Good Weekend

It started Thursday evening when we had dinner with some new friends. We met up at the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina and the Spice Emporium restaurant where we had some of the best food ever. Our hosts insisted on ordering two bottles of a nice dry white on top of the glasses we had ordered for ourselves while we were waiting. So we had to abandon our poor little Peugeot and take a cab home. We got her early the next morning though, and the cab ride to the Westin gave us a good excuse to have brunch there.

After brunch, Beth drove us home. Now she’s a Dubai driver!

Later Friday night it was time to meet my coworkers at the Deira Iraqi restaurant for some authentic Iraqi fish. It’s slow cooked for an hour on a skewer set about a meter away from an open flame that is burning a particular type of wood. We have never had anything like it. It was beyond our wildest expectations. Whoever visits us will get the best dinner of his or her life when we take you to this place.

This morning we went to the Garden Center and got a Jasmine plant, a Gardenia and some other interesting local flowering plants to turn our balcony into a little paradise retreat.
And then tonight to top it all off, we are now enjoying the first bottle of wine that we legally purchased at the liquor store with Beth’s new license. When we stopped in tonight to see if the license was ready, we were so confused by the guy behind the counter. First he said that we would have to pay 50AED because we didn’t answer the phone when he tried to call us. Then he put a piece of paper in front of us and made Beth choose from a list of liquors on a sheet that had some information about how we could only spend 750AED per month on alcohol based on her salary. She picked Finlandia vodka and then he proceeded to place three bottles of the stuff on the counter. He also pointed out a couple of coupons for a free bottle of wine at the local bar and free coffee at Costa. So for getting our license we got three free 750ml bottles of vodka, a free bottle of wine and free coffees. No strings attached. So we picked up two more bottles of wine and got out of there before they could change their minds.

We’re enjoying some nice stuff from Lebanon right now. It has subtle black pepper tones with a medium dryness.

Search for the Phoenix

Last weekend Beth and I went on a search for the perfect bicycle. It had to be just like the one that we see the dock and construction workers riding around on. They have got these sweet old-fashioned one-speeds with bells and baskets. The bike is for our convenient use of course, but it also will have a second purpose to be announced at a later date.
Our search took us to all the little back neighborhoods of Bur Dubai, Karama, and Satwa. It’s easy to find a $1000 Cannondale at Wolfi’s bike shop that caters to the Westerner, but we wanted something more real (and affordable) and a one-speed sounded perfect for this flat city. Here are the photos chronologically from our adventures that day.

The Iranian Hospital is a beautiful building on Al Wasl road on the edge of Satwa. The tile work is incredible.

This one is for my brother Mike. We went in looking for some morals in exchange for some headstrong determination but sadly their stock was down to tactful recapitulations, indifferent acquiescences, and conscientious variations.

Saloons, Saloons everywhere, yet not a drop to drink.
This is the UAE version of what we in the US call a “Barbershop”. Almost every hair cutting operation has “Saloon” written on the sign.

After finding our first tiny bike store in a small neighborhood in Bur Dubai we celebrated by having lunch on the creek. The food was excellent though neither of us was brave enough to taste the pigeon.

Beth’s dream: a large stack of huge sugar packets.

While waiting for the small shop to re-open to see if the cute light-blue bike inside was for sale or just in for repairs, we took a little walk towards the Bastakia but never actually got there. Instead we got a little lost in the tiny streets around this beautiful mosque. The scene at the doorstep of the mosque was an amazing conglomeration of weird things: a beautifully ramshackle shanty apartment, the remnants of a watermelon picnic, a pack of roosters, a sleeping kitty in a planter, and some beautiful flowering bushes.

The light-blue bike was just in for repairs. We left our number and asked to be called if any old bikes turned up for sale. The search continues on to Satwa…


For about $75 US, we got the perfect green, made-in-china, one-speed, old-fashioned, bell and basket type bicycle. It’s brand new but it looks authentic.

Isn’t she beautiful!?

Cityscape Dubai 2008

It’s hard to imagine a larger and more decadent gathering of the real-estate vanguard, the keepers of the estate of the real, the high assembly of the mighty and elusive investor class, and the masses who feed from their trend-driven largess of which I count myself a member. All were in attendance as the trends were being re-defined here last week at Cityscape Dubai 2008, which I had the opportunity to attend through my new job with Yamasaki International. It was an amazing display of glitz and hype. Everything was greener than the next thing and amazingly, at the same time, taller and bigger and with more glass.

