Saturday, December 30, 2006

Eid Al Adha.

It's Eid Al Adha today, our second in the UAE. This feast of sacrifice marks Abraham's (or Ibrahim's) willingness to obey God by sacrificing his son.

Many Muslims here observe the act of sacrificing a goat and donating the meat to the less fortunate. Early this morning, I was woken up by the bleating sounds of a goat that's been locked up in the car park of the apartment block next to us! It's been there for the last day or so and I believe it's not got long to go before it goes to slaughter.

Eid Mubarak to all those who celebrate this feast.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


My aunt and uncle left for the airport early this morning, after a 2-week stay with us in Dubai. It's been a year since I last saw them, and it was really good having them here over Christmas and showing them what life in Dubai is like.

We both went back to bed after they left, and when I woke up later this morning, the house felt a little empty! Funny how I always feel this whenever I've had visitors come to stay.

What's worse is I've lost my best friend in Dubai. 2 days ago, we went to say goodbye to Joy and James as they return to Ireland after living in Dubai for a year. Joy had saved up all her bits and pieces which she thought I might like and I've spent some of this morning going through the bags and bags she's left me! It's like a second Christmas because I've found some real treasures like a fondue set, books, flasks, a chiller bag, and many more things!

I've got to get back to sorting out my 'treasures' and also get onto lots of cleaning before our next visitor arrives next week - Gypsy Boy's brother!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I've been a little busy of late with my aunt and uncle visiting from Malaysia. To those of you who've sent me emails or left comments on this blog, I'm sorry I haven't been very diligent in replying. Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I'm thinking of all of you, but just have not had the chance to respond!

I'm expecting that this will be the case until Christmas is over, so I'll take the opportunity now to wish all of you a very Happy and Blessed Christmas!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Burj al Arab.

As members of the Dubai International Art Centre, we were invited to attend the opening of Mounir Lakkis' exhibition of painting, photography and sculpture held at the Burj al Arab tonight.

Knowing that my aunt and uncle who are visiting Dubai at the moment, have been extremely keen to visit the famous 7-star hotel, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to take them and catch some of the local art scene at the same time.

The Burj al Arab in the shape of a large sail looked awesome as we drove over the short causeway onto the man-made island. We were welcomed with rose water as we entered the lobby, before going up an escalator with a view of a beautiful aquarium of tropical fish. Water dominated as the main theme of the hotel, with gorgeous fountains, aquariums and of course the fact that the building is designed in the form of a sail, situated on an island.

As we proceeded towards the lifts, which offered a view of the open sea, we were struck by the sheer opulence of the gold plated pillars, the plush carpets and furniture around us. On arrival at the Assawan Lounge on the 18th floor, we were greeted with wine and juices. Lakkis' work on display were paintings, sculptures and prints. The works were fresh and modern.

We browsed at leisure before settling down around a coffee table to enjoy our glasses of wine. Waiters were always on hand to offer us another drink, and also some really scrumptious hors d'oeuvres! The service was impeccable and the atmosphere was certainly 7-star!

I found our experience at the hotel excellent. The exterior is certainly unique, and the interior is ultra-modern, opulent, and all class. I can't believe I finally got to go!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

T'is the season...

Like other parts of the world, the Christmas season in Dubai seems to have arrived earlier this year. Christmas jingles are being played regularly on the radio and lots of shops and malls being decked out with the usual red, green and gold decorations. Shoppers also seem to be out in full force doing all their Christmas shopping.

Still, I'm finding it hard to get into the Christmas spirit this year. I guess it's the fact that when it comes down to it, Christmas is just an ordinary work day here, and holds not much more than commercial value. For Gypsy Boy and the rest of the workforce, there's no wind-down period either, if anything work seems to be building up!

Anyway, I thought I should at least make a bit of an effort especially seeing that we will have family arriving in 2 days who'll be staying to celebrate Christmas with us in Dubai.

...Our little X'mas Corner...

I apologise the photo's not great, it looks like our little Canon Ixy4.0 is dying a slow and painful death so I only managed to take the one photo and I'm too lazy to dig the SLR out and transfer the flash card, so this will have to do for now.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Wet, wet, wet.

Winter's here. It's been raining off and on the last couple of weeks. The day we got back to Dubai from Europe it was raining all day and we've only really had the odd day of sunshine since. The temperatures have also dropped a fair bit and the mercury's down to as low as 16 degrees C.

While this may seem mild to most, it's cold enough for me to have switched the air-conditioning off and don my sweatshirt and track pants! I remember it getting cooler around this time last year, but it certainly wasn't as wet. In fact, many of the veteran expats here are saying it's raining more this year than it has in the last 2 years combined! Ah well, enjoy the nice change in weather I reckon.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Camel & Mellow yellow.

Gypsy Boy and I had our last art class over the weekend. I felt a little sad to be finishing off our art classes as I've really enjoyed being under the instruction of our art teacher Kamen and meeting new people. On the other hand, I'm also happy to have our Saturday mornings back!

I'm not really the best morning person to start with, and this coupled with our usual late nights out on Friday evenings with friends, even getting up at 9 to make it to art class at 9.30 has proved a struggle for the last 10 weeks.

...Camel, by Gypsy Boy. Mellow Yellow, by Gypsy Girl...

Nonetheless, we're happy with the time and money we've invested into this and have a few paintings to show, plus we take with us skills and techniques taught by Kamen- our extremely talented and successful art teacher.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

One year on

It's been over a year now that Gypsy Boy and I have been living in Dubai, which prompted me recently to reflect on my feelings about life in this city.

What I like:
1. Geographical location. It's central and I love the fact that it's so close to Europe and Asia. Living here has given us ample opportunity to explore countries and areas that we've never had the chance to see before. Dubai airport is a hub, so we've also got a long list of airlines and holiday destinations to choose from.

