Monday, July 31, 2006


The choice of places to eat in Nelson Madella square in Johannesburg can be a little bewildering. Fortunately my friend over there recommend we eat in an African restaurant called Lekotla. If you go to their website it gives you a real feel for the place. It is an upscale modern restaurant where traditional African music is played and they even offer face painting for the ladies.

The menu offered a real variety of dishes that too a simple Englishman like myself looked very exotic. I ended up with the "safe" sounding Botswana roast beef fillet. Looking back I wish was more daring in my choice. Neverless the beef was outstanding and dare I say it - better than the Butcher Shop...

I really enjoyed the ambience of the restaurant, the service was great and it was well priced. I am keen to go back again and try something a little more "local"

Overall 9/10 - a real taste of africa

Saturday, July 29, 2006


While flicking through the numerous available channels on the ICE Emirates in flight entertainment system I watched a couple of episodes of House M.D.

It feels like a cross between ER and CSI - two of my favourite shows. It is really nice to see Hugh Laurie in an excellent role and certainly his best form since Blackadder. The character interaction between House's team is fun and I particular like Omar Epps's role as a neurologist.

I am really enjoying this show and grabbed season one from Virgin Megastore on my arrival back into Dubai.

Overall 9/10 - just great drama

What a difference a day makes...

Especially after having curtains fitted in my new place. I was recommended a chap to do the curtains and he was super friendly and came around with samples and measured up within two hours of my original call - a great service. This service also continued on the installation - they had the week while I was in South Africa to make the curtains.

A whole team of guys turned up with bags of curtains and large power drills - within 2 hours all the windows were suitably clothed and I felt a lot happier. While I am now living on the 25th floor so are a lot of other people and with all the glass in the apartments it can feel like living in a goldfish bowl.

It has also had the nice effect of making the apartment feel much more "homey" - and I am even starting to thing of Dubai as home. I have been here exactly one month and looking back I have manage to achieve a great deal:

1. I am now a UAE resident
2. I hold a UAE driving license
3. I have a UAE bank account
4. I have moved all my furniture from the UK to the UAE
5. I have been on Dubai radio and even made into the local IT Weekly
6. I have visited a whole new continent (Africa)
7. I have brought a new car (my first time ever and subject of a forthcoming blog)
8. I have a non-censored UAE internet connection (Thank you DIC Telecom)

Overall I am feeling much more settled and am looking forward to the weather cooling down a little so I can go and explore more of this great country.

Friday, July 28, 2006

High Def

On leaving the UK I donated my vertiable Panasonic TH-42PW6 to my mom - I made some feeble excuse that "it would never survive the shipping" or some such nonsense. If the truth be told I had been hankering after a real HD plasma and the move to Dubai seemed like a perfect excuse.

In between running around Dubai sorting out the red tape - it is hard not notice the many electrical stores selling large screen plasma and LCD displays. It seems also that Samsung, LG and the occasional Sony seem to have the majority of the retailers display space. Not much in the way of Philips, Panasonic or Pioneer to be seen - they are there just not as the common as the afore mentioned brands.

Even with fairly few brands to choose from the choice is still bewildering - LCD or Plasma? What about DLP? How big? How many pixels? Wall mount or desktop stand? How much does it all cost? Well after some a lot of staring at the same High Def demos on a whole bunch of screen I went for the age of trade off - how many inches can I get for the least amount of money?

I decided I wanted a wall mount solution - so that put DLP out of the picture. After 37inches LCDs start to get really expensive and so currently the biggest screen for the least amount of Dirhams led me to a 50inch LG plasma. I had been hankering over the 50" Panasonic but in the end it just did not justify the extra 3000 Dirhams as it contains the same panel as the LG.

The nice thing about buying a plasma here in Dubai is that when they deliver they are also happy to install it onto the wall - pretty much unheard of in the UK without paying vast amounts more. Also once they were done they took the huge box away with them as well.

The plasma is installed and looking handsome - the pictures via HDMI on my DVD player are excellent and in 1080i mode Xbox 36o games are simply jaw dropping. The best bit though is that this 50" High Def plasma cost £2000 less than my original non high def 42" plasma - technology is indeed awesome if you are on the right side of the curve.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Gun Crime

While we are all aware of the middle east crisis, the bombings in Mumbai and tsunamis in Asia - the startlingly reality of high levels of crime here in South Africa was something I had heard about but not paid much attention.

On watching the early morning news today the lead story of a gang-related massacre and the gunning down of foreign nationals at motorway off ramps (which I have to drive past on my way to the office) caused me some concern. Having lived in the UK and now the UAE this type of crime is particularly rare.

In fact my friend who picked me up from the airport had just been subjected to a robbery and had had her handbag, car keys and subsequently car stolen from her secured locker in the local gym.

Sadly I have little comfort in the fact that crime rates are dropping in Jo'burg. In the meantime there are a number of guidelines I will be following. Most are common sense but the one time you forget will be time you are vulnerable (there is a very similar list printed in the hotel guide)

  • Do not walk alone in deserted areas and around the streets after dark
  • Avoid inner city and rural areas as well as townships, unless part of a tour group.
  • Always keep valuables such as jewelery out of sight
  • Do not display your camera around your neck
  • Do not carry large sums of money
  • Do not leave your luggage unattended
  • Avoid suburban trains during off-peak unless part of a large group
  • Do not accept lifts from strangers and never 'hitchhike'.
  • When in a car, keep doors locked and windows only partially open.
  • Do not offer lifts to strangers.
  • Where possible, park in supervised parking areas.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Butcher Shop and Grill

My friend and I went to the Butcher Shop and Grill for an evening meal. This restaurant is located in Nelson Mandella square alongside numerous other restaurants and attached to a giant shoppng mall. It was also great to see the large bronze statue of the man himself.

The restaurant is fairly unusual as they have a full butchers counter as you walk in displaying the fine array of meat and sea food available. The waiter who led us our table gave us great service all night and I was quite surprised just how large the place is. Anyway down to the steak!

I orderd the prime rib medium rare and it was pretty good - a little fatty for my tastes but it was an epic large piece of meat on the bone. The great thing about it was that it did not come at an epic price - 10UKP - stunning. I have paid more in a beefeater in the UK for something that tasted like shoe sole.

Here is said steak:

Overall for value and service that was hard to beat - 9/10

I left the rains...

I arrived for my first ever visit to Africa this afternoon namely Johannesburg South Africa. The eight hour flight across from Dubai was uneventful though thanks to their super on board entertainment system I think I am now addicted to watching "Boston Legal" and "House" - both excellent US dramas.

On arriving in Jo'burg I was greeted by an old friend of mine. It was really great to catch up as it had been over a year since we had seen each other - but once we started gossiping it seemed like we had not seen each other for a week much less a year. A sign of a great friendship.

The last time we met was in Scotland and now in South Africa - are we now really living in a global village?

Friday, July 21, 2006

A trip down memory lane....

My little UAE secret is that I actually lived in Abu Dhabi and went to school there for a year some twenty two years ago. Hence the fact why I did not really take long to decide on taking the job here in Dubai - I had a pretty good handle on what to expect in terms of culture.

Last weekend a good friend of mine invited me to spend the day in Abu Dhabi at their hotel - Le meridian. With little else to do I jumped at the chance and took the short trip through the desert to meet them.

While driving around Abu Dhabi - a couple of things struck me:

1. I have no recollection of the place at all
2. It is very laid back there
3. The driving is no where near as bad as Dubai

I had a very relaxed day at the hotel and as the weather seemed a little cooler than in Dubai we were able to chill out by the pool, have a splash about in the sea and chat to the other brit holidaymakers/expats. I really felt like I was on holiday - a great feeling.

However the highlight of the day was while we enjoyed an evening Italian meal at Pappagallo's a three piece Filipino band played a super acoustic of "Show me the way to Armarillo" followed by a nice rendition of "I want it that way" by the Backstreet boys.

Only in the UAE - I love it


I saw the trailer for this movie and was intrigued. I recently watched Saw and Saw II and secretly enjoyed them. So I thought I would give Hostel a go - it was Europtrip meets A Texas Chainsaw Massacre without capturing any of the good points of those movies.

