Thursday, 28 March 2013

Nearly time to leave

In around three weeks' time we will move out of our current apartment. We signed up for a year here, and that year is up on April 22nd. Extending our stay seems unlikely, as most landlords here are not interested unless you want to sign up for a whole year. Hotel apartments can be rented on a short term basis, but our apartment is privately owned, so we will be leaving.

I will certainly miss living in The Address Downtown. It is an amazing building, and the facilities are to die for. The apartments are quite spacious and have excellent storage space. The furnishings are high quality, and we get cleaners three times a week. We have a very comfortable bed, with crisp Egyptian cotton linens, and a nice balcony with great views. Having enjoyed these for a year, I will never furnish my own home in quite the same way again in the future. Then there's the location. Downtown Dubai really is the heart of the city, and we are fortunate to have almost everything we need right on our doorstep. We are next to the Dubai Mall, accessed across a footbridge, so that two or three minutes after leaving the apartment on floor 30, we are stepping into the Mall.

We have access to all the shops, restaurants and leisure facilities that the Mall has to offer. I often just go out and walk around when I have a spare couple of hours (which is most days!) and that is what I will miss when we leave. Future strolls around the Mall will entail a taxi ride first, as will the cinema, or the restaurants. On busy days, the queue for a taxi back could easily be 45 minutes. We don't run a car here, as everything is close by, taxis are cheap, the Metro is easily accessible and Dubai drivers are maniacs, on the whole.

Something else which I will miss terribly is the hotel swimming pool. Most mornings I am down here early, perhaps 8.30 or 9am, when I am often the only person swimming. I was always an OK swimmer, but having access to the pool every day has made me a much better swimmer. I used to struggle to swim 4 or 5 lengths without stopping. Now I can do 50. Yes, that's 50 lengths. I would never have believed I could do that.

The pool itself is amazing. It curves around the base of the hotel and there are actually 5 separate parts to it, each flowing into the other, changing levels and depths, with the water splashing over the walls and flowing over the edge. One section has little banana chairs set on their own little islands in the middle, accessed by stepping stones. There is a shallower children's area, where the pool is covered to protect little ones from the hot sun. There are hundreds of loungers to choose from. It is probably the best hotel pool I have ever seen, certainly the best I have ever been in. And, while you swim, you can see across to the Mall, the Souk, the lagoon with its musical fountains, and of course the Burj Khalifa towering above. It is absolutely stunning.

The 13th floor houses the gym, which is very large and very well equipped, and has beautiful views across the lagoon. Free water and fruit is available, and if you want a personal trainer you can have one. The facilities are first class, with a sauna, fabulous changing rooms with everything you need, and relaxation areas, too. The picture below shows the pool deck, taken from the gym.

The lobby and public areas are very impressive. There are lots of sofas and chairs to lounge on, both inside and outside overlooking the pool deck. There are meeting rooms for seminars and so forth. There are lots of other facilities, too numerous to mention. So, is this place perfect? Not quite.

There are some things I won't miss. Internet coverage is sporadic - some days it just doesn't work at all. Even when it works, it is very slow. Too slow to watch streaming TV shows, for example, as the upload speed is ridiculous, sometimes as low as 10kbps. I kid you not. Dubai does a lot of things well, but the Internet is not one of them. Likewise the TV. If you live here in a house, you get something similar to Sky Plus, where you can record, pause etc, and have access to lots of channels. When you live in a hotel, like us, you are stuck with the hotel service. The picture is poor, as they don't have HD. The sound is terrible, as the TVs all have their factory settings and they can't be altered (we've asked, lots of times!) so if you watch anything with background music, the music drowns out the dialogue. The channels come and go randomly, too. Sometimes you get a channel for weeks and months, then it disappears, never to return. The picture also pixellates and freezes quite often, which is annoying when you're trying to watch something. Given the restricted choice of channels, we don't watch much, actually. So I won't miss the TV, either.

When we fist arrived here we stayed in the Movenpick, in one of their apartments, so we will head back there in 3 weeks. It is close to Jeff's office, so he can walk there in 5 minutes. There is a small mall there, too, for the basics, and a few nice restaurants. We will only be there for a short while, as I am heading back to the UK in May. I will be back home for several months at least, while I make a concerted effort to sell our house. Jeff has to return, as he has ongoing work, so he will stay in the Movenpick. If and when I go back, I'll stay there, too. The Movenpick is very nice. Comfortable. Good facilities. But it isn't The Address. Still, at least the TV is watchable!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Sleep? What sleep?

Every now and then, I have one of those nights. I'm sure you know the type. You're tired. You get off to sleep easily, and then, after maybe three hours, you wake up again. And sleep, having deserted you, does not return. The night stretches out towards the dawn and seems to last about three days. No matter what you do, you can't get back to sleep. I've just had such a night.
I have to say, just about everything conspired against me having a decent night's rest. For one thing, cheesecake is not a great thing to have before you go to bed; at least, it isn't for me. And it wasn't just a cheesecake. It was a creamy, tangy, mandarin flavour M&S cheesecake. I suppose the other thing was the fact that I ate half of it. Well, you know how it goes. You buy a cheesecake, but there are only two of you there to eat it. You cut it into four, kidding yourselves you will eat a piece each tonight, and have the rest tomorrow. After all, it says on the box, consume within 24 hours. The trouble is, we consumed it in 24 minutes. And so I should not really complain about stomach cramps at 3am. Entirely my own fault. Of course, one's dear other half had no such problems. He slept like a baby. And therein lay the next problem.
To say he slept like a baby isn't strictly true. Babies do NOT snore like that. I didn't think any human being could snore like that. It sounded like the keening of some wounded creature. It would not stop, and there was no way I was going to sleep through it.
Add to that the headache. A dull pain is one thing, but this was more akin to being stabbed in the head with a fork. Over and over again. Painkillers wouldn't touch it, until two hours after I'd taken them, by which time the first golden rays of dawn were streaking across the Dubai skyline. And that wasn't all.
To mark Eid, the Dubai Mall is staying open for 24 hours at the weekend. The road outside our window, normally deserted at 3am, was busy with traffic, and some of those supercars make a lot of noise.
To cut a long blogpost short, that was the end of my night's sleep. So now, 14 hours later, I feel rather like a zombie. But never mind. Soon be bedtime. And there's no cheesecake left.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Time for a rant!

Browsing several websites today, I came across numerous crimes against the English language. Of course, this is not new. I find these every day, many times, and every single time I find one it annoys me. I can't help it. I despise the misuse of the language, and I'm not talking about a few typos. They happen to everyone occasionally. No, what I'm talking about is the systematic repetition of poor language skills. These skills were taught at junior school, or they were when I was at junior school, yet so many of them have been forgotten or simply ignored. These crimes against the language should never be seen in posts, letters, emails or any written communication from adults. I exclude here anyone who does not have English as their first language (although I have to say, many foreign-speaking people seem to grasp written English better than a high proportion of native English speakers), anyone with dyslexia or a similar learning disability, and anyone under the age of 10. These people all have a valid excuse, and this rant is in no way targeted at them. No, I am talking about normal, educated, responsible English speaking adults. Some of these people hold senior positions at work; most are parents; they have an IQ in three figures. Yet many of these people will consistently mangle the language in a way that makes me cringe. If job applications had to be hand written, I believe many of these people would fall at the first hurdle, simply because they have the writing and cognitive skills of a nine year old. I have listed some of the most common, and the most annoying. Ask yourself, in all honesty, if you are guilty of any of these linguistic crimes.

1. "I went out and brought a new CD." Oh, really? Where did you bring it to? You see, brought is the past tense of bring. Did you in fact purchase a new CD? Did you intend to say you BOUGHT a new CD? Bought is the past tense of buy. There is no 'r' in bought. At first I thought these might be typos, but the same individuals keep using the wrong word, so they clearly believe it's the right one. Either that, or they just don't care. Either way, it's a crime.

2. "They have made there minds up." This one always makes me angry. I was taught the difference between there and their when I was about seven. The word there refers to a place or location - "I would love to go there again," for example. The word their is possessive, meaning something belonging to or owned by someone or, in this case, by more than one, hence the plural possessive, their - "They have made their minds up."

3. Use of text-speak: "r u @ home tmrw? gr8!" Unless you are actually sending a text on your mobile, textspeak has no place in the written language. It came about because of the need to be brief, quick and to reduce the number of characters in a text. It is just about acceptable on Twitter, perhaps, as there is a limit on the number of characters in an individual tweet. I understand that, and am happy with that in such contexts, even though I very rarely use such shorthand myself. I find them inexplicable on Facebook, in emails or in other forms of communication. It is, to me, a very lazy way of writing, and conveys to the reader that they are not considered important enough by the writer to spend any time or effort in communicating properly with them.

4. "Wish you where here." This is so similar to point 2 that I could have included it there, but I think it does warrant its own mention. Where and were are not the same. They are not interchangeable. Were is the past tense of was (do not, however, say "wish you was here" as that is wrong, too!) and where signifies a location, such as "where are you?" Again, something I was taught at a very young age.

5. The aberrant apostrophe. (If you don't know what aberrant means, I fear I may already be flogging a dead horse!) This is the crime of adding apostrophes to any word which ends in an s.  "I've forgotten my book's" and so forth. First of all, plurals DO NOT need an apostrophe at the end. The plural of book is books. This is entirely different from saying "that book's mine." Here, the apostrophe replaces the word 'is'. "That book IS mine." It is also used for the possessive, as in, "That's John's book." Note there are two separate apostrophes here. "That is the book belonging to John." Where the single form of the word ends in an s, the apostrophe should come after the s, as in, "That is James' book." This also applies to the plural possessive, as in, "The girls' teacher was late." This shows there were several girls, whereas "The girl's teacher was late" refers to one girl only.

(I bet you're all bored now, right? Well, too bad. I have more.)

6. Excessive use of LOL. I hate this acronym with a passion. It has become almost the norm now for some people to add this to every sentence, regardless of how inappropriate it might be to do so. It means "laugh out loud", but it seems to be replacing a full stop for far too many people. I have actually resorted to blocking people from my Facebook timeline because they are incapable of making any comment without using LOL, or simply saying LOL in place of anything else. (Please note, if you comment on any of my posts using this acronym, that comment WILL be deleted.) It truly has become ridiculous.
Bert: My dog just died, LOL
Fred: Sorry to hear that, LOL
Why would anybody "laugh out loud" at such a post? Yet this is not an exaggeration. I've seen it. Once again, it shows laziness and a complete lack of thought. It's not the sort of thing an intelligent person would use, except occasionally when they do, indeed, want to laugh out loud, and even then, unless it's in an actual text, why not just use actual words?

In the interests of time, and also to stop most of you becoming even more rigid with boredom, I'll make that do for now. There are a few others I could mention, such as using the  word loose when the word they mean is lose (don't loose your keys), using the word whole instead of hole (I fell down a whole today), and the rather puzzling one of using the word QUIET when the correct word would be QUITE, but maybe I'll save some of them for another time.

I'm not looking for perfection. I don't expect everyone to write Shakespearean-standard English, or use long words or fancy language. I simply expect plain, correct and thoughtful use of our precious English language. Sadly, not even professional writers seem capable of the correct use of words. Mis-spellings and bad punctuation seem to crop up in news articles every day. People who have degrees in English seem unable to spell or choose correct words. It's a crying shame. Please help to preserve our language by at least making an effort to check what you write to make sure you have communicated your thoughts in the clearest and most accurate way that you can. It really isn't hard. I'm not out to offend anyone. If you are guilty of any of these "crimes", hopefully I have helped to make you aware of it so that you can improve your language skills.

 With today's technology we are able to communicate in more ways than ever before, yet the standard of written English has plummeted, particularly in people under the age of 30 or so. It can be no coincidence that this also corresponds with the decline in reading among adults. Those who do not read books are not as articulate as those who read regularly, because they are not exposed to the proper use of language. Their vocabulary not only fails to increase but actually diminishes.

We are the guardians of our language. If we do not use it correctly, how can we expect future generations to do so? After all, they will learn from us. We all have a responsibility to take care of the language and use it properly, just as we would with a family heirloom or a priceless antique. Our language is more valuable than either of these. Please be careful with it.

Rant over! (for now!)

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Living in Dubai, part 2

Two posts in two days! Wonder how long I can keep this up? I thought today I would talk a little bit about Arabic women, and how women are perceived here. Many people have said to me that they would not visit Dubai because of the oppression of women. I would like to set the record straight in that regard. Dubai is nothing like its neighbouring Islamic countries. Life is much more liberal here, much more like a Western country in many respects. Women have the freedom to do pretty much anything they want to do. They drive cars, can walk around unescorted, hold down jobs, hold government posts, own businesses, and wear whatever they want, within the laws of decency, of which more later. Women are very well treated in Dubai. Some shops have women-only checkouts, and will endeavour to have lady shop assistants to help ladies. When applying for residency and so on, female applicants were usually processed by female staff, and ladies are sometimes given priority in queues. One of the big parks here has a ladies-only day, on Mondays. Husbands seem to treat their wives with the utmost courtesy, and will extend that courtesy to other women as a matter of course. Feminists would be apoplectic here.
Traditional Muslim clothing for ladies is the burqa. There are, of course, a lot of women here who do wear the burqa, although not so many wear the full face version. Some do, of course, but many more have their faces on show. What many people don't realise is that they choose to wear it, and they only do so when they leave their residence and go out in public. Underneath, they wear normal clothes, like anyone else. The picture on the right gives you some idea. Another point to note is that these women all carry designer handbags - Vuitton, Hermes and the like - and more often than not are dripping with gold and other jewellery. Even teenage girls walk around in Rolex watches and Cartier jewels. And, yes, they are the real thing. They buy vast quantities of clothing and shoes and seem particularly fond of buying lingerie. They like fashion and accessories, like women everywhere, and carry iPhones, tablets and the latest technology. They drive Ferraris and Maseratis, though it must be difficult in their full Arabic clothing. They seem to saunter around the Mall here in groups. It's not uncommon to see ten or more of them, all out together, sometimes with children, sometimes not. It can be quite unnerving to find yourself in the middle of such a group. You start to feel a bit like an extra on the set of The Sound Of Music. You begin to wonder if, at any moment, they might suddenly break forth with a verse of "How do you solve a Problem like Maria?" But of course they don't!
One feature of these little squads of burqa-clad ladies is that they sweep through the Mall like a tidal wave and won't move aside for anyone else. You might move aside, and have nowhere left to go, perhaps next to a wall, but still they keep coming, and would sooner knock you over than walk around you. If they have pushchairs, they are even more dangerous. I try to keep well clear, as I'm fed up now of being barged into by some Mother Superior lookalike with an iPad. it's not like I'm invisible, after all! It must be a cultural thing, although it is slightly annoying!
From my observations while swimming, I have come to the conclusion that a great many Arabic ladies can't swim. I have witnessed several of them as they keep to the shallow parts of the pool and clutch buoyancy aids tightly. I put this down mainly to the type of swimwear these ladies wear. As mentioned earlier, they go out in public almost entirely covered up, which presents something of a problem when they want to use the pool. They usually wear the swimming burqa. Yes, that's right, there is indeed such a garment. Imagine a pair of winceyette pyjamas, with a hood, topped off with a knee-length tunic, and you're there. It's no wonder they find swimming difficult. It must be nigh on impossible to move through the water wearing something so cumbersome.
Family life is valued highly here. Children are doted on, especially male children, who are often treated like little emperors. The mothers don't usually discipline their sons, leaving that to the fathers. As a result, there are large numbers of what you might kindly call spoiled brats running around, wanting their own way and whining if they don't get what they want. But the fact is, they usually DO get what they want. Very young children seem to have their own phones, iPads and the like, and I saw one very small girl tottering around carrying a huge Canon camera with a big zoom lens attached. She seemed to be photographing things at random. These children are always immaculately dressed, too. The Mall has a good many shops devoted to children, from baby equipment and toys to designer clothing. Would you dress a two year old in an Armani suit? How about a silk Versace gown, complete with diamond studded shoes? They're all on sale here, and many more besides, and they cost an absolute fortune. I can't see the point of it at all.
But I digress. How, then, are Western women viewed here? For the most part, we are treated with deference. There are many nationalities here. Huge numbers of people from India, Pakistan, Malaysia and the Philippines come here to work, and they work mostly in the service industries, if they are female. Go to any restaurant here and you will be served by someone from one of these countries. Such nationalities are at the bottom of the pile here, and are not accorded a great deal of respect. On the other hand, if you are American, European or Australian, you are treated with utmost respect. Some of the hotel and restaurant workers almost bow to you, and it is faintly embarrassing sometimes. They will automatically hold doors open or step aside for you, and call you Ma'am or Sir, and they seem very anxious to please. They have no concept of the fact that they are, or should be, the equal of any of their customers, which is a shame. Some Westerners virtually ignore them, or look down on them, which I find despicable. But some of these Westerners have no respect for anyone. Take, for example, the dress code. Yes, there is a dress code here, and we are reminded of it on posters at the entrance to malls and other public buildings. They simply ask that you dress modestly - shoulders covered, knees covered, nothing revealing and so on. They accept that at the beach, or for swimming or other sports, exceptions need to be made, for practical reasons. Can't see anything wrong with that, myself. Yet every day I see non-Arabic women strolling around in skimpy outfits, taking no notice of the fact that they are guests in someone else's country, and a Muslim country at that. Yes, it's very hot here, but that would make it even more sensible to wear loose, light clothing, to protect yourself from sunburn if for no other reason. But no, they swan around in very revealing clothing, showing far too much flesh, apparently oblivious to the existence of any sort of modest dress code. Most of the Arabs turn a blind eye to this, even though they are probably offended. Very occasionally, however, someone will push things too far. One woman was escorted from the Dubai Mall by security personnel because she was walking around in a bikini. She was asked several times to cover up, but refused, then complained that she was not being respected! What did she expect? I'm sure you'd be asked to leave any shopping mall in Britain, too, if you turned up there in your swimwear.
In general, then, women have it easy here, when compared with many other places. It's true to say that this is still a male-dominated society, but women are far from oppressed. Quite the opposite, in fact. Men here see themselves as the patriarchs, the protectors of women, and personally I can't see an awful lot wrong with that.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Living in Dubai, part 1

So, here we are, living in Dubai. Remember, that place I blogged about a few years back, when I visited? I didn't expect to be living here then, but here I am. It's not permanent. We arrived in March and we go home again in July of 2013, so that gives us plenty of time to experience a completely different way of life. Within a few weeks of arriving, we acquired an apartment for one year's rental. The apartment is on Floor 30 of The Address Downtown (picture right). This is one of the iconic buildings in Dubai, situated right next to the Dubai Mall and directly opposite the Burj Khalifa. Of course, do not confuse it with The Address Dubai Mall, which is a completely different building but is also right next to the Mall. In addition, do not confuse it with The Address Dubai Marina Mall. Or with The Address Residences, now under construction at - yes, the Dubai Mall! They all use the same logo, website etc, and it gets very confusing. On more than one occasion I have been dropped off at the wrong place. Fortunately, the Address Dubai Mall is about a 10 minute
 walk through the Mall to the Address Downtown.

I have to say, living here is amazing. The Mall is on the doorstep, with everything we need, from food shopping to restaurants, cinema, the bank, you name it and it's in this Mall. It's the biggest Mall in the world in square footage of floor area, as it's the size of the Trafford Centre but on four floors. It's nice just to walk around in there, and after a few months here I know it like the back of my hand now.The Address itself is a great place to live. It isn't the biggest apartment, but it's comfortable. The furnishings are high quality, and we get cleaners three times a week, when they also change all the linen. The facilities are superb. The gym is well equipped and looks out at the lagoon and the Burj Khalifa. there's a spa, a hair salon, several restaurants, a conference centre, and the best hotel pool I have ever seen. One of the pictures here was taken from the gym, and shows how the pool wraps itself around the building. It changes levels five times. It has a children's pool (the covered area) and at the extreme right you can see the roof of the bar, which you can swim up to for a cool drink while you sit on the underwater bar stools. There are little islands with wooden hammocks, and scores of loungers. It is beautifully landscaped, with palms, trees, bushes and flowers, and even lawns. Parts of it are an infinity pool, so it looks as though you could swim right off the edge. It's about four floors above the lagoon and the mall promenade, so there's quite a view. It's rather nice being able to swim around while the fountains in the lagoon are doing their thing. The pool is illuminated at night, as are the fountains.I go down there at around 8am most mornings, for a nice swim around while it's
quiet. Most of the time I am the only one down there, sometimes there are one or two others. The water is usually warm. Sometimes it's rather like stepping into a bath! During the hottest part of the day cold water is pumped in, to cool it down!
To be honest, I could spend the entire blog just describing this pool, but you can get a sense of it from the pictures. The interior of the hotel is also stunning. It's very modern, with lots of curved walls, glass, marble, creative lighting, steel and dark wood. The hotel part is separate from the residential apartments. Looking at the building, the lower floors which form the base make up the hotel, while the tall section comprises the apartments. Each section has its own reception area, its own entrance, and
its own elevators, although all of the facilities are accessible to everyone, whether a residentor a hotel guest. The staff are very friendlyand efficient, and I am greeted with "Morning,Ma'am," every day. I'm beginning to understand what the Queen must feel like!