2. It's relatively safe. Crime rate is low and while you hear about robbery, theft and rape, cases are isolated and usually offenders are caught and severely punished.

3. Meeting people from a wide mix of cultures. 80-90% of the population in Dubai is made up of expats and while a large percentage are from the sub-continent, we've met people from all corners of the earth here! I love that!

4. The weather. It's sunny and warm just about all the time.

5. The service. You can get anything home delivered from fast food outlets, restaurants, the local grocery shop, drinking water, and even your laundry and drycleaning.

6. The opening hours. Malls and shops are open till 10pm or midnight every night.

7. Affordability. Labour is cheap so you can get your clothes tailored, car washed, house cleaned, everything you own drycleaned if you wish without having to be a millionaire to do so. Houseboys, gardeners and maids are not uncommon here.

8. Food. Groceries are relatively cheap and there's a wide range of fruit and vegetables imported from all over the world and some also grown locally. We're also spoilt for choice with plenty top quality Indian restaurants.

What I don't like:
1. It's not a walking city. People don't really walk from A to B, no matter what distance. They drive. Reason being, sidewalks are rare in new Dubai and it couldn't be further from a walk on grass under the trees. It'll be on the sand or on the road alongside cars zooming past leaving a cloud of dust and sand to contend with. Aside from this, I also miss living in the CBD of a city. We lived in the heart of town in Auckland which meant we could walk to work and everything was in close proximity - the theatre, the cinemas, art galleries, shops, work, restaurants, cafes, parks, churches etc.

2. It's new and developing - there's no real old feel to this city. It's new, modern and developing at a super fast rate which means construction everywhere.

3. Food. Aside from Indian and Lebanese, you don't get a good range of other ethnic cuisine without spending a small fortune.

4. Alcohol. Not being able to have a glass of wine or a beer with a meal out, other than at a hotel. This isn't really such a big deal for us, but sometimes it's nice to just have the choice.

5. Temporariness.

6. The service. High turnover, poor training and lack of initiative often contributes to the inconsistent service one can expect here. Information is unreliable often due to communication issues.

7. Crazy rents. Read my previous posts on rents here and here.

8. Public transport. This is progressing, however there is no metro/rail system at the moment. There are more bus stops and routes being introduced now which will hopefully make this mode of transport more attractive.

9. Arrogance and lack of manners. People have an air of arrogance about themselves here and I'm not sure why. It's evident on the roads in the way people drive but also in malls and restaurants. Queues are often non existent and if there is one, people often push-in and cut the line. I've seen many instances of rudeness and sadly this is often towards workers.

Please note that the points above only reflect my own personal feelings based on my experiences of living in Dubai the past year. They are relative to my own observations of life in other cities that I have lived in or travelled to.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dubai to become a geo-city.

It was recently in the news that Dubai is set to become a geo-city next year. It will be interesting to see progress with this, in a city amongst the highest per capita waste generation in the world.

Recycling at Brussels Airport

While we were in Brussels recently, I noticed these clever bins dotted all around the airport! Just what we need here to kickstart recycling.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Turkish Delight.

Istanbul has got to be one of my favourite cities in the world! I never expected that I'd like it as much as I did, but I couldn't help falling in love with this beautiful, historic city and its warm, friendly people.

We started off by taking a nice long walk after checking into our hotel, just a stones throw away from the famous Blue Mosque, Haghia Sohpia, Topkapi Palace, the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar!
...Fresh pomegranate juice for 3Turkish Lira at every street corner - yum!...

Our timing probably couldn't be worse, coinciding with Pope Benedict's visit to Turkey. I was a little concerned that we wouldn't get to see all the sights after hearing about the police force being out en masse with snipers and decoys while the Pope toured and visited famous landmarks. However the worst we endured was a 2 hour car ride from the airport to our hotel in Sultanahmet, that normally would've taken us 25 mins, facing grid lock traffic, road blocks and many a detour.

...The entrance to Topkapi Palace...
...The beautiful Topkapi Palace...
...Gorgeous tiling in one of the rooms in Topkapi Palace...

We had a full-on second day, but I think we just managed to cover most of the sights and fit in some delicious Turkish meals plus some great shopping!

...Inside the Haghia Sophia: a church-mosque!...

...Looking over the Bosphorus at Asian Istanbul from European Istanbul...

...One of the many entrances to the Grand Bazaar - the largest undercover market in the world...

...Inside the Grand Bazaar...

...Delicious Turkish food - our first dinner in Istanbul!...

...enjoying Turkish coffee after dinner - yum!...

...Turkish Delights for sale in a window of a cafe...

...The Blue Mosque...

...Apple tea and flower tea - a bit like hot apple juice and hot ribena!...

Istanbul really surprised me. Turkey is a Muslim country with over 99% of its population being Muslim. Yet, aside from a handful of older women, I didn't see any that covered their hair and they dressed in modern western clothes. Other than this, alcohol is also served in cafes and restaurants everywhere and we got to try some great Turkish wines!

We just loved the atmosphere of this old, bustling city which is always so full of life. We adored the food and the hospitality of the Turkish people touched our hearts. Hopefully we will be able to return again soon to see more of beautiful Istanbul.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Alias Season 5.

Yay it's arrived! I pre-ordered this from in August, waiting for the DVD release which was 2 weeks ago.

We were a little concerned about receiving packages here, but seeing that this got delivered fine it looks like we can do a bit more online shopping!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Happy Birthday UAE.

Today is National Day in the United Arab Emirates, marking the 35th year the seven Emirates came together to form a country.

As it's on a Saturday this year, most of the private sector companies have chosen not to give its employees a day off in lieu tomorrow. So unfortunately for Gypsy Boy, it's back to work after a lovely short break away.