I found Hostel to be truly horrible, gratuitous and pointless. The only redeeming thing being some eye candy for lads other than that avoid

Overall - 2/10 (some amusing "Amsterdam" comedy at the start")

Thursday, July 20, 2006


...or rather a lack of it. I think the picture says it all.
I guess I will enjoy the pool when I get back from South Africa.


I have now been driving in Dubai for a couple of weeks. I was fairly well briefed on what to expect:

1. Indicators are solely for decoration
2. Speed limits do not seem to exist if you are driving in the outside lane
3. If you do use the indicators this is a sign for drivers behind you to speed up
4. All lanes can be used for over/under taking
5. Accidents happen all the time - and when they do there is no effort to remove them to the safety of the hard shoulder
6. The hard shoulder is also a valid lane
7. Tailgating and weaving in and out of traffic are standard
8. If you miss your junction - not to worry - simply reverse back up it
9. You have 0.05ms reaction time at traffic lights else other drivers will engage liberal use of the horn
10. Expect the person driving in front of you to do the most crazy thing possible - and typically they will

I felt forewarned was forearmed but it has still taken some adjustment. However none of this prepared me for what I saw yesterday. I was driving down the 5 lane Sheik Zayed Road when I had to take a little evasive action as there were two guys stood on the white lines between lanes two and three attempting to cross the highway. I was simply not prepared to witness such an act of lunacy.

Probably the most dangerous game of frogger in the world!

Photo Me

My vertible Sony Ericsson K750i was looking a little battleworn - the battery had seen better days and even after having the joystick repaired it did not feel the same. Iwas lucky at work and got given a Nokia 6680. This seems like quite a nice phone (if a little large) - but after using it for about 10days the difference in the user interfaces between Sony Ericsson and Nokia were making me a little crazy. Though the excellent camera in the Nokia was just the ticket for taking snaps of the unusual things I see in my first few weeks in Dubai.

Driven to distraction over the Nokia user interface I felt it best to end this pain and procure a new Sony Ericsson. My choice was essentially between the K800i and the M600i both very different beasts indeed.

A local retailer let me have a play with both of them. The M600i is based on the OS used in the P900 and is really the epitome of the smart phone. The M600i itself is very slim and lightweight with a great screen. I felt that the response between applications was slow and you really need two hands to make a phone call (not ideal) - also the lack of a camera made my choice for me.

The K800i that I ended up buying has really impressed me. Aside from the awesome 3.2Megapixel camera and flash it has, the battery life is awesome and the UI improvements make the phone a pleasure to use. The new M2 memory format was a bit of pain - but on seeing the size of 1GB card I was startled. The card is small, really small - I think if you were to sneeze on it you would never see it again!

I always like to rate and review things and I thought I would do this for the Sony Ericsson phones I have owned:

T68i - First colour mobile phone, super slow menus - 6/10 - just for pimp factor at the time

T610 - 65k colour screen, poly ringtones but poor joystick design - 7/10 - poly ringtones were all the rage at the time

T630 - a good upgrade over the T610 in terms of screen and design - still suffered the same joystick failure issues - 7/10

P910 - good smart phone, but really needed two handed use and a bit on the large size - 6/10

W900i - mp3, 3G and big display all in one phone - sadly the swivel design and chunky build made it feel more Fisher Price then Hi-Tec - 3/10

K75oi - the first "real" camera phone for me - 2 megapixel and an attempt at a flash, mp3 and duo memory stick support makes this still a great phone - however it continues to be plagued by the joystick issues of the T610/T630

K800i - 3.2 megapixels and now branded as a "Cybershot" by Sony-Ericsson - improved UI and it uses the great screen from the W900i. The joystick designs seems to have improved as well but only time will tell if it holds up - 9/10 (so far)

22 Long Nights

Today was a good day. I moved into my rented apartment. I have spent the last 22 nights staying a rather low grade (at least for Dubai) at least hotel. I have been looking forward to this for the past 3 weeks. Now I can finally start to enjoy Dubai and my work here. Though still a lot of things needed for the flat especially curtains!

I also underestimated exactly how big this new place is. It is nearly twice the floor area of my flat back in Camberley. This basically means furniture kind of gets lost. I am glad now I never got a 3 bedroom place.

