Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You…..

This Taxi Driver is Holding My life Story. Probably.
Dubai taxi drivers are an institution. I’ve blogged about them manytimes before – taxis here are cheap and prolific and most of us use them as we would have used a bus in the UK. Although I’m happy to say I can’t remember using a UK bus since my University days. I shudder at the memory.

Taxi drivers have a bit of a bad reputation for driving like maniacs and being generally unhelpful when it comes to knowing where your destination is (whoops!) but in the main, I’ve always had good experiences. 

They can be quiet, surly, or even downright rude. But approximately once a month, you will get the chattiest taxi driver alive. One that probes and analyses you like a Pakistani or Indian Jeremy Paxman.

Real questions I was asked this week, on ONE short journey:

  1. How long you live in Dubai?
  2. You like Dubai?
  3. Why you come to Dubai?
  4. How long you are going to stay in Dubai?
  5. Where you from?
  6. Whereabouts in the UK?
  7. What job do you do?
  8. Is that a good job?
  9. Does it pay good money? (Derisive snort from me)
  10. Where you live in Dubai?
  11. You like it?
  12. Is it nice place?
  13. Is it expensive?
  14. Does your company pay your rent? (Derisive snort from me)
  15. Are your parents still alive?
  16. Where do they live?
  17. Are they still working?
  18. What does your father do as job?
  19. What does your mother do as job?
  20. Do you have any brothers or sisters?
  21. Do you send money home and support them?
  22. Have they been to Dubai?
  23. Do they like Dubai?
  24. How old are you?
  25. Are you married?
  26. Do you have any children?
I’ve had similar questions before – numbers 25 and 26 are usually the first ones that get launched into the back seat like hand grenades. But I can’t remember ever covering such a range of topics in such quick succession. To be fair, as a taxi driver, I’m sure it’s a good way to pass the time, especially if you’re a bit nosy.

I don’t mind telling you that it was quite exhausting, with him quick-firing these at me from the front seat. At the end of the journey I almost fell out of the cab onto the pavement, handing over my birth certificate and inside leg measurement, as I left, just to make sure he knew EVERY little detail of my life.

Dubai Taxi Drivers: Love them or hate them, they’re always entertaining.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dolce and Banana

Some people are never seen again after they visit...
Back when I first arrived in Dubai, we’d heard of a mystical place. A place where Hermes handbags nestled alongside Chloe purses, all at magical prices. Of course, these items were (ahem) copies. Not the real shebang. But their quality was legendary. This place was, of course, Karama. Even my guests who have never been to Dubai before knew its name and it’s a frequent request on any stay.

The way it worked, way back then, was this: a friend of a friend of a friend recommended the name and number of ‘her guy’. This was a tried and trusted source – you would never throw yourself on the mercy of Karama without a guide. 

You then called ‘her guy’. 

Some garbled directions later and ‘her guy’ met you on the steps of Karama Fish Market.
He then led you through a maze of shops and hawkers to ‘his shop’.

Then, dear reader, all the magic of the world unfurled before you…..bags piled as high as the eye could see, secret stairways and doorways to untold purses, clutches, scarves, sunglasses and watches. I actually squealed with delight on my first visit when I saw the brand new Prada Fairy bag just sitting, waiting, for me to snap it up. 

Over the years I took HEAPS of friends and visitors to visit ‘her guy’ who quickly became ‘my guy’. One legendary trip involved 12 of us going in a three car convoy. After perusing he aisles for at least two hours,  and each person in the group buying at least 4 handbags, it was safe to say that ‘my guy’ had a very successful afternoon.

This all changed about a year ago. A police ‘crack down’ on counterfeiting meant that the stores in Karama had significantly less stock. And to top it all off, ‘my guy’ left the country. Hello, selfish?! 

This meant that trips to Karama are no longer filled with joy. As I mentioned, the stock is not what it was. Quality is poor (the Balenciaga ‘sticky zip syndrome’).  There’s also very little room for haggling these days. I’m not a massive haggler anyway – with ‘my guy’ he gave us a fixed price, which we knew was massively less than the tourists paid (we earwigged to check) thus alleviating the stress of bartering.

I had a chat with one of the shop owners recently when taking visitors. We covered quality and pricing. His take was that due to the influx of Russian shoppers, they had no need to reduce their prices, or worry about quality. The Ruskies, apparently, aren’t bothered about either of these things. Interesting.

Anyway, the good news is that I recently found a good shop. Good range, good quality and up for a bit of bartering. I could weep with relief – doing the full circuit of Karama (two hours) in 45 degree heat was beginning to be a little trying, to say the least.

I could tell you the name of my ‘new guy’ but I’d have to kill you. To avoid such extreme measures, message me, and I’ll share the new joy!