Friday, October 31, 2008

Where Have All The Cardigans Gone?

Remember when you were a kid, and you could barely see your Halloween costume because you were bundled up so tight in a coat and gloves? Well, we aren't having that problem here. It's finally gotten reasonable out in Dubai - no more 130 degrees! In fact, the pool still has the cold-water jacuzzi running at full blast:
True, there are no seasons in Dubai - only sand. Sand and lots and lots of construction. But once in a while - or November to March, more specifically - it's absolutely beautiful out!

Which brings me to the point of this post: In light of the recent global economic downturn, I can't really afford to keep two sets of clothes anymore. Can someone loan me some jackets and sweaters in December?

Happy Halloween!

It’s All Hallows Eve here in Dubai and surprisingly people are celebrating! One thing you have to get used to in the UAE is that days that are so important to you as an American, are just normal days over here: 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and for the most part – Halloween. And even though they are aware of the custom even our British expat friends tell us that in the UK no one over 10 years of age dresses up.

Matt, Lisa and I were on a mission to find a few like-mined revelers, and luckily a few new American friends we met last weekend were also trying to build their army of ghouls and goblins. So we were in invited to what we were told was “the” party to attend. Never mind that the location changed three times, we had no idea who the actual host was, or that we had to travel a dirt road to get to the building – it was a great party! We also found our Halloween “brothers in arms”, the Lebanese! Of course, the jovial party people of the Arab world never ever disappoint with a party and this was no exception.

For Matt, Lisa and I the name of the game was ‘hair’. Every costume started with the wig and progressed from there. Lisa was a hard rock “I was an extra for a White Snake video” 80’s chic, I was a swinging 60’s “I personally know Austin Powers” chic, and Matt topped it off as a mullet-wearing “you may have seen me at Woodstock” hippie guy. The costume that really takes the cake though (no pun intended!) was our good friend Lynze who hand crafted her own Cupcake costume, complete with the foil wrapper and sprinkles on top!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I'm Shooting Blanks

Now that I have your attention, let's talk about something near and dear to all of our hearts over here - the second amendment. Not just useful for keeping the king of England off your back, guns are just as useful at destroying dinner plates, mugs, old glass bottles, and beer cans.
Over here in the Middle East, it's a bit tougher to just take your gun outside and start shooting (at least it's tough here in Dubai proper - I can't speak for 75 miles in any direction, though…). A few of us have been trying to shoot skeet for quite a well - but every time we've called since August, they've said "sorry, we don't have ammunition. Try again in a month". Turns out, that was just code for "you're not a member, and we're DEFINITELY not just gonna give you a gun".
Turns out we could pretend we were members through our concierge, and we were able to get them to give us a box each for some practice last weekend. That's when we found out where all of the ammo in the middle east was going: that UAE Olympic shooting guy. He was practicing next to us, and he's FAST. Despite destroying orange lay dinner plates at an alarming rate, he has a pickup truck FOR HIS AMMUNITION. Then he has something like 15 guns, and an entourage that follows him around. Why a shotgun expert needs a 7-ft tall Russian bodyguard is totally beyond me, but that guy could have taken all for of us without even getting off his cell phone.
We'll be repeating the entire experience this coming weekend - our friends John and Lynze were nive enough to get Katie and I a "couples shooting" session. I suppose following it with couples massage would make us waaaay to Republican, but I think that's exactly what our friends had in mind. Those wiley Cheney-lovers...

Monday, October 27, 2008


Surprise!!! You get all dressed up, you go to a nice french dinner with your wonderful fiance. Sitting down, you have some champagne to celebrate - why not? And hey, it's your birthday tomorrow!

You order soup, seared fish, and a chocolate souffle. The restaurant even surprises you with a cake and candles! You relax, have a little port, and take it easy. And hey, it your birthday tomorrow!
Unfortunately, that pesky sister-in-law, Lisa, calls at the end with a ton of drama. You're stuffed and relaxed, so it doesn't bother you that much. BUT, your fiance, Katie, has to go meet her out to clear things. She doesn't want to go, but since it's only on the other side of the resort, you don't mind. Soooo, you walk over.

