Thursday, November 5, 2015

After 7.5 years, A Canadian in Abu Dhabi is taking a blogging break...

...to work on some other projects. I'm still in the UAE though. If you miss me, I'm anniemariemcq on Instagram and ammcq on Twitter. If you need to get in touch, annmariemcqueen@gmail.com.

Thanks so much for reading! I'll see you soon.

New Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau really hit the ground running this week

That includes making history by choosing a thoughtful, representative cabinet that is 50 per cent women. When a reporter asked him why, he said: "Because it's 2015." I've never been farther away from Canada, in years gone or miles traveled, but I've also never felt more grateful and proud to be Canadian.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Well hello there Dave Matthews and various camels in the Abu Dhabi desert!

Photo courtesy of Flash Entertainment.





















I am so incredibly excited to see Dave Matthews Band at Du Arena on Yas Island tomorrow night. I've seen them once, in Ottawa, and it was a joyous experience. I feel like tomorrow is going to be better, mostly because I just can't believe that in my lifetime I am seeing such a great band on two continents. When I watched them the first time, I literally could not have fathomed seeing them again here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Overheard in the newsroom: Legemat edition

It's like an Arab Timbit.

Editor A: She's one of the biggest stars on the planet!
Editor B: But she's not Zorro.

I'm going to go spend some time with my new curling iron.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Lululemon meets the Middle East, officially, at Dubai's Mall of the Emirates

Photo courtesy of Lululemon Athletica/Majid Al Futtaim - Fashion





















Now this one is almost as hard to wrap my head around as all the Tim Hortons outlets I see around Abu Dhabi. Lululemon Athletica is just the latest big Canadian brand to hit the UAE, opening this week in MoE's level 2 expansion.


Snap caption: Well hello there Bon Jovi in Abu Dhabi





















David Ryan, Jon Bon Jovi and Tico Torres (check out his interview with The National) just arrived in Abu Dhabi for their show at Du Arena Thursday October 1. I'm still trying to decide whether to brave the crowds, post-concert Yas Island, for this one. 

Snap caption: Well hello there cast of Star Trek Beyond in Dubai

I think it's so cool when film productions (and rock stars, and anyone else) do a press conference when they are in town shooting. It's just so much more upfront than casing them out for details, although as is the case with Jackie Chan's Kung Fu Yoga, that can be fun too.

Director Justin Lin, stars Chris Pine, Simon Pegg, Zachary Quinto and Idris Elba, etc etc, met the media this afternoon.

It's hard to believe how many big movies are shooting in the UAE this autumn (I used to say fall, but the British have knocked it out of me). There is a great roundup of what's going on here. I'm just waiting to bump into Brad and Angie and the kids at Spinneys next month.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Overheard in the newsroom: Chicken edition

I know people say Antman isn't a superhero because he's too tiny, but I disagree. 

I'm an expert dragger. It may be ridiculous it I am proud of it. 

I had chicken for breakfast. 

Oh, I know my mangoes. 

I think he's trying to watch Sharknado. 









Friday, September 11, 2015

End of summer: And then, just like that, everything is ok



I went outside this morning and voila, all of a sudden it dawned on me that this was the day I've been dreaming about since June: the day I could be outside again. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I could breathe. It was 93 degrees, and we got excited because the high was only going to be 102. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Overheard in the newsroom: Zayn Malik, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups edition

Last night I dreamed I met Zayn Malik and we worked on a horse sanctuary together.

That's part of a social observation from 10 years ago when I had hair and dreams.

I've never eaten peanut butter, except in Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

He's delusional. I don't think he's well.

Can you imagine how much fluff that would pick up?

He was body-shaming my cat. In his defense, he isn't a very good-looking cat.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Nice List: Giraffe, AD Metalheads, Trevor Noah, Arabic Sesame Street and cheaper yoga

Do you like breakfast burritos? I like breakfast burritos. And I have found good ones are very hard to come by in these parts. So go to Giraffe, in Yas Mall, and order this:



You will not be sorry.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Humid in the city: When the heat gets to you, give it a month

Lots of Abu Dhabi windows look like this right now.

