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Posts tagged ‘uae’

Surreally freaky

Exiting Dubai Airport was like walking into warm, oxygenated pea soup. The place looked a bit like it too, with all the smog.

Now, I’m conflicted about Dubai. On the one hand, I met Husband there 12 years ago and we have incredibly happy memories. We met remarkable people, many of whom became remarkable friends. We would not be able to live the life we do now without the financial foundation laid over ten years working in the Middle East.

On the other hand, I abhor and detest the place and all it stands for.

Apart from a two day stopover on the way to Róisín’s wedding, this was my first real visit in Dubai since we emigrated at the end of 2007. Originally I was only scheduled for a two day stopover, but extended it to four days. 

Although being back was surreally freaky, I actually had a marvellous time. Much of this can be attributed to my joy at being reunited with Husband, and the naked hospitality of Solartap and his gorgeous partner, The Mollusc.

None of it can be attributed to the trip to ME Bank, to close down the bank account I was unable to access until I was physically present in the UAE. Or the afternoon at DEWA where I waited three quarters of an hour for my ticket to be called, before being rerouted to Abdullah, returning to the original counter, then being sent to Accounting for another ticket. They really don’t like returning deposits.

On my penultimate day, Andrew and I went to Al Maha – or ‘the deep tapestry of ancient and modern Arabia’ if you prefer – for a night. We love Al Maha – how can you not love a place which offers a pillow menu? With five options? And brings them to your Bedouin Suite for a feel?

Al Maha offers two activities as part of their package, so I talked Husband into going horse-riding the following morning. He was completely unimpressed at getting up at 05:00hrs.

In my mind, I ride thoroughbred Arabian stallions bareback: my thighs rippling, hair streaming behind me, galloping over stuff. Hillocks, probably.

It is nothing short of tragic how divorced from reality that vision is.

About five minutes out from the stables, our field officer asked if we’d like to try a trot. It was ghastly. There was about three feet between my arse and the saddle at any given point.

“Next time someone asks if you can ride,” said the field officer, “say NO!”

Husband wasn’t much better, but gave the illusion of competence by slapping his mount’s neck while asking the field officer whether the horse was ’15 or 16 hands’.

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A fish eye view

When we lived in Dubai, I used to swim 2000m along the shore of the Gulf in the early morning. It is one of the few things about the Middle East that I recall with warm nostalgia (as opposed to rising gorge).

The first time I ever went for a power swim, thick mist shrouded the beach. I accompanied a group of gnarly triathletes, undeterred by being unable to see anything beyond the length of their arms. It was an extraordinary experience. In contrast to the world above, the rippling sand below the surface was clearly visible. The water was colorless, clear as gin. On the return leg, I paused for a break, treading water. I lifted my head and saw the tip of the Burj Al Arab emerge from the dissipating mist.

I started going to the beach two or three times a week, often before work. It was the only real time I spent outdoors during summer. Next to three liters of coffee, it was the best way to kick-start the day.

One morning, I was tucking my hair into a cap at Jumeirah Beach, when two girls asked if I would look after their bags. Vivienne was covered in Vaseline, so I guessed they were swimmers. (I sincerely hoped they were, anyway.)

They were planning to swim around the Burj Al Arab, so I joined them. That’s how I met Helen and Viv and – later – Chantal, who had never swum before and whose style initially focused on vertical rather than lateral propulsion

Proximity to Satan on the family tree

Even in NZ, we heard rumours of expats stampeding out of Dubai: abandoning their cars at the airport, trampling over fallen bodies at the check-in. Depending which reports you listen to, Dubai is an apocalyptic landscape of anarchy, looting, rioting and burning, home only to broken dreams.

In fact, the only thing thriving in the city appears to be the expat grapevine, fuelled by a bottomless supply of media suppression and cheap petrol.

I was therefore nervous about the likelihood of re-renting our property. Assuming we could find new tenants – you know, stake out Dubai airport – the timing was critical. Ideally, Husband would prepare the villa, then assess potential viewers for quality tenancy. Or, depending on the state of the warzone, at least ensure they weren’t anarchists, looters, rioters or pyromaniacs.

Two years after leaving Dubai, I still receive more spam from UAE based Real Estate Agents than from Juicygirls. I spent a couple of weeks trying to rate RE Agents according to a/ quantity of spam b/ quality of spam c/ proximity to Satan on the family tree.

Eventually, Husband suggested listing it on Dubizzle, a UAE based classifieds website.

Within a day of listing the ad, I had 15 responses.

Most were Real Estate Agents, but several were from people who had obviously been lured by my tag line: ‘DIRECT FROM OWNER! NO AGENCY FEES!’

Some were undoubtedly attracted by not having to fork out Dhs 20000 (NZ$ 8500) to a RE Agent for downloading a copy of the standard tenancy agreement and rejecting phonecalls while waving a clipboard around. However, most just appeared pathetically grateful to deal with someone who returned their phone calls/emails and – bonus – spoke semi-literate English.

Before Husband left for Dubai, I had whittled the short list down to five applicants. I agonised about how to let four of them down, since they all seemed quite lovely. In the end, the bottleneck sorted itself out.

I called one applicant – UK long distance – at 11am his time one Sunday morning, and he said, ‘Could you call back later? Rough night.’ At least, that’s what I thought he said, because it SOUNDED like ‘Moumph wall grankle arwar whumph’. I think he was belching at the time. Bless him, he actually sent an email later, asking whether the villa was still available. I decided he lacked certain qualities I looked for in a model tenant, and let him down gently.

One couple viewed the place and decided it was too small; another woman’s husband was made redundant and they stayed in their current accommodation; the fourth couple looted and pillaged the villa before trying to set Husband on fire.

In the end, it went to the couple Husband was most taken with – who also happened to be the most proactive, responsive and friendly.

So everyone’s happy.

Dendrophiliacs

The main reason Husband returned to Dubai so soon after his last trip was to prepare our property for re-renting. He asked if I would like to accompany him. Optimistically, he presented it as a mini-vacation. He went for the beaches and palm trees angle.

I was more focussed on the 22-hour flight with two stopovers, the skin melting temperatures of the UAE hitting summer, and sleeping on the floor of an empty villa without even an espresso machine. Fairly quickly – you might say spontaneously – I realised there was nothing I would like to do less, except maybe hack off my lower limbs with a blunt axe. Even then, it would depend on how blunt said axe was, and whether I had ready access to Tequila.

Compared to the above, my contribution to the whole process was meagre. I sourced potential tenants, arranged finances, retained a maintenance company and collated paperwork. I was so delighted NOT going to the UAE that staying here with my dog was like a vacation in itself (if you disregard the guilt).

I was particularly glad when Husband described the state in which Tenants had left the villa. Thankfully most of it was cosmetic damage: gashes and chips out of the plaster, nails all over the show, double sided sticky tape festooning three walls, bolts in the master bedroom wall from a badly mounted TV. Husband also said it looked like someone had hit the trunk of the tree with the edge of a spade (who? Who does that to a poor, innocent, defenceless tree? Sickening dendrophile).

Ah, the bitter ruins of a formerly loving relationship.

But then, how was I to know they were dendrophiles?

Tenants had left without cleaning the house. This particularly distressed me, since I spent three days scouring the place before they moved in. I recall Mrs Tenant calling unexpectedly to discover me straddling a kitchen cupboard. She said:-

“Oh, you’re- are you cleaning?” And before I could say, NO THE RUBBER GLOVES ARE MY OWN DISTINCTIVE FASHION STATEMENT AND I ALWAYS PUT JIFF IN MY <EXPLETIVE DELETED> HAIR, she continued, “It’s not on our account, is it?”

I unclenched my tongue from between my teeth to say, “Well, yes-”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” she said. “We’re only going to clean it again after our stuff arrives.”

“Well ok, but, you know, we’re talking about two and a half years worth of Husband’s and my dead skin cells,” I said with an involuntary wince. To be honest, I couldn’t imagine leaving an abode other than spotlessly glistening (in a totally non-mucous context); I mean, I would be pure MORTIFIED. I guarantee that, when the time comes, we will leave our current rental accommodation cleaner than it has been at any point during our occupancy.

“Oh,” she said. “Um, yes, well. Carry on then.”

I suppose I had been warned. Tenants had no compunction about leaving 18 months of their dead skin cells cluttering up the place.

Husband spent hours plastering, cleaning and fixing. Yet apparently, Mr Tenant got terribly upset when Husband pointed out the condition the house was in. There were Words.

Bad ones.

At least this atones for Husband stinging me for cleaning the villa the week before we left Dubai.

Nah only messing; nothing makes up for that. I will carry that grudge to my deathbed AND BEYOND.

However, he has earned himself several nag-free months featuring kinky sex on demand.

I am so overwhelmed by his input I might even provide the sex myself.

How to lid your wody of toxins

Three weeks ago, completely by chance, I bumped into an old friend. That is, somebody I have known for many years, as opposed to an ancient liver-spotted fossil who tells you repeatedly about her colostomy bag. In contrast, Jill* is young and lovely, and does not have a colostomy bag.

Today I met Jill again and she gave me a pile of cards, letters and emails I sent her, dating from around – ooh – 1986. The early correspondence illustrates how far up your own arse it is possible to venture (the answer: really surprisingly far).

However, the collection is also an extraordinary account of a friendship. About seven years ago, Jill and I lost touch for reasons that are not worth getting into. There are so many things I had forgotten. Jill, if you read this, I am so pleased we are back in contact again.

Before I completely surrender to sentimentality, I thought I’d share a piece for old times’ sake. I recall writing this, but my computer ate it and I haven’t seen it since 1999. Warning: this excerpt features excessive nudity. Here you go:-

My friend Sharon decided we needed some intense relaxation, so booked us both into Cleopatra’s Spa, an OTT-to-the-point-of-indescribable-naffness health club. I mean, there are 20m high plaster statues of pharoahs flanking the entrance to this place.

We were shown to the ladies’ changing rooms where heated bathrobes and fluffy slippers awaited. A wholesome looking Chinese lady met us outside. She looked fresh and crispy in her natty outfit. Officious navy uniform. Sparkly white pinafore. Comforting picture of fresh innocence.

She said, “Herro marram, my mame Mimi.”

I volunteered for the full body seaweed wrap first and was conveyed to the ‘sunrise room’ where Mimi shut the door and dimmed the lights.

“Marram, you take off srimsuit and rie down om taywell,” she announced, gesturing to an uninviting looking table adorned with rubber mat and what looked like a giant paper napkin.

“I’m not sure I can handle this level of nudity,” I thought, srimsuit in a pool around my ankles. Thinking I would feel less exposed face down on the taywell, I attempted to mount it a little too enthusiastically and, entangled in my togs, landed face down on the floor instead.

“Are you okaye, rady?” asked my solicitous attendant, helping me to my feet by way of hauling at my armpits. She deposited me on the table.

“I wir now appry the seareed,” said Mimi with a flourish.

After several minutes persuading myself that being plastered with warm seaweed was actually quite fun, I was just beginning to relax when Mimi said, “Prease marram, you roll ower.”

Given that Mimi was struggling with her l’s, I was trying to translate: ‘Please madam you loll over’, when I realised she wanted me on my back, but I was . . . well, you know . . . a bit naked. I wasn’t at all sure about this progression of events. Perhaps this sort of carry on is acceptable in select brothels in other regions of the globe, but I wasn’t expecting it of Cleopatra’s Spa, Dubai, UAE.

“Don’t panic,” I told myself in a panic.

I tried to consider the advantages of the situation: at least she wouldn’t be able to see my arse.

That was the only advantage I could think of on the spur of the moment.

Prostrate on my back, Mimi briskly slathered on seaweed from the feet up. After progressing up the legs, she cleared any doubts there may have been about it being a ‘full body’ seaweed wrap, by busying herself building a little seaweed castle on my groin.

When she started on my chest, I was presented with a bit of a dilemma. I’m generally reasonably particular about whom massages my bosoms, and given the option I’m not sure Mimi would have been amongst my first choice of masseuse.

