Posted by: englishdubai | May 12, 2010

To Buy or not Du-Bai

Michelle, a good friend of mine, has a very dry wit and is hilarious with it. She has started up a very cool tumblr site called “To Buy or not Dub-Bai of the various crazy things for sale here. For me the best real life observational blog on Dubai:

http://tobuyornotdubai.tumblr.com/

I can’t help but smile at every update. Following this theme – this week I was in a kebab restaurant and when I asked for the English menu I was presented with a dish that make me go a little weak at the knees:

I had to give the Turkey Testicles a miss – but I did to ask the waitress if this was an error. She went to the kitchen and said they had plenty of supply on hand. Mind you, I better they more nutritional value than Turkey Twizzlers.

Posted by: englishdubai | May 12, 2010

Back in the USSR

Last week I made my first trip to Moscow nearly three years to the date since my last visit. I admit the last few visits I found Moscow to be an intimidating place and hard to get by without any spoken Russian – still this time I was meeting a new team and it was warmer weather so I was really looking to this trip.

Before I could get on the plane I had to get the infamous Russian visa. I was advised for speed I should get a tourist one, so I got the itinerary produced by a travel agent in Moscow and called up my local travel agent to get the visa sorted. Turns out Kanoo were about as useful as a chocolate teapot and my the PRO guy in my office made the trek up to the consulate in Abu Dhabi only to return empty handed. Apparently “original” itinerary was required and that needed to be couriered from Moscow so I gave up on that idea.

My second crack at getting the Russian Visa was to go for the 12 month business visa – a longer process but worth it I thought. So I duly completed a big stack of forms (including a blank credit card authorisation form to a Russian travel agent) and sent everything off to the office. About four weeks later I received a very neat and very small “official letter” from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. With this in hand I was set.

After filling out some forms – and gathering numerous documents (passport copies, visa copies, NOC letter, HIV report, Medical Insurance) I was ready to go to the Russian Consulate. Now I had heard rumour that the was one in Dubai – a quick google could not reveal an “official” site so I followed some advice on one of the expat forum “It can be found on the 3rd floor of the Union Bank building in Deira, it opens between 10-1” with instructions like that how could I fail?

I took a cab there and while trying to locate the exact building it was clear that there was a “Rusky” consulate close by. On my exit out of the lift on the 3rd floor I was greeted by a huge snaking queue. Bingo – this has to be the place. It was really non-de-script, no fancy signs, in need of decoration and a couple of police guys guarding a door. When the door finally opened there was a long narrow room with a single window at the end and a door to the left.

This led to a bit of a nightmare. Dubai is famous for people’s inability to queue quite as well as the Brit’s do – chaos soon ensued. There were expats like myself with patience and disapproving looks, PROs pushing in all over the place and Russians venting their anger at said PROs. Quite exciting really.

45 minutes went by before I got to the front of the queue (after elbowing a PRO out of the way) and presented my huge pile of documents. The chap behind the window did what he had been clearly enjoying all morning:

“This document is incorrect – you must fill in this one” he said handing me another form

“Do I have to queue up again?” I uttered in vain hope

“Niet”

I quickly scribbled on the form and after some rather “assertive” queue jostling I re-presented the forms:

“You must pay money to Commercial Bank of Dubai” he said as he handed me another little form

“Where is that?”

“Behind Etisalat across the road”

As I was leaving another British expat pointed at my original letter from the ministry in Russia

“Will they accept a photocopy of that form?”

“Not a chance mate. You are wasting your time” the man looked at me with sad eyes and joined me in the elevator.

I hiked across the road and down a street and was soon at the bank and by the time I got back upstairs to the consulate I was far hotter and sweatier than when I left. I certainly did not look like someone to mess with.

I queued some more and this time the local Russians were really giving the PROs some stick for pushing in. I sweated gently as the AC failed to really do anything other than make a noise.

Just in front of me was a young Australian chap:

“G’day mate, I would like to apply for a Russian tourist visa please?”

“Hmm, where is country of residence?’

“Australia mate”

“You must apply there. Next”

The young Australian stammered before getting pushed out the way. “I did it before in Qatar” he shouted. It was yo little avail the guy in the window had made the decision.

After a little while I saw the window guy. He saw me. We exchanged documents – he had my life details and all I got was the receipt for the visa fee. I signed a little black book and asked:

“When can I pick up my passport?”

“Tuesday”

“Can I have a receipt for my passport please?”

“Niet”

It turns out he actually meant the following Tuesday – good job I sent my PRO to go and stand in line for three hours for collection. The good news is I will need to go through this again next year.

Anyway – the trip I had to Russia was fab. There was a lovely spring feeling in the air and I had no hiccups at immigration or traffic. I think the improving weather there has a definite effect on peoples mood. A couple of things I noticed this time:

1. While Moscow is expensive the devalued Rouble means that it is not that bad when comparing it against Dubai

2. Last time there were huge American 4x4s everywhere – these seem to be replaced by high end Audi’s, Mercedes and BMW’s – I imagine the conversation revolved around “Imperialist Yankee gas guzzler is unable to corner efficiently”

3. There is more high end designer brands and choice of western goods than this in Dubai – a vast of choice that wasn’t there on my last visit

With the long spring evenings Phillip from the local VMware office offered to walk me around central Moscow and I jumped at his kind offer. First stop after riding the wonderful metro was Red Square:

Sadly it was closed as they were practicing for the Victory day parades that happen on the 9th May. I wasn’t complaining as it allowed me to get a good view of the hundreds or possibly thousands of troops drilling for the parade:

All around central Moscow the flags were flying:

And I loved seeing the Lamborghini and Bentley show rooms next to each other – it really is like New York for high end shopping:

Also there was no way I could leave without a souvenir of a Russia Doll and a small shop in a Metro station near Red Square had a vast selection. I was a little bemused by the American Football ones – I guess there must be a demand for them. I ended up with a nice 10 piece Russian Doll set of the former Russian leaders. It is in the photo below if you look hard enough:

I was pleased Phillip was with me – he had an amazing knowledge of the city and it was better than a guided tour. With a quick word or two in Russian the price of my Russian doll went down by nearly 40% off the sticker price. Local knowledge and language is worth its weight in gold.

I really look forward to more adventures in Russia and the CIS. I believe I will have a trip to St Petersburg, Kiev and maybe even Almaty in Kazakhstan this year. A whole new world likes ahead of me. Can’t wait.

Posted by: englishdubai | May 12, 2010

Relax Don’t Do It

It is that time of year again when my mates throw one of their epic fancy dress parties. After some rather “vigorous” debate it was decided that Bollywood would be the theme this time.

Sadly, I was not around for the filming of this but never the less it is probably the best one yet.

Here it is Casa Jumeriah goes to Bollywood

Nothing ever goes smoothly first time around in making of these party trailers. Here is the collection of the best screw ups and comedy moments.

Oh – excuse the odd naughty word….

Clearly we have too much time on our hands.

Posted by: englishdubai | April 20, 2010

It’s Not Unusual

After the previous weekends excitement at the UFC it was back to Abu Dhabi again this weekend to see my Nan’s favourite Tom Jones. Rather than take a limo this time I went under my own power but took advantage of a rather nifty offer at the Rotana Hotel on Yas Island.

For only 499aed we got a nice double room, a welcome drink at their fancy wine bar and buffet breakfast. This was all well and good sadly the hotel was at capacity at the weekend with staff shortages in certain areas. As a result we had to wait two hours for the room to be ready (past check in time), about 30 minutes to get a table cleaned for breakfast and almost an infinite amount of time waiting for drinks service near the pool that never came. On the plus side the rooms are modern with great bathrooms. The Y Bar served tasty food and great cocktails. They made them just how I like them – extra strong and extra cheap. A refreshing change from overpriced Dubai. There was an upside to all of this – a rather stinging response to the email survey following the stay has led to a complimentary weekend pass so I am hoping for better next time.

The view out our window from the Yas Rotana has got to be almost priceless when the F1 is on:

It was soon time to head to the concert and it was held in the shiny new ADNEC exhibition center. I always hold my breath when I go to large events. Will it be well organised or a total nightmare? I needn’t have worried. Parking was effortless in the attached multi-story and was well ushered by marshalls. We grabbed the tickets, again in moments and had time for the obligatory crazy photo:

The venue was great for a concert. In fact I wondered why Flash hadn’t choose to host the UFC there. The seats were comfortable and the exhibition hall was huge and bathed in lovely AC that I could have used last weekend. Soon enough the man himself, Tom Jones was on stage. Despite all the stereo typing about him, the man has been given a voice that is simply unbelievable and even as he approaches 70 years old (!) he gave an excellent performance.

