Archive for September, 2006

Porsche Carrera GT spotted

30/09/2006

I spotted this lovely Porsche Carrera GT walking home the night before last. Incredible looking vehicle, like a cross between a Ferrari and a ‘normal’ 911.

Porsches are fairly common here, rather like Ford Escorts back home. To raise eyebrows you need to be driving something a little more special.

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On hold? No, it’s a ringback tone

27/09/2006

I don’t understand why people pay for the latest mobile phone craze – ‘ringback tones’.
Whenever I ring someone and get a bad quality clip from a song I don’t like, my automatic reaction is to think that I’ve gone through to the wrong line and have been put on hold.
I think I’ll get a badly played and particularly tinny version of ‘Greensleeves’ set up as my ringback tone to give people the feeling that they’ve actually got through to their dentist, circa 1992.

Chair guitar

25/09/2006

Elvis once sang ‘if you can’t find a partner find a wooden chair’. A picnic chair would probably have been fine as well.
When Mrs Saul forced everyone to dance after dinner the other day someone put Guns and Roses’ ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ on. I had a real guitar to pose with, but Duncan and Paddy were forced to improvise.

Ramadan spirit disappears in Ramadan traffic

25/09/2006

After my blog entry yesterday that mentioned easier traffic conditions during Ramadan, I ventured home at exactly the wrong time and got caught in the worst traffic I’ve experienced here for ages.
Ramadan goodwill seemed to evaporate as people pushed and shoved and caused accidents everywhere. Indicators mysteriously stopped working and headlights and horns flashed and hooted continually and pointlessly.
I was completely frazzled by the time I got home, well over an hour after leaving the office for a journey I thought would take 20 minutes. Grrr.

iPod lost

25/09/2006

Left my 60GB iPod Photo on the plane coming back from Turkey last week.
‘Customer Affairs’ can’t find it, which means someone pinched it from the seat I know I left it lying on.
So, whoever nicked it from seat 8H, shame on you!
Fortunately it’s insured, but I’m more annoyed at my own stupidity than at any costs I might incur.

Stopped and scanned

25/09/2006

Coming back through the last layer of security at Dubai Airport, I’ve had to put my bags through the scanner after my last three trips. This has never happened to me once before during the four or so years I’ve been here.
Apparently something in one of my bags is triggering an alarm as I walk through the gate. When the security officers see that the alarm’s been triggered I’m always asked to put my bags through the scanner. On one occasion I was asked about who I was, why I lived in Dubai, etc.
I don’t mind security checks, but since I pass through the airport once a week on average, I wish someone could tell me what’s setting the alarm off so I can take it out of my bag!

Ramadan Kareem

24/09/2006

Ramadan began yesterday for most, if not all countries in the Gulf and the muslim world in general.
Since the starting date relies on the moon being sighted, different countries and different groups within countries can end up with different Ramadan and Eid (the post Ramadan celebration) dates, which can be confusing.
The UAE appears on this occasion to have followed Saudi Arabia’s lead. The moon was sighted there on Friday, apparently, even though it was widely expected that today and not yesterday would be the first day.
As a non-muslim British expat living in Dubai, I fall into the category of those who quite enjoy Ramadan. To first timers, the mention of rules forbidding eating outside can sound a bit daunting. Hardcore clubbers get fed up with the lack of live or noisy entertainment, but that doesn’t really bother me. For most non-muslim Western expats life becomes much easier for the month.
Even though I won’t be able to enjoy much of this Ramadan due to work travel and the fact that I cover countries outside of the Middle East, here’s how things change for people like me who find themselves working in the Gulf.
* Shorter working hours, typically from 9 or 9.30 till 2 or 2.30.
* Better traffic conditions. If you’re driving home after dusk, most people will already be at home.
* Not a lot happening at work.
* Lots of fun stuff happening in the evening – Ramadan tents with buffets, shisha and other events.
* No noisy covers bands ruining what would otherwise be a quiet evening in a nice pub.
* All the restaurants at Dubai Internet City are pretty empty and your food gets prepared quickly.
It’s always nice if you get invited to an iftar meal by fasting muslims. That way you can get a feel for the real spiritual significance of the month and see beyond the more social aspects.

Cross legged on the cross trainer

23/09/2006

While I was in the hotel gym last night I was watching ‘Menschen, Tiere and Doktoren’ out of the corner of one eye.
I’ve seen similar programmes in the UK, with names like ‘Vets in Practice’. In the UK they usually feature poor fluffy cats that have stood on a thorn, or doggie woggies that need some eyedrops.
MTD was featuring a large German lady vet who was busy strapping down a cow. It looked like I was going to be treated to the birth of a calf – the miracle of birth recorded in Technicolor. I could see the vet massaging something that looked vaguely like an udder. Clearly preparing the flow of milk for the newborn, I thought.
The next time I looked up I saw the vet slicing off what was clearly the bull’s testicles with a frightening instrument of torture. This scene was followed by several graphic close ups of the bull’s freshly detached wedding tackle.
I nearly fell off the cross trainer trying to cross my legs. Not the sort of tea time viewing we’d get back home.

Cross legged on the cross trainer

23/09/2006

While I was in the hotel gym last night I was watching ‘Menschen, Tiere and Doktoren’ out of the corner of one eye.
I’ve seen similar programmes in the UK, with names like ‘Vets in Practice’. In the UK they usually feature poor fluffy cats that have stood on a thorn, or doggie woggies that need some eyedrops.
MTD was featuring a large German lady vet who was busy strapping down a cow. It looked like I was going to be treated to the birth of a calf – the miracle of birth recorded in Technicolor. I could see the vet massaging something that looked vaguely like an udder. Clearly preparing the flow of milk for the newborn, I thought.
The next time I looked up I saw the vet slicing off what was clearly the bull’s testicles with a frightening instrument of torture. This scene was followed by several graphic close ups of the bull’s freshly detached wedding tackle.
I nearly fell off the cross trainer trying to cross my legs. Not the sort of tea time viewing we’d get back home.

Moevenpick Istanbul

23/09/2006

Had an amazing stay at the Moevenpick in Istanbul. Definitely one of the best hotels I’ve been in for a while.
The room really didn’t feel like a hotel room at all – it was more like staying at a trendy flat that someone had lent me for the week. The gym was well equipped, the restaurant food was extremely good, breakfast delicious.
Top marks would be awarded, but for one minor error – no master switch for the lights. You can’t have everything.