Saturday, 4 December 2010

Kullunna Khalifa

It has been 39 years since the flag that represents the seven emirates was raised for the first time. It may not be that long compared to the historical emergence of other nations. But the emirates have gone through  a rapid transformation over the years. Before 1971 the seven emirates were collectively known as the Trucial States, a name that originated from maritime agreements between the British and the leading sheikhs of the tribes. Today, the seven emirates benefit from the unity that has been solidified for 39 years and the prosperity that has come along with it. It was a long weekend for us here since we are celebrating the National Day on the 2nd December and also Maal Hijrah on the 5th December. I was on my road trip visiting the emirates to enjoy the present day of this beautiful and blessed country. It amazed me somehow when reflecting what I saw along the road trip with the old photos of UAE  that I googled earlier. It is indeed a rapid transformation. Kullunna Khalifa means 'We are all for Khalifa', is a phrase which has been used for this year UAE's 39th National Day celebrations. It is written everywhere across the emirates to mark the respect and admiration for President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The day was 2nd December 1971

The Father and His Flag
The old photographs of the past

Paul took a snap of Eric, Robin and me on our road trip across the emirates on a long weekend

Monday, 29 November 2010

Lovely Jumeirah

I visit Jumeirah so frequently in this mild November weather. Jumeirah is not my new girlfriend though I would like it very much to imagine that I have one. It is kind of sexy name, don't you think? The name is so feminine, seductive and ancient. I googled up and  discovered that Jumeirah is indeed ancient. The name carries significant history of this region. This is what has been written about it, "This affluent suburb to the south of Dubai city is the location of an important archaeological site dating to the early Islamic period. Large houses built of beach rock (farush) covered with lime plaster have been excavated at Jumeirah by a team from the Dubai Museum. Based on a study of the pottery found at the site, Jumeirah seems to date to the first two or three centuries of the Islamic era. Thus, it is in part contemporary with the sequence at Kush in northern Ras al-Khaimah, and with Jazirat al-Hulaylah. Jumeirah is, however, the only complete settlement with well-preserved architecture yet excavated from this important period. A selection of the finds from Jumeirah can be seen in the Dubai Museum."

So it comes as no surprise that Jumeirah has always been a favourite place now and then. It is now an iconic place for beach goers. A place one can view the tallest building looming inland. A place to chill out, to just let go, to get half naked (sorry nudists, they can tolerate bikinis here but nothing less) and get soaked by the sun and seawater. A place that inspires people to come out and play.  

 These guys would probably said happily to each other, "Yalla, it's a beach day!" in Urdu

Burj Khalifa standing tall in the background. From here one can really tell how tall it is.

Me and my sundowning moment

These young Arabs were taking their wudhuk prior to Maghrib prayers

The water gets colder at night and soon it's going to be too cold for nightswimming

Friday, 26 November 2010

Staring At The Sky

As I was driving absent-mindedly along the familiar street without congestion and the anxiety of being late on a fine lazy day, I looked up at the sky more than once, to catch the natural work of art. I didn't really look at it rather seriously until my Scottish pal, John, on the passenger's seat, gazed at the sky so intensely and said to me that God has saved him from the miserable rain and cold weather of Edinburgh this year. He is so glad that he is here and then he will spend several months in the exotic city called Chiang Mai in Thailand. He said the people in Scotland get so depressed in the winter up there, consumed piles of fries and fried stuffs including fried Snickers bars and they will die young of depression or on the unhealthy diet. I was laughing at his pathetic view of his own country and countrymen. That was when I looked at the sky again and the word  mashallah popped out from my head. Indeed, the sky was so blue and beautiful with the uncommon white tinges and smudges. I smiled and said to myself, right now, there's no other place that I want to be other than this sunny city with the mild winter weather.

I have been deserting this playground for a long while and I just came to know two of my favourite bloggers are no longer here to share the same sky. The flamboyant young architect had left the emirates and so had  the awesome mother of two. I have never met both but somehow it seemed like I knew them in person from just reading their stories. I wish them happiness in their new playground elsewhere. It also hits me that another virtual friend who makes magical mocha with her signature recipe, has come to stay close to the city, not sure where exactly, but close enough for her to stare at the same sky. I wish her bienvenue and all the best in making a wonderful living in this arid land.

