Monday, December 19, 2011

Feline Bothering

Admit, he's handsome, isn't he?
When I left the UK for Dubai, I left a variety of things behind me: friends, family, winter clothes, an umbrella and….one fat and fluffy black and white feline who went by the name of Frank. I won’t dwell  on that as it can still get me a bit misty eyed….he has a lovely new home and apparently still counts watching the telly as one of his favourite hobbies.

Anyway. It’s rare that I get to bother felines these days, but there is one rather lovely specimen. She’s black and slinky and called Molly and she lives……in our favourite Dubai pub. As cats do, these days it seems! She’s often to be found wafting around the bar stools and tables, and (as with most cats) is rather partial to anyone who has had food delivered to their table.

As is customary last Saturday night we headed to the pub for a few vinos before heading to Ravi’s for a street curry. Maybe it was the sudden drop in temperature (I was freezing even I n fur lined boots, jeans, cardigan and scarf), maybe it was the thought that I was about to order food, maybe it was just because I can talk to the animals and was once a zoo-keeper for the day…..who knows! But the slinky black cat made a veritable bee-line for my lap, did a few quick furry turns and then settled down for the evening. Then ensued a beautiful few hours of ear rubbing, chin stroking, and general feline bothering. With regular deliveries of white wine. An absolute treat.

It was hard to drag myself away from her and it did cross my mind just how lovely it would be to have a permanent furry friend at home. But in my heart of hearts, I think it’s best for cats to have some outside space – especially as so many here in Dubai are re-homed alley cats who are used to life on the mean streets.  Just another reason to move to that villa in Satwa, hey?!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

National Pride

The days before the Maqta Bridge...
The UAE is (quite rightly) very proud of its heritage and has been whipped into a complete frenzy before, during and after the 40th National Day. Of course, I was also caught up in this frenzy.  And it turns out that this frenzy has gone global.

You may have heard of Saadiyat Island – it’s just off the coast of Abu Dhabi and is famous for the Middle Eastern Louvre and Guggenheim being built there. And they also have a fabulous ’UAE Pavilion’ which I was lucky enough to visit on the way to Sade.  Designed by Lord Foster, it’s a beautiful creation, originally erected in Shanghai for last year’s World Expo, then dismantled and put back together again on Saadiyat.  Amazing.

At the moment it’s housing a celebration of the UAE.  Called The Union, it’s a selection of photographs chronicled by a fascinating man called Ronald Codrai, who lived in the Emirates when it was just a pile of sand and oil was a twinkle in the Bedouins’ eyes.

The images are huge, which makes them extremely impactful and we spent a very happy couple of hours roaming around, reading the accompanying stories and even watching specially commissioned films which documented the creation of the UAE.  It was a truly wonderful and moving experience. The exhibition ends on the 20th, so if you haven’t seen it, you probably won’t. I’m very glad I was lucky enough to catch it.

Your Love is….FABULOUS!

She sounded just as good as she looked..

I’m fresh back from a weekend in Abu Dhabi. Thankfully the days when I used to drive there twice a week, every week, for work, are a distant memory – and long may things stay that way.  So this time when I head there it’s usually for pleasure – and oh what a pleasure it was! We fitted a lot into one weekend, but the main reason behind the visit was to see the amazing Sade in concert.

There’s something pretty great about heading to an outdoor concert in the middle of December, though I have to confess that I felt a bit chilly and had to take a scarf. And wear skinny jeans and knee high boots. Brrr!  The concert was in the purpose built Yas Arena, nest to the Formula One track. It’s an impressive piece of kit and I’ve happily danced the night away to Stevie Wonder and Britney here.

And what was Sade like? WELL. Incredible. Breathtaking. Amazing. Add as many adjectives as you like here.  Quite aside from the stunning stage show, which I really wasn’t expecting, and the superb band, have you SEEN Sade lately?  She has the skin of a 20 year old (she’s actually 52. 52!!!!) and is still whippet thin. When she emerged from the floor for the opening number in skin-tight trousers, a tight sheer top and enormous cage shoes, I cheered inside.  There’s just no excuse to slide into fat middle age anymore, is there? (Note to self: easy on the mince pies this Christmas).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The REAL Dubai

Scruffy villa, shiny skyscrapers: hello Satwa!
I’ve blogged before about how I much love Satwa.  Last Friday, when much of Dubai’s great and good were staggering around brunches, swigging beer and insulting waiters, we took a drive through Satwa.   Not the main street, but the area adjacent to Sheikh Zayed Road.  A few years ago there were plans to knock this whole area down and put a new development in its place. They started this, but thankfully didn’t finish.

It’s THE most enchanting and magical place. It has none of Dubai’s glam and glitz, which is precisely why I adore it so much. As we drove around at sunset, the adhan swooping through the open car windows, we watched the community, who usually drive our taxis, clean our floors and serve our food, hang out and relax. 
The buildings are crumbling, you dodge chickens and fat (and skinny) alley cats, if you’re lucky you even stumble across a few rogue peacocks (just how they got there from the Zabeel Place is anyone’s guess!). 

An overwhelming sense of calm always washes over me when I spend time there.  It has a spirit which is palpable.  With the glittering skyscrapers of Sheikh Zayed twinkling in the sunset next to the corrugated iron low rises, you can’t help but feel that this is the real Dubai…love it.

Christmas Fever!

He's even in the desert, you know!
So, it happened. I caught Christmas Fever!  To be fair, I’d been actively courting it since November 30th, but a busy schedule and distinct lack of real Christmas trees in Satwa meant that I was a little delayed in getting on board.  Thankfully, that’s all changed, and my new (oh so beautiful) tree is resplendent at Harvarde Towers.

Don’t ask quite how we managed to fit it into a four door saloon car, suffice to say I ended up in the back seat with my face pressed against the rear view window for the journey home, but oh, it was worth it.  I’m actually excited when my key is in the lock each night, knowing the beautiful twinkly vision that awaits me.  And the smell of fresh tree is just a joy!

In addition to the tree I have a variety of festive treats around the house:  stockings, crackers, Bethlehem snow globe (no, really), Bethlehem donkey, Christmas candles, festive room spray, Christmas tunes, movies….oh it’s such a treat being home right now!

As I had the foresight to take a day off work last week to plough through the Christmas shopping, there’s also piles and piles and PILES of presents under the tree.  Now it’s time to go through the now traditional ‘will they won’t they make it stress’ due to the hideous UK weather. I have everything crossed.