Sunday, January 29, 2012

Back To School

Just beautiful..
One of the things I love about Dubai is that even after almost four years, I still stumble across exciting new things and experiences. Take last weekend for example. I’ve caught an abra across the creek COUNTLESS times. I’m always strolling through the spice and toy souks, stocking up on Frankincese and and soaking up the atmos.  And yet, after taking a few twists and turns through unfamiliar alleyways, I found THE most beautiful old restored school.  

Al Ahmadiya School was the first regular school in Dubai, opened way back in 1912 when life was hotter and harsher.  It’s been beautifully restored, and as it’s most definitely off the beaten track, we had the place almost all to ourselves. Treat! I felt a bit like Indiana Jones, only with better shoes, more make up and over-sized sunglasses.

There’s a gorgeous Heritage House next door which is just as exciting (yes, I know I’m a geek). The gift shop alone was worth the visit - they're selling the most beautiful dirham purses, currently in Galleries Layfayette at 300DH for just....15DH. I had to check the price twice and felt like I'd robbed the shop keeper as I skipped out with a handful!

There’s something very intriguing about these beautiful old buildings next to the creek. If you close your eyes to the glittering skyscrapers for a minute, you can almost drift back to days when life in Dubai revolved around pearl diving and dhows…simpler but tougher times.  

We also came across the cutest hotel which I’ve earmarked for a night’s stay. As we headed back to the abra station the adhan kicked in and it was nothing short of beautiful. I’m not sure what I’d do without my weekly creek fixes!

To Post...or Not To Post?

Rarer than unicorns!
It’s a well known fact here in Dubai that our postal system is virtually non-existent. Post is not delivered to the door of your villa or apartment, only to a PO Box. Some, not all, apartments come with these.  In the main I use my office address as it has a PO Box number and it’s easier for parcels.  

This however, is still not foolproof. I’ve had numerous cards and parcels from well meaning friends simply never make it – if you use regular Royal Mail – forget it. I received one Christmas card,posted on December 20th,last week, one whole month later. To be sure of anything you need to use Fedex – and understandably no one wants to fork out for this. 

It’s the same the other way – Dubai to the UK. Whilst the UK may have a good (?!) postal system, our terrible one means you’re gambling with your items unless you Fedex them. Despite the cost (20 quid plus for a letter) I’ve started doing this regularly, it’s just not worth the pain of losing things. 

As I’ve never ACTUALLY posted a letter, I was intrigued, nay excited, to spot a REAL LIVE POST BOX when exploring Deira at the weekend. There it was, resplendent and red and shiny. I couldn’t believe it! Had a very good look at it, in manner of pig staring at a wristwatch, took a photo, then continued on my merry way.  Nice to know they exist, but I still wouldn’t risk it!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Growing a Big Bush

What I'm aiming for...
Despite having a father who has green fingers for a living, I’ve never been very good in the garden or plant department. Back in the UK I did at one point have a very large garden, which involved a lawn and a mower. Needless to say I paid a man to sort this for me….

When I moved into the city centre I swapped a garden for balcony, and after killing a wide variety of foliage I settled on the perfect solution: artificial plants. They were expensive but very realistic, and I figured that in the long run, I was saving money. Not to mention lives.

Since moving to Dubai I’ve completely eschewed plant life, despite a variety of lovely balconies. My main priority has been comfy seating from which to watch the world go by and (most importantly) to recline on whilst in bikini with trashy mags and a G&T.

That changed last weekend – maybe it’s the cooler weather, maybe it was my good mood, maybe it was the giddy plant seller next to the ‘Falcon CafĂ©’ (no, really) just off Sheikh Zayed Road…who knows. But I found myself back at home with TWO bougainvilleas – one a short fat bush, the other taller and skinner. Both beautiful and full of pink and yellow flowers.

The terrible weather and wind that howls round the balcony has meant I’ve kept the little guys in the lounge all week, but this weekend I shall be ensconcing them in their new sunny home. I’m really quite excited! Let’s see how they take to it.  My (green) fingers are crossed.

Passport, Ready!

Watch out, wombats!
The latest trip is in the diary: Down Under! Heading to Sydney for the wedding of an old, very good friend of mine and am giddy as a goat to get there. Being the international citizen that I am, I have a list of friends to catch up with before and after the main event, which also (luckily for me) translates  into places to stay too.  

Apparently Sydney is very expensive, but after 4 years in Dubai I remain unconvinced that anything is going to shock me – ten quid for a glass of wine takes some beating!

Obviously there’s an itinerary in process (recent quote used to describe me “she plans like a brain surgeon”) and in between the champagne catch ups and wedding joviality there is already a Big Bus Tour! Yes, I like to make sure I share my munter tendencies with the Antipodeans.

So, any Oz tips, do just let me know!


Rare, but can happen!
I can’t let this week pass without mentioning the weather. We’re in the grip of a cold snap here. When I say cold, I mean 16 degrees….yes I KNOW that 16 degrees is positively balmy in the UK, but after four years in the heat, it’s absolutely Baltic to me!  AND it snowed in Ras Al Khaimah last night - ridic!

When I first arrived here I used to view grey, windy weather with suspicion, nay terror. Years of living in Manchester had conditioned me to expect hideous weather to set in for weeks or even months, so at the merest glimpse of a cloud here I descended into an emotional slump. I couldn’t understand why my fellow Dubai-dwellers leapt out of their seats with excitement at the merest sniff of a drop of rain. I may have even sneered when this happened.

Fast forward four years and I’m one of them: the hysterically excited people who LOVE a bit of wind and grey sky. Living on the 28th floor also gives me an amazing view as clouds roll in from the sea or the marina. 

Never fear, I have no desire to live anywhere where this is a perpetual weather situation. I’m strictly a temporary cold weather girl. And as all too soon we’ll see the temperature gauge ticking up up and away, I’m enjoying this whilst it lasts (apparently 3 days, fact fans).

Monday, January 16, 2012

On the Wagon

Ho ho!
I had a tradition back in the UK where each year I had a dry January. After stuffing my face with everything in sight, both food and liquid, during December, this was actually a blessed relief. And as many of my friends were either doing the same thing, or watching their finances after a festive blow-out, I usually succeeded.
Last year in Dubai I managed to stay dry for exactly half the month.  Which as I mentioned in my blog at the time, is not bad going in Dubai, where so much socializing revolves around licensed premises, and 12 hour working days can drive you straight to the fridge when you eventually stagger home from the office.
So far I’m 16 days in without a drink. I’ve survived a weekend away, dinner at Frankie’s, dinner at Ravi’s (both are usually happily oiled with vino) and even an art event where it took all of my resolve to resist the (free! free!) champagne.  A lot of people seem to be in training for something this year, or making more of a conscious effort to be healthy. 

But this year I’ve noticed something different about my UK chums: they’re not only eschewing the dry month,  but embracing being wet. A few comments from friends:
  • Man down....had half bottle of red ...I may be a loser but am feeling great...
  • I am realistic about what I can and can't give up - wine is not a thing I can live without. I have cut down (no booze Monday - Thursday) but I cannot cut out.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve been close, camel’s-whisker-close to cracking and ordering a glass of something infinitely more interesting that lime and soda. Somehow I’ve managed not to. Watch this space.