Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happy 40th National Day!

Excited much?
It's hard to believe that this weekend will be my fourth National Day in Dubai. I blogged about my first one here. This year is particularly special as it marks 40 years since the United Arab Emirates were formed.  And it's fair to say we're going all out.

Unlike the UK where patriotism is almost un-PC, EVERYONE loves National Day.  We're having a 3 day weekend to enjoy the celebrations.  There are ceremonies all over town, parades, fireworks - so much to choose from that my mind is boggling!  There's also the huge array of National Day themed merchandise - my office is looking particularly resplendent right now.  It's hard not to get excited about it all, especially when I love my adopted home so much.

Although I don't know what I'm doing, I do have the outfit sorted: themed dress, hat, two scarves, BOOM!  Full updates and photos to follow. If I don't make the front page of Gulf News it will be a travesty.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Simple Pleasures

Where else can you find therapy for 5 dirhams?!
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I ADORE Dubai parks.  They’re havens of joy and happiness and amongst the best therapy I’ve ever experienced after a tough week.  And I’m clearly not alone, as at the weekend they’re packed with all nationalities and all walks of life, all united in one thing: having a fabulous carefree time.  Over the last few years we’ve accumulated a pile of park necessities and I’m always on the look-out for more. I’ve actually started staring at other park-goers, not just because it’s great people watching, but also to see what park paraphernalia they may have that I need to get involved in!
So far these park items include:
  • Special fold-out ‘thing’ for sitting on.  You need something waterproof as the grass is irrigated at night and can be surprisingly wet.
  • Special soft rug. Not an essential for everyone but I don’t leave home without it. This can be a fluffy throw or a camel blanket, depending on whatever is closest to hand.
  • Cool bag or picnic basket. Have been looking for a picnic basket for ages, without success. Have decided to save the dirhams and stick to the cool bag.
  • Some sort of game.  Now I NEVER thought I’d be one of ‘those’ people who plays stupid games or frisbees in the park, but it turns out, I am!  Current favourite is a bizarre game which is basically two discs which you use to bat a small runner thing made of string.  Sounds ridic, but it hilarious. I am now hankering after a badminton set. No, really!
  • Cushions.  The bigger the better, ideal for lounging on when exhausted from the aforementioned games, chowing down on some picnic food, or simply gazing up at the perpetually blue sky.
  • Picnic.  Perennial staples: egg sandwiches and cold sausages.  Optional extras: pretzels or ice cream.
  • Kite. This is a very recent addition.  Ours is National Day themed and cost 10 dirhams (about 1.40 GBP). 
So there you have it.  What with the 5 dirham entry fee and cost-effective accessories, what price happiness? Not much!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Eurgh is all I'm saying..
Regular readers will know my on/off again love affair with bootcamp.  When it’s good (i.e you are going regularly) it’s really really good.  When it’s bad (i.e you haven’t been for months – hello!) it’s horrid.  It can also be a pain to get to – after a 10 or 12 hour day it can be hard to find the motivation to schlep your way across the city to their usual park or beach location.

So when we heard about a new Downtown bootcamp, our hearts leapt. We signed up faster than a rat up a palm tree.  And in the main, it’s good. Typical bootcamp fayre: running, circuits, boxing.  The one thing I hadn’t considered was how many of my friends live in Downtown.  Added to which my office is in Downtown.  Added to which Downtown is a very popular destination to visit even if you don’t live or work here.  This means HUGE potential for being spotted by someone that you know, whilst looking far from your best.

Last week the worst finally happened.  I had an email from an old friend that I haven’t seen in quite some time.  “I saw someone that looked quite a bit like you running through Downtown clutching what looked like a basketball.  Can you confirm or deny?!”

Sadly I had to admit that this was indeed me.  Thankfully the friend was either too far away or too kind to also describe the sweaty mess that was me in any more detail.  Is a disguise taking things too far in future?!


I was not born to iron...
I may have mentioned how blessed we are here in Dubai when it comes to having people to look after us. I have the loveliest cleaner in the world who is an old friend of a friend, who has now become part of the Downtown Family.  We have joked that Mohesh, the man from Dubai laundry, has been the most constant male presence in our lives over the last four years.

Last month, disaster struck: Mohesh went on his annual vacation.  As is customary in this part of the world, he took an entire month off.  His replacement, whilst lovely, didn’t understand which trousers had front pleats and which didn’t, and wasn’t entirely au fait with the term ‘dry cleaning’.

My hopes were raised that Mohesh was back when I saw the Dubai Laundry van flash past as I was throwing myself around Downtown during bootcamp (way too public).  And yesterday when my doorbell rang, it was confirmed: Mohesh is back!  We actually had a near-emotional reunion as we chatted about his holiday and what he’d been up to.

Thank you universe. We really are blessed.

Off the Beaten Track...

Al Hamra Eat Your Heart Out..
A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of a five day public holiday.  In the past we’ve used this as an excuse to see far-flung places…Africa, Syria, Bali, Singapore…this year we decided to try somewhere closer to home.  Um Al Quwain is one of the smallest Emirates and is essentially a sleepy fishing village.  I’ve driven in and out when visiting the booze shop there and have even popped into the marine club to watch others wakeboarding (I like to keep this as a purely spectator activity).

So it was with a little trepidation that we set off on our long weekend break there.  We’d found a beach front hotel that looked more Fawlty Towers than Burj Al Arab, and whilst that was exactly what we wanted, I’m always slightly concerned about adapting to what could be a less glamorous than camping option.  How we were pleasantly surprised! Weekend highlights:

  • Our own villa with lounge and fridge - stocked with soft drinks
  • Fruit Bowl
  • Terrace overlooking gardens
  • Miles of clear uninterrupted beach
  • Beer 10 dirhams (1.50 GBP)
  • On-site booze shop
  • Hilarious Philippino duet – think Carpenters with no talent
  • Amazing untouched villages and streets to explore
  • Rows of traditional shops with abayas and more National Day memorabilia than you can shake a stick at
In summary:  if you want a low-key, laid-back, stress-free weekend with more charm than glitz, head to Um Al Quwain. Just be prepared for some very creative renditions of your favourite songs from the band – I’ll never be able to listen to Jay Z’s Empire State of Mind in the same way….