For the fans he played all the classics – It’s not unusal, Momma told me, Deliah, Kiss and She’s a Lady as well as some tracks of his new album which he gave a nice plug for. Everyone sang at the right bits and towards the end of the show everyone was stood up dancing.It was a little eery, as the grandstand we were in swayed rhythmically to the music or to the several thousand fans bopping to old school hits. Either way it was a whole load of fun and was easily more enjoyable then the farcical Anderson Silva fight the previous weekend.

Tom Jones performed with energy and was graceful in his address to the audience and his fellow band members and roadies. It was the end of the a 3 month tour which no doubt had been hard work but also marked the first ever gig in the ADNEC arena.

I am sure there will be many more great gigs at ADNEC and I have marked it up as an excellent venue (despite not being able to bring drinks to the seats) and to Tom – come back again – Abu Dhabi loved you.

Posted by: englishdubai | April 13, 2010

Invincible

After all the build up and hype it has been and gone. The UFC publicity machine rolled into the UAE last week and did an amazing job. The radio and TV were full of it as were the newspapers and magazines. It was a shame not to be around as I was in sunny Vienna for the run up. I would have love to have got really sucked in and wanted desperately to see the weigh-ins held at the Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi and gone to some of the fighters signing session but it all did the desired effect and there was a real buzz about the Emirates when I landed early on Saturday morning.

There was a big gang of us making the trip to Abu Dhabi for the UFC 112 and we made the most of it and organized an SUV limo to arrive in style :

On the short walk to the stadium it was extra apparent where this event was being held and on the queue into the event the cacophony of Scouse, American and Arabic accents was a heady mix and I could feel the excitement building all ready:

First thing I did when in side was to go and grab some t-shirts from the Merchandise store – it was good that they were priced at a very reasonable 100 aed ($27) but bad that they didn’t hang them up so you could see the choice on offer:

Once I was done with the T-Shirts and was appropriately fed and watered I headed over the temporary arena. When the UFC announced that this event was going to be in Abu Dhabi I was wondering about the venue and if they could pull it off. In short they did and I take my hats off the to the people who put up an 11,000 seater temporary stadium complete with world class audio and visual on display. Here is the very lovely Renata showing off the great view of the Octagon we had from our seats:

So we settled into what was to be an eventful evening. It was clear that the organizers had put a lot of thought into the “card” for evening giving a little something to everyone.

First on the under card they wheeled out Mustafa Al Turk who was billed as being born in Saudi (though if you ever heard him speak you would swear he had been working in Billings Gate market all his life) and he quickly had the local crowd cheering from him and even some chants of “Mustafa, Mustafa”, sadly it wasn’t enough and he lost a decision to Madsen in what was a snooze-fest

Next up was the first of several UK fighters a lad called Paul Kelly who put on an excellent display and beat his opponent in an exciting manner. The big UK contingent in the crowd were warming up nicely and had other fights to look forward too.

Demarques Johnson in the next fight again did really well and the Ultimate Fighter star made an excellent comeback to win against Brad Blackburn and in his interview after the fight he gave big shout out to Abu Dhabi which went down really well with the crowd,

Then another British fighter recently also on Ultimate Fighter a chap called Nick Osipczak took on a tough American dude called Rick Story. I was a big fan of Nick’s style on the show and was sad when he was overwhelmed by Story’s superior wrestling for most of the fight ending up with Nick losing a decision. Still they did there best for 15 minutes and it was still really warm at around 30c at the time.

After popping out for further refreshments it was all ready time for the main card and the portion that is aired on pay per view in the USA. The video, music and lightshow they put on was excellent and the crowd was excited. After all – there were to be not one but two fights for titles as well as a bout featuring two MMA legends.  I got into it and was dancing around and enjoying myself

The opening fight on the card turned out to be the fight of the night. It featured the super tall and dangerous Kendall Grove – with mad ink on his body and sick knees, elbows and chokes at his disposal he is a great fighter. He was taking on one of my favourite UFC fighters in Mark “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Munoz. When Munoz walked out to the Black Eye Peas Filipino rap song Bebot – the Filipinos in the crowd and myself went slightly nuts.

This fight did not disappoint. Grove took it to Munoz with a wicked succession of close choke attempts only to be reversed in the second round when Munoz got the top position and gave him a “Ground and Pound”‘ lesson getting the stoppage. It was an excellent come back from behind and the crowd gave both fighters an excellent cheer for their efforts.

Next up was the big fight for the UK supporters. Scouse boy Terry Etim was taking on tough Brazillian Rafael Dos Anjos – it was not to be the Brit’s night as he lost to arm bar and the scousers were going to have a very long and sad flight back to Liverpool. Still, Terry has huge amounts of talent and I am sure he will back in no time.

After a good undercard and two decent fights it was the big time. First up was UFC legend Matt Huges coming back to the octagon after nearly 12 months to take on Renzo Gracie. Renzo’s cousin Royce was the grandfather of UFC back in the early days and put Ju-Jitsu on the map. Sometime ago Matt Huges took on Royce and beat him soundly so there was a little bit of edge to this match. That being said Renzo was a regular to the UAE supporting the MMA scene there and was the home town favourite. So when he walked out to Arabic infused music the local guys made their voices heard and the stadium really lit up. The same couldn’t be said for the match – two of the best ground exponents in the world spent nearly fifteen minutes engaged in a light sparring session. It was disappointing following the intensity of the early bouts. Still, it was clear they were both great sportsmen in the twilight of their careers and they were out there doing it and putting on a show. Huges sealed the match with a nasty upper cut but by then I was thinking Renzo would need to go to hospital for exhaustion so it was a fair ending.

So all that was left were the two title fights. First up was BJ Penn taking on the challenger Frankie Edgar. I am a huge BJ Penn fan and he seemed to bring a good sized following from Hawaii to support him. They were to be disappointed – BJ Penn didn’t seem to be himself and for five rounds Frankie kept busy with intelligent kick boxing and took the decision. It was weird – Penn didn’t seem to want it like before but I take my hat off to Frankie. He worked hard and got a fantastic result – here is the golden moment:

Looking at it so far it had been a reasonable set of fights. Sure the Gracie vs Huges was more an exhibition and there had been no spectacular knock outs. Surely this would be fixed by the Main Event? I was hyped for it. Here is the Anderson Silva walkout and you can taste the energy in the crowd:

Anderson Silva vs Damian Maia was a match everyone was hoping would put UFC on the map in the Middle East Region and I sure the UFC were looking at this as a launch pad to the lucrative sub-continent markets. As someone once said “Houston, we have a problem” this pretty much summed up the main event.

Silva is the best striker in the UFC, Maia the best ground guy. So Silva ran around the ring for 25 minutes goading Maia to punch him. Maia desperately tried to engage, but was outclassed on his feet and couldn’t really get close to Silva. All he got out it was a broken nose. With Silva clowning around in the first two rounds it was impressive but the rest of the fight it was boring and Dana White quite rightly described it as “The arena tonight was incredible. The energy was amazing, and to end it the way that we did was an embarrassment for me, the Fertittas, the UFC and the sport in general. I apologize, and I will – I don’t know how yet – but I will make this up to the fans who bought this [expletive] tonight.”

This was said in the post match press conference and he summed how I and my friends felt. More than that however, I felt embarrassed for the sport. I have been a a fan for so long and it was attempt of a real showcase and we were all let down. It was a real shame and as we all returned home in the limo, all we could talk about was what it could have been.

Dana if you or anyone of the UFC people read this. Do come back to the UAE and put on another even better show. That is how you can make it up to us. I for one will be up at midnight again buying tickets if you do.

Posted by: englishdubai | March 2, 2010

Korean Times

Don’t you just love it when you walk into a restaurant for the first time to see it filled with people from that particular background enjoying the food there?

It happened to me the other day when I was invited to the Korean Restaurant called Manna Land. It is nestled in an unassuming position alongside the Capitol Hotel just off Al Dhiyafa Street.

While I am no expert in Korean food it was an excellent education as one of our dining partners had lived in Seoul for three years and was happily conversing with the staff in their native tongue, which took everyone by surprise.

