kookie in dubai - tales in the desert city

Wednesday, June 21

Everybody wants to work...no, no, not me

I'm not working at the moment and even though I have plenty of moments where I ask "Who am I?" "What am I doing here?" (thats my favourite thought right now) I'm enjoying just taking my time doing simple things. Like going to Paul, my favourite cafe, ordering a coffee and reading the whole paper until I notice the staff staring at me and I can see them thinking "is she going to order anything else?".

Then I remember what an indulgent life I'm living and think of the construction industry workers who you see all over the city in brightly coloured overalls.

You see them at lunch time outside Tasty Burger eating cheap meals and trying to drink as much water as they can because its free and they've been working since 6am in the heat. These men are mainly from India or Pakistan and come here to earn money which they then send back to their families back home. According to www.timeoutdubai.com these men earn, on average, 500 dirhams per month. Jobs for administration workers range from 5,000 - 10,000 dirhams per month and a marketing position at middle management level may receive 20,000 dirhams upwards per month. They live in labour camps which are reportedly over crowded with no airconditioning and there has been debate about the upcoming summer months because the workers argue that they shouldn't have to work outside when its over a certain temperature.

But Dubai is all about progress and the local media have been reporting that there will have to be some give and take between government bodies, the construction industry and the workers who are slowly realising that there is power in numbers. It will be interesting to see how the media reports the weather over the coming summer months.

Watch your mouth

Customer service in Dubai can be quite bad. People blatantly lie and nod saying yes, it will happen when they know there is no such chance. It's considered very bad form for anyone to actually challenge the staff and even more so to swear at them. The poor Yank below found out the hard way. From www.7days.ae

"A fed up Dubai resident who lost his temper and swore at customer service staff has been jailed for a month. LL, 31, visited Emaar’s customer service department in February to complain that, according to him, work on his apartment in The Greens had not been done as promised.
But when his complaints got him nowhere, he swore at the woman serving him, the Dubai Court of First Instance heard.

A witness told the court that the American also made offensive hand gestures to the 26-year-old woman. The angry customer unleashed a torrent of four letter insults at the woman, who was too embarrassed to say the words out loud, and wrote them down for the judge.
“He was coming to complain, and then he started saying bad things to me,” she said. “I tried to calm him down and I told him that I would fetch my boss.” LL was jailed for a month and fined dhs5,000. An Emaar security officer was also fined dhs5,000 for swearing back at the angry customer, a verdict that Emaar is appealing. The company said that while the case is still with the courts, they did not want to comment in detail but said that: “Aggressive customers are not the norm for Emaar and there is no special policy to handle them.”

Emaar added that the vast majority of its 13,000 homeowners are satisfied, but said that the company is “open to genuine grievances, if any, of our customers.” “We have proper systems in place to ensure that our homeowners and tenants enjoy the best of amenities and conveniences.”
Robert Keay, managing director of Ethos, a customer service consultancy, told 7DAYS that while he found swearing unacceptable, he understood how frustrating poor customer service can be.“I’ve witnessed several incidents when customers in Dubai lost their cool when problems were not solved for a very long time.

“It happens every single day all over the world when people feel frustrated and lose the ability to think about the consequences of their actions,” he added. All in all Keay believes customer service in Dubai is still much better than any other GCC country".

Caught with your pants down

Anyone who has been to Dubai always comments on how many prostitutes there are in the city servicing the businessman and the locals. Ladies of the night parade their wares on the street and in some hotels. The stereotype is that the woman is Russian or Eastern European. The guy below was obviously with a pro but the police couldn't prove it

From the newspaper www.7days.ae,

"A Dubai court handed out a not-guilty verdict to an Asian man and a Russian woman accused of having an illicit affair in a public place. The man identified as AK, was charged with kissing and groping the woman inside a car in a parking area in Deira. Dubai police pulled the car over in March and when AK exited the vehicle, his trouser belt was undone. The officers could also smell alcohol. AK claimed that he had forgotten to do up his belt after going to the toilet. The court fined the couple dhs1000 for drinking alcohol but the judge said there was not enough evidence to convict them on the other count".

The Googler

The Googler has moved out of our apartment building. No, not a google - er but a man who stares at me all the time and has now got that nick name.

The Googler is a man who for some reason took a bit of a liking to me. He, himself, had smooth dark skin and perhaps my off-milk complexion was intriguing to him. Either way I'm glad he's gone.

I first met him when I was in the pool on the roof our building two months ago.

I was attempting to do some sort of aqua aerobics but it now occurs to me that he probably thought I was drowning as my arms flapped around in the water. He rushed up the stairs and over to the pool saying 'Helllloooooo'?

'Hello...?' I replied somewhat reddish in the face. I was slightly embarrassed that:

a) a person, any person, would see me in my bathers
b) that this person had obviously seen me do my funky dance moves in water
c) that he had been watching me for some time

He then went on to ask how often I did my routine. I told him that I was just playing and was about to leave.