Allied Pickfords did a fantastic job of moving all my gear into my place and unpacking everything. A real contrast from Pickfords in the UK. Let me do a quick compare and contrast:

1. Punctuality - UK late both times, Dubai - 30mins early and completed when they said
2. Friendliness - UK guys while nice were surly at times - Dubai - super friendly
3. Work Ethic - UK constant mobile phone calls and fag breaks - Dubai - four hours of hard graft with no messing and a quick 10min lunch break

No sooner had the crew left than a customer service rep from Pickfords tunred up - made sure I was happy and gave me a nice welcome pack which included the Dubai explorer and Street map. Really excellent service from Dubai Pickfords.

So overall I am giving Pickfords a 7/10. Dubai guys get 9/10 and UK guys get 5/10

Monday, July 17, 2006

Video killed the Radio Star

After only a few weeks in Dubai the last 24 hours has seen me do more press interviews than the last two years in the UK. After a press launch yesterday at Ski Dubai I found myself at the recording studio of "Eye on Dubai" who broadcast on 103.8FM. This was my first ever live radio interview and the 30 minutes I spent at the station were both the most nerve wracking and exciting minutes I have had in some time.

The two radio DJs were extremely well prepared and professional. I was impressed by the energy that they put into presenting when live on air. When the interview actually started I felt a little like I was having a viva exam. Soon enough it was over and I could breathe a huge sigh of relief. I think it was kind of like giving a best man's speech - big nerves before hand but once I was done I wanted to do it again.

If you are interested you can find the stream of the interview here:

I think I am almost famous....

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Electric Dreams

The DEWA incident the previous day was really preying on my mind today. I am due to move into an apartment on Wednesday and I really needed to get utilities.

First thing Sunday morning I located the relevant landlord passport copy and ownership contract and made a tidy file with the other documents and completed the DEWA form. I heard that DEWA have an office behind the Mazaya center just off SZR. Again I thought it best to take a taxi and upon arriving and seeing nothing but some really nice villas I asked the driver to wait. In the space of 10minutes and 1000AED lighter I was told the DEWA would be automatically connected. I could not with hold a little cheer once I had walked out of the office.

I think I will pop over to my apartment tomorrow and press a light switch, but before doing so I will offer up a little prayer.

At least I am glad I am not the young Expat guy who came in with a DEWA bill of 12000AED!

Get myself connected

On Thursday I took the short trip from the office to Dubai Media City to sign up for internet and TV services supplied by Dubai Internet City Telecom as I will be living in an Emaar property.
The good or bad thing about using DIC Telecom is that they have a different web proxy to that of Etisalat which is not subject to the same censorship filter.

I like the way these properties have all rooms pre-cabled for these services and even admire the way that for each service - phone, internet, tv package there is a nice 200AED connection fee. Not that you have much choice. Well after presenting the documents - passport copy, residence copy, tenancy contract and filling out the all important form I had the services I needed.

I ended up choosing to have no residential land line, a 1 mb broadband connection and subscription to ADD sports package and Orbit Prime for a total of 551AED. This is pretty similar to the package I had in the UK - only I had four times the channels and eight times the broadband connection.........

In an effort to get the last of the admin and red tape sorted out on Saturday, I hired a taxi driver to run me around Dubai. While I now have my own transport I felt for just a few hundred dirahams I could get to where I needed worry free.

First on the list was DEWA. This is the government department that controls water and electricity. Fairly essential things for a gadget freak like me. I went to the main DEWA office near Wafi mall. I strode in with my briefcase and promptly got lost. After a few minutes orientation and asking where I should go I found the correct building and took a ticket. I then realised I did not have the form fellow queuee's had - I found one and hastily tried to fill it out before my number was called.

Too late my number was up and I hurried to the desk with papers strewn everywhere. The chap behind the desk was helpful telling me the key boxes to fill out. He then asked for the regular documentation i.e. copy of passport, residence visa and tenancy agreement. Super I thought I have all of those. Then he hit me with the question:

"You have the landlords passport copy and ownership contract?" - DOH! I do have those documents as part of the letting process - but they were safely locked up in the office. I told him this and again he helpfully suggested I could fax them over later today. It was a Saturday and I couldn't get into the office until Sunday morning. I had absolutley no clue that this would be required.

