Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ah advertising: Iconic Black song used in two, quite different ways

In my mind there could not be a bigger contrast in how the British Band's 1987 tune Wonderful Life – a song that gets inside you, there's not doubting that – has been used in television advertising here.

The mood set by the run of posh spots for Emirates Airlines earlier this year is a far cry from the dingy feel of the recent adverts for Zain, the Middle East telecom, that have been airing on MBC4. Instead of lavish beach front spreads and scuba diving – the Emirates life – Zain's commercials feature dark rooms, bare light bulbs, spare furniture but mostly rubble, lots of rubble and bombed-out buildings, while various children sing in heavily accented English.

It's very "5-star lifestyle" versus "hope amid the squalor". My knowledge of advertising is very shallow; I would love to know if it was reactive in some way.

Snap caption: Totally awesome truck interior

Photo courtesy of Essam al Ghalib, in Al Ain.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Snap caption: Beirut shoe store really gets to the bottom of it

Courtesy of Essam al Ghalib
UPDATE: Fyi, Eccentric M, Essam says it was a boutique in Ashrafiya, just down the street from the Albergo Hotel. Same side of the street, just a few doors down. 

Overheard in the newsroom

"I wish there was a theme park called Falafel World."

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tom Cruise in Dubai to shoot scenes for new movie, no one cares

Tom Cruise held a press conference yesterday to talk choosing Dubai as one of the locations for the upcoming Mission: Impossible Ghost Protoccol. He and the director and producers were all, 'we love this place, the Government expedited matters, no red tape' blah blah blah.

Funny how people are able to hop-to when an international film star and a script without any sex or terrorism subplots is involved.

"I dream about coming to places like this," Cruise told reporters yesterday. "It's such a stunning city."

Just once at one of these things I'd pay to see a celebrity say "Actually, I expected more."

Collection of totally random yet awesome police press release photos

Men show off award by mascot; mascot is a weird colour, has angry eyebrows, giant feet.
Workers, unite!
Scrungy Slightly Scary Old Velvateen Overalls Bear see something he likes.
(I urge you to click on this and make it larger. That is quite a trophy)
Some sort of pageant. You know.
Child is obviously enamoured with Scrungy Slightly Scary Old Velvateen Overalls Bear . 

Sheikh Saqr: Tiny primer

So if you have ever wondered whether press in the west goes overboard on coverage when a public figure dies, a glance around the UAE this week would put such coverage in perspective. Radio and television stations playing recordings of the Quran, pages and pages of analysis and tributes, full-page ad after full-page ad, people wondering if the hotels would be open as usual, if you know what I mean (psst, they are): all for the passing of Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed al Qasimi, who ruled the northern emirate of Ras al Khaimah for 62 years. He was the world's second-longest serving head of state, since 1948 (second only to the King of Thailand) and also the oldest, born in 1920. We can't say exactly when, as no one kept any proper records back then.

So much for my favourite past-time: ordering printer cartridges over the internet from Yemen

Stupid terrorists ruin everything.

Bomb on plane in UK raises concern in US

(CNN) -- Some airports were on high alert Friday after investigators found a suspicious package aboard a plane flying from Yemen to Chicago when it stopped in London on Thursday night, a law enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation said.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mourning in RAK – and across the UAE – for Sheikh Saqr

RAK Ruler's Court mourns Sheikh Saqr
2010-10-27 11:31:42
WAM Ra's al-Khaimah, Oct. 27th, 2010 (WAM) -- The Ras
al-Khaimah Ruler's Court today offered condolences on
the death of H.H. Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi,
Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ra's al-Khaimah,
who died at dawn today in Ra's al-Khaimah.
H.H Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, who has succeeded
as Ruler of Ra's al-Khaimah, has declared 40 days of
official mourning with effect from today, during which
flags will be flown at half mast. Local government
offices will be closed for a week from today.
May Almighty Allah rest his soul in peace.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ever think about what you might see, if you looked at things a little differently?

This question has been haunting me lately, ever since I realised the truth about my neighbourhood, affectionately known by its inhabitants as Little Karachi. I had been wondering for awhile what was up with the refreshment shop near my building. There was a lot of coming and going, blacked out windows, customers of all walks of life, or so it seemed. I wondered from time to time if I might be missing out on a delicious lunch by never checking out their menu. Yet whenever I got a glance inside, there seemed to be very little in the way of actual refreshments going on, other than shisha.

One day I saw some of the ladies who appear to work there near my building, peering into one of the tiny accommodations housing a couple of the fellows who staff the shops and laundries nearby. For some reason I felt seized with a sudden protective feeling, and that is when it hit me: the refreshments they are serving at the shop near my house might not be of the food and drink variety. They might be another sort of refreshment altogether.