The next few images are from the MASDAR display. This is the carbon-free city on which I am working. The design is master-planned by Foster+Partners, London and Yamasaki International was awarded the Project 1 phase which is the second part to break ground. The first part is MIST on which F+P is the architect. It’s the MASDAR Institute of Science and Technology. Project 1 is largely infrastructural support for MIST and includes housing, and entrance park, and a mosque.

This is MIST

MASDAR Headquarters, designed by Adrian Smith.

Back to the rest of the exhibition:

Notice the clear plastic ball in which a woman was usually playing a harp. Unfortunately for me, she was taking a break when I came around with the camera. The connection to real estate is quite obvious enough.

The LATEST tallest building in the world. 1km high, and it looks like a missile. At some point it just gets absurd. But I guess we have to do it. It’s really important. It was interesting to see all of this happening the very week that the looming world depression was seriously hitting Europe. No one was paying much attention to that in Dubai. There was talk about it and the financial shows used it for material, but this is seemingly the Never-Never land of money here.

The model is just shy of the ceiling. Complete with laser show.

Sorry Burj Dubai bye…

Oh yes. A golf simulator less than 10 feet away from Ferrari race car. Someone knows their market.

ALDAR knows how to make a booth. They had the best Jazz playing inside the soft pink-blue glow room. There were these thin vertical bars that were connected to the ceiling track on hinges and free at the bottom – they would make this nice ambient clingaling as people brushed by them. And the interactive portfolio was pretty amazing too.

This one wins my sustainability award. Look at all the wind turbines in front of the all glass towers on the artificial peninsula. I bet they have PV too!

It was a tough call; there were a lot of contenders, but this ended up taking my “WORST DESIGN OF CITYSCAPE” award.

More Muscat Love

Here are some more photos from our trip. I’m sorry to say that they are not in very good order. But they are mostly from the last part of the trip and the drive back up the coast where we stopped in at the city of Suhar and checked out the beautiful old fort there. That’s also where the photo of the fish market is from as well as the photo below of the back of the guy’s truck that we parked next to when we went into one of the markets in town.

Muscat Love

What can I possibly say to describe the weekend we had? I will post the photos and they will tell you the story for the most part, but I will start with those that tell the most beautiful story of the vacation. On the morning of our full day (Friday) after we had been to the old Muttrah Souk again finding most things closed, and tried to get into the Museum of Natural History only to find that it was closed (it being the holiest of holidays, the Friday of Eid weekend), we were driving a little aimlessly when we came upon a little pull-off park at an overlook area of sorts (the view was not great but it was high up). We were not even going to stop and get out of the car until Beth spotted the most beautiful bird flying from one tree to the next. So we started following it with the intention of getting a photo (which we never did). As we kept following it from tree to tree it led us to the back of the park and some girls said hello to Beth which led to the father and mother coming over to us and offering us some food. They were having a picnic. It is a tradition going back as far as history in Oman that on that particular Friday the family gets dressed in the nicest clothes and eats traditional food consisting of khawa (coffee with cardamom), halwa, and fresh dates. When we were offered the khawa we couldn’t resist joining their picnic because we had been searching for the real thing since arriving and being disappointed time and again with Nescafe which is unfortunately slowly becoming the new traditional Arab coffee. The dates were picked that morning from this family’s backyard and they were amazing. We had only had dried ones until then. The Halwa was like nothing we had ever tasted. With these wonderful flavors lingering on our tongues we engaged in a little bit of conversation. Beth complimented the one daughter on how beautiful her clothes and jewelery were. The girl put her necklace on Beth for what we thought was just a fun temporary exchange but when Beth started taking it off to give it back, the girl took Beth’s hand and wrapped it around the necklace and made sure that Beth understood that it was now hers. It was really a beautiful gesture. We all got up and headed out of the park together as a group since the family was off to the beach next. As we walked on clouds back to the car we decided that we had to give the girl something and as luck would have it, we had one of Tricia’s “You = Love” necklaces in the car. Beth gave it to her and the girl put it on and Beth explained as best she could what it meant.

Later Beth found a feather on the ground that is almost certainly from the same bird that led us into the park. It’s that distinctive bright blue color. The rest of the photos are in a sort of chronological order and they tell the rest of the story of the weekend of Muscat Love…

(that’s a goat up there looking down on everything from its castle)

OK. I’m going to have to continue this later. Stay tuned…