The DEWA officer shook his head and passed me back the forms - I felt beaten and dejected....

Red Tape 1 - Aaron 0

Not to make the day a waste I pressed on and my friendly taxi drive took me to the Dubai Traffic Police headquaters - which is a very nice building indeed. Upon arriving I made sure to complete the correct form and presented it to the official. He asked for copies and inspection of original - passport, residence visa, eye test certificate (easily opbtained for 25AED from any optician - remember to bring a photo) and driving license. He then asked for the paper counterpart of the UK driving license. Ah hah - I had that ! But no copy....doh

That was ok as their was a chap around the corner who was making a healthy trade at 1AED per photocopy page. I went back to the officer with said forms and a photo. He then proceeded to translate into arabic the answers on the form I had given. Once done he stapled and stamped everything. Then I was ushered to see another officer.

I gave my documents to the officer who then proceeded to type in the details from the form into a computer. I was then asked for 200AED and told to go and have my photo taken. I went into the photo studio and in less than 60 seconds I was the proud owner of a UAE driving license. Woohooo

Red Tape 1 - Aaron 1

Buoyed on by my success I thought it wise that I take on the challenge that is the infamous HSBC Jebel Ali branch. A quick trip down the SZR and we were there - but it is quite a drive from Deira where I was.

Upon arrival at the HSBC I was quickly seen by one of their premier banking team - again I handed over the relevant documents - passport copy, residence visa, salary statement from the company and HSBC Premier bank card from the UK. Again in a startingly disply of efficiency I had my accout number (now I can get paid here!), was offered a car loan for up to 250kAED! and was given a particular fetching pair of HSBC "Premier" cufflinks. Pleased I headed out of the bank thinking good things come to those who go to the Jebel Ali Branch.

Red Tape 1 - Aaron 2

I celebrated with a quick lunch at the Hard Rock cafe - it was a little tricky to find, but once there I was welcomed by a tasty Cobb salad and vanilla shake.

After that I thought I would try and get an e-card. Dubai airport supports the use of this card card and fingerprint recognition for speedy progress through immigration.Having seen the snaking queue at 1am in the morning when I landed a couple of weeks ago I made a mental note that it was important to get one as I will be doing a lot of travel.

A quick trip to the Danata building - presenting my passport, a photo that they scanned and 200AED I walked out with a shiny e-card. Wow I was pleased.

Red Tape 1 - Aaron 3

Following a reasonably productive day I spent the rest of it shopping for a TV and a vehicle. More on than later...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I got keys, they're multiplying

A strange thought struck me when I left the UK. I was more of less keyless. I had given away all the sets of keys to my apartment in the UK, I had sold my car and I do not even lock my suitcase these days (else risk customs breaking the lock). Seemed slightly odd but liberating to be walking around with simply wallet and mobile and not a key in site.

Today that all changed in a New York minute. After what has seemed like an eternity (reality 10days) I have received my residence visa for UAE - in many ways now the real work begins. Without this you are limited in not being able to open a full bank account, get a driving license, get a DEWA account, get a Booze license.

In a dazzlingly display of Dubai efficiency in the space of 4 hours and getting my passport back I had:

1. Signed a tenancy agreement and got keys to an apartment in Dubai Marina
2. Agreed a delivery date for my container of goods form the UK
3. Got a rental car delivered to the office
4. Have someone from the HSBC to come and visit me to open up a bank account (they have been causing me major drama see here)

All I need to do now is get the DEWA connected, get my driving license, get an eCard for customs and finally get my flat fully internetted and cable TV'd. I am sure there are other things to do but that will be a pretty good start.

Here is a rather dodgy photo taken on my mobile of the view from my new apartment's lounge:

Once I have done all that I am going to South Africa in 10 days time.

Now this is why I came here!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The taste of a new generation

Before coming to Dubai - the last time I paid 15 pence for a can of Coke/Pepsi was over 20 years ago in the UK. However here in Dubai said can/bottle costs 1AED be it from a vending machine or shop. I can't even begin to imagine how cheap soft drinks are if brought in bulk from somewhere like Carrefour.

It seems however that petrol is even cheaper than the coke here!

