Thursday, November 12, 2009

Complete Works of William Shakespeare - Abridged

Watched a play after 3 long years. For some reason, although we did watch more than a couple of ballets, operas, music programs and stand up comedies in Egypt, we never really had an opportunity to watch a play in English.

We had heard good things about this play: Complete Works of William Shakespeare - Abridged which was to cover all 37 of Shakespeare's plays in 97 minutes, so we were really excited to hear that it would be playing at the Madinat Theater.

Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield's script did not disappoint. It was brilliantly funny. The acting by Nick Barclay, Chris Hampson and Peter Brooke, was masterful and it was an out and out comedy.

My favourites were Othello being performed as a rap song and Hamlet being performed in reverse in 30 seconds. The other highlights were Titus Andronicus as a cooking show and the entire histories as a game of American football!

Chris Hampson's two minutes or so of nothing but expressions, just before the interval were theatric brilliance.

But what truly moved me were the 2 speeches. The fact that they could move an audience that was rolling in the aisles with laughter into a serious, pensive mood, just by a change in lighting and dialogue delivery was stupendous.

I'd love to go on, but that would ruin the play for someone who hasn't seen it yet.

Its a must watch. We caught it on the last day, but if it does come back to Dubai, grab your ticket, fast!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Medical Insurance in Dubai

After getting back from our holiday, dh has been laid low with some horrid symptoms which just got worse today. His sister is a doc back home and recommended some blood tests. So I spent the 1st part of the day checking out if there was a a diagnostic center in Dubai where I could get his blood tests done without a local doctors prescription.

Turns out that regular tests like sugar, cholestrol, liver function, malaria etc can be requested by a patient without a doctors prescription.

I called my husbands company to find the closest diagnostic center recommended by the company insurance providers (so I'd be sure we were going to a good facility) When we reached the diagnostic lab, the receptionist said that we would need to have a local dr prescribe the tests for the insurance cover to work on diagnostics.

They had a GP on the premises who fortunately did not seem to mind that we had recd advice from another dr, when he figured out that his sister knew his case history much better than any other dr ever could. But he also asked us some thorough questions and tried to get to the bottom of the problem and added a few more tests to those that his sister had recommended.

We told him which meds his sister had recommended that he take and the dr gave us a prescription for the local variants after making a few changes and additions of his own (which all seemed very logical)

We just had to pay 50 dhs for the consulting and a bit more for the general meds that weren't covered under insurance. (most of the medicines were covered under insurance) Ended up saving over 500dhs over the evening. This is the first time I am using an efficient insurance system, so I'm truly appreciative. Back home insurance only covers hospital stays for procedures that can't be done on outpatients and there so many complications with the paperwork, so I'd not even thought about insurance for diagnostics until the receptionist at the lab told me about it.

Its great to be in a country where some things work efficiently.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Barakat - Jallab

Picked up this drink from Spinneys the other day. It was my first time to taste this, but the ingredient list made it sound tasty (dates, raisins, pine nuts and rose - What's not to like?

Really enjoyed the drink, now looking for recipes which seem hard to come by.

The taste was akin to a nicer Roohafza (the ubiquitious instant "soft drink" served in Indian homes before Rasna's packets (powder and liquid in ighly concentrated colors) were widely available. Needless to say this was way before Coke and Pepsi gained a foothold in India.

The pine nuts floating on top gave a wonderful contrasting crunchy texture to the drink.

I've read online that any nuts ranging from pistachios to almonds to cashews can be used in a jallab, but I think I prefer the taste of pine nuts with this drink.

I hope it will still be available even after Ramadan (didn't see it before)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Michael Jackson Concert @ Mazaya Center

Had seen it mentioned in the newspaper and thought it would be a good evening outing on a Friday.

Wrote to the organisers, got a invitation emailed to me as was instructed in the article and print out duly in hand, we headed over to the Mazaya centre on Friday evening to arrive at 6:30 for a 7:00pm show (to find seats since it was free entry)

There were hardly 50 chairs and by 6:30, the place was already full and overflowing and people were seated on the stairs and central courtyardish raised platform behind the chairs and stage and a vast majority were also standing. The print out did not guarantee a seat and only contributed to global pollution.

The sheer human density in an otherwise empty mall, led us to believe that this would be a high quality program to have got such a large turnout. This was misconception number 2. We later figured that most of them were related to the performers and had come early to drop off their charges.

