Sunday, 19 December 2010

So much fun it could be illegal.

We hired a little dune buggy and went for a spin in the desert out the back of Al Awair.  Saw the usual suspects; camels and donkeys but we also saw a desert fox. The fox stared at us for a while before disappearing down a hole under a ghat tree.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Extravagance or obscenity?

Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi has unveiled a Christmas tree decorated with pearls and jewellery valued at more than $11million and proudly proclaimed this to be a demonstration of 'religious tolerance' in the Emirate. IMHO, this tree does nothing for 'religious tolerance', its an excuse for a crass display of conspicuous excess, in this case, using religion as a means of displaying one's wealth; yet another 'look at how much I've got' moment. Its the antithesis of the religion it purports to represent and has zero connection to the event that it supposedly symbolizes, the birth of a baby into such poverty that his 'first bed was a cow’s lunch box' (to quote another article).
Yes, this irritates me, and I'm not even religious!
PS  Christmas trees aren't 'Christian', the tree was originally a pagen symbol connected with the celebration of the winter solstice.  
Article: Emirates 24/7 16 December 2010
Christmas came in extravagant fashion to the emirate of Abu Dhabi as a glitzy hotel unveiled a bejewelled Christmas tree valued at more than $11 million.
It is the "most expensive Christmas tree ever," with a "value of over $11 million," said Hans Olbertz, general manager of Emirates Palace hotel, at its inauguration.
The 13-metre (40-foot) faux evergreen, located in the gold leaf-bedecked rotunda of the hotel, is decorated with silver and gold bows, ball-shaped ornaments and small white lights.
But the necklaces, earrings and other jewellery draped around the tree's branches are what give it a record value.
It holds a total of 181 diamonds, pearls, emeralds, sapphires and other precious stones, said Khalifa Khouri, owner of Style Gallery, which provided the jewellery.
"The tree itself is about 10,000 dollars," Olbertz said. "The jewellery has a value of over 11 million dollars - I think 11.4, 11.5."
This will probably be an entry into the Guinness book of world records, Olbertz said, adding that Emirates Palace planned to contact the organisation about the tree which is to stay until the end of the year.
The hotel has had a Christmas tree up in previous years, but this year "we said we have to do something different," and the hotel's marketing team hatched the plan, said Olbertz.
The tree is not the first extravagant offering from Emirates Palace - a massive, dome-topped hotel sitting amid fountains and carefully manicured lawns.
The hotel, which bills itself as seven-star, in February introduced a package for a seven-day stay priced at one million dollars.
Takers of the package have a private butler and a chauffeur driven Maybach luxury car at their disposal during their stay, as well as a private jet available for trips to other countries in the region.
And in May, the hotel opened a gold vending machine, becoming the first place outside Germany to install "gold to go, the world's first gold vending machine," said Ex Oriente Lux AG, the German company behind the machine.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Kuwait closes Al Jazeera office

Kuwait authorities have shut down the offices of news channel Al Jazeera and withdrawn the accreditation of its correspondents in a fresh clash between the network and the Gulf state, the Doha-based news channel said.

The network said it was threatened with closure if it aired a live interview with Musallam Al-Barrak, a lawmaker who represents one of the main opposition blocs in the Kuwaiti assembly.

“The network refused to give in to the threat and proceeded with the interview in accordance with Al Jazeera’s policy of giving voice to all sides of a story,” the news channel said in a statement.

“Despite Al Jazeera’s request, the Kuwaiti government failed to provide spokespersons to appear in the same program alongside Mr. Al-Barrak to give the government’s point of view,” said Al Jazeera.

The news channel said it condemned the closure and would continue to report on Kuwaiti affairs.

In a statement carried by state news agency KUNA, the government confirmed it had revoked the station's network licence and blamed the television station for meddling in Kuwait's domestic affairs.

It is the third time the Gulf country has closed down Al Jazeera’s offices in objection to its coverage.

Kuwait first closed the bureau for a month in 1999 when an Iraqi caller insulted Kuwait’s Emir, Sheik Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah, during a live show.

The local bureau was opened again two years later.

In 2002, the network’s offices were closed again after Kuwait officials deemed its local coverage to be biased against the Gulf state.

The Qatar-based network has a record of tense relations with Arab countries over its coverage of sensitive political issues. In May, its Bahrain office was suspended and crew were banned from traveling to the Gulf state after it accused the channel of flouting press rules.

Friday, 3 December 2010

The 3 Little Bigs: A cautionary tale from Dubai

Anyone who lives in Dubai or anywhere in the Middle East will relate to this tale written by a Dubai resident with a wonderful ear for the oddities of Dublish ('Dubai English') the language stew created when people from all around the world attempt to communicate in, what is to them, a foreign language.  My theory is that given a couple of hundred years of fermentation, Dubai English would become its own language virtually unrecognisable to speakers of the Mother Tongue.  Dublish will be a cheerful combination of Arabic, English, Hindi/Urdu and Tagalog spoken with a sing-song accent.  We'll all call each other 'Mam-sir' and have the ability to insult each other 100 different ways in the most flowery language. 
For those who don't live in Dubai, welcome to our daily communication struggle. There are no typos, really. The author, a Dubai lawyer, does know how to spell 'desert'. 
Once ubon a time there were three little bigs. The time came for them to leave home and seek their fortunes. So, they straight going to a wonderful land in the dessert [1] which legend has it, was the cleanest Indian city ever. It was also known as Dewbye.Their mother was at first little worried, because she had heard that this marvellous city had recently become the murder capital of the world [2], but they assured her that they would be safe.

The bigs got onto the blane, bought berfume at the duty free, cleared immigration, had their bassborts stamped, smiled and waved at the security cameras at the airbort [3], and they were ready to starting their new lives. Because of the crazy rent, which was too much exbensive, they decided to build their houses, I mean, villas, by themselves.

The first little big was lazy and built his villa of straw. After six hours, the villa was ready.

The second little big built his villa out of sticks, at the backside [4] of the first little big's villa. The villa of sticks was same-same but different, it was stronger and not too weak also.

The third little big took the longest time to build his villa because it was built out of bricks and cement which coming from the north of the country. It suppose to take two weeks, but six months later, it ready. The villa was this much strong and was bit far away from the other two villas. "Mabrouk!!!" said the first two little bigs to the third, once the villa was completed.

One day, the big bad wolf was hungry. He wanted to eat the fat little bigs for sure. He hailed a taxi, and gave instructions to the taxi driver. "Left before Sbinneys, left before Sbinneys .... I SAID LEFT!!!!! OK, turn right before the signal ... no, BEFORE... no, before and after not same same!!!! No, DO NOT reverse at the roundabout [5]!!!! Wallahi, you trying to kill me?"

Two heart attacks later, he reached his destination, told the taxi to double bark and wait, and knocked on the first little big's villa of straw.

"Hello, how arrrre you?" said the big bad wolf.

"Fine thank you. How arrrre you? How is yourrrr family?" said the little big, looking through the window.

"My family is fine thank you. How is yourrr family, yakni? You living alone or no? Or you have family here?"

This went on for about five minutes [6], until the wolf finally got to the boint - "Let me in, let me in little big or I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your villa down definitely, I swear I am so hungry ... this is top urgent!"

"No broblem sir, I opening the door now. Five minutes, maximum," said the first little big. The wolf waited patiently, until four hours later, the wolf got fed up of waiting like some estupid idiot in the sweltering sun. He shouted in rage at the first little big (but did not use any swear words), and blew the villa down [7].

As the big bad wolf was starving, the first little big was eaten as a raw kibbeh, with some olive oil and onion on the side, too much delicious.

The big bad wolf was still hungry, so he took the taxi to the backside of what was once the villa of straw (about 3 metres away, but because of the one way street system, speed bumps and detours, it was a ten minute drive), to the villa of sticks. He knocked on the second little big's villa of sticks.

"Hello, how arrrre you?" said the big bad wolf to the second little big.

"I'm fine, thanks God. How arrrrre you? And your family?" said the second little big.

"My family is fine thank you ...." And so on and so forth... until the second little big got fed up of the niceties.

"What the broblem is? Tell me," said the second little big finally. He obviously did not hear the commotion earlier.

"Sorry to disturb you, but let me in, let me in little big or I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your villa down, no? You are sin, not too fat also [8], but you'll do."

The second little big tried to stall and lie. "Mamsirrr not in today, sirrrr ...I don't have the keys, maybe they coming back before two hours ..." He tried to shake his head from side to side to look more convincing, but sadly, not having a proper neck, it was a difficult task for the big to berform.

But alas, the big bad wolf was not to be tricked this time. He huffed and he puffed, and the villa of sticks was demolished in minutes, and the sticks were used to thread the kebab pieces that the second little big had been transformed into. With mint tea little bit sugar medium sweet, on the side.

After the tasty, non "shariah complaint" [9] meal, the wolf was still hungry, and no anyone could estop him from taking the same taxi estate [10] to the villa of bricks.

He knocked on the third little big's villa of bricks.

"How arrre you ... " We all know the dialogue by now. So, to cut the story short, the wolf spoke.

"Blease, my friend ... I am hungry, let me come in and eat you, ya habibi ... blease, you look like a good big, do this as a favour to me ... "

The third little big was braver, better educated and had good connections. So he shouted immediately at the wolf.

"Haram!!! Yalah, go away, or I call 999 and make bolice report to Insbector Muhammad Green Eyes [11]. He is the cousin of my bestfriendwife. He is the boss of the First Responed Unit [12]. Bas!"

Of course, no obscenities were exchanged, even though the big's life was at stake (or rather, at steak ... he he he). That would have just been too rude and unacceptable.

The wolf tried to huff and puff, but not even the khamseen winds could have blown the villa down. The wolf tried to break open the door, but in fact, because it was so badly constructed by Babu [13] the contractor, and not because of the strong locks, the door stayed firmly shut. Unbeknownst to the wolf, the third little big had been stucked [14] in the villa for 3 days, waiting for building maintenance team to arrive. The team had been promising him every two hours that they would be there after fifteen minutes.

But the wolf refused to give ub. He climbed to the flat roof to look for a chimney, but there was none there. How strange that a country which suffers 50 degree summers should have no chimneys.

Suddenly, he felt a gun bressed to the base of his skull.
"Thought you could get away ...?" a voice said in Chechnyan.

And two seconds before the unidentified assassin bulled the trigger, the big bad wolf realised that he should never have messed around with illegal firearms in his brevious life.

And the third little big lived habbily ever after. Or rather, up to the point he lost all his life savings in the Great Broberty Crash.

Khalas. Yalah bye!

[1] I challenge you to show me a typo free menu in this country
2] especially JBR ... their carpark looks like a typical Malaysian carpark, badly lit, eerie and rape friendly
[3] think no one in Dubai knows what you're up to? Think again!
[4] I can now say this without laughing
[5] true incident, a cab almost rammed into my car when it reversed at a roundabout
[6] typical conversation, any conversation
[7] none of the villas had back doors
[6] actual pick up line used on me[9] taken from a live Shariah transaction I handled ... I swear. The client also mentioned that the bank will beer all costs ...[10] I was literally looking out for a housing estate the first time I heard this phrase. In case you haven't figured it out, get it straight!!!
[11] Remember him? :)[12] actual writing painted on an official security vehicle. Not to be confused with the equally prestigious Second Responed Unit
[13] cheap shot, but I can't have a story without Babu messing up somewhere
[14] according to Azli and Sab, pronounced "stuckered"