Wednesday, April 27, 2011

United Nations

If only I had some of these spare..
One of the beautiful things about Dubai is that if you need something fixed or sorted in your home, there's a myriad of handymen available at very reasonable prices who can help.  No more wasting our precious evenings or weekends with DIY chores, or depending on the kindness of friends to sort these tasks for you.

I saved up a variety of crucial jobs (AC servicing, shelves to be put up,  holes to be filled, beautiful Arabic graffiti to be hung) and called a repair service.  I've used them before and they've always been super professional and lovely.  This time was no different.

At the agreed time (no mean feat in Dubai) I opened my front door to a trio of smiling faced young men, who duly took off their shoes, and marched into my apartment, brandishing my list of jobs. Refusing my offers of water, they set to work with vigour. For a couple of hours they busily drilled, fixed and filled, cleaning as they went.  Eventually they finished, sidled over to me shyly and finally decided to engage me in chat that wasn't DIY related.

"Water now madam?" they asked.  We stood in companionable silence as they slurped the cold water and we all looked out at my (beautiful) sea view. I prepared myself for more questions (the usuals being: are you married/do you live here alone/how long have you lived here.)

Instead the boy tackled the real issue of the moment, on the minds of people the world over: "You will be watching the Royal Wedding madam?". "Oh yes, of course!" I responded.  "Us too!" he giggled, with a smile that could probably be seen from space. 

I'm not much of a Royalist,but it does tickle me to think of the lovely DIY boys with their feet up watching the show on Friday.  God bless the Queen!

Nightmares in the Air

If the plane crashes, please let Jack rescue me..

Those who know me well have grown used to a peculiarity about me: I have the most vivid and unusual dreams.  On any given day these can range from the bizarre (being a donkey midwife) to the terrifying (being chased by an axe murdered through a forest, covered in blood.) Analyze that! 

My latest extreme dream: I'm on a plane, and it's crashing.

By this I mean nose-diving, at speed.  I can literally feel the g-force pulling me downwards, and that weird 'roller-coaster' feeling in my tummy when you're dropping from a great height. To make matters worse, I'm sat right at the front of the plane, and the cockpit door is open.  So I can see the ground as we plummet towards it.  Now, horrific as this sounds, this isn't that unusual for me, being in a plane crash is a recurring nightmare of mine - aren't I lucky! (N.B The alleged meaning of this is here. I'm saying nothing!)

What made this dream much, much worse, was that when I woke up...I WAS ON A PLANE.  Yep, I had this beauty whilst on the flight to Nepal.  Thank you universe! I woke up in a cold sweat and blind panic, the situation made worse (if it possibly could get any worse!) by the fact that a) you're not allowed to drink alcohol on Air Arabia flights b) the duty free purchases were in the overhead locker so I couldn't sneak them open if I'd wanted to.

I did calm down after a few minutes of chat, and after ten minutes of reading Piers Morgan's latest celebrity book, I was almost back to normal.

But really, it's put me right off attempting to sleep on planes ever again....

The Great Escape

Perfect Contrast to Dubai!
I'm back! Did you miss me?!  Nepal was wonderful.  Think complete relaxation in a forest hotel, with Kathmandu and the ancient city of Baktaphur just a short journey away.  This made for lots of book-reading, celebrity trash magazine reading, wine drinking and spa visits.  We even managed a day of full-on sunbathing, which was a surprise to us as the weather is usually rainy at this time of year.  Instead it was 32 degrees, sunny and blue skies!

As we didn't want to be accused of being boring layabouts we got involved in a forest walk at one point.  Well, I say walk, it was more like getting frog-marched over hill and down dale in a military fashion as if we were running from a forest fire...but despite being sure that death was moments away, we survived, and felt we'd really earned our restorative glasses of fizz once we were done.

Considering the bargain knock-down deal we got, we felt extremely smug about the whole thing, not to mention rested, peaceful and utterly relaxed.  I can't recommend Nepal enough!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Seeing the World...

It's vacation frenzy here at the moment.  I've often mentioned that one way to get through 12 hour days and stress beyond belief is to have as many beautiful trips to exotic places with my favourite people in the diary.  Next week is Nepal, and yesterday we took the executive decision that October will be....Jerusalem!

It's been on my want to do list for quite some time, so when a lovely work colleague reminded me that his whole family is there, and he needs to pay them a visit, I didn't need asking twice. Before you could say 'rat up a palm tree' I'd scoped out flights on Expedia (approx 350 quid. Bargain!), checked the diary, and had an itinerary set up and waiting. 

Leaving aside the myriad of political issues facing the area, it is, I am told, the most beautiful place on earth, with historical sites in abundance and scenery to die for. And one of the loveliest parts of the trip will be enjoying the fabulous arabic hospitality of F and his lovely family.

As you would expect, we are in a planning frenzy, with a Nat Geo DVD ordered, and summit meetings in the diary to set out an itinerary.  I haven't told the parents yet - Mrs H was a bit concerned when I announced I was going to Beirut last year....I'll break the news gently...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I Heart Satwa

Forget Harvey Nichols, Satwa's where it's at!
After working for much of yesterday at a client event (never any need to work at the weekend, but at least it was for a lovely client) I spent a lovely few hours in one of my favourite places in Dubai: Satwa.  It's one of the original community areas in Dubai, long before Downtown was even a twinkle in HRH's eye...

As well as residential it's also commercial, with heaps of shops.  There's a standard joke in Dubai that if you need something and you can't find it in Satwa, it doesn't exist.  To prove how diverse the place is, this is what I got up to yesterday:

Books are expensive in Dubai, with a new release, even if in paperback, regularly costing ten quid or more. And with the rate that I read, that makes for an expensive hobby.  Enter the wonderful 'Book World' which is a second hand bookshop the size of a postage stamp, stuffed chockful of all sorts of fiction, non fictions, kids books, old name it, it's in there.  And not only are the books a bargain, when you've read them, you can take them back, redeem half of what you paid for them, and swap them for new ones!  After a bit of chin scratching in the philosophy section (who am I kidding) I admitted defeat and snaffled up a couple of bonkbusters to take to Nepal. 3 books cost me approximately 1 quid.  Love it.

Satwa is known for having lots of tailors, and the key is to know which one you want to visit. If you just pick one randomly, you may have a bad experience and end up looking less than fabulous.  I do know one such great tailor, but here's the rub: I haven't been for two years.  And it's down a tiny backstreet alley.  And Satwa is basically one giant backstreet alley. 

I followed my nose in the general direction I last remembered heading.  Call it perseverance, call it the universe, but it wasn't long before I stumbled, quite literally, across the tailor that I knew and loved.  I unloaded a bag of material which was bought two years ago (luckily I have great taste that transcends the years, ha ha) and in two weeks time  I will be the happy owner of one new shirt dress (copied from a Paul and Joe favourite) one new kimono top (vintage copy) and one new work shirt (single white femaled from VH...puffed sleeves, long cuffs, just perfect for work).

Kitchen Supply Shops
I have no idea why, but I just love to see piles of saucepans, Tupperware, and various metal kitchen implements that I have no idea how to use.  Then I love to question the store owners about what they are to be used for.  I can go on for hours like this, picking things up quizzically, and discussing them - me with my non existent Arabic and them with their limited English.  I didn't have much time to spare on this but I did discover that you can buy electrical frankincense burners.  Who knew?

Hardware Stores
No, I haven't taken leave of my senses, I need some shelves, and IKEA is just snoreville.  Much more fun to head into a treasure trove of a hardware store and ask for brackets instead.  And however cheap IKEA may be, they don't do brackets for 10 dirhams.  You  also don't gather a crowd as the only white, blonde, western woman striding up and down the (very cramped) aisles.  It was more of a shuffle, really.

Well brackets needs shelves, don't they!  This little store frontage, I suspect, was the tip of a very large wood iceberg, but I couldn't really see past the piles and piles of wood.  I wouldn't say that English was the strong language of the lovely owner but we somehow worked out how long and wide I wanted the wood to be.  And the colour (the easy bit).  Just five short minutes later the aforementioned lovely owner bought these over to the car for me (he looked aghast when I suggested I would stand and wait) and passed them to me through the car window. Two beautiful shelves for 50 dirhams (ten quid).

After that it was a pleasant twenty minutes with the boy's tailor, which involved discussions about material, stitching, design features, and consultation of numerous photos on the iphone.  After that it was a very pleasant few drinks in one of Dubai's oldest hotels (and one of my favourites) followed by a street dinner at Ravi's

I love Downtown, and all the glitz and glam of Dubai, btu this remains by favourite way to pass some time...

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A (literal) Breath of Fresh Air

Goodbye Dubai, Hello Himalayas!
I had to make a pretty tough decision this week.  It took a lot of thought, research and consideration. Yes, I booked a holiday.  When I say tough decision, it boiled down to the Maldives, the Seychelles or Sri Lanka.  Hardly a rock and a hard place, non?

Whilst the Maldives and Seychelles obviously look, and are fabulous, we eventually baulked at spending the best part of two thousand quid on a four day trip.  And going to Sri Lanka (which I do love) would go against my 'never visit the same place twice unless it's New York" rule.  And then I remembered that Air Arabia (the UAE's answer to BMI or Easyjet only more civilised) also does holidays.  Which is how I'm booked to fly to Nepal in less than two weeks. It's never been on my list of 'must-see' places, but it was a complete bargain.  And having researched it a bit more, I'm actually really looking forward to it.

For the equivalent of 400 quid, we'll be staying here, with daily: 90 minute spa sessions, early morning yoga sessions, and forest walks. I can't WAIT!  We did wonder if we'd rather lie on a beach for four days, but honestly? We do that each and every weekend, so this will  make a lovely change.

Now I can't stop thinking about which books to take!