kookie in dubai - tales in the desert city

Monday, August 28

Wash Me Clean

I had to do a visa run the other day. This means leaving Dubai, exiting the country by car or plane and then returning to get another stamp in your passport which gives you 60 days on a tourist visa. I chose to fly to Doha, Qatar which is an hour away.

Before check in I thought I'd pop to the ladies, as you do, and do the obligatory 'before you board a plane toilet visit'. I walked in to the loos and there were 10 chicks, a family, washing their feet in the basin or touching up their make up.
Their abayas (the long traditional black dress) were hanging up all around the room. I was washing my hands when a European tourist came in and made very loud sniffing noises and looked disgusted with what she saw. She was right to think that the toilets smelt; they reeked of foot odour. It was a really pungent smell that hit you as soon as you walked in the door.

What she may not have realised is that the women were washing themselves in preparation for prayer time. When they had all washed their feet, they washed their hands and put their abayas back on over their jeans and tops and then left to go to the prayer room.

Monday, August 21

I Want Your Sex

I live in a fairly busy area and often see ladies of the night do their business on the street. A car stops, they chat, she gets in and off they go. Good for them I think, as long as the women are safe and making some money, it’s their business.

And now according to one punter it’s mine too.

I stood in front of our apartment block and was trying to flag a taxi. Normally taxis spot you and honk their horn to get your attention. In 42 degree heat it I felt like I’d been waiting for some time when I heard a honk.

I turned around and saw a plain car. There are lots of private taxis who work for the hotels. So I walked across the street and as I did he rolled down his window and all I heard was ‘how much…?’, and indignation quickly set it. My mouth must have dropped open because he sped away and I crossed back to the other side of the street in a blushed state.

Someone suggested that I should be flattered; I was wearing jeans, tshirt and no make up. Hmmm…have to think about that one.

Friday, August 18

Some like it hot

On Wednesday afternoon I was sitting in our lounge room reading when the room suddenly got very dark. I looked up and saw that the sky was cloudy and I could barely see across the street. At the same time P got a text message from a colleague saying "its the end of the world".

Gulf News reported the next day:

"Hottest day of the year sizzles at 45.9C but more is yet to come
You have just survived the hottest day of the year on Wednesday when the mercury climbed up to a sizzling 45.9C.
More hot weather is expected over the coming few days although eastern parts of the UAE, such as Al Ain, may have showers on Thursday. Forecasters at Dubai International Airport said the highest temperature on Wednesday was reached at 1.23pm just before the sea breeze blew inland and cooled things down by a few degrees. Later in the afternoon there was a dramatic drop in visibility caused by sand-laden winds from eastern parts of the UAE. At one point, visibility was as little as 200 metres although there were no reports of disruption to flights".

Sunday, August 13

Who Are You

So many people ask me 'so what's Dubai like?'. To give you some stats read below and find out what a research company discovered when they were employed by Time Out Dubai to conduct a survey of over 600 residents from various backgrounds. Some interesting statistics which may answer your questions:

  • The cost of rent is shooting up faster than the Burj Dubai and we are extremely unhappy about it – so unhappy, in fact, that a whopping two thirds of residents would consider leaving as a result.
  • 80 per cent of Dubaians are still in rented accommodation. Forty-two per cent of us get a company housing allowance, with that figure rising to almost 60 per cent for Westerners
  • Fifty per cent of Dubaians work more than 50 hours per week, and 20 per cent of that total are putting in 70-plus hours a week. Further compounding this misery, 42 per cent of the lowest-paid workers (US$2,132 and below) work between 50 and 70 hours a week, while the figure is 27 per cent for the highest earners (US$8,000 plus a month).
  • Forty-three per cent of us are overweight for starters and we’re getting fatter. Twenty-five per cent of us never do any exercise and 41 per cent of us do less than three hours a week.
  • Anyone who has sampled the somewhat dubious pleasures of one of Dubai’s many lowbrow bars won’t be surprised to learn that 57 per cent of us drink, with that figure rising to 84 per cent for Westerners – 20 per cent of whom drink more than 15 units of alcohol (one unit equals one measure of spirits, half a pint of beer, or one small glass of wine) a week.
  • Over a quarter of us smoke. Arabs smoke the heaviest – 45 per cent smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day, whereas Westerners are more likely to be social smokers – 39 per cent smoke fewer than four cigarettes a week.
  • Fifty-two per cent are happy, 13 per cent are unhappy, and 34 per cent are neither happy nor unhappy

So who are we?

We work hard, we play hard; our doctor tells us we’re out of shape physically, and psychologists tell us we may one day lose the plot mentally if we don’t recalibrate our daily schedules. We struggle to pay our rent, we hate sitting in traffic; we have a whole heap of people earning a lot more than us, but also even more people making less money and having to do even more to earn it below us. The era of the generous expat package is over for many of us, but things could be worse – when all is said and done, we’re still here and that’s for a reason – we’re probably earning more than we would in our home countries, or at least taking advantage of opportunities that wouldn’t be available to us elsewhere. We’re a mixed bag of people from all walks of life trying to better ourselves, and doing so with varying degrees of success. Despite our frustrations we’re happy and we are – shock horror – actually quite normal.

*All information from Time Out Dubai, 2 August 2006. www.timeoutdubai.com

Friday, August 4

Girls just wanna have fun

Every Tuesday night in Dubai groups of women across the city rush home from work, paint on the plaster, splash on some perfume and then head to one of the numerous pubs that offer Ladies Night.

Ladies Night exists at many venues and generally offers free entry and a minimum of 2 free drinks. The idea being that there is approximately a ratio of 70/30 men to women in the city with many men being single and keen to meet some (trolley dolly) women.

Chicks tend to meet in small groups for dinner first and then do the 'rounds' and it's considered good value; go to a few venues and you've virtually had a free night out.

It's got to be said though that you get what you pay for or rather what you don't pay for. Think meat market and you'll get the picture.