Archive for May, 2009

Business lunch, Yemen style


When I was Sana’a the other month, we had lunch at the ‘Hospitableness Salon’. It’s a slightly different experience to lunch with a customer in Dubai or the UK, for example.
Before lunch is served…

Goat, fish and random soft drinks are ready.

English man too stupid too eat goat with one hand.

Schoolboy error – eating goat with left hand.

Give it a go with the right – Brits just aren’t used to ripping food apart with one hand.

Two hands, I can manage.

Lunch over in twenty minutes.

Bananas and honey with bread and sticky stuff on a separate table. Pud’s ready.

I was quite glad that the working day was over after this.
My verdict on goat – quite fatty, but tasty when fried up in the stir fry side dish we were given. I was happy to give ripping bits of goat to pieces a try, but I am a pathetic Westerner and would prefer my meat not to resemble too much the animal it clearly came from.

Wo ist mein Transit van?


It’s in Lagos.

Ok, you’ll have to trust I’m telling the truth, as there’s nothing in the picture that suggests the van is anywhere other in its native Hamburg, but that’s where I took the picture.
A lot of the second hand cars and lorries you see around in Africa and the Middle East still have the names and logos of their original owners on them. I found myself doing a doubletake the other day, wondering why a lorry apparently belonging to a German pig farmer from Westphalia was driving around the outskirts of Dubai.



Some of Mrs Saul’s best pics from our trip to Kerala earlier this year.
These guys are herding ducks!

Wadi Madha


We had a great drive to Wadi Madha yesterday – one of the few routes in the Dubai Offroad Explorer we’ve not already done.
Next time I’ll take the Range Rover – a lot more comfy than the Wrangler, even if the Wrangler offers a more ‘authentic’ offroad experience. It also tends to be somewhat more reliable…

My Jeep.


Even the Wrangler has to give up at some point…

A week or so ago we did the classic Wadi Assimha/Tayibba route and I was able to have a quick drive in Emmett’s new Sahara.

You instantly feel the extra comfort – a much updated interior and huge wheels make for a much smoother drive than mine, both on and offroad. The car looks good too.
What I liked less was the reduced visibility – the new styling seems to mean much smaller windows and windscreen, restricting the driver’s ability to see what’s around him.
A colleague of mine recently sold his 1999 Wrangler and bought a new Sahara. He says he’s been regretting it ever since – despite the extra comfort, it isn’t quite so much fun to drive in the desert. Not underpowered exactly, just missing the extra oomph of the older version.
Even if I had the money, there’s no reason for me to trade mine in for a newer model just now!

A strange way to show affection


Who says the Taliban aren’t caring, sharing softies, deep down?

“We love the people of Pakistan, and because of this love we politely ask the citizens of Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Multan to please evacuate their cities because we have marked out government targets there against whom we will carry out attacks as have never happened before,” he warned.

Article here.

Bringing up boys


I am behind on blogging at the moment – lots of things on my mind, but not getting around to posting them!

One of the topics I wanted to mention was this excellent article in The Times from the other week, discussing the problem of badly behaved adolescent boys in the UK – the lack of role models available to them, the way the education system ignores their needs, etc.

I was very lucky growing up. I had two loving parents at home and teachers who were able to take the time to give me the necessary kick needed to make sure I got the best results I could at school. My mother and father encouraged me to go to scouts and Air Cadets and made sure I didn’t give up if things got a bit tough. They were also quite happy for me to take on part-time jobs, go off on my own, cycling around the area, skateboarding in London, taking part in school trips and so on. I had no lack of role models, either male or female, as well as plenty of fun things to do in and outside of school, with plenty of responsible adults keeping an eye on me.

Not everyone is so lucky.

Here’s an extract from the last page of the article –

“For the sake of the next generation, it really is time to get over this fret about gender. Admitting that boys still need mothers, fathers and male mentors is not a denial of sexual equality. It’s a recognition that men and women bring different strengths to the enterprise of raising their young. The achievement of sexual equality shouldn’t make acting like a competent adult any more difficult than it ever was — 21st-century men and women are still human beings with the DNA that makes them “good enough” to take on their part of the task. But before they can get down to work and sort out the mess, men have to rise above the graceless feminist scorn and cynical commercialism that have made them doubt their better nature. And women have to recognise that, in terms of raising boys, there are some things sisters just can’t do.”

Changing the topic to that of the world of male adult behaviour, after living here for a while I’ve noticed a marked difference between what South African women expect or tolerate from their boyfriends of husbands, as compared to British women. Saffer blokes seem to be allowed to get away with a lot more laddish antics than their British counterparts. The Saffer girls seem to be happier to let their blokes do the blokeish things that blokes tend to want to do – within reason of course. They seem to accept that boys will be boys from time to time and that letting the guys let off steam every now and then is ok if it makes them happy and more tolerable around the house. Obviously there are limits, but I see more resignation than resentment when it comes to ‘the things men do’ than I see amongst British women. Those things might be watching sport, going off to play golf, the odd boys’ night out, that kind of thing.

This observation is hardly the result of scientific research – it’s simply based on what I’ve seen over the last few years being surrounded by South Africans in Dubai and visiting Jo’burg and Cape Town for work.

As a Brit with a British wife, I’m glad that Mrs Saul is so tolerant with me!

Hari’s post banned!


Johann Hari tells us that his article on the dark side of Dubai has been blocked here.

Except it isn’t blocked, actually.

We can still read the story of Karen and her Range Rover dwelling in all its fact-free glory.

Hari also informs us that he has been ‘told’ that he will be arrested or turned back at the airport or arrested. Sadly, he provides no more information than that – no clear statement of who told him what. To do so, I suspect, would be a transgression too far.

If he does turn up here again, at least there’ll be one place he’ll be welcome to stay – he can kip down in Karen Andrews’ Range Rover for the night for a realistic expat experience. If she’s no longer in Dubtown, he’s welcome to drop me a line and we’ll let him stay in the back of our Range Rover, as long as he tidies up after himself.

Hari gets it sort of right


I don’t really like Johann Hari, based on his usual rantings in The Independent. We are polar opposites on most subjects, from Dubai to Somali pirates/eco-warriors.

This article really spoke to me (in parts), however.

Perhaps what binds us together most, whatever our views, is the fact that we both get to say what we want and that neither of us has to worry what the other says, as long as we can both say it. And we like listening to Radio 4 and appreciate the importance of The Queue.

Surgical masks in the Sun office!


The Sun Dubai office has just been sent a load of disposable face masks to protect us against swine flu.

At the risk of tempting fate, I do think this is a bit silly (see my post on this a few weeks ago).

I am hoping that I find some of the systems engineers wearing one when I am next in – you can tease systems engineers about this kind of thing.

If you’re calling anyone from Sun Dubai over the next few days and find their voices strangely muffled, it’ll be because they’re wearing their mask when they answer the phone.

So what’s the point of social networking?


The usual comments you hear about Facebook and the like is ‘what’s the point of connecting via the internet with friends you see every day in the office or socially?’.

A fair point – if you see someone every day, you probably don’t need an internet relationship with them.

I like Facebook or Twitter or blogging for three particular reasons –

– They keep me in touch with people I like but never get to see that often, if ever.

– They keep me in touch with people I often see, but usually don’t as I travel for work all the time.

– They keep me in touch with people I like and used to see all the time, but now won’t any more, for one reason or another.

With the recent redundancies at Sun or with people moving on to other jobs, the latter reason has become more poignant.