Ramadan in Dubai for Expats

Having lived in Dubai for quite some time now, I get asked the same questions year after year – how does it feel to spend the holy month of Ramadan in Dubai for a non-Muslim? Is it tough? Are there any special rules… So this year, I decided to write about it for the newcomers to this beautiful city.

As much as the United Arab Emirates is a multi-cultural country, and although the practice of other religions is permitted, one should be very sensitive about the traditions here and about the conservative nature of the country in general. Here’s a couple of guidelines that you should be aware of if this is your first Ramadan in the UAE:
– Refrain from using expletive language during Ramadan, it’ll be great if we can do this all year.
– Dress and behave appropriately. It is hot in Dubai these days, but ladies need to respect the culture.
– Eating, drinking, and even chewing gum is not allowed publicly. On the other hand, Restaurants at hotels remain open during the day and food and drinks are freely served in those areas. Some malls even have a closed area in the food courts for non fasting residents.
– Working hours are shortened for the month.
– If you get invited to an Iftar (evening meal when Muslims break their fast)  be there ahead of time.

A blessed Ramadan to all those celebrating!

Photo Credits: Omography https://www.facebook.com/Omography



Dear Lebanese: Lebanon is not Egypt!

Last night, the Arab nation witnessed a historical event, a win for people’s will over anything else. I am not a political analyst and to be very honest I have little knowledge of the recent political scene in Egypt, therefore at this point, I only wish the Egyptians the best of luck  in building a country based on true democracy.

Crowds celebrating at Tahrir Square - off twitter

Crowds celebrating at Tahrir Square – off twitter

While a lot of people were tweeting and posting on Facebook congratulatory messages to the fellow Egyptians for the destitution of Morsi, few Lebanese were wishing the same would happen in Lebanon and to those people I have a few questions:
1. Do you really think the political scene in Egypt is the same as  that on Lebanon? I, for one, don’t! Lebanon is not Egypt, and to compare what happened in Egypt to what is happening in Lebanon is unfair.
2. Those of you that are pro- democracy and believers in the legitimacy of people in authority? where were you when people where protesting in Beirut with “لا للتمديد”  slogans? Or wasn’t it cool enough?
3. Egyptians yesterday were united for a country against a regime, will you as Lebanese do the same? Will it be the first time we see the Lebanese united for their country and not for their sect? or poltical party?
4. Do you want to topple a regime because it does not represent you as an individual or simply because it does not represent who you support? Big difference here
5. If with a miracle, elections were held tomorrow in Lebanon, what would be the next step? Voting and electing the same people over and over again?

Again, I am not an expert on Lebanese nor regional politics, I just wanted to share my thoughts.

Mercedes Benz A-Class, Yey or Nay?

A couple of days ago, I had the pleasure of test driving the new A250 at the majestic Burj Khalifa Plaza at downtown Dubai.

If you are into cars, here’s some numbers and facts that you might want to know before test driving the car:
– Powerful 4-cylinder. two liter turbocharged engine that produces 211 HP
– 0 to 100 kph in 6.6 seconds
– Active Parking Assist: yes the car can park itself, nothing new here, but it’s nice to have the feature
– Collision Prevention Assist: If you are speeding and the car in-front of you breaks, you get a beeping alert to break
– Economical Option: If this option is turned on, the engine will automatically switch off every time you break at a traffic light.

So, I got there, and the first thing I said was “It is beautiful, can’t wait to test drive it!”
If the Italians are known for the classy and dynamical designs, the Germans with the design of the A250 have taken the competition to a new level. The exterior is so perfect that you’ll be staring at the car for a couple of minutes.

After signing up and handing over the driving license, it was time to take the beauty out and put it to the test.
First things first, with a top speed of 240 kph, shifting from gear 1 to 2 was so slow, but once it’s at second gear, the acceleration then is impressive! The design of the gear reminds me of old American cars,  gears are selected via a wand on the steering column and thence via paddles. As all other Mercedes cars, this beauty is not equipped with a hand brake, which might be annoying for those of you looking for some drifting action. I have to say though, the car is very steady on the road, you will feel confident to keep on speeding while feeling safe.

Now, is the A250 a Yey or Nay? Well, it depends on what you want!
If you are looking for a classy and impeccable design with a very good performance – and if you are one of those who like German endurance and like to drive a big brand name like Mercedes, then it is a YEY!
But if you are looking for a top performance sports car, then I am afraid that my answer will be a NAY! Even though the A250 is marketed as a competitor to the Golf GTI, it is no where close to it. And for a price tag close to 150,000 AED (depends on the options you are looking for) you can easily get more power and a better performance in the GTI and the likes.