In the times of going out to eat in Dubai the choice seems to be polarised at the moment between super high end designer chef places to international franchise chains to the Pakistan and Indian restaurants in Karama and Bur Dubai. It is always hard to find a middle ground. I believe Manna Land fills the gap perfectly.

Quickly a selection of Kim Chi and other traditional accompaniments are brought to the table in a blink of an eye.

We ordered some nice starters the bipat bibimbap(a super heated metal bowl containing rice, egg, beef and veggies) that you stir vigorously to complete the cooking process was excellent and would make a perfect lunchtime meal. Alongside some tasty seafood pancakes and rice cakes setup us up for the main course.

We opted for the Korean BBQ and a hot plate was brought to the table alongside some tongs and scissors. The waitress asked if we wanted to cook it and we promptly said of course. The beef short ribs we ordered looked amazing.

Long and beautifully marbled they were soon sizzling on the hot plate alongside some chilli, garlic, mushrooms and onions. Eating instantly cooked pieces of beef short rib with a dab of bean paste wrapped in lettuce leaf was a taste sensation.

The other great thing about Manna Land is that they also offer some special treats i.e. Pork Belly and they even serve alcohol. A rare decadent treat for those of us in Dubai who indulge in such things.

However, more than this it was a super sociable way to eat. Far better than the slews of buffets that haunt Dubai meaning I usually end up eating food on my own while my companions or I are getting stuck into their nth course.

Overall 9/10 – Manna Land is an authentic, inexpensive taste of Korea. Mix it in with a wonderful social eating experience it is a regular on the I want something both casual and tasty dining list.

Posted by: englishdubai | February 17, 2010

If something sounds too good to be true..

If there is one thing that spurs me into action is when people try to rip me or someone I know off. This probably explains why I am addicted to a british TV show called “The Real Hustle” and one of my favourite movies is The Grifters.

I was enquiring about a nice looking vehicle the other day on Dubizzle that seemed remarkable value. The response I got was interesting:

“Hello,

I bought this car 2009 Cayenne S while I was working in Dubai, now I’m back to England to my family and I want to sell it. The car is registered in Dubai. The car is in perfect condition and has never been involved in an accident. Painting is a very good condition, there is no collision damage present on this car. The car is in excellent condition, no accidents, no scratches, no dents, no need for additional repairs and I have all the necessary documents for the sale.

It is guarded by a car garage, maintened very well. The final price is AED 150,000 including shipping and insurance. I agree to leave you a few days for testing. The car comes with a rating of own history and number. Is being registered in Dubai and it will be no problem to cancel the registration and turn it on your name. I spoke with one of my friends in England and he said there was no need for me to come over there to close the case in person because there are many companies that can handle such situations. So I did some research work and discovered a local company. I’ve asked how much it will cost for such a transaction and they indicated to me to propose the delivery address (so they can calculate shipping costs). In case you are still interested please let me know your address where you want it to be delivered so the company can calculate the total cost.

Thank you.”

So a car one year old for around half it’s original value could be possible in times of desperation, but then also this stuff about England had me thinking – there has to be something wrong here. Then before I could do anything I got an mail from Dubizzle saying:

Dear user,

The ad that you have responded to

2009 Cayenne S

has been identified by our users and the Dubizzle administrator as a scam. This listing is fraudulent and the poster is attempting to scam Dubizzle users.  We strongly suggest that you DO NOT enter into any sort of financial transaction with this person, and that you end all communication with them immediately.

Thank you,

The Dubizzle Team

Full marks to the Dubizzle team for quickly dispersing feedback on scam ads and being very proactive – I was really impressed. I didn’t think too much of this when I was asked by my cousin to look over a rental flat deal that they were interested in. My cousin mentioned that it was a fully furnished large one bedroom apartment in JBR for only 4,000 aed a month ( $1090) which is probably around half what the market is doing right now.

I was only happy to help as the apartment in question was just across the road. Here is the email

Subject: RE: Dubai Marina 1BR furnished apartment

Hello,

In order to provide you with more details about the property I am offering for rent, please consult the following information: the apartment is located in Al Bahar 6, has an approximate surface of square feet 985 and has 1 bedroom, 1 kitchen, 1 bathroom and 1 living room. The rental period will be determined by the both of us at the beginning. I’m renting my apartment for any period between 3 and 36 months.

I want you to know that I am looking for a tenant that will be first of all a responsible person, but also dynamic and communicative. The rent level includes utilities such as electricity, water, internet, satellite and will be AED4000 per month. The apartment has its own parking space for two cars. You can live in my apartment either alone or with family/friend. Also I have nothing against pets.

Initially I had to work here in Brighton, England for 6 months, but gladly it looks like I’m needed here for a longer period, minimum 36 months. I’ve already settled here with my family and we’ve decided to rent our apartment from Dubai so I’ve contacted FindaProperty, left with them the keys of my apartment, the ownership contract, the tenancy contract and a insurance deposit. Don’t worry about any additional fees; all taxes have already been paid by me.

To start the process give me your complete name and address and FindaProperty will contact you with all the instruction needed. About the payment, you will be instructed to deposit AED4000 into their account. As protection policy for you, the money will remain in FindaProperty’s account until you make the inspection of the apartment and declare yourself satisfied. If this is the case, then the money will be sent to me and will represent first month’s rent. My insurance will be that FindaProperty will have your money in their custody during the delivery process.

After your payment will be confirmed, FindaProperty will begin the delivery process. They will send you a package containing the keys of my apartment and the contract at the address you’ve provided in max 48h. Starting the day you’ve received the package you will have 7 days for inspection and accommodation. If you decide to keep the apartment then you must contact FindaProperty and give them the permission to release the deposit money to me for the completion of the transaction. On the other hand, if you don’t like the apartment then you send back the keys and the contract and you request a refund from FindaPropery, although I know this will not be the case because you will simply love the apartment.

Considering all of the above, if you are set on renting the flat, I’m waiting for your complete name and address to forward them to FindaProperty so they can begin the procedure right away.

Waiting for your response, please receive my best regards,

Ali Haider

There were some rather nice photos accompanying the email used as the “convincer”‘:

When I read this first email  – my thoughts were :

1. Wow – looks like a nice flat (I wouldn’t mind it for myself)

2. What does Findaproperty (a well respected property portal in the UK) have to do with this?

3. All utilities and internet included? That would be at least 500aed a month alone

4. Two parking spots for a one bedroom apartment – that is nearly unheard of in Dubai Marina

5.  “I have nothing against pets” – well Dubai Properties does

6. They want an upfront deposit before you can even see the apartment and to go and get the money from Findaproperty if you don’t want the flat?

So my cousin got the next email requesting the deposit money be sent via moneygram and a copy of a Tenancy agreement for 4000 aed. Here that email:

“Transaction no. AC22682

“We”, “Our”, “Us” refers to FindaProperty® and its subsidiaries, employees, officers, agents, affiliates or assigned parties.      FindaProperty® connects more people with more property than anyone else.    FindaProperty® is a fast, reliable way to pay or get paid for renting apartments.

Note: the Landlord has left in our custody all that is necessary for the transaction to go as smooth as possible, more precisely the contract filled in and signed and also the keys to the property.

These will remain in the FindaProperty custody until the tenant will send the payment through a Money Order Service (Money Gram Service). After verifying the funds, the package will be ready for disposal.

Address Information:

Landlord:

First name: Agha Muhammad Ali

Last name: Haider

Package Information:

* Package ID: AC22682

* Insured Value Amount: 700.00£.

* Apartment keys and rental contract* verified and signed by the Sender. Owner of the apartment in: Apartment xx on x floor, Al Bahar x, Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai Marina. All the papers are double checked.

* Please note that a copy of the contract is also attached to this email.

Payment Information:

Pay with cash at any MoneyGram office the sum of 700£ using the FindaProperty® Agent’s payment details:

First name: Mike

Last name: Zandir

If your payment is approved, typically within 12 hours, you will receive an email confirming that your payment is approved. After payment validation, we will send the package at the address you have provided us with. Payment will be held by FindaProperty® until you confirm us that you are satisfied with the apartment. As soon as we receive your confirmation we will get the payment available for pick up by the Landlord.

We can confirm you that you are fully protected in the transaction with this owner, only in these cases:

* Payment sent but keys and documents not received.

* No response to your messages.

* Payment sent but apartment is not like as the owner described it.

* The insurer of this transaction is FindaProperty® Inc.

* The account is managed by FindaProperty® Inc.

* This transaction is supervised by FindaProperty® Inc SafeTrade Team.

