Posts

Showing posts from 2011

Overheard in the newsroom: Christmas edition

"Is that a Christmas outfit?"

"No."

Overheard in the newsroom: between 2 journos edition

Journo A: Why are you wearing a khandoura? Is it a special occasion?

Journo B: No I just didn't want to wear pants.

Tweet of the week: Soooo true

@I'll never get the ridiculous amount of Abaya Designers & Cupcake Entrepreneurs we've got here, this is just ....... Hilarious!

Overheard in the newsroom: dribs and drabs edition

I love Alan Greenspan!

Overheard in the newsroom

So I can call you fatty but I can't call you an American?

Today in very shiny things: Happy 40th, UAE!

Image
Maryam Al Falasi, a recent graduate from Dubai Women's College, created this UAE coat of arms out of crystals. You can see it at the Mercato Centre through Saturday. 















Snap caption: If only it was available for women

Image

Tim Hortons in Abu Dhabi: It's here, I went there

Image
Happy sigh. Smile. Medium with milk.
















Tim Hortons in Abu Dhabi: Literally, just moments away

Image
My colleague was out at Mushrif Mall earlier and snapped this photo. She said goodies were in the oven and staff told her it would open in "two to three hours".

I cannot get out there until tomorrow evening (see you all there!) so am seeking any and all man-on-the-street reports.

But I don't have an alias

Image
I had to fill out some paperwork recently and was immediately stumped by the second question. I briefly considered "Blackjack" and "The Lone Ranger" but ultimately left the space blank.

Only in the UAE would a health club promote their shisha night

I got this email the other night:

Greetings from Al Wahda Health Club!

As from tomorrow night, we will have our Sisha Lounge back on the 31st floor again. This is a great way of enjoying a Sisha and Mocktails with the best view of the city!...

Date quesadillas you say? Ummm...

Image

Snap caption: You don't have to get so touchy, I just thought I'd ask

Image

Puss In Boots hits the screen in the UAE this weekend- kind of

Image
The censors say it wasn't them (not that I am suggesting it would be for any reason... so why change it? To make it more relatable to Gulf audiences? It's Cat In Boots in Bahrain as well.

UPDATE: The National's Scene&Heard blog contacted both the National Media Council (no censorship, they said) and the local distributor.

Four Star Films says nothing was cut and as for the title: "It is common practice to many foreign territories outside of the US to change a movie title to suit their territory better, which is what we did with Cat In Boots".

Only in the UAE: Have you met my monkey?

Image
The best thing about my encounter with this guy and his pet monkey on the Corniche tonight was not that he had a monkey as a pet, or that the monkey was wearing trousers, a striped T-shirt and (I think) a belt to pull is all together. The best part was that the monkey was chewing gum. Look closely, he's playing with it just like an 11-year-old girl.

Mission: Impossible – Is that a Burj Khalifa over your shoulder or...

Image

Lost in Translation...

Image

A slight thaw appears in frosty Canada-UAE relations

Canadian foreign affairs minister John Baird will visit the UAE (and Kuwait) this week "to underscore Canada’s commitment to working with regional partners to help build strong democracies that respond to the needs and interests of their citizens", according to the ministry.

Might be nice if he could settle this spat over UAE landing rights, so "Canadian citizens who need/want to travel to the UAE don't have to pay for it with hundreds of dollars and loads of bureacracy in securing a visa".

He will join other leaders at the Sir Bani Yas Forum. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I still can't believe that the only two countries in the world I have ever lived in are so grumpy with each other.

Tim Hortons in Abu Dhabi: A little birdie told me ...

... the outlet in Mushrif Mall is supposed to open tomorrow. Inshallah, of course.

UPDATE: And... the little birdie was wrong. Is that thing ever going to open?

Overheard in Mushrif: Woman calling the police

"My housemaid has run away and she has taken all my gold."


450 Canadian Christmas trees are now heading to the UAE

Relations between the two nations may remain frosty, but there is a ship bearing a refrigerated container with the UAE's name on it, holding with pure Canadian greenery in the form of fresh Balsam fir trees from Nova Scotia, heading this way.

I am of course Canadian and I have a fondness for real Christmas trees, but I have to be a bit of a Scrooge here and ponder the environmental impact of this particular operation. I completely get the sentimental pull here though. I would love to hear from anyone who's decided to get one. Also, it's hard to make a tree last past New Year's Eve when you buy it from a tree lot in mid-December. I have no idea how these trees, arriving on November 30 after what had to be a long and arduous journey, are going to hold up.

Overheard in the newsroom: Thursday edition

It's weird because he can see out, so he just sits there and watches everyone.

He's given our lawn some kind of lawn STD because there are mushrooms growing all over it
I want to work somewhere normal, where people act as they should.
I wanted to dress up as swine flu for Halloween, but then I got sick.

It's alright in the winter but in the summer it's hell.

I cross-stitched Tina Turner.

That's it. I'm so having carbs today.

Today in things you cannot do on the Dubai Metro

Add slipping in a cat nap to the list (which includes kissing, eating and bringing along any sort of luggage, even though the Dubai Metro ends up at Dubai International Airport). An American visiting her parents nodded off on the southbound Red Line, only to wake up past her stop to a ticketing inspector handing her Dh300 fine (about $83  Canadian).

Two train attendants confirmed to XPRESS that passengers caught taking a nap inside the train may be fined. But one of them gave a qualified answer: “If a passenger falls sleep and snores or disturbs others – by drooling or falling over on to someone else’s space – that can invite a fine.
“As long as they don’t disturb other passengers when they sleep on the train, then it’s OK.”



Only in the UAE: Valet parking edition

Image

Marvellously ambitious woman aims to mount iconic production all about lady parts in Abu Dhabi

Image
I have got to admire this kind of chutzpah in a place like the UAE, where I cannot recall seeing the word for vajayjay in print in all my 3.5 years.

Michael Bolton brings his (pirate) show to Dubai next week

Image
So if you've caught the television promos for Michael Bolton's show at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai next week, and you are not from North America, you may have thought to yourself "why is he wearing a pirate costume and singing about Johnny Depp"? (And people are: I overheard two editors at work talking about this just yesterday)


Turns out that the footage that is being used to promote the show is from a gag digital short produced this autumn by Andy Samberg's Lonely Island crew for Saturday Night Live. The premise is that a bunch of rappers have hired him to do the soaring hook for their hard-core video, but he only wants to belt it out about Jack Sparrow. Like most of their shorts, it is very stupid and completely hilarious. Please watch.

Dinner at Red Castle: You say Kleenex I say Klenex

Image
I took this photo at my favourite Chinese restaurant in Abu Dhabi, Red Castle, the other night. It's in Abu Dhabi's Chinatown, which is admittedly very little, in the middle of the block between the Madinat Zayed Centre on Muroor and HSBC on Airport. (I recommend the salt-and-pepper shrimp.)

I have two things to say about this photo. The first is that I love that almost every restaurant outside a five-star hotel in the UAE dispenses with napkins and simply places a tissue box on the table.  The other is that it is hilarious how this tissue company is so lethargic about their brand they could not be bothered to think up a proper name for it. Let's hear it for Rolerblades and iPhons.



Da da daaa, da da daaa... doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo: Tom Cruise and Mission: Impossible Ghost Protoccol team head to Dubai for DIFF

Image
The Dubai International Film Festival just got a whole bunch more interesting with the news that the fourth Mission film will have its world premiere in Dubai next month. And so it should; no matter what the film turns out like, I want to see more of this. And this:

Kim Kardashian in Dubai: She tweets

Kim Kardashian Wow I'm in such awe over Dubai! My hotel is so insane,can't wait to do some blogs & show u guys! Too much to tweet! I'm obsessed with Dubai!

Kim Kardashian has landed in Dubai

Image
Our Lady of Reality Television (and her mom, Kris Jenner, not pictured) can be seen here entering the Atlantis hotel on The Palm. Can I point out that I always look this refreshed after 18-hours of red-eye, transatlantic flying. 



