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.

Picture 2009-09-09 14_06_53

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?

Dubai Bashing Guide 101

Dubai Bashing is quite the classical rage right now, the Gone with the Wind of modern media of sorts, no pun intended. If you’re an aspiring journalist or a PMS enthusiast, here’s a small to-do list to get you started on the Dubai Bashing ride.

First, you need to be desperate. Why? There can be many reasons for you being desperate. You can be jobless and seeking out money, so a Dubai Bashing article sold to the highest bidder could be your break. If you’re lower caliber journalist seeking to join The Guardian, for instance, or a veteran with nothing better to write about, then Dubai’s fake sandy dunes are a good entry point to explore (note to idiots: the sand in Dubai is not imported. Dust storms are not sponsored by the UAE government in collaboration with the Iraqi’s). There can be a gazillion reasons to why you would want to bash Dubai. From post-getting-fired anger to your wife running away with someone else from Dubai, the list is endless. It all comes down to one thing though: You have an altered sense of perception. In layman’s terms, you need to get laid.

Second, you need a sponsor. Or more. Sure, magazines and self respecting online papers will pay you a nominal fee for your flamboyant efforts. If you’ve actually been to the UAE, the biggest sponsorship you can get is from the UAE itself. How? Ask yourself, how many years have you been living in the UAE? For what reason did you come to the UAE? Isn’t it to work, and make money, because there were no better opportunities? In your own country? And let’s be a bit frank, some of us don’t like being here except for the money, but since it’s your choice, what’s the UAE’s shimmering skyscrapers got to do with your bitterness? In any case, you’ve been here for several years, or a year with really high pay, and you got enough governmental sponsorship to bash it.

Third, you need a story. A really good one. Something out of a Bourne flick or The Sopranos or Godfather or The Simpsons. Did you row a boat by yourself – with your loot – to another country? If not, then you can merely take a bus tour of Dubai for 2 hours and you have yourself an in depth cover story with Pulitzer written all over it. Heck, if you’re that desperate, visit a labour camp and write the humanitarian crisis of the century article. Or make up anything believable. Aggregate 3000 foreigeners and send them off on a one way ticket. Make sure they all park their cars in the airport parking to make a statement. Include maxed out credit cards as well in the glove compartment. Attention to believable detail counts.

Fourth, get a thesaurus, and read as many descriptions of scenery as you can for inspiration. Everyone talks about shimmering towers, glistening whatever, empty roads that collect dust (strange, I still get stuck in traffic, and from the dust storms, everything collects dust. Try not to eat it), and most importantly do focus on the word luxury. It’s Dubai’s favorite word, and with your thesaurus, you can add -est to practically anything. Make sure to add credibility to your story. Quote Regina Filangi, Homer Simpson, and BumbleBee Shoeforts (these are all real names of real people living in their cars in Dubai because they, well, have been living a lifestyle they can’t afford, supposedly). Here’s a sample writing to get you started:

Beneath the biggest, blackest, dustiest sky in the world, where once stood tall the tallest buildings in the world, with their glamour and shimmering sparkling oddly-clean windows, lies the darkest most secretest truth of all: Dubai is nothing but a mirage, a place designed to suck you dry, chew you and spit you out from the rear. Dubai should add fakest to it’s longest line of all words ending with est, for a crapfest it is, a most crapfestest of all, er, ests.

– Aspiring Journalist with a rejected job application in Dubai

Finally, find a newspaper as desperate as you are and send it off. Wait for your paycheck. GREAT! Now use that money to buy a ticket out of Dubai. Don’t forget to park your car in the airport and stick a well crafted, most apologetic letter. Then write a followup article once you get home. And remove all the nice and fun photos of the Dubai is a Blast! album from Facebook.

Note: I am not blind. There are things that don’t make sense here, some of which decreases the life expectancy of a turtle. But there isn’t anything here that couldn’t be said about any other major city in the world. Sure, the weather is inhospitable, but it isn’t generated by the goverment. Yes, it’s expensive, but so is Paris and New York and a billion other cities. And, just like any other city in the world, if you can’t afford living in it, leave. I, myself, may leave sometime soon if I remain jobless for long.


I’ve been sitting in front of the PC, for days, hours at a time, trying to come up with something to write about my visit to Syria. I think I have pretty much exhausted what there is to say, given that any one week trip in Syria warrants a systematic way of approaching each day.

I haven’t had a proper holiday since the college days. If you’ve been following my blog you’d know that my longest holiday in the past three years was two weeks. When I used to spend 2 or more months in Syria I barely had time to do everything lol!

JUL 2009 122

pool with a view, what’s not to love?!

But this trip was slightly different. I “returned”, so to speak, a totally different person. I returned, as my best and childhood friend there put it, “happy, disjointed, with 8 more kilograms of beef”. That’s good!

