring a car today. To be fair my route to work won’t actually involve any main roads as my office is inside the area where we live (think enormous and v posh business park) but as the driving over here is so very hairy, I am still scared. And at some point, I really need to get onto the main roads too so that I can get around in the heat without relying on taxis.

Rules of driving in Dubai as I see them so far:

Drive as fast as you possibly can
Feel free to use your mobile phone at any point
Cut up other drivers frequently
Never use your indicators
Flash your lights at the car in front if is doing anything less than 100 miles an hour (slowcoach!)
If you miss your exit, don’t worry about cutting across 6 lanes of traffic to get to it
In fact, never worry about cutting across 6 lanes of traffic, at high speed, with no indication
Undertake whenever you feel like it
Never allow another driver into your lane, even if their feeder lane is running out and they are driving on wasteland
Don’t queue at roundabouts or traffic lights if there is a bit of dirt track just drive up and overtake people
Take no notice of other cars approaching roundabouts/rights of way, just fling yourself across at will

There are many many more rules which become apparent each day. Add in the fact that the road layout can change on a daily basis, and that the road signs are awful, and you are probably getting a good sense of how insane the situation is. Wish me luck!