You can’t really go outside. You haven’t been able to do so in as long as you can remember, not really, not in a way that gives you any relief. Any fresh air. Any respite from the oppressive heat that has enveloped us for months.

What does that do to a person, really? Terrible things. Probably very unhealthy things, mentally and physically. Fresh air grass, water, sand, green things, nature: they all seem so terribly far away right now. What do you do when you can't escape the wet, foggy blanket that is enveloping you at every turn? That's basically smothering your face? 

Not much, I'm afraid. Not for another very hard couple of weeks.

I had a beautiful vacation in Bhutan at the start of August, one of the most amazing experiences of my life and ever since I came back, life has been hard. 

And so the person on the phone who doesn’t understand me bears the brunt. The shop keeper who seems to know nothing about the product I need - but they so should - is the recipient of my quietly simmering fury. It doesn't matter what the issue or the person the heat makes it worse: The irritating co-worker, the job that’s not going that well right now, the wobbly relationship, the child who needs that last ounce of patience no one has at the moment. 

The last few days here have been among the most horridly hot most people have experienced. No one can quite believe it, even those of us who have seen it repeatedly. The humidity is beyond belief. The simple trips from the car to work to car to home drain the life out of you. Knowing that it will drain the life out of you drains the life out of you. September in Abu Dhabi is like a long, dark, Ottawa, Canada winter, except you can bundle up against that, put on your snow pants and your toque and your boots and walk through the snow, and get yourself some fresh, clean air in those cells and when you get back home, rosy-cheeked and tired out, the world is right again. There is no way to do that in the depths of an Abu Dhabi summer. 

And because of that, you question everything. 

I see the havoc this weather wreaks emotionally every year, in myself and others all around me, see it playing out in all sorts of ways, watch as we all get pulled hither and thither, reacting, not responding, despairing, but not really knowing why, and still, knowing intellectually what’s happening, I have myself have succumbed yet again to the September crazies. 

Sure, many of us choose to live here and there are benefits that take us far beyond some heat, but that doesn’t make it any easier, does it? 

So what to do? The only thing you can do: give it a month. It will pass. Promise yourself you won't do anything drastic, like yell or quit or make any big changes you can't be sure you actually want. 

In the meantime, do anything you have to do to grab some patience and peace: have a long hot shower in the a/c, go to bed early, swim, do something amazing for yourself, go outside, even if it feels terrible, come back in and sigh gratefully at the cool, sweet, inescapable air conditioning, stop and breathe when you can (I like overly dramatic meditations myself), watch something gently funny, like Jerry Seinfeld interviewing some of the world's best comedians, seek out cold places, like movie theatres, the driver's seat of your car or the best Abu Dhabi summer antidote I've come across, listen to some gentle tunes to help you relax - I love this one - and just hang in there and do whatever you have to do to get through it. 

A friend and I sat outside for several very uncomfortable hours the other night by the pool at the Eastern Mangroves Resort & Spa by Anantara (I love that place, it's like my local hangout, can you imagine?). One of those giant mobile fans was blowing hot air on us, but not doing much other than drying our eyeballs out. We were very uncomfortable physically, each of us sweating profusely, but somehow, we just muscled through. I'm not sure it made anything better, but we needed it. 

On a trip to Dubai over the weekend, another friend and I realised we needed butter to complete dinner. The store was around the corner, and we walked. It was the hottest 10-minute round trip in recent memory. We actually panicked. But coming back inside? That was one of the most amazing chills I've had in quite some time. 

It will get better. I’ve been here for seven years. I can tell you with absolute certainly that it always does

So give it a month. Just trust me on this. It won't take that long. One morning you are going to go outside and there will be a sweet, gentle reprieve floating in the air, and you will be very glad that you did. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Shaun the Sheep arrives in Abu Dhabi, heads immediately to Ferrari World

Ahead of his big shows this weekend in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, the beloved children's character rode the world's fastest rollercoaster - the Formula Rossa - at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. Barney and Elmo will surely be next.

