Monday, March 23, 2009

Just like Vegas....well almost....

The fountains have started working properly! You may remember me mentioning that Dubai has paid to have the world's biggest fountain (of course, why bother with a piddly effort) and even enlisted the help of the designers of the Bellagio fountains in Vegas to make sure that we don't have anything shoddy.
They've been testing them on and off recently on my walk home from work, but this weekend, I saw them in full effect. And they're pretty impressive! Lots of water (natch), lights and music. I couldn't hear this properly from my vantage point, but I caught a whiff of soft rock wafting over the water. No need! Still, the fountains are pretty, if you like that sort of thing. You can see my efforts at taking photos here. That huge beast inthe background that the light is reflecting off is the Burj.

Weird Weather

We’re in the middle of a huge sandstorm at the moment. It does exactly what it says on the tin: very very high winds, (I had to rescue the washing from the balcony this morning where some of my smalls were threatening to fling themselves off and onto the pool below – imagine the shame!) combined with a lot of sand being flung into the air.

This means that visibility on the roads – or anywhere – is very bad, and on leaving the apartment this morning I had half a ton of sand:

a) in my hair
b) in my eyes
c) in my lipgloss

Not a good look! I abandoned the usual walk to work and hailed a cab. On arrival at the office I looked like a crazed afghan hound that’s had a particularly vigorous walk on the beach. Nice!

News Travels....

Word travels very fast in Dubai, and you can discover news through all sorts of mediums. One quick way to know if anyone in the ruling family has died is via radio. Not by an announcement, but by the fact that all stations suddenly switch to classical music.

This happened this morning to colleagues on their way to Abu Dhabi. As soon as the switch happened they called us in the office. We then called media contacts, who told us that the uncle of General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum had passed away. Sometimes this means an immediate day's holiday (it’s decided by rank). On this occasion, no holiday. Boo!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ain't No Building High Enough!

They're keen on tall buildings here in Dubai. this weekend I discovered another one - the Harbour Hotel down at the Marina. Not the most spectacular of buildings (although Posh and Becks did deign to enter when he was here with AC Milan) but the view from the 52nd floor is pretty impressive.

As the hotel is situated at the edge of the Marina, you get to see all the other towers at that end, boats in the yacht club, and look back towards the creek - all from one location. It was a hazy day - not that the sandstorm stopped me lying by the pool in the morning - I'm British, take more than that to put me off! this meant that the view wasn't super-clear, but it was still very impressive.

To help proceedings along, there's a happy hour every day, with half price wine and delish food. The baked camembert (with rosemary and honey) was to die for.
The problem is that every time I venture anywhere new here, it then becomes a 'must-do'. Which means it becomes very hard to decide where to go when time is limited. Decisions, decisions.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Greetings, indeed.

I'm getting used to the weird and wonderful prices of things here in Dubai. Some things (local fruit and veg) are amazingly cheap. 30p for 6 limes. Bargain! Othere things are horrendously expensive, with no real rhyme or reason.
Take for example, greetings cards. I stopped off at the local card shop on the way home to buy four cards last night. Guess how much they cost. go, on, guess. TWENTY QUID!!!!! YES, TWENTY QUID!!!!!!! And these were not gorgeous, handmade jobs a la Paperchase that you don't mind paying a bit more for. These were very simple, bog standard Clinton-card style ones. A scandal. And to add insult to injury, you have maybe a 50/50 chance of them actuaolly getting to the UK thanks to the ridiculously bad postal system. Great! Perhaps this is my chance to start up my own business??!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I was once told (twice in a week, no less) that I looked like Claire from Steps. I was outraged, of course. My friends thought that this was hi-la-rious.
Then the poor girl piled on the pounds (and that's being kind - I think she actually put on 5 stone. Bless) whch made me really hope that the resemblance was no more.
She lost all the weight, brought out a dvd to celebrate said fact, but is now getting slated in the Daily Mail (of course) for putting some of it back on. Poor lass. Leave her alone!

And no I don't look like her. Do I??????

A treat..

As I'm having a rare week of being in Dubai (there was nearly a last minute dash to Qatar, but it was cancelled) I've been able to enjoy a rare daily treat - eating lunch outside in the sunshine. I rarely have time to leave my desk during the day, but this week I've made a special effort to get away and enjoy some fresh air. It's heating up nicely out there - making sitting in the shade a necessity. yesterday I even had an ice-cream! It's the little things, as always, that keep me happy.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The High Cost Seas

There you are, living your life, feeling good about things. Trying to overpay on your mortgage, save cash for a rainy day, enjoying the odd splurge in the shops. I’m doing good, you say to yourself.

Then you go to Dubai International Boat Show, where a decent boat starts from…….9 million quid. And that’s just for the small ones! I’ve never been particularly interested in boats, but this event started to change my mind. Each and every one looked like it should be in a Biggy Smalls/J-Lo video, complete with girls bogling in gold bikinis.

They did let the great unwashed onto some of them for a quick look round. And they’re gorgeous. All curved edges, kitchens which you’d kill to have in your house never mind a boat, and (this tickled me the most) washing machines!

Of course, if you’re in the market for a boat, then you may also have more money than sense to rinse on other frippery, which meant that as well as boats there were toys such as what I can only describe as a ‘jet-pack hovering machine’, and lots of accessories (all gold, of course.) A very interesting window into a completely different world.

Just as I was ready to fling myself into the marina there and then wailing: “Why me! Why am I so poor!?” I was reminded of my favourite quote from the billionaire Felix Dennis.

“If it floats, flies or fornicates: rent it, don’t buy it.” Ok then. I just need to find a thousand quid to rent one for two hours……

Long Overdue

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve lived in Dubai for almost nine months but have never been to a nightclub. Of course I’ve been to various bars and late night eateries, but in terms of an actual, real life, ass shaking club: zilch. A combination of being just too danged tired at the weekend and prioritizing my spare time so that hangovers don’t ruin my ability to lie in 40 degree heat the next day have meant that clubs really haven’t been top of my ‘to-do list’ God I’m old.

Anyway, that all changed this weekend. I finally got off my backside and ventured out. And what a night it was.

Here are some rules about nightclubs in Dubai:

1) Don’t arrive before midnight. If you do you’ll not only look overeager and keen, you’ll be the only one in there. The party starts late in Dubai.
2) If you don’t arrive in a couple, at least try to pretend you are in the queue. They don’t take kindly to groups of guys and won’t let you in if that’s how you arrive.
3) Despite this, once in the club, men will outnumber women by about 3 to 1. Bizarre.
4) Wearing sunglasses in the club is NOT pretentious, in fact it is positively encouraged. You won’t look like a txt, honest (!)

So, onto the night. After some very civilized drinks in a local bar we set off for the club. It followed the same principles of clubs the world over – a few different themed rooms which people roam between. The first thing I realized was that I needed to be much, much drunker if I was going to make it through the night, so decided to tackle this issue head on: with neat liquor.

The first room: indie. Is it just me, or has music got really loud in these places? It was all I could do to make the barman understand my bellowing of the word ‘sambuca’.
The second room: ‘urban’. Do not mistake this for hip hop, dear reader. Instead it was a mish mash of the kind of dire rnb that you might hear on any middle of the road radio station. Despite this, I did find myself on the dance floor. When in Rome….
The third room: house. Best left unmentioned. Some VERY dodgy dancing and outfits in here.
The fourth room (although not technically a room, more a huge outdoor ampitheatre type thing): cheesy 80’s pop.

It was at this point that I realised quite how leathered everyone in the club was – and part of the reason why – the Rugby 7’s World Cup had just ended that evening meaning that a large proportion of the revelers had been drinking all day. Judging by the state of them this is not advisable.

Anyway it was all amusing, in fact more than that, one of those rare hysterical nights where you spend most of your time laughing. You know you’ve had a good night when your first memory the morning after is of dancing to Whitney (I am not ashamed of this – and can I just say – there were LOTS of boys dancing too.) It’s not something I’d want to every weekend, but it definitely needs to be repeated.

Another Day in the Desert

So this weekend I fancied something a little different from the pool/beach combo which is such a favourite of mine. Instead I headed out into the desert. But not any old bit of barren (but beautiful) desert, a gorgeous resort called Bab Al Shams (can anyone tell me what this means??)

This involved driving out into the middle of nowhere for about an hour (and getting ever so slightly lost en route) until out of the sand rises what looks a bit like a small fortress. Once inside you meander through leafy pathways until you arrive at the most gorgeous pool area and collapse on a sun lounger for…well, about 8 hours actually (after paying the equivalent of 50 quid for this treat, you want to get your money’s worth!). Oh – and one point on the sun loungers – I swear that each one is bigger than the signle bed I used to sleep in when I lived at home with my parents. Huge! And vvv comfy.

It was quite windy on Friday but this didn’t put me off a full day’s worth of sunning. By lunchtime it was feeling pretty scorchio – they’d already started chilling the pool so this meant that there was a lot of squeaking (and not just from me it was quite comical watching other random members of the public as they strolled unawares and flopped themselves into the icy water, only to hear their howls of horror as they realised how utterly freezing it was.)

Lunchtime meant one thing only; time to unleash myself onto the ENORMOUS buffet. Food as far as the eye can see so as usual, I stuffed myself stupid. The chocolate fountain/ice cream making may have been a step too far, but what can you do?

After this there was really only one thing left to do – collapse back onto the sunlounger and snooze for the next two hours. Waking only to ferret through trashy celebrity gossip magazines and plan the night ahead.

My last task was to listen to Mr Kanye West singing about ‘The Good Life’ whilst watching the sun begin to go down. A fitting end to a divine day.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Wire - The Drama Continues

We've just finished series three of The Wire. I'll try not to ruin it but i was devasteted when you know who got gunned down! The story has more twists and turns than the Big One in Blackpool and I was quite literally open mouthed as some parts of the plot unfolded. Gripping is not the word.
Next will be series four and five. I'm not sure how they can continue it to the same standard after series three. It was just too good. But I'm already looking forward to finding out!

Fountain of Noise

It's amazing the progress that Dubai is making - none more obvious than in our local vicinity. We're within spitting distance of Dubai Mall, which was (and still is, in parts) a building site when we arrived almost a year ago. Now the mall is open and the area around it has not only been excavated and developed, but they've turned it into a huge lake!

The centrepiece of this lake will be an enormous fountain, designed by the folks who created the gravity defying water displays at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Only this being Dubai, this fountain will be much, much bigger than the Bellagio's. I walk over the lake each night on my way home from work and have watched its progress with much interest.

I saw the army of Indian workers as they laid the foundations, painted the bottom of the lake blue (no, really. How else do you get sparkling blue water?!) and then as they installed the lights and fountain techy bits. My favourite part so far has been watching them as they get into dinghys and poke bits (I presume this is some sort of technical check?!) with sticks.

One night they had a very small part of it actually working. It was a very small jet of water but exciting nonetheless. When finished it will be an absolute beast and shoot water 500 feet into the air. God help the people who live in the apartments next to it when it starts in full flow.

Mall of the Empty

Ah, the final stretch of the week. The weekend approaches! It’s been nice to spend a week in Dubai, without any of the stress of trips of planes, trains and automobiles. It’s been a busy week with a pitch, client meetings – the usual. One thing which has really helped me to keep the stress levels down has been walking. It is warming up here so I can see that in a month this might no longer be feasible, but as yet I’m enjoying my daily strolls to and from work.

My route takes me though the world’s biggest mall, and I remain fascinated by how deathly quiet it remains each evening when I’m walking home. Malls in Dubai are very social places. Whereas we in the UK would never dream of meeting up and hanging out in the Arndale all day/night, this is completely normal here. And it’s not just teenagers, whole families will meet up, walk around (maids behind them carrying any shopping), children either in pushchairs, or more often, running riot along the walkways.

So when I’m walking through at 7 pm, you would normally expect to see groups of families, as well as the usual shoppers. And whilst there are some people in the mall, it’s pretty deserted each night. Added to this the fact that a large proportion of the shops haven’t yet opened, and are showing no signs of developing behind their designer hoardings (Louis Vuitton, Fendi to name but a few) and you have to wonder, how on earth is this place staying afloat. The rents are enormous, apparently.

It’s s situation that I’m watching with interest, as I scoot through each day.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Chill Wind

I really don't wish to gloat, and goodness knows the weather can be odd here at the moment (we're currently experience very high winds and sandstorms - see pic) but when I read this about the UK weather, I was reminded of my main reason for leaving the UK. How can I ever live through that sort of cold, wet, and utterly miserable weather again?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Long weekend?

Some debate here about whether or not we’ll have a public holiday, and thus, a long weekend this week. The actual holiday is a Monday, but it’s been moved to a Sunday (nice 3 days off) but ONLY for the public sector.
The private sector is getting….wait for it….Saturday off. Hmmm, but Saturday is already the weekend I hear you cry. That’s the crazy world of the Middle East. The powers that be may yet change their minds so we’re all wondering what will happen. The annoying thing is it means that you can’t plan anything with any confidence i.e a weekend break, in case they change their minds again. Bah!