Monday, January 30, 2006

A look into the future

Check this link out. It features some technical drawings of some of the most mind-boggling projects planned for Dubai. Some of the stuff is quite simply unbelievable! Some of these projects have already been started.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Matriarchal Mosuo

I read a very interesting article yesterday about one of the last matriarchal societies on the planet: the people of Mosuo are one of the many ethnic minorities in China. There are about 28,000 of them leading a very simple life: men raise cattle and build houses, women harvest corn and potatoes.

It's the women of Mosuo who wear the pants in the family: the children take their mothers' last name, and any property is handed down from mother to daughter. If the children or grandchildren make any money, they give it to the grandmother.

Marriage does not exist. This is how the Mosuo woman keeps control of things. Women and men live in their own mother's houses all their lives. The women allow men to enter their room at night, discretely. The man has to make sure to go back to his own house by sunrise. Men usually knock on the women's doors after 10PM, and the woman then decides if she wants to open the door for that particular man, or not. The children that are the fruit of these nocturnal visits are then raised and taken care of by the woman's clan: her mother, her grandmother, the child's uncles and aunts...The word "father" does not even exist in the Mosuo's dictionary. It's normal for women to have several lovers, although some women do spend all their nights with the same man.

They may have found the solution to martial problems: because men and women do not see each other during the day, they simply do not fight. No fights about who owns what, no arguments about who takes care of the children. The clan stays intact: the woman keeps her children and grandchildren with her all her life. They take care of her.

A girl's life changes at her first menstrual cycle. The family organizes a ceremony to mark her passage into adulthood. The young woman then gets the key to her own room. This symbolizes her ability to make her own decisions, although normally, she does not frequent men until she is about 17 years old.

Jealousy does not exist for Mosuo people. It's not allowed for a woman to feel jealous, for fear of bringing shame to her family. Women never expect the men to be faithful.

There is some sort of a "mating ritual" if you please: a man cannot visit a woman without approaching her beforehand. At night, the young men and women gather around a bonfire. If a man likes one of the young women, he delicately scratches the palm of her hand. If she, in turn, holds the man's hand, it means that she is also interested in him. The young man can then dance with her, and sing to her.

I wanted to write about this because it sort of fascinates me. Everything about the Mosuo is so different than anything I have ever known and anything I have been exposed to. I did not even know of such societies, where marriage is unheard of, where the notion of "family" as we know it simply does not exist. But who knows? Maybe we're the ones doing it all wrong!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Common courtesy

Whatever happened to common courtesy in this part of the world? Does it just not exist? Or do people loose their good manners when they move here? Case in point:

My building has a long hallway leading up to the elevators. This morning, I was heading towards the elevator and I see a man already waiting for one. So I double up my pace in order not to make the man wait too long. He sees me of course. I was about three quarters of the way through the hallway when the elevator doors open. The man enters. By the time I get to the elevator, I am surprised and disappointed to see that the elevator doors had already closed, and that the man went downstairs without me.

Just a few weeks ago, the same thing happened to me (this time, it was a lady was waiting for the elevator).

It happens in our building in A-D as well, where there are just a few meters separating the building entrance from the elevators. On numerous occasions, I have entered the building just as someone is about to enter the elevator. The person sees me, and yet he/she does not have the patience to keep the door open for 2 seconds until I get to the elevator.

Now I'd like to believe that this has nothing to do with me scaring people off to the point where they have to run away from me as soon as they see me. So why don't people wait? Will the 15 extra seconds they wait by keeping the door open really make a difference in their lives? Will it make them extra late for an appointment? Are they worried that the couch that's waiting for them in their apartments when they get home will run away, so they have to make sure they rush home to check if it's still there?

In yesterday's "Seven" magazine (6Days's Friday supplement), journalist Ali Khaled discusses a similar experience with driving:

To get to my building, you have to go past a traffic light, drive to the end of the road and do a u-turn before you can get back to the car park. This, obviously for some, unacceptable process takes no more than a couple of minutes. But no, what some of my good neighbours have decided they would do is, take a slight detour, go AGAINST the oncoming traffic and straight to the building. As these delusional, self-important people are actually returning home, what could possibly be so urgent that it can't wait an extra two minutes? [...] I, being the fine upstanding citizen that I am, of course have never felt the need to do this, particularly since I once called one of these rebels an unrepeatable name when I almost crashed head on into his car in the morning. Not once has the u-turn made me late for anything at home. And the shocker is that, like I said before, everyone is doing it: Arabs and expats alike, and I even saw a mother with her children. Shame on you woman.

So what is it with this lack of courtesy? What makes people so inconsiderate? Why are people so impatient? Be nice people! It doesn't take much, it's free, it doesn't take long, and who knows? You just might make someone's day without knowing it.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Year of the Dog

The Year of the Dog is about to begin. Emirates Today's Friday supplement (Etc.) looks at the year ahead for the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac, so let's see what's in store for someone like me, born in the year of the Snake:

You are: Sexy, intelligent and unforgettable. (Hey, it's written in the article, I did not make this up!). BUT you're needy, childish and prone to the odd fib (not true, not true, and just a tiny bit true...but I never hold a grudge!).

In 2006: You can expect huge changes. These won't come as a surprise - you've been expecting them and looking forward to them - but they could still be a little unsettling. (I like change...bring it on!). Because of this, it may be difficult for you to progress at the rate you usually do. Snakes tend to get noticed, whether they're trying to get attention or not, but this year you may start to sink into the background a bit, especially at work. (hmm...not sure if this is true....I'm rather shy and don't like to be center of attention, especially at work!). While this might sound negative, it's not - you need to ease up on the pace slightly. If you don't, you could suffer from burnout (maybe I do need to start working less and leaving work earlier!). If you're getting fed up with your job (or lack of one - some Snakes have been out of work recently), you'll get the chance to do something new (I am not fed up of my job just yet, but by the end of the year, if there's no progress or change, I might start getting fed up...I do have a tendency of getting fed up of a job after about 1 1/2-2 years). February, March and April are key months with regards to your career, so make an effort to show potential employers what you're made of and capable of (OK...I sure will!).

You'll have some big decisions to make in the coming 12 months, but you shouldn't feel pressurised to make them alone. Take on board the opinions of those you know and love, and you're sure to make the right choices, as they have your best interests at heart (ugh....I hate big decisions, I am such an indecisive person! I always hesitate and have to think things over a million and one times before making a decision!)

Not many Snakes are single, but if you are, you can expect a romantic encounter in May, July or September (I am single!). Travel and romance are linked, so you may enjoy a holiday romance in 2006 (hmm...not travel plans set in stone as of yet, but there may be 2 potential trips this June and in August, both for weddings. They say the best place to meet a man is at weddings. We'll see about that). Attached Snakes will stay that way. No break-ups for you this year, you'll be pleased to hear. You've already had your fair share of those.

Generally, you can expect the Year of the Dog to be busy, memorable and eventful. There'll be changes a-plenty, but don't be frightened of that. You're easily bored, so knowing that nothing ever stays the same makes you feel happy and relieved (I need change in my life! So I am really looking forward to a year of change, surprises and unexpected events).

So there you have it! The Year of the Dog.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

2000 hits!

Just under a month ago, I announced the 1000 hit mark on my blog. And now, sometime in the past couple of days, I reached the 2000 hit mark! My objective was 1000 hits this month, so I am happy to have achieved this a few days early.

Here's something I wanted to write about yesterday but I was too tired by the time I came across the article, so here it is, a day late: it seems the Municipality and Agriculture Department of Abu Dhabi is trying to come up with ways to alleviate traffic during peak hours.

The department suggested levying fees on the use of busy streets and roads at peak hours will help solve the problem of traffic jams in the city. It also suggested moving certain commercial and entertainment centres outside the city.

I couldn't help but smile when reading this. I commend the A-D Municipality for taking this initiative, it's great that they're thinking of ways to make things better for its citizens, but shouldn't Dubai be the city that's taking these steps? In Abu Dhabi, when a traffic light goes red more than once, it's considered "traffic"! It's Dubai that has the serious traffic issues! Not Abu Dhabi!

Women at work

Apparently, only 7 out of every 100 women in Dubai occupy senior managerial positions in both non-governmental and governmental organisations. Something is finally being done about it, with the UAE Ministry of Education involved in developing programs designed to boost this number. This is wonderful news, but I think more needs to be done to help encourage women in management (or women in the workforce in general).

I have noticed, ever since I moved here, that there are much fewer women in many of the offices I have been to, including mine. A few of my colleagues have told me that some employers are reticent to employ women, because they are more unstable than men...meaning, they are more likely to leave if they get pregnant, or more likely to move if their husband gets relocated to another country. Which is utter crap if you ask me!

Why do employers only see women in a negative light? How about the positive attributes women bring to the workplace? I do not want to stereotype in any way, but I really think that women are generally more attentive to details, they are more patient, and they also allow for a more professional atmosphere at work (men behave better when women are around!). They also definitely bring a different perspective to things.

And why is it that instead of not hiring women because they might get pregnant, these companies do not give women more benefits. For example, longer maternity leave. I was shocked when I found out maternity leave is only about a month here. It's a whole year in Canada! And why can't companies give women the flexibility of working one day from home (whenever possible of course). Again, in Canada, many companies allow women to work from home on Fridays (the last day of the work week).

How about opening daycare centers that are next to work, or within the same building as where the office is? This may not be possible for smaller companies, but large multinationals can definitely afford to do this. It would allow women to rest assured that their children are being taken care of by professionals, and they can even pop by to visit their kids during their lunch break for example. I'm not saying companies should bear the cost of this daycare, but it could be partially subsidised by the company.

All this to say, if companies really want to encourage women in the workplace, whether for a managerial position or not, there needs to be a drastic change in their policies.

It's difficult, in a city where everyone seems to be a workaholic, where leaving at 6PM sharp is unheard of, and where it's normal to work on weekends...but it's not impossible!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Sorry and stupid drivers

I was driving home yesterday and a song came on Radio 1. I was listening to it absent-mindedly, when suddenly one word caught my attention: at one point in the song, the singer says the word "sleikha", which is the Hebrew word for "sorry". It really surprised me. I thought it was odd that this song, with a Hebrew word in the middle of it, is being played on national radio...Maybe no one realises what this word means, which is why it hasn't been edited out...or maybe no one cares...Not that I care either, but usually, in the UAE, any reference to Israel (except for the news) is edited out.

Anyway, I got home and mentioned this in front of my sister, who told me that it was Madonna's new song (called "Sorry"). I was initially very surprised to learn it was one of her songs, as it did not sound too "madonna-esque". The song is a bit too "dancey" and cheesy to be a Madonna song. But then the word "sleikha" made sense, given Madonna's trend-setting adoption of Kabbalah as her religion of choice.

Change of subject: can I just take a brief moment to rant about one particular bad driver I encountered this morning?

It was my usual Sunday morning drive from A-D to my work in Media City (I spend most weekends in A-D with la familia). The A-D/Dubai drive took just 45 minutes, but then I hit the Media City exit, which was particularly busy this morning. But I waited in line, just like everyone else. I was on the one-way road (before the Emirates Hills roundabout), and all of sudden, I see this car trying to pass from my right! On a narrow one-way road!

That put me in such a bad mood! Who the hell does this person think she is? After honking at her and giving her a dirty look, I did not let her pass, and decided to stick as closely as possible to the car in front of me. She finally squeezed in behind me.

I drive on, only to see her try to overtake me again from my right. I was fuming! At this point, I had been trying to get to work for the past 35 minutes, and I did not understand why I had to spend almost as much time getting through the last kilometer or so, when it took me just 45 minutes to drive 120 kilometers from A-D! Anyway, the woman in the car ended up passing me and went ahead of me (despite my best efforts to stop her from getting through. But in the end I gave up as I did not want to get into an accident because of someone so stupid)... But I did honk at her for a good 7 seconds.

All this for what? So she could get to work a minute earlier than the rest of us? Was she really in that much of a rush? Was she more in a rush than I was to get to work? Why could she not wait patiently in line like everyone else was? Does she not realise it's idiotic drivers like her that are the cause of delays, traffic and accidents?

So: to the driver of the white Nissan, with a 4-90176 license plate, remember this: what goes around comes around.

Phew...I feel much better now :)

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Kudos to Emirates Today for printing part of my post about their "Cachet" vs. "Caché" mistake in yesterday's "Blog Bites". I am impressed that they agreed to show a post where I am criticizing their spell-checking and proofreading skills. It shows that they are willing to take constructive criticism into consideration.

Of course, I think it helps that I also mention, in the same post, that I like their newspaper and their articles :)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Journalistic freedom

Newspapers today cover the story of a British woman accusing four UAE nationals of gang-raping her, the story of an expatriate that was stabbed to death in a Dubai club, and the story of a young couple having sex in a car on Sheikh Zayed Road.

In any other country in the world, this would not be surprising. But in the UAE it is. See, I remember a time just a few years ago, when we would not even dream of reading about such stories in newspapers. Tackling subjects such as murder, sex and rape (especially when UAE nationals are involved) was simply taboo.

This just goes to show you that there is some progress when it comes to journalistic freedom in this country. Although censorship still exists, we are now made aware of some of the crimes that are commited. The UAE is no longer depicted as this perfect place where nothing bad ever happens, which is a good thing.

Although Abu Dhabi and Dubai are generally safe cities (save the dangerous driving), we, as residents, need to be made aware of these issues.

Paradise and the world's largest carpet

Paradise Now, a Palestinian movie about two childhood friends who meet again when they are recruited for a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, won the Golden Globe for best Foreign Movie.

Although I have not seen the movie (I am upset I did not get the chance to see it when it aired during the Dubai International Film Festival, but I will make it a point to watch it soon), I am very happy to see that for once, Palestine is in the news for something good, something happy, something positive, rather than the usual stories of war and death and bombings and misery the newspapers cover. And I am happy that a Palestinian movie managed to beat one French and two Chinese movies. And I am extremely happy that Palestine will now be represented at the Oscars, where the film is also nominated in the Best Foreign Film category.

In other, completely unrelated news, it seems that Abu Dhabi will be getting the world’s largest carpet. In fact, work on the carpet that will be installed in the prayer hall of the Grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi will begin shortly in Iran.

Yet another addition to the series of useless world records the UAE seems to be collecting (tallest flagpole, tallest building, longest cake, tallest hotel, highest amount won in a one-horse race, largest magazine, longest painting, largest paper clip…and the list goes on).

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Black dollar scam

Emirates Today reports that a Dubai-based businessman was duped out of Dhs 150,000 by a gang of Liberian fraudsters.

The gang, from Liberia, conned the UAE national into believing a large stack of paper covered in black paint was a pile of genuine $100 bills disguised for “security purposes” to keep them from being traced in the impoverished West African country. He was promised that a chemical solution, when applied to the notes, would reveal them as high denomination US Treasury dollar notes that would be recognised as legal tender.

The businessman, who spoke to Emirates Today on condition of anonymity, said he applied the solution to one of the paintcoated notes and it turned back into a genuine $100 bill.

The scam artists said they had a safe full of dollars sitting in a vault in Liberia which had been coated with the black paint.

They claimed the paint had been applied to the notes for security reasons to stop them being discovered and traced because of the instability in the country.

They offered to bring the entire contents of the safe to the UAE for a fee of $6,000 (Dh22,000).

After a meeting between the two parties, the gang informed their victim that he needed to buy the correct solution to help transform the notes back into their original form as they had insufficient amounts of the solution to transform all the notes.

He handed over a further $34,000 (Dh124,780) in cash to complete the transaction, which would have still earned him a large profit had the notes been genuine.

Of course, once he applied the solution, the notes turned out to be fake, and all calls to the Liberians went unanswered.

Even though the poor businessman was conned, and he lost a lot of money, and one should never wish bad things for others, I think the guy deserved what he got!

First of all, he is a bleeping idiot for falling for such a stupid scam! The whole thing sounded fishy to me from the very beginning. Black paint? A special solution to remove the black paint off the bills? Please! It's just plain stupidity on his part to fall for something like this.