Try to picture this. 5 pm in the afternoon. P was at work. The roof top was deserted. The Googler was standing in front of the stair well and there I was waist deep in water in a Muslim country, baring my shoulders and it could be argued, dancing provocatively. Aaarggghh!

The Googler lights a fag and then heads to the sit on the solitary bench. I jump out of the pool and wrap myself in a towel and try to put a t-shirt on. The Googler just stares.

It then of course seems that every time I see the Googler that I'm alone. Either in the stair well or in the lift. Each time he says 'Hellloooo?' and leers at me...all over me. When I tell P about the Googler he laughs and tells me that my imagination is great.

Then I saw the Googler three days ago. He was carrying boxes through the foyer, about to load a truck and tells me that he'll miss our chats and that he doesn't get to speak English often. Then I feel sort of guilty. I realise what seemed inappropriate and creepy to me was this persons only known way of communicating.

Goodbye Googler.

Tuesday, June 13

Just one deep breath please Sir

I was reading the crime pages with my morning coffee and was reading how some people (Westerners) in Doha, Qatar were locked up and awaiting deportation.

They apparently had drinks in a hotel bar then went to a restaurant off the premises and had an argument. The owner called the police who charged them with disturbing the peace and then they took a breath test, which of course, they tested positive. They were then charged with being drunk in a public place and are now awaiting deportation.

Imagine if this law existed in Australia how many people would be deported every Friday night?

Saturday, June 3

A conversation with myself - Part 2

So it goes on... and on...feel free to jump in at any time and ask a question.

What's the national sport?
Falconry is when men who like big birds take them into the desert and train them to fly (places?) and stuff. Camel and horse racing are pretty big here too and are the closest thing to AFL or soccer. Child jockeys have been replaced by robots as there were humanitarian concerns for the children and I can vaguely remember Four Corners doing a story on it some time ago.
Due to the large Pakistani and Indian contigent cricket in disused building lots is a favourite past time.

Are there radio stations?
Yes, there are a few English speaking ones, 4 I think that are FM. They're ok; like listening to a commercial station in Australia but most of the presenters are English, although the other day I did hear a Kiwi reading the news.

Is there TV?
Yes, unfortunately for me though P is not a TV watcher so we don't have it. However someone recently told him that AFL matches are screened and that may well be the key to my future happiness. I've paid 300 dirhams to the local video store and can borrow 18 films which is quite good value. I watched the whole Sopranos series...got myself a gun...

I digress. Yes there are TV stations. BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera are the main contenders. Most expat people here have cable TV and pay around $80 a month for a ridiculous amount of channels which have American and English shows.

What's the food like?
The food is great. In terms of eating out there's plenty of cafes and restaurants that offer various cuisines. Traditional food is sort of like a mixture of Turkish and Lebanese. A typical menu might offer tabbouleh, hummous, metaboul (smoky eggplant dip), manikish ( a delicious type of pizza) and various grilled meats and fish. Dubai also has lots of vegetarian Indian restaurants which are great value.

My only criticism is that in terms of eating out there are only low end and high end venues. A curry will be around 20 dirhams per person and a meal in a hotel which is a licensed venue and therefore offers alcohol can cost around 150 dirhams upwards.

What are the supermarkets like?
Huge, barn-like style things. There are 3 key players. Carrefours, a French hyper-market which sells everything from fridges to bbq's to fresh fruit and vegetables. Their most impressive asset is their deli section which has different types of cheeses, nuts, dips and olives. It's sensational. The quality of fruit and vegetables across the board is pretty low and annoyingly, due to the climate and transportation time, they don't last very long at all and fridge life is around 2 days.

Spinneys stocks lovely Waitrose ingredients and I never tire of checking out what delicious things they have in stock. Choithrams is an Indian chain I think and they are generally smaller and cheaper and have a great deli section.

Are clothes cheap?
To my great disappointment no. I'm not sure I agree with Dubai Tourism when they claim that Dubai has the best shopping in the world. Clothes are pretty much at Melbourne prices but there are very few independent labels here. If you're into Prada, Versace and bling bling then shopping here will be heaven. There are huge malls and the gold souk (gold market) can reproduce anything that your heart desires for a fraction of the retail price.

When is the weekend?
At the moment weekends are spilt for the working population. Many people work Sunday - Thursday lunch time or Sunday - Friday and have one day off. As of September weekends will now be on Friday and Saturday across government departments and it looks likely than the private sector will follow as well.

Finally...do you like living in Dubai?
Hmmm...great question and one that I ask myself all the time!

At the moment I'd describe the city and myself as suffering from split personality disorder. Every day it seems different and I feel different towards it.

I'm always learning new and interesting tid bits about food and the culture. Some days I think wow! what an interesting and lively place and there so many nice people here.

Other days, generally when I've walked somewhere, am sweating profusely and feeling like Pedro from the film Napoleon Dynamite, that I then feel trapped in an oven and want to get out. (In the film Pedro gets a very hot head and decides to shave his hair off; I can emphathise).

Local people always say "Inshallah" which loosely translates to "God willing". Perhaps I'll adopt that ideology a little more and see what happens.