Thursday, 5 January 2012


There are many festivals taking place across the world, be they religious/cultural or arts related. In Dubai we have the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), 32 days of ....yes you've guessed it shopping.

Double offers, great savings... did they nick this concept from the Sofa retailer DFS?

So lets all celebrate the purchasing of goods & consuming materials in excess of our needs.

What a crazy place, no concept of sustainability.....only consumerism & greed.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Computer says no....a real life Carol Beer

Today came across a real life Carol Beer character (Computer says no from Little Britain), actually it was a guy so let's call him Rajiv.

conversation in mobile phone  shop today

me: "Hi.......I do not have roaming on my phone, I went to Oman & I had no signal"
Rajiv:"You need to pay a deposit of £350 to use the roaming service"
me:" Actually you have my credit card details, I have filled in a mandate so you can charge my card if I do not pay"
Rajiv: "We require a deposit"
me:"That's pathetic why do you get my credit card details if you still want a deposit. I want to make a formal complaint about this, who do I need to contact?"
Rajiv:"Contact the government"

In Dubai it's not a case of the "computer saying no" but rather the "government saying no".  The telecoms industry is a duopoly of Government backed organisations and skype is officially banned.

Saturday, 8 October 2011


When I was a little lad back in the 1970’s I have fond memories of watching World of Sport presented by Dickie Davies, and especially the wrestling feature with commentator Kent Walton. Those were the simple days with three channels on your television, linoleum flooring, no computers, no mobiles, no internet, no game consoles, but we had wrestling and in my household this was the father & son bonding time. Apart from the news, the “Nai Zindagi Naya Jeevan” Asian programme on the BBC and wrestling my father watched very little TV but he had a great fondness for this sport.

The wrestling would generate powerful emotions in my father, and it was an experience to witness this transformation. He would start slamming the settee, with his fist performing the 3 count. Start shouting at the fighter, as if he was the corner-man, jump up and down, become animated, excited, agitated, every possible emotion would crop up on a Saturday afternoon as he was so passionate and obsessed with the game of wrestling. These qualities have of course been passed down to me but in my case the trigger is a completely different sport, namely cricket.

So there I was in Deira discovering the real Dubai, not the fake malls and sky high tower blocks which are sprawled all over the country but the place where the people who built this fascinating city live and play.

On a makeshift sports playing field next to the Hyatt Regency Deira and close to the corniche I came across hundreds of Pakistani men forming a circle and watching the main event on a Friday afternoon. The freestyle wrestling competition, where the master of ceremony openly challenges the fine young men from the audience to enter the ring and take on the champion. This is sport from the golden ages, how the game was played before the mass commercialisation and sport became a business.

The MC with his Jinnah cap, red dyed beard and a thick stick performed his very own Punjabi version of Michael Buffers “let’s get ready to rumble” and with a sole dhol player encircling the ring with his rhythmic beats it was showtime.

Watching the wrestlers I imagined how this scene would have been replicated across the village in Pakistan, and this is where my father would have developed an interest in the sport. This was a magic moment for me on a personal level, a sense of reconnection and pride.

Now it's time I hit the gym and started training, in case there is ever a veterans tournament in the 200 pound class.

Friday, 2 September 2011

RACE to the top of Jebel Hafeet

With three days of holidays declared for Eid, I thought it was about time that I started to explore the United Arab Emirates and what better way than to take a road trip on the famously named route 66. Yes Dubai has the E66 which links Dubai to Al Ain, the oasis city bordering with Oman.

Being new to Dubai I tried to use the services of a fixer, someone with local experience and contacts. My landlord a Syrian chap who has been in Dubai for over 10 years seemed the best choice so I tasked him to find me a rental car, ideally a Honda…clearly touching on my sentiments as I was missing my Accord from the UK.

He confidently told me “no problem, my friend I find you a vey good Honda 2011 model at a good price”. So on Monday straight after work I head down to the car rental company to pick up the motor and there was a surprise waiting for me. The Honda was actually a Hyundai, starts with the same letter but it’s not the same car.  I mean the Honda is a respectable car for the middle aged boring driver like me, but not the Hyundai that’s strictly for nerdy librarians and clearly not made for the miserable old gits which fit my criteria.

What a disappointment, my fixer either got confused and or he was taking me for a ride. Probably the latter, but I’d been fasting for a month and it’s not good to jump to conclusions, so let’s put it down to human error. With the holiday period in full swing I decided to take the Hyundai in case I ended up with no car.

So this morning I set out on the route E66, travelling from Dubai in a south easterly direction to Al Ain a distance of 130km. Now driving a Hyundai was going to be one dull experience so I decided to spice it up, taking a leaf out Top Gear I decided to do my own version of a “star in a reasonably priced car”. Now after undertaking some thorough research I learnt of the Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road, this runs for 7.3 miles up the mountain of Jebel Hafeet rising 21,000 feet and with 21 corners this would surely be the ultimate test for the Hyundai.

This fine piece of mountain road is said by some to be the finest driving road in the world, even Bollywood had been in action with the film RACE starring Anil Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan being shot on this location. So singing along to Atif Aslam’s “Pehli Nazar Mein” a soundtrack from the movie Race I headed out to Al Ain on the E66.

