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?

Bahrain Getaway pt 1 – The Preflight Drama

My friends and I, tired of our boring daily routine, have planned a weekend getaway to nearby island country Bahrain. Knowing myself, though, I was very reluctant to go. I have commitment issues with the company. Let’s say I am a self-proclaimed care taker, insisting that everything that ever happens in my project or in other projects is my responsibility and that I should handle it. Yes, I am an idiot, one of those who genuinely cares about their job even though it’s not worth a sweat.

I called up my best friend and gave him the bombshell that I opted out, that I can’t just “leave” the work unfinished (as if it never finishes, note that all my tasks are top priority) and that it is unfathomable that I would have to not solve a problem or answer an email. My friend was upset and he just hung up.

And then this phone call happened:

Friend: umm KJ
KJ: aha
Friend: I was calling up the hotels
KJ: aha
Friend: they’re saying they cannot check us in without whores
KJ: come again?
Friend: they’re saying they cannot check us in without whores
KJ: what kind of hotels are you calling!
Friend: the five star ones!
KJ: shit! and?!
Friend: they can arrange for us girls for 100 dinars ($266) per girl
KJ: be7yat elli khallafak! 
Friend: I will see what I can do
KJ: see ya ebni see Allah ye5zeek, anyway am not going… good luck!

He eventually found a hotel where no girls were required for check in. It turned out that it is spring break this week

30 minutes later, I receive an email from Jazeera Airways informing me that my flight has been confirmed LOL!

I called up my friend again and he said nothing except that he’s expecting to see me in the airport – and I am the first to arrive of all my friends. I gulped my pride but gave him an earful that I might have as well went to Damascus for that price but he simply said “it’s all on me till you get here”. WOW! Don’t you love my friends?

I took advantage of the situation of course and the next day I had a limo pick me up and take me to the airport hahahaha. I ain’t paying right? :P I might as well teach him a lesson about giving me an open budget. I felt a bit guilty, of course, but karma was just around the corner. I realized I forgot my camera (hence no photos to show).

My drive to the airport was most comfortable. I checked in my luggage and plopped open my laptop as I had a solid 4 hours before my flight. It was then that I got a phone call from my project manager.

He didn’t know was at the airport. But he knew I rarely pick up anyway (some commitment huh).

I checked my work email to find a huge amount of problems that have surfaced – and I was required to be on site 30 minutes before my flight. Simply brilliant.

And not only that, but for the first time since August, my line manager was on CC. Not that they have to involve management for me to get my work done, but my bosses have this thing where they would like to involve as many people as possible in every email to give them some authority.

At any rate, efficient KJ provided the best transperancy and managed to solve a shitload of problems.

Then my battery flashed. And there are no power outlets.

I panicked.

I’ve received over 23 calls in 4 hours (all unanswered) and then I threw in one wonderfully written email that I have handed over my tasks to someone else as I am most positively ill and just took in my sleepy medications.

My battery died. I didn’t know if the email was sent.

Shit! Fuck me NOW!

I sent my colleague an SMS; he confirmed that he received the email. Relieved, I went to board the plane at 6:30 PM.

It was then, as I sat in the plane watching Dubai in the distance, when I realized how stressed I really am and that I don’t take things easy when I should. I decided not to dwell on it, as I saw my problems fade into the horizon, I slept through my short flight.

But Karma had other plans… bigger, more sinister (and humorous) plans, all awaiting to be revealed in my next post.

Hamza is a Big Fat LIAR!

Have you read the blasphemy that is his post?

Lemme clear up the fact that he is an imbecillic LIAR! He is wa7ed animal X( 

ON HIM BEING THIN

First of all :P that guy is overweight. I don’t know why he thinks he is hot. The hottest thing he is remotely close to is a semi-decomposed deceased camel. Second, I am out of the house at work for 12 hours a day. How on EARTH am I going to feed him?

See, he is SO SPOILED in Saudi that he has a tea boy who brings him a glass of water! I told him, whenever you’re hungry, just open the fridge! Granted I didn’t have a lot of stuff there, but cheeses and bread are always there, as well as other “nawashef” in the cupboards like za3tar, pancakes, all sorts of grains and tuna. He could easily make himself sandwiches and there is rice and meat and chicken in the freezer should he wish to make himself something else!

And then he expects me to come after all these hideous working hours AND cook for him AND take him out AND play with him games AND listen to his ramblings on ridiculous matters!

That and he used to go out during the day to MALLS where I am SURE there are restaurants and food outlets aplenty. So really he is to blame for not eating!

