Don’t be fooled. The name of this site may scream ‘cheap 70s porno’, but is, in fact, a blog where I will be logging my experience of living and working in Dubai as a journalist expat. If you googled ‘Simon does Dubai’ expecting to get something less tasteful, I would like to firstly apologise – because, Iet’s face it, we’ve all been there and it’s frustrating – and secondly ask you to finish up and promptly leave.
That’s what she said.
It’s my blog, I’ll write what I want.
OK. Now that we’ve weeded out the perverts, let’s start with a little bit of background for those of you who don’t know me. I am a journalist/writer from the UK currently located in Dubai, writing for a travel magazine in Media City (if you don’t know where that is, just check out the photo that my Instagram vomited below). I have been in the good ol’ United Arab Emirates for 11 weeks now and thought it was about time I started sharing some of my varied and colourful experiences.
So, let’s kick off by rattling through some FAQs.
1. Yes, it’s hot.
2. No, I’m not in jail.
3. Yes, you can drink alcohol – just don’t be a dick about it.
4. I just don’t tan, OK.
5. No, I don’t ride a camel to work.
I couldn’t believe I was genuinely asked number 5 either. But I was.
If you have never been to Dubai, it is an undeniably incredible place. It’s fast-paced, all-consuming and diverse. But it isn’t for everyone, and I can understand why. The weather for one. It’s skin-sizzlingly hot and gets incredibly humid around this time of the year. Personally, I don’t have a great track record in warmer climates. I once had my foot swell up to the size of a balloon after sitting on a beach for one hour in Newquay. That’s south England. I think it might have even been drizzling. Luckily, I had some ice, a tea towel and some top-shelf medical advice from the till lady at Boots to get me through. Lads on tour.
At the moment, I don’t have a car to get to work, so I do a 10 minute walk to the metro. It can get a little sweaty, so to stop myself bowling into the office looking like a post-workout Rocky (very similar body shapes) I have taken to wearing a t-shirt, towelling down and changing in the toilets once I get there. Form an orderly queue ladies. I bet those of you that know me didn’t think I’d be doing that when you were saying: “you’re moving to Dubai, you’re living the dream!”
In fact, at the risk of sounding like a ranting drunkard, there are a few misconceptions that I can clear up about expats now I’m out here. Not all of us live in villas on the beach. Not all of us are part of the champagne-elite. Not all of us enjoy our tax-free salaries. OK, one of those was a lie. I love champagne. Anyway, my point is that many of my preconceived notions of expats were wrong, and it has been great meeting such a diverse, multi-cultural mix of down to earth people. Then again, I’m a journalist not a banker. I’m probably moving in the wrong circles.
Speaking of multi-cultural (yes, this is a tenuous paragraph link that could easily double as a Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown opener) I survived my first Ramadan! Don’t worry, I’ve already wikipedia’d that bad boy for ya.
For the whole holy month the Muslim community fasts, eating only when the sun sets and displaying some superhuman willpower. Seriously, it’s quite an incredible thing to witness. Of course, I did all of my admiring from a safe distance, declaring “I really will try it for a day!” while stuffing my face with Cinnabon. As a quick aside, if you haven’t tried Cinnabon before, never do, because it’s addictive and your life will never be the same. And I don’t just mean because you will inevitably develop Type 2 diabetes.
A lot of people don’t like Ramadan because you can’t eat or drink in public during the day (seriously, you’ll get slapped with a massive fine) and most restaurants are closed until sundown. I, however, loved it. It helped me realise that nothing suits me better than early 4pm finishes, quiet supermarkets and hotel invites to towering, fast-breaking buffets. By far the best thing about Ramadan was Iftar (breaking of the fast at sundown) and Suhoor (pre-dawn meal). It was basically an excuse to destroy a mouth-watering array of Arabic dishes and puff on shisha until you were dizzy. Which I absolutely did.
After some serious eating in July, it was time to do some serious drinking in August. Which led me to my first Dubai brunch. Ironically held nowhere near breakfast or lunch, the one I attended started at 7pm. After paying a flat fee on entry, you then gorge yourself on unlimited food and booze for the next four hours. Naturally, like a true Brit (Disclaimer: I am an Irish national) I hit the bar harder than Chris Brown hit Rihanna. I also ate enough blueberry jelly beans to make it look like I had been on a date with Smurfette and it had gone really well.
So, there you have it. My first blog post and a little insight into my new life in Dubai. I have undoubtedly missed loads of stuff out, but there’s plenty of time to fill in all the gaps. I haven’t even begun to tell you about my apartment or the joys of house hunting in the Middle East. Make sure you read my next post when I’ll also let you know how my first personal training session went. I’ll give you a clue, I vomited.