Thursday, February 24, 2011

3 reasons to love Abu Dhabi this week

1) My friend has dedicated herself to a strict regime of morning meditation in an effort to calm her mind and help her days run more smoothly. On the first day she rose and began the process, only to be distracted by the sound of a neighbour's bleating goat outside her window.

"I tried to meditate and all I heard was maaa-aaa-aaa," she said.

2) Another friend was waiting for me to arrive at Oceans for ladies night when two stout women from India bellied up to the bar. They ordered: "Sex on the Beach. Warm." As they drank their ice-cubeless cocktails, they made a wall with their purses. Safely out of sight of the bar staff, they pulled out a tin foil package and proceeded to snack on some homemade onion bhajis. After one drink, they left.

3) A friend in the hospital was given some delicious, fanciful cakes by concerned co-workers, but he felt ill and just didn't have the stomach for them. Another co-worker took them and gave them to her taxi driver, who was incredibly grateful.

The driver thanked her profusely, saying he and his friends would enjoy them while they watched cricket later that night back at their accommodation. 

Reporter tries to find Libyan embassy in Abu Dhabi (not as easy as it may seem)

Reporter: "Where are you located?"

Embassy: "Why? Who are you? What do you want?"

Reporter: "I'd like your location please."

Embassy: "Call back in an hour. We are busy."

(Conversation carries on like this for a few minutes)

Reporter: "Please tell me where you are located."

Embassy: "I don't want to."

Overheard in the Middle Easter newsroom: super special Thursday edition

"I think Lady Gaga should dress as Gaddafi at her next concert."

"I can't take Oman seriously as a country."

"I like your spelling of hypocrisy. I've never seen it spelled like that before."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More Libyan protests, at the embassy in Abu Dhabi this time

In Abu Dhabi, the Libyan ambassador to the UAE this morning told a crowd that although he was with the people, he wouldn't remove the Libyan flag in solidarity. Unlike others of his ilk around the world, he has not resigned nor does he seem prepared to.

Omar al Ghanai gave the short speech, in Arabic, hence none of it is here yet, to dozens of protestors outside the embassy.

Bad (or good, depending on how you look at it) timing for Younis Beshari, 23. He came to the UAE from from Benghazi 10 days ago, and wants to return to join the protests against Gaddafi.

"I feel ashamed sitting in front of the TV, watching this," he said. "I want to be with my friends."

Yesterday's protest in Dubai was a good deal more boistrous, larger and much longer than we are used to seeing here. Up to 100 people gathered to condemn violence in the North African country, in the process destroying a photo of Gaddafi and replacing the flag with the country's former standard. 

My favourite part of the story, only because I simply can't believe I read it (and can you imagine something like this happening in the West?) was this:

The crowd said they would stay outside the consulate until the Libyan regime fell, but agreed to disband peacefully at 3pm after police told them they could submit an application for a time and venue at which to continue their demonstration. 

Here are some great pictures of yesterday's protest, courtesy of Essam al Ghalib.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Protests at the Libyan consulate in Dubai: “Tell Muammar and his sons: Libya has men”

The National's Wafa Issa is down at the Libyan embassy in Dubai covering a protest that unfolded earlier this morning.

At one point, protesters entered the Libyan consulate and removed a portrait of Muammar Gaddafi from the walls, took it outside and smashed it on the ground.

The crowd grew to 80 people, some who called for the UAE Foreign Ministry to condemn violence against protestors in Libya, but quelled as the group offered prayers for their country at midday. At last report Dubai Police were allowing the protest to continue, quite a rarity in this country.

Libyan Yousef Omar, 23, a businessman from Benghazi, also took part in the protest. “The world cannot remain silent,” he said. “These human rights violations must be stopped.”

UPDATE: From Twitter, Danya B Mohammed: We TOOK OFF THE FLAG IN UAE!!! CONSULTE!! But they have locked us in!! @SultanAlQassemi @ShababLibya

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tiny chili shaped like a heart

I love this picture for a lot more reasons than that it is a cute little chili. I love it because a family was shopping in Al Ain last week and noticed it, and they thought it was cute, and they took a picture of it and emailed it in to the newsroom under the headline "chili with a little heart".

In these turbulent times, I have been trying to appreciate the small things in life. And the fact that this family who I do not know, but already like very much, took the time to notice this heart-shaped vegetable, photograph it and then email it to a newspaper so other people could enjoy it too - well, it's just really sweet, is all. And we need a little more of that.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Nick Kristof: I am glued to his every word

There are loads of people to follow as they report what is going on in the Middle East right now, but you have to pick a few or you won't get any work done. One of those Western journalists who seems to have a nuanced view of the situation is the New York Times' Nick Kristof. I enjoy his blog, which ended with this:

Finally, I just have to say: These Bahraini democracy activists are unbelievably courageous. I’ve been taken aback by their determination and bravery. They faced down tanks and soldiers, withstood beatings and bullets, and if they achieve democracy – boy, they deserve it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sri Lanka, the UAE's cottage country, is beautiful

It's been quite a week in the Middle East: Bahrain, Libya and Yemen, oh my

After Egypt and the bloody demonstrations in Bahrain, as well as unrest in Libya and Yemen, it's starting to get a little close for comfort over here. And very painful to watch. I am all for the right to peaceful protest – growing up with it and all, I once took it for granted, until moving overseas and perhaps right up until #Jan25, but no longer – and praying that not too many more lives are lost.