ON THE VIDEOGAME ISSUE

Ugh! Don’t get me started. Let me just sum it up as follows. The game I chose to play is a cooperative multiplayer where we blow the crap out of mad zombies. The game he chose to play made him choose – at one point – to either shoot his mom in the head or watch her being torn into two pieces by a SAW-movie-like contraption (not to mention drilling into someone’s skull). And of course the nurses with jiggly breasts and impaling the main character’s father with a giant knife. Oh, aaaaaaaaaaand he found it quite amusing! Yes, that man was sleeping in MY house!

THE AC MILAN MISHAP

You all know how I feel towards soccer/footbal/crap. I had to sit and watch them baboons hop around the field, and of course it being a friendly they didn’t even play at 20% efficiency. They didn’t even pretend to play well – which all “pro” soccer players should be able to. It was simply for publicity and money. A yawn-inducing match.

Now Hamza is quite the selfish self centered dope, so I thought if I showed him how he should help other people in his community, he would feel good about himself. Granted, I failed miserably at helping the poor chap stuck in the sand, but like I attempted to help, others attempted to help me out, and got me out, and we collaborately helped the other dude (but also failed). It is this collaborative-community work that I wanted to show Hamza but he missed the point completely. Instead he swore he would never help anyone ever again. Which is why when we eventually played the multiplayer game, he refused to use his med kits on me when I needed them.

7aywan.

Oh and did I mention he almost killed Peter?

CONCLUSION

So given the circumstances I say I was a pretty good host. Which is why I treated myself to a haircut using the money he gave me to buy the AC Milan signed jersey NOT the Gaza money he donated as he claimed :P

Wa7ed ma3tooh mota5allef. Ana bafarjeek ya animal el marra el jayeh!

(PS: this post is not set as a warning to those of you who wish to visit me :P )

Pilgrim in Jordan – Amman

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed. – Khalil Gibran

 

You may wonder, what does a pilgrimage have to do with Jordan? To say that my trip was a journey undermines its purpose. A journey may have little or no motif that lays the foundation on which the traveler directs his step.

I traveled to Jordan on a pilgrimage; the reasons I shall keep to myself. Through this reading (and the following posts), I hope you understand the purpose of my travels.

My arrival in Amman has been greeted with frowns – which I expected – and a 20 minute “interview” at the airport, given I am the only Syrian on the plane who suspiciously arrived when a bomb blew off in Damascus that very day. I have been alerted that such things are standard procedures, but I did not expect that I had to narrate my life’s story to the head of security for entertainment in an attempt to convince him I came to Jordan for tourism and not running away from serving the Syrian military.

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Amman is a beautiful city. Some of you might be raising eyebrows (I know some of my friends in Dubai did when I told them where I was going), but I am an honest person and I can honestly say I loved Amman.

I traveled more or less everywhere – from Jabal al Taj to Al Hussein Gardens. My soul, however, found its place in downtown Amman – specifically where Knafet 7abeeba is (yes yes I know, food!). The simplicity of the place won me over the snobbish Abdoun area (which I admit, is a great place, but I don’t like such “high class” regions in a city) and seeing 7afartal, kids running about, people selling all sorts of stuff and men group-hollering and whistling at ladies next to a mosque is something you can’t not be amused about.

Amman is much cleaner than Damascus – I admit – and is overall more “higher class” (arqa). However, the differences in social class is much more noticeable in Amman. Whereas in Damascus you could travel from the richest areas to the Old City without much of a change in scenery (bar the number of people per square meter and pollution), in Amman there is a stark contrast in the quality of the roads, houses (and number of houses) as well as the types of cafes and people – how they dress, act and live.

The constant factor in Amman though, is cabs :D Anything that can be physically or verbally done against someone’s genitals can be learned from cab drivers.

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It felt great to smell clean air. Clean? Yes clean. No dust, no humidity… a chilling, crisp breeze with clouds hung low. I miss the clouds, the blue sky, the clean fresh air – especially after the rain. The smell of the grass and the trees, and the wind, even if it is in downtown mixed with car fumes.

Amman was the start of my pilgrimage. This is just a post of many to come – the Dead Sea, Amman again, and the grand finale of Petra and Rum. So stay tuned, and enjoy the Amman’s photos on my photo blog (I will upload the rest when the appropriate post is published!)

PS: for a brief cynical overview of the whole trip, check out Hamza’s post

And We’re Back…

Am a bit exhausted, yet energized.. am truly happy, and utterly sad…

Many things changed in one week. Clearer head, clearer mind, new perspectives…

New meanings, new friendships…

Learned so many things, a lot I was aware of, right under my nose but didn’t see… and others totally new.

I have a lot to write about, and I dunno how to write them! One post? Two? Three?

In any case, I will catch up on your blogs and insurmountable amount of emails and will post something in a couple of days.