30 June 2004


Finally the day has arrived, Wagamama opened in Dubai.

Fiver's dream has come true: a Wagamama in walking distance. The latest addition to the chain just opened in Crowne Plaza, Sheik Zayed Rd, literally 10 minutes walk from our flat.


29 June 2004

A Falcon

Nasuh, a colleague of Stuart's, took this shot of a falcon perching on the edge of the window sill at the Emirates Towers Hotel.

While falcons are bred for sport locally, we have never seen one in the wild. Maybe this one escaped from its cage?


26 June 2004


After all the fun we had with the underwater camera we remembered that we had an unfinished diving course to complete. Where better than in the lukewarm waters of the Gulf?

When we left the UK we were all but done with a diving course run by SSI in Ipswich. We had done all the pool sessions, the theoretical exam and were just short of being officially allowed to dive by the fact that we couldn't face our outdoor dive, which would have meant going to a big cold lake in Peterborough. It was so completely alien to our visions of diving in the warm waters of the Med that we kept putting it off. Then we left.

When we arrived here we realised that diving was the ideal thing to do on hot summer weekends round here. A way to be outside without too much heat. Water temperatures are high enough not to need heavy diving suits (even when the water is quite warm, it cools down the body by extracting heat, so some sort of dive skin is a must). There is purportedly very good diving here, in Oman and on the East coast of the peninsula near Fujairah .

Unfortunately we haven't been able to transfer our obscure SSI semi-qualification to the local PADI training centre, so we will have to start again. We signed up for a course starting in September at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, so no diving in the Med again this summer.

25 June 2004

Underwater Photography

Just in time for the summer holidays Fiver has acquired an underwater housing for her new camera.

She has been testing it in her friend's pool, but unfortunately the cool shots of Stuart blowing bubbles and making silly faces have been censored, so there is just the shot of the pool without Stuart in it to show:


The pool without Stuart in it

(if there was a public request, Stuart may change his mind and allowed them to be shown...)

23 June 2004

Summer Surprises

Every year there is an exodus from the Gulf. Everyone who can leaves town as temperatures get stinky-hot and humidity rises. In Saudi-Arabia the whole government moves to Jeddah by the Red Sae to get away from the heat. The Dubai the municipality decided to do something not only to keep people here, but to get more tourists to visit despite the crazy weather.

Summer Surprises have taken place in Dubai for a few years now and this year they are bigger than ever. The papers carry a lot of advertising and schedules of events, most of which take place in shopping malls, and the figure of Modhesh, the worm who is the mascot of the festival, appear at every street corner.


Modhesh, the Summer Surprises mascot, at Clocktower Roundabout

The festival is divided into themed weeks; there are Art Surprises, Water Surprises, Science Surprises and even Ice Surprises. It is billed as an event to entertain the kids during their summer holidays, to keep them out of mischief.


The biggest venue is located at Airport Expo with three large halls dedicated to Surprises in the halls normally housing staid trade fairs. After all the publicity and excitement we decided to go and have a look. This week the theme was Ice Surprises, a rather incongruous theme for Dubai in mid-dummer. There were lots of kids' rides and huge fibreglass models of local landmarks covered in snow, and a toboggan ride featuring real cold snow. And an area had been set up so that kids could throw snow balls at each other. Unfortunately the rule was for kids only, adults weren't even allowed if they were children at heart.



So we decided that if you had a gaggle of small children driving you crazy, Summer Surprises would be just the thing for you, whereas if you were just the average immature adult, you had better leave the country for cooler climes.

13 June 2004

Luxury of the Day #4

Individual little towels rolled up for your convenience.

At the Emirates Towers Hotel Ladies' Room:


12 June 2004

Brunch and the beach

We have both been very busy, Stuart with his business plan and Fiver with her latest movie project, so we thought we could do with some relaxation. In Dubai relaxation is a favourite occupation.

We decided to sign up for a beach club on a monthly basis for the summer, since Dubai Marine Club had an offer. Beach clubs are pretty underused here in the summer months, since a lot of people go back home when it gets really hot. Other times of the year there is a waiting list to join a club, but right now it's cheaper and we don't have to commit ourselves for a year. These places are heavenly, it's like being on holiday for a few hours: There is a beach with sand and waves, loungers and umbrellas for shade and swimming pools to cool down. All this amongst palm trees and lawns.

10 June 2004

24 Hours on Sheik Zayed Rd

This link will take you to a time-lapse movie of the view from our bedroom window along Sheik Zayed Rd, taken over 24 hours (7MB, requires Quicktime).

06 June 2004

Housing Options

We had basically two kinds of options to choose from when we were looking for somewhere to live in Dubai.
There are flats and there are villas. Of course there are lots of different kinds of both. From the small flat sub-divided by the landlord to accommodate as many Indian bachelors as possible to the luxury split-level penthouse suites with maid's room.
We opted for a flat since it was central, with decent services and very secure (villas have the greatest chance of being burgled, this being one of the few crimes one has to worry about here). Now that we have met a few people we have been to some villas. They are either detached houses with own garden and sometimes a small pool, or blocks of 6-12 semi-detached houses, usually quite large, with a shared pool and sometimes gym in the central courtyard. Gardens aren't too popular here, since it is too hot most of the year for anything meaningful to grow. So the gardens are paved with barbecue areas and seating, loungers round the pool and jacuzzi.
There is so much construction going on in Dubai that it is normal to rent after seeing a show home or example flat and then live in a hotel or temporary accommodation until the building is finished. Whole areas of Dubai are being developed like this, with communities of 15 sq. miles of villas in the middle of the desert.
The Meadows development
We have so far only had experience of the way Western ex-pats live, apart from driving through the older parts of town, where much smaller blocks of flats are located with external air-conditioning units and washing hanging on the balcony.

04 June 2004

Postal Services

Nothing as simple as getting the mail, right? Just tell people where you live and the postman will deliver. Not so in Dubai, one of the few civilised countries in the World that does not have a postal delivery service. You are given a post box with your

You are given a post box with your accommodation, or get your own. Then the fun starts. The post boxes are located in huge rooms in the area post offices or built into pillars just outside. There are hundreds and hundreds of them. All painted blue, with a slot for 'Unwanted Letters' occasionally. You have to go and pick it up regularly if you want to get your mail, or send the maid/driver/gardener to get it. The exception is a few apartment blocks (like ours) that have arranged a central mail pickup service. This means that someone from the management company gets the mail. In the case of our block unfortunately they are very slack and so we only get mail every few days. It also means if there is a lot of mail it may not all get put into the post box, so it is delayed even more. Or the pickup guy has too much to carry and leaves some behind. Sounds like a rubbish system? Well, it is.

IMG_1918-2004-06-4-10-46.jpg IMG_1913-2004-06-4-10-46.jpg

Karama Post Office - outside and inside post boxes

The result of this haphazard system is that most people have their mail sent to their office address, since someone is guaranteed to pick up from the post box at least once a day there, and it is pretty much guaranteed that the mail gets to you since presumably your employer knows who you are.

The Dubai post office is actually thinking about starting deliveries, having realised that this is an impossible state of affairs. But when this will happen we don't know. In the meantime, if you want to send snail mail, you will need to send it to Stuart's work address and if it comes from Europe, expect it to take anything from 2 to 6 weeks.