dubai

Driving East

Driving East

Eid Al Adha’s timing was perfect: my sister was out of town, I was off from college and from work, I had no pending freelance photography to do, no family commitments, friends all busy with their families — it was the perfect opportunity to sit, relax, and do absolutely nothing for once. Even my exam, due on the 14th, has been put on hold because I really needed the break.

After spending the first day sick in bed and the consecutive days uneventful (but wonderful in being so), the clouds rolled in and thundered their way into the Emirates overnight. Early morning, I woke up to the gloomy skies and damp air. True to the weather reports, it was going to be a rainy day.

I had a few errands to run that day — little things like laundry, cleaning, and some other “item fetching” from several malls and places — but decided to take the opportunity to set out on a journey to the Eastern Regions that I have been planning for quite a while now. I visited the area a few years ago during summer, but have since loved to go again in the cooler months. I knew that the sky would make the trip much more memorable, and so I packed in some sandwiches and some water, armed myself with my camera (which I did not use) and my phone camera (which I extensively used) and headed east.

Driving East

When I stopped by the gas station to fuel up, I thought of documenting this trip — why not? It was a ride of contemplation; I thought about many things on my way and enjoyed the ride. When I arrived at the mountainous areas, I felt I was in heaven; living in flat-Dubai makes you truly appreciate other forms of landscapes. Even the desert was different, with dunes dwarfing the Land Cruisers trying to conquer them.

Dunes

It has been a refreshing journey — one I have been looking forward to for months. My soul felt refreshed; I really needed this. The whole journey took me around eight hours before I headed to Ajman to visit my best friend, after which I headed back to Dubai for a well deserved sleep!

Here are the tweets and some more photos — enjoy! (might take a bit to load, and if it doesn’t, refresh!)

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Geekfest Dubai 5.0 & TEDxRamallah

Geekfest Dubai 5.0 & TEDxRamallah

Geekfest is a social networking event that takes place here in Dubai every couple of months, and has spread across the region to cover Cairo, Amman, Beirut and upcoming Damascus. There’s very little I could say to explain the event, really, as it is unorganized – an oxymoron right there for you – and is simply just a gathering of people with some talks, discussions, mingling, game corners and the art scene, all jumbled up together in the very homey package called The Shelter.

Though I’ve sent in my photos to showcase the last couple of events, this time things were a bit different as legendary Alexander McNabb (yes he paid me to write that) has given me a dedicated screen to showcase my work. I took that challenge to create 10 new photos for the event, which I will upload to my photo blog soon. In the meantime you can read more about the photography aspect here. <<< how’s that for linking the whole sentence? Let’s see you tell me “I didn’t know I have to click on the here

Anyhoo, one of the  highlights of the event was TEDxRamallah, dedicated to show inspiring stories of Palestine. For those not aware of TED Talks, they are basically conferences that are truly brilliant in nature that address almost anything you can think of, presented in a beautiful and intelligent way through speakers who know what they’re talking about. The best introduction to TED Talks is to go watch a conference yourself.

TEDxRamallah is an extraordinary effort that will defy odds by holding such a conference of the TED calibre in an occupied territory, the first of its kind. It’s being organized by Ramzi Jaber and the event will be taking place on the 9th of October of this year. If you know of speakers with inspiring stories residing within Palestine, please do not hesitate to contact them on their twitter account. You can also visit the homepage for more information. I personally would be on the lookout for this one as I am definite it will be an event unlike any other, one that would finally dissociate Palestine from destruction and show the brighter side of things, that of progress.

And now I will leave you with some photos from Geekfest!

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The Artsy Fartsy World

The Artsy Fartsy World

Who would have reckoned that it’s quite enjoyable actually? For the past few months I have been visiting art galleries around Dubai and Abu Dhabi, getting inspired by the hundreds of brilliant pieces of artwork that I come across. Whether they’re photographs, paintings, sculptures, or some other odd form of art, there is always something interesting to see.

Of course, attending The Lost Fingers exclusive concert in Dubai (and they were an arm’s length away) was the highlight of the whole lot. There have been some off galleries here and there, some of them in ungodly places even, but at the end of the day it’s a good escape from an otherwise over industrious city.

I will be leaving you with some photos. And yeah Twitter is consuming a lot of my time, I will return slowly to blogging. Sorry about that!

Honoring the 38th UAE National Day

Honoring the 38th UAE National Day

The UAE has been the media spotlight – both positive (Abu Dhabi F1) and negative (Dubai World hiatus) – heralding a new era of Dubai Bashing (see my thorough how-to here) as well as justified criticism and the typical market flux a la Pelham 123 (so who made $300m now?).