Monday, 16 August 2010

The Best Thing in Life is Still Free

This is me in my most superficial, shallow and basic being. When people bragged how Ramadhan has rebuilt  their faith, cleansed their mind, heart and soul, I just want to tell the world that in this holy month, I appreciate food more than ever. And considering that the temperature out there during midday can soar as high as 47 degrees Celsius, I must say, I value water and my cups of coffee too.   

Food and drinks comes in many form and style, but they serve only for just one purpose. Yesterday, I forked out AED200 to be served for food and drinks at a Ramadhan tent of Mina Salam, next to Madinat Jumeirah. It was a perfect setting, super service and wonderful ambiance but the food was below par in comparison to all other elements mentioned. Nevertheless, I finished everything on my plate. I was happy that it would fuel me well so as to keep me moving.

Today, I went to a mosque in my neighbourhood to observe human fuel in a different form and style. The food was handed from one hand to another in a line of men, it was then arranged like lights on parallel  runways. It was a mélange of simple meals. I didn't pay a penny for my portion. Yet the food has satisfied my basic need. I felt a deluge of fuel fixing my weary and deprived body. It felt greater than the great ambiance and the super service of a chic place. When they say the best thing in life is free, believe it. It's no bullshit.

Friday, 6 August 2010

When A Chocolatier Meets A Winemaker

I have the pleasure to meet Greg, the winemaker from Napa. We had series of interesting conversations. This guy is something else. He rejected medical school to pursue his aspiration of becoming a dreamer. I asked him why and he said he did that after realizing that physicians in America are becoming like puppets and they are ridiculed by the administration of the healthcare system. These were more and less the words I once heard coming from my wife when she complained about her work in Malaysia.

Greg hates milk and loves wines instead. Voila! He conjures a passion and that is, wine making. He worked  in San Francisco, then a city of the south island of New Zealand and next, Sicily. Well, he knows his shit damn well. He narrated well on the types of grapes, their attributes and the variety of wine derived from the vineyard bunches. His articulation about his trade really delighted the chocolatier. I was really entertained and inspired to exchange similar story about cacao from the farm that we have in central Africa, the dwindling yearly crops and a little bit of chocolate making.

The tale of his trade is not exactly the most appealing part about him. We came to a moment when he uncorked the fact that he is an atheist. He believes that he is one of the billion consumers in the universe, who lives to consume whatever that comes along and then one day, will cease to exist. Period. No God, no angels, no devils, no heaven, no hell, no divine intervention, whatsoever. He is a non-believer but not out of ignorance. In fact, he has done a lot of reading and research to support his thinking. I guess he did that, more than I ever read and understood Quran. Meeting him, strikes me with one important realization in life. Having faith is not entirely our choice. I was born a Muslim and I didn't choose to become one. It is a gift I inherit with. A gift from God. Engaging in the delicate conversation with Greg about God, has made me look within to appreciate this dimensionless gift of faith, inexplainable by scientific and logical evidence. It is there in me as a congenital element. I just believe and grow with it. I couldn't be any luckier than this and I am thankful for it. Faith may have somehow eluded Greg's life so far. But anything is possible. He may find it later in his life. One who has it now, may even loose it along the way. 

Back to the surface, Greg is an awesome guy. He is socially skilled. He engages in conversation very tactfully and interestingly. He really lives for the moment, enjoys his time being a so-called consumer of the universe. He is very appreciative. He is young, curious and adventurous and there's no doubt in my mind, that he would die saying 'I ve had the time of my life'. I thank him for shaking up my mind just a bit to make me realize about the little gift I have, which others may not have it in a million years. Indeed, the little gift needs a lot of polishing. Next week, the Ramadhan starts. How appropriate....

Greg pointed that the slim decanter is for champagne, the middle one is for white wine and the fat one is for the red wine and he explained the conceptual design for each.

For good life ahead, Greg. Cheers.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Melt Like Chocolate

It has been a while since I last found myself reflecting life and zooming the depth of my being. I have been busy with the superficiality of life, moving around, getting things done and delayed. I have left this tranquil temple in the blogsphere that provides a stopover to fish my thought and reflect. I blame it on the Facebook addiction, my busy work, my laziness and perhaps the heat of the summer. I think I can blame it on everything else but that doesn't change the fact that I have been a bad blogger, a real bad one. So here I am, making another attempt to come back.

I was kind of sick for the past few days. I had thick phlegm stuck in my chest and I had been coughing them out every single chance I got. I enjoyed watching that yucky yellow stuff swimming away into the sinkhole. Now the congestion on my chest has been cleared but I am having a dreadful time holding back that glue-like juice that keeps sliding down my nose. I called my boss at 6AM that I couldn't make it to work. She said sleepily over the phone, 'take care of yourself'. So I did just that...taking care of myself.

I made myself bihun sup with chicken and tomatoes. I drank lots of warm water and peed a lot too. I took my medicine every 8 hours that really helped to dry up my nose. I cleaned my room, kept my washing machine busy with loads of smelly garments. When the sun was on the verge of setting down, I drove my Jeep, Lucky to a petrol kiosk. I had  juicy Subway sandwiches while waiting for Lucky to get washed, wiped and vacuumed dry. I heard myself saying when I started the engine, 'Lucky, I love you, you're so handsome today'.

I went back to my room looking at things that I have been neglected for so long. My plants and my toys. I found myself talking to the plant in my room and toying with the stuffed kittens, the gifts from my kids. I called home to wish my wife and kids good night. They sounded sleepy and related briefly about the things that happened today in their lives. After they hung up, I was alone again looking back at the plant and the stuffed kittens. I just realized that when the plant talked to me earlier, it used my wife's voice and the stuffed kittens I played with, mimicked the voices of my kids. I cried and tried hard to hold back the unstoppable tears and the snots that came along. It was a mess. I tried to find the reason for this madness. I have somehow mustered the strength to get back and carry on.

I am thankful that I have had this moment. Being sick, being selfish, being me with the little things that mean nothing to others, but only matter to me. I have to admit I was a little lost lately and now I found myself again. I think I will get back to work tomorrow.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Jumper Goes Home

It's the time of the year again to deliver one of the biggest duties as a daddy to my little girl Aimi. It's her 8th birthday and it's written on my calendar to drop whatever I do and fly home to be with her. I skipped my son's 5th and 6th birthdays, he grumbled but I can handle it by offering toys that his mother wouldn't allow him to have and he still thinks I'm the coolest dad. But it's kind of different with Aimi, who can be quite unpredictable. Just at the thought of her biting her lips and holding back tears in her eyes if I were not there  on her big day, is enough to tear me apart. So dutifully, I took the flight home.

Her birthday was on Thursday. My wife took a day off and so we drove the kids to school. In the car for that morning trip and many other trips for the whole week, I was overdosed with the Glee Soundtrack, Volume 1. I have never watched these series of high school kids in their act of grouping, performing  and outdoing the cheerleading squad. I thought it was lame. But now, ask me anything about Rachel, Mercedes, Finn, Artie and others  in the Glee cast. I have been well informed about their characters, songs, love and life's issues. Thanks to my kids who supplied me, unconditionally, all the titbits as if they were written in their school's textbook. Aimi thought I was cool, when she noticed that I know the words in her favourite Glee songs like,  'Can't fight this feeling' and 'Alone'. She doesn't know yet those songs were originally sung by REO Speedwagon and Heart, the bunch of people whose songs I grew up with in the 80s.

The school bell rang at 8 AM to start the scene like in the Serengheti National Park. The school kids responded by making a stampede straight into their classes. The noisy kids were muted by the presence of the teachers. Once they all settled well to start another day of classroom adventure, I walked into the headmaster's office. I told Mr Headmaster that I just came back from the loneliest desert and after missing my daughter for 4 months, I would like to take her and her classmates hostage for an hour, to feed them with fried chicken, cakes and drinks. Mr Headmaster said, "Oh Well, go ahead.... feed 'em well and make 'em happy". Damn, why didn't I have headmaster like him when I was a kid?

I returned to the school to take charge of Aimi's class from 12:00 noon, just around lunchtime. The kids were happy to see me, probably because I dressed in an orange shirt, looking like Nemo's dad, Marlin, the clown fish. I distributed the party pack accessories for the kids to wear and made them rehearse the birthday song a cappella. My wife, at the other corner, was busy being a proper mother setting up the candles, cake, food and drinks. I thought of bringing lots of chocolates, but then I remembered, Chris, our Corporate Affairs advocating adamantly, as if her life depended on it, "We, at Mars, don't promote chocolates to school children.......".Consequently, no sweets and chocolates. I felt sorry for the kids. Yeah, go ahead and adore us...the most responsible and ethical chocolate maker. 

