Monday, November 23, 2009

Spoke too Soon...

Ok, ok, I probably deserve it after poking fun at everyone in the UK and their weather-related Facebook moanings. Yes, it's been raining in Dubai. Now, let's be clear: we're not talking UK rain: endless drizzle, pounding rain and hail which doesn't let up for days/weeks/months (hello January 2008) at a time. It's usually a very quick burst and all over.

Yesterday an email from my friend Liberty in DIFC popped up at about 4 pm: "It's raining! You cannot imagine the hysteria this is causing in the office!"

Despite DIFC being about 5 mins from my office, the rain never materialised. This didn't stop the entire team running to the windows every five minutes to check.

It hasn't dampened (sorry) my mood though, despite having to stop off on the way home to by an umbrella (fail to plan, plan to fail). I haven't had to use it, yet. Watch this space.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How to Cut and Paste

If you know me well, you’ll know that I didn’t choose hip-hip, hip-hop chose me (TM Maggie Doyle). Apart from a major dalliance with house music in my mis-spent youth, hip-hop is very much my wife. House music is my mistress (TM Trevor Nelson).

So it was with much excitement that I heard that DJ Yoda was in Dubai this weekend. If you haven’t seen him live before you’re missing a complete treat. I’ve loved him where I’ve seen him and his ‘How to Cut and Paste’ albums are a regular on my ipod. Now he’s started mixing music to video too, which is pretty spectacular. Especially in a huge open air club underneath the stars. My favourite part? When he mixed Inspector Gadget into Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Awesome.

Somehow my friend Ali woke up the next day with a twisted ankle and I felt like I'd been hit by a truck. dancing for 4 hours non-stop will do that to a girl. Hey, when you've been starved of decent music for a while, you get a little out of control. That's how we roll, Dubai!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Getting Married...Arabic Style...

Did I mention that I went to my first ever Arabic wedding last week? It was amazing!

I knew that the stakes would be high as far as looking glam was concerned: the bride is one of the most stunning girls I've ever seen, and regularly arrives at work looking better than I do on a proper night out. It's been a while since I've had to get wedding super-glammed but never being one to turn from a challenge, I embraced the task with gusto.

A trip to Martin the hairdresser (hello Martin!) resulted in a fabulous blonde bob. And for the first time ever I said the immortal words to him: make it big. Regular readers will know that you take your life in your hands when you visit the hairdresser here - one false move and you end up looking like Ivana Trump....but on this occasion, I felt size mattered.

So what happens at an Arabic wedding? Well, they're all different, and this one wasn't super traditional - but it was very different to a wedding in the UK.

Firstly: no booze. As the venue was one of Dubai's many flash hotels, it of course had a very flash bar upstairs, so the work posse swung by there first for a few g&t's/beers/champagne shooters. As you do.

Next stop: the ballroom. Now the invite said to arrive at 8.30. But as I've learned in my time in the Middle East, timings are something to aim for, not to stick to. Hence the bride and groom didn't make an appearance until 10.15. But what an entrance!

It's called the zaffir, and goes like this: huge group of male dancers in traditional dress storm the ballroom, drums, music, general tribal craziness. The crowd goes wild (Including me. When in Rome....) Dancers/drummers lead you outside to the foot of the world's biggest staircase, where you wait for the big entrance. The noise at this point is deafening: singing/shouting/drumming/crowd cheering. Seriously, for a moment I thought I was back at a Take That concert (JASON!!!!)
And finally......the moment we'd been waiting for, the bride and groom appear and are walked, very slowly down the stairs, accompanied my dancers/singers etc. I'm not doing the whole thing justice, it truly was an amazing spectacle.

The next few hours are a frenzy of dancing/congratulating the happy couple, marvelling at just how stunning the bride is (and OMG, she really was. Zaina, I'm in awe of you). And then comes the food. To be honest, by 12.30 am the urge to eat had rather passed me by, but it did look amazing. And then the party continues. As a lightweight, I left just before 2 am, but the party was still in full flow. There was even a conga - obviously devvoed to miss this.

Now I've never been one to hanker after a big white wedding - in my mind this spells BORING - but this was truly fantastic. Just something to think about...! Zaina and Tarek, thank you so much for the invitation, mabrook!
Some pics of the happy couple and the work gang here. Don't we scrub up well!

This Time Last Year..

It rained in Dubai! Yes, a very unusual occurrence. I can report that today is as gorgeous as ever: sunshine, clear blue sky, about 35 degrees. Bliss. Sorry UK friends...I've been watching the weather reports with utter horror - what is going on? It looks like a scene from 'The Day After Tomorrow' back there!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Finally....My Metro Review!

So, it finally happened: I rode the Dubai Metro!!!!! Yes, two months after it opened I got to see what all the fuss was about (well, what all my fuss was about anyway!) Why so long? Well here’s the thing – not all of the metro stations are open yet and they’re not massively convenient to my home or workplace. If I was going t make a trip I’d have to get a taxi to the nearest station and again at the other end. So I haven’t got round to it.

Yesterday the scene on leaving the airshow was nothing short of carnage. They’d clearly tried to sort some shuttle buses, but as they were all gridlocked outside, with no clear signage, it was going to be a complete gamble as to a) whether you would actually move in the next 24 hours b) your destination would be anywhere near where you were trying to get to.

The taxi queue resembled a refugee camp with frazzled suits – it was literally about 100 metres long. So that was quickly ruled out as an option.

So I and an intrepid colleague decided that the only option left was…the metro. This being Dubai the nearest station was a good 15 minute walk away, and involved walking on a 4 lane highway (we laugh in the face of pavements/sidewalks here!) grass verges (with sprinklers on – not a treat!) sandy trenches and gravel. It really was an adventure – and that was before we’d even arrived at the station.

