Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dating in Dubai: Chapter One

I’ve never shared too much about really personal details on this blog. It’s a family show folks! But as I’m part of a group of girls, all in various relationship states, living in what is probably the most single city in the world, there’s stories a-plenty. Stories to make your hair curl, your eyes water, and to have you running for the nearest nunnery at high speed.
I’m going to tell you a few, gauge the reaction and then maybe, just maybe, I’ll share some more with you. One major caveat: the names of people involved are obviously changed to protect the innocent. And don’t go presuming that I’m the star in these stories, there are way, way too many of them for my diary to accommodate!

Thanks in advance to the girls who have agreed to share…

Here’s number one:

• Girl meets boy at beach bar.
• Boy asks for number.
• Boy pursues her relentlessly for weeks until she agrees to go on a date.
• Boy sends a slew of utter filth via text during these weeks.
• Girl and boy go on date.
• Date is going well.
• Boy and girl retire to her place to ‘get to know one another a bit better’.
• Boy is seriously hot, both is happy with progress.
• Boy and girl are having a laugh.
• 5 minutes late, boy starts crying his eyes out. Bawling.
• Girl adjourns to bathroom for two minutes.
• Girl returns and discovers that boy has done a runner.
• In his desperation to leave, boy abandons his t-shirt in girl’s apartment. (What? How? Etc etc)
• Boy then sends a slew of texts along the lines of “I’m so sorry but I can’t stop crying. I was thinking about my ex.”

There’s so much wrong with this story that it’s hard to know where to start, really. Number one: if you’re getting over an ex, don’t pursue other women like a wild dog. Number two: don’t ever, ever cry when you’re on a date. Unless you receive some REALLY bad news along the lines of a death in the family.

To be honest I lack the energy to go through numbers three, four, five and six. Of all the situations you can imagine happening on a date, this is pretty much the only one we hadn’t considered. It’s a scary, scary world out there, folks!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Where did My Willpower Go?

Another day, another evening drinking champagne in Dubai…..this time I had the best of intentions and had actually declared myself on the wagon for the week. The best laid plans….

Despite a huge sandstorm that came from nowhere yesterday (complete with rain!) L and I rocked down to the spa in one of Dubai’s swishest hotels. Yes, yes, I know, they’re all swish, but Al Qasr is pretty fancy. We’d been to the spa before for V’s birthday last year, and it is just as lush and wonderful as you might expect. Last night was a freebie, the idea being that they take a group of businesswomen, ply them with free stuff, and then aforementioned women either attend themselves as paying guests, or (better still for the spa) arrange some sort of corporate event at the venue.

We didn’t know what to expect at also were pleasantly surprised by a quick tour, which revealed that they are now offering all sorts of medical treatments (body scanning/colonic, anyone?) and after a quick sit down we were whisked over to the adjacent restaurant for delicious canapes and….free champagne. I defy anyone to turn down champagne. Especially when it’s free. And in Dubai. Treat.

After scoffing and quaffing to our hearts content we skipped off to get a taxi (via the worlds fastest golf buggy ride, it seemed). A quick rifle through the lovely goody bags revealed that we’d been given free dinner for two at Pier Chic, free brunch for two at Meydan, free massages for two at the spa, and heaps of Molton Brown goodies. Acompletely unexpected result!

Woke up at an ungodly hour and dragged myself to the gym before work today to try to work off the canapés… had to be done. And I’m back on the wagon – let’s see if I can manage for than 24 hours this time…

Sunday, May 16, 2010


So, finally, I made it to the Armani…and it was worth the wait. I was there for a work party, and we were actually the first event that they had hosted since the opening. What can I tell you? Overall, it was a great, great night, with some hilarious stories at the end of it.  Highlights:

• The Burj: To get to the hotel – which is in the Burj – you access it via a long drive,with lots of security checking that you have a reservation. And then you’re there, in front of the Burj. It’s a beast. I see it all day, every day, but nothing prepares you for standing right at the foot of it, looking up at it against an inky sky. Breathtaking.
• Décor: It’s Armani, darling, so as you would expect, it is the epitome of stylish, minimalist chic. Greys, browns, muted colours and textures…..achingly elegant.
• Staff: Amazing. Despite dealing with 400 rowdy, drunk, very excitable people, they were always polite and efficient. Oh, and girls: great uniforms (silver space age styles dresses with huge angular shoulders.)
• Food: Divine. I really don’t know how they did it given the huge numbers of people they were catering for. Starter was fish, then there was some sort of potato soup, then it was a medallion of beef (unbelievably good and melt in the mouth, and considering I was vegetarian for 18 years before moving to Dubai, this is quite a verdict), all finished off with a chocolate tart type thing with after eight ice-cream. Thanks heavens for the roomy vintage Halston dress I’d dug out of retirement!

I won’t go into the event itself, suffice to say that the entertainment was an acquired taste, and the singer murdered many, many popular tunes, but let’s just say: there was a stage, and we were dancing on it.

I couldn’t tell you what time that ended, but the second phase of the evening was Armani Privee – the nightclub within the hotel. It involved leaving the Burj and re-entering through a different door – don’t ask me how exactly and if you paid me money I’m not sure I could show you again….

The club is very typical Dubai and the sort of place I usually avoid. Visually it’s again completely Armani, with what looked like mother of pearl booths….the whole space is dominated by a giant, and I mean giant, screen, which plays Armani fashion shows over and over again. Not sure why anyone would ant to watch these when in a club, but who am I to argue. Couple of points to note:

• If you try to remove your shoes and dance barefoot (blisters) they will come and tell you off and make you put your shoes back on
• If you try and dance on the seats/tables, they will come and tell you off and make you stop
• If you try to enter the club whilst wearing a dish-dash (not me, obv) they will tell you off for trying and refuse you entry
• If you start breakdancing, they do not try to stop you
• If you start spank-dancing, they do not try to stop you

On the last two points: please do not take my word for it. By this time it was 3 am and the staff were probably too exhausted by our antics to stop us.

So overall, it’s an amazing experience, and the food alone was worth the trip. Apparently it came from the Italian restaurant (not sure of the name) we will be back. Next time I will try my best to remember more of it….

Welcome to the World, Samara!

Some good friends here have just had a baby, Samara. She’s been eagerly awaited as her parents are not only good friends but both absolutely gorgeous and we just couldn’t wait to see what she looked like. Her mum is Egyptian/German, with gorgeous cocoa skin and curly hair. Her dad is a Kiwi, all blond hair and blue eyes. Thankfully she didn’t fall foul of the rule that sometimes good-looking parents produce ugly kids (hello Jolie-Pitt kids, hello Princess-unpronounceable, child of Peter and Katie) and she is utterly divine.

We were invited round to meet her last night – as a 6 pound baby she is teeny-tiny so I didn’t feel brave enough to hold her, but it was great to catch-up with her new (exhausted) parents. And it wasn’t just a catch-up, we were greeted with delicious Egyptian food (loving sharing cultures!) and once everyone had arrived, a suboa took place.

This is an ancient ritual dating back to the time of Pharoahs, according to the Egyptians present. It consists of placing the baby on a cushion in the middle of the room, shaking her gently, and banging a cymbal next to her ear, whilst telling her how she must behave as she grows up. The mum then steps back and forth over the baby seven times, and then we all formed a circle and danced and clapped our way round her. All the while Egyptian music is playing in the background.

It was BRILLIANT and beats a boring, staid British christening hands-down. In typical Brit fashion I was concerned about a) stepping on the baby and b) the baby going deaf with all the shouting, but once I’d got over that it was all systems go.

Thanks so much for inviting us to be apart of it. Samara, just as soon as you’re old enough for me to be able to hold you without fear of breaking you, I’ll be back for a proper cuddle. Welcome to the world!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Just Another Day in the Twilight Zone....