All of a sudden the entire operation made sense, and I felt very foolish for the 18 months I'd accepted what it said it was at face value.

I mentioned this to a friend, who laughed and said she'd heard there were loads of such refreshment shops in my neighbourhood. In fact many people, perhaps even those of the law enforcement variety, seem to know about the "rosy hue" of my neighbourhood.

The more I learn about the UAE, the less I know.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Sun Chips bag at the centre of the noise controversy...

...and I concur: it's freaking loud. And an excellent party prop. I wrote about this briefly a couple of weeks ago, when I was in Canada and before I had purchased a bag. Muscato, a commenter in the US, summed it up so brilliantly I shall reproduce what he/she said in its entirety:

"The bag? Unbelievably loud. We had one bag, and one only, of Sun Chips last summer back in the US, and when opened in the kitchen of our rental flat, it woke my partner in the bedroom down a hall and through a closed door.

It was like taking a big sheet of thick cellophane and crinkling it as loudly as possible, in front of a microphone. Whatever supposedly compostable substance they were using, it was the work of the devil. Good riddance."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Really HSBC? Really?

As I walked past this sign in Abu Dhabi International Airpot, I couldn't help but think about the seven different countries, including Greece, where HSBC was not there for me when I needed them. As in my bank card did not work when I needed cash.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Unsubstantiated rumour of the week: Lululemon coming to Dubai?

So I was at Soma Pilates/Yoga Tree off Khaleej al Arabi street this morning, lying broken on a Reformer bed and wondering how I would be able to walk to the taxi stand outside, when the instructor mentioned that she heard a Lululemon store was opening in Dubai.

Whaaaaaaa? First off let me say I would be pleased to hear that this successful Canadian trendy yoga wear company is expanding to such an unlikely local and I look forward to seeing Jumeirah Janes of all shapes and sizes freaking out over the cool new black clamdiggers and assorted bright hoodies they will never need to wear outside. Secondly, of course I am not bitter that I failed to buy Lululemon stock after their PR woman in Vancouver told me several years ago the company would be going public. Why would I? I mean, people are like lemmings to this stuff and the company is expanding all over the world.

There is already a looooot of Lululemon in the Gulf already, judging from what I see at local yoga classes. This stuff has definitely crossed borders. Personally, I have some fatigue. On my most recent trip to Canada, a few weeks ago, I didn't even buy anything! It was a watershed moment. I just walked away.

Below is my friend Amber, an official Lululemon ambassador, wearing a Lulu ensemble. She is a kick-ass yoga teacher in Ottawa, teaching mostly at the Preston Street Moksha Yoga. Go.

More about my Lululemon history, after the jump.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sweet ride

Leaving the Holiday Inn last night, we encountered a two Emirati brothers in this car.

It's an '81 and they ordered it and had it shipped from the US in the last few years - souping it up, obvs. New engine, tires, white leather interior - funky lights on top.

We liked.

Mini-review: 31st bar at the Holiday Inn

I love this little rooftop bar, with a nice view of the new world's most crooked building, the Capital Gate Tower.

Grey Goose is the same price as regular vodka, you get a big bowl of nuts and chips and the nachos we ate were fabulous. My martini with a twist also came with olives:

However as previously discussed, that appears to be more of a systemic issue in Abu Dhabi.

The hotel also has this crazy deal: Dh299 (less than 100 bucks) for a room and Friday brunch, with free-flowing cocktails and champers.

Overheard in the office: from a Canadian, no less

"A trade war between the UAE and Canada. Two countries no one cares about."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thanks Go! Overseas

While I was on vacation I got an email from Andrew Dunkle, senior editor of the travel and expat site Go! Overseas, telling me A Canadian in Abu Dhabi had been chosen as one of their top blogs in the UAE. Although we have never met, I already like Mr Dunkle a lot simply because he used words like "outstanding".

So that explains this little badge, which bloggy wears with honour:

Monday, October 11, 2010

One thing I did not expect to be saying tonight:

"You are an angel, Ann Marie."

I missed my plane back to Abu Dhabi tonight, through a comedy of errors that involved a terrible rain storm, which, when it lifted, paved the way for a 99km-long traffic jam heading into Toronto. All of that could have been dealt with had I not run out of gas before leaving London, Ontario in my rental car due to a combination of factors, which, I think it would only be fair to say, include my being slightly *special* and a huge fan of the in-car satellite radio. Such a fan that my enjoyment frequently involved turning it up much more than a notch, so as to miss that crucial warning ding signaling I was almost out of gas. Failing that, and I did of course, the neon sign on the Ford Fusion dashboard actually had a very effective fuel-control system in that it counted down the kilometres until the car would hit EMPTY. I believe that too would have been an excellent indicator of the pending situation had I bothered to glance at it, even when I pointed out the impressive and futuristic array to my father earlier in the day.

