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Showing posts from 2017

Haifaa Al Mansour will screen a film in Saudi Arabia one day

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I interviewed the Saudi director Haifaa Al Mansouri at the Dubai International Film Festival over the weekend, before news hit that Saudi would definitely have movie theaters starting next year. Still,  when I asked her how she would feel about the possibility of seeing a film in her home country after a lifetime of not being able to, she said the cutest thing:

“See a movie? I’ll have a film playing!”

Courage + 'when are you coming home'?

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I love this Anais Nin quote. This quote always makes me think about my life in two parts: before my mom Christine died of cancer when I was 27 and she was 53, and after.

Not only did it lurch me into adulthood in the three short months she was ill - like so many women, I wasn’t so much an adult who made my own decisions as a person who leaned on my mother in every way - but it brought something else into sharp focus. What if I died? What if I only made it to 53?

What if my mom knew she was going to die then? What would she have done differently? I know one of the paths she didn’t take, using her nursing degree to become a flight attendant, was something she thought often about. I know she was great at living in the moment and getting immense enjoyment from silly things, and lifelong learning and growing, and challenging herself, and that she loved being a mom. What else, I won’t know. But life from that moment changed forever for me, and ordinary became impossible.

Jenny Holzer's For Louvre Abu Dhabi and 6 more lady parts art not to miss

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When I visited the Louvre Abu Dhabi this week for a preview before it opens to the public this weekend (and boy is this a gorgeous building) I was particularly looking forward to installation commissioned from the American conceptual artist Jenny Holzer, titled, aptly, For Louvre Abu Dhabi. Although she is often known for using neon light, most recently seen in her current exhibition, Softer, at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, Holzer’s Louvre Abu Dhabi piece features something much different - and she is not messing around with the details.

It's back! It's back! Get ready for the Terry Fox Run 2018

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Go here to register for this 8.5km track along Abu Dhabi's Corniche on Friday, January 19. See you there!

If I knew then what I know now: Buying a car edition

I just returned from another trip deep into Mussafah, Abu Dhabi's industrial area, after taking my car into the Volvo dealership. It was to be a routine service, but as they delicately explained, there is something wrong with my engine. Gulp.

So I left the car, ordered a Careem, and am back at home expecting a big bill - or maybe having to decide whether I even bother fixing the car. But I'm also facing next week without a car, when I really need one, because the technician already warned me this was going to take awhile.

And here's where if I had to do it over again, I wouldn't bother buying a used car in Abu Dhabi. I would go new.

I bought my 2008 Volvo C70 back in 2013 because it was a) a convertible and b) a good price. And although I have loved that car more than any other in my life, it has had some major problems over the years. I once blew a radiator hose on a trip back from Yas Island, which damaged the engine (and which I suspect is the source of today's…

Today in firsts: Standup paddle boarding versus kayaking

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I've been meaning to try standup paddle boarding for 5 years now. During an interview with an expat website literally five years ago, I indicated that I was going to be trying standup paddle boarding imminently. 
And the thing was, I meant to. I really did. I don't know where the time goes on these things, but I guess it's the same gaping hole that swallowed my book and my screenplay. But you can't really compare something that would take two hours and is a five-minute drive from my house to something that would take hundreds of hours to complete.

FINALLY: You can book appointments at the Embassy of Canada in Abu Dhabi online

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While I have always taken great pleasure in getting to the embassy early enough to get the '001' ticket, I'd much rather do this. In an email sent out tonight to Canadians in the UAE, the embassy announces: 

To better serve your needs, we are pleased to announce our new online appointment system for requesting passport or consular services for Canadian citizens. This will avoid long and sometimes unexpected waiting times. You can do this either through the website or through Facebook.  

*Not a real Mountie.

People are super stressed out in the UAE and they often have no idea why

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I wrote an article on the link between depression and inflammation for The National this week and it's getting some really good traction and reaction. One of the most interesting things to me, in researching it, was that Lighthouse Arabia, a therapy centre in Dubai, sees the same pattern in the people who come in for help.

A few things I learned from Kim Kardashian West's Harper's Bazaar Arabia cover story

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• This month Kardashian West will launch a fragrance specifically for the Middle East. It is a blend of, and I know this will be hard to believe, oud and gardenia. The bottle is based on a healing crystal. (I'm not being sarcastic when I say I can't wait to see it.)
• Kardashian, who is Armenian, loves Cher, who is also Armenian. 
• The photo shoot with Mariano Vivanco had a "hard out" at 6.30pm, because Kim's nanny leaves at 7pm.
• At night, after the kids are in bed and she's waiting for Kanye to get home, she wears a robe and watches television. Chiefly Dateline and Family Feud
• Although she once said she's not a feminist, this time around she says in her soul she is a feminist, but she doesn't need labels to know what she is inside her soul.
• She has a group text chat going with hair guru Jen Atkin and Dubai beauty mogul Huda Kattan. The trio might "host a girl boss cruise or a retreat to give advice to girls looking to launch their own …

Overheard at the Belgian Beer Cafe, Intercontinental Abu Dhabi

Has anyone ever given a stewardess a tip?