I don’t mention work and its frustrations, partly because I like to keep professional, however hideous things get, and partly because I don’t want to revert to whingeing here. But I do have to share this snippet with you, mainly to give you an insight into how unprofessional and just plain annoying it can be doing business here in the Middle East. Here’s a run-down of my day yesterday:
  • Get up at 530 am. Curse the early hour. Get ready for work.
  • Catch taxi to airport. Check in. Get on plane. Fly to Oman. (Note: It takes about 4/5 hours to drive to Oman…an hour to fly. So it’s further than the Manchester-London trip which is such a ubiquitous part of life in the North. Just giving you some perspective on the distance, folks.)
  • Get off plane in Oman. Queue for one hour to get entry visa, get through immigration etc.
  • Find driver. Another 30 minute drive to office. Arrive with half an hour to spare before the meeting.
  • Meeting time comes. No client. 5 minutes pass, 10 minutes pass, 15 minutes pass.
  • I suggest calling the client to see where they are.
  • At that exact moment, a colleague receives a Blackberry message. The client isn’t coming. They can’t make it.
  • This is despite the fact that we confirmed the meeting THE NIGHT BEFORE, and they knew that two people were flying in from Dubai.
  • Refusing to be deterred, we pile into three cars, and drive to the client’s office. Half an hour away.
  • We wait in reception for another half an hour.
  • Finally, we’re led through 45 degree heat to a portacabin.
  • We have a ten minute meeting.
  • We leave in the three cars we arrived in.
  • We go back to the office. Have a quick meeting. It’s already time to go back to the airport and fly back to Dubai. I haven’t even had time to check my emails.
  • Half an hour drive to airport.
  • Attempt to log in to airport wireless t finally do some work. It’s torturously slow. After 20 minutes to read 5 emails, I give up.
  • Get on plane. Fly back to Dubai.
  • E-gate card stops working. Queue to get it sorted.
  • Dive into duty free (highlight of day)
  • Get taxi home.
  • Arrive home 14 hours after I left.
  • Collapse through door, head into shower.
  • Work until 11 pm answering emails and sorting everything that I couldn’t do during the day.
  • Collapse into bed.
There are so many, many comments I could make, but I really think that all of the above speaks for itself, non? There are days when I would gladly give it all up to work for the camel man on Jumeirah beach. And that was one of them. Onwards and upwards….

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Hot Rod!

It’s not often that anyone decent comes to Dubai to perform, so when a couple of legends roll into town, we’re all over it. So this weekend was all about Spandeau Ballet and Rod Stewart. I’ll confess I was never a huge Rod fan until I flew the parents over to see Rod in concert in Manchester a few years ago…after that, I was hooked. I’m just a bit too young to properly remember Spandeau Ballet (honest!) but it was a great night.

The venue was the Rugby 7’s stadium, which is out in the desert and which I haven’t visited since, well, the Rugby 7’s…two years ago. It’s not a bad venue for a concert, with lots of seating for the boring fraternity, and lots of standing space for those who like to get a bit more animated (not hard to guess where we were, I hope!).

As I said, I didn’t think I was a Spandeau fan – in fact during the taxi journey there could only remember 3 of their songs, despite a lot of brain-racking. BUT when they came on stage it was a different matter altogether. Who knew my brain would have retained so many of their lyrics and tunes (thanks to young trendy parents for having such a diverse musical repertoire when I was a kid?!) One whiff and I was back to being 9 years old in Jersey. Brilliant.

By the time they’d finished we’d already had a great time – and Rod hadn’t even hit the stage! But hit the stage he did…what can I say..he is an absolute legend. Love the fact that a large proportion of his band is made up of extremely hot, leggy blondes (bearing more than a passing resemblance to numerous ex-wives!), love what a great performer he is, love his sense of humour (“This is my first time on stage in while, so excuse me if I drop a few boxxocks”) and most of all, love that voice.

Combined with a really perfect evening which wasn’t at all the sweat-box we’d anticipated, but warm, with a gorgeous breeze, and it was a very atmospheric evening. First Cut is the Deepest/Have I Told You Lately That I Love You; well, let’s just say there were nearly tears. There was also a lot of dancing, and screaming, but let’s not go into that!

