Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top Table

Heady excitement today, a brand spanking new restaurant is opening...IN MY BUILDING!  The last apartment had a plethora of shops within the complex: Spinney's, Caribou Coffeee, Krispy Kreme Donuts (lethal), a hairdressers and spa, and a bank.  All v useful.  The new place promises all of these treats, with empty retail units below, but after six months, there'd been no sign of life: until now.  In true Dubai style it's taken little over a month for a completely empty shell of a space to be transformed into a fully functioning restaurant.  Having been a little starved (excuse the pun) of such treats, we've all been watching its progress with much anticipation.

Arz Lebanon, is, according to my Leb chums, a fabulous restaurant.  As a huge fan of fatoush, shish taouk and hoummous, I'm extremely excited that this is but a short elevator ride from my front door.  I'm also sure that they'll deliver - which may sound extremely lazy, but when it's 50 degrees outside and you're struggling with a huge hangover, this is a good option to have on speed dial.

This morning the final touches were being added, a vast spread of beautiful outdoor furniture, and enough foliage and flowers to fill a small garden centre.  As I trotted past on my way to work it struck me that in Manchester, this would have been stolen, torched, or defecated on in the time it takes to say "don't you think we should put all this furntiure inside until we open?".  God bless Dubai.

The Lofts residents are now eagerly awaiting the actual opening, with the promise of many happy evenings sat outside watching the boulevard traffic roar by, with the world's tallest building as a backdrop.  If only they had a licence!   

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dubai, Get a Grip!

I've never been one of those people that moans about New Year's Eve.  You know the gripes: it's overpriced, it's just one night, there's too much pressure to have a good time.  For as long as I can remember (apart from one blip when I first arrived here and had to work), I've grabbed NYE by the scruff of the neck, donned my dancing shoes, and welcomed in the next year with complete and absolute gusto.  This was massively helped by the fact that when I lived in Manchester my lovely apartment was slap-bang in the middle of the city, meaning no taxis, easy access to bars and clubs, and pre and post carnage drinks and party chez mine.

But this year,  I confess, I have had a moan.  Mainly because one of our favourite clubs has seen fit to up its entry charge to a whopping 200 quid.  Yes, you read that correctly.  And they're not the only ones.  Yesterday the entire office spent a good hour trying to find a decent venue for a work colleague to take her parents to on NYE.  Unless you're prepared to shell out an average of two hundred quid, per person, you're out of luck.  This is absolutely Dubai at its craziest, perpetuating every myth and misconception about the city going.  The biggest bill?  Dinner at the Burj Al Arab.  At almost 1500 quid a pop, it's the most ridiculous of them all.

We're yet to decide on our venue.  Ultimately my main ingredients for a great NYE  are: great music, free-flowing G&T's, but most importantly, a gang who you love, who will be the first on the dancefloor and the last to leave it.  Thankfully, that last part is sorted!

Things We Do For Love...

I never did tell you how Jordan went, did I?  In the melee of Christmas preparations, I just didn't have the time.  It's been on my mind to blog about it, not just because I should, but also because on my return I've been gripped by this book.  It's about a woman whose trip to Petra in the 70's resulted in her meeting and marrying a bedouin man, and living in a cave (no, really) for the next 25 years.  It was made all the more relevant by the fact that I was standing not 50 metres from her very cave whilst I was in Petra a month ago.

So, Jordan.  We flew into Amman, which reminded me a bit of a scruffy Beirut.  There's not a huge amount to note about it but there are some amazing Roman ruins which we investigated, and a citadel high on a hill which gives you a great view.  Amman is built on seven hills,like Rome (and also Sheffield, fact fans!).  Another fact about Jordan in November: it's FREEZING at night.  I mean almost zero, howling wind, I wish I'd brought a coat type temperature.  Thankfully one lovely outdoor restaurant we visited came rushing over with enormous blankets for us to wrap ourselves in, otherwise hypothermia could have been our new friend!

Then it was time to head to Petra, via a myriad of churches and crusader castles (castle was ace).  We eschewed the staid and anodyne hotel chains to stay here, which was so the right decision.  A deserted village converted into a boutique hotel, each room is a mini cave, complete with tiny windows and rooms that looked like bears lived in them. Amazing.  But I don't want to use up all my superlatives before I get to Petra itself, which really has to be seen to be believed.

You probably know a bit about it, and have seen its most famous facade, the treasury, in multiple magazines, tv programmes, or Raiders of the Lost Ark...but actually being there is a truly wonderful experience.  It takes a long time to get into the lost city itself, winding through a narrow siq (a crack in the rocks with high cliffs on either side) which makes the first view of the Treasury even more spectacular.  It takes a couple of hours to walk all the way through Petra, which is a bit like walking through a history book.  Lots of beautiful tombs and scenery, overlaid with  the hustle and bustle of tourists, horses, donkeys, camels, and souvenir sellers.  It's only since reading Married to a Bedouin that I realise that people actually used to live in those very caves and make a living from selling bits of tat to people. 

An utterly fascinating place, with much food for thought, especially after reading the book.  Questions such as could I live without: a hairdryer (possibly), running water and a flushing toilet (no), friends and family (no) and just what would you do for love?  Answers on a postcard please...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Survived!

Yes, a week with the family and I have lived to tell the tale!  I'm only joking, of course.  I'm blessed to get on extremely well with my parents, and my grandma (aka Joan Collins) is a legend in her own lifetime and a joy to spend time with.  After the will they/won't they make it drama, we settled into the (extensive, of course) itinerary which I had lovingly prepared.  Truth be told this was a rather more rushed affair than usual due to ridic work situation in the run-up, but anyway.  The whole week was an absolute pleasure, and here are some of my highlights:

Private Abra Ride on the Creek
Yes, you can jump an abra (water taxi) across the creek for the equivalent of about 50p, and it's a wonderful experience.  But a) it's all over too soon amd b) you have to cram your way onto the abra with the hoi polloi.  All of this is negated by simply coughing up twenty quid (a bargain by Dubai standards) and then you get the boat all to yourself, for 90 minutes.  Fabulous!  As with so many cities, it's wonderful to see the place from the water, especially as the creek is really the heart of the city.  Lots of 'traffic' large and small, including other abras, the newer and bigger water taxis, andthe occasional giant barge.  Despite all of this there's very little swell and you chug along quite serenely.  Well as serenely as you can be when there's a diesel engine roaring away next to you, but it's still wonderful.

Desert Ranch
I'm lucky enough to have unearthed a friend of a friend who is not only a horse whisperer (no, really) but who is also managing this fabulous place out in the desert. Don't be fooled by the link, in typical Dubai style the website hasn't been updated for some time.  For those that have lived here for a while, it's the site of the Jumana desert show.  Long story short - this was cancelled, and the animals who took part were left there for TWO YEARS to rot.  Thankfully people stepped in and they're now restoring the ranch as a place for horse-riding and general visits.  It's an amazing place, completely silent and tranquil, with tame camels, goats, donkeys (all of whom had starring roles in the production, bless!).  And of course, there were some of the most gorgeous horses I've ever seen.  A million thanks to Mark who showed us the most amazing hospitality for the morning. 

My dad turning to me as we walked through, giddy as a goat, exclaiming quietly: "I don't know how you do it, but every year you think of something better and better for my birthday.  Thank you darling," fair brought a tear to my eye.

Christmas Eve at 360
It's an age-old tradition that we see no need to stop - sun downers at one of the world's most amazing bars. No really, it's consistently voted as so, and with good reason!  We had mused as to how they would top Santa's arrival last year - he whizzed by on a water ski.  We shouldn't have worried. This year he soared through the sky over the sea  on a motor-ised parasail thingy, James Bond style.  LOVE Dubai!

