Working to enhance my experience

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Refurbishment, fit out or maintenance works in Dubai invariably carry explanatory signage declaring: ‘We are working to enhance your experience’, suggesting that the temporary inconvenience to the general public is for the greater good. This charming phrase suggests that behind the hoardings, persons unseen are labouring night and day to get things back on track as soon as possible.

Whether this is actually true or not is questionable as some of these ‘enhancements’ to existing premises can go on for months, with no discernible difference to the décor or layout when the grand reopening occurs! Leaving that to one side, the idea continues to resonate with me and is one I am taking to heart. (more…)

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Home to sound and fury

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When does living in a new location really feel like home? Returning to Dubai after a holiday it now seems less like a fantastic experiment and much more like real life. What has caused this subtle shift in thinking? The occupants of the flat above ours and their home improvements mostly but more of that later. (more…)

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Mixed Media

Courtyard Playhouse

Is it a play or is it a film? That is the question. Or certainly that was the one I was asking as we took our seats at Dubai’s Courtyard Playhouse.

We were here for a National Theatre Live screening of The Audience, Peter Morgan’s award- winning play, starring theatrical royalty, Dame Helen Mirren. I’d always wondered whether seeing a broadcast of a play on a cinema screen counts as a true theatrical experience but given that the West End of London is a bit out of reach right now, this seemed a good moment to find out how it all worked. (more…)

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Take me back to the China Sea

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I have been ‘fancying a Chinese’ for quite a few weeks now, mainly because Tim has been raving about a particular dish he tried one lunchtime at Dubai’s China Sea restaurant and has been promising to take me there to share the joy.

The stars aligned and here we are, outside a beacon of red and gold illuminated kitsch that signals this is going to be a memorable dining experience. Every Chinese adornment, from fringed and bobbing lanterns to rampant mythical beasts, is on show at this Dubai institution and then some. (more…)

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Jordan’s hidden wonder

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‘You are welcome’. This simple phrase, usually just a reflex response to thanks, when used at all, doesn’t usually catch my attention. It took a journey to Jordan for me to appreciate the real meaning of these words when spoken by a Jordanian. Everywhere we went it seemed that ordinary people were genuinely delighted to know that visitors were in their midst and this oft repeated greeting was their way of communicating their pleasure. (more…)

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Letter from Lebanon

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I can still hear the worry in your voice, echoing in my head from several months ago when I first dropped Beirut into the conversation. Well, Mum, I went, I survived and I’m back safe and sound. I would have rung you by now to tell you all about it but since we can’t have those conversations any more I thought I would write down what I would have liked to share with you about this trip. (more…)

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Open door for Iftar

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You don’t have to be here very long to notice that expats in Dubai vastly outnumber the local Emirati population. A recent BBC radio report states the current statistics are 1 in 9. The cultural mix from around the world is rich and diverse but perhaps because of that, aside from the very obvious social protocols, the customs and religious traditions of the UAE can be somewhat hidden. (more…)

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Thai curry with Mona Lisa on the side

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It started out innocently enough. That fancy you get for something you have eaten before that really hits the spot, when it’s done right. Every cuisine we are used to finding in the UK is available in Dubai so for the past few weeks I have been on a quest to track down a dish I know is out there. The Thai green chicken curry of my dreams. (more…)

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A brolly for all seasons

p Albert Edelfelt (Finnish painter, 1884-1905) Woman and Parasol, 1886

I’ve come over all 19th century genteel in the last few weeks. Since the temperature in Dubai now regularly hits 40 plus I am taking a bit more care before I casually step outdoors. Moving too fast through a fan-heater-on-high-environment transforms this milky white English skin into a shade akin to boiled lobster in a few minutes. (more…)

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A guest for Ramadan

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The American fast food chain 5 Guys has been announcing its imminent arrival to Downtown on giant hoardings for months. I am grateful that it waited till we were out of the country to finally open its doors to an eager crowd.

Sadly, this eyesore occupies a prime location at the entrance to Dubai Mall and within sight of the famous fountains. With so many better and more comfortable dining options close by it is astonishing how many people are willing to queue for a burger, hot dog and fries at all hours of the day. Change, if only for a month, is on the horizon though and this is one reason I am looking forward to experiencing my first Ramadan as a guest in Dubai. (more…)

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