And while it's possible that another stuffed character has ridden the coaster, I don't remember it in my time. I badly want to call this a world first. Anyone care to correct me?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Overheard in the newsroom: Ramadan Kareem & David Hasselhoff edition

This is war.

I felt dirty just writing the blurb for it.

So you run around and shoot people?

I was in love with him. Knight Rider? Of course.

I'm having a first-world problem. I ate so much breakfast I don't have room for my barbecue lunch.

Ah, it's okay. If you like Syrian ice cream.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Ramadan Kareem!

It's early yet, nothing official has started, but the moon-sighting committee has spoken and Ramadan begins tomorrow. So far I've been wished Ramadan Kareem by Le Meridien Abu Dhabi, Brand Moxie, Flash Entertainment and yes, Tommy Hilfiger himself. Or the brand, I'm not sure. King Koil Mattress also gets the award for best and most far-reaching attempt to link to the Holy Month commercially.


Begging is illegal in Abu Dhabi, particularly during Ramadan

These images, released by Abu Dhabi Police this week as part of their "No Begging" campaign, probably seem jarring if you haven't experienced the phenomenon of Ramadan begging.

It's beginning to look a lot like Ramadan

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Abu Dhabi snap caption: The car or the driver?

Overheard in the newsroom: The golden kiwi edition edition

"It tastes like a pastel kiwi - a bit washed out."

"I know it's bad, but if she asked me to come round and play with the lion cubs, I would."

"If you do get angry about it, could you do so passive-aggressively."

"Can I please speak to Mr Ann McQueen?"

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Overheard in the newsroom: The "and we're back" edition, with Eurovision

She wants to talk about Eurovision. She thinks Estonia got robbed.

Editor A: What's a golden carpet?
Editor B: I think it's just a yellow carpet.

The band's name is inspired by elves. No, no, sorry - gnomes. Austrians.

Editor A: I haven't seen your misogynist side.
Editor B: I save that for the weekend.

Wiggling can be fatal in these situations.

Maybe one day people can appreciate Eurovision for what it is.

You could trick yourself into eating a whole packet, to get used to them.

That's the thing about the Chips Oman sandwich.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Look who's also in Dubai: Khloe Kardashian

Hey, we've all been there. Not on a first class flight heading from Las Vegas to Dubai of course. But we've been there.
Also known as "My Favourite Kardashian", 30-year-old Khloe was in Dubai for some hair business: she appeared at at a styling event at Dubai World Trade Centre Monday and launched some Kardashian products at Beautyworld Middle East Tuesday. I expect a club appearance in there somewhere, but so far, no news. During at interview with Virgin Radio's The Kris Fade Show, she said it's quite possible that E! would do one of the Keeping Up With the Kardashians' "Take" series in Dubai, a prospect I am embarrassed to say I find very exciting. She also drinks a lot of water.

I also found it entertaining how the hosts managed to spend several minutes to talk about Khloe's step-dad Bruce Jenner, without ever mentioning what is going on with him. Hey, we've been there too.

UPDATE: And of course she did this, with the niqab.

Shhh, look who is in Dubai: Ellen Degeneres & Portia de Rossi

Portia de Rossi and Ellen Degeneres at The Act Dubai Sunday night.

It's becoming a full-time job, keeping up with the celebrities who slip in and out of the Emirates (I'm not talking about these sorts of stars, see Tyrese; Kardashians; David Guetta, et al). Of course it's my job to keep track of these things, but it always makes me wonder - what are they doing here, really, and how did it all come about?

Usually the questions are answered: for example we were initially stumped when we uncovered shots of Modern Family's Ty Burrell (Phil Dunphy, on one of the consistently funniest shows out there) riding the rollercoasters at Ferrari Worldposing with staff at the local yoga studio Bodytree. But soon it was revealed: he was a guest speaker at a private NYU-Abu Dhabi talk.

And I'm still haunted by the many Stephen Seagall sightings I've been tipped off to, never to be properly tracked down or explained.

