Fool Britannia

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

School’s out for the summer and I should be looking forward to our first proper break since we moved to the UAE. I’ve had one full week off in 10 months and I am, frankly, knackered.

Grumpy of Abu Dhabi
Shame of cones

I should be basking in the glow of end of year report cards (note to self: check report cards before posting), reflecting on the kids’ progress in mystifying ways I can genuinely take no credit for…

Like Amnesiac’s prowess in Science, or Kid A’s sudden ability to speak Spanish (which has been almost as instantaneous as when Buzz Lightyear gets reset in Toy Story 3). I should be looking forward to a few weeks of gentle rain, countryside, beer gardens and catching up with family and friends.

I mean, it’s the UK in summer – what’s not to like? Except right now, the UK looks anything but U. The mood seems ugly and violent; feral, like a simultaneous countrywide re-enactment of 28 Days Later. Visit Britain must be thrilled… Continue reading

Stranger in a Strange Land

This was not the post I intended to publish today.

The subject is the same – next week’s referendum in the UK on whether or not to remain a member of the European Union – but that’s where the similarities end.

Jo Cox MP
Jo Cox MP, 1974-2016

I had a thousand words ready to go. I was going to follow on the post I wrote after I failed to get registered in time to vote in last year’s General Election, and, a newly registered overseas postal voter, make some compare-and-contrast observations between the half day I’ll never get back, the first and only time I tried to post a letter in Doha, and the ease of sending off my postal vote via Emirates Post here in Abu Dhabi.

Sadly, both versions need to point out that the ‘Leave’ campaign has only offered a message of xenophobic fear and hatred, focused almost exclusively on the issue of immigration. I had written that “it is trying to stoke racist fears of the consequences of keeping our economic borders open to the rest of the EU”.

Tragically, that message seems to have been taken to heart. Continue reading

Ramadan Kareem!

The holy month of Ramadan is almost here – but what does it mean for non-Muslims? And how will the UAE do things differently to our previous experiences of Ramadan in Qatar?

(Ahead of our first Ramadan in Qatar I wrote this post, which explored what the holy month means for non-Muslims in a Muslim country. This post is a kind of updated remix as we approach our first Ramadan in the UAE.)

Being based on the lunar cycle, Ramadan moves forward by around 11 days each year.

Time Out Ramadan special
Read all about it

That means it will start next week, most likely on Monday, once the crescent moon is observed. That’s more than a month earlier than our first Ramadan in Doha, which affects everything from the temperature outside to the timing of the school day.

Yes, it’s hot here currently, but Ramadan falling at a time that’s as much as 10 degrees (C) cooler than previous years can only help when it comes to walking off all those post-Iftar calories.

Continue reading

Blank Space

Sad but true: one expat’s farewell is another’s yard sale.

One of the parts of expat life that you try not to think about too much – along with the cost of air fares and the cultural drift that sees you slowly lose touch with daily life in your home country (I saw a headline in a UK paper the other day which was essentially X’s reaction to how Y had treated Z. I’d heard of none of them) – is the constant turnover of people in your life.

Strangers on a Train
Hang on tight: the carousel climax from Strangers on a Train – click to play!

It’s endless, and usually sudden, and frequently exhausting. I still feel like a newbie here in my house, but there’s already at least four newer families just in my street alone. More are on their way. And there are ten other streets like mine in this compound alone…

Now replicate that turnover across a whole city and the movement quickly becomes a blur. The merry-go-round never slows down.

Continue reading

Top of the World

Malls! Everybody loves them (and we really like them and their air conditioned comfort in this part of the world). Even zombies love them.

New dawn at the WTC
Is The Hub a new dawn for the World Trade Center?

Which is why it’s always a mystery to see one that hasn’t quite found its footing yet, like the World Trade Center mall in the heart of Abu Dhabi. Opened in 2014, it’s split into a souq and a more traditional mall.

A quick visit to the souq side shows why they need to try something new. Heavy wooden doors previously blocked views of the interior, so you didn’t even know the place was open, and denied access to anyone with bags, buggies or mobility problems.

Kicking off a much-needed facelift, sliding glass doors have been installed, to allow such novel concepts as light, and access. There’s already a different feel to the place since I moved here six months ago.

Now focus has switched to enhancing the mall half of the Mall, which is why your correspondent found himself as their guest last week at the opening of their new dining concept, The Hub. Continue reading