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!...
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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:
Tom Cruise does his own mental stunts. Photo/courtesy of DIFF.
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 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:
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:
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.
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 even have hair."
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.
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.
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"
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.
*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)
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 like how we used to have it back home.
But as much as I am happy, I also wonder... will this be yet one more thing that makes me so comfortable, so complacent, that I end up not going back at all?
And then, an update: I came back, a day later. The place was absolutely overflowing. They literally could not keep stock on the shelves, and one of the managers I had met from the day before was sitting outside, around the corner from the front door, looking like he was ready to just collapse on the pavement. He recognized me, and as we shook hands, he said "Since you came, it hasn't stopped."
I hope to get there this week to file my own report, but for now, he can tell you all about it. With pictures! Over to you, James.
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 hours of the day!"
Comment: "Damn damn damn.... am gonna try a 9am trip tom.. hopefully everyone will be at work by then"
Sigh. A whole bunch of other comments followed, including directions – Sheikh Zayed Road, next to Number One Suites, before Interchange One, heading to AD. So there you have it!
I am grounded in Abu Dhabi for several days, so any reports/reviews/updates etc are welcome.
Also, news that the service isn't great? SHOCKING.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 month I lost my temper at work; the month I got worked up about all the small stuff that doesn't matter; the month where if I was single I was sure I would be alone forever; the month I hated my job and my apartment and a lot about my life. Relations were often strained with everyone, including my fairly amiable late cat, Jerry, who also was not impressed.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: