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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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?

Abandoned!

I was reading a news story today about a Finnish woman – in coma for five years – who finally headed back home to Finland, still in a coma.

While stories of people in coma on the news is not uncommon, what shocked me the most were the series of archived articles related to the main story.

I went through all of them to discover that this woman, who had a stroke while shopping in 2004, has been abandoned by her husband and her family, and has been taken care of at the hospital’s expense for five years.

First off kudos to the hospital for treating a patient like any hospital should.

Secondly, WTF?!

This married woman was abandoned by her husband and her family! Several Finnish people in the UAE have tried contacting the embassy but the woman was also abandoned by her government.

Outrageous!

The news made it to Finland a couple of months ago where people shared more than what’s on their mind. The woman was finally taken back to her country where she was (while in coma) reunited with her (obviously) not too happy husband.

How could someone just abandon their wife, mother, daughter, heck… citizen!

In related coma news, a mother whose daughter is in a coma is asking the government to help sponsor a care taker for her (as she cannot afford it), and the government is refusing – even though Gulf News readers donated enough money to afford a care taker.

WTF!

UAE Crackdown Against God of War

Even though I blogged about the issue before when it started in KSA, I am very surprised to see that the stupidity has infiltrated the UAE as well. Yesterday’s news mentioned a crackdown against God of War, possibly one of the most popular games in recent history.

The game is loosely based on Greek Mythology, and features the slaughtering of lots of mythical creatures and fighting various popular Olympian gods or one of them wonderful Titans.

Note that this is not the first game in history that features Greek mythology and it definitely is not the first game where a form of God is involved in. Heck, if this is the case then why isn’t Xenosaga banned? Or is the term Lost Jerusalem has nothing to do with religion? Why don’t they ban Final Fantasy VII? Sephiroth, Jenova anyone?! How about Final Fantasy X? Or the most blatantly controversial Tactics?

Heck, even Legend of Zelda has three deities… oh my the blasphemy!

And God of War contains sex scenes… oooh! Cuz Extreme Volleyball is fine with an all-cast women with breasts so enormous and bouncy they defy all laws of gravity. You don’t believe me? Watch this and this.

Well then… if they’re banning a GAME, why not as well ban, I dunno, the bars, the night clubs, the alcohol, and maybe close down the prostitution street?! You know where it is! The whole district shakes every night!

Practice what you preach and stop being hypocrites. Don’t say this is an Islamic country and ban non-Islamic stuff, then sell books and videos and movies and services that are anything but that!

I understand it is because kids are playing it – but it is an 18+ rated game and for good reason too. Don’t ban the game – fine the retail outlets that are selling it to minors!

Crispy Rationale

Humans have conquered 3% of their brains; they conquered each other’s lands, they conquered the immediate space and even conquered what they think is accurate science, psychology, philosophy, and everything related to being human.

What humans failed to conquer, however, is thinking in a rational manner. Case in point: Entomophobia, or, simply put, fear of insects.

Let us assume for a moment that insects are inanimate objects, much like pebbles. Would you fear a pebble? That is 1 cm in length? Probably not.

Animate that pebble though, and it is a completely different issue. Suddenly, 1cm long insects threaten an entire race of an average 167 cm tall humans.

Back in college I lived in the same dorm room for 4.5 consecutive years. During those years I had my share of experiences with all sorts of things (ghost stories in a later post) and lots of fun activities (mostly involving gaming marathons with Hamza over the breaks).

However, due to a little crack in the window, I had my share of non human visitors.

My first visitor was a spider, a particularly large one at that too. She was completely harmless and, to my utter delight, found herself a home at that very crack, to capture all other insects attempting to move into my room. I befriended the spider, called her Deathbringer, and assigned her that daunting task as part of rent.

Can I move in with you please? *eyes sparkle*

Over the course of the years, Deathbringer has saved me from countless invasions from the outside. The area near the crack was always filled with dead, webbed insects, many of which were later devoured or were left alone as a threat to newcomers.

One day though, a hideous insect crawled in from the outside. It looked like a cross between a grasshopper, a cockroach, and a mantis. Although it had wings, it never used them, and preferred to crawl slowly and rather awkwardly across my wonderfully clean and Dettol-polished floors.

When I first saw the monster I panicked. I did not know what to do. I had neither Bygone nor Pif Paf at my immediate disposal. I never even thought of resorting to these chemicals as long as I had the spider as my guardian. The thing slowly crawled across the room, often stumbling at its own disproportionate legs.

I backed against the wall, as if approached by non other than Alessa from Silent Hill. The disturbing 3 cm monster threatened my very existence in the room. I could not find the spider, and, even if I did, I worried that throwing it to battle the crawling grassroachantis thing would bring about an all-insect war in my very room.

I climbed on my bed in an attempt to escape it. I “rationally” thought that it would never be able to climb the bed, and, if it did, I would jump across the room and escape through the door, where I only would pray that the rest of the tribe would not be waiting outside – that this was all a clever plot by the grassroachantis clan to lure me outside and then capture me.

I also “rationalized” that I could just drop something on it and it would squish into death. But what horror would that bring – I could not even begin to fathom the suffering I would bring upon the grassroachantis as it slowly crushed into its death, and, more horrific, of the cleaning I would have to do after.

Then it dawned onto me. My ultimate savior. The only “rational” thing to do.

I had a blue-flame-throwing lighter. One of those “jet lighters” that burn off half the cigarette by the time you take the first puff (note to readers: I don’t smoke, I use the the lighter to light up the awkwardly placed incense candles).

I grabbed the lighter from the side table and flung in an acrobatic maneuver over the grassroachantis in an attempt to catch it off guard. Bewildered, the grassroachantis froze in its position as if to play dead and dumb on my rather intelligent and quite “rational” mind.

I approached it from behind.

The grassroachantis twitched.

I turned on the jet lighter.

The grassroachantis instantly coiled and uncoiled as it silently screamed in pain, which, to my “rational” mind, was more forgiving than having to squish it. To my utter surprise, the grassroachantis suddenly became all red, like iron, before turning into white, all while at the same time twitching uncontrollably.

It lay there, dead, deformed and crisp.

Deathbringer moved out shortly after the incident.