I like to write: Famous in Abu Dhabi:

I wrote an observing life column in The National recently about one of the biggest differences between my life here and back in Canada. Here, much of the time, I stick out like a sore thumb. And most of the time I don't mind:

Overheard in the newsroom: Super special Sunday edition

It was a crazy horrible nightmare. 
There is no law against getting coffee twice. I've done it before - nothing bad happened.
We were thinking you were going to eat it raw. Since you're from Africa, maybe it's normal there?
I'm warning you the cookie is awful. Really buttery. Not in a good way.

Sad story about a suicidal sheep OR Abu Dhabi Police are all kinds of awesome

Image
Abu Dhabi Police started doing this a few months ago, sending out these amazing illustrations to accompany their press releases. The first one I saw accompanied a release about a group of kids involved in some sort of war games activity who were busted by actual cops. I thought that could not be topped, but then came this beauty to accompany Ola Salem's Sheep jumps from five-story building after failed slaughter attempt in The National:


Sources of stress in the UAE: A nervous Abu Dhabi taxi driver in Dubai

Every time I think it's going to be lovely, and it usually is - for the first hour and 15 minutes. Of course the taxi driver, delighted that I have decided to treat myself to a taxi instead of the bus, always needs to stop for petrol. Either he was just driving around town on fumes for thrills, and must double back into the closest Adnoc, which involves assorted back streets, U-turns and, of course, waiting in queues, or he realises it halfway there and worries openly about his dwindling supply with an ongoing "tsk tsk" sound. Then, blessedly, he spots an Adnoc.

Apparently, though, there is some sort of gas shortage. Why else would there be a line of cars 12 long just to get to a pump? He edges the car forward, hard on the break, hard on the gas, trying to sneak in, rolling down his window, pleading with car owners as they studiously ignore him and I try to hide in the back seat.

Cool cufflinks: Toronto Maple Leafs in Abu Dhabi

Image

Another Abu Dhabi hair horror story

It's hard to get your hair cut well in Abu Dhabi. There are some great stylists in town, message me if you want their names, but there are a ton more that are terrible. Terrible. Like if they were chefs they would be poisoning people.

I walked around with a lopsided 'do for about two weeks – seized by a spirit of adventure, I had decided to try the salon at the hotel where I work out – before finally admitting I had enough. There are two women in the office with awesome hair, I asked who they went to and booked an appointment at Toni&Guy in Dubai. Hair problems solved. Hair is now pretty ok.

A colleague who tried her luck at an unrecommended local salon this week is decidely unhappy. Most of the hair (she was growing out) ended up on the floor. It was too much, she didn't like the colour, and to make matters worse, when the stylist seemed to sense her discomfort with the situation near the end of the cut, she said this:

"It's not so bad. Some people don't…

Overheard in the office: Pretty special Tuesday edition

What happens if that bit of space junk lands on our heads?

What is the name of that ridiculous country that runs alongside Albania?

The cookies on the table are very weird. Like, almost meaty. 
If Princess Leia was a Arab Muslim, she would look like that.
Are we rationing air conditioning?

Awesome ad for food safety: Carrots vs Chicken

Image
This ad promoting food safety was running for awhile in The National. I love everything about it: the carrots standing up defensively, the "No Trespassing" sign on the bowl, the headless chicken, ready to launch an uncooked, bacteria-spreading attack while sitting back on its haunches in that funny way toddlers do. Well done Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority. Well done.

Just a tiny bit more Tim Hortons in Dubai, I promise

Image
Thanks to Dubaiwalla for pointing out Michael De Adder's cute editorial cartoon (I miss those! You don't get them easily online) in Toronto's Metro.

Tim Hortons in Dubai: The National is there

Image
Check out Tahira Yaqoob's spot-on report from the scene of the first Tim Hortons in the Middle East. I love this part:


The entrance is marked by a cheery red sign in English and Arabic reading "Tim Hortons cafe bake shop", Matthew Clarke opens the door with a flourish right on queue, dressed in a hockey shirt and shorts, and announces: "Come on in, the coffee's fresh."


The 50-year-old Emirates pilot from Canada is not even on the payroll; as a customer on his first visit, he is simply over-excited about having a little taste of home in the land where he now lives.


Tim Hortons in Dubai: Definitive photographic evidence

Image

Overheard in the newsroom: Tim Hortons in Dubai edition

My goodness, they do look like the real things.

Why isn't there an apostrophe in it?

Annie, I am going to be nicer about Canadians. That doughnut was delicious.

Tim Hortons in Abu Dhabi shipped in from Dubai: IN MY OFFICE, RIGHT NOW

Image
An awesome American colleague brought us three boxes from the new Tim Hortons in Dubai. Like a long-distance delivery of pure love. I just ate a chocolate glazed. I am not going to lie - the sight of that logo choked me up a little. PS she said it was "packed"

Overheard in the newsroom: Fashion weeks edition

"If you want to do a lingerie expose, it's fine with me."

Writer: "What do you think about trousers with boots?"
Editor: "Ohhh. Not much."

Editor A: "The fashion writer is in the ER and he can't file."
Editor B: "Did he discover he was wearing brown shoes and blue trousers?"

Tim Hortons in Dubai: An account by a Canadian who has seen it with his own eyes

James O'Hearn is a totally awesome individual. Not only has he already been to the new Tim Hortons in Dubai (which is, as he describes it, before the first interchange, "right next to a Starbucks, between an Applebees and the French Connection") when it opened yesterday morning he was their very first customer!

In what surely could and will be one of those tearjerker Tim Hortons Christmas commercials, he set his alarm and walked in the doors at 6.55am yesterday to cheers from the staff.

Highlights:
*coffee is Dh7!
*the food tastes the same!
*no everything bagels! (I laughed because so far the only comment on the blog is "are you serious about the no-everything bagel part?" As O'Hearn explains, UAE officials no-likey the poppyseeds)
*American sizing
*no drive-through

I loved this part:


I'm happy Timmies is here, because now I can get a nice soup, bagel, and coffee for lunch. I can grab a pack of Timbits for my kids, or a French Vanilla for my wife, just …

HOLD THE PHONE: Tim Hortons in Dubai

So while I have been focusing my efforts on tracking down the pending opening of (what I assumed to be a Gulf first) Tim Hortons at Abu Dhabi's Mushrif Mall, it seems a franchise has quietly launched in Dubai on Sheikh Zayed Road! An anonymous commenter said as much this week but I thought "why do they know?" (Anonymous commenters on fun blogs don't hold much water with me)

I was just about ready to update you all, letting you know that I have made contact with the PR firm handling the TH opening at Mushrif, filling you in on their hope that it will happen before the year is through when someone sent me a screen grab of a Facebook conversation confirming that Dubai ALREADY HAS a Tim Hortons.

STATUS UPDATE: "WHAAT! Tim Hortons' (sic) opened already?!!! I protest that I have not been told."

Comment: "Sis went with Naoman yesterday. They still not 100% with handling crowds vs serving it right! So, I guess it makes sense to hold off or go during odd h…

Tim Hortons in Abu Dhabi: Email exchange with Mushrif Mall management sheds no new light on opening

When Tim Hortons does open in Abu Dhabi I would very much like to write about it; informing other nationalities of the tremendous significance of the outlet being just one aim of such a piece. And so it was last week that, not wanting to wade my way through what I felt could be an arduous and potentially fruitless phone call, if my time in the business of finding things out in Abu Dhabi over the past three years is any indication, I sent the management an email instead. And from the response, I am starting to appreciate what might be holding things up.

An open letter to Pizza Hut: It's about your latest crust

Image
Dear Pizza Hut,

Although I can sort of read Arabic symbols after having successfully attended about 2/3 of a beginner Arabic class six months ago, I have yet to figure out how to determine what they mean. Perhaps if I could read the sign, it would say "of course we would never do something like this to pizza, that would be preposterous - so pick up the phone and order a normal pie today!"

Forgive me if that is the message. Because with these ads that have popped up around Abu Dhabi in recent weeks, I believe you have finally gone too far in your efforts at "brainstorming" for "new creations" to entice new customers. What I see on this billboard simply makes no sense. It's not pizza. It's the beginnings of a pizza, surrounded by some sort of baking: a casserole? Non-pork sausage roles? Dinner doughnuts? I remain perplexed.