In other, completely unrelated news, things are sort of shaping up in the (very peaceful, not-much-on-the-public-squares) UAE. Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed has been on a tour of the emirates, meeting rulers and finding out what the locals have to say. According to WAM, the state news agency:

President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan stressed on the necessity of close and continuous follow up of the outcome of this tour in order to live up to the aspirations and hopes of nationals, already a high priority by the government as part of its strategy to continue the march of comprehensive development the UAE currently witnesses.

Still unrelated, there was a fun half-step to reform in the UAE this week, when the Government tripled the size of the electoral college in each emirate and announced the second Federal National Council election. The first elections were in 2006, when half of the 40 members were elected by a caucus of almost 7,000 people and the rest were appointed, The National reported.  The FNC's most recent term ended last week after its final session.

"It's not a giant leap, but a step in the right direction."
-Najla al Awadi, an FNC member appointed in 2006. Her term has just ended.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Overheard in the newsroom: A super special triple Sunday edition

"Don't make me show you all my tattoos."

"I always like to know that someone has been through my mail before I get it."

"I have one fake tooth."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why was The Cult guitarist Billy Duffy wearing an Etihad shirt on Married to Rock, and why do I know about it?

Because I watch E! Okay? I watch it sometimes. Okay, I watch it a lot. Too much. And on Saturday I sat down for five minutes to watch Married to Rock and I watched the whole damn thing. That show, like most of the offerings on E!, is a bit like crack.

As the title would suggest, this "reality" show depicts the antics of girlfriends/wives of four "rock stars". The scene in question shows Duffy being kind of mean and ignoring his very cool girlfriend AJ Cell's hints about getting married, or at the very least going to a wedding with her. He's obviously gun-shy and enjoys being so, to the point where after three years I might be saying to myself, "self, perhaps it's time to move on", instead of what AJ is doing, which according to promos for an upcoming episode is planning on proposing to him.

Anyhoo, in that scene Duffy is clearly wearing a
black Etihad T-shirt somewhat like the one picture here, although it could have been long-sleeved and it did not appear to have the two wavy lines or the Arabic writing.

I have so many questions, besides why on earth would AJ propose to this guy? 

Did he get it from playing a gig at the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne? Did he buy it at one of the Etihad stores I always see and wonder who shops there? Did Etihad send it to him, or his reps, in the hopes that he would wear it on Married to Rock and they would get some free advertising? Any other possibilities I am missing?

Snap caption: I beg your pardon, HSBC? A sale you say? Isn't that a little bit... weird?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Jones the Grocer waiter fails to mention "occupied" means "Abu Dhabi Crown Prince is coming"

I went to meet a friend for brunch at Jones the Grocer earlier (I guess both of us woke up and thought 'I want to spend Dh120 on eggs and stuff today, that will be cool".) I arrived first and tried to take the best table, in a little patch of glorious February Abu Dhabi sun.

"Actually ma'am, it is occupied," said the water. He pointed to a tiny deuce beside a man who was smoking (and looked intent on doing nothing but smoking for the foreseeable future), but a weekend brunch table at Jones the Grocer is not to be scoffed at, so of course I took it.

Who should turn up? The Crown Prince himself, with a couple of other fellows. They shared a giant plate of salad and even larger plate of toast. Then, when they finished, they had the whole thing again. Yes, that's right, the whole thing again.

Sidenote: If you haven't tried the granny smith & ginger natural cordial with sparkling Voss, please, please do. Don't worry about the cost, if you are eating at Jones, clearly money is no object. New outlet opening next week in Khalidiya.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tim Hortons is coming to Abu Dhabi, I can barely contain myself

It's true, the first Tim Hortons shop is due to open April 5 in the new Mushrif Mall on the outskirts of the city, mall management has confirmed. (Cautionary note: Apparel Group, the operators, have not confirmed. UPDATE nor has Tim Hortons international HQ - still examining the region, nothing signed that kind of stuff)

I am beyond excited. When I land at Pearson in Toronto, the first thing I do is get in the (always incredibly long) line for a medium with milk. Words cannot express just how much Canadians love this coffee. Please, help me express it in the comments.

This is my hand, it was my Tim Hortons. Summer 2009
And a double-double (I'd say triple-triple but that is just heart attack country) thanks to A Canadian in Abu Dhabi reader Mounir for the tip he emailed in this morning. A tip he had even confirmed with a call to the mall's operators. He is the very best sort of tipster. This is part of a big expansion by the Canadian chain, a little more about that end here, from a Globe and Mail story last June.

There are 24,000 of us in the UAE, and I'd wager most felt a jump in their heartbeat when they heard the news. A few immediate reactions from other excited Canadians in my proximity to get us started:

"We're moving. Can we rent IN Mushrif Mall?"
"If we can get a Canadian Tire and a Shopper's Drug Mart, we're never leaving."
"For the love of all the Timbits in the world."

And then the British people:
"I think you are going to need to explain 'double-double'." (editor)
"Oh great, the Canadians are staying now."
"Who is Tim Horton?" 

Important Tim Hortons news coming...

...stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The upside of revolution, even if it's just a personal one: Egypt edition

Many times I look around myself, even almost three years after arriving, and think how did I get here? What am I doing? How will I ever get back home?

In recent weeks, watching situations unfold in Tunisia and Egypt, things have made a little more sense.

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 ...