Even the fact that the white wine ran out (!) after an hour, and that we had to endure ‘the incredible journey’ to get back home (don’t mention the dregs of the earth we were sat next to on the bus, or the 2 hour journey…) couldn’t take the edge of what was a brilliant night. Rod, we love you!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Snapshot of My Life

If you haven't yet had the joy of a visit to see me in Dubai (you know who you are!) then this is a pretty cool image which shows you the area where I live in quite a bit of detail.  FYI, my house is in the bottom right of the  pic...but not for much longer...

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


It's been cloudy and grey here the last few days, and we've even had (shock horror) rain!  Apparently we have Saudi to blame - they've had horrific rainstorms - and we have a tendency to get the tail end of their weather.  Regular readers will know that the first time I saw rain in Dubai it sent me into a tailspin.  Years of utterly shxte UK weather, where rain can set in for a month at least, has psychologically damaged me to the point where, when I saw rain, I honestly thought it would never stop.  Despite living in the desert.

These days I'm not at all bothered, although I haven't turned into one of the many rain loving freaks who seem to live here.  My only concern is: please let it stop by Friday, eh?  I have a good 6 hours of pool time before I need to get ready for Rod Stewart!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Celebrity Heaven

Met with a fascinating person last week, the head of our global sports and entertainment division. She’s based in New York, with an office in L.A…that side of our business is utterly fascinating, and as a celebrity junkie, ticked all my boxes. Throw in my dream of working in New York or California and we had a t o talk about and you can imagine my excitement at meeting her.

The great thing about great people is that they are smart, incredibly good at what they do, but they also have charisma and personality. We had a good meeting and followed it up with dinner and drinks where business was tossed aside in place of gossip about boys, fashion, make-up, wake-boarding…as you do. And a comment from me about the outrageous price of US magazines here ($9 for US Weekly..) resulted in no less than an enormous Fedex package on my desk two days later…full of US celeb magazines from the New York office The universe is a wonderful thing!

I'm Back!

I know, I've been quiet, again. As ever, it's been a combination of too much work, late conference calls with the states, and too much partying at the weekend that's slowed down the blogging- sorry! So what's been going on in my world? Well....

The weekend was a blast. A full day at Shoreside (drinking started at 11 am, whoops) which was just what the doctor ordered. After a few weekends without beach club I’m a shadow of my former-self (quite literally – where did the tan go?!) so being in the sunshine was just bliss. It has already become extremely hot though – although the sea is still cool-ish. In about two weeks it will be back to its ‘warm-bath’ temperature and of no use to man nor mountain goat, so we made full use of its refreshing, if fleeting, qualities.

We had a lot of gossip to catch up on and the time literally flew by. Before we knew it, it was 8 o’clock and we were dancing in our bikinis. Whoops again!

Thankfully, Hive in Souk Al Bahar has re-opened, so we decided it was only fair to go and remind the staff who their favourite and best customers were. They greeted us like family members – to be fair, we are in there 3 nights out of 7…and it was genuinely great to be back in our much loved watering hole. I’m not sure that nine gin and tonics were a brilliant idea but they seemed like a good idea at the time and we had a riot. Thanks to Martin the hairdresser for his usual plethora of inappropriate yet utterly hilarious anecdotes.

We’re planning a tip to the Armani hotel this weekend, and we have a work do there next week, so a full update on that is on its way.

It’s been a sad week with the departure of the lovely V….after 18 months in Oman (with monthly trips to Dubai, natch) she’s headed back to the UK. I’m already missing her like a limb and starting to understand what long-time ex-pats mean when they talk about friends leaving and how unsettling it is. I’m not sure quite how long Dubai would keep its sparkle if my nearest and dearest started packing up their things…thankfully none of them seem to be getting the suitcases out for the foreseeable future..

This weekend it’s none other than Rod Stewart in concert! Scoff all you like, he wasn’t exactly a regular feature on my ipod either, but then I took my parents to see him in Manchester a few years ago and had such a great night that I became a huge fan. He’s supported by Spandeau Ballet so it should be a fun evening. Just don’t mention the ever-climbing temperatures!