Thursday, June 30, 2011

Snap caption: Zayed Sports City's awesome ad features a camel on skates

I cannot even count the ways in which I love this picture.

Overheard in the newsroom: Super special Thursday edition

"He's my best friend and the person who annoys me most."

"Don't be disgusting."

"Remember when I flexed for you?"

"We're doing it the way we've been doing it for a year now. What that is, I do not know."

Monday, June 27, 2011

Days are numbered for Abu Dhabi's crowded corner stores

I read with sadness today a plan by Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority to require the 1,300  (often tiny) corner shops in the city to standardise and modernise. These shops, I think, are one of the great bonuses and curiosities of the city. So what if they are so small that I knock things over with my a** while trying to pay for my milk? And if I have to stand waiting to buy Etisalat credit for five minutes, staring at some of the most outrageous candy I have ever seen, while the proprietor finishes his hawala call to goodness-knows-where?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A few thoughts on this random mascot no one really understands

"When you think about it, the worst thing about it is it's a furry animal that is wearing a fur coat."

"It's got no eyes."

"I just wish I know what Soul-Sucker bunny was saying."
"He's saying it's hot in these dungarees."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A conversation between two editors: IHOP edition

Canadian: Did you see IHOP is coming?

Brit: What is that?

Canadian: It's like he goes out of way to be ignorant.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's summer, here's a nice thing to do: Visit the fish market at Mina Zayed Port

The fish market is due to move near Saddiyat Island at some point (yes, it doesn't make any sense to me either - and yes everything good is moving too far out) so get there while you can. We bought an entire tuna and a ridiculous amount of shrimp for about Dh200. There are men on hand to clean and chop the seafood, and outside you can even have it, or at least some of it,  seasoned grilled up for you! Plus, I like how they spell tuna.

Overheard in the newsroom: Super special Thursday edition

Peanut butter on toast is not an old man's dish.

I just ate two kilos of white bread. 

He walked around the whole of the Emirates. Just started last week.

They are a bunch of jokers. They keep saying 'we are definitely going to do it, really soon'.

Nobody likes sustainability and nobody likes Canadians.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I get mail: Another satisfied boric acid vs cockroaches customer

From Anonymous:
Hi I just bought it from The New Maryam Pharmacy on Beach Road close to Dubai Bank (amazingly it's only 8dhs!) I've made the roaches food and the next morning when i turned the kitchen light on, not a single roach was there (maybe too busy feasting on the food)... and now when i see some, they look groggy and sleepy...waiting for me to smash them :)
thanks a lot for the info! great help! 

I swear to you, again, that boric acid is the cheapest and best way to deal with cockroaches (which can be a menace in the UAE, particularly in the summer, no matter how clean and tidy you are). I don't live in this apartment anymore, but for a year after I treated the kitchen just once with boric acid, the roaches never came back. 

PS Boric acid is not "food" for the roaches. Rather they track through it and the powder dries them out, rendering them incapacitated and eventually dead. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

I get mail: Yes, you can be safe here

Hello, Ms. McQueen, my daughter just accepted a job offer to teach English in Abu Dhabi.  She's a single woman with 2 young children,3 & 8.  I live in US.  I'm her mother. I'm really concerned that she move to the middleeast country that's so foreign to us.  Are there a lot of danger living there as a single woman?  What about the safety for foreigners live there?  Can you shed some lights as what should she be watching out?  Thanks in advance.


My response:

Rant for the day: Dear Starbucks corporate, you can do better

 Starbucks is popular the world over for the same reason a lot of chains are: it's a powerful brand and when I am sitting in one in the UAE, I could almost be back home in Ottawa – save for the mall setting and the khandouras and abayas, that is. Their coffee gives you a kick in the pants and their staff are almost always awesome.

Dear Grand Cinemas: You say "Bridesmaids" is coming, but when?

The funniest movie of the summer has been open for weeks in the US. We need it to open here.

UPDATE: July 21st, people. July twenty-freaking-first.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Overheard in the newsroom: Between 3 editors

Editor A: Is it small?

Editor B: Yes, probably 300 or 400 words.

Editor C: You probably get asked that a lot, don't you?

Editor B: What?

Editor C: Is it small.

Editor B: It's like dealing with a five-year-old. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bloomsbury's: Anyone else excited?

You may have noticed this Baking Soon boarding up in Al Wahda Mall, just behind the Etisalat counter. I sure did. Then the good people from Bea's gave me a pssst on Twitter and got me very excited about the opening of their little shindig. Check out some pics of upcoming assorted deliciousness. I am on a cleanse right now (no sugar, wheat, dairy, red meat or alcohol boooo) but I am hoping the opening coincides with the end of it.