Yours truly,
Ann Marie

Abu Dhabi censors are nothing if not thorough

Image
I thought the latest issue of Women's Health had passed muster, and I was about to close it up when I noticed it had not escaped the black marker after all:


Snap caption: You can't just talk the talk on The Walk

Image

News is different in the Middle East: Man finds his maid in bed with her lover

Image
I am in Dubai for the weekend and took the opportunity yesterday to browse through some of the papers I don't normally get to see in actual print, including Xpress.

This story made me giggle a bit. It looks so serious, doesn't it? The man in the doorway, the light, the massive, all-caps headline. Only when you think about it for a minute do you realise that something that back in Canada would involve one very humiliating episode, for all involved, and some fallout embarrassment that might linger for a week here involves a court case, jail time and warrants page lead story. It's very easy to forget just how scandalous something like this is here. The papers are full of court cases of maids and household staff being caught in the action, their employers having reported them to the authorities. I can say "what's the big deal" all I want, but the law is the law.

Tim Hortons in Abu Dhabi: Moe the commenter investigates, does not like what he finds

Image
Sad news update:

I was just at the Tim Hortons in Mushrif Mall; its still under construction. the door was slightly open so i looked inside; there is absolutely nothing there. Bare ceilings and walls. no counters, no chairs, no kitchen, not even paint to cover the wall bricks. This is gonna take at least 2 months to complete. 


Commenter Moe

Overheard in the newsroom: A British writer to a Canadian editor

"See that's the problem. You're too close to the tree. Too close to the maple."

September in Abu Dhabi is like March in Ottawa or, if you are feeling out of sorts and crappy, it's not all in your head

I once worked closely with a brilliant woman named Deb, back at the Ottawa Sun, and she used to call March something quite apt and catchy. I can't quite remember what it was, of course, but it ended with "broken dreams". Her point was, March in Ottawa sucks. You get fooled into thinking that just because it's March, it's spring. Or at least the end of winter. But it's not. March has snowstorms, freezing rain, lots of dirty crappy snow and grey greyness - no sun and it's still COLD. It's basically a winter month that has the "air" of a spring month, and that is why it is wrapped in trickery. March was the month that no matter how many times I would promise myself "no all-inclusive Mexico week this year you are saving for something more important", I would find myself breaking that promise, booking a trip in a mad panic and boarding a flight for anywhere warm and sunny - often paid for with credit I could not afford. March was the m…

Overheard in the hair salon

It's so easy to please your customers here. They are just happy to have their hair cut straight.

Overheard in the newsroom: Slightly special Sunday edition

This is not an episode of Sex and the City. This is a newspaper.

Any diet that has a mashed potato day is not worth the time.

Do you reckon you could print it smaller?

All I want for Eid is this Smeg refrigerator dressed up as a UAE flag

Image
The UAE retailer better Life has released this limited-edition, made-in-Italy fridge*. If you want it, go and get it: it's available at Mall of the Emirates, Mirdif City Centre, Al Raha Mall in Abu Dhabi and Al Hamra Mall in Ras al Khaimah.
In the words of Abdullah Al Gurg, head of Better Life's owners, the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group: "Every home in a country is a microcosm; just as our homes give us a sense of comfort and lift our spirits like no other place, the sight of our country’s flag makes our hearts swell with patriotic fervour. I am honoured to call this land my own, a pride that I would like to share with all my fellow countrymen with this product specially created for our homes."


*UPDATE: price is Dh10,999

Overheard in the newsroom: Slightly special Sunday edition

Hello, do you sell banjos?

A man cannot say no to a free iftar.

Why do people keep opening restaurants here? Is it a test market?

Three random acts of Ramadan kindness

Pay double for your taxi fare - more than once

Fill up on stuff for bachelors through The Box Appeal programme

Help DAM, a group of Palestinian rappers get their next album made. Go to www.indiegogo.com/damrap and pay US$1 and up for varying levels of downloads in return.

The censor strikes again, this time in Dubai, with stickers

Image
This photo is quite old (I can tell by the mag covers) but it's still fun. A reader snapped it last year in a Dubai International Airport bookshop. The logic behind covering up Christina Hendricks on the covers to the left, but letting her all hang out on the right, has yet to be unravelled.