Currently, this owner has a GBP 5,000.00£ deposit in an FindaProperty® managed purchase protection account. Transactions with this owner are covered by purchase protection against fraud and description errors. FindaProperty® repeatedly tries to encourage the other party to respond to a case, but ase, but we cannot fully guarantee participation, since the process is completely voluntary. If the respondent does not reply within one week from when the case was initially filed, it is unlikely that you will receive a response and we will close the case and refund you with the entire amount insured by the tenant protection policy valid for your case. If we hear from the other party after the case closes, we will reopen the case and notify you.

After the seven days inspection and accommodation term, if the customer is not satisfied then he is entitled for a refund. After the request for the refund has been received, the money will be sent to the customer in maximum 72 hours.

If you need to contact us please use this e-mail:

FindaProperty@representative.com

Sincerely,

Christopher Ryan Roderick

FindaProperty® Rental Department”

The spoofed email address of findaproperty@representative.com spelling errors and sending the money to a random guy in Brighton at a residential address were obvious giveaways.

I take my hat off to them. A nice HTML email with all the right logos on it. Though I am sure that Findaproperty will be less than pleased with the use of their name and trademark in this way.

So I am sorry Mr Agha Muhammad Ali and Mr Mike Zandir you will not be receiving a moneygram for £700 anytime soon. I was also really pleased my cousin contacted me asking for some help because they were sorely tempted to send the money.

As with all things in Dubai you really are best to look very hard before you leap.

Posted by: englishdubai | January 14, 2010

Here we Go

Over the last 15 years I have been an avid follower of the UFC. I clearly remember buying the first three UFC tournaments on VHS (!) back in 1995 while I was at University. Since then the UFC under the direction of Zuffa and Dana White (UFC President) has become a house hold name and I am still a huge fan. I even managed to attend UFC 38 – Brawl in Hall. I recall it being quite scary seeing lots of huge guys walking around in T-Shirts with logos like “I will make you Tap Out” – crikey I thought, don’t do that on me. Still it was amazing evening with the highlight being local British fighter Ian “The Machine” Freeman beating the upcoming Frank Mir by brutal ground and pound (who later went on to be the UFC Heavyweight Champion).

There had been some rumblings late last year that the UFC would hold an event in Abu Dhabi and with a couple of Dana White appearances in the UAE late last year there was definitely something afoot. This was confirmed when earlier this week it was announced that Flash Entertainment an Abu Dhabi based company had acquired 10% of the UFC which was quite a shock in itself.

Then last night I ended up getting very excited when it was announced that Vitor Belfort would challenge Anderson Silva for the UFC Middleweight title at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi on 10th April. For me these two guys are the best strikers in the UFC – it will be dynamite. It is also emerging that there could be a second title fight that night involving BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar. Two title fights in one night? I suppose a spend of (at a guess) $150m is going to get you something special. I imagine the whole card will be stacked and I personally hope there is at least one of the upcoming young British fighters on the card.

This double whammy is huge. It is clear that the UFC have their eyes on the Middle East, Indian and Chinese markets and ties with Abu Dhabi allow them unique leverage into them. Selling advertising rights and pay per view into a population of 2.5 billion is a lofty prize. Dana White gave his views on the deal below:

For Abu Dhabi this is another prestigious marque to be associated with that further heralds their international ambition and cements them as a stop on the global tour of sport. Aside from this Abu Dhabi has a huge tradition in submission combat and the National has a nice article around this here.

I was so impressed with the Abu Dhabi GP last year and I am sure there will be a spectacular show put on for UFC 112. There still appears to be some debate as to where the venue will be with the video revealing that a venue “will be built” – interesting to see if they use Yas Island or Emirates Palace.

Without question I will be there and I can hardly wait. It seems that for the big events in the UAE are now heading to Abu Dhabi (F1, The Killers, Kings of Leon, Beyonce, FIFA Club Championship, Red Bull Air Race) – adding the UFC to this list is simply brilliant.

Posted by: englishdubai | January 3, 2010

You hang up, no you hang up

A little while ago I dabbled into the world of iPhone.  Sadly it was a short lived affair as I brought a grey import and one bleary eyed morning I just pressed the update firmware button rendering my iPhone a worthless piece of iBrick. Shame really as I was getting to enjoy it.

Last October in a blitz of Twitter, Facebook and press excitement both Etisalat and Du officially released the iPhone 3GS into the UAE market. I admit to getting caught up in the buzz of it all and went on the day of released and grabbed one (probably a good job for my own sanity as they have been wildly popular and running out of stock on a regular basis).

First time around I was really intrigued with the powerful web and mail capabilities of the phone. This time however it is the apps that are king. I was sat in the pub last night and of the eight people there six had iPhones and the inevitable “app off” happened. To anyone new to the iPhone the sheer quantity of apps is simply overwhelming with about 100,000 available and counting. So here is my guide to getting started all are free unless stated:

Five Apps that should have come as standard:

1. Facebook – with 250 million people on facebook this would be the 6th largest country on the planet I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t have this installed on their iPhone

2. Google Earth – brilliantly implemented on iPhone with the gesture interaction perfectly complementing the app

3. Skype – a killer app for voice with the spread of wifi – I was amazed that it “just worked”

4. Tweetdeck – there are hosts of Twitter apps, I went for Tweetdeck for its easy to use interface (I can’t say the same thing about their PC client)

5. Google – the voice activated search is a gimmick but it provides a nice front end into the whole google suite of apps

Five News Apps:

1. Guardian (£2.39) – beautifully crafted and can be read offline. It is very clear a lot of effort went into producing this.

2. Telepgraph – not as good as the Guardian but I can see this becoming a paid for app soon

3. Sky News – good for a quick run down on breaking stories – go elsewhere for decent commentary

4. New York Times – using the same fonts from the paper – really well put together for that US spin on news

5. Al Jazeera (£1.79) – live english streaming of the rather good Al Jazeera news channel – really only suitable on a wifi link

Five Games you can pick up play for two minutes:

1. Paper Toss – chucking balls of paper into a bin has to be the top office past time ever? Anyway, now faithfully recreated with the addition of wind direction to be taking into account

2. Boggle (£0.59) – the classic seventies word hunt game that has been nicely brought to life on the iPhone – the shaking of the phone to scramble the letters is a lovely touch

3. Tap Tap Revenge 3 – like Guitar Hero – a rhythm game with multipliers for putting big score together. Easy to get finger ache with this one.

4. Harbor Master (£0.59) – There are a number of these type of games where you use your finger to draw paths for things to follow ending in juggling lots of planes, cars or in this case boats. This game drives me insane but it is strangely more-ish

5. Bejeweled 2 (£1.59) – The classic popcap game that most of the planet will have played at some point. Compelling to the point of addiction if you are not careful and certainly a must have if you have ever played this game in any other format

Five Games that are time sinks:

1. GeoDefense/GD Swarm (£0.99) – If you know what a Towers Defense game is  – look no further. A beautifully crafted game with excellent graphics/sound, well balanced levels and a sense of humour.

2. Scrabble (£1.99) – I play in a desperate attempt to improve my word power. Sadly, the iPhone regularly gives me a good beating at this

3. Texas Hold Em (£2.99) – Written by Apple themselves this is easily the best poker simulator on the iPhone. There are some nice animations but they can be switched off if you are looking for a quicker game

4.  Farm Frenzy (£0.59) – Brilliant value for a game that  will have you chasing after Geese, collecting eggs, watering the animals and lots of other tasks in this delightful resource management and strategy game. Will be an iPhone classic

5.  Dragon’s Lair – (£2.99) – I loved this game when it came out in the 80’s. At the time the use of real cell shaded cartoons was ground breaking for a video game. Now a near perfect replica can be had for the iPhone. The one problem this game had it was that it was rock hard – twenty seven years later it is still the same and can be infuriating.

Five useful apps:

1. Amazon UK – really great for quickly checking the price and or customer reviews of an item when I browsing one of Dubai’s mega malls

2. RedLaser (£0.99) – an ingenious app that uses the iPhone camera to take a picture of a barcode of an item, it then translates this into the number sequence and checks the best buy price from a number of websites. Comparative shopping at your finger tips. I am still amazed every time I see this work.

3. FeX/MyPhone+ (£0.99/£1.99) – Both of these apps allow syncing of your contacts and your facebook friends. The upshot being ou have correct spelling, a photo, their birthday and upcoming events all in your iPhone. Of the two Myphone+ has more configurable options but Apple should be ashamed as this functionality is built into Android.

4. eBay – I recently signed up for eBay (about 10 years too late) – this app is great for keeping an eye on auctions you are interested in. A bit cumbersome for browsing however.

5. Remote – I am not sure why apple did not pre-install this. Great little app to act as a remote control for iTunes libraries.

Five Great Reference Apps:

1. Wikipedia – the safari browser is amazing but this just speeds up the process a bit

2. Dictionary – same as above

3. Empire – (£2.69) – Every single Empire Movie review (9000 of them) that is searchable offline makes this a gem.

4. Shazam – Perfect for that moment in the pub “What is that song?”

5. Rightmove -Like most British people I am obsessed with UK house prices. Now if I ever need to know what the going rate for a three bed semi in Margate is, then the Rightmove app has the answer.

That is a long list but it goes to show just how much of a flexible platform the iPhone and indeed other smart phones are becoming. My prediction for 2010 is that we will see the advent of true mobile banking (not the horrendous things previously attempted) – but super slick banking apps with two factor authentication for security. This will allow me to shift my dirhams off shore while I enjoy a Mojito next to the pool. Perfect.

Posted by: englishdubai | January 3, 2010

I’m Mr Brightside

At the start of last year if you mentioned to me that I would see The Kings of Leon, Aerosmith and The Killers in the UAE I would have thought you would be having me on.

But sure they all came and all were brilliant. The last to visit Abu Dhabi was The Killers. I vividly remember the first time I heard one of their songs. I was in the less than salubrious “Cherry Bar” in Laganas circa the summer of  2005 (nasty brit infested greek holiday town) when the DJ put on “Mr Brightside” the place erupted and I went slightly nuts.

Since then while not a massive follower of every one of their tracks, I am certainly keen on their big anthems and they all feature regularly on the sing star nights I go to.

Thinking ahead, we rented a minibus to enjoy a cold beverage or two on the way down to the Emirates Palace. Sadly while this made for a fun trip we did have to make an unscheduled pitstop that caused us to turn up a little late to the gig.

Walking through the main entrance they had the typical food and beverage setup going on. The one where you stand in a giant queue to buy tokens for drinks and such. Then even bigger queues for actual goodies themselves. As we were a little late The Killers kicked off with “Human” – seeing as it was one of my favourite tunes I abandoned hope of an immediate drink and ran to see the performance. They delivered with real gusto – no complaining about how hot it was. Real pro’s giving it all they were worth.

After a few songs I was really thirsty for a drink so I found a beer buddy and set off to the beverage outlets. What a mistake. For a good 30-40 minutes we stood there watching total chaos. Chaps behind the bar not knowing how to pour simple mixed drinks. Insisting every can of drink was poured in a plastic cup and having no idea how to get the food out of the warmers. It was a nightmare summed up when one more girl trying to carry six beers turned around and immediately dropped half of them. It would have been comedy had we not all felt her pain.

A little frustrated I headed back to the rest of the gang with warm over priced drinks and enjoyed the rest of the show – particularly the encore where they closed out with a stellar performance of “When you were young” that put me in a good mood for the rest of the evening.

However the highlight was Mr Brightside which they conveniently waited to play until I returned with my beer. Here is a little bit of footage I took:

Just great – I loved it. Mr Brightside someone who is an incurable optimistic. Perhaps that sums me up, without question it has been a tough year for Dubai’s economy. Tomorrow the huge edifice that is Burj Dubai will officially open, when I arrived in Dubai three and half years it was a giant construction site only 26 floors high and now it  looks like a futuristic rocket ready to shoot off to another dimension. I can only hope that the opening marks a bright side for Dubai as we bravely stride into the new decade.

Posted by: englishdubai | December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

For the second year I get to spend Christmas in Dubai with my family. It is a quite time on the roads and shops with lots of expat headed to colder climbs for the Christmas and New Year festivities.

Sadly, no let up for me as this the busiest time of year at work. This has impacted a little on my blogging and I have lots of things to cover as December has been a fun month with the rugby sevens and the killers being particular highlights as well numerous other Dubai treats. So watch out for these posts in the new year.

Earlier in the week while villa hunting for one of my colleagues we drove around the lakes (a villa community in Dubai) I was pleased to see some people really getting into the Christmas spirit:

In the meanwhile I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Posted by: englishdubai | December 16, 2009

The Thin Green Line

Despite the chaos that often ensues at various airports around the middle east the one that I feel most apprehensive about is any of the ones in Saudi. I have had the pleasure of standing for hours in queues in Riyadh, Jeddah and Damman over the last couple of years.

With the end of the year fast approaching it was important that I made a visit to Saudi to ensure that everything would be smooth as we closed out the year.  I knew from the moment I left home that this trip would have a certain amount of excitement attached to it.

Three hours before the flight left Dubai I headed for the airport – usually that is a huge amount of time. I don’t like to be rushed and prefer to get to the airport early where I can catch on email and phone calls. No such chance on Sunday. It was raining in Dubai. From my previous posts and experience the meerest splatter of rain in Dubai causes traffic chaos and widespread flooding. This Sunday was no different.

As we queued down the Sheikk Zayed Road I watched impassively as the minutes then hours passed. As we headed up the ramp to departures still in huge traffic the taxi driver made a desperate plunge for a gap to drop us off. I glanced at the clock, the flight was leaving in 30 minutes and the gate closed 15 minutes ago. I sighed and thought I would end up getting on the late flight at 10pm.

I walked up to the desk I asked hopefully “Riyadh?”

“The flight has closed”

“Oh” and I sighed again

“You have luggage?”

“Not today”

Within 20 seconds a boarding pass was thrust in my hands and I was told to run.

I promptly did and 10 minutes later I was sat on the flight. I thought my luck must be in. Then we landed in Riyadh.

The queue at immigration was huge. I mean anybody who has been there will understand when I say that the hall was full and the queue was back up the stairs.

The number one tip for arriving in Riyadh airport is stay to the right. Sure enough they opened up some other immigration desks. Great I thought as I was caught up in the rush for a new one. Soon enough I was at the desk.

“Where is your visa?”

“Umm…it is the one right there” I said pointing at my very valid Saudi visa

The guy tapped the number in three or four times. Then calls over the big officer – a quick exchange of Arabic and the guy looks at me again.

“Where is your visa?”

I point again. The huge queue behind me is providing the “Please hurry up body language”

The supervisor comes over – grabs my passport and stamps it. I am waved through. Lucky I thought.

I walked outside only to find the driver from the hotel is nowhere in sight. After a look around I negotiate a price into the city from one of the many guys looking to make a buck. I find a nice dude from Yemen who drove safely and only charged my $10 over the odds for a ride to the hotel.

The next couple of days pass without incident but in the back of my mind I am worried, worried that there will be an issue at immigration.

I got dropped off early for the flight and am amazed that there is nearly no queue for check in at the Saudi Air desks. Typically I budget 30-45minutes to check in. I grab my boarding pass and head for immigration. A nice young chap looks at my passport. Checks the visa carefully and enters the number.

“You speak Arabic”

“Mafie Arabie” I reply

“Your visa has expired by 11 days”

My eyes widen in disbelief.

He looks at me sadly and heads over to his supervisor. This chap is not interested and I am told to go to the immigration office.

“Where is it?”

“Walk to the end. Four terminals, then go downstairs”

I start the hike and after about 15 minutes I find the place.

The chap there looks at my passport. He throws it back at me

“Go to the immigration office in Riyadh. Cancel your ticket”

He tells me as he points at my boarding pass.

My heart sank. Could this really be happening? Then a 1000 scenarios run through my mind. The top one involved me being thrown into Saudi Gulag – a vivid imagination is a powerful motivator.

I get on the phone and start calling the local office, the rest of my team. In fact anyone I know who speaks Arabic. As luck would have the rest of the sales team were enjoying a leisurely pizza in the airport. I found them and they told me not to worry. I was in super panic mode and a little jittery.

Their theory was that when I last left Saudi early November despite my passport being stamped I was not entered into their immigration system correctly as having left Saudi. So in the immigration officers eyes I had overstayed my 14 day allowance and I needed to go explain myself to the Immigration office in Riyadh.

Together we headed over to immigration and the local sales guy starts to explain the issue to one of the immigration officers. This goes on for about 30 minutes and it gets quite animated but from what I could tell all very polite. They ask to see my exit stamp out of Dubai – sadly I am using egate so I don’t have that. They can’t find my entry stamp on arrival either. Thinks are looking grim. We are sent back to the other end of the airport to the immigration office.