All that to say, Ellen Degeneres and Scandal actress Portia De Rossi are in Dubai - and it appears its an entirely private trip, of their own doing. They took off from LAX last Friday and they had what looked like a very fun dinner at The Act Dubai on Sunday.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Joe Fresh in Abu Dhabi is massive

That's two storeys in Yas Mall's Town Square. Everything looks gorgeous! No socks, shoes, undies, makeup or - sadly for the elderly among us, like me - eye glasses. Yet. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Snap caption: Why are the $12 hotel room gummy bears always so tempting?


I don't eat gummy bears, ever. But put them in this bear-shaped container and charge me an arm and a camel leg for them, and I'm in!!


Overheard in the newsroom: One Direction/Litterbox edition

"I can't drive by a barbecue without my teeth rattling."

"So you know that cat I took home? It poops more than any cat pooped, ever."

"It's like the Arab world's La Bamba."

"It's embarrassing how big my head is."

"Nobody puts One Direction in a corner."

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Sandpocalypse: The UAE was basically orange today


It's hard to describe what today's sandstorm, which swept across the country in a war-worthy stealth move overnight, feels like exactly. But I will try. 

It's like the blanket of a snowstorm, but warm. Eyes burn, lungs are heavy and the weird, foggy glow of the outdoors permeates everything. You do not want to be outside; you don't quite know what to do with yourself. 

It's very dystopian - and not a little disturbing, no matter how many you've been through. And the sand gets everywhere: dusting the car, your purse and shoes, in your hair and inside your house. There was a haze two floors down, in my underground parking garage. It was spooky down there. 

People kind of look at each other, dazed, like 'is this really happening?' People crash on the roads and others postpone trips so that won't happen. Some people wear surgical masks and you think 'should I be doing that'? And then you decide against it. I always threaten to wear swimming goggles when this happens, and if it goes on for the three days they are predicting, I just might. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Friday, March 6, 2015

Snap caption: Fencing competition poster fail

The unofficial guide to buying a used car in Abu Dhabi

My sweet, sweet ride.




















Sure, loads of people write articles titled “How to buy a car in Abu Dhabi”, but the truth is, I when I bought a used car in Abu Dhabi, my fourth such purchase but first in the UAE, and whenever I clicked on any of them, they were short on “actual details that would have helped”.

As is the case with a lot of stuff that expats try to do here, the best way to go about it is ask people who have bought cars what to do, then piece together the procedure from there.

So here is my unofficial guide to buying a used car in Abu Dhabi.

Overheard in the newsroom: Freaky Friday edition

I just go for it now. I just park my car behind anyone and wait for them to call me. It's just embarrassing when it's someone you know.

The last thing I feel like doing is going to get my dark shadows injected.

Editor A: Can you make a Twitter account just so you can follow me?
Editor B: No.

I had the world's most overcooked omelette this morning.

My grandmother is ruining this engagement for everyone.

Do you drink it or watch it?

Are you watching cartoons?

What are you going to wear? I think you should wear a pantsuit. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

#WWELiveAbuDhabi turned me into a tweeting fool

I went to the first night of WWE Live Abu Dhabi (Thursday) and although I was by myself (I had but one VIP ticket), had an absolute ball.

I've long been curious about this crazy world of drama and super obsessed fans, and I just wanted to see it up close. It was pretty much everything I suspected, just a whole lot better. Truly, those little kids were the best. And John Cena, of course.

Here's the night, in tweets.





 




Thursday, February 5, 2015

I was at the (not so) secret Prince show at Pacha Ibiza Dubai last night

Loved the silver suit.
Let me just start by saying that I am not someone who goes to "secret" shows. But I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to this deal, Dh400 happily spent for the entertainment, if not the good cause (it was a fundraiser for Autism Rocks).