One of my favourite things: Little Mr Arab phone holder

Image
I have just switched to a BlackBerry, which means Little Mr Arab – who I picked up last year at the One to One Hotel gift shop – is no longer needed. But I think I'll leave him in my purse anyway, because seeing him nestled in there always makes me just a little bit more happy.

Snap caption: Why not use date palm tree stumps to mark your parking space?

Image

Snap caption: Or don't hire a proofreader

Image

The Arabic labels sometimes make cooking challenging

Image
Update: My colleague tells me that even if you speak Arabic you are often no better off, because many stickers (like the bottom one) do not supply the corresponding information.
Image
I had an amazing iftar in Fanr at Manarat al Saadiyat, the exhibition space, courtesy of TDIC last night. I snapped the yummy dips and my first-ever glass of jalab, a mixture of rosewater, molasses and dates that tastes like flowers and perfume smell.



Overheard in the newsroom: Ramadan edition

We got the voiceover guy. I'm going to interview him at midnight.

I get comments, hot, sticky and pretty apt comments

Regarding this It's summer post, from a reader bound for the UAE:

I'm moving to Abu Dhabi in September insha'Allah - and I'm having recurring attacks of joy and terror!

Snap caption: Signpost to make one executive bechular in search of a situation very happy

Image

Crikey! Censorship in the UAE! The thick black marker strikes again

Image
I get magazines sent over from the US via Aramex, a not-very-sustainable practice that I am ending this month with the acquisition of an iPad. All that to say, I still find it quite jarring when I do buy a magazine here and see the censors work first-hand. I can't help picturing a man in a massive warehouse somewhere. For some reason, in my imagination, he is sitting on a stool and wearing a green jumpsuit and a baseball hat. And I only ever picture one man, as opposed to the team of more than a dozen people whose job it is to to flip through all the publications that come through here daily.

I'm not sure exactly what the censors took issue with in the above photo, it seems to be some sort of device with which I am definitely not familiar. More of their work can be seen here and here.

Overheard in the newsroom: Super special Thursday edition

"I'm very skilled if you put me in front of a chicken carcass."

"I love pig farmers."

"It's the call to water! Cheers."

Visa application for Syrian vacation: Today in things I no longer need for the foreseeable future

Image

It's hot. Summer survival guides are a joke. Except in the UAE, now, when you must have one

Image
I have said it before and I'll say it again: August in the UAE is not that different from the depths of a harsh Canadian winter. I am as pale as a cadaver, my clothes are all too tight and all I feel like doing is laying around watching repeat episodes of all those shows that keep up with the Kardashians.
But while I never felt going outside when I lived in Canada's capital of Ottawa, where it gets seriously cold, the bottom line was that I could and if I did, I would be better for it. Much better. Once I realised that if I put on snowpants and braved it through 45 minutes, no matter how biting the wind or driving the snow, sometime in the last 30 seconds or so I would begin to feel more alive than I had ever thought possible. Once home and in my jammies I would feel so cosy, so happy and warm and lucky, that I would fall into the sleep of the dead and wake up the next morning a new, un-Seasonal Affective Disorder-ed woman.

And because I forgot to say it before now to the Muslim readers out there...

Image

Tim Hortons in Abu Dhabi: Thanks commenter Moe!

Image
Somehow just seeing this picture, thoughtfully submitted moments ago by commenter Moe, makes everything in my life seem better. 
Also Moe reports that Mushrif Mall, home of the world's newest and possibly most exotic Tim Hortons franchise, opens on Wednesday.

Tim Hortons is still coming to Abu Dhabi: 3 positive indications

Image
You may remember this bloggy blog reporting way back on February 3 that a Tim Hortons was probably coming to set up shop in the new Mushrif Mall. (The picture seen here even made it into the Canadian Business Council's spring newsletter, which hopped on the anticipation bandwagon)

That news was obviously super exciting. Well, April 5, the supposed opening date, came and went with no Tims. I am here to say: don't give up. Keep up the faith. I believe, and so should you, because: