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Archive for the ‘Dubai’ category

Hotel art is distressing

Could you fall asleep, knowing this was in the room?

This week I’m staying in a serviced apartment, something I’ve never done before.

I’m used to flea-ridden, squalid room with torn mosquito nets and a mattresses stuffed with chick peas, so naturally I’m still a little shell shocked after entering my impeccably clean, colour-coordinated room, replete with functioning washing machine, stack of fluffy bath towels and mini fire extinguisher.

Though it’s odd to spend a week in a hotel situated in the same city in which you are currently residing, such is my little adventure. To the friend who hurtfully inferred I may have been kicked out of my rented apartment for questionable hygiene issues, I state here that I am not a liberty to discuss my current predicament with you, but that you should refrain from making such ill-conceived remarks. They have been duly noted.

Still, apart from the genuine weirdness that comes from listening to children squealing up and down the corridor, the gyrating and pulsating foul-mouthed hip hop artist booming from the lounge speakers, and the hideous glow of a million halogen lamps, it’s the art that’s giving me a headache.

Last week, while waiting for a quote at the local print shop, I noticed one of those perky, snappy framed bit of philosophy that pollute so many public workspace. ‘It is disturbs you, it’s art.’ Well, most people disturb me and they’re not art. Most of them are just mistakes and the current product of evolution. Unfortunately, that sniff of intellectual pretence doesn’t hold up to the slightest questioning. You only have to cast a glance at the framed horror hanging in my temporary quarters. It disturbs me. It is vomit-worthy. Art it is not.

I know I’ve been guilty of the throwaway and capricious ‘Oh, I could’ve done that!’ in times past. But I couldn’t have done this schlock of puke, not even if I removed my eyes from their sockets before picking up the brush. Painting is perhaps not the most developed of the arts in the Islamic world (and here I’m assuming the artist is local), but there’s no reason to hang what amounts to a set of blood-drenched ropes across a gold leaf ECG screen in my place of repose.

And wouldn’t you know it? After staring menacingly at the painting for about three minutes, I decided that it had to go, stored next to the ironing board. Neither object was of any worth to me so I thought they could both stay out of sight during my stay, deep within dark bowels of the bedroom cupboard.

No sooner had I removed the painting from the wall, than my doorbell sounds and the Floor Manager’s cherubic visage fills the peep-hole. I’d barely made a sound! Still, he was here to check on my dry cleaning requirements but I couldn’t hide the picture, now seated, rather lonely, on the sofa. I explained to him how I am allergic to reds and oranges, though since my fully exposed suitcase resembles a fiery clementine, he simply eyed me suspiciously and took my shirts. Then looked back again. That time, I’m not sure what he was suggesting, so I shut the door in his face.

Apart from the disturbing non-art, I’m loving my serviced apartment.

Why this sentence offends me

Window shopping in Dubai

I’ve just finished reading an article that claims to investigate the increased application of social conduct laws in Dubai. The story commences, ‘It seems Dubai’s authorities are cracking down on public indecency in the city.’

Yeah, it seems they might be. Then again, it may not seem like that at all.

It’s a fair assumption that one of Dubai’s most prominent publications for the expatriate community would write about such a topical issue. After all, while the swank restaurants, luxury vehicles and sleek architecture place this metropolis partly in the sphere of western influence, it’s evident to any person with a shred of common sense that this society’s origins differ deeply to those of the international jet set quaffing cocktails in Jumeirah Lake Towers.

A lost opportunity

What could have been a thought-provoking investigation into the current barometer of tolerance of the scantily-clad and bejewelled women of Dubai turns out to be a series of possibilities based on nothing more than mere suggestion and inference. It’s a crap read.

Usually, even that wouldn’t bother me. Besides, the magazine clearly caters well to its readers and makes no claim to being a intellectual leader in news and current affairs. It’s a publication that informs its readership about the latest film releases, groovy hangouts in which to be spotted and whether Paris Hilton has recently been slutting about town. You get the idea.

Then I read this:

But the fact remains that this is a Muslim country and if someone takes offence to behaviour that conflicts with these laws and reports you, then you have committed a crime, whether or not plenty of other people do it and get away with it.

Put aside the fact that I’ve removed the phrase from the article and perhaps out of its context. Read the sentence again. And once more.

Yeah, show me your prejudice

What this says to me is that Dubai is a Muslim country. Here, the author states a fact I won’t argue with, since she’s right on the ball. Next, the author clearly means ‘break the law’ and not really ‘conflict with the law.’ So, what’s she’s saying is, should a person takes offence at my behaviour, action or deed, which contravenes the law, I have committed a crime, regardless of others who might exhibit the same behaviour yet not be convicted of the same crime.

So, let’s think of a law. Let’s take the ol’ favourite of monotheistic culture, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Killing contravenes the law. And so it ought to.

The sentence now reads: ‘if a person takes offence at the fact that I commit murder, I have committed a crime, whether of not other people get away with it.’ Umm, yeah.

You see where I’m going with this?

The true garbage-worthiness of this article comes from the niggling, ‘But the fact remains that this is Muslim country’. Hate it. It’s mean and it suggests the kind of thing I’d rather not think about people. To me, what the author is hinting at, whether subconsciously or not, is that living in a Muslim country of itself means modesty will be the overriding value, whether in dress, word or deed, and that somehow the laws are not consistently applied.

And that is not fair.