So what’s it like? Here are my general observations:

Overall – it’s pretty sparkly. And as the Manchester metro is my last frame of reference it does look super-clean, super-slick. But then it is brand-spanking new.
The stations look a bit like airports – busy, bustling, well-lit, with coffee shops and cafes. Nice.
Why the need for the muzak in the carriages? It’s bad enough having to endure this in lifts/when on hold etc – no need in the metro, IMO.
It was packed! And not just with fellow airshow escapees, although there were a fair few of those. Joe Public has really embraced the metro, it seems.
It’s cheap – 90p for a 20 minute journey. I’m sure the equivalent in Manchester (Victoria to Bury) would be triple or quadruple that….
People are still excited to use it, as demonstrated by the fact that I wasn’t the only one taking photos of the journey!

Some people who clearly use the metro regularly have embraced the whole commuter attitude/stance – rushing to get off the train, leaning forward and exiting at high-speed. I’m sure if I had to use it every day I’d be the same but for me it was welcome respite from the grid-locked roads below (the Dubai metro is elevated above the highways) and just an overall interesting experience.

Oh and as I had hoped: you can neb right into people’s apartments. Brilliant. Not sure when I’ll be using it next, but for now, thanks metro!

An Officer and a.....?

Yesterday I made my first trip to Dubai Airshow. Well actually my first trip to any airshow. I didn’t really know what to expect, and at the end of the day, I was there to work, so my interest was limited on the way there. On arrival though, everything changed. HOT MEN IN UNIFORM everywhere…..US Military, US Navy, and my personal favourite: fighter pilots sauntering around without a care in the world. And yes, they were wearing aviators.

As is usual in Dubai, whenever any big event takes place the city descends into gridlock chaos. I’m not sure why. The transport system, much as they are trying to improve it (ie with the new Metro – more on that later) still isn’t exactly joined up, meaning that people tend to rely on taxis. And with that many people trying to get to one place it’s never going to be easy.

Security was extremely tight, which is understandable at an airshow, but I really didn’t think that the jobsworth attitude of the men on the scanners was necessary ON THE WAY OUT. I had to present not one but two passes, my ticket, and my driving licence. Oh, and I had to confirm what my name was. Call me a cynic but could this over-zealous attitude be in any way related to the fact that I was pretty much the only Western female in the place? And definitely the only blonde. Ah well. My irritation was immediately soothed by bumping into the French fighter pilot team outside. Viva la France!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Festive Cheer

It's never too early to talk about Christmas! Last night when on a safari wardrobe mission in Dubai Mall I was delighted to see that retailers are beginning to get the Christmas decs up. Hilariously, the trees and decs in Debenhams are right next to the bikinis - that's why I live in Dubai!

I didn't go for a tree last year - the fact that I have limited storage space combined with the fact that trees cost about as much as gold here put me off, but I have to say, this year I'm feeling the love. We'll see.

Either way, I'm already feeling festive. Last year was a complete novelty as my first festive period in a hot country, this year life is so much better in so many ways that I just can't wait..... Now I just need a copy of the Muppets Christmas Carol and a Motown christmas cd, and I'll be all set!

All Work but Lots of Play

I KNOW I’ve been far too quiet on the blog front recently. The usual excuse: I need an extra five hours in the day! I got lulled into a very false sense of security during Ramadan; my hours weren’t massively reduced but I definitely managed to leave early more often than not which meant a whole new world of socializing was available to me… things change back in the daily grind. Oh – and remember boot camp? Well somehow I thought it was a good idea (correction, my arse thought it was a good idea) to sign up for a month long programme where I have to go twice, yes twice a week. That means I have about hmmmmm one night to myself each week, throw in a few 12/14 hours days and I’m not much use to anyone! Anyway, rant over. It’s all good. Thank god for beach club at the weekends! Somehow memories of every insane week are erased as the white wine hits the glass, a celeb magazine is opened, and the sunlounger is flattened.

I don’t seem to have a free weekend until January – how did that happen? What with numerous overseas weekend visitors in the next month (you know who you are!), a music festival (more to follow), the small matter of my LUXURY ONCE IN A LIFETIME SAFARI TRIP (with our own private butler, just in case you’d forgotten that bit) then parents, then Cathy and New Year – where did the year go? I’m genuinely not complaining, you know me, I love being busy and like nothing more than a very full diary - especially when work is so unforgiving and all-consuming in the week. I’m not one for philosophy but there was a philosopher on Chris Evans this week who said: we worry about wasting time, wasting money, when the only thing that we should worry about wasting is our life.

I think I can safely say I’m wringing the absolute best out of every moment….

A Dog Called Ginger

Dogs are few and far between in Dubai, so when I meet them, it always makes me smile. There’s a fair few canines knocking around my complex, none so cute as a Jack Russell called Ginger. Ginger arrived about nine months ago and instantly bewitched residents and staff alike – weighing under a kilo (that’s 2 pounds, UK readers) she was a super cute and very tiny bundle of rocket fuel that found everything and anything THE MOST EXCITING THING IN THE WORLD!!!

So imagine my delight when I popped into my local spa the other night to be sat next to none other than: Ginger’s mum! We had a lovely chat about dogs/Ginger/life with Ginger/Ginger’s routines…you get the picture. Yes, I am a saddo. But to be honest it’s so rare to meet anyone who has a canine mindset that we had a lot to cover. The spa girls found this whole thing fascinating – dogs aren’t top of the priority list in their home countries. Apparently taking Ginger for a walk is a challenge in itself as all the ex-pats are (naturally) all over her like a rash. Bless. As I pointed out: if you can resist Ginger, there’s a brick swinging where your heart should be…..