What a night! Prince played for about two hours, the club was jammed to the point that I would have been worried about safety had I not been so completely jazzed at what was happening. I went to get us a round of drinks right before the show at the upstairs bar, only to be caught on the stairs with about 50 other people while Prince passed by the bottom to get to the stage. At that point it was so packed I couldn't even see my friends, so I just squeezed myself into a sweaty spot and proceed to watch the show clutching our three drinks. I ended up watching all by myself in the middle of a throng between the side of the stage and the elevator, a crowd that swelled and pushed every time the elevator opened and closed. I'm not going to lie: I drank those drinks myself over the almost two hours of the show. I stood on my tippy toes, I danced, I smiled and laughed and shouted and just generally had one of the best nights of my life.

For The National's Rob Garratt's review, go here. I wrote about seven fun things from last night at The National's Scene & Heard blog. (The second best part was his bodyguard on stage).

It was a truly great night, bittersweet and sad too. My good friend Rob Evans died suddenly at the end of the secret Prince show in Abu Dhabi, before his main concert at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2010. Friends who were there say Rob - a huge music lover and afficionado, not to mention one of the most fun and thoughtful people I've ever met - thought that Prince concert was one of the best he'd ever seen. And if I got a bit choked up last night thinking about him, and all the promise and loveliness that left this world with him, and I did, I felt comforted too, knowing that he witnessed something so joyful and magical in his last moments.



Saturday, January 31, 2015

Snap caption: The best thing about Yas Mall is this camel made out of Lego at the Lego store

I'm not sure if it's the fez or the cheeky half-grin on his face or those eyelashes, but I'm smitten.





















If you are looking for more reasons to go to Yas Mall, I wrote this list just before it opened. The Virgin Megastore is pretty righteous too.

Nicole Richie and her pink bob and her pop-up shop took over The Beach at JBR this weekend

Nicole Richie, pint-sized reality star, founder of House of Harlow 1960, had a big turnout for her pop-up shop at The Beach JBR as part of Dubai Shopping Festival over the weekend. The National interviewed her here.
Nicole Richie walks Dubai through a basic black shift.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Luckiest guy in the world wins Dh200,000 + two awesome cars through the Dubai Shopping Festival's Mega Infinity Raffle


 I feel like Ali Mohammed could look just a little more chuffed, considering he just won twice in one week in the Dubai Shopping Festival's Mega Infinity Raffle: that's Dh200,000 in cash and two Infinitis - a QX60 and Q50 - worth Dh500,000.

The 36-year-old Emirati government worker has been very dedicated to this contest, having entered in each of the last 18 years and never winning. He bought both tickets from the Enoc/Eppco petrol station near Al Wasl Club in Oud Metha and could hardly believe it when he got the second call.

"I couldn’t sleep the whole night – I could barely believe what was happening to me,” said Ali.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Kevin Spacey skipped the SAG awards to mentor theatre students in Sharjah, which just makes me love him more















There he is, looking decidedly non-terrifying on the stage at the Sharjah Institute of Theatrical Arts Sunday night, instead of in Los Angeles picking up his Screen Actors Guild Award for his chilling work portraying Frank Underwood on Netflix's House of Cards.

Overheard in the newsroom: Monday madness edition

British dates are not nice.

Do you deliver - yes or no?

We love our gun ranges in the States.

What is a grilled cheese sandwich?

You don't love your country!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ace Hardware in Abu Dhabi: Book & Bean is no longer

What it used to look like.
What it looks like now.
One of the capital's only used bookstores, Book N Bean at Ace Hardware on Yas Mall, has closed. Admittedly, I had not been to Ace Hardware in eons, so who knows when this happened?

Still, it makes me very sad. I loved looking at all the used books, and buying some of them, I loved the coffee, and I loved popping by to watch these passionate players on Friday mornings.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Nicole Richie bringing her House of Harlow 1960 to Dubai Shopping Festival this week

Fresh from the most successful matchmaking in history (her brother-in-law Benji Madden marrying Cameron Diaz), Nicole Richie is traveling to the UAE to host a pop-up shop during Dubai Shopping Festival. You can meet her if you like: she's holding a meet-and-greet and styling session on January 30, 6pm, at The Beach across from JBR. I'd ask her how to get one leg inside a dress she's selling (but that's just me, a solid size 10-12-14).