Christmas Day at the Ritz
We started with Veuve at my apartment and quickly adopted the usual position on the lawn at the Ritz.  It was definitely the best year ever, as they'd reduced the amount of people considerably (don't mention the roast potato shortage of 2009!) which meant it was much more relaxed and easy to get access to the food - and the free-flowing champers too, of course!  Beautiful food, great music, ambience, a paddle in the sea in between courses, and great, great company.  Popped the family in a taxi home when they revealed that they were absolutely leathered and carried on without them in the downtown bars.  Who says drinking for 13 hours solid is difficult?!

Boxing Day and the Burj Khalifa
You may think that one trip up the world's tallestbuilding is enough, but you'd be wrong!  I've now been up three times, and loved every minute of it all.  My mum and A were both a barrel of nerves before we got into the disco lift (if you've been up, you'll know what I mean) but they both coped admirably when we got up there.  I , meanwhile, nearly cartwheeled round the outdoor deck, gleefully sticking my hands and feet through the specially costructed gaps.  Yes, this is me, who walked out crab-like and hunched over on my first visit just six months ago.  Whether it's living on the 28th floor or just visits to the Burj itself, my fear of heights is cured.  Brillsville!

So that's it.  These were just the highlights I can think of right now.  There were also the simple blissful venings spent eating cheese and drinking wine in front of Muppet Christmas carol, and the trips to the supermarket to buy mops and newspapers (!).  It was over all too quickly and I don't know when I'll see the family again.  Sigh.  Another wonderful Christmas in the memory bank, and more to follow, I'm sure.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Eagle has (almost) Landed!

I've spent the last 48 hours on tenterhooks - as have many British ex-pats - wondering if the family are going to make it to Dubai for Christmas.  We seem to go through this every year, such is the danger of a) living in a tiny island which gets fog-bound in the middle of summer b) travelling in December when the UK seems to be completely snowed in.

I bluffed my way through numerous emails and calls with my dear mum, but truth be told, I was getting a little concerned.  The thought of seeing my 74 year old grandmother on the floor of Gatwick Airport, wrapped in a tinfoil sheet, on the front cover of the Daily Mail, was just too much to contemplate.  Stress was at fever pitch even before the bad weather hit, with my grandmother (aka Joan Collins due to her penchant towards fashion and glamour)  apparently planning for every eventuality.  She had contacted her gay neighbours and told them who to speak to if the plane crashed...I ask you - nothing like positive thinking!  So you can see how the weather put the tin lid on the whole situation.

Anyway, I can confirm that the entire family, is as we speak, boarding the plane to Dubai.  Just as soon as the Emirates and Gatwick Airport websites are displaying the magic word ('airborne') I shall relax.  Well until 2 am when I have to go and meet them at the airport!

I'm not complaining.  I know they are some of the lucky few - stories abound of those stranded with no hope of getting anywhere near home or their loved ones for Christmas.  Thank you universe! (And Gatwick Airport for being so much more on the ball than Heathrow!)

The Year that Was

As each year draws to a close, I do like to think back over the previous 12 months and muse on the highs and lows.  Let's be clear, I'm blessed that my life is mostly about the highs, but still, you get what I mean.  This year has been nothing short of spectacular.  Lots of travel, lots of adventures, and a life surrounded by people that I love dearly.  Some, of course, are further away than others.  It's been such a blur at times that I had to dig out my diary, passport AND re-read Britney of Arabia, just to see exactly what I've been up to!  So, some of my highlights:

Whether it's been business or pleasure, 2010 saw me travel more than I could have imagined.  And it still wasn't enough!  Started the year with a very cold Amsterdam, a quick jump to Manchester (no need for the weather!), then Oman, Qatar, Syria, India, Manchester (no need for the weather!), Oman, Oman, Singapore, Bali, and Jordan.  I've been lucky to spend most of these trips with a fabulous selection of people.  The less fabulous tend to be work-related!  Early 2011 will see my second arabic wedding in Sharm and Cairo (Elnett sales are sure to spike), and then we're all over HK.  Jersey Rich, you have been warned...

New Home
June saw me move into the most fabulous new apartment.  I could happily while away an evening lying on the sofa looking at the view (obviously am far too busy for this to be a regular occurrence!) and I still enjoy watching the reactions of new visitors as they are drawn silently to the window and stand, noses pressed against the glass, jaws open.  But it wasn't just the bricks and mortar aspect of the apartment that I loved, and still do: it was the fact that it was mine, and mine alone.

Growing Desert Family
In March we had a new team member in the form of M.  She'd come over for New Year's Eve, and amazingly, our spank-dancing congas hadn't put her off a) living in Dubai b) associating herself with us.  Her exploits and stories of Dubai's debt and subsequent re-structuring have kept us more than entertained.  And she is (of course) the most  perfect travel and sunlounger companion.  M, we love you.  Hurry home from the snow-filled UK.

Shrinking Desert Family
It was the end of an era when V left the Middle East and headed back to Manchester.  I blogged about it at the time so I won't repeat myself: suffice to say, we still miss you!  Although everyone says that this is to be expected in an ex-pat environment, and life is more transient, it doesn't make it easier to forget great friends.  Especially when they leave such a gaping hole behind them.

Major Openings
On January 4th, the world's tallest building (Burj Khalifa) finally opened, and in May, we were guests at the first event to be held inside it.  It's every bit as fabulous as you might imagine and although I see the building about ten times a day, every day, I never tire of drinking it in.  And, despite my fear of heights, I've been to the top - twice! Third time will be with the parentals and grandma over Christmas.  No gin or Xanax was needed, and my fear of heights appears to have been cured as a result - I can gaily step onto my balcony now without inching out onto it as I used to previously.

New Sports
This year was the year that we embraced men in tight trousers: otherwise known as polo.  When we weren't lazing around on the beach, Fridays were made for wine, food, and the sport of kings.  Not really sure of any of the rules or what is going on, but boy is it entertaining!  And sometimes if you're really lucky, you get to sneak 'backstage' (should that be 'backstable'?!) and stroke the noses of gorgeous polo ponies.  We shall be returning very soon.

Significant Moments
I celebrated my third (where did the time go?) birthday in Dubai, and am about to spend my third Christmas here.  We've seen our fair share of other significant moments: divorces (2), pregnancies (2 - just to be clear - neither was me), car crashes (1, inshallah), cat deaths (1) and all the ups and downs which come with living away from home.  I don't go into personal details on here unless pressed, but there were also some pretty fabulous new beginnings, and changes that are still surprising me today. 

I think that's it!  To be honest it's been such a washing-machine whirl at times I've struggled to recount everything.  As ever, thank you universe for my blessed, blessed life, with so many wonderful people who I love very dearly.  2011 is already shaping up for more of the same...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fashion Forward

I'm quiet again - which can only mean one thing - I'm drowning in work. Washing machine/heart attack status has been thoroughly resumed.  As usual, a combination of workload and unrealistic expectations on all fronts. 

Anyway! Amongst the madness there was an interesting cultural moment today.  I was heading off to see a client (part of the government) where a large part of the team is made up of locals, in national dress.  Obviously anyone with half a brain knows that this means that you also dress accordingly.  Not really an issue for me as a) I'm old enough to know this and dress appropriately each day b) my working wardrobe is more Karen Millen than Vicky Pollard.

Despite this a team member from the advertising side felt the need to comment on my dress (high necked, pussy bowed, long-sleeved to the knee - a treat, no?) as we were leaving.  "You know" she said.  "It's very conservative where we're going."  I sighed, and resisted the urge to lambast her.  I frequently lament the outfits I see in the mall on tourists, nay residents who should know better, and would hate to think that I'd offended anyone in my host country and home.  Despite that I did start to worry that a glimpse of calf might ruin our working relationship and send the client into a frenzy.

The meeting passed without incident.  I sat behind a table hoping I hadn't offended anyone.  As I stood to leave, my client called me back.  "Kelly," he said.  "Can I just say, you look great today!"