All sorts of thoughts ran through my feverish mind as Mimi fiddled around with a big glob of seaweed and my left tit, including: whether her technique could possibly be described as lascivious; whether in some cultures the amount ot time she was devoting to my chest would be considered socially acceptable; and whether the element of seaweed in the equation reduced the import of the fact that Mimi was fumbling around my norks. HOWEVER, my main concern was: where should I look?

I figured I had a number of open options:-

1) Close my eyes
ADVANTAGE: Minimal eye contact
DISADVANTAGE: Mimi might interpret this as intense pleasure in the experience and think I was a lesbian and who knows where that might lead?

2) Keep my eyes open, but firmly fixed on the ceiling
ADVANTAGE: Reduced eye contact but with the option of instantly reviewing any shenanigans
DISADVANTAGE: Mimi might interpret this as intense pleasure in the experience and think I was a lesbian and who knows where that might lead?

3) Eyeball her throughout
ADVANTAGE: Intimidate the woman
DISADVANTAGE: Mimi would definitely interpret this as intense pleasure in the experience and think I was a lesbian and who knows where that might lead?

In the end, I opted for a combination of all three, with say 20% of option 1, 70% option 2 and 10 option 3, but I found it all intensely wearing.

After Mimi exhausted two tubs of seaweed, she announced: “I am now going to rap you”. Jesus, I thought; what now. All this involved however, was being firmly trussed up in the giant paper napkin and rubber mat. It occurred to me that Mimi would prepare a mean roast chicken.

Once engulfed in paper and rubber, spiky head sticking out the top, my attendant flicked a switch at the bottom of the table and the rubber mat, with a noise like King Kong expelling a touch of excessive flatulence, began to engorge with warm water.

“Marram, this rawter tleatment. You will fear rike you froating in waaarm rake.”

It pains me to have to admit that the salient highlights of this experience were so freakily unpleasant, given that I was paying Dhs 250 for it, but at this juncture I feel obliged to report that the water treatment did not make me feel like I was floating in a warm lake. It made me feel hot, sticky and itchy. In fact, I was swiftly getting very itchy indeed. I was wondering if maybe the previous seaweed victim had suffered a bad case of nits, when my nose was painfully afflicted.

Well, my arms were pinioned to my sides and, even had I not had several layers of rubber, water, seaweed and paper holding them firmly in place, I was so dazed that I’m not sure I would have been psychologically capable of scratching my nose anyway. I was afraid to ask Mimi to itch my nose for me, in case she thought I was a lesbian.

A lesbian with a nose fetish, even.

Fifteen minutes later, I had decided that this was an exquisite form of torture and that I would happily give my whole complement of limbs for one free and mobile digit, when Mimi relented and unwrapped me, and pointed out the shower. She insisted on helping me up off the table and my nerves were so frayed that had she strayed anywhere within three yards of my wiggly bits, I would have slapped her one.

“Thank you marram. Prease you leturn again marram,” cried Mimi, waving me off down the corridor.

I was surprised that Sharon had not given me some measure of warning as to what was in store. After all, not everyone is as liberal as I, and I thought she might have prepared some sort of brief summary. However, one look at Sharon’s startingly puce-hued face informed me that she had been similarly unprepared.

“How was it?” I asked, affecting nonchalance.

“Fine! Yes, fine. Quite, quite fine, fine really.”

*Name changed to protect the innocent

My Precious

I lost my wedding ring on Sunday.

Six years ago, when Husband presented me with my engagement ring, he said:-

“Will you marry me? Oh, good. You’re going to lose this, aren’t you?”

I was sure I wouldn’t, because it was so pretty my very life force depended on the ongoing presence of this thing in my life. I can be impressed for minutes at a time by sunrises or ladybirds or a storm at sea or Husband’s cheeks when he’s eating lamb chops, but I can stare at a 0.55 carat H colour VSII Princess cut conflict diamond for HOURS.

Shortly after we married, I nearly lost my wedding rings at Ex-Employer’s office in Dubai Internet City. I went to the bathroom and removed both rings to wash my hands. Back in the office, I resumed compiling a nail bitingly tedious document on change request procedure, then paused to reread a paragraph. As I clasped my hands together to better aid concentration, I became aware at a subliminal level there was something very wrong in the world in addition to evil dictators and global poverty. Then I realized:-

“AAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaagh!”