I believe car shopping is just dress shopping for ladies, what one might find beyond awesome, someone else might find average!

Photo credits goes to Mercedes Benz

For The Love of the Game!

As most of you already know, I am a hardcore FC Barcelona fan and have been for as long as I can remember. I have supported the team even when clubs like Deportivo and Valencia held La Liga’s title. Travelling to Istanbul to watch a Real Madrid game? My friends were either shocked or thought I was crazy.

Pre-match preps:
Getting my flight sorted out was so simple and relatively cheap since I was travelling from Beirut and not Dubai. I booked the morning flight that reaches Istanbul at 11:40 am, match day. To my surprise, I got upgraded to business class by the Turkish airlines without even asking for it *yey me*
Booking the hotel room was an even easier task. I decided to stay in Taksim, so I booked at the Richmond Hotel which I highly recommend if you are visiting Istanbul anytime soon.
Tickets? That was a bit tricky! It was very easy to find match tickets online, but I was not sure if I can trust any of those websites. Thankfully, Nakhal.com had packages to Istanbul for the game from Beirut, and also provided the option of buying match tickets only, which I did 🙂

Match Day:
I reached the hotel at around two in the afternoon, tried to get some rest before the game but I was too excited to sleep. Before I know it, it was time to head out to the Turk Telekom Arena Stadium (we took the metro from Taksim, a 30 minutes ride) and only then it hit me – I am on my way to watch a Champions League quarter final!
It was early, nevertheless, around 3000 Galatasaray fans were already there. It was a bit confusing to find the entrance to the away fans gate, and when we checked with the one of the organizers, two police officers approached us and asked us to follow them. Apparently, some Turkish fans got into a fight in Madrid during the first leg, so the police were worried about our safety. We had around 2 hrs to kill so we went for some shopping in the Galatasaray Store before heading to our seats as we will not be allowed to go out until the match ends. All our purchases were confiscated at the entrance to avoid problems with the Real Madrid fans. Only our names and a description of the items were taken, no tags , no lockers, nothing but an old man who spoke poor English.

The experience:
The area allocated for Real Madrid fans was very small, and to my surprise, I found more Lebanese flags than RM flags – crazy people we are, LOL! 30 minutes later, they start playing the Champions League theme song. My heart wanted to jump out of my chest, I really could not believe it, it was the first time I hear it live at the stadium. I can’t find the words to explain what it felt like.
The Galatsaray fans were loud and screaming their lungs out as if they won the first leg and the championship. Even when Real Madrid scored their first goal, they continued to cheer for their team, their support was amazing, and the ambiance at the stadium was just unbelievable. Check out this link for a taste of what it felt like to be at the stadium after Galatasaray’s 3rd goal Galatasaray vs Real Madrid Time flew so quickly, and even for a neutral it was a great game and an amazing comeback by the turks – too bad it was not enough for them to qualify to the semi-finals.

On our way out, we were shocked that all the items that we purchased from GS were stolen! Some people had to leave behind their DSLRs and iPads (they were told no electronics are allowed :s)

Watching football is never the same, I now feel that I am missing on a lot and I hope in the future I will be able to watch more games at the stadium – Camp Nou, I hope to see you soon!

A Walk Into History!

Without doubt, Qatar has not yet made it to the list of touristic destinations but I am sure that in the coming years we will see an impressive influx of tourists to the country from all over the world. Meanwhile, if you happen to be in Doha for work or even visiting some friends or family, I highly recommend that you visit the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha.

Designed by the master of modern architecture I M Pei, the museum houses a collection of works originating from Egypt, Spain, Turkey and Syria to name a few. You’ll be able to find some well preserved books from the 12th century, in addition to carpets , vases, and jewelry… I spent around two hours walking around the museum and I would definitely go again the next time I am in Doha.

For more information about opening times and events/exhibitions hosted by the museum, visit the website http://www.mia.org.qa

The Comeback!

A few days ago, I received an email for the renewal of the domain subscription and only then I realized that I have not published a single post for a while now.

With 16 unpublished posts, I know that I don’t suffer from writer’s block, it’s just that I haven’t had enough time to finalize any posts. A wise friend once said: ” you will never have enough time to do things that you like, you will have to make time!”   therefore, I have decided that I will make time to do one of my favorite hobbies – writing.

I know the world does not need another blogger but here I am!