We find the same chap at that office. He is really not interested. He threatens my colleague as to why he is getting involved in this and why is our local sponsor not here representing me? He tells us the only man who can help is Colonel Azziz.

“Where is he?”

“Airport”

We leave empty handed and Ahmed my colleague goes into super hardcore Saudi red tape beater mode. We see another immigration official and we ask for Colonel Azziz. We are directed to the immigration desks at arrival. To get there we have to explain the situation to the security team. We are scanned and let through.

At immigration there is huge queues and we find the supervisor. There is a pretty sharp exchange in Arabic between Ahmed and the senior official. He says one word I couldn’t catch and we head back up stairs.

At the departures immigration desk the guy who listened to our story to begin with was there. I handed him my passport and boarding card. Ahmed mentioned an Arabic word to him. They took my documents back to the supervisors office there and a lot of frantic keyboard tapping started to take place followed by photocopying of my entire passport.

I looked at my watch. The flight was leaving in 20 minutes.

“Ahmed, am I stuck here for the weekend?”

“Inshallah it will be fixed”

Five minutes later – my passport was stamped. I kissed Ahmed said shukran to the immigration officials and ran for the flight. When I reached my seat I mumbled a payer and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

I admit. I was scared. Not for having to stay in Saudi for a few more days. But the fact that I could be stuck there indefinitely as this type of thing can often take days and perhaps weeks to clear up.

When I look back at it. My visa and everything was valid just there was a glitch in the matrix. The word on street is that they will say no 5 times and then it gets fixed, but you need to be speaking in Arabic and be super persistent.

I will remember this when I next have to come to Saudi. When that will be, only time will tell.

Posted by: englishdubai | December 1, 2009

A Worthwhile Cause

I am back on the road and last week was hectic with an in out to Cairo followed by a trip back to the UK for a last minute meeting. The good thing was that I managed to be in Dubai for the Night of 1000 Drawings – Dubai.

The build up had been great with the organisers “Legion-DXB” throwing themselves headlong into publicity for the fund raiser with  a number of “Doodle events”, features in Timout, radio interviews and even an appearance on CNN Arabia.

The output of this huge amount of work was a really cool evening showing 1000 drawings (they actually got 1200 pictures in the end) from all around the world. The team had recruited volunteers and pegged out the art around the gallery to good effect:

The format was quite simple. There was a couple of hours to have a good look around and decide what you might be interested in. Each picture was sale at 50 Dhs ($13). If there was something you really wanted there was a VIP option for 200 Dhs ($52) which gave you 15 minutes head start on the public.

The choice was bewildering. Though I really regret not grabbing the “Renata Giovanni” originals:

However, I did invest in a VIP ticket and was delighted to win a piece called “Phunky Phresh” by Foo Dog a local urban art compnay and here it is in pride of place in my home office:

and the reverse side:

As well as the art there was a doodle battle, a number of bands performing and the obligatory shwarma guys. Together it made for a really fun night. The important thing however was they raised an excellent 65,000 Dhs ($17,700) which is being donated to Gulf for Good who will then distribute the money to hand picked charities.

I know the organisers put their hearts and souls into this for the last four months and should be proud of what they achieved. I hope this becomes an annual event as this unusual combination of cool, urban art, hip and altruistic attitude is something  we could all use a little of in this day and age.

Posted by: englishdubai | November 17, 2009

Pulling Teeth

After a pleasant trip to Vienna where the autumnal cold got me feeling that Christmas is just around the corner I got the dreaded sensation of toothache. So on arrival back to Dubai I searched for a suitable dentist to get a check up and see what was a matter.

A quick cry for help on twitter and a couple of SMS’s later I settled on the Modern Dental Clinic who have a branch in Dubai Marina. On entering the dentist it was not hard to spot their target market – the Russian receptionist and literature for teeth jewellery were decent clues.

I was greeted by my friendly German dentist who set about doing a quick exam which involved not only an x-ray but a really nifty camera that took photos of my teeth in exceptional clarity. Aside from the obligatory hygienist session it was clear from the x-ray that my Wisdom teeth were impacted causing me pain. The advice was to get them extracted as soon as possible.

I had a single wisdom teeth removed sometime ago in the UK and the vision of quite a burly dentist pulling with all his might on a pair of pliers was not something that I wanted to go through again. But needs must. My dentist said her husband Mr Torsten would do the procedure and he had been pulling them for 20 years. This was good enough for me. The nice thing that they did was prepare for the procedure. I was given some enzymes to take for three days before and five days after to help reduce the swelling. As well as a homoeopathic remedy Arnica again to help with the inflammation.

So a couple of days later armed only with a whole heap of anxiety I made the walk over to the dentist feeling rather like a condemned man. What follows next is a little bit graphic and you might want to skip to the last paragraph.

After browsing a Cyrillic brochure that seemed to tell me a blue gem in my tooth would be a good look Dr Torsten quickly ushered me into the treatment room. Using the x-ray he outlined what he was going to do.

“This upper one is no problem”

“Ok'”

“This lower one – is inside the jaw bone. So I will shave the bone here and cut the tooth in half and then extract. I will be sure not to go near the nerves here” – he outlined a thin white line close to the back of my tooth.

“Ok” – I was thinking – Dude – that sounds like a serious piece of work. I had a fractured cheekbone in the past and I knew what nerve damage to the face was like and if it does heal, itl takes a long time. The thought of a numb or altered sensation on my jaw would not be a good thing.

A quick rub inside my mouth with a little Novocain set him up to give me the local anaesthesia – this consisted of seven injections. As I hate needles – I thought the worst was over- oh how wrong I was. I would feel some “pressure” but no pain. So this was ok.

Dr Torsten after checking if I could feel anything set about removing my upper wisdom tooth. Quite unlike my experience in the UK this was without drama. I felt that familiar pressure, then a weird cracking sound and it was out. It probably took him about three minutes. That was quickly earned $400.

Then onto the lower tooth extraction. I now have to admit that I closed my eyes throughout the whole thing. I really didn’t want to see the “torture weapons” he was putting in my mouth. The first thing he did was to cut a gum flap to expose my jaw bone. That done he then used a drill of some sort to shave back the bone. The smell of burning was a little worrying and he quickly stopped.

“I will use the ultra-sonic drill – it will help with your healing – just a moment to prepare it.”

Good I thought – that last one was nasty.

So the ultra-sonic drill was in use and the high pitched squeal that came from it – was to my mind far worse than any drilling noise that I had experienced. After about 20 minutes:

“Good – I can see the tooth now”

“Mmmmphhhh” – Crikey, I thought – that was only the appetizer!

Then for the next hour – I went through a very difficult tooth extraction. It consisted of a lot of drilling, squeezing, waggling, cracking, pulling, blood and when he cut the tooth close to the nerve in it. Pain.

At the point where I was just about done with it and was going to ask him to stop – he did.

“Time for an x-ray”

It showed that about 85% of my lower wisdom tooth was gone. He explained that there was just no movement in it – try as he might. And that we could spend another hour trying but it would be risky as he would need to go closer to the nerve than he or I would want. It would be fine for the tooth to be left there – it was far from my rear molar and should not cause any further issues.

With that he closed and I got six sutures in the gum flap but none on the upper extraction as well as a little packing which they took out the next day.

When I got out of the chair – I felt battered and bruised. He tapped me on the shoulder

“You are a tough guy”

I looked at him – he was exhausted and covered in my blood. He had given it his all and I am thankful for his twenty years of experience to make the right choices for both me and him.

“Mmmpphhh thank mmmppphhh you”

I was then given details on the recovery – the first 24 hours was crucial. No talking, no exercise, no “excitement”, no disturbing the clot and if there was bleeding to stuff it with gauze for an hour. As well as this I have been icing my jaw 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off for 72 hours after. It also helped with the pain management as well as helped with the swelling.

The walk back home was hard. I was in a daze – my jaw was numb and feeling very strange. It is at a time like this you don’t want to be by yourself and my Dad was soon close to hand to help me out.

As I write this it is the sixth day following the extraction. I am still swollen and in pain. The upper tooth extraction site is healed but the traumatic procedure on my lower tooth is going to need more time. I had the sutures out two days and the prognosis was good – swollen but healing well.

In the meantime – the pain has been intense and I have been taking 600mg Ibuprofen like smarties, as well as the enzymes and Arnica to help with the swelling. Despite not being able to go to the gym – this has been offset by being forced into a diet consisting of soup, scrambled eggs and fish. Anything else is just too much for me to deal with right now.

