Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Click Click Click

This post is a bit off-topic, as it's not so much about my time in Dubai. However, I find it very appropriate, given that Chancellor Cantor's speech at the 2012 Commencement was about the "click click click" and the interference of technology in everyday interaction.

While doing research for Cartoon Network Arabic, one of our clients, I was looking into the effects of laughter on the development of children. I came across a companion editorial to a study which showed that fast-paced cartoons hurt the executive function of the children who have grown up in a "digital-native society," and it included the following statement:

"Deficits in executive function, whether transient or permanent, have social implications as well. I recently encountered 2 college students who were sitting outside a cafĂ© in an urban mall. As they soaked in the rare Seattle sunshine, I noticed that one of them was talking on her cell phone and the other was texting. I could not help but feel that the technology that we all carry in our pockets is tearing at the social fabric of society. What 10 (or maybe 5) years ago would have been an interpersonal interaction in which each young adult had the other's undivided attention was suddenly an ongoing conversation with dozens or possibly hundreds of other “friends.” Indeed “undivided attention” is difficult to come by today, but it is central to being authentically present. Focusing on what one's friends have to say is central to friendship, and multitasking friendship by allowing other people or things to intercalate themselves into encounters would seem to undercut it."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New site

Hey all- I'm playing around with a new website, Give it a look, though it's a work in progress. I'll keep posting on here for the time being.

Humans of Dubai #2

“We need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges..." and diversity of thought begins with diversity of people and communication between them.

People I've met this week:

  • Ahmed, a 12 year old Emirati, who rode the chairlift at Ski Dubai with me. He then proceeded to kick my ass in a race down the hill... who knew that there were good Emirati skiers?
  • Imran- Pakistani security guard at TBWA\RAAD for the night shift, he has been in the UAE for 6 months. He started the conversation, and asked me questions about America and about my perspective of the Middle East for almost 40 minutes. 
  • Conan- a Brit who works on the TBWA side, he has only worked at the agency for about 8 months, and has been very open to doing activities and things with us on weekends since he's newer too.
  • Sana- a young Moroccan woman who has only been in the UAE for a year and only been with TBWA for a month. Her undergrad degree in Morocco was in communications, and she's been getting her Master's in the UAE in communications with a focus on PR. She was asking me all about the Newhouse curriculum in PR, and was telling me that she is contemplating getting her PhD in communications.
The people, buildings and sights here are truly like a dream sequence.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cinema Under the Stars

Went to the Wafi neighborhood yesterday after work to watch a movie under the stars. The whole event was free and takes place on top of a shopping mall between a few open-air restaurants. They cover the roof with bean bags and carpet, and show movies once a week on Sundays. One of the best and most unreal experiences yet- open air in the cool summer weather, watching Inception while enjoying a Carlsberg and a shwarma sandwich. Though we got back to the hotel a little later than I had hoped, it was an awesome experience.

Everyday Things

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”  –Bill Bryson

Traveling is a brutality.

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”  –Cesare Pavese

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Weekend #1

"A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving." 
             -Lao Tzu

So ends the first weekend of travel through Dubai. Having lived in country for a few days and only going to work, Lisa and I wanted to travel a bit more through the city, but we didn't want to have fixed plans, but rather wander instead. So here's how the weekend went:

Thursday night:

Started off by heading to the Dubai Marina after work. When I say the Dubai Marina, I mean a marina unlike any other marina that you have ever been to. Restaurants and open eateries sit next to shops and stands, ringing the waterways. We found an Iranian eatery, where I ate the most delicious mixed kebabs I've ever had. When we went to go pay, the owner came out and insisted that we sit and enjoy a complimentary pot of tea before leaving. 

We then walked further down the waterway and stopped at a sort-of courtyard, decorated with Arabian relics and lights, to smoke a shisha. Since neither of us really had any idea what we were doing, they showed us, although laughing while they did. We ended the night but walking around through some of the bigger waterfront hotels and stopped for a drink at Le Royal Meridien hotel.


After waking up far later than I had planned, we headed to the Jumeirah Beach walk, a collection of shops and restaurants near the public-access Jumeirah Beach Resort (JBR for short). 

After checking out the walk and the beach, we headed over back toward the Dubai Mall near the Burj Khalifa, to grab a dinner and drink near in the Souk al Bahar and to watch the Dubai Fountains. This fountain, in the Khalifa Lake at the base of the Burj, is the largest in the world, with a lightshow, choreographed to famous Arabic and English songs. Though we didn't see Michael Jackson's show, check out the video below:


Starting off the day right, as my Dad would think, by going skiing. Except this time, we went skiing in a mall, in a desert, in Dubai. Pretty damn cool. We got a two hour pass, which included skis, boots, and an overcoat and baggy ski pants to wear over our other clothes, all for $50 equivalent. The big drawback was that there was only one run, but I guess that's understandable, given that it was indoors and in a mall.

We then went over to the traditional Souks (open-air markets) in the neighborhoods of Deira and Bur Dubai, the oldest neighborhoods in the city. After taking the metro to the station at Union, we walked along the waterway by what looked to be fishing and shipping boats. These boats definitely showed a less modern area of Dubai, as they smelled briny, were covered in rust, and were stacked 4 and 5 deep since there weren't any docks. After getting "ripped off" for two small drinks at 10 Dhs ($3.30ish equivalent, which I didn't see as too bad), I later got another much larger water for only 2Dhs (less than $1). We wandered around by the Gold Souk in Deira, and found the Heritage House, which is a fully-restored house in the style of classic Arabic architecture, which was kinda cool to see. 