Try harder next time, or I’m assigning you to the fashion desk

Modesty is a relative term. And you’d have to be some kind of idiot to wear hot pants in a Dubai shopping mall and not really feel out of place. I say, wear what you want. And just like people on roller skates in public places should be drawn and quartered, a bikini worn off -beach almost anywhere is considered wrong and possibly offensive.

What could have been an educational, investigative exploration regarding the current application of social conduct regulations in Dubai tuns out to be a trash-heap, well-steeped in prejudice, which infers that the culture in which I reside could somehow be a little arbitrary and random regarding its application of laws with regards to its expat community.

I hope not.

After all, we are far superior to the locals, aren’t we?

Another reason to employ a good editor.

Or is it just me? That, I suppose, is possible too.

First impressions of Dubai

A light fog shrouds the unfinished construction sites in the DIFC district

I’ve a desire to post my initial impressions and early sensations of Dubai now, since over time my perception of the city will inevitably change. Also, like others, I suffer from making unfortunate generalisations about places and customs, crude stereotypes gleaned from experiences with people. My hope is that, by writing, I’ll think a little more assiduously and carefully about what I’m trying to express, and avoid some notorious pitfalls of reckless cliché and hackneyed phrase.

Dubai is glitzy and stylish

I’m fairly sure that this is an accurate adjective for a city which has burst forth from the desert in a short number of years. From my apartment building situated next door to the architecturally wondrous Dubai International Finance Centre, sleek, svelte office towers rise up along Sheikh Zayed Road, glistening and shimmering in the morning sun.

Dubai interiors are generally exsquisitely designed and it’s clear than for a considerable time no expense has been spared on original fit-outs and exceptional furniture. Can you describe people as glitzy? Yeah, I think I can. On Thursday night, when I sit downstairs in the apartment hotel and chat with security guards over a cigarette, there’s a constant passing parade of both sexes, overdressed, over-coiffed and, applicable to some of them, overstretched. I ‘ve always hated shiny fabric, but here they certainly don’t. They embrace satin suits, gold stilettos and whatever that gunk is that woman slap all over their faces.

Despite the colourful superlatives attached to the city, inhabitants are a little ordinary

In comparision with other cities, a sizeable chunk of the Dubai workforce is busy in the banking & finance centres. These are conservative industries that demand males and females to strip themselves of any personality and wear the obligatory dark-colour suit and appropriately dull accessories. Eating lunch as I often do in the neighbourhood Lebanese restaurant, I sit and watch the view, a neverending sea of dreary-looking charcoals and steel-greys.

The burqa might well be the world’s ugliest garment, but at least it swishes. The streets surrounding the Dubai International Finance Centre are filled with cardboard cutout figures that are interrupted every now and then by the bright blue overalls of unskilled labour from the subcontinent. Seen the movie Brazil? Since landing in Dubai this movie comes into my head at least once a day. The people in my neighbourhood are straight from the office scenes. As are the offices themselves.

Dubai’s architecture is massive and stark

The greatest dissatisfaction in my life is that I won’t live to see the world when it resembles the opening scenes of my two favourite science fiction films, Bladerunner and The Fifth Element. You don’t have to like either of the movies; many of my closest friends don’t. However, they both commence with incredibly inspiring images of what respectively, Los Angeles in 2017 and New York in the 24th century might look like. When Bladerunner was released in 1982, it gave me a passion for the slightly degraded, of things past their prime, of the descent into ruin.

Night falls and the city is already sleeping

That’s how I see Dubai, summed up beautifully by The Index, an 80-storey mixed residential and commercial tower that dominates the view from my living room windows. Topped out but not yet completed, it ground-floor service areas, driveways and footpaths remain far from finished, and in the right light, appear already to be slowly crumbling. A score of similar projects are within my view, towered over by deserted cranes. Each building looks like a wonderful dream that was half imagined but that might yet slide back into the sand, without ever having been occupied.

My impressions will change as I learn more, discover new places and meet people who can introduce my the the varied and various layers of this glitzy desert settlement. for now, I’m happy to stare out from the window by night over a futurescape that takes me back to my teenage dreams.

Dubai. And so a new adventure begins.

What I wake up to now no longer resembles a beach.

About a month ago I boarded a plane. Nineteen hours later I landed at DXB Terminal 3.

I’m very exicted. As usual.

Recently I was offered a position with the Dubai branch of a Turkish company and I jumped at the possibility to leave behind a living standard that is second to none, to move to a desert metropolis where the debt has scaled greater heights than the mid-summer temperatures.

Still, I love a challenge.

So, this blog will become a record of my time in Dubai. I look foward to exploring and discovering the people and places of this rather odd corner of the planet, as I ingratiate myself with the jetset and become a regular featured guest on Dubai’s hottest TV station.

Failing that, I hope to keep family, friend and followers up-to-date with what going in my my life, in this town, and in the region in general. The Middle East is stimulating and invigorating. I planned to be often amazed and sporadically confused by what my senses perceive and perhaps fail to perceive.

Aside from that, I intend to post articles about things I’m passionate about. Expect to have to deal with my frustrations with learning Arabic, the odd rave or three about customer service, helpful information about travelling and undoubtedly a rare rant on politics, language, religion or world news.

I promise never to use bullet point lists and to keep my blog posts under 800 words. I shall use headings where appropriate, avoid convuluted sentences and refrain from longwinded arguments.

Here we go. This ought to be fun.