Thursday, March 31, 2011

Snap caption: India-Pakistan match transfixes world, newsroom

Overheard in the newsroom: Super-special Thursday edition

Oh my god, he has 350 camels?

He's been trying to get married for ages. Which cousin did he persuade, do you think?

It's not my fault the entire Arab world is in revolt!

Oh for f---'s sake, you still don't know what to tweet?

Can you make sure he drinks tonight?

I think I know where Emirates 24/7 gets its photos

BuzzFeed may have labelled them 60 completely unusable stock photos but I reckon there is a little paper in Dubai that wouldn't think so... (see dog nibbles toes; man on fire)

I am a big fan of all of the images, but for some reason 'Squirrels on a Photocopier' and 'Dog Man with an Axe' were particularly resonant. As is this one, which I've dubbed "Right, we'll shoot him together!"

Photo via BuzzFeed.

HOLD THE PHONE: Poster makes it look like Gisele Bunchen is hosting a foam party in Dubai

Maybe she's dropping by after covering up for her H&M shoot.

PS: Have you ever been to a foam party? I went to one in Acapulco once. It's... foamy. And lurid. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Easter tip for expat parents new to the UAE: Take it from those who've been there, do the Easter egg hunt INSIDE

"You can't have an Easter egg hunt outside, the eggs melt in 5 minutes," a mom, from Europe, says. "You need air conditioning for the Easter bunny."

How many parents have learned this the hard way, do you figure? 

Overheard in the newsroom: Grumpy goat edition

Editor #1: "You are going to love this."

Editor #2: "Doubt it."

Overheard in the newsroom: Canadian-bashing edition

British editor #1: "I've got a massive grump on."

Canadian editor: "A what?"

British editor #2: "Do we need to translate that into Canadian? 'I've got a massive grump on, eh?'"

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Plantable "green roofs", a house-in-a-greenhouse, and underground hotels: Today in Green Queen news

Today's column is dedicated to fun things green in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Read all about my favourite item, Norway's plantable green roofs, here.

Picture via Amusing Planet
The National's entire House and Home section today has been dedicated to Scandanavia, actually, due to the opening of the freaking mammoth IKEA out at Yas Island earlier this month. I am telling you, it's so big it's scary. Here is a picture:
I wonder if they will have security on weekends, like the store in Toronto does?

In Egypt, two marriage proposals and a tough question: Cousin or neighbour?

After three years of planning to, for the last few weeks I have been studying beginner's Arabic. It is freaking hard, but then again totally worthwhile. Already I can spot letters and parts of words on signs and pick up numbers and days of the week when I am out in public (mostly at Aramex, when they say "counter 2").

My teacher is a lovely man from Egypt. One morning he came to class and told us about a conundrum that had arisen the evening before: his 18-year-old daughter had received two marriage proposals, and although they were both from very impressive men, they had placed him pretty much between a rock and a hard place. The problem was that one was the son of his neighbour and the other was the son of his sister, and each would be bitter if their child was not chosen.

Of course he's telling this story as if it's the most natural thing in the world that his 18-year-old daughter is getting two marriage proposals on the same day – let alone one of them from her freaking cousin. Why is he telling us this? I thought to myself, uncomfortable and ready to be embarrassed for him.

That's when I really looked at him – he was positively beaming – and I realised this type of thing is totally normal in this part of the world. I just don't get to hear about it very often.

Overheard in the newsroom: Super special weekend edition

"It's just turning the bloody lights off."
-British editor on Earth Hour

"You can't tell where the cake ends and the napkin begins."

"Teapot or squiggle?"
-UAE/dirham version of heads-or-tails

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gisele Bunchen covers up: H&M ads altered for Gulf's sensitive audience

Has anyone seen these yet? Coco Perez (click for more pics) reports the GCC decided to offer some new fashion ideas for H&M's more revealing looks. Did the censor go a little crazy with the Photoshop? Seems like Gisele has been "altered" too. This isn't surprising at all, considering the country does this to magazines like Glamour:

 Interestingly, magazines that are produced inside the country seem to be able to get away with a lot more, and aren't subjected to the big black marker, either.

What will they use camel milk for next?

If you are like me and have exahusted your UAE-centric gift ideas for people back home (shorting of transporting actual camel milk, which would be gross considering the 14-hour flight, I am at a loss. There are only so many dates, Arabian carpet coasters and stuffed camels people in Canada can take) this new company has an idea for you - camel soap!

All you need to do is drop by (awesome url, btw) to find their offerings, made from fresh, organic camel milk mixed with a variety of oils, shea butter - even dead sea minerals. The apparently brand new company seems to have plans to retail their product, but for now you can order it online.

People are always touting the immune system- boosting benefits of camel milk and this company is no exception, but I am not sure even if those claims are true that they would transfer into soap. Nonetheless, camel milk is undoubtedly hot right now (the UAE has big plans to export the product to the EU and beyond) and the people behind have serious expansion plans. According to their press release:

The makers of the handmade organic camel milk soap hope to export camel milk soap bars all over the world from their Arabian base which represents the true home of the legendary camel.

I do, however, agree that camels are legendary. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thanks Green Prophet, Jen Drexler, and "greenish"

Not sure if you know, but for awhile now I have been writing an eco-minded column in The National's weekend House & Home section. It has a bit of an embarrassing name. It's also part of the reason, combined with general busyness and a lot of important things going on in the world to pay attention to, why I haven't been writing here as much. However I am again turning over a new leaf about that.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the concept of "greenish" as an attempt to encourage expats like myself who dropped their sustainable ways upon arriving here to pick up the ball – even just a bit. A Middle East-based eco-blog I admire very much, Green Prophet, ran with it and interviewed the women's marketing expert in the US, Jen Drexler, who spoke about the phrase as well as referenced my original piece!

Thanks Green Prophet. You do good work. We need more people thinking this way over here, particularly considering the shameful results of a YouGov survey this week that said only 28% of Emiratis worry about whether there will be enough water and other resources to go around. And more than one-third of the people living in the UAE don't know what the term "sustainable" means. Oi.

Here is last week's column, on the upcoming Earth Hour. Tune in and turn off on Saturday from 8.30-9.30pm.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Overheard in the office: Super special Thursday edition

"Even if I had the money to buy a helicopter, I wouldn't dress up like Zorro."

"Today he looks like he spent the night in a bush outside."

"This is why I am so annoyed. You've been selling F16s to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for decades. Use 'em!"

Emirates 24/7, please do not stop being awesome

This is the picture that the online paper ran with a story about a man who tried to murder his wife by setting fire to her, prompting this (very justified) rant from the Kipp Report blog. You won't see the picture anymore, here

This rant doesn't even mention my personal favourite illustrative offering by the site's eccentric photo editors (long removed): a woman's stocking-clad legs poking out of a '60s era car trunk (boot) to illustrate the attempted kidnapping a rape of a woman in Dubai. 

The worst offenders don't usually stay up long, but it's the fact that they are chosen in the first place, as the Kipp report suggests, that is fascinating.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Today in signs you do not expect to see in an Islamic country

From a hotel pub in Deira. Photo Essam al Ghalib

Bahrain is in a state of "national safety" not emergency, according to government

Well, that's one way of looking at it. When Bahrain declared a state of emergency yesterday due to an uprising that troops from Saudi Arabia and UAE have been sent in to help quell as part of the GCC's Peninsula Shield Force, this is the Ministry of Information press release that was sent out to provide the (fantastical) explanation:


As a result of current circumstances facing the Kingdom of Bahrain which has seen increased lawlessness jeopardising the lives of citizens and resulting in the violation of private property, disruption of livelihoods and extending to the damage of state institutions including places of worship, schools and education institutions, as well as the change of medical institutions including hospitals to places of fear and terror and escalating damage to Bahrain's economy, Bahrain's Supreme Commander in Chief His Majesty King Hamad today issued Royal Decree Number18 for the year 2011 announcing a State of National Safety in accordance with Article 36/b of Bahrain's Constitution of 2002, which will cover all areas of Bahrain as of Tuesday March 15th 2011 for a period of three months.

The Commander in Chief of the Bahrain Defence Force has been mandated to take the measures and procedures necessary to preserve the safety of the nation and its people; these measures will be implemented by the Bahrain Defence Force, public security forces, National Guard and any other forces if necessary.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rice Crispy treats, delicious in North America, take on a new meaning in the UAE

I've never even seen a box of Rice Crispies in the UAE, which may explain my delight the other day when my colleague busted out this most delicious of treats. I enjoyed that first bite, and each one after. It's hard to describe how happy this little square made me.

Overheard in the newsroom: Super special Thursday edition

"It was hot yesterday. It's hot today. It will be hot tomorrow."
-jaded British editor

"There's a night elf. There's a blood elf. Those are the only two elves in the game."
-self-professed gaming nerd, slightly irked at the emphasis on elves

"How am I going to marry you with your fake principles and messed-up identity?"
-"office wife" to her "office husband"

Oh dear: Brit Martin Hayle drowns in Dubai, there with another woman, family thinks he is in US

This is heartbreaking, and not just because three people drowned in Dubai while swimming last weekend. One of them was a Brit named Martin Hayle, who told his family he was going on a business trip in the US but then headed in another direction, with another woman. As only the Sun can:

A source told The Sun last night: "Heather genuinely believed that Martin was working in the States.
"It was an appalling double blow. Firstly she was told he was dead - and secondly that he had been in Dubai with another woman." 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Overheard in the newsroom: Super special Thursday edition

"Oh that's right, I have to pay my tea boy who won't bring me anything."

"The Government now has even more of my fingerprints." (re: Emirates ID card)

"So you're not apologising for not giving my mother back her jeans?" (man to man)

"Marshmellows don't move through the system all that well."

"I said 'bless you' because you sneezed and you said 'f--- you!'"

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 ...