Aimi's teachers were supervising us. They were easy going and friendly. It surprised me when one of them played Lady Gaga's, Bad Romance, to get the party started. Awesome. Damn, why didn't I have teachers like them when I was a kid? Sorry that I repeated myself unneccessarily. Well, the kids just had too much energy that towards the end of the hostage, they had become a little too hard to handle, asked too many questions and I decided it's time to hand them back to the talented teachers. They kids said together, almost like singing, a loud and long farewell and thank you. It's chaotic yet it sounded so sincere as it came straight from these young hearts. Very touchy, indeed. Later in the evening Aimi told me that her friends think it's the best birthday party they have had together. I asked her what she personally thinks. She smiled and looked away. That's her typical way of shielding her own emotion. 

If only Aimi knew how nasty a ladybird is, she might not consider her cake to be made like one.
Nevertheless, it's a colourful and lovely cake. It couldn't be more perfect than this. 

A busy day for the mother, escaping the hospital for a day to become a party maid.

Dressed in an orange shirt, I was Marlin, the not-so-funny clown fish.
The orange shirt is courtesy of Ploomer by The Last Resort. I have done my duty promoting to these kids. They are all excited to grow up to swing the world highest Canyon Swing in 10 years time. 

She is now officially 8 years old, making a wish...

The teachers are very sporting, they are more than happy to be relieved by Marlin.

Another teacher striking a pose! I told you.... this kind of teacher rarely existed in the 80s.

Most of the kids in the class are 8 years old. Can you spot an underaged, 7 years old boy, sneaking into his sister's birthday party?

Marlin, giving support to the neurologist who got a little neurotic while conducting the procedure to dissect the ladybird into portions as an attempt to locate the nerve responsible for ladybird's cannibalism nature....

We had another round of celebration late in the evening at our house. The guests invited were among other, my  grandma, mother, mother-in-law, aunt, brother, sister, sister-in-law and the kids' babysitter. So you can imagine Jumper has aged again, sitting in the tribal council, while his daughter unwrapping her presents, one after another. Loving home, how appropriate...

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The Three Amigos' Night Out

Jorge has got a new job in Mirdiff and he felt on top of the world. Erik wanted to feel extravagant and glamourous before he ended his first trip in the Middle East. I just wanted a different ambience after completing a 12-hour shift. So we were the three amigos on the loose and we found our way to the Burj Al Arab. Reluctantly, the security guard let the barrier down at the grand entrance of this self-proclaimed 7-star hotel to let us in, in a dirty navy blue Jeep.  I heard myself said, "Damn, I should have it washed", when my Jeep was temporarily parked next to a shiny Maserati, infront of the glittering lobby.

When we entered the lobby, we were greeted well but our expectations were mountain high. We expected a garland of flowers fixed around the neck by beauty queens with a kiss as welcoming gestures. We hoped for a flying carpet instead of an elevator to go up to the mezzanine floor. We wished that we get to see things we have never seen before, like real rainbow  inside the buiding and a pot of gold at the end of it. Then, we realized that we only pay 185 dirhams each for this event and so we stopped dreaming and being realistic. It worked wonder and we started having fun.

The most natural thing to do at the lobby is to look up and then everyone can tell that it's your first time there.

That night the lightings inside the building were minimal to create the romantic and relaxed mood but it was enough to make the extravagance clear and visible.

The water works at the slope next to the elevator was brilliant. It jumped on air as if it has a life of its own.

The three amigos

We started sober having those juicy sushi, tempura and even satay.....

and then came the two rounds of drinks when the amigos got a little tipsy

Jorge belittled the famous MH, Malaysian Hospitality when his Mexican persona made him march to the kitchen to meet the chef who prepared our sushi. He thanked him wholeheartedly like it was better than Nobu's. I was then re-assessing my taste buds...was it really THAT good?

Check this out, the best offer at the spa, the one and only, Rose Rejuvenation Ritual, 1600 dirhams for 115 minutes...but we ain't no roses and we ain't that rich either, so thank you very much.

Nevertheless, curiosity took us to sneak into the spa and we made ourselves rejuvenated there....

The spa ritual ended with a sweat up session of floor mopping....awesome!

Erik has forgotten his room number and looking around for familiar sign to find his way back

Can't really blame Erik. Just look at all those rooms...they were so standardized and obsessively organized.

Erik didn't make it to his room, but we found our way out...

Burj Al Arab, near and far....