My intention with this continuing blog is to show those who read it what life here is like, so I will be adding to it from time to time with posts on different subjects. Dubai is full of quirky things, from the bureaucracy to the laws of the land, which I will be mentioning as time goes by. All in all, living in this place is nothing like I expected. Hopefully I can teach you something about the culture, the people, the customs and the uniqueness of this place through my own experiences of living here. I am going to try to add to this blog often, so if I forget, please remind me! I'll try to fit it in, when I'm not shopping or swimming!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Dubai - the world's biggest building site

I've been in Dubai for 5 days now, and I have to say this place was nothing like what I was expecting. Not that I know exactly what it was that I was expecting, really, but whatever it was, it's nothing like it! It's a place full of contrasts and quirky things, but it also has spectacular sights.

Our hotel, the Media Rotana, is listed as 5 star. Sounds great, and indeed it's very good, but 5 star in Dubai is probably not the same as 5 star in other places. The room is very comfortable and nicely furnished. The hotel is evidently new. But look a little closer and you see that cleaning here is not done as thoroughly as you might expect for such a salubrious establishment. The maid who does the room every day does as little as she can get away with. By contrast, the reception area - a public space - is kept so spotless you could eat your dinner off the shiny travertine flooring. I have to say that I think the majority of Dubai is like this. Where the public goes, everything appears sparkly clean and new and polished. Just don't look too closely at the questionable craftsmanship of some of it.

Across the street there is a construction site. Actually there are several, but there is only one where any work seems to be going on at all. I can see the workmen from my window. I don't know an awful lot about construction, health and safety laws and so on, but common sense tells me that these workmen are not following any of them. Some are wearing hard hats, but not all. There is stuff strewn about all over the place - building materials, rusting piles of steel, heaps of sand, stacks of paving slabs and sheets of glass. From the top of the building - which must be 40 floors - workmen are lobbing debris, including bricks, on to a pile below, while others walk past the growing pile of debris, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are inches away from being clobbered with a lump of concrete. Workers on the roof have no visible safety harnesses. Fork lift trucks and diggers whiz about within inches of each other and other workers. The tower crane operator appears to have never operated the machine before, so wildly does this thing swing around. It's fascinating. A lot of Dubai is like a building site. It'll be interesting when it's finished - if it ever is. A large number of these half-finished buildings have been abandoned due to the credit crunch, all the materials just left strewn about. Who knows what will happen to those? I hope they do get finished, eventually.

The good bits of Dubai, though, are amazing. We arrived here during Ramadan, a month-long period where the faithful fast during daylight hours. This, of course, means that as soon as the sun goes down, feasting begins. Almost every eating establishment imaginable has what is known as an Iftar event. Even the fast food restaurants - McDonalds, KFC etc - offer such things as the Iftar Value Meal or some such promotion. But the real Iftar feast is more traditional. This usually consists of a huge buffet. All the major hotels host Iftar events, and we were lucky enough to be invited to two of the best. Various companies pay for a set number of tables for their staff, clients and guests, and there can be several hundred people at a single event. There are Iftar events every night of Ramadan, even though the majority of the diners seem to be Westerners who don't even observe the fast.

The first one we attended was situated in a marquee behind the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, sometimes known as the Wave. To call this a marquee understates it somewhat. It is bordering on palatial, with chandeliers, drapes, crystal, silverware, spotless linens, and even carpets. Such a place can compete favourably with the best dining rooms anywhere. You half expect the Queen or the President to turn up, so grand is it. They even have double glazing, and this particular one was very close to the famed Burj Al Arab, the celebrated sail-shaped hotel. The food was exquisite, the service excellent.

The second event we attended was held behind the Sheraton Jumeirah Resort, once again in a marquee on the beach. We could see the Burj Al Arab in the distance, and also some of the resorts on the famous Palm Jumeirah. All of the above applied to this place, too. Wonderful setting, wonderful food, a really nice night out.