Secondly, he was obviously involved in some illegal operation. Money laundering maybe? He did not want his name to be disclosed, and the article never mentioned why he was accepting this money from the Liberians to begin with. He also did not want to contact the police about this because "he feared his reputation in the business community would be severely damaged".

Yeah right! You ain't foolin' no one buddy!

Sunday, January 15, 2006


A few weeks ago, I had written about how 6Days had used the expression "Tu pableo Espanol" erroneously. Well, now it seems it's Emirates Today's turn to prove to us why they don't need proofreaders.

Here's the headline from one of today's articles:

Soaring rents reflect new caché of Umm Al Quwain

Umm...Helloooooo.....It's cachet...not caché!!!!! C A C H E T!

Journalists, editors and proofreaders out there, take note! If you come across a word that's not used often, if you come across an expression in a different language, if you come across a word you're not so sure about, then how 'bout you run it by a little thing called spell-check? Or even a nice little website called And again, if you're really not sure about the word, then don't use it!

I have nothing against Emirates Today....on the contrary, I think they are doing a rather good job, I enjoy their articles, I enjoy the topics they cover and I like the way most of the articles are written. But this is not just your basic spelling mistake that slipped through the cracks....This is a serious mistake, the kind of mistake that a young publication that is trying to establish itself should never make!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Editorial choices

I sometimes question the editorial choices of newspapers in this country. In today's Emirates Today, on page 8, the top article is about the recent Hajj stampede tragedy. It shows a particularly poignant picture of a man in tears, calling his relatives to confirm the death of a loved one, after identifying his/her picture amongst the hundreds of pictures of those who were killed.

Then, another article about how Iran treatens to bar UN inspectors from its nuclear facilities.


But it's the third article on that same page that made me look was an article about how "Pop star Ms Dynamite pleads guilty to hitting police officer".

My questions are:

Who is Ms Dynamite?
Why is this piece of news not included in the entertainment section of the newspaper just a few pages away?
Do we really care about Ms Dynamite, whoever she is?
Does it really make journalistic sense to add this particular piece of "news" next to the more important and serious news of tragedy and death?

How can the newspaper include both and article about a human tragedy, about sorrow, about death, about grief....and an article about some silly British popstar I've never heard of pleading guilty to doing something utterly stupid and childish on the same page????

Doesn't make sense to me.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Reflecting on 2005

With the recent flurry of holidays, mourning and celebrations, I haven't had much of a chance to reflect on the year that has passed. It was quite an eventful year for me, yet at the same time, it feels like I have been here for much longer than the 8 months I have been back in the UAE.

The beginning of 2005 started with a few interviews in Dubai, while I was here on holiday visiting my family. I headed back to Montreal knowing that I already had an offer from one of the companies. All I needed was the contract...which took a couple of months to finally be sent to me. When I finally got it, 2 months later, there was a mistake, so I asked them to revise it. That took another 10 days or so.

I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason, and during those 10 days that I was waiting for my contract to be rectified, I got contacted by another company I had interviewed with when I was here in January. They told me that they had a new position available and that they would like to continue the interview process. A week and two phone interviews later, I had another offer, a much better one, in a better company that seemed much more professional. So, after much debating and hesitating, I said bye bye to Company 1, and hello to Company 2.

I had a month to settle everything in Montreal and move back here. I gave in my notice at work (which was one of many hard things I had to do there, because I genuinely loved my work and my colleagues), sold everything I could possibily sell, shipped 9 boxes and 2 suitcases of clothes, books, CD's, and things I simply couldn't part with, threw away more than 2 dozen garbage bags of useless stuff, gave away around a dozen garbage bags of clothes to the Salvation Army (not just my sister's and brother's stuff was there too!), dealt with taxes and utilities and boring paperwork, and finally said goodbye to the many friends I had accumulated over the past 10 years.