If you go to The Beach for any length of time, I strongly recommend buying something and getting your parking validated. I am still smarting from the Dh120 I had to pay for my Giuliana and Bill Rancic interview in late December. Didn't read that one? Catch up here.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Lululemon headed to the UAE


Andrea Marcum, a totally ripped yoga teacher and founder of U Studio Yoga from Los Angeles, did more than teach a couple of really tough but inspiring yoga classes at Bodytree studio in the capital last week.

Marcum stopped me in my tracks before we started a Thursday-morning hip-opening session when she said 'Lululemon is coming here. They wanted me to tell people'. She said a store was due to open in September, but didn't know whether it would be in Abu Dhabi or Dubai.

Now, Marcum is an official Lululemon ambassador, so I consider this some pretty good intel. I'm checking with the company officially, too, and will report back.

I feel like this has The Dubai Mall written all over it, but time will tell. Lululemon is famous for its store-opening stunts, so that will be fun to watch out for too. At the moment there isn't anything on the website about a UAE location. There is a Facebook page, UAE Loves Lululemon, but it never really took off, with just 85 likes.

If ever there was a brand that would do gangbusters here, it's this much-loved (and mocked) Canadian chain of yoga clothes. Yoga classes are filled with it here, so people obviously already buy it like crazy when they are traveling. I remember marvelling at how much there was in my first Abu Dhabi yoga class. And then later, giggling at this exchange.

Even with more and more yoga gear available here, from sites like TheHotBoxKit.com or yApparel in Dubai, it's seems to still be that one little symbol yogis seem to strive for.

Bets on where the first store will be? Let me know if you see, please?

(Marcum also teaches at the portal My Yoga Gaiam, a US$10-a-month site I use to cut down on the crazy-high cost of doing regular yoga classes in the UAE).

UPDATE: I tweeted this blog at Lululemon and they favourited it. Hmmmm...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tim Hortons delivers if you spend Dh100

You know the Canadians will be in. Just saying.

Overheard in the newsroom: The something ridiculous edition

The charcoal guy? He better hope he doesn't see me again.

Sorry habibti, no can do.

Q: How was Beirut?
A; I didn't get out of the hotel.

Want lunch? We're having dirty Indian Chinese.

Who said something ridiculous this week? I remember us all going 'oh that's ridiculous'.

Everybody and everything wants to move to the UAE.

He's eating some humble pie. Some humble, falafel pie.

We had a fluffy white cat who's now a fluffy grey cat.

I'm going to go get a coffee. Green tea won't cut it.

I can't wait to get home to see my phone.



Aerial violinist Caitlin De Ville performs at Mall of the Emirates in Dubai



The Zambian-born electric violinist has been turning things up a notch with three performances daily - at 5, 7.30 and 9pm - and will do so until Wednesday night.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Overheard in the newsroom: Brrrrr it's Thursday edition

I wonder how long the toilet seat has been missing?

No, no, no, not on top of the soup.

What is ICYMI?

Unless you are sitting on his lap, no way you pay that kind of money.

She has a condition that covers almost everything.

Editor A: I thought you didn't like mushrooms?
Editor B: Thank you for knowing that.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Canada's beloved Tim Hortons in the UAE: You know it's a big deal when...

...the launch of a new coffee flavour is billed by the PR as "one of the biggest events of the month", held at SkyDive Dubai hosted by Virgin Radio's Kris Fade. Not to mention the proliferation of outlets in every mall and gas station since 2011 and this 2013 marking of the thaw in Canada-UAE relations.

(As an aside, when my father was visiting over Christmas, we stopped to take a picture of him at the Dubai Mall outlet. A nice Arab man who noticed us stopped and said "welcome home". Aw.)

Remember how excited we got about the first few in Dubai and Abu Dhabi?

UPDATE: Okay, yes, it was the launch of the Dark Roast. Slightly disappointing.