Always nice to hear, but especially give the situation.  Fashion score one, to me.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Needle in a Generic Haystack

Yes, I'm back from Jordan!  Full update to follow.  In the meantime, I'm throwing myself into the festive period with gusto.  Not as easy as it sounds (and at least not as easy as in the UK).  Nothing to do with living in a Muslim country, let's be clear, more to do with being chained to my desk ever since I got back, and the general inconvenience of Dubai - nothing is in one place, and buying anything usually involves trips to multiple destinations. 

This weekend my main priority is the tree, and accompanying decorations.  General Christmas present shopping is taking  place during snatched half hours (benefit of working/living next to the world's biggest mall.)  But Dubai isn't a place for those unique, unusual, thoughtful gifts, the likes of which you stumble across in Oklahoma in the NQ or when generally muntering round the streets of Manchester, so it's that much harder to source gifts. 

One solution, of course, is to embrace internet shopping, and have a variety of fabulous gifts delivered to your dear family in the UK.  They can then act as gift mules and cart them over when they come to visit.  It's actually quite amusing getting the daily emails from my dear mum ("xxxx has arrived!" "why did you order xxx?") but she's getting used to it.  The Jersey postman has never seen so much action.  Thanks, Mum!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dubai Dubai Dubai

You've probably realised that wherever in the world I live, I like to involve myself in the history of the place (hello Angel Meadows!) and I'm a voracious consumer of all sorts of information relating to anything that I love.  Whilst I was in Bali I raced through this fascinating book in a day.  My excited squawking was such that the girls instructed me to read all the good bits and facts out to them as they happened. This meant I pretty much read the entire book aloud!

And next week I'm attending an event featuring this book.  I'm not sure my desert family can cope with any more Dubai facts and tales from me. Oh well.  They're used to my geeky love of this place by now.  I hope.   

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Some photos of our beautiful Bali villa....complete with sunken baths, outdoor showers, private pool, and a team of staff.  No photos of the staff!

Eat, Pray, Bali

Ok, so here's the next installment in the global tour: Bali.  In summary, we had a fabulous time.  We rented THE most spectacular villa you've ever seen (think Cribs, then amplify by twenty).  Private pool , and a team of staff on hand to create breakfast every day (oh how I struggled as I groped for the toaster on my first morning back in Dubai!) and generally tend to our every need.  We'd been warned that the weather had been wet and rainy, and were horrified when we landed just after a recent downpour.  The universe, however, was smiling on us, and we were treated to scorching sunshine and blue skies for the whole five days.

We spent those five days doing the usual: relaxing by the pool, reading books, celebrity magazines, eating crisps, and drining g&t's.  We did venture out for a day of exploring to Ubud, a lovely town with ubiquitous temples and tat for sale.  And of course we dragged our sorry selves out for sundowners and scran each night in a variety of beautiful places,  my favourite being this.

We had a fabulous time, and completely relaxed.  Taking four extremely independent, opinionated, dare I say it CONTROL FREAK women and you'd think that you'd have a recipe for disaster.  Far from it.  It was an absolute treat to spend so much quality time with three of my favourite people, setting the world to rights, gossiping, and setting life goals.  So much so that the bright idea (gin-fuelled) of all chipping in and moving to a villa on the palm doesn't seem like such a bad move right now!

My verdict on Bali?  Well, I don't wish to sound ungrateful, it's a lovely place.  BUT.  I'm not quite seeing all the hype.  It's a very long way to go (about ten hours from Dubai, 16 from the UK), is very expensive when you get there (even we, used to paying Dubai prices for wine, baulked at 20 quid for a glass!) and when it comes to beauty - well I think Sri Lanka and parts of India trump it completely - and they're all much cheaper and easier to get to.  It's also VERY touristy (I think Julia Roberts is to blame for the crowds of Americans) even though we were very much of the beaten tourist track.  I'm not sure why anyone would think it was a honeymoon destination.

Anyway, we had a super super time and my itchy feet reamin unscratched.  Next week, I'm off to Jordan.  Egypt in January, Hong Kong in Feb/March.  The world map is slowly being conquered!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Boredom in the Skies

I'm at a complete loss as to why Singapore Airlines are constantly voted the world's number one.  Until the recent trip I'd never flown with them, but had heard great things about them, and we were all quite giddy about the journey.  Who knew they'd pale into insignificance compared to Emirates? (And no, I don't work for Emirates!) 

My main issues:
  • The entertainment system.  You can't pick and choose what you want, all the films and programmes are shown on a loop.  If you miss the first half an hour of a film, you'll have to wait until the end for it to swing back round again.  Rubbish, especially on a 7.5 hour flight.
  • The food.  DIRE.  I was served some slop which was supposed to be chicken in ginger sauce on the outward journey. On the return I had wised up and requested a low-calorie meal instead (chicken breast with pureed carrots - a vast improvement.  And you get it ten minutes into the flight leaving more time for wine drinking and snoozing)
  • The plane.  So old it had ashtrays in it.  
On the plus side, they were very generous with the wine, and the girls are stunning.  Their uniforms are fabulous and can even be bought in the markets of Chinatown in Singapore.  We actually had a girl-crush on one of them and had to enquire abut her eye make-up application!  And when you're travelling in a group you can definitely make your own entertainment if necessary.

I don't want to sound like a travel snob, but if i have the choice in future, I'll be flying Emirates all the way.

We Heart Singapore

I'm back! Did you miss me?  I'm currently reeling from too little sleep (not sure if it's actually jet lag.  More likely flying through the night and availing ourselves of a bit too much free wine) and adjusting to being thrown right back in the deep end where work is concerned.  Anyway, let's get onto the trip.  It will probably be the subject of a few blog posts, such was the hilarity and variety of what we encountered whilst away. Let's start with Singapore, shall we?

I'm going to assume that you haven't been - if you have - this may bore you. In a nutshell, I LOVED Singapore!!!!!  Reasons why:
  • It's a solid 30-35 degrees, all year round, with lots of sunshine and blue skies. It was actually scorching whilst we were there.  Yes, it does rain, and it's very humid, but the great weather means that you have the outdoor lifestyle all year round, not for only half the year like you do in Dubai.  Hello roof top bars, hello strolling the streets..which brings me onto my next point:
  • You can walk everywhere.  It's a proper city, with (shock) pavements, walkways, it's all designed for the pedestrian.  We spent many happy hours walking around just absorbing the vibes and the personality of the place.  Which brings me onto my next point:
  • Singapore is COOL.  What do I mean?  Everyone looks good, not in an anodyne, labelled-up kind of way, more in a cool sneakers and unusual jeans, interesting make-up and hair kind of way.   It feels a bit like New York. Which brings me onto my next point:
  • It has a big city feel and vibe.  There's something in the air that's palpable.   And it's hard to ignore.  It's such an interesting mix of cultures and people.  Which brings me onto my next point:
  • It's very multi-cultural, just like Dubai.  We saw all nationalities working and living together in one melting pot.  And there's something fascinating about that for me. Which brings me onto my next point:
  • It's a very cultural place.  Not only do huge modern skyscrapers jostle for space next to older areas like Arab Street and Little India, there's art galleries, a symphony orchestra.  The cultural section of Singapore's Time Out goes on for pages and pages, not like the paltry efforts of Dubai's.
  • And my last, but very important point: it has BEACHES.  Yes, head to the beautiful Sentosa Island for the day and you'll see Singapore's bright young things kicking back in lush beach clubs and cool bars.
Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not knocking Dubai.  Anyone who knows me knows just how much I love this city and the Middle East.  We all squeaked with excitement when the plane touched down here, and I spent the afternoon of my first day back mooching around one of my favourite parts of the city: the creek.  It's just that as an ex-pat,living in an autocratic city where your whole life revolves around a visa that is to a large extent out of your control, you never really know how long you'll stay.  I'm nowhere near done with Dubai.  But I think I may have found the answer to: where next?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Reality Check

I know I've often joked about never being able to live in a cold country again, but the longer I live in Dubai, the more this has seeped into my conscious.  And last weekend (whilst lying on the comfy sunlounger by the Chedi pool) cemented this for me.

This has led to some very interesting conversations with various members of the desert family where we've evaluated our finances, lives, and generally had a long hard look at ourselves to see whether it really is feasible.  There's no easy or quick answer to that (probably no, at the moment) but it has led me not only update the excel spreadsheet which contains all my worldly goods, but also to think more about where I'm going to make home for the rest of my days.

My favourite blogger can either read my mind or has my apartment bugged as she's written about this today.  Very interesting food for thought.

PS Photo above is me, freezing to death in Whitby. Not sure when. I think it may have been the defining moment in deciding I need to live in sunnier climes!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

More Heaven...

Just a few more Chedi shots...I'll leave it here before you devour me with jealousy...!

If There is a Heaven...

Realised that in the midst of the general craziness that is life in Dubai, I've completely forgotten to update you on our trip to The Chedi.  It was exactly as you might imagine.....from the moment the giant chauffeur-driven Benz arrived at Muscat airport, to the moment it dropped us back, the entire trip screamed pure, unadulterated, grown-up, stylish luxury.  Made to feel all the more decadent by the fact that we were the only group of friends who were having the experience - it's very much a coupley kind of place.  And as many of the couples looked like a text-book reason as to why you could seriously stay single for the rest of your life (no talking, no eye contact, no FUN!  You're in THE CHEDI people, lighten up!) this really hit home. 

We spent the entire time ooh-ing and aah-ing in our luxury suite, which is possibly the most romantic place I've ever slept (hello Melissa!) savouring the foodie treats they dropped off for us every few hours, and trying hard not to nose-dive into the (complimentary) decanters of booze.  The pool was to die for, as was the breakfast, the lunch, the overall service, the grounds.  I could go on.

Of course one of the keys to all of this was the company: there's something particularly special about friends with whom you are just as comfortable gassing away about the really important things in life, lying in silence, or squawking over the latest celebrity break-up.  I'm blessed.

There are a couple of small observations I have about the place, which in NO WAY detract from how fabulous it is...BUT, when you're paying 1500 quid a night for a suite (plus an extra double room, so call it a round 2000 quid a night) you expect everything to be perfect, no?

Glasses: none in the suite. Tumblers for the liqour, but no wine or champagne glasses.  In a suite.  There is wine in the mini bar.
Slippers: cheap throw-away numbers that I last encountered in a Crowne Plaza.
Robe: not fair to say cheap, but thin and waffly.  Not thick and fluffy.  Maybe this is a personal thing.
Beach: not enough sun loungers to lie on the beach when we headed down at 11 am.  Staff refused to move some for us.  After a lot of discussion, the staff did help us, and we ended up by one of the lovely pools, so no sweat, but at 2k a night, I'd like to lie where I want to...and that was the beach.

Now, call me hard to please, say I've been Dubai-ed, and also throw into the mix the fact that I'm a PR person who is perhaps more conscious than the average consumer when it comes to customer service.  And feel free to ignore all of the above.  It's a fabulous place and I'd recommend it in a heartbeat.  If only I had unlimited time and money.  Next stop: Singapore...

Monday, November 01, 2010

Breaking News

You probably caught Dubai in the news over the weekend: the 'suspect' packages from Yemen that were stopped at the airport...hello Middle Eastern stereotypes all over the news!  We were in the Chedi in Muscat when the news broke (pictured left is the bath in our suite: have you ever seen anything like it?!), and sat up until 2 am sipping champagne and watching the story unfold.  Let's be clear, if the world is going to end, there are much, much worse  places to be stranded.

We were gripped by the story, and as well as discussing various theories behind and around the story (truth, lies, media manipulation), one thing was paramount.  We all took it as a personal affront and attack on our home.  Let's be clear, it was obviously nothing in comparison to September 11th, or the London Bombings in 2005.  But, just like the London bombings, there were people that I loved back in Dubai, and just unlike the London bombings, I actually live in the city under threat.

 I rushed to reassure my parents that I was ok, but the news hadn't even reached Jersey!  Thankfully the whole incident was over extremely quickly without too much drama.  I know it's my own fault for reading the rag, but I was still dismayed by the comments on the Daily Mail (always more frightening than the actual stoires themselves).  With every story like this, we take a few steps backward in the eyes of the rest of the world.  A shame.

Office Excitement

The office has been in a frenzy this week.  No pay rises, no bonuses...much more dramatic than that: they're filming  Mission Impossible 4 right outside my office building.  So far this has involved:
  • A helicopter hovering, for literally hours, right next to the Burj Khalifa (see photo)
  • Someone (Tom, according to the Mail, I'm not so sure) dangling off the side of the Burj Khalifa
  • The entire office stampeding to the windows every five minutes to see what is going on
  • The entire downtown area grinding to a halt as passers-by and office workers drop whatever they're doing, to look up
I'm not exaggerating, it's been brilliant.  Someone (not me, but only because I forgot, I now have a reminder in my phone) even brought binoculars in today.  Well, it's not easy to see up to the 125th floor, where they're filming.

Despite the fact that I live right next to the Burj, AND work right next to the Burj, I have yet to catch a glimpse of the loveable homo midget himself.  He has been spotted in various places around Dubai: the ski slope (?!), Okku, and apparently, even getting turned away from Zuma for not having a reservation (don't believe this one). 

Let's also not forget that I (along with 9 million other people, admittedly) applied to be an extra in the film.  Can you IMAGINE the excitement if I get the call???  Goodbye PR, hello Hollywood!  Watch this space...

Men in Uniform

It's a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a uniform is usually hot.  With the exception of policemen, I think it's fair to say that firemen, pilots, the military, all of these professions and their relevant uniforms can transform average looking men into men you'd look  more than twice at.  Think classic (Richard Gere in Officer and a Gentleman), think action (Tom Cruise in Top Gun) or think just plain brawn (the Baldwin brothers in Backdraft).  They all had raw sex appeal in spades.  One ex of mine confessed he'd never been as popular as the time he went to a fancy dress party dressed as a fireman.

And it goes across continents.  I'll always remember the first time I took my mum to New York (where firemen are on every street corner, and the drone of the trucks is constant background noise).  As we emerged from Macy's, there was a whole host of fire engines outside.  My mum was impressed.  "They're holding AXES!!" she exclaimed in excitement as she elbowed me out of the way for a better look.

Whilst I remain unimpressed with the (admittedly) limited exposure I've had to uniforms in this region thus far, there is one very interesting Middle Eastern equivalent: the dish dash.  I don't know what exactly it is about this outfit that appeals quite so much to me.  And to be fair, all of my female friends.

It's probably a combination of things: the elegance as men swish by, the fact that it seems to be ubiquitous to combine the dish dash with mirrored aviators, a sharp beard, and THE most hypnotizing aftershave you've ever smelt.  And just like firemen, it can transform an ordinary looking guy into a hot one.

A fact I realised today as I drove into a carpark with a colleague.  The man who greeted us (dish dash clad) looked, to me, like an arabic god.  My colleague nearly crashed the car laughing.  "Kelly, you've got to get past the costume," she said.  On second glance, she had a point.  Maybe we should all stick to Jamil (pictured left).  Every girl needs one.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Childish Behaviour...?

I’m going to come right out and say it: I’m a woman who can, on occasion be persuaded to watch a cartoon (or is it called animation these days?!). As a child some of my favourite films included The Aristocats, The Fox and the Hound, and Mary Poppins. Last Christmas we all piled to the cinema to watch A Christmas Carol, and oohed and ahhed like 6 year olds with our 3D glasses on. Treat!

But to be honest, an actual cartoon? Well the other day I finally got around to watching Freej. If you haven't heard of it (and if you don't live in the Middle East, this is probably the case) it's an animated series about four women who live in Dubai. They're quite traditional and the story follows their lives as they adapt to the challenges of Dubai's growth and changes.

The guy who created it, Mohammed Saeed Harib, is incredibly clever - Dubai in cartoon format looks absolutely amazing, and the script is so witty and sharp that I was giggling from start to finish. Mohammed is also a professional photographer and sometime male model. All this talent and success AND he's two years younger than me. Way to make girl feel hot under the collar AND professionally inadequate!

It's incredibly popular in the region and though originally in Arabic, now has English subtitles so that a wider audience can watch it. It's fabulous. If you haven't watched it, you really need to get involved.

God Save Our....

When I lived in the UK I was never much of a royalist.  I obviously had the usual crush on Prince William (before hair loss), and sometimes imagined life as a princess (more helicopters and haute couture than bulimia and adultery, let's be clear), but that's as far as it went.  Yet I'm excited by the news that the Queen is visiting the UAE next month. 

The last time she visited was 1979, when she apparently 'inaugurated the new Dubai Municipality building.'  I just love the photos from that visit.  Needless to say, much has changed since then, both in the political/economic and quite literal landscape.  Back in 1979 Dubai was a cloud of dust and a mountain of ambition and hope.  So in some ways, things have stayed the same.

She's heading to Abu Dhabi (the mythical setting of the dire Sex and the City 2, will she notice?) before going to Oman.  Sadly this does not coincide with my trip to Oman, when I'll be checking into the Chedi for a weekend.  Jealous much?

I'm keen to see the Queen, and not just for the opportunities for international press coverage for myself and the inner circle (imagine us brandishing Land of Hope and Glory banners in the background of the news clips!).  Much as I have little interest in living in the UK, I'm very grateful for what its given me, not least a British passport, which allows me access to pretty much any country in the world without hassle or visas.... Liz, keep an eye out for us....

Take Note, Tony, David.....

I absolutely LOVE this recent post from one of my favourite bloggers.  Sheikh Mohammed is nothing short of a legend here and we all follow him eagerly on Facebook.  We also live in hope of bumping into him on our daily adventures around the city - it's well known that he drives himself around in the car pictured cool?!

Everyone has a great story about seeing him (or just missing him).  There was the  time that he rocked up to Shoreside, our favourite beach club, on one of the very rare days that we weren't there - you could hear our cries of disbelief from Jebel Ali, I'm sure.

And then there was the time that A and E bumped into him in Dubai Mall, complete with enormous entourage (him not them), as he swished past them and went down an escalator.  Not only this, but when he noticed A and E's excited giggling, screaming, pointing and waving, he stopped in his tracks.  Beaming from ear to ear, he asked:  "Are you sisters?".

Too excited to speak, A and E giggled, screamed, pointed and waved some more, as he disappeared down the aforementioned escalator.  Apparently he had quite a chuckle to himself as he went , and waved back at the girls all the way down.  Top man.

So Slooooooooow

I've been in the new pad for almost four months, and finally thought about connecting to the big wide world (ie sorting out my lack of internet ) a few weeks ago.  As my apartment is the only one tenanted on the floor, there is no open wireless internet connection for me to hi-jack as there was at the last place (don't judge me!).  Although my lack of neighbours means I never have to worry about turning the volume down when Janet (Jackson, of course) is mid-flow.

Anyway, part of the reason that I haven't got round to it is, I simply can't face it and the effort that it will take.  Any one who lives in Dubai will sympathise with me when I say this - the simplest task takes umpteen phone calls and patience, pieces of paper and passport photos.  And all this for internet which will cost me four times what it did in the UK and be slower than an original dial-up connection from the eighties.  Give me strength.  However, in a positive frame of mind, I emailed the main internet provider requesting an appointment.  This was four weeks ago.  You can guess, can't you?  Yes, I've heard nothing.

I've also strolled past their nearest retail outlet (thankfully just next to Waitrose, so not massively inconvenient).  Every time I've approached there's been a queue to rival Harrod's Boxing Day sales.  I've given up.  I have the Blackberry for any work-related weekend email issues, and if anything really important happens, I'll rely on my dad.  Yes, it was my dad who texted me with the news that Michael Jackson had died.  Despite the time and age difference, he was more on the ball than ANY of my Dubai chums.  Dad, it's over to you.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Dedicated Follower of Fashion

If you know me, you know I love fashion. Not in so much of a slavish way (those new J Brand Houlihand trousers that everyone’s raving about? No interest.) but more from a design/style/love of beautiful things point of view.  I most I definitely squeaked when I got my hot little hands on the notorious September issue of US Vogue last month.

So I was super-excited when this invite popped into my in-box last week:

"The Dubai Ladies Club is hosting a fashion show tomorrow evening for young designers. The event is held for their VIP members and sponsors for tomorrow’s event include YSL, Emirates and L’Oreal."

I promise that my hasty RSVP (yes, yes and yes) wasn’t just thinking about the potential goody bags (more on that later) but also a desire to get a real insight into Arab fashion, and also a sneaky look into the Ladies Club. This in itself is a Dubai institution, frequented by many local ladies, and it hosts many such sought after events.

L and I donned our most fabulous frocks (mine, despite being knee-length with a mid-sleeve, did start to feel a little risqué when faced with a room of abaya wearing ladies) and set off. We didn’t really know what to expect, but what we got was the most fabulous fashion show: three young designers with three very different collections. Abayas were few and far between on the catwalk: think draping satin trousers and shell tops, stunning evening gowns, and more fabulous hair and make-up than you could shake a kohl stick at. I’m not a loungewear kind of girl at heart, but I did begin to wonder just how good I would look in a pair of satin harem pants whilst doing the swiffing…..

Aside from the gripping gorgeousness on the catwalk, it was also a fascinating privilege to sit alongside locals, getting an insight into their lives and style. I can’t claim to have made any life-long friends that night but a few things quickly became clear.

Handbags are crucial: the bigger and blingier the better. Perfume is strong (oud, which I love) and has a divine way of wafting over you as abayas swish past. Make up is detailed: heavy on the eyes, base is almost doll-like, and nails look perfect. Hair: whilst hidden by a scarf, it’s clear that Elnett is a key part of the process. Think big, think piled-up, think uber-glam. What’s not to love about the whole look?!

As the event drew to a close, our thoughts inevitably turned to the goody-bags. Yves Saint Laurent touche éclat, mascara, lipstick, more hair products than you could shake a stick at, and chocolates. Oh my. I nearly dislocated my shoulder trying to wrestle mine out of the door – possibly because we did avail ourselves to the contents of a couple of extra bags (ok three). Well our table was partly empty: waste not want not!

A fabulous and completely different way to spend a Thursday night. Needless to say, I’m all over the next one.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

TV Gold

As a woman whose tv isn’t actually connected, I don’t tend to watch a lot of tv shows at home, preferring to pick and choose the odd boxed set when I’m in the mood (who knew Allo Allo was so hilarious?!). But soon there’s tv gold to be had, and my laptop will be downloading a few gems from the BBC.

First off there’s Strictly: a fabulous plethora of sequins, inappropriate outfits, and lashings of fake tan. The gang has already agreed that Sunday nights will be reserved for communal watching sessions.

Secondly, there’s The Apprentice. I’m not a big fan of reality tv shows, but there’s something about the combination of deluded freaks that they put on the show, combined with Suralan’s caustic wit that has always had me in hysterics.

Some of my favourite comments from the lunatics they’ve lined up:

• I'm Stuart Baggs 'The Brand' - I've got a certain type of charisma’
My first word wasn't Mummy. It was money.
• I'm ruthless, even in Monopoly.
• I've read all your CVs and on paper you all look very good. But then again so does fish and chips.
Obviously that last one was from Suralan.

And of course, it’s always oh so easy to watch the hapless mugs try to complete a task from your own sofa, wine in hand, passing judgement on their terrible skills and brainpower, meaning that you, of course, are the next Richard Branson in comparison. It will be the first season that I’ve watched since moving to the Twilight Zone. I wonder if I’ll have any more sympathy for the contestants and if my retard-tolerance level will render watching the show easier or more difficult?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Drama at the Beach

I think I've posted quite enough about my preferred weekend activity of kicking back on a sunlounger with my favourite people and a pile of celebrity trash magazines large enough to sink the Titanic, so I won't bore you with more details on this.  Suffice to say it was the usual routine this weekend, with one small drama - a near drowning!  No, I'm not joking.

There we were, cooling down in the sea next to the Burj (which incidentally is a LOT colder than it used to be)  generally chewing the cud and gossiping.  About what, I can't remember.  Boys, fashion and make-up most probably.  The first time we heard a cry of 'help' we all looked at one another blankly.  "Did we really just hear that".  Then we heard it again - coming from a woman, quite far out - and very clearly shouting and in distress.  The lifeguards didn't appear to have heard her.

L and I looked at one another in horror. 1) I'm not into swimming in the sea 2) When I do swim I don't get my hair wet 3) I was wearing a pair of my favourite shades and didn't want to lose them 4) A strapless bacofoil bikini is not ideally suited to frantic sea-rescue missions.  Thankfully J came to the rescue.  "hold these" he bellowed as he thrust his Raybans into my hand, before proceeding to dive in, swim at high-speed, and pull the woman out from under the water.  It was all very Baywatch, let me tell you!

L and I basked in J's reflected hero glory ("Our friend just saved that woman!") as she was led away by the lifeguards.  We were imagining all sorts of drama - jellyfish sting, shark attack, but apparently she had 'got a bit tired' and couldn't stay afloat.  Not that I'm being disparaging about her predicament.  And obviously L and I would have helped out no-one else had stepped up.  That's if the bacofoil bikini was up to it and I didn't burn her retinas out before we got to her!  The whole incident was quite exhausting and we all retired to the sunloungers for a much needed snooze.  No change there then!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

You've Know Been Dubai-ed When....

It happens to us all eventually.  It creeps up on you without even realising it.  Just received this message from M: "I ordered a bright red leopard-print bikini yesterday - clearly I have been Dubai'ed !!"  Brilliant.

Don't get me wrong,  Dubai has many facets, and it's not all glitz and glam.  In fact we regularly eschew events and places that we think are going to be populated by the plastic fantastic set from the city.

But that said, there is something in Dubai's very DNA which ooozes glamour, charisma, sparkle and gloss.  And you can fight it all you like, but sooner or later it gets you.  It happened to me four months after I moved here.  A friend was visiting from the UK (hello Roz!) and I took her on a shopping trip.  Sunglasses were top of her list.  We entered a shop and I gaily went about picking up and trying on a variety of (what I thought were) suitable options.  Like an excited magpie I squeaked and squawked as I found pair after pair that I liked.  I was sure she would like them too.  After a few minutes I realised that she wasn't oohing and aahing with me.   More like looking a little aghast at my choices.  "Kelly!" she trilled.  "They might work in Dubai, but they won't work in Manchester!". Oh.

It appeared that rhinestone-encrusted, logo-stamped, sunglasses-so-large-they-could-be-seen-from-the-moon had now become completely acceptable, nay NECESSARY to me.  I'd been Dubai-ed.

This theme has continued throughout my wardrobe during my time here (hello strapless leopard print catsuit, hello skyscraper heels and wedges, hello accessories at the beach, the list goes on) with the peak of my Dubai bling purchases being...a tinfoil bikini.  Yes you heard right.  My hand would never have even hovered over such an item in good old Blighty, but here I virtually elbowed people out of the way here to get to it.  I have to admit to feeling intense trepidation about wearing it, and it remained in the cupboard for almost a month gathering dust before the light switched on in my head: this is Dubai - if you can't wear it here where can you wear it?  

Oh and - I'd like to think that I look like the picture above in it (it is exactly the same bikini) but as Miranda Kerr is a) 12 years old and b) hasn't eaten since 1990, it's not quite a mirror-image...If you'd like to see the bikini in action, head to any Dubai beach club at the weekend.  I'll be the one burning out peoples' retinas...

From Catwalk to Cross Trainer

Dragged myself to the gym for the first time in a week last night.  It wasn't pretty.  Amazing how quickly your body loses condition, despite you forcing it through more sessions in one month than you normally manage in six.  And call me old fashioned,but there's something about exercising when it's pitch black outside that I find particularly uninspiring.  Give me a hazy sunset any day of the week. 

Anyway as I slogged away, in an outfit that quite frankly, looked like I'd escaped from somewhere (and nowhere that considered fashion a priority), a couple of girls caught my eye.  They were slim, sexy, and swathed in body hugging lycra.  One was wearing an extremely short-shorts/leggings-underneath combo which looked as if it had come straight out of an MTV base video.  In short, they looked fabulous.  And so very Dubai. 

Now, I'm all for making as much effort as possible in Dubai: turning up to work in sheath dresses rather than shell-toes and boyfriend jeans, and heading for dinners and nights out in dresses that frankly, I would only have worn to a wedding in the UK.  But the one place where I am not prepared to dress up to the nines is the gym.  It's enough effort just mentally preparing myself, never mind having to overhaul the wardrobe too.  That said, my hand did just hover over the Stella McCartney Adidas range.  Fickle, me?!

Can Cook, Won't Cook....

I've been taking a bit of stick recently for my culinary skills.  Or lack of them.  It's true, I haven't spent a huge amount of time in the kitchen recently, and what time I have spent in there hasn't really centred around cooking (I'll leave that to your imagination).   

My whole family loves food, so as I grew up I was surrounded by great smells, recipes and dishes.  So when I left home at 18 I was always able to whip up a variety of great dishes, as my friends, housemates, and parents can testify.  When I had a live-in partner, I cooked, a lot, whatever time I fell through the door.  So why haven't I been slaving over a hot stove recently?  I laughed a lot when i was sent this as a possible explanation.  Let's be clear, the reasons are much more likely to be:

a) I've been trying to eat a lot less (that bacofoil bikini is so unforgiving) so producing calorie laden meals holds little appeal
b) M introduced me to sardines on toast (hideous but nutritious and no cooking time needed)
c) There's such a fabulous array of amazing restaurants in Dubai which I feel the need to frequent, frequently
d) I've never been the type to try to impress a man with my skills in the kitchen (unless they're non-cooking related, see above)
e) I simply can't be arsed
f) All of the above

I CAN cook, ok?!  Honest....

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Where in The World?

The next adventure is booked: in November I’ll be jetting off to Singapore, and then onto Bali. If you know me you’ll know that my hunger for world-exploration has gone up about ten notches since I moved to Dubai – and it was pretty high before I got here. The top list of places I want to visit (in order of preference) are:

Singapore/Bali (tick)
Hong Kong
Vegas (probably unlikely due to distance but if accessible from Tokyo then all over it)

I don’t think it’s an unreasonable list and I’d quite like to cross Hong Kong off before the end of the year – we have another public holiday coming up in December which would make it feasible.

Thankfully my desert family is also like rats up drainpipes where this list is concerned. We all have a slightly different list but with some common denominators.

This has all been made much more fun (honestly) by the procurement of a giant world map, the likes of which I haven’t seen since geography lessons in secondary school. And speaking of which, despite getting an A in GCSE geography, I have learned that I haven’t a clue where anything in the world is!

When I told a colleague I was going to Bali he asked: “Why don’t you do Australia at the same time?” I thought this was a ludicrous question and said so. He gently explained that Bali is…right next to Australia. Who knew!? And don’t even get me started on the fact that I thought Vietnam was only a 3 hour flight away. I’ll get my coat.

We spent a hilarious ten minutes scouring the map the other night at M’s, with much wine-fuelled exclamations: “Oh, so that’s where Hawaii/Beijing/Mauritius/Vietnam etc etc is.” Well, there’s only one way to truly know your way around a world map, and that’s to jump on a plane and see as much of it as possible. Watch this space.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Powers of the Internet

I had to help the global team on a pitch this weekend….I can’t say who for, but it’s a hotel brand, and one I’d love to work for. The team wanted some quotes from me about travel – why I love it, what it means to me, and a couple of photos of me in exotic locations around the world. Both requests were easy peasy in theory…

BUT I didn’t have my lap-top and I still haven’t sorted an internet connection at home. I duly typed out a quote on the Blackberry, but had to inform the team that all of my photos (of which there are hundreds that fit the bill) were at work, and un-emailable. “Not to worry” came the response. “We’ve found a picture of you on the internet. It’s not ideal, but it will do.” My heart sank. My blood ran cold. “Don’t worry, we’ll email it to you so you can have a look,” they said.

The photo came through. It’s a photo of me, in Hive, in front of the dj booth. Drunk. On ladies night. How they ever thought this was appropriate, I do not know! And interestingly I was going by my alter-ego “Kelly De Bunny’ that night. Obviously I am now off to frantically Google myself and delete anything else inappropriate that I find!

Just Another Birthday in the Sunshine...

Another weekend, another trip to the beach…..we’ve been a little at a loss since Shoreside closed down – and with the sad news that it isn’t re-opening, we’ve had to look further afield for our beach fix.  As it was M’s birthday weekend, we allowed her to choose the venue, and she plumped for the Jumeirah Beach Hotel.  It’s a stalwart of the Dubai hotel scene, with a fabulous rooftop bar, Uptown, and of course the amazing 360.  The latter is a circular bar, which you reach via a narrow causeway…and it’s in the middle of the ocean.  Gorgeous.  It’s also right next to the Burj Al Arab – priceless location.

In typical Dubai beach style, we were rocking out a variety of fabulous bikinis…purple, white, frilled and my favorite (mine) silver.  When I say silver I mean tinfoil-like.  Only in Dubai would my hands have ever lingered on such an item, least still, grabbed at hungrily and charged to the cash register with.  It’s so wrong it’s right is all I’m going to say.  

We duly collapsed onto the ridiculously comfy loungers, handed round celebrity trash magazines, and got on with the business of tanning and talking boys fashion and make-up.  All interspersed with free ice lollies, water misting and a regular supply of iced, lemon scented towels.  Occasionally a helicopter came into land on the heli-pad of the Burj.  Spoilt, us?

The evening saw us head down to the marina and to Frankie Dettori’s restaurant.  I may have blogged about this before – it’s one of my favourite Dubai eateries, and not just because I love Italian food.  It has a great piano bar, which leads to a great atmosphere.  There’s usually a fair few Italians in there which I think is always a sign of a restaurant that’s cracked the formula.  We troughed, we troughed some more, we slurped wine, all with lashings of gossip and boys fashion make-up chat.  There’s a theme here! 

It’s always hard to come up with birthday celebrations, as it really does seem like every weekend in Dubai is a birthday, such is the fun that we have.  This was a good weekend.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Christmas in the Desert

It's never to early to think about Christmas when you're an ex-pat, as it inevitably involves a discussion about where you're going to be.  Thankfully this discussion has always been very short since I moved to Dubai: I want to be in the sunshine, thanks very much!  The first year I was here I did nip back to Manchester in the December, which was all very lovely: fur hat, fur boots, fur stole....oh and the mulled wine at the German markets.  But apart from the fashion and the festive beverages, I really don't find much to commend about the UK in wintertime - wanting to escape the sleet, snow, hail, and freezing fog is one of the prime reasons that I left in the first place.

Thankfully my gorgeous mini-family are just as in love with Dubai as I am, and whilst I know my dad would love a cheeky pint in a down and dirty Manchester pub over Christmas, he manages to somehow kick back with the bottled designer beers and numerous stylish bars in my home city.  So today I gleefully booked their flights; no mean feat considering the Jersey - London combo and timings.  Without wishing to bore you, there are no flights from Jersey to Heathrow, only Jersey to Gatwick, meaning that I was faced with a choice of schlepping them across London in a taxi to Heathrow, or biting the bullet and paying for the pricier tickets.  Without quoting figures - the flights are daylight robbery.  In the end I decided that they have enough of an incredible journey ahead of them, which they wouldn't have to endure if I hadn't decided to move out here, so I took the pricier path of least resistance.  They're worth it. 

The inevitable itinerary is being worked on as we speak....the authorities are on full alert...I've booked my place at the Betty Ford clinic for the day that they leave....can't wait.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Is There Anybody Out There?

If you write a blog, there are times when you wonder: is there really anyone out there reading this?  You try to make your posts witty, interesting, revealing (whilst keeping your dignity intact) and yet you could still be (figuratively) shouting into a black hole.  So it's all very lovely when I remember that I have a handy little Google tool that tells me that....people are reading! 

To be honest I'm not exactly sure why - I originally really started blogging so that I could update everyone on my move to Dubai.  I didn't really expect to still be writing two and a half years later.  And there are times when I go extremely quiet - if you don't have something interesting to say, don't say anything at all!

Here's some facts which I found interesting....for some reason August was a busy month.....45% of you are loyal, regular readers (hello, mum!) and the remainder are new.  The biggest readers are from the States (accidental?) the second highest is the UAE, and the third highest is the UK.  Others are Australia (hello Lee!), India and Canada.

I can tell where people have landed from, and staggeringly, some dear people are actually typing 'Britney of Arabia blog' into Google!

Note to self: Really must try harder to find interesting things to blog about or this isn't going to continue!

The Wisdom of Friends

Feeling very sober at the moment.  Not just because I’m on the wagon (don’t ask) but because there’s a weird feeling in the air at the moment.  Whenever I’m feeling a little ungrounded I reach out to the people I love most in the world, and this time I had a chat to Mr L in Manchester.  He’s one of my oldest (quite literally – ha ha – sorry Mr L) friends and always cheers me up.  But this time he was the one feeling glum – a friend of his had just died of a heart attack.  Yikes. 

Then there was news of a girl who killed herself here in Dubai.  Let’s be clear – I don’t know her/never met her, but it did start me thinking about my lovely uncle, who did the same thing when I was a small child.  I have one fabulous photo of us together – I’m all blonde tumbling ringlets and bridesmaid dress, he’s sporting a debonair seventies hairstyle and enormous tache.  We’re both laughing and it’s a stunning shot.  He can’t have been more than 25 when he died, and my cousins were my age ie 3 or 4, and just born.  It’s something that I haven’t thought about for probably 30 years, but it’s been on my mind for a few days.

I’m all for mulling over lessons that life throws at me, but those who know me well know that dropping into a slump isn’t my usual style at all, so what to do to change this status quo?  

In the words of Mr L: “Don’t be glum - I have had a rude awakening.  Burying (or actually cremating) one of your friends is a sobering experience and it makes you stop, take stock and look at what's going on.  I am going to make each day count.”  Sage advice.

So this week I shall be mostly: booking flights for the family to visit at Christmas, sorting a November break to Singapore and Bali, and hitting up my international playboy friend Rich in Hong Kong about putting me up in December.  Which all sounds much more like me.  You have been warned…..

Monday, September 13, 2010

Back to the Grindstone

It's the first day back in the office after Ramadan, and it's really not a treat so far.  My body had completely acclimatised to rolling out of bed at 9.15, and was not at all happy about the earlier start.  I can't imagine it's going to feel much better at 7 when I get out of this place!  Hey ho.  It feels like all I've done for the last few days is eat and drink, so we're all on the wagon, and in varying stages of bootcamp/pilates/slimming green coffee (no, really).  Welcome to dullsville!

Sorry to moan. I shouldn't really complain as the aforementioned eating and drinking was with my favourite people, partly on a mini break at the Jebel Ali hotel and partly just hanging out in Dubai.  As M pointed out, people spend good money coming to Dubai for along weekend, so just being here is like a mini-vacation!

 In a bit of a slump today. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

All Good Things Come to an End

We’re heading into the last week of Ramadan here, and this year, it’s really been a treat for me. I love Ramadan, and I’ve blogged about it before. Of course there’s a huge amount of religious protocol to be observed and for my Muslim friends, it’s significant in a different way. For me, as a non religious bod, it’s wonderful to be able to embrace the social aspect – iftars with good friends, catching up with people, great food, and home by 8.30 to collapse on the sofa – what’s not to love?!

And for the first time in three years I’ve actually, more or less, managed to work reduced hours – a blissful 10-4. This has never happened before and is such a treat. To be in the gym (yes, the gym) for 4.30 means that you can exercise, feel smug, AND have social life and be propping up a bar by 8. Rather than falling through the front door at 8, which is sadly so often the case.

We’re already lamenting the end of Ramadan and the short sharp shock that will be a 10 hour working day. I’m determined that my rigorous gym schedule won’t be compromised, but really, you’re a better woman than I am if you can face the gym at 7 am or 8 pm. Which leads to only one conclusion: boot camp. Whilst it pains me to even utter those two little words, I fear that it’s the only solution. That, or this young man. Watch this space.

Home is Where the Heat Is...

I know, I’ve been so quiet since I’ve been back from the U of K – not like me at all. I promise to try harder this month!

We’re right in the middle of vacay season here which has meant that the desert family has been missing key individuals throughout August – most disconcerting. Anyway, we’re all back now, and missed one another so much that we have a new rule: one goes, we all go! I.e if we’re off on holiday we go together, and if we’re going back to the UK, we all go at the same time. It’s just easier that way.

Everyone was champing at the bit to get back home for their annual visits, After a year without seeing home, catching up with friends and family, putting up with retards on a daily basis, you yearn for some sensible attitudes, good customer service, and a real , actual breath of fresh air. But as Dubai can be such a transient place, if the truth be told, everyone’s eagerness to get home was niggling at me a little bit. E had been homesick and dying to get back to see her girlfriends. F couldn’t wait to get back to the states and was even talking about moving to London. M was missing her mum and L was looking forward to trips to Paris, Manchester and Liverpool. And everyone else was just, well, keen to get out of Dubai. We kept in touch, of course, as the family left, and began their exciting jaunts around their home countries. We commented on the photos of drunken nights out, reunions, and watched as everyone generally had a riot back home. And then we waited for them to return.

And then an interesting thing happened. They all came home, one by one, and bar none, declared that they ‘couldn’t wait to be back home in Dubai.” Home wasn’t the UK any more. Home was Dubai. It was a refreshing revelation, and interesting that each and every one of us reached that conclusion at pretty much the same time. All talk of ‘where next’ and ‘how much longer’ has completely dissipated.

Let’s be clear, it’s not that we hate the UK, and we’re all feeling torn about leaving friends and family behind – that’s a given. It’s just that there’s so much to love about Dubai, and after two years, we’ve all put down roots here. Roots that go deeper than I think any of us had realized. We’re already back into the old routines: wine after work, pool and beach at the weekend, and just as soon as Ramadan is over, we’ll be storming a dancefloor near you. Dubai, we missed you. And there really is no place like home.

Hello, Good Morning

If you know me, you’ll know I’m a pretty cheerful person. I’m generally in a good mood, and I treat people as I like to be treated – nicely. In the UK I’d always say hello to the postman and have a chat with the owner of the nearby newsagent. So I’ve obviously brought this attitude with me to Dubai, but now I’m wondering if it needs to change. Because Dubai is so full of people hanging around generally waiting to help you, or with unidentifiable jobs, it now takes me about ten minutes longer to exit the house and get to work. This morning is a prime example, I said hello to:
  • The man outside my apartment doing something with the wiring
  • The man in the lobby swiffing (no, really) the floor
  • The concierge (who also opens the door for me and tells me to have a nice day)
  • The security guard outside my building (not sure what he’s securing)
  • The taxi driver (who I also have a little chat with about Ramadan, his day and how it’s going so far)
  • The man cleaning the doors to the elevators in my office building
Once in the office there are of course numerous work colleagues, the office boys, and a couple of randoms who I’ve never seen before but say hello to all the same. I’m exhausted!

I’m joking, of course, about ignoring them all. I could try, but I just couldn’t do it. Especially when I’m sure that so many people in Dubai do ignore people, or worse still, are just plain rude. In the words of the Wagamama’s delivery man last night: “Kelly, I always look forward to seeing you as you are always so happy. A lot of my customers are not.” Bless him. A smile costs nothing, people! (PS I don't order Waga's delivery that often. Honest)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hi Honey, I'm Home!

I'm back! Did you miss me?! Had an absolute blast back in the UK, but I have to say, I'm extremely happy to be home. I left with mixed feelings, which I'm sure most ex-pats will be familiar with: happiness to be heading home, guilt to be leaving friends and family behind. (Multiply that guilt by 3 when it comes to family what with me being the only child.) I got a bit emotional on the plane (perhaps partly due to watching Mary Poppins - I really don't remember it being that sad!) and had a boo hoo as we came in to land in Dubai. The nice young man in the seat next to me passed me a tissue without making any comment, bless him. Maybe women crying on planes are a common occurrence these days?
It was oh so easy to slip back into the old routines: dinner and cocktails at Harvey Nicks, tea round at Jayne's, and endless lunches, dinners and booze sessions with my favourite people, in my old favourite haunts. Not to mention the hours of shopping: UK economy, don't say I never do anything for you! Thankfully Emirates upped their weight limit to 30 kgs last year otherwise I would have been in real trouble. Who knew that 10 pairs of shoes, 16 dresses, 17 underwear sets, and many other miscellaneous clothing items and cosmetics would weigh so much!

Some topline observations:

Customer Service
I’d forgotten how truly terrible this is in Dubai until I was back in Manchester. Just an hour after landing I headed to House of Fraser for a strapless bra (as you do). The details of what happened in the changing room are worthy of another blog entry – suffice to say I’ve gone up THREE CUP SIZES since moving to Dubai. Put on half a stone and watch it go to my boobs! Things could be worse…anyway. My point was, after measuring me, the lovely sales girl told me to stay where I was, and then proceeded to bring me every single strapless bra they had in the shop (and they had a lot.) Merciless sales technique – maybe but she really wasn’t pushy at all. It was simply about making me, the customer, have as easy and pleasant an experience as possible. Dubai retailers: take note.

Since the January crash, I’ve never really been the same when travelling by car. I was actually reaching a point where I wondered if I had some deep-seated psychological problem (no laughing). Not so – as I discovered when travelling frequently by car in the UK. What, no-one drives at break-neck speeds? Or undertakes you? Or cuts you up? Or uses their mobile phone whilst driving? I was completely relaxed the entire time, which reassured me that it’s not me, it’s Dubai.

I know, I know, it’s the most boring topic in t he world and such a stereotype for me to even mention it. BUT. I hadn’t forgotten how much I hate rain and grey skies, but I had forgotten how day after day of gloomy weather makes me feel, well, gloomy. Down in the dumps. In a general slump. I’m so very happy to be back in perpetual sunshine, even if that does mean searing heat and suffocating humidity for many months of the year.

Cost of Living
I understand that I live in one of the world’s most expensive cities, which means that bargains are even more exciting than they used to be. It’s not often that you find one in a place where glasses of wine can cost you 10 quid…so you can imagine my excitement, nay hysteria, when being back in a place where you can buy a bottle of wine for that price. And don’t even get me started on 15 quid work dresses from Primarni. Suffice to say, I went wild in the aisles…of pretty much every shop you can think of.

There’s so much more I could say about the trip home, but exhaustion is over-taking me. Even the 10 am Ramadan start could not assuage the tiredness I felt after getting to bed at 2.30 am this morning. More to follow when my brain is back in gear!