It’s not only me though who has, so to speak, “aged”. Since I’ve been there in April, many thing changed and aged back home. My grandma lost lots of weight (but docs say she is in good health), my dad’s diabetes got a bit worse, my cousins grew a foot taller and my grandfather lost his memory.

But that’s not too morbid actually. I am quite glad he lost his memory. He’s SO HAPPY! He is just smiling, all the time! He knows who he is, he knows where he lives, and he remembers some of his kids. But he remembers nothing of his problems! NOTHING! No family feuds, no recollection whatsoever with any argument or mishap. He’s living the moment each and every single moment!

JUL 2009 152

one of the oldest, gorgeous ladies in my small town; she’s still got her memory but thankfully she has a happy life

I honestly am happy for him. It’s the best feeling in the world, to be free of allllllllll the burdens of the past 93 years of his life. In my absense he asks about me, though I have to remind him of who I am when he sees me. He’s such an awesome guy, really! At lunch we all gathered and told him we were his family, and he was absolutely thrilled! We kept reminding him every 20 or so minutes and it’s always like the first time he discovers he has a family that loves him.

The least favorite son (God I am so evil) asked him “who’s your favorite son?” and grandpa says “well you of course!”. The he points to dad (grandpa’s actual favorite son) and he says “what about that guy? do you like him?” and grandpa says “of course! You’re all my kids!”.

I dunno if he forgot about my deceased grandmother. I don’t think he did, though no one brought it up. She’s always in his memory, in everything. Several times over the years at lunch he’d comment that he misses her food, or scolding someone for touching the wine bottle that he promised he’d only open when he’s with her. I can’t think of a better husband, to still be so madly in love with your wife decades after she passed away.

Leaving a bit of those memories behind I went to Tartous to meet the one and only abufares. Our meeting was quite short, only a couple of hours or so, and my dad’s presence veered the conversations off to their collective memories of Syria before I was born lol. But it was nontheless an absolute privelage to finally meet the poetic voice of the blogosphere*. I’m also promised a fabulous lunch/dinner the next time we meet. Take that DJ!

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nanananannanananananana I saw him I saw him nananananana

If there’s anything I miss the most in Syria – other than breatheable air, a blue sky, and foliage – is the social aspect. As in old-school social. Not FB and twitter and crap.


*signed photos of abufares will be put up on sale shortly

Damascus, from the West

Damascus measures time not by days and months and years,
but by the empires she has seen rise and prosper and crumble to ruin.
She is a type of immortality.

She saw the foundation of Baalbeck, and Thebes and Ephesus laid:
she saw these villages grow into mighty cities,
and amaze the world with their grandeur –
and she has lived to see them desolate, deserted ,
and given over to the owls and the bats.

She saw the Israelitish empire exalted,
and she saw it annihilated.
She saw Greece rise,
and flourish two thousand years,
and die.

In her old age she saw Rome built;
she saw it overshadow the world with its power;
she saw it perish.

The few hundred years of Genoese and Venetian might and splendor were,
to grave old Damascus,
only a trifling scintillation hardly worth remembering.

Damascus has seen all that has ever occurred on earth,
and still she lives.

She has looked upon the dry bones of a thousand empires,
and will see the tombs of a thousand more before she dies.

Though another claims the name,
old Damascus is by right,
the Eternal City.

- Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad

Syrian Independence Day

عصر غريب وجيل اغرب في برهة من الأزل. كنت أعبر في دهاليز الزمان وسمعت خبرا “ما كان يوما” في الحسبان

أنا… انا فخر الأمم، أنا مجد الحضارات، أنا عز الانسان أنا التاريخ.. صرت طي النسيان وممن؟ من أحفادي من جيل هذا العصر وهذا الأوان

لا عجب أني ارى في عيونكم الحسرة والهوان… فكيف تهوي امة كان لها كل هذا المجد وهذا الشان

الا اذا انسيت عظمة تاريخها ولهيت بالفتات من موائد الأمم… اتيتكم الليلة أحمل عبق الماضي…أحمل أمجادكم اقرأها سطورا مشرقة من هذا الكتاب. الكتاب الي كانت صفحاته مزقت واغرقت بالظلام

كتاب تاريخ الشام شموسا تنير الأيام


انا الشعب..انا بردى … انا الفيجة الّي شربوا منّا كا اللّي شفتوّن , انا قاسيون الشامس والغوطة الخضرا…مرق على راسي يوناني, وروماني, وعثمنلي, وفرنساوي….انا بقيت وهنّي يلّي راحوا, .. حضارتي كانت الأساس لكل شي عملوه…و كتير منها عم تزين متاحفن و بلادن…بس اجا الوقت ليعرفوا انو الشام ما بتنضام.. والّي الو ماض ما بموت …

باطل علينا وين كنّا و وين صرنا….وينك يا شام زمان

…وينك يا زمان

مقطع من مسرحية تأليف صديقي طلال الصفدي