What this means: no longer must one make a trek to Sugar Daddy's on the Corniche every time they covet a cupcake. And probably more cleanses in my future.

PS My friend Helen has a hatred of cupcakes (fairy cakes in British) that I find difficult to understand. Perhaps I shall bring her a half-dozen to celebrate.

UPDATE: I am a little behind the times - for once I had an Al Wahda Mall-less weekend. The owners tell me they are doing a soft opening, with the official launch on Thursday. It's closed Sunday though. I want reports. And recommendations.

Like eating out? Know how to write? The Mystery Dining Company wants you

I was contacted by a rep from the company this week, who said they are expanding in Abu Dhabi and very much need new mystery diners.

And since I will take any excuse to reminisce about my years in the service industry, now is a good time to tell you I once had a mystery diner, years ago when I was a waitress at The Keg in Hamilton, On. I scored 100%. I think I won a bottle of Baileys. I am quite sure they got me on a good day, because as a server I was quite messy and often distracted. I hated offering the special or describing the marbling of the meat or offering extra things I was sure the customer did not want – things good servers are expected to do – as well as any customer who didn't look up from their menu when barking their drink order. I also developed an appreciation for the true meaning of words that has served me well in journalism: rarely is food "stone cold", although it is often described that way. Yet to this day I've not had more fun on a job. I have also overtipped and been extra-nice to service staff ever since hanging up my apron. That's one hard job people. There is no way I could be the multi-tasker I am today if I hadn't learned to keep a cool head juggling eight hungry tables while dealing with a grumpy cook. Those were the days...

Visit The Mystery Dining Company's website to apply.

An assortment of those who mocked the absurd "Canadian Spring" on Twitter

So you know some beer-fuelled Vancouver Canucks fans went mental and tried to rip up the city when their team lost the Stanley Cup on Thursday. I am still wincing in embarrassment and wondering just what happened to those laid-back West Coasters. Anyway, Twitter provided some context and the appropriate amount of ridicule.

Maral Ghanma No no, Canada! First you have peaceful protests, THEN you got batshit. Sincerely, the Arabs. 

Remember when Snoop Dogg donned a khandoura at his Abu Dhabi concert? Turns out not everyone was a fan of that

Ali Al Saloom, cultural adviser and author of the Ask Ali column in The National's weekend M Magazine, waits more than a month to tell us how he really feels about the situation in How a Rapper Insulted Our Country:

"The khandoura is deeply rooted in our culture, values and religion. It is a respected form of self-expression," writes Ali. "However, what Snoop Dogg did was come to our country, perform on stage and utter foul-mouthed profanities. How can he come here and rap about guns, b*tches, sex, drugs and alcohol while wearing a khandoura?"

Wild animal trade: here kitty, kitty kitty

Kerri meets a cheetah at the vet. She would like you to know she just came from pilates.

There has been loads of ink spilled lately about the shocking trade in wild animals, including this piece by The National's Colin Simpson on what officials call the "chronic" flow from Somalia. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Diamonds do not belong in maxi-pads

Have you seen these ads for "Always Diamond?"

First of all, as a woman, I can tell you that I want nothing like a diamond, nothing sharp, really, in that area. Plus, this idea is ludicrous.

Overheard in the newsroom: Super Special Wednesday edition

"This conversation about halloumi is over."

"Why does she think I will fall for any guy? My standards are way higher than that."

"Do not go with the British dive guy I went with. That's how I got the bends."

Stanley Cup Game 7: Who is staying/getting up to watch the finals?

Okay, probably not me. I haven't watched any of the games as I am not that interested in either of the teams and 4am is tooooo early (or late). When it comes to hockey these days, I get my news from Facebook.

But I know of some serious hockey fans who have been getting up faithfully in recent weeks. I just had to share the (awesome) last invite on the issue:

Game 7. Stanley Cup Finals. Boston vs. Vancouver.
All the marbles, the whole shebang, winner take all, sudden-death, eat or be eaten, fight or flight, stamp-stamp-no-erasies.
4 a.m.
French toast and bacon will be served along with your choice of beer or beer.
Invite whomever. Heck, a strange French chef from the Shangri-La showed up at the last game with a Habs jersey.

All no-shows will be reported to the Canadian embassy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It's summer, here's a nice thing to do: High tea at Emirates Palace

When my friend Bethany was here we took in high tea at Emirates Palace and it was amazing. I wanted to do it because I was worried she wouldn't get to see the hotel – which is about 100 times more amazing than that pale substitute in Sex and the City 2 – as sometimes you can't just rock up and take a look inside. So a reservation for tea was made, and it was a good thing. I had to show the security guard the confirmation text message before he would let our taxi proceed through the gates.