I visited 2 of Dubai's shopping malls this week. The Mall of the Emirates is like any mall you have ever seen. Think of the Trafford Centre and you're there. It even has the same shops - Debenhams, Next, Borders, Virgin Megastore - so you could imagine yourself to be anywhere. The one really unusual feature here is the indoor ski resort. This is a giant freezer, with slopes of varying difficulty, chair lifts, everything you would expect from any Alpine resort, including pine trees and real snow. The whole place can be viewed from the mall through large windows, and some of the restaurants overlook it directly. There's something surreal about sitting in TGI Fridays eating your chicken finger BLT whilst watching people hurtle past you on skis. I reached the mall via a free shuttle bus from the hotel. The journey there took 10 minutes. The journey back took an hour. Oh well. At least it was free, and I got to see a lot of Dubai on the journey.

The second mall I visited was unlike anything else I've been to. It's called the Dubai Mall, and it's huge. It's not finished yet, either. This place is stunning. It has 4 floors, mostly full of high-end designer shops, such as Armani, Versace, Valentino, Garrards (jewellers), Gucci and others. There is a whole floor selling just jewellery and watches, not including the Gold Souk which is on its own. Sections are devoted to electronics, fashion, perfumeries, children's shops (including a branch of Hamleys) and of course a food court, with all the well known restaurants. This mall also has several very unique features.

One of its more famous attractions is the 3 storey high Aquarium. This contains 33,000 fish, sharks, stingrays and other marine creatures, contained within a giant glass walled tank, complete with walk-through underwater tunnel, like Sea World. It's fascinating to watch, and you can do so on three levels and from all sides. When it first opened, there was a problem with the sharks fighting each other and eating some of the other specimens, in full view of horrified customers, but that has been resolved - how, I'm not entirely sure.

Another water feature is a spectacular waterfall. This is also 3 storeys in height, and is punctuated by lifesize silver coloured human shaped divers. There is no real way to describe it. You'll just have to look at my pictures of it.

This mall also has an Olympic sized ice rink, with markings for hockey, although it can be hired for birthdays etc. Very cool!

For me the most stunning feature is located outside the mall. There is a promenade, on to which many of the eating establishments open. This is a beautiful paved area with blue water and yet another souk (market) to visit. But all of that takes second place to something else which immediately catches your eye as you step outside. The Burj Dubai is located right beside the mall. It is now officially the world's tallest building, and it's incredible. On the rare days when Dubai has any clouds, the top of this tower is above them. It's not just the tallest building, it is the tallest by a huge margin. look it up on its own website for the stats. All I can say is, it's one of those things you just have to see, like the Pyramids in Egypt, to comprehend it. It's not completely finished, but it's nearly there. I took lots of photos, and also spent minutes just simply staring at it and saying, "wow".

Come to Dubai for a visit, if you get the chance. The sight of the Burj Dubai and the Burj Al Arab are unforgettable. It is enchanting at night, when all the tall buildings are lit up. Just don't look too closely during the day, and try to ignore the dust, the unfinished buildings, and the absolutely punishing heat, with its hot wind that makes going outside feel like stepping into a fan oven. Thank goodness for air conditioning.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Everyone seems to be doing it these days, so I thought, why not? I realise most people will be shocked, thinking I would never do that sort of thing, especially not in public, but here goes. I am starting my own blog. And why not? I have as much to say as the next person, about all sorts of things. Facebook and Twitter are ok but they don't give you much room to write what you really want to say, and on Facebook you are liable to be interrupted by someone trying to send you a Hug or poke you in the eye or ask you to do some pointless quiz or other, and I really can't be bothered with all that.

Because I am usually a quiet person (yes, I really am) people might not think I have opinions about anything. Well, I do. I have opinions about most things, but usually I keep them to myself, or more likely I can't get a word in edgeways, depending on who I'm with! So this will give me an out let to say what I really thingk on a whole host of issues. Be warned, you might not like what I say. You m ight not agree with me. You might think I'm crazy. That's too bad, because I'm going to say what I think anyway. We all need to let off steam sometimes.

I will post blogs as and when I have something to say. I can't say it will be every day, every week, or any regular time. I will just write what I have to say, when I want to say it. After all, this is MY page and I can do what I like! I will be quite surprised if more than a handful of people can be bothered to read it, anyway, but I don't mind either way. Feel free to comment if you feel so inclined. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even if theirs is wrong!

So much for the introduction. Now all I have to do is figure out what I want to blog about.....