Showing posts from September, 2008

They have seen the new crescent moon...

... and that means Ramadan is ovah!

Ramadan ends Monday... probably

It depends on the moon really, and as of now, no one really knows. I say this as someone who has not had to fast every day, or get up at dawn to eat, but it really cannot come soon enough.

It's a weird time, Ramadan in the Middle East. And it's not nearly as bad as people think it is. For example, you don't have to fast if you aren't Muslim. But out of respect to Muslims who are caffeine, liquid or food-deprived, or jonesing for a cigarette, you don't eat or drink or smoke around them. Before Ramadan began, there was some confusion about whether this was an actual law or more like a custom or policy. I wasn't going to whip out my water bottle while almost perishing waiting for a taxi ride to find out. Another reason I am glad for Ramadan to be over: cab drivers seem to either leave the roads or drive around in empty cabs. They are always going somewhere I cannot come. It's also quite strange, because many bars and restaurants aren't open during the day. …

If you ever need to speak directly, if briefly, to the guy upstairs...

...may I suggest standing on the edge of Santorini's Caldera? It is, most definitely, worth the ferry ride.

Sarah Palin most definitely needs a trip to Mykonos

Interesting name for a pub

Singing along to showtunes with the boys at the Montparnasse Piano Bar

A Pelican

In Athens, one should eat the moussaka and avoid martinis


One more Shirley Valentine joke and I'm gonna...

... well, I won't do anything, actually. I am back after two weeks touring Athens and a few of the Greek islands. As always this trip – a glorious one – has left me with more questions than answers.

1) Why do so many tourists – wait, make that people – have issues with waistband placement?

2) How is it possible to be so far from one's home and yet still be dogged from place to place by an assortment of irritating characters, the sort who grow progressively more annoying with each unwanted encounter?

3) How could it take a couple of intelligent adults almost 10 days to realise they are being charged for the bread that appears on their table at each meal, bread they do not even want for caloric reasons, but that they gobbled down each time nonetheless?

4) How could someone wait so very many years before experiencing the pure joy that comes with renting a moped?

5) How could that person not realise that with their very round, extra large helmet and avi…

On a tour...

... of the Greek islands. Pics and commentary to follow when I return. Opa!

How my "Made in Canada" t-shirt made me some new friends

I was tired, and sweaty, and hungry. It had been a long day of work, and then I went to the gym, and then I went to feed my friend's cat, and then I spied the awesome Arabic bakery near her hotel and before I knew it I was in front waiting for a hot round of the world's best bread. Then the man in front of me spied my "Made in Canada" T-shirt.

He became extremely excited. He was visiting from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with his entire family.

"Can you come to my hotel?" he pleaded.

Turns out he really wanted me to meet one of his daughters, who has completed her medical school training and desperately wants to do her residency in Canada in radiology. It was one of those moments where I really, really just wanted to get home. I'd planned to call someone back in Canada and, after all, it was almost midnight. "Oh," I said, "I can't. I have to get back to my hotel."

He pleaded. And pleaded. So I relented, telling him that while I couldn'…

The amazing mosaic at Safari

This mosaic hangs in a bar I tend to visit several times a month, which I have already written about extensively. Mostly because I simply cannot get over the decor.

Voila, the tiger.

A Ramadan story

Muslims are fasting between sunup and sundown: no water, food or cigarettes.

A friend had been telling his wife all about Ramadan, so she wouldn't offend anyone. Then he apparently just plumb forgot about the whole thing.

While they were waiting for a doctor's appointment, he strolls over to the water cooler, pouring himself a cup. He looks back, casually, gesturing to see if she would like some. She shakes her head, acutely aware of a roomful of people who haven't had anything to drink in hours. He takes a nice long drink.

Then his cell phone rings, so he answers it. Strolls outside for a chat, where he can soon be seen outside the window, puffing away on a cigarette. Then he came back into the waiting room, still oblivious, everyone glaring, wife mortified.

Ramadan: Week one

Things are going pretty well. It's fun having lunch in a lunchroom and meeting other colleagues, and I swear I am eating less simply because I am not munching at my desk all day. In answer to a question posted here, no I am not fasting. What would be the point? That would be like asking a Muslim to take communion. We don't eat or drink or smoke or swear (that one is proving the most difficult, I am afraid) in front of other Muslims during Ramadan during sunup to sundown because they are fasting, out of respect. Because let's face it, it's not easy to go that many hours without so much as a drop of water.

Most accounts indicate Ramadan is getting more liberal, particularly in Dubai, but there is a definite change to the mood of the city. Most cab drivers take the afternoon off, to sleep, I imagine. Government offices and banks work truncated hours. And it's very busy out at night, particularly after the Maghrib call to prayer, before 7 pm, which breaks the fast. Most…

Ramadan, Day One

So the call to Magrib prayer just sounded at 6.39pm and I whipped my Sigg bottle out from under the desk and took a giant swig of water. Day 1 of Ramadan - the hard part - was over. And by hard part, I do not mean hard for me. I mean for all the Muslims who didn't eat a bite or drink a drop of water all day.

I really enjoyed my water, and that was only because I didn't have to go to a private room to drink it. I can only imagine how much fun everyone is having at all those iftar tents around town right now.

I would have to say after a rough start, today went rather smoothly. By rough start, I mean to say I could not get a ride to work. Not for love or money. Well, in the end, money and some gestured begging did the trick. Apparently most of the cab drivers, fasting as their religion dictates, head home by midday for a nap. One would get drowsy, I imagine, not drinking or eating since dawn. That would explain all the empty cabs driving past. I waited for about a half-hour with tw…