Haircut 100

In order to stop growing an enormous 'fro I thought it was time to get my first haircut in Dubai. Near where I am currently staying there appeared to be a number of options. On British instinct I headed to the one with the most amount of neon and cleanest looking one.

I was a little surprised when I found myself in a philipino hairdresser's and even more so after one hour once I had been shaved, haircut, shampoo'd, head and shoulder massaged and liberally dusted down with talc. And all for the bargain price of 25AED (about four quid)

The chap doing the haircut made Bruce Forsyth look like Rambo. I was offered a number of other services including body waxing and a manicure but I felt man handled enough by then

I was a little concerned that his parting words to me were "Come Again"

Monday, July 10, 2006

Dubai Essential

One thing I should have picked up before coming out to Dubai is a book called the Dubai Explorer - it is a fantastic resident's guide to life, the city and everything. I also picked up the accompanying street map which no doubt goes out of date the second it is printed will at least give me some geography of the area. There is also a guide by the same company called Dubai - Red Tape Explorer - I have not got this yet but I am sure I will. The bureaucracy here never ceases to amaze me.

This is without doubt the bible/koran of Dubai and such receives a 10/10 rating.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

RIP Darvos

For those of you who know me - one thing that has occupied vast quantities of my time is the seminal MMORPG World of Warcraft. I have played since the week after its Euro release back in Feb 2005. The thing that kept me really hooked into the game was the "Guild" I belonged to.

Through this Guild I have met some fantastic people by playing this computer game and this friendship extends passed simply gaming and are bonds I intend to keep. If I can do this then that will be more valuable than killing any end game boss.

Over the passed 18 months the guild evolved merged, grew and allied. This allowed me to partake in some of the end games raid content that I could only have dreamed about at the end of last year.

With my recent move over to Dubai and the different working week and +3hr time difference I have realized that I am simply "incompatible" with the raid timetable. For me raiding was all that was really left for my characters to do - while levelling a character can be fun I am loathed to do it again.

So at least for now - I have put "Darvos" to rest for the foreseeable future till I can get some regular pattern in my life and I can find the inclination to play again.

/target account
/cast cancel account

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Boom! shake-shake-shake the room Boom!

I am currenty staying a hotel for up to 30days and I realised how much I was missing listening to music - sure I could play it through my laptop but the speakers are so tinny it actually puts me off - the other alternative to walk around my hotel room with my ipod and earphones on isn't entirely practical so I decided I wanted some external speakers for my iPod.

While on holiday in Vegas a friend of mine brought a Bose Sounddock - and very pleasant sounding it was as well. The only drawback I felt with that unit was you couldn't fill it with batteries and essentially use it as a mobile ghetto blaster. Also after some research at the ilounge (THE seminal iPod site) I decided that the Altec Lansing IM7 was the one for me. I managed to locate one at Carrefour and was impressed that it worked out £10 cheaper than if I had have brought it from

I had it up in running in about 30 seconds and I was impressed straight away by the clarity and nice tight bass lines it produced. Thinking back it has the edge over the Bose unit in terms of sound quality and overall volume. I also really liked the hidden rubberized handle for lugging it around. I am now tempted at looking at other smaller products in the IM Altec Lansing range to carry in my laptop bag for when I am travelling on business.

Overall 9/10 - sounds great, limited distance for the remote control (well I couldn't give it 10/10)

Stay Alive

I took my first trip to a Dubai cinema today and randomly ended up seeing a movie called "Stay Alive". Before I get to that the three things I have heard about Dubai cinemas are absolutely true:

  1. People will talk throughout the movie
  2. People's cellphones will continually ring/bong and be talked into
  3. The temperature appears to be set to sub-zero
I had prior warning to all those things so while I found them all a little irksome forewarned is forearmed and I just tried to ignore it all and watch the movie.

"Stay Alive" is a teen horror/slasher movie where what happens in a virtual world (PS2/PC game) happens in real life. Thus ensures the usual jump out of your seat moments and freaky use of surround sound effects. It was enough for me to become a little fidgety.

As a slasher movie goes it was poor but the unique VR/RL Storyline helped out by the appearance of Samaire Armstrong (who bore a striking resemblance to a late night "entertainer" in Las Vegas I once met) made me pay attention for the first 60% of the movie after which I was wishing it would be over.