The human mind is so powerful, the sense of imagination can literally transform a modest Hyundai into finest supercars in the world. The pictures of Saif Ali Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anil Kapoor in fast cars were buzzing in my head and I was clearly out of it. But not for long, as soon as I arrived at the foothills of Jebel Hafeet a mountain range which towers a mighty 1,240 metres and started the ascent the 1.6 litre engine was screaming with the equivalent of mechanical pain. Despite running in second gear the torque was completely lacking and the engine and gearbox were enduring a torturous ride (at this point the driver started praying).
You have to be in a Nissan GTR with 500 horses under the bonnet, or any other supercar to enjoy the driving experience on this most magnificent road. With the Hyundai any thoughts of impressing Katrina Kaif quickly disappeared as I was worried about blowing the engine, clutch, and the gearbox.

Fortunate clearly favoured the brave, and I managed to nurse the car all the way to the top of the Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road. Stepping out and admiring the scenery, I noticed something was not right. I like trekking, and what I enjoy is the peace and harmony at the top. But here the sounds of engines revving up the road spoilt the enjoyment, so I decided to park the car and venture on foot to the ultimate peak.

Now despite having a very impressive trekking cv (Pen Y Fan, Snowdon, Scaffel Pike, Ben Nevis etc) I was venturing in a foreign country without my mentors and trekking buddies drill sergeant MSG & bush tracker FR. This was going to be one tough mission in sweltering desert heat with no equipment, no water, no walking boots actually nothing apart from my mobile phone.

But in front of me were some Pathans walking in flip flops without a worry in the world hiking their way to the top. These guys would never get lost in Tora Bora, they were naturals at walking on mountains so I just had to follow them. And so I did, when they pulled away from me I would listen out for the Rahim Shah Pashtun tracks blaring from their mobile phone and would pick the track up again. Gradually turn by turn, step by step I was at the top and what a magnificent sight it was.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Dubai Architecture

Dubai is a modern city, go back to 1966 before oil was discovered and there were only nomads in the desert and some pearl fishermen on the coast. In fact the emirate did not even have their own currency, but instead relied on the Gulf Rupee which was actually issued by the Government of India.

The expansion of the Emirate, and the construction boom which is unparalleled in modern human history led to a truly futuristic city with an amazing skyline. But the financial crisis has left its mark with many partially completed projected obscuring the landscape.

Close to where I live in Business Bay I can see many towers of all shapes and sizes in the process of completion or even abandonment. Some of the designs are fascinating, others are completely weird. Surely the architects must have been on drugs to come up with some of these buildings.

I’d love to see the expression on the face of Prince Charles if some of these towers graced the London skyline, given his withering hatred of modern architecture. Actually having seen some of the wild and wacky building designs in Dubai I’m becoming a little sympathetic to the Prince.

Buildings in photo
Prism tower $70m project & looks like a prism with a helipad on top.
Iris Bay – oval shaped construction, looks like a crescent moon
One business bay – wedge shaped with increasing floor area as the building rises

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Warning armed and dangerous

On the Dubai Metro there are signs every where warning of fines if you break the rules;

Smoking – 200 Dhiram fine
Chewing gum – 200 Dhiram fine
Eating & Drinking – 200 Dhiram fine
Damaging property 10,000 Dhiram fine

But one rule they missed off is farting on the train, last week I was aboard a crowded train heading home when some dirty monkey let rip a stinker deadly sulphur fart. The foul smell of vile eggs and rotting cabbage lingered in the air for several minutes. With the passengers squeezed like sardines there was little room to escape from this most foul gas, so now I’ve decided to arm myself with a  bottle of eau de toilette and my finger will be on the trigger next time I’m on a crowded train.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Queue Busters

Today I decided to visit my cousins in Abu Dhabi as I had not seen them for a many weeks. The excitement of a trip to the neighbouring emirate and seeing “me brethren” engulfled me as I got up early to have a shower, sprayed the finest eau de toilette that I have in my collection and donned the best “Junaid Jamshed designer” shalwar kameez.  It was Friday, it was me day off, I was going to see me brethren and I wanted to look jolly dapper. I was oozing with “shtyle”, and the designer goatee was the icing on the cake.

I took a taxi to Al Ghubaiba Bus Station to catch the coach service to Abu Dhabi, after purchasing my ticket for AED 20 I was shocked to see the queue for boarding the coach.  There were around 300, yes THREE HUNDRED single men or “bachelors” as they are categorised in UAE were forming an orderly line which snaked its way through the vast open space of the bus station. There was no shelter, only the intense heat of the summer sun beaming down and cooking everyone. Within minutes of standing in this dangerous heat and high levels of humidity my bodies own internal cooling system kicked in and sweat was literally pouring to cool me down.

As I waited around 30 minutes until finally boarding the coach, I noticed that the rule in the UAE is that men queue in the sun but ladies & couples are fast-tracked straight to the coach. No waiting, no sun shine beating on your back, it’s like having a “Monopoly” pass GO card.

At that point in time, a moment of creativity hit me…..well I’d like to put it down to inspiration rather than early symptoms of heat stroke. What if I had a life size doll possibly a mannequin dressed in an abaya would this allow me to join the ladies & family queue and save myself from being roasted in the 40 plus summer heat? This would even allow me to bypass the bachelor on the beach rule, and if the mannequin could float in the sea I would no longer need a swimming aid!