Breaking news: Are cigarettes being pulled off (or flying off) Baqala shelves in Abu Dhabi ahead of the big tax hike?

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This guy posting on Abu Dhabi Q&A, the endlessly entertaining Facebook page, seems to think so. 
"So no more selling cigarettes in baqala near to my place as municipality told them to remove all cigarettes from the shelves," he writes. "Is this happening all over Abu Dhabi?"

Nice one: UAE domestic workers get legal protection and rights

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This week the Federal National Council passed a bill that gives the UAE's maids, nannies and other domestic workers a day off, holiday pay and limits the work day to 12 hours (at least 8 consecutive).

In the absence of a law governing this stuff, and having heard so many horror stories of employers of all nationalities rampantly abusing the labour and human rights of their domestic staff, this is a very good first step in protecting the rights of the most vulnerable of workers.

Overheard in the newsroom: Cat bite edition

I've had 5 rabies shots and I still don't have rabies. It's not working.

Overheard in the newsroom: Relationship edition

Men do have a self-sabotage button.

Welcome to the world's largest book, now on display at Al Wadha Mall

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I don't think anywhere in the world is more obsessed with Guinness World Records (there is no 'book', it's a common mistake) than the UAE. For example, 2017 kicked off with this largest tin of caviar in Dubai.

When travelling: Make a list, and then check it twice. And then check it again. And then grab your passport. Because you forgot it, you idiot

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I've been to more than 30 countries in nine years in Abu Dhabi - just add the Maldives, where I am now. And sometimes I think that between all those airplanes and airports, and hotels and guesthouses, I've actually gotten worse at travelling.

I hate packing and always bring too much, except for one or two things I don't have that drive me nuts the entire time. I always forget the most obvious things (which is how I found myself paying US$35 for a bottle of sunscreen at Baros Maldives this week and borrowing nail polish remover from the spa at One&Only Reethi Rah) and beat myself up about them later.

But this trip I made the motherload of travel errors: I forgot to take my passport to the airport. How, you ask? Don't ask me. It's been a rough couple of weeks and my mind has been scattered. But still.

Kim Kardashian and Scott Disick in Dubai

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I finally got around to watching the two episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians where Scott Disick and Kim Kardashian visit Dubai with their crew. I'm still sort of blown away with this family as a cultural phenomenon. A couple of years it didn't seem possible for them to be more famous, and yet here they are, more and more and more. 
Anyway, it was scintillating viewing and not at all fake. Here are a few takeaways:

Overheard in the newsroom: Pie edition

You shouldn't even call shepherd's pie pie. It's got no pie component.

Overheard in the newsroom: Eat your veggies edition

Editor A: Cauliflower is the most flamboyant vegetable.

Editor B: Cauliflower doesn't even have any colour!

I liked to write: I interviewed Dev Patel today

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You can read my full Q&A here or turn to theprint edition of The National on Thursday for a write-through. (Please keep in mind I only had 10 minutes to speak to him. This is de rigeur for celebrity interviews but it always gets my heart racing a bit. And don't even get me started about how much I worry that I'm going to erase the recording - you simply can't do notes when you've got so little time.) 
I can report Patel is as handsome as ever, very tall (6'2, he said during a group elevator ride at the Four Seasons DIFC in Dubai, where the interviews took place), thoughtful, fun and very polite.

Overheard in the newsroom: Movie star edition

One of the pleasures of Ramadan is seeing Steven Seagal films in the cinema.

An Arabic breakfast in London, Ontario

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I had to giggle, when my friend from Abu Dhabi decided on the Paramount, a Middle Eastern restaurant, as our breakfast meeting place. 
She is a friend from Abu Dhabi who just happens to also be from my home town. Actually, with her Lebanese background and our shared history, it was perfect. (And delicious, by the way).
She, her husband and two kids are in the process of repatriating and they are struggling with it, as most every expat does. 
I compared it to leaving a relationship that has a great many good aspects, but isn't right for you any more - those are the ones that are easiest to slide back into.
And they agreed. 
When I make these visits back to Canada and see my friends and my family, my gorgeous niece and nephew, when I see how it's changing but still the same, and I try to imagine myself back there, the whole 'should I? Could I?' Takes over a lot of my inner dialogue. 
People who have left tell me that you know when it's time to go, and that it can ta…

Boys in dishdashas: The picture I've been trying to get for 9 years

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One thing that makes my heart instantly melt over here is the sight of a little boy all dressed up just like his dad. It's not that common - they are usually wearing the rough-and-tumble gear any little boy might wear - but when it happens it's the best. I've never been able to snap a photo though, mostly because I just couldn't figure out how to say 'can I take a picture of your little boy' without sounding like a Western weirdo.

Then, last weekend, while sampling the food truck fare at Reem Weekend, this little trio came walking towards me and I spotted the opportunity.




















Overheard in the newsroom: Lunch order edition

Editor A: What kind of cheese do they put on it?

Editor B: I think whatever they have lying around.