Overall: 5/10 - The product placement of nice Alienware laptops was nice - but since then they have been acquired by Dell. Further proof of "Rhymes with Hell"

Villa Life

The rental market in Dubai for accommodation can only be described as "totally nuts". The demand is high competition is fierce and the costs are spiralling out of control. In an effort to combat this many an expat ends up in a "Villa Share". As you can imagine this is an excellent cost saving idea should you wish to live with other people.

When I heard about how common place Villa Share was here in Dubai - my mind conjured up my days of living in a shared house as a student or a recent graduate. It was all a bit painful then - huge piles of washing up, laundry hanging everywhere, a less than desirable bathroom and walls so thin that everyone's nocturnal habits were known to the rest of the house.

However the Villas in Dubai that are shared by expats are a far cry from the 1920s terraces I lived in in Liverpool. They are very large houses - with each giant bedroom having its own en-suite. In fact the master bedroom might be better be termed a studio flat as it had its own living room. Add in cleaning a couple of times a week by a maid in the communal areas suddenly all the downsides from sharing a place with other people are gone. You get to have your own privacy and should you wish company just pop out and say hello - safe in the knowledge that you will not be risking e. coli from the kitchen.

Having said of all that I have enough furniture to fill half a villa on my own so will be back in the land of getting my own apartment to live in.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Gardinia is a buffet restaurant in the Rotana Towers hotel. There is also a very good bar in the basement called Longs.

The Gardina offers a fixed price of 129AED to include as much as you can eat and a selection of alcoholic drinks. The night we went they had a theme of "rotisserie" this essentially meant a whole lot of roast meats (even pork) and yorkshire puddings. I found the prime rib beef they had to be excellent and easily as good as anything I tried on my recent vacation to Las Vegas.

Overall - 9/10 - great value, tasty food in pleasant surroundings - a big thumbs up

Ponderosa Steak House

I visited this restaurant which is situated in the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah. They have a couple who spend most of the night singing latina type songs accompanied by tom-tom drums and guitar. I quite enjoyed the music but overall I found it a little loud at times when trying to talk to my fellow diners.

I had a rib-eye steak with some mash potato and sauteed spinach. I found the meat quite tasty though there was quite a lot of "eye" on the cut I had making it more of a "small" portion. The Chilean wine we had with it was quite tasty. Despite not picking up the bill the price was more on the side of expensive as opposed to value.

Overall 7/10 - I would go back and try something else on the menu

All you need is friends....

A number of years ago I went to New Zealand on a four month secondment. I recall having a fairly rotten time for the first four weeks until I ended up going to an Oasis concert with some chaps from the office and ended up making some great friends.

My "Oasis Concert" in Dubai was the rather sad England World Cup quarter final defeat to Portugal. I arranged to meet an old friend Chris Saul at a local bar. Despite not having the result in the football I felt that I had a result in making contact with Chris and his lovely wife and also some of Chris's friends. I look forward to the next time I am able share a beer with them.

Chris Saul is also the purveyor of a fine blog of which I am an avid reader - while before I could mostly laugh at the situations he finds himself in - today, however, I sympathise with his plight.

I have it all to look forward to....

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Lost in Translation

I was told by a good friend of mine Paul M that I should watch this movie as soon as I got over here and that is what I duly did.

Lost in translation has been critically acclaimed by numerous people so I shall not add to that. Suffice to say it is a great film. However I could only sympathize with Bill Murray's sleepness nights in a hotel in a foreign land all the more with my recent relocation! Sadly though I have yet to find my Scarlett Johansson.

Overall 9/10 - proof that simple plots are the best and that narrative cinema is here to stay

Glory Road

Now this is the type of movie I look forward to every year. The plot hold no surprises as they are usually based on a true story but it is the character portrayal and the big climax "win" scene at the end.

This movie is a true story of a 1966 college basketball team who fielded black players and went on to win the NCAA championship. The racism issue is dealt with well in the film and certainly adds to the plight of our heroes.

I didn't look to hard at the facts behind this film but enjoyed the story as it was presented. Not as good as Remember the Titans or Rudy but not bad at all.

Overall 7/10 - mostly as I am a sucker for this type of film.