The first few weeks in Dubai were hectic to say the least. I still had doubts about my decision to live in Dubai all by myself, rather than in Abu Dhabi with my family. Dubai seemed like such a foreign, scary place. I stayed in a hotel in Bur Dubai for a month, until I found my own place. The commute took an hour on average each day (each way). I might as well have stayed in Abu Dhabi! Work turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I enjoy what I do and the people I work with, and I am learning a lot. But I am still in awe at the long working hours and crazy days.

Within a month of arriving here, I found an apartment, bought furniture, bought a car, and finally settled into my new life in Dubai. The 7 or so months since then have gone by in a blur, interrupted only by a 2-week holiday in September when I went to Mexico for one week and to Montreal for another week.

I have also finally managed to kick the habit of biting my nails (after 27 long years!) and got rid of my eyeglasses and lenses after successful (knock on wood) Lasik surgery.

All in all I think my move back here was a good one on 2 levels: my career and being closer to my family. I do miss my life and my friends in Montreal a lot, but I sure don't miss the cold!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bye bye taxi

According to Emirates Today, private taxis in Abu Dhabi will soon be phased out, to be replaced by more "upscale" taxis that are better maintained, and that will also charge around 3 times the fare of the private taxis, if not more.

Call me sentimental, but I feel like this will be the beginning of the end of the old Abu Dhabi I know, the Abu Dhabi of my youth, the Abu Dhabi of my adolescent years. Although I admit that A-D is in dire need of cleaner, less smelly taxis, I cannot help but think that the city will not be the same again without the gold and white cars roaming its streets.

See, for me, taxis meant freedom (back in the days when I lived here and did not have my own car). My father did not allow us to take taxis until we were well into our teenage years. When I was in high school, we looked up to people who were the same age as us, and who were allowed to ride in taxis alone. My first ever parentless taxi-ride was with some high school girlfriends. We would often have fun during those rides, we were excited and somewhat rowdy. I remember one funny occasion when we hailed a taxi, my friend opened the door, and closed it right back. We asked her why she had done that, she said that once she opened the door, she got a whiff of a rather unpleasant smell and decided she did not want to go through that. So we hailed another one.

We could go from one end of the city to the other for less than 5 dhs. We could get a cab practically anywhere and anytime. We could bargain with the taxi driver to let 5 of us squeeze into his car...All this to say, A-D taxis play an integral part of my memories while growing up here.

I am gonna miss seeing those darn taxis.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Eid Mubarak

Today is the first day of Eid al Adha. I vaguely know the story behind Eid Al Adha, but I forgot some of the details, so I decided to read up on it. Here's a brief recap of what I have learned. Although most people here probably know what Eid al Adha is all about, I am sure some of my Canadian friends might be interested in learning more about it as well:

Eid al Adha (which basically means "Celebration of Sacrifice") is celebrated on the 10th day of the last month of the Islamic calendar (Dhul Hijjaj), roughly 70 days after Ramadan. It also marks the end of Hajj, the yearly pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam. All physically fit Muslims who can afford it should conduct Hajj in Mecca at least once in their lives. Almost 2 million people visit Mecca every year for Hajj.

Why is this Eid called a "Celebration of Sacrifice"? It's because it celebrates the occasion when Allah appeared to Ibrahim in a dream, asking him to sacrifice his son Ismail. Ibrahim obeyed, and as he was about to kill his son, Allah appeared again asking him to sacrifice a lamb instead. Which explains why, on the occasion of Eid al Adha, it is customary for Muslims to kill a lamb and share the meat with family, friends, as well as those less fortunate.

Eid Mubarak everyone!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Banking woes

It seems a lot of people did not get their salaries this month because the banks have been closed for about a week or so, between New Year's, Sheikh Maktoum's passing, and the Eid al Adha holidays.

What upset me the most was this quote in 6Days today:

One bank official said last night that there was nothing stopping people withdrawing cash from ATM machines, but said that people whose salaries had not yet been paid into their accounts “should always plan for emergencies.”

Too bad they did not publish that idiot's name. Who is he to tell people to plan for emergencies? Has he ever thought about how the security guard who works in his building, who makes 800 dhs a month, who sends 600 of those dirhams to sustain his family back home, and who lives off 200 dhs for everything from food, to transportation, to clothing, to housing is supposed to plan for emergencies? Or how the poor laborers who are barely able to make ends meet are supposed to plan for emergencies?