Lisa meets you both at the door, all antsy in her pantsy, and you think "great, let's get this over with. Maybe I can have more champagne." The club is DESERTED. Good choice for a emotional breakdown :) You go upstairs, peel back the curtain, and....

........SURPRISE! It's a party room packed wall to wall with friends, champagne, and birthday decorations. But hey, it's your birthday TOMORROW! Sadly, Katie's calendar was broken - plus, I was totally unprepared this way. She got me good - but now I'm afraid of Katie because she figured out how to keep a secret! People changed plane flights to be there, lied to me about what they doing, and organized all sorts of logistics. Some people even went to the wrong hotel and were stranded for the night (you know who you are!).

We partied the night away (into my actual birthday). Everyone enjoyed their fair share of spirits and wines, some impromptu greco-roman wrestling, a ton of "full extensions", and yes - more cake! But it didn't end there - more partying, more dancing, more spirits - all way too much fun. Once the club closed, we moved on to the apartment. In typical fashion, I decided to make fresh popcorn and fried chicken from scratch while we played Wii until the sun came up. Needless to say, I was pooped - exactly how Katie planned it. Which is why she scheduled massages for the afternoon - oh, what a weekend :) And here's a big, public thank you to the best girl a guy could ever have: I’m still in a surreal state of shock (and a twinge of dizziness) over the surprise last night. To be here halfway around the world, go into a hidden room behind a curtain, and find so many great friends in one place – I’m speechless. Thank you so much for making it all happen right under my nose - this was the best present, and best birthday. You're the greatest!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dubai Fashion Week

Last week was Dubai Fashion week, not to be confused with New York Fashion week which typically hosts designers like Michael Kors and Carolina Herrera. However, Dubai fashion week is much more Middle East focused and the runway featured collections by Buffi Jashanmal and Hatem Alakeel. Emirates Woman, the magazine that I work for, was the official sponsor for the event and luckily I was able to swindle a few tickets from the editorial department so that I could attend a few of the shows. One of the shows that I attended with my friend Lynze, was for Mariam Al-Mazro, a local designer from Sharjah, one of our neighboring emirates. It was a collection of "modern" abayas – the traditional dress for women in the UAE.
The following night, Katie and I attended another show and it was running "fashionably late" so we took the time to explore what Dubai Fashion Week had to offer. We tested new make-up at the L'Oreal counter, tried on sunglasses at the Solaris stand and walked down the red carpet pretending to pose for photographers. We also had our pictures taken at a Philips promotional stand and they gave us our very own magazine covers – check out the pictures bellows.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

That's Just Sammy, My [Stolen] Pet Whale Shark

What's not important to anyone in Dubai today are the water slides at Atlantis. What IS important is that they're not releasing Sammy, the whale shark that they "temporarily" rescued off the coast a month ago. Sorry to everyone about leaving this little tidbit out.
Here's an excellent chronology from local media:
Step 1: The theft and PR blitz
Whale Shark "Rescued" and Taken to Atlantis Palm Aquarium - Dubai

Step 2: The Truth Comes Out

Step 3: The Facebook Groups Come out (now it's official!)

Step 4: Full-on Outrage.

As you can see in the picture, the "rescue" is paying for itself in tourism. And Atlantis couldn't be happier about the coverage.

The problem is, this morning a number of former employees of Atlantis came out and said that they had planned this all along. They hired fishing boats every morning for the past few months to go out and search for a whale shark to bring back to the tanks. Sammy, the shark they eventually found, is the same whale shark that has come into the Dubai marina and swum around a bit before leaving for the Maldives.
Apparently, the intention is never to release it - only to have a bigger and better aquarium than the Dubai Mall, opening this month. And no, they don't have a whale shark - not yet anyway.