The service was impeccable and the treats delish. I chose China Smoke, a tea that smelled much like a campfire (and tasted of one too, as I recall). There were napkins draped in laps, strainers, warmed milk – the whole shebang. In addition to the two trays of treats, one traditional and the other Arabian-themed, we were each given four tiny scones. I cannot express to you how good they were. The waiter even asked if we wanted more, which we did, but would have been too stuffed to eat.

All told the whole thing, with water, cost more than Dh500 (Cdn$132). Steep, sure. But for a friend who travelled all the way from Canada, shelling out Cdn$250 for a visa plus plane fare, and me with my weirdly British love of tea and scones? Well worth it.
This is wheeled over to your table.
You can't see the best part: the scones.

That is real gold leaf. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

The last weird UAE martini

I have written about my near fruitless search for a proper martini in Abu Dhabi before. It has been so many months since this photo was taken, I actually forgot about it, but the presentation was so awesome I am glad I stumbled across it and can share it with you.

This odd drink was served at a strange little rooftop nightspot called the Blueline at the Oryx Hotel. The Blueline has, as a colleague put it when he invited a bunch of us there, "some of the funniest decor, the best views and the most misguided bar food in Abu Dhabi".

And here you have it: A martini with both olives and lemon twist, served in a margarita glass, with a bendy straw.

Snap caption: According to this taxi driver, it's almost Christmas in July

Arabs' Got Talent: Orphans and olives

I loved this story in The National today about the UAE auditions for the upcoming second season of Arabs' Got Talent. It contained one of the saddest paragraphs I have read in quite some time. In addition to Michael Jackson and Donald Duck impersonators, two friends turned up.

Ahmed Khamis, a 17-year-old Emirati, tackled My Heart Will Go On, the theme song from the 1997 film Titanic. He and his friend Salman, both orphans from Dar Zayed in Al Ain, had a different reason for coming to the auditions.

"Maybe our parents would recognise us on TV and come for us," said Ahmed.

Another hopeful's talent was carving fruit and veg (he demonstrated for the judges by turning a watermelon into a flower), which led to this delicious sentence:

The smallest food he has worked with, he revealed, was an olive.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Overheard in the newsroom: Snarky Sunday edition

Editor A: "I will cc you."
Editor B: "I will be on tenterhooks, as always."

Snap caption: Have you got your copy yet?

Arranged marriages: The title of the piece says it all

The National's opinion section had a great column today by Taryam al Subaihi, a freelance writer from Abu Dhabi, about arranged marriages called Hard to Explain? Arranged marriages really can lead to love

I love this piece because it makes me realise how much I've changed (for the better, I believe) since moving here. I would have huffed and puffed my way through a piece like this three years ago, thinking wrong, wrong wrong.

Now, as with most things, even if I don't live it, I can see that it's as true and real for others as anything I accept in my own life.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Presented without comment (although readers' are encouraged)

Sorry about the radio silence: A Canadian in Abu Dhabi is hosting a Canadian visitor

My dear old university buddy Bethany is visiting (here's us and a few friends riding camels at Qasr al Sarab in Liwa, she's in the middle waving) and I've been playing tourist/host. Since getting back we've been on a safari, to Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Dubai Creek, Mall and so on.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Overheard in the newsroom: Super special Thursday edition.

"I've decided I am officially sick of everything."
-Regarding the daily lunch order

"Do you want this energy-efficient lightbulb?"
"No, I want a light bulb that pulls a lever and takes a dump on the environment."

"I am ordering you not to work so hard."

"He's not coming, so we are losing our elderly person."
-In terms of a 37-year-old bowing out of the pub quiz

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In terms of a Tim Hortons in Abu Dhabi: Be patient, my little Canucks

As a commenter, Palestine, pointed out to me today, it is June 1 and no Tim Hortons. When it was originally reported this little shindig was due to take up a sweet, sweet residence inside Mushrif Mall, it was supposed to open on April 5.

I don't know whether you've driven past Mushrif Mall lately, but that thing does not look even close to opening. Someone told me it was going to be another six months. That really bums me out a) because that means no Tim Hortons in Abu Dhabi in the foreseeable future and b) because I was totally looking forward to using that mall as a time-killing mechanism this summer.

I can tell you that a Canadian who has just arrived to work in Abu Dhabi saw mention that a Tim Hortons would be opening in Mushrif Mall, if indeed that mall every freaking opens, when he was sorting out documents at the UAE embassy in Ottawa.

So, a couple more months yet I think. That means my next Tim Hortons coffee will be much like my last one, I assume. Purchased in Pearson International Airport.

But I still believe.

And now I give you the image, borrowed with permission by the Canadian Business Council in their newsletter outlining the fabulous UAE-Tim Hortons news. 

Summer 2009. My hand, my Tim Hortons.

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 ...