Since there was no seating space, we thought we would take a quick walk through Homes R Us to browse and perhaps buy articles for the home that are completely unnecessary, but look good in the shop. Fortunately we emerged outside by 7:00pm without opening our wallets.

On coming out, we saw that some children were standing in line in uniform blue silk shirts. This led us to believe the show would soon start. Huge misconception number 3. To spare you the boring details of how we whiled away an hour, lets just jump to the chase to state the fact that: The show did not actually start until 8pm. Mind you, over 50% of the audience was still standing around the stage till 8pm.

While waiting for the show to start, we headed upstairs to the restaurant overlooking the stage, in the hopes of having a coffee and getting a box seat view of the proceedings. They had a buffet on, very reasonable (50dhs a person and there were at least 3 varieties of prawns among 7-8 laden tables of food spanning Indian, Levantine and Persian cuisines) but just about average quality. Our Indian parents would love the extent of the spread for the price, but for us, we may only return there when our folks are in town to show them that it IS still possible to get a decently priced meal in Dubai.

The show started at 8pm and kicked off with those previously mentioned kids in blue singing "We are the world" One adult male, with a guitar took center stage for this song and had his mike volumes on high, with the kids mikes on low volume. We realised the wisdom of this decision a few minutes later.

Except for one South East Asian woman who had a rich, smooth and powerful voice and one male adult dancer, the rest of the show was excruciating to watch/listen to and we regretted our box office seats. Being Indian and having to pay full price for a buffet since we had already started, we would not be able to sleep well, if we hadnt maximised our returns on our money. So what if it was just 103 dhirams (3dhs for the large bottle of chilled Masafi water) and we were already on the 2nd course before the "show" began? Its genetically imbibed in us, that you have to get full value for what you are paying for! And so we sat there (scooted to the further end of the table) and ate and grimaced when someone hit a particular bad note.

The problem with airing shows like "So you think you can dance" and "Dancing with the Stars" is that you create millions of armchair critics. Suprisingly, none of these critics seemed to have made their way to this venue (or maybe not so surprising, as we too will now stay clear of such events) and the entire audience clapped enthusiastically when someone endlessly repeated the only step they could get right and so on.

Note to self: Only attend performances after confirming quality of talent.

With due apologies to parents whose children performed that day, who think their kids are just awesome. I'm sure they are, but excuse me for not being able to see it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dust and the problem of housekeeping

Thought I had left all the dust behind me in Egypt, seems it followed me here.

Shh, don't say a word, as of now they think its due to Saddam draining the marshlands in Iraq, little do they know that I'm the one to blame.

While Khamseen season in Egypt meant more dust than usual, in Egypt the dust was black and horribly fine which could only lessen if you mopped the place, else it would just rise in the air on dusting and then lovingly wrap itself around everything, when you thought you were done with the dusting and sweeping.

Called the Shamal in this part of the world, these dust storms seem to be on par for this part of the year although they seem to be gaining intensity each year. Global warming anyone?

Back to differences. This dust too is horridly fine, but its more brownish and yellowish in colour which is normal sandy colour and (Fingers Crossed) the dust will come to an end at the end of this season. Unlike the year round presence in Egypt

The other major problem with housecleaning here, is our cats fur. In Egypt it was spread out across many rooms. Here the house is much much smaller, the layout is all open and the central airconditioning is at roof height which sucks her hair upwards. This is going to make for some very embarassing dinner parties. "Excuse me Kim, but there's some cat fur in my soup" I'm cringing just thinking of the possibility of such a disaster.

Might have to just shave the cat clean. Will save me the weekly cleaning of the air conditioning filters too.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Article on the man behind the "Arabian Saluki Center"

Yesterday's Friday, had an interesting article on the man behind the "Arabian Saluki Center".

In a region where dog's are not the most favorite of animals, the Arabian Saluki, a constant companion to the bedouin is considered more than an animal, it is a part of the family.

The article on Hamad Ganem Shaheen Al Ganem, director, breeder and registrar general of the Arabian Saluki Center; board member, Emirates Falconers' Club; and consultant to the Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi. is an interesting one, worth a read.