Here's another thing that upset me: it seems some banks hold some payrolls for a day or two, invest them into some funds, and make a couple of days' worth of interest before depositing them in the accounts of the employees. So, say my salary gets transferred to the bank on the 1st of December for example, the bank holds it for 2 days, and only deposits my salary into my account on the 3rd of December. Meanwhile, the bank has profited by generating interest in those two days.

I don't know how prevalent this illegal practice is, but something should be done about this. The 2 days delay don't really affect me, but why should banks profit from something that's not really theirs?

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Winter had finally landed in the UAE. This morning it was a rather cool 15 degrees as I drove to work. The office was downright frozen because people insist on keeping the damn air conditioning on. Right now, I am sitting in my living room with the balcony window open, and there is a small breeze coming in that's making me feel kind of chilly.

Granted, it's not the bone-chilling minus 20 degrees celsius temperatures we used to get in Montreal, but by UAE standards, this is cold. It's weird when I think that this is what we consider summertime weather in other countries. I wish it could stay this way year-round.

2 great newsletters

Here are 2 really informative newsletters, discussing the latest consumer trends from around the world:

Saturday, January 07, 2006

My pet peeves

  • People who are not punctual
  • People who spit on the street
  • People who do not let me through when I am trying to change lanes or merge into a lane
  • People who enter and elevator before you get the chance to get out of it
  • People who don't hold the door when you're behind them
  • People who do not say "thank you"
  • People who are just plain rude
  • Body odour
  • Going to a restaurant and asking what a dish is made of, and getting "I don't know" as an answer
  • Bad customer service
  • Stupidity
  • Laziness
  • Constant complaining and whining
  • Spelling mistakes in ads/newspapers/restaurants/brochures
  • People who have an attitude without an excuse for having one
  • People who hold a grudge
  • People who jump ahead rather than wait for their turn in line
  • People who like use the word "like" like 3 times in like one sentence

I am sure there are many more but I can't think of any right now. I'll update the list if I think of any more. What are your pet peeves?


  • People who eat while on the phone
  • People who eat with their mouthes open
  • People who chew gum with their mouthes open
  • People who talk too much and don't give you the chance to get a word across
  • People who interrupt you when you're talking
  • People who are inconsiderate

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Weekends and working hours

When will the UAE finally decide to implement one common weekend for everyone? And common working hours for everyone?

For example:
My weekends are on Friday-Saturday.
My sister's weekends are on Thursday-Friday.
My brother's weekends are a half day on Thursday and all of Friday.
My father's weekends are on Friday only.

It would definitely make sense for everyone to have the same weekend. I once called someone for a work-related matter on a Thursday afternoon, and nearly got my head bitten off because the guy was so upset I called him during his weekend. How was I supposed to know?

And it would also definitely make sense for everyone to have a 2-day weekend! I still don't understand why some companies give their employees just one day off. It's not normal. People need two days off to rest,to go out and to relax.

And how come everybody's working hours are different? I work 9-6 officially (9-extremely late unofficially). My dad works 2 shift days, i.e 9-1 and 4:30-7:30. Some companies start at 8:30 and finish at 5:30. Oil and gas companies start at 7 and finish at 3. I am sure there are other companies with odd timings out there. Can't we all agree on one schedule to make things easier for everyone?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Sheikh Maktoum

This morning we found out about the death of Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, and brother of Sheikh Mohammad, the man behind the growth and expansion of Dubai. I don't know much about Sheikh Maktoum but it seems he was a very good man who was loved by many. May his soul rest in peace.

He apparently died in Australia, he was 62 years old, and suffered from a heart condition, although it is not clear whether this is the cause of his death. An official mourning period of 40 days has been set, all public sector businesses are closed for 7 days, and all private sector businesses are closed for 3 days. All events that were to take place in Dubai today and in the next week or so have been cancelled or postponed, including the Dubai Shopping Festival, which was supposed to kick off today with some huge firework displays, the Fatboy Slim concert which was taking place tomorrow, and the Dubai Marathon. Global Village has been closed, and all public school examinations have been postponed. Local radio and television stations have interrupted their regular broadcast and have replaced it with readings from the holy Koran. Most of our clients have postponed their campaigns until after Eid, and some have even cancelled events that were set to take place a couple of weeks from now.