I will be going back to see Dr Torsten in two weeks – I still have one more Wisdom tooth left also in my lower jaw. I don’t think I will be having this pulled in a hurry.

If you are looking for good dentist in Dubai I have no qualms about recommending these Dr Torsten and his wife. Professional, experienced and they have all the latest dentistry tech which makes a gadget lover like myself a happy man.

After all of that I am now off to buy the top of the line Oral-B electric toothbrush – a little bit of retail therapy is sure to help, right?

Posted by: englishdubai | November 4, 2009

Don’t Slow Down

When one of my colleagues asked me a simple question a few weeks ago I didn’t realise the implications.

“Do you want to go to the F1 in Abu Dhabi?”

“Sure, why not?”

So tickets secured I didn’t really give it a second thought till last Friday. Then I started to get caught up in the hype. Facebook and Twitter were awash with people excitedly proclaiming that they too were going to spend a day or two at the race. Cool – I thought at least there would be a good crowd. Before I was really more excited about seeing the concerts – Kings of Leon and Aerosmith. I was a little sad that I didn’t get a three day ticket so I could have seen Jamiroquai and Beyonce too but as it turned out the two rock groups were plenty.

I am fortunate to have been to Silverstone a couple of times in the UK for the F1 and even luckier to have been given VIP paddock passes to both McLaren and Ferrari on separate occasions. This time as regular Joe Public in the grandstand would be a new experience and as it turned out to be just as fun.

On qualifying day we left Dubai in a minibus so we might enjoy a few drinks without consequence. In less than an hour we were parked and on the bus to Yas Island Marina Circuit. I was impressed, excellent road links, ample parking and plenty of air-conditioned buses. There was none of the traffic issues that I had experienced getting to Silverstone or any hiking through marsh-ridden bogs…

On the bus ride to the circuit friends who had been landscape architects on the Yas Island project accompanied us. They gave us the inside scope. The amount of details that hadn’t been completed were gleefully pointed out but that best efforts had been put in to give it a very presentable look. To the untrained eye it simply looked brand new. The sheer scale of the development is hard to comprehend. Here is a shot from the big screen of the development

Entry into the circuit through security was again painless – none of the multi-hour queues that had plagued the Dubai World Cup a couple of years ago. Once in the roar of thousand horsepower engines greeted us. Stuffing foam pieces into our ears (handed out by friends Emarati volunteers) we raced to our seats in the West Grandstand eager to get a view of practice session.

The new “Protec Barriers” used on the circuit meant that we literally on top of the action. We were placed at the end of the longest straight on the F1 tour just before a hard left hander. The West stand also provided views of the cars coming into the home straight and entry into the pit lane. With the big screen providing shots of the rest of the track it was easy to keep up with the action.  Now with the modern miracle of 3G, iPhone and the BBC website we knew exactly what was happening.

The circuit simply looks sensational. The space craft looking Yas Hotel setting the scene with its wacky curves and twinkling lights as the night pulled in. The cyan blue painted run off areas also add to the futuristic look. After the qualifying session that evening I watched a replay in HD – the helicopter that had been buzzing around all night provided some amazing shots. My dad commented “It looked like something from a sci-fi movie” personally I thought it would not have looked out of place in the classic playstation game Wipeout. Here we are just in front of the track following the race:

Watching the qualifying was good but the following day race day was superb. It was nice to hear the crowd react to highlights and I would estimate at 90% capacity it was not a race in front of empty stands that we had seen this year in Beijing, KL and Istanbul.
Key moments of racing that had me on the edge of my seat were the start of the race, Hamilton getting pole in the dying seconds of qualifying, when Vettel exited the pit lane to take the lead or in the last lap when Button twice made a move to over take Webber but was repelled. Here is a clip I took of the race start – the engine noise is unbelievable:

It was exciting stuff and I have to admit to really enjoy seeing it live. Watching it on TV just isn’t the same and I admit to find it boring sometimes. Trackside it is different gravy.
As were spending all day at the circuit a few comments on the facilities:
1.    Toilets – plentiful though the ones inside the stadium have a crazy design which creates a choke point on entry/exit
2.    Food – generally awful. Overpriced restaurants selling poor quality dishes. The fast food stands were no better with the ones in the F1 village actually closing during the afternoon having run out of food. I brought six chicken shwarmas for the guys in the concert arena to essentially have paid $8 each for onions wrapped in bread. Very disappointing.
3.    Drinks – no problems here. Innocuous tents simply labelled as no admission to under 21s provided everything a thirsty expat might need. Also water was free around the circuit – good job as it was hot before sunset.
4.    The F1 village – sat just behind the VIP area it was a great place to hang out. Sponsor tents were setup with the Etihad one was particularly good with F1 simulators the major draw. The Marlboro tent had a big draw but I think this had more to do with all the promo models who just seemed to be hanging around looking cool
5.    Entertainment – the organizers had a stage setup at one end of the F1 village and brought some really top class performers. It was a shame you had no idea where or when they would perform.

My personal favourite was Nathan Flutebox – I have been following this human beat box flute playing genius for sometime and it was a pleasure to see him live:

And the double dutch skipping antics of these young guys were really enjoyable to watch:

It is also amazing who you can meet at these events. I saw Richard Branson but was far happier seeing my friend from Gitex:

The organizers had really put together an awesome set of concerts. The venue was under one of the arches of the forthcoming Ferrari Experience theme park. It was an excellent venue and I imagine will give Emirates Palace a run for its money as the premiere concert venue in the UAE. I never really though that Kings of Leon would ever play in the UAE and there was no way I was missing them. We made the hike from the stand over to the concert, which turned out to be a mistake. As there were plenty of buses available.
On entry to the concert area all bags were searched and any “professional” cameras were forced to check them in at a porta-cabin. Later this turned out to be a nightmare; despite leaving the gig early there was a huge melee of people trying to collect their cameras. It took us more than an hour.
There was a little bit of British humour in the crowd waiting for their cameras with a little singing and one guy raising his camera bag like it was the world cup and giving it a kiss accompanied to a tremendous cheer from the crowd. There really needs to be a better system for this. It ended up leaving a sour note with many after an otherwise great day. After all – with the mass up take of digital SLRs which owner is going to leave their’s at home? The second day – I did.

Kings of Leon
I managed to gather up most of my friends who were at the gig and we enjoyed the show together. I admit to being a three trick pony as far as Kings of Leon going.
The crowd reacted well to there rock style despite clearly not knowing most of the songs. This all changed for their Anthem “Sex on Fire” and the crowd sang their hearts out. This seemed to get approval from their front man who performed enthusiastically and was determined to enjoy himself so far from his homeland. The crowd seemed happy and I was delighted having missed out on Coldplay last year.

Here is Abu Dhabi going crazy for them:

Aerosmith

After the excitement of the race I was feeling a little fatigued. It had been a long day at qualifying in the heat and Kings of Leon the previous evening. So we turned to Strongbow to provide the necessary restorative powers and get us in the mood. This day we had been smart. We had lunch before getting to the circuit, we limited our hiking around the grounds in the afternoon heat, left the SLR at home and made sure to get on and off the shuttle at the right time.
It was clear that a lot more people were in attendance for Aerosmith than the previous night and without DJ bliss warming up the crowd there was an air of anticipation. I was pretty neutral to begin with and was secretly wishing I could have snuck home with one of my friends as my feet gently throbbed in my crocs. But when Steve Tyler burst out on stage delivering “Livin’ on the Edge” all thoughts of discomfort were immediately discounted.

Me and the guys stood around and rocked out to their great live set. Here is a clip of an Aerosmith classic:

Despite looking like he has nearly as much plastic surgery as the late Michael Jackson, I take my hat off to him and the rest of the band. They performed like they meant it and had energy that belied their years.
When we left I felt privileged to have witnessed one of the truly great Rock bands of my era. In fact when I got home I dusted off “Guitar Hero – Aerosmith Edition” it is clear that I don’t have the same pipes as Steve Tyler, but I enjoyed trying.

There has been a lot written about the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It is an amazing feat of construction from sand to a space age race circuit with five star hotels and a marina in just 32 short months. Sure, there are some things that can be improved but that is par for the course here and lessons will soon be learnt and rectified. And when the F1 Ferrari experience theme park opens up it will without doubt be an amazing tourist destination.