Long and short, as I approached the lone ticket agent at a deserted British Airways counter, I began to realise the worst had happened. Never having missed a plane before, I figured that the solution would involve perhaps a hotel stay or an expensive one-way ticket. Nope, just a little rearrangement and a couple of different airlines and I could be on my way in mere hours.

Her name was Ann Marie too, I could see it right there on her name tag and oddly it was the first thing that came out of my mouth after she told me I couldn't get on the 7.55pm to Abu Dhabi via London. Then she calmly and deftly sorted me out, refusing to let me fly Emirates because I would have a long taxi ride at the end of a long flight, getting me into Abu Dhabi with a combination of airlines not British Airways, even stopping to ask with concern if it would be "safe" for me to land in Abu Dhabi at the late hour of midnight and wondering how I would get home from the airport.

And so I said it, "you are an angel, Ann Marie", and I meant it, walking away with a big smile on my face, heart still pounding from the stress of it all.

Anyone else ever missed their flight? Have the airlines been as accommodating?

I am truly impressed and on this Canadian Thanksgiving, when I leave with a full heart from quality time with my awesome family and friends, thankful and blessed.

One thing I did not expect to see tonight:

A man walking through Pearson International Airport in Toronto, flossing his teeth. He did not appear to have any hand luggage.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

So, still in Canada and wondering about a couple of things...

... Frito Lay recalled Sun-Chips biodegradable bags because they were too noisy? How noisy could they have possibly been?

...what does this "I like it on the _____" campaign promoting purse-related innuendo have to do with breast cancer awareness?

...and while I am on the topic, isn't everyone pretty much aware of breast cancer by now? I for one am terrified of it. I could basically not be any more aware of breast cancer if you trussed me up in a big pink bow. So surely we could devote a little less time and attention to awareness and a little more time and attention to curing it?

...I have spent half my time here being shown various apps by friends who are beside themselves with excitment over their new iPhones. So far the ones I remember are "bump", where you can synch your phone with someone else's and iPeriod, where women can track their monthly cycles and predict when they are most fertile. One friend is particularly excited with his "level" app, whipping his phone out at various points to check the level-ness of our table at dinner et cetera.

...have I really become so accustomed to Abu Dhabi heat that I am this cold in a Canadian autumn? Well yes, I guess I have. wireless in all Starbucks? What took so long? And why did you wait 'til I left?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Overheard at Jones the Grocer at weekend brunch

Mom to her daughter: "What are we doing? We are going to have a really expensive lunch. It will be yummy."

Canadian news is juicy, different from that we see in the UAE

So I have made an impromptu trip back to Canada (2.5 years living overseas makes that statement not seem ludicrous, as the notion of flying for 15 hours both ways for an "impromptu" visit surely would have been before I left for Abu Dhabi) after my other vacation plans fell through and as usual, have been delighted by reading the newspapers.

Yesterday I was shocked to see that the Supreme Court has effectively legalised prostitution here (pending a 30-day stay on the decision issued Tuesday) on the basis that making it illegal endangers sex workers. Wow. This legal battle stretches back more than a decade. I am always amazed and inspired at how dogged some people can be in their beliefs. I can't even commit to getting up early to exercise in the morning so I won't be tempted to skip it later in the evening. A sidenote, one of the three pushing for this is activist Valerie Scott. I interviewed her several times as a reporter about a decade ago at the Ottawa Sun and I have to say, each time I thought to myself "I see your intent but I believe this dream of yours to legalise prostitution is a pipe dream Valerie". Good on you. I happen to think this a progressive decision, not that I'm an advocate of prostitution, but I am an advocate of making sure women feel safer and being realistic about the world's oldest profession. It exists: even in Abu Dhabi. Anyhoo, the Hollywood director James Cameron is also making headlines, in Alberta to advocate for the natives to oil companies and the government over the oil sands issue. He said it reminds him of the beleagured tribe in Avatar. 

And in personally beneficial news, The Globe and Mail reports today that it is best to exercise in the evening, at 6pm, meaning I no longer have to strive even to get up earlier in the morning. 

How to be a happy expat

Because a cloud wall makes you want to take a selfie.  After 10 years living in the UAE, some of that time happy, some miserable and ...