It ends with a wonderful anecdote:
"When I met the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan he held my hand and told me: 'The saluki has different uses; not only hunting for you, but also feeding you and protecting you and your camels and sheep. They are an important part of our hospitality as they guide your guests to you.' It was then that it dawned on me that in the olden days people were lonely and used to welcome guests to their tents. Travellers came upon a saluki and knew there would be a house nearby, so they would follow them home. That to me is the ultimate story about the saluki."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Restaurant Reviews - May 09

Here are some more reviews for Restaurants I ate at, when I visited in May 09.

BaanThai @ the Oasis Mall

Japengo Cafe @ Dubai Festival City

India Palace @ The Walk

Marzano @ Old Town Souk

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fly Dubai (low cost carrier) starts operations

Flydubai, Dubai’s first low-cost airline began its commercial operations on June 1st.

The inaugural flight took off from Dubai International’s Terminal 2 at 10:30 bound for Beirut.

FlyDubai is currently flying to Beirut and Amman. They will start flights to Damascus and Alexandria next week and plan to expand rapidly to countries in the Middle East, GCC and India. The evenutal plan as stated on their website is to extend to Iran, Eastern Europe and North & East Africa.

Fares are really low. For eg there is currently a flight from Alexandria to Dubai for 825(LE) Egyptian pounds. When I checked a week ago. A return flight between Cairo and Dubai was roughly costing about 3000LE on Emirates airlines and 2100LE on Egypt Air.

How does flydubai keep its fares low?
1. The tickets are one way tickets for one person, priced on a system based on availability, demand, time of day etc etc. Quoted prices include all applicable taxes. Prices will be quoted in the currency of the country of departure of the flight
2. You pay to change: If for some reason, you need to change your flight, you pay 100dhs per ticket plus the price difference from your original ticket if upwards and get a voucher refunded to you if the price moves downwards. You do have to pay the 100dhs charge per ticket, no matter what the scenario. (There are "free to change" tickets too, but these are normally priced higher than "pay to change")
3. Changes or cancellations can only be carried out 24 hours prior to the flight. Any later than that, you lose the whole amount.
4. Children above the age of 2, pay full fare.
5. If traveling with a child below the age of 2, there is a service charge of 50dhs plus taxes.
6. Fares are lower if you book from the website. A service charge is levied if you book via their dedicated call center (35dhs) or through an agent.
7. The quoted fare allows you upto 10kilos of hand baggage. You have to pay higher for more luggage. If you pre book your extra luggage on the website, it will be cheaper than just arriving at the airport and then paying for the luggage.
For eg: Your 1st piece of checked in baggage (upto 32 kilos) if pre booked online will cost 40dhs, but if you do it at the airport, it will cost you 150 dhs. The 2nd piece will cost 100 and 150 respectively.
8. If you want to select your seat, you pay 5dhs.
9. If you want a seat with extra legroom, it is 50 dhs.
10. A boarding pass is issued as soon as you book your ticket.

In these times of Recession, this airline could really take off, if they find a large enough market segment.

As I see it, business and holiday travelers without much luggage could find this airline cheaper than its competitors.

For those people I have often seen in the Dubai airport ahead of me, trying to check in 5-7 suitcases each on Egypt Air flights back to Cairo while trying to semi-conceal another 4-6 pieces of hand luggage, this would not be an economical choice.

Nor would it work for people who travel to Dubai with the primary purpose of shopping. I have seen so many piles of new clothes and childrens toys unceremoniously dumped in heaps at Dubai's airport, because paying the excess baggage fee on Emirates airlines does not make those clothes and toys worth it. People seem to find it cheaper to just dump the stuff (some with tags not yet removed) than pay the excess baggae fee. These people aren't going to be travely FlyDubai any time soon.

This will work for people who just carry their laptop and a change of clothes or two. Its also just 40dhs more for 1 piece of checked in baggae provided you book it online at the time of booking your ticket. So this option will work for a weeks long travel.

I wonder if the airline allows toiletries in hand luggage with the above restrictions that they have placed. If they dont, it would be cheaper to buy and discard toiletries on arrival than pay 100dhs to check it in.

They must have researched their pricing before coming out with this strategy. It will be interesting to see how full their flights go. There is a large market, given that it is still impossible to get a ticket on a Thursday evening Emirates flight from Dubai to Cairo, if you haven't booked well in advance.

You can book tickets directly on their site:

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Thursday, April 30, 2009