Much to the bemusement of my three colleagues, I catapulted out of my chair, hurdled the desk, and ripped out the door screaming all the way to the bathroom where my rings glittered reprovingly in the soap dish. I’m not sure whether anyone had been there in the twenty minute interim – in Dubai, many people are too lazy to go to the toilet – but still.

After that, I resolved never to remove my wedding rings; I even wore them swimming in the sea.

My engagement ring is currently out of action, having split after a period of intense digit expansion, but I always wear my wedding band. On Sunday morning, I was pottering around the kitchen cleaning up before the guys woke. The Bro had stayed over the evening before, so there were beer bottle tops all over the place. I have ranted about bottle tops before, so I will spare you- ok, no, I won’t. THERE’S A RUBBISH BIN! RIGHT THERE! WHAT IS SO COMPLEX ABOUT FLIPPING BOTTLE TOPS INTO IT, HMM?

Sorry. So, my wedding ring was irritating me for some reason – although not as much as the mess DO YOU NEED TO BE A WORLD CLASS ARCHER OR TIDDLYWINKS CHAMPION TO GET A BOTTLE TOP INTO A BIN?! IT’S LIKE HITTING A HIPPO WITH A SHOE! – so I transferred it to the little finger of my right hand. Even as I did, I thought, ‘Hmm. That’s not going to stay there,’ and then ignored myself.

It was after The Bro left that I noticed my wedding ring – gone. My ring finger looked plainly wrong without it. There is a pale groove worn around the base of the finger where the skin is puckered and defenceless looking.

I alerted Husband as to the situation.

“Will you look for it?”

Husband nearly choked on a gigantic sigh, but he performed a sweep of the living and kitchen sectors while I repeatedly checked that I hadn’t misplaced the ring on my finger. There was no sign of it – on my finger or anywhere else.

“I’m sure it will turn up,” said Husband and shuffled off to not obsess about where the ring might be.

Throughout the day, I looked in all the obvious places: the kitchen bench, the key hanger, under the sofa, in the microwave. I kept visualising the ring in different places, with the result that I checked the cutlery drawer and kitchen windowsill several times (maybe THIS TIME it will be there). In the evening, I turned the rubbish out onto the garage floor and picked through it with a fork.

On Monday morning, I put Husband at Defcon 3, increasing to Defcon 2 as the day wore on. We tore the house apart. I moved everything out of the pantry; we checked the drains; Husband squeezed the fingers on my rubber gloves; we crawled around the floor with torches.

I had a vague recollection of leaving the wedding ring on the hallway banister. Late last night, Husband revealed that he had vacuumed the stairs on Sunday morning. There had been debris on the treads after he had knocked a couple of holes in the wall. No idea why. Because he could? Maybe? But really, you’d have to ask him.

He offered to go through the vacuum bag this morning in daylight. I knew that’s what had happened to my ring; in fact, I was so sure I actually slept last night.

It wasn’t in the vacuum bag.

Then Husband went through the week-old rubbish. We’ve been together over 10 years now and Husband drives me up the wall on a frequent to full time basis. However, there are rare, brilliant moments when I understand exactly why I am with Husband. Watching him sift coffee grounds, turn over greasy chop bones and wipe rotten spinach off mouldy lemons without complaint, I had one of those epiphanies.

On the other hand, I’m not sure I was his favourite wife at that point.

It wasn’t in the rubbish either.

Back upstairs, I got a bit teary:-

“Tell me you love me and the wedding ring is just a symbol in no way indicative of the future of our marriage and it’s not as if you even wear yours and the fact that I’ve lost something that’s blessed won’t curse us for the rest of time forever and ever amen.”

“Er, yes. All that,” said Husband. “Look, we’ll get another ring and get your father to bless it.”

“Yeah, but he’ll give me a lecture on how he can’t go around blessing every time I lose my wedding ring,” I muttered darkly, “and how I should be more careful-”

“Well-”

“Are you sure you want to go there?”

“Absolutely not. No.”

Then I found the ring in the plastic bag drawer

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