Abu Dhabi really came of age onto the world scene last weekend and came out of the shadow of Dubai. There are a number of “must do” events on the expat calendar – The Rugby 7s, The Dubai World Cup and now the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Posted by: englishdubai | October 30, 2009

Ten Dubai Phrases

Struck me the other day while directing a taxi driver that there were certain phrases that I use in common day to day life in Dubai. However, if I was to use them in London I would certainly get an odd look or two.

Here are my favourites that when uttered can provide the grease to getting by in Dubai.

1. “Come on let’s go. Yallah Habibi”  – getting the gang to move

2. “What to do yanni?  – often said to no one in particular

3.  I’ll do that today itself “- as today really means sometime this week

4. “I will revert soonest”

5. “I will send you my coordinates” -often combined with 3 and 4

6. While calling a removal company – “Are you available for shifting and fixing next weekend?”

7.  “Full tank special please” – I have never had the luxury of full service petrol stations before coming to Dubai

8. (While answering the phone) – “Tell me, mmmm, tell me…”

9. “too much” inserted in all sentences where I should be saying “a lot”

and the classic to the taxi driver:

10. “You come my backside now ?”

I have to admit to having used all of the above, but one I get a lot when speaking in an area with poor mobile reception:

11. “Aaron your voice is breaking” – Crikey I hoped that had happened 20 years ago

 

Posted by: englishdubai | October 26, 2009

New Top 10 Things to Do in Dubai

I have just seen a tweet from a site called Visiting Dubai with their Top 10 things to do in Dubai. Here it is:

10. Visit the Dubai spice souk
9. Buy art at a gallery in the Bastakia quarter
8. Ride a camel in the desert
7. Visit the Dubai Museum
6. Ride a dhow across Dubai Creek
5. Shop at the Dubai gold souk
4. Eat dinner at The Noble House
3. Ski at the Mall of the Emirates
2. Dune buggy in the desert
1. Have a drink at Skyview Bar in the Burj al Arab

I think that this is good list and covers all the the things that Dubai is well known for. I thought I might write the Top 10 things to do that have been built/added since I have been here:

10. Ride the Dubai Metro
9. Buy art at the Covent Garden Market on JBR Walk
8. Ride Halfpipe Canyon at Sega Republic
7. Visit the Lost Chambers at the Atlantis
6. See Jumana Secret of the Desert
5. Shop at the eclectic Souk Al Baha
4. Eat dinner at Zuma
3. Visit the Dubai Fountain
2. Ride the Leap of Faith at Aquaventure
1. Visit the viewing platform on the 134th Floor of the Burj Dubai (well from Dec 2nd 2009)

Which list wins? Neither – they are all great things to do and a combination between the two would give an amazing time in Dubai. I want to write a similar list in a year or so but encompassing Abu Dhabi – things like the Guggenheim museum, Yas Island Race Track, the Ferrari Theme park and even a tour of the QE2 will be possibilities. Who said anything about a slowdown?

Posted by: englishdubai | October 26, 2009

Turning Japanese

It had been a long but fulfilling week at GITEX and my feet were telling me that it was time to find some more comfortable shoes next time around. The timing of the Japan theme party at “Casa Jumeriah” in hindsight was perfect. I really did think that I wouldn’t have the energy for it and a quiet night in with a visit from a reflexologist is all I really wanted. However, once you I got there and you see everyone else’s outfits and have a couple of refreshing beverages it is an amazing stimulant.

The guys living at Casa Jumeriah again put a huge effort in for the theming and decoration of the villa – with a certain Mr Chesman freaking out that the Japanese characters were properly represented:

The gang down at the villa were suitably attired (Mr Chris’s Hello Kitty attracted a unique attraction from a lot of people that evening)

Sensei Quintin found a new opponent in Matt “Karate-Kid” Sulli-san

And after a liberal amount of Dutch courage I felt it was time to join the fun so I donned the inflatable Sumo outfit complete with crazy hair piece:

I was really impressed by the lengths some people go to for these parties. My favourite outfits were the Karama tailor made Monkey and Tripitaka outfits from one my fondest TV shows (Monkey) I use to enjoy as a kid. I am not sure how the Toyota factory worker fits in:

A little later in the evening we were treated to a special appearance from the most glamorous Teenage Muntant Ninja Turtles I have ever seen

A good friend of mine Michelle writes a brilliantly observed “tumblr” called Hands Up Thumbs Down mainly about Dubai that makes me smile a lot. Following the Japan party she posted a little skit here – I have replicated it for posterity:

I’ll roshambo you for it.. Well. First I kick you in the nuts as hard as I can, then you kick me in the nuts as hard as you can, and we keep going back and forth until somebody falls. The last one standing gets the arrowhead.. Ok ready? I’ll go first..

I wondered what a roshambo was – made famous in Southpark and defined by the Urban Dictionary – it all looks rather uncomfortable. Now, I can probably understand why I woke up in so much pain the morning after.

I do love these parties but they are rather like Christmas. One eagerly looks forward to them for so ages and there is a huge amount of preparation, then it is all over before you know it.

Edit: Thanks to Tabu and Michelle for the photos – driving a camera while wearing a sumo outfit and drinking a beer is nearly impossible.

Posted by: englishdubai | October 26, 2009

Work It

Two things close to Mr Chris’s heart are the cost of the maintenance and the lack of inclusive gym facilities. I sympathize about the eye watering maintenance costs however I am fortunate enough to have excellent leisure facilities aside from the swimming pools there are squash courts, badminton courts, two well equipped gyms and even a pool table. All free to use once the wallet crushing maintenance fees have been paid. Over the last few months I have making the most of it and getting down the gym on a regular basis to battle any further “Dubai expansion”.

Recently the complex I live in has had a facilities management change and I have been impressed by the positive steps they have taken. Firstly they significantly reduced the fees, then they did something about the hideous landscaping of the swimming pools, got the concierge in the building to take post and courier deliveries and recently introduced parking bay stickers. All welcome additions.

Coming back from the office this evening I found a note under my door asking me a whole bunch of questions about the gym facilities in the building. I am actually shocked.

Should the gyms be upgraded (insert lots of equipment) at the cost of $x ?
Should their be provision for basketball and indoor soccer to be played at the cost of $x ?
Should their be outdoor benches beside the swimming pool at the cost of $x?

It was also made quite clear that any extras spent would be paid for with an additional levy next year.

This really is great to see and probably the first time I have ever heard of a property management company in Dubai proactively soliciting feedback from the owners/tenants to improve the community facilities. While no one wants to pay more it is great to be asked and personally I have responded that more facilities is only a good thing.

You never know, I might get really hardcore in the gym one day and I will absolutely need to have access to dumbbells in the 28 to 38kg range, an Olympic Barbell rod and a Scott bench. In the interim, it will be good enough for me to look at such equipment as I stagger off the x-trainer as a sweaty wreck.

Posted by: englishdubai | October 18, 2009

Exterminate

Heavy traffic and burgeoning crowds can only mean one of two things. Either it is the Dubai Shopping Festival or it is GITEX.

Regular readers will know that GITEX is a personal challenge for me as the majority of attendees are really consumers as opposed to the business data center end users that VMware fits. Nevertheless despite the early morning traffic and parking dramas I always get to meet lots of interesting people and generally have good fun whilst I am there.

Today the show opened. Opening day starts at 1pm – just prior to this Sheikh Mohammed and his entourage get a personal tour of the show and it was nice to see him this morning opening procedures.

I was soon into the swing of things and into full exhibition mode giving the opening presentation and trying my best to raise a few smiles and give away some corporate gifts to those people willing to ask me a question. I even managed to get a decent sized crowd at the end of it. Just after I finished I wondered back to the pod to hear some loud music playing.

Looking down the hall I could see a golf cart with a rather robot sat on the back of it – flanked by bazooka looking speaker tubes. I was more impressed when it stopped near the stand and the robot got up and started a little song and dance act.

This was great I thought until it walked directly at me a little too quickly with sound effects taken directly from Robocop. I hadn’t moved so fast since I had to get off a horse and cart in Egypt.

Not sure why I was freaked out – but it is large and intimidating. Searching through twitter this evening and @mahmoodb had all ready posted the robot up on youtube for our viewing pleasure:

It certainly drew crowds of cellphone filming gadget lovers to record it. I thought it was good of the organizers to put something a little different on this year. I wonder if there will be any more surprises this week, it not I will settle for some more dancing robot. Only this time I will be viewing from a further distance.

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