Tuesday, October 20, 2009

To Sleep, Perchance to.....

I don't know what it is, but ever since I moved to Dubai, I've had the most insane and random dreams. In the main they're just extremely odd and unbelievably vivid, but sometimes they're horrific nightmares. I've no idea what causes them, and I can't say for sure that they're caused by Dubai, but I know I never experienced anything like this back in the UK. Here's a quick snapshot of some recent bizarre night time dream topics:

  • Bats (a bat, living in my bedroom)
  • Clowns (the hideous clown from the Stephen King 'IT' film. Eurgh)
  • Snow
  • Donkeys (one was giving birth and I was assisting)
  • Strictly Come Dancing (having an affair with Brian Fortuna)
  • Plane crash (which I was on)
  • Stephen Gately (I was there with Boyzone when Ronan Keating confessed he murdered him. Note to self: is this a premonition?!)
  • Cats in Car Chase (Frank clinging onto the back of a car with me in hot pursuit)

I like a good dream as much as the next person, but this is starting to get ridiculous.

"Hello...is that the loony bin? You've come to take me away, you say?? OK, I'll come quietly."

Give me strength!

Jog On!

Here’s a tip: after a month of zero exercise, an hour of gruelling boxing bootcamp might not be the best way to ease yourself back into mobility. But, never one to do things by halves, that’s exactly what I did last night.

You may remember that during Ramadan I was a lean mean gym machine, with at least four visits a week under my belt. Fast forward to normal working hours, where leaving the office at 7.30 pm is standard procedure, and my gym visits have dwindled somewhat. Call me old-fashioned, but after a long day I’m reaching for friends/wine/dinner, not the gym kit. Are you with me?!

The beauty of Dubai is that now the weather is getting colder (and by cold, I mean 34 during the day) it means that the evenings are positively gorgeous – 29 degrees last night. This means that all sorts of outdoor exercise and activity is now an option. Hence the bootcamp. There’s lots of these here – on the beach, in parks, all offering the chance to train in the fresh air (and in pubic view, which is why I’ve avoided them for so long.) But, to be fair, I have to say last night was an absolute hoot. I spent a large proportion of it laughing til I cried..(or was that the pain?)....

Yes, the first ten minutes were utter hell (my body really isn’t used to punching and kicking the living daylights out of someone after a 12 hour day) but we soon got the hang of it. Going with the girls made it all the more hilarious (what goes on at bootcamp, stays at bootcamp.) James, the cute burly instructor, did make a few sympathetic comments about our (lack of) ability: “Don’t worry, it doesn’t come naturally to some people”, and my favourite: “Oh, bless” after a wrong move saw me kick a dear friend almost in the groin. Sorry!

We left hot, tired, but feeling pretty virtuous. See you next week for more punishment!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Am I Getting Old?

An event invite popped into my in-box this morning. Nothing unusual about that. As with most cities, there's events every night of the week in Dubai. But my response was, perhaps not the usual:

It starts at what time???? (10 pm)
Who on earth is that dj????
On a Sunday??? (Sunday is the equivalent of our Monday here)
To be fair, my colleagues who we are also invited, and are a fair few (ahem) years younger than me, all had the same reaction. Not just me that's getting old then!
It's at the new Cavalli Club, opened by, yes you guessed it, Roberto Cavalli. I haven't been in yet (which is a shameful admission when it's been open for at least 4 months) so my curiosity to see just how over-blinged it is may outweigh my desire to stay in my pj's...will keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Safari, So Good

Did I mention that I'm off on safari?! Yes, at the end of November we shall be jetting off to Nairobi (a bargain basement 180 flight from Dubai!) and then heading down to the Masai Mara for four nights. Just in case you're worried about me slumming it, we'll be staying in a lodge from the Conde Nast Gold List. They don't let any old Tom, Dick or Harry onto that list, you know.

We're talking boutique - just 14 tents, each with its own private butler. Well, after the team of staff in Sri Lanka it would be hard to do without them, non?

Lions, tigers and bears, oh my, are just a short drive away, and get this: there's a family of hippos in the river next to the tents. Treat!

It's something I've wanted to do my whole life, so needless to say, excitement is at fever pitch. There are of course, the crucial questions about what to wear/take with us, not to mention a few personal fears that I'm going to have to overcome. I can't even talk about the four/six legged/winged issue, and don't get me started on flying to the Mara in a plane the size of a postage stamp.

Today's trials included the yellow fever jab (and for those who saw me after the last lot of jabs in July, this could get ugly later) and discussing which malaria tablets are last likely to make you suicidal. Nice. Even better - the best one on the market, with no side effects, ISN'T AVAILABLE IN THE UAE. My doctor was very apologetic and suggested something else - but then revealed that he thought twice about taking them as they're supposed to be so bad.

Which begs the question: malaria: how bad can it be?!

Off Radar

If I've been a bit quiet it's because I've been so so busy this last week. I can't claim it's all been work, although I didn't leave the office til 9 on Thursday (not a treat the day before the weekend) and worked most of Friday afternoon (my weekend).....it's also been one big party...

Always lovely to see friends, especially when they arrive with fizz, champagne glasses, books, dvds, and UK newspapers! Take note, future visitors!

I'm too tired for a full update - those of you on Facebook will have seen the evidence. Let's just say it was hard to decide whether to file the weekend under M for Mayhem, R for Rampage, or B for Bedlam. 30 friends in school uniform dancing to Britney and the Backstreet Boys is very, very, funny. Trust me!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Coming Soon, Honest...the Burj Dubai!

In case I haven't mentioned it enough, the Burj Dubai is right outside my office, and home window. It's a stunning building, not only a feat of engineering but just gorgeous to look at. (Yes, I know not everyone agrees with me on this one!) It's been due to open for ages, but keeps getting delayed, and no wonder: it's absolutely enormous and god knows how many thousands of construction workers are beavering away on a daily basis to try to get it finished.
The powers that be recently decided to put a line in the sand (ahem) and announced that it would open on National Day (December 2nd - also my dad's birthday: hello dad!). National Day is a big public holiday here and everyone gets the day off to celebrate. So it's quite a big deal to say that the beast will be open by then.
I don't often post photos here but here's a couple from my office window. It's stunning. And huge.

The Triple H Hit Dubai

I love, love, love having visitors. This weekend not only do I have the pleasure of the lovely Vikki's company, but I have the added bonus of Michael joining her! As usual there's a fun packed itinerary ahead. I really do need to re-stock the fridge - there's no shortage of wine/beer/gin/fizz, but I'm not sure that's going to help with a morning cuppa. Or is it?! Full details (or the usual abridged version) of our Dubai debauchery will follow next week.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Feeling Naked

Until I moved to Dubai I never realised how precious my passport was. Yes I knew it was crucial for travel, which I did a fair bit, but really it was just something which lived in my travel wallet and sat next to my copies of OK/Now/Heat magazine in my bag when on a plane.

Since I arrived here I cherish it. Not only is it crucial to my existence in terms of identity (and the small detail of my visa - which you can't function without) but it also allows you so much freedom when it comes to travel.

My colleagues from Lebanon, India, Jordan, Egypt, all face issues when they're travelling, even within the GCC. I regularly make the trip to Doha - in some cases I have to go because my MD cannot get a visa. I on the other hand trip up on arrival, hand over cash, and boom, I'm in. And every time I travel anywhere I'm amazed by how little it's scrutinized at immigration - as soon as they see that I'm British, it's pretty much stamped and straight through.

At the moment I'm without it - it had to be surrendered when applying for my new passport. I have a copy in my wallet, but I have to say, I'll feel better when I get it back.

Why We Lost The Empire...?

I went on first trip to the British Embassy today. Nothing serious - I just need a new passport. I was quite excited to go, I have to say (so easily pleased!). I've heard some interesting stories about the place including Pimms parties on the lush lawns! Sadly, I have yet to be invited to such an event...anyway...
It's set behind tall impenetrable looking white walls, with lots of lush trees hanging over them. Getting in through security was as you would expect, surrendering mobile phone and camera. Walkways offered enticing glimpses of aforementioned lush lawns, flowerbeds, and I swear I heard the tinkle of 'Rule Britannia' wafting over the breeze.

So, imagine my disappointment when I reached the actual passport office, only to find that it was a.....PORTACABIN!!! Yes, fellow UK citizens, our safety and interest overseas will be completely protected from within the walls of some corrugated iron and cardboard!

Whilst I wasn't expecting a stately home, I was hoping for something a little more impressive. 90 minutes later and 124 quid lighter I left with a slip of paper telling me to return in two weeks to collect my new, improved, biometric passport. As my UAE visa is in the old passport (the most crucial piece of paper you can have whilst living here) it's important to make sure this isn't lost. Again, I was amazed by the technological solution to this: you keep you old passport, attached to you new one, with.....a RUBBER BAND.

Britain, you really are pushing the boundaries. I salute you.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Thanks Gordon!

I'm in the process of getting a new passport, which is about as tedious as it is in the UK, with one notable difference. In the UK a new passport costs about 77 quid. Here in Dubai it costs....124!!! I'm not sure what the extra 50 quid is for, maybe to cover the salaries of the gin-swilling folk who are supposed to preserve our safety overseas.....hmmmm.
Another interesting aside - I actually have six months before the passport expires, but Dubai immigration are a bit funny about this and won't let you back in the country if you have less than 6 months on your passport. And given how much travelling I do, getting stuck at Dubai airport could be a reality very soon.
Gordon Brown, if you're reading this, do be a dear and explain the price discrepancy. Ta muchly.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Just Another Day at the Office...Not!

There are times when I really love my job, and last week was one of them. No sitting in the office at my desk; instead, heading out to a gaming convention for the day. Yes, I was working (in fact, cleaning floors and dusting down a stand at one point!) but still a fascinating time. I'm not the best gamer in the world - low patience threshold combined with bad hand/eye co-ordination....Buzz is the only game that I can win every time.
My client had flown in the art director and developer of their latest wow game Eye Pet. It's far too hard to explain but basically you create/play/look after a virtual pet, via a camera which sits on top of the tv screen. Here's a video from the event which shows the game in action - it's in Arabic but you'll get the jist. You might even see a certain Britney in the background!

Chatting to the developer and watching them play the game was just insane. Their brains work in a completely different way to anyone that I've met before. And talking of cool jobs, after creating the game, these guys tour the world demonstrating it. A hard life!

A Never-Ending Night

Looking back on my wild social life, there are many many nights which stand out in my memory. The hilarious thing about Dubai is I seem to have a night out like this every single weekend!

Where to start? It's cooling down, a little, at night in Dubai - still a steady 31-32 degrees, but cool enough for the outside bars and beach clubs to start re-opening. So this weekend was all about re-visiting venues that have been closed for the summer. No night in Dubai is complete without visiting at least 3 different bars or clubs, and Friday was no exception.

Despite a warning from friends that the beach was a 'sweaty mess' we headed down there anyway. At midnight it was still very sweaty, but it was worth it to be able to take off our shoes and dance on the sand.

Just when you thought we were safely heading home to bed, we took a wrong (!) turn and ended up in just one more club in time for a final drink and sweep of the dancefloor. As it happened a lot of mutual friends and work colleagues were there. Much fun.

Note to self: there is no need to show off your bogling skills to workmates. To be fair, I think they were impressed. Or that could have been horrified. It was hard to see through the haze of smoke.

As I washed sand out of my shoes on Saturday afternoon, I had a very big giggle to myself. Dubai, we love you.