Finally, we found the entrance to the Souks, which reminded me of the markets in Jerusalem- close quarters, full of sounds, smells, and sights, with older men sitting hunched in corners and children running and playing through the streets. Things I heard and thought while walking through the souks:

- "Hey, Mr. Bond! Want a spy watch?" It's funny to hear any Western culture hurled at us to try and bring us into their stores.
- "Want Rolex? Omega? Breitling?" "No, thanks." "Oh, ok. How about Viagra?"... I wonder what American and western business men have been through here??
- After realizing that we're American, 10 consecutive shop owners come out. I found it funny that literally every one of them tried to sell pashmina scarves- if I said no to the first 9, then why, Mr. Tenthbusinessman, do you think I'm suddenly going to buy the same scarf from you?

Anyway, it was definitely an amazing weekend and a great start to my short life in Dubai.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


But more like #UAEProblems... for Americans here.
  • No texting.
  • No iPhone internet.
  • No Netflix.
  • No Hulu. 
  • No Pandora.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Humans of Dubai

So, after only 3.5 days in Dubai, I've come up with a project for the rest of my time here, albeit not an original one. Courtesy of @ciaraschoe, I've discovered a project called Humans of New York, which profiles people throughout NYC. Just today, I've had some amazing interactions with some of the residents of this city, and have decided that from now on while I'm here I'm going to snap a photo of a person and include their story or a quote... let's see how long this lasts.

  • In the Hallmark store at the Mall of the Emirates, I spoke to the cash register a bit after checking out. He was from Tibet, and hadn't been home in 5 years. He told me that his only hope is that he could return home at some point in the next few years to visit his family.
  • Walking through the train station today, I inadvertently made eye contact with a woman wearing a full abaya, who immediately diverted her eyes. Not surprising, but still makes you think.
  • At Trader Vics after work while having drinks with the TBWA staff, we spoke to a Lebanese man named Saad, who told us about his time growing up in that country.
  • We spoke to a Palestinian coworker named Moe whose parents moved when they were 8 and 9 to Syria. He was born and raised in Damascus, and began telling us that he and the rest of the Arabic world wants Al Assad out of power, but that it is a long ways off if the Russians and Chinese remain allies of Syria. He said:
"Whether you're Israeli, European, or American, you're scared shitless of Islam. You think that we're out to take over the world. But thats simply ignorant."

Bucket List, Updated

Having been in country for a few days, we've got some new ideas for what we'll be doing outside of work over the remaining 37 days here...

  • Ski Dubai: Indoor ski, tubing and snow park
  • Scuba Diving, in an Aquarium, in a Mall
  •  //Found out it's ridiculously expensive to do if not certified. Note to self: get certified in the states\\
  • Desert Safari: 4x4ing, dune boarding, etc., likely this weekend
  • Rooftop movie at the gardens in Wafi: seeing Inception this Sunday
  • Rugby: Matching up the top 5 teams in Asia, the Asian 5 Nations International Rugby Tournament this Friday (possibly UAE v. Hong Kong or Kazakhstan)
  • Drinks at the Souk Al Bahar, overseeing the Dubai Fountains downtown
  • Dhow dinner cruise on the Dubai Creek
  • Brunch on a Friday (first day of the weekend here; brunch is a big deal here), then drinks at the Irish Village nearby
  • Dubai Aquarium
  • Diving at the Palm (Jumeirah Beach)
  • Tour at the Jumeirah Mosque, the only mosque in the city open to non-Muslims.
  • Ride a camel
  • Explore the Gold Souk
  • Visit the Al Ain Wildlife Park
  • Set foot on the World (islands)
  • Wild Wadi waterpark
  • Travel to the top of the Burj Khalifa
  • Travel to Oman for the day

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Photos from Around @TBWARAAD

Welcome to Everything

We wandered into the Dubai Mall yesterday after work, where we were greeted upon entering the elevator with a voice that said and television that read, "Welcome to Everything." There is some of a lot of things here, but that statement may be a bit bold... Although its still much larger than any US mall I've ever been in. A few pictures from the walkthrough, as well as a few from the first day at Ketchum RAAD:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Waking Up

at 6 AM is rough, whether in DC, Syracuse, or Dubai... Here's to Day 2.

Dubai Bucket List

"Don't tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled."

I think this quote is particularly relevant, seeing as how it is from the Prophet Mohammed, the leader of Islam. But it also illustrates my main goal here, to travel and experience the country and cultures.

I don't want to miss out on the experiences of this place in the next six weeks, so here is the start of my bucket list:

//Work in Progress//

      Ski Dubai: While some may think this is symbolic of the excesses in this part of the world, I think it has to be one of the coolest things I've seen here yet. While walking through the Mall of the Emirates yesterday, we stumbled across a restaurant that backed up against huge plate-glass windows, beyond which we saw a "winter wonderland." Wondering around, we found out that for 200 UAE Dhs (about $55 USD), we can get equipment and clothing rentals, plus a full day pass to the indoor ski slopes, snow tubing, and access to the "Giant Ball"- check out the video below.

      Scuba Diving, in an Aquarium, in a Mall: I've always wanted to go scuba diving, so why not do it in a mall? I can get my scuba certification by completing a classroom "experience," practice dives in the pool, and then a 2 hour dive in the Dubai Mall Aquarium.

      Desert Safari: Go “dune bashing” in the desert- literally driving a 4x4 into a dune, and “sand-boarding,” almost like snowboarding down the dunes.