Nobody Gets it Right the First Time

Winston Churchill once said "Americans will always do the right thing, but only after exhausting every other option first". The Atlantis resort is the latest gleaming example of bringing that Western culture to the Middle East.
Case in point: I'm on this water slide, 50 meters up, in my comfy plastic inner tube (you see where I'm going with this?). Then the water pressure stops JUST as I'm about to go over a hill on the slide. First I stop in mid-air, then fall and start sliding backwards. NOT GOOD. My first thought is "I hope Katie doesn't kick me in the back of the head as she comes flying around the corner". Then it's "Um, how am I going to get down from here?"

Part 1:

Part 2 (the good one):

After I hopped crab-style on my rear end (in the inner tube) to the closest ladder, climbed down, and spoke to the nearest "employee", I felt a little better. Apparently it was just minor opening-day park jitters. I should've been there a few months ago, she said - she couldn't even count how many bones were broken in the initial testing!

Oh boy.

Next time: My thoughts on the 30-meter Leap of Faith slide ("No accidents since 2pm!").
Update - apparently everybody wants to hop on the Atlantis bandwagon, including Terrorists and reporters from Atlanta:

CNN Video Report:

Al Qaeda's brilliant scheme of mis-designing the slides for broken bones wasn't enough. The plan to continue their personal vendatta with Atlantis and Kylie Minogue. Honestly? A water park in Dubai. This is a bit much...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Greece Lighting!

Opa! Matt and I are lucky enough to have just returned from a brief holiday in Greece. It turns out that abiding my the Islamic calendar really has its perks, the end of Ramadan is officially celebrated by a holiday called Eid, where it is customary to receive 2 or 3 days off of work depending where it falls. This year it fell on the 3 days preceding the weekend, and just like that *poof* we had 5 days off! Although you don’t find out when the holiday is going to be until the official moon sighting, which only happens about a day in advance, so as soon as we found out we needed to capitalize! After a quick scan of the airline points and hotel deals we found ourselves in a hotel room in Athens 48 hours later.

What a beautiful country! According to the locals we had the pleasure of visiting still in the wake of the 2000 Olympics which has still benefited the city with new infrastructure, better roads, and more widely spoken English. Although, I must say I was a little disappointed, my suspension of disbelief lead me to think that I could still wear a toga and bump into Socrates at any time!
First night at the hotel roof top bar, you can see the Acropolis lit in the background.

The Parthenon!

The Caryatids statues.The theater of Dionysus.

I'm so happy to be in Athens!

Dinner at the top of the Hotel Grande Bretange, with the Acropolis in the background.At Delphi, in front of the ruins of the Temple of Apollo, where the Oracle sat. The 5 1/2 hour ferry ride to Mykonos.Finally a enjoying a gyro on Mykonos.

The Aegean Sea.The Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion. Don't slip!

In front of the National Archaeological Museum.

Our buddy Agamemnon.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Airbus A380: The World's Largest Airliner OR the World's Smallest Bar

Emirates Airlines has just started service of its very own flying guppy, and I recently had the chance to fly one to and from New York. It was a genuinely new experience - like no other flight, but you still can't leave the room for 12 hours (without a parachute).
Possibly the least thought-out (and most fun) aspect of the flight is the nightclub/bar on the second floor (or the dorsal fin of the guppy, if you still have that stuck in your head).When you have a whole bunch of passengers from first and business stuck next to a full bar for 12 hours with no cell pones, hilarity ensues. It was like a Budweiser commercial - Know When to Say When. Unfortunately for the passengers sleeping on the other side of the curtain, nobody did. Flight attends yelling ssshhhhhhh every five minutes did nothing to turn the tide, and most people got off the plane looking pretty ragged. Imagine paying $6K a pop for your ticket, and having to sleep next to a bar. Can you say refund?