Our office was closed today as soon as we heard the news (but most of us stayed till the end of the day anyway) and it is also closed tomorrow. We resume work on Sunday and Monday, then we have our Eid holiday again on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I should have just stayed on vacation!!!

Sheikh Maktoum's funeral is to take place tomorrow (Thursday). For more info about the Sheikh, check the Gulf News website.

I just passed by the Choitram supermarket next to my house and it is as if people are afraid Dubai will be running out of food! The supermarket is so packed! I guess people are stocking up on food because they know they will be stuck at home for the next few days. All shops will be closed, most restaurants as well, no clubs, no music, nothing.

Again, may his soul rest in peace.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Back to work

My holiday is over. Today it was back to the hustle and bustle of Dubai and the long working hours. I still feel like I'm on vacation however, I barely got any work done today. The office is still half-empty anyway, with many people taking extended vacations because of Eid coming up next week.

Speaking of which, we still do not know how many days off we are getting next week. Emirates Today does mention that the public sector is getting six days off in one of its headlines today, but then the article goes on to mention that "all ministries and public institutions will be closed for five days, from Monday, January 9 to Wednesday, January 13 inclusive". Hmm....So is it 6 days or 5 days off? And January 13th is a Friday, not a Wednesday. And if in fact, Friday the 13th is the last day of the Eid holiday, then it means that the public sector is getting either 3 or 4 days off only (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and maybe Thursday if they actually do work on Thursdays, which is not always the case). So which is it? And what I want to know really is how many days is the private sector getting? I just hope that we won't get the 3 days right in the middle of week (i.e. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday), and then have to come back to work on Thursday! That would be just horrible!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

I promised I'd tell you about our alernative new year's eve plans so here goes:
We ended up on a farm in Sweihan! How did that happen? Well, our friend's mom knows the guy who owns the farm, and knowing he was out of town, she asked if it was OK if we spent our New Year's there. The guy said OK, so we hit the road at around 5PM yesterday.

Sweihan is around 111 km away from Abu Dhabi, and we were excited at the prospect of discovering a new part of the UAE. We arrived at the farm at around 6:30, and my first thought was: "hmm...interesting". The house on the farm was rather old, with a couple of rooms with minimal (old) furniture, another room with a hole in the ground (the bathroom), and I think there might have been some sort of a kitchen, but I did not wish to venture any further. The house did have a nice, outdoor tent (Arabic-style, with cushions on the sand), so we set up some tables right next to the tent.

I believe that you can have fun anywhere, as long as you are with friends, and that was in fact the case yesterday. We were 14 people, we had some good music, some booze, enough food to feed a small army, and an amazing starry sky.

As soon as we rang in the new year, some people started falling asleep in sleeping bags inside the tent (I guess it's a sign that we're getting old when we can't stay awake past midnight!). I managed to stay up till around 3:30AM, then decided to hit the sack even though I was not extremely sleepy. It was very cold, and we were all bundled up in sweaters, windbreakers, socks, and covered up to our noses (my nose was the one thing I could not keep warm last night!).

At 5:30 AM my brother wakes me up (I had managed to doze on and off) telling me that my sister was not feeling too great, she could not stop shivering. So we decide to head home, leaving the others sleeping (a couple of friends were still awake). The thermometer in my brother's car indicated 11 degrees celcius. No wonder we were freezing! We got home at around 6:30 AM, took warm showers and went to bed. I definitely did not get enough sleep, I was up by 12PM!

Overall, it was a nice, different experience. It also made me want to discover more areas in the UAE...I have lived here for almost 15 years now, and I used to come back at least twice a year during my 10 year absence, and we have never really ventured anywhere other than Abu Dhabi and Dubai (I did visit Khor Fakan and Al Ain a long long time ago, I must have been around 8 or 9, but it doesn't count). So hopefully, this year, we'll try to be more adventurous in our travels around the UAE.