Showing posts from February, 2010

Okaaaay: One more thing I don't understand about Abu Dhabi

I left the gym tonight, tired, with a big bag and a big purse. The hotel porter opened the driver's side taxi door for me so I could climb in. I was very grateful.

I asked the taxi driver to make a stop about 3 minutes later and when I tried to get out the door I had entered through (as all my bags were piled up on the passenger side and I didn't feel like climbing over them) this is what he said: "Door doesn't open ma'am".

How I went to pay for my yoga retreat and ended up feeling as though a couple of people thought I was a terrorist

I am heading to the Sri Lankan jungle for a two-week yoga retreat next month, in a place with no electricity, wireless, cell phone reception or hot water. All that to say, when it came time to pay for it, rather than slapping out my credit card, due to the rustic nature of my destination I had to do a bank transfer.

As I kept missing the hours I could do a bank transfer at HSBC and have not gone through the process of setting up transfers online, I just couldn't seem to get the thing done and after a few days was getting a little stressed about it. Definitely not the point of a yoga retreat.

So it was that one day I was darting through Al Wahda Mall and took a little meander into the UAE Exchange. As usual there were lines of people sending their money back to family in the Philippines, India and Pakistan (in what is a complicated, interdependent economic system known as remittances. The National did a good piece on it here. I particularly enjoyed the subhead: Does the astonishing…

A primer on international intrigue, elite squads of hit men and at least one wig

I spent some time this weekend catching up on accounts of the wild goings-on surrounding the murder of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai last month. Today, the Times delivers this detailed primer, meaning you don't have to.

I urge a read as this is certainly one of the stories of the year. Very eye-opening. Although I have to point out that the world-wide trend of cutting copy editors (that's sub editor in British) can even be seen here. The story is marred by a typo.

If you are trying to save time though, don't get caught up in the comments as I did. One of my favourites: "Basically, all I'm saying is can you do your dirty work without placing British and Irish people in jeopardy as a result?" followed closely by "Call when you need the dogs to locate your dead."

And then there are all the people who are not incarcerated

A Khaleej Timesreport that more than 4,400 inmates in Dubai prisons have joined the Inmate Holy Quran Memorisation programme since it was launched in 2002 got me thinking... about what I see around me every day.

This year 13 inmates – two of them women – memorised the entire thing, some having 20 years of their jail terms mitigated, according to Ibrahim Bu Melha, an adviser to the Ruler of Dubai for Cultural and Humanitarian Affairs and head of a Quran award organising committee.

This isn't really all that surprising, although I am in no way suggesting that memorising any part of the Quran is a walk in the park. I for one would spring into action if meant I could significantly trim a hefty prison sentence. And really, what else is there to do? I doubt they are showing episodes of MTV's Jersey Shore in there.

What does amaze me is the level of devotion I see all around me here. It's not just men streaming to mosques five times a day, washing their feet outside, bending and b…

How can you interview a shopping festival?

People in the UAE take their shopping very seriously, and shopping festivals – particularly the one that just passed in Dubai – get a lot more press than you would think.

So I was killing myself when I read this hilarious take on an Arabic daily's interview with the Dubai Shopping Festival itself over at the brilliant blog Fake Plastic Souks. Maybe I just liked it because it reminded me of the embarassment that was the time I was forced to do a phoner with the children's character Barney (who, in an interesting side note, seems to be called Jim Jam here. Any parents care to illuminate that for me?)

While you're at Fake Plastic Souks – you'll want to bookmark and return often – I would also read the sound advice given to all the people who work in communications in this country (stemming from the murky-seeming closing of the Burj Khalifa earlier this month for "maintenance").

Well done.

What is this place, Ca-na-da?

The true north strong and free is in the spotlight in a major way, what with Vancouver hosting the Winter Olympics. I am in a depression, for lack of being able to have good long watches of the events and having to make do with pitifully unsatisfying internet moments. Why and how do websites know where I am, and block their frosty footage from my homesick eyes? Anyhoo, someone sent me these questions, which were found on an "international tourism website". I'd do some legwork and find it, as I doubt it exists. But a favourite Canadian, smart comedian Rick Mercer, went south a couple of years ago for a few specials called Talking to Americans; what he turned up proves the questions below are not that far-fetched.

Sort of reminds me of an Aussie colleague who asked if Alberta was in Calgary. :)

Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Where can I sell it in Canada ? ( USA )

Q: Can you tell me the regions in British Columbia where the female population…

Overheard phone call at the office

"Hello? Yes, I think I just ordered takeout food from you, but I can never be sure."

Random thought from a blissed-out dental patient

'Why DON'T I listen to more Toto?"

-Ah nitrous, the only legal high in all of the Emirates

Don't you just hate when this happens?

From today'sGulf News:

An Arab ambassador said he decided to call off his wedding immediately after he discovered that his wife-to-be, who wears a niqab, was bearded and cross-eyed.

Apparently whenever they met, his would-be bride did her best to conceal herself. She must have done a good job, as he laid out Dh500,000 (Cdn) on goodies for her during their courtship. Her mom appeared to be involved too, as the man claimed he was shown pictures that turned out to be of her sister.

When I first read this story, I thought we had a chaste case of Madame Butterfly on our hands. Now I don't know what is going on:

Gulf News also learnt that the ambassador requested the Sharia court to refer the Gulf national woman to a specialist to have her examined for hormonal deficiencies.

The court referred the bride to a specialist who countered the ambassador's claims and reported that she did not suffer any hormonal problems.

I have been invited to a Superbowl party...

...that starts at 3am.

Four days in Cairo and it's hard to tell what impressed me most


...or this super-fantastic creature created by Ahmed, the extremely enthusiastic cleaner assigned to our 17th-floor room at the Hilton.

(Augmented by our partially-consumed bottle of Egyptian scotch, a glass, mobile phone and two carnations)