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But today is the 38th UAE National Day, and these special occasions, like Eid and Thanksgiving and Christmas, are here to remind us of the greater good that we keep tucked in the shadows. For it is easy to dwell on our miseries and use them as our crutch to move forward, but it takes a movie scene, an Oprah episode or a family-feud-free-family-gathering to remind us that we have it good.

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What has the UAE given me? A good beating! Yes, and I am thankful for it. Tough love is what everyone needs, and tough is what Dubai is about. Being exposed to so many cultures (and, seriously, there are just so many nationalities here) teaches you to be tolerant and respectful to people around you. It teaches you how to collaborate and communicate effectively in teams and with individuals. It gives you pleasure when expats greet you with “Eid Mubarak” and inform you – genuinely – that their perception of Arabs has significantly changed through their stay in Dubai. And it lowers the barrier of the “them vs us” concept, when we all hold hands together for a cause, raising awareness through marathons and walkathons around town.

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On the sombre days, Dubai teaches you patience. It teaches you to network, to use your wits, to appreciate the value of money (and damn this city is expensive!). It shows you who your true friends are and how much value do you have in people’s lives, and they in yours. With Dubai’s every-changing population, and the tough competition – both on personal and career levels – it becomes quickly apparent who you should place your trust in.

But most of all, what I am truly thankful for is to be part of this “movement”, to celebrate the rise of a nation, no matter how much it stumbles on the way. When I have visitors over and show them around town, not all of them are impressed. “We have tall building in NY, so?”. Indeed, NY is a class of it’s own. But you won’t appreciate Burj Dubai unless you have seen it being built over the years, floor by floor. It’s difficult to appreciate or imagine that the 25km stretch of land between Dusit Dubai on Sheikh Zayed Road and Jebel Ali was a desert only 7 years ago. It won’t make sense to an outsider as you describe how Garhoud Bridge was only three lanes, and how the 7 lane roads were 2-3 lanes only a few years back. It’s sounds ludicrous as you describe how one thing was here a few months back and now it shifted in its entirety to another location.

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Yes, Dubai functions and looks like a living being. It evolves and changes – too rapidly sometimes – but you, too, grow with it, and grow to love it. I don’t know about you, but I feel a deep sense of pride when I show someone around town or talk about the city. There is a sense of awe as I drive around town at night or take a trip on the metro just for the heck of it, to see the city from a slightly higher altitude.

 

So yes, you can bash Dubai or the UAE as you like, come up with rhythmic news titles and call yourself an expert in laughing at Dubai’s constant stumbling about, mediocre media, censorship, and the cult that is known as Etisalat.

But what has your city done or achieved in 30 years? 10 years? Last year?

Dubai Metro Hits #1 Spot on Twitter

Dubai Metro Hits #1 Spot on Twitter

Yesterday, over a great Iftar prepared by non other than revered chef in Dubai moryarti, I discussed with a friend of his the power of social media and how it’s slowly phasing out conventional media as a mechanism of delivering news to people locally or around the world.

The Iftar, by the way, was absolutely fantastic. If you’re desperately hungry, moryarti won’t disappoint (except that he didn’t prepare chocolate shots and is currently holding my camera hostage).

Anyhow, for those not in the know, today marks the historic opening of the troubled Dubai Metro. Though metros are nothing new in other places of the world, it has been the talk of residents here for 4 years – not in a good way most of the time. Laying out the infrastructure led to often catastrophic temporary (as in 1-2 year) diversions and new road layouts. Trips into the heart of the city (Deira and Bur Dubai) have become a daily nightmare – and if it were not for God’s gift of patience to me I would have left the country a long time ago. 24/7 construction next to residential and commercial areas didn’t help either, nor did the protests and numerous Dubai Bashing articles highlighting the cheap labor, the ridiculous traffic congestion, and of course the ever increasing doubts that Dubai Metro won’t function as planned nor on time.

Though only partially functional (10 of 50-something stations are operational), the 09/09/09 grand ceremony is still to take place a few hours from now. So this morning I woke up, did my business in the loo, didn’t prepare breakfast, opened my Management book to read and signed into twitter to check something. Then I was sucked into what I would call the New Opium of the Masses – the trending topic that is Dubai Metro.

Within a couple of hours, as Dubai residents woke up, smelled the coffee they wouldn’t have, got on with their business at work and read the local papers, everyone started tweeting their excitement (and of course a “bit” of spamming) over the grand opening of the metro. I joined in, my excitement driven by the bandwagon effect, and within a couple of hours lo and behold – the metro went from a blip outside the radar to the number one trending topic on twitter, leaving Apple’s and the Beatles’ also historic announcements “less important” in twitter terms.

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And of course I took the screenshot for this historical feat achieved by none other than Dubai residents! So yes, a small group of people can actually outdo continents (though, to be fair, they’re probably sleeping now). Now that we KNOW we can do it, maybe we can use this power to bring forward other important social/political/humanitarian topics to light.

Don’t you think?

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