Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Dark Side of Dubai

Fascinating article from The Independent

SU in Dubai!

We met up with a rising sophomore from @SUAmbulance on Monday- he was born and raised in the UAE, so it was cool to meet up with him and pick his brain about life here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dubai Time Lapse

Dubai 2.0 from Richard Bentley on Vimeo.

Weekend Adventures

Our weekend was planned out with precision: Friday- travel to Abu Dhabi with a LivingSocial beach resort stay, participate in a TBWA photoshoot at FerrariWorld on Saturday in exchange for free access, and then relaxing at the beach on Sunday. We had a long weekend due to Isra and Mi'raj, or the Ascension of the Prophet, so we figured a weekend trip would be a fun change of scenery. Well... the trip didn't end up as we planned, but it was still a pretty nice weekend.

The Beach Rotana, the hotel we were supposed to stay at:

FerrariWorld features the world's fastest roller coaster, take a look:

Here's what the weekend consisted of:

  • Thursday night: we were both exhausted, so we decided to have a low-key night. We headed over to the Dubai Creek for a dinner cruise on one of the many Dhows. Pretty reasonable price, with a great meal.

  • Friday: The day we were looking forward to! After getting a late start to the bus station, due to the metro being closed before 1 p.m. due to the weekly "day of rest"being on Fridays. After a 2 hour hot-and-cramped bus ride that only cost about $7, we arrived in Abu Dhabi. Walking around, you can easily see what everyone means when they describe this Emirate as older, less polished, and less "young." It is the capital of the UAE, but it is very much old-business, with an older population. Regardless, we were excited. We headed over to Al Arish, a port side restaurant that came highly recommended, where we feasted on a buffet of traditional Lebanese and Arabic chicken, beef, fish, and desserts dishes. We then decided to head over to our hotel, but unfortunately we were not allowed to check in; we had given our passports to the agency so that our visa's could be renewed, and the hotel absolutely refused to let us check in without them. So... we headed back on a much nicer, cheaper, less crowded bus to Dubai, and headed to the movie experience of a lifetime. We went to the Platinum Suites in the Dubai Mall's theater, where we watched Men in Black 3 in style: in La-Z-Boy recliners, with pillows and blankets, and waitress service throughout the movie.
  • Saturday: We headed over to Wild Wadi Waterpark for the day. Highlights:
    • The Burj Surge- A massive, whitewater slide that takes the rafts nearly vertical.
    • Tantrum Alley- Another, sister waterside that takes the raft on consecutive trips around what amounts to drains... you circle around it before dropping down into the next one.
    • Master Blasters- This intricate network of water raft slides shoots you around the whole park, for what amounts to about 20+ minutes at a time. 
    • FISHO- the fish spa. The doctor fish (as gross as this sounds) suck on your feet and legs, "promoting new skin growth."

  • Sunday: I took off at about 11 am for the Jumeirah Beach Walk, to 1847. It's named after the year that the safety razor was invented. After an awesome shave and haircut, I was off and back to meet Lisa at the Jumeirah Beach Park for the rest of the day. 
Back to work for the short work week!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Food of Dubai

I can safely say that over the past few weeks, I have eaten extremely well. Two highlights:

  • Last night, we went out to grab a quick bite. We ended up at Zaina, only about a block from our hotel. Highlight: camel kabobs. A little sweet, very tender.

  • After reading about it in one of our guides, I knew we had to check out Al Bait Al Baghdadi, or "The Baghdad House." It was featured on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Most Expensive Billboard in the World

We saw this billboard/exhibition the other day, and while I didn't think much of it other than that it was cool and not very surprising in a place like Dubai, we just found out that it is the most expensive billboard in the world, costing $500 a second. The promoters said it would cost $1.3 billion to operate for a month.

Monday, June 11, 2012


A little less fun, a little more work in this post...

For the past few weeks, I have been supporting the account for PepsiCo in the Middle East. Yesterday was the culmination of our efforts, as we hosted the PepsiCo CSR Youth Forum, a day of lectures, workshops, and discussions to encourage awareness of sustainability issues among youth in the Gulf region. Here are some highlights from the day:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Make It Count

A friend shared this with me, and while it's not at all specific to Dubai or the Middle East, I wanted to pass it along. Enjoy.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Random Thoughts

Haven't posted in a bit, but a few thoughts from the week:

  • Yep, it gets hot as hell here.
  • Met a Kenyan man at the Sheraton in Deira. He has been here for 6 months, and sold both Lisa and I on the necessity of visiting his country to see a lion in the wild... not kidding.
  • This city has to be one of the friendliest, its people the most welcoming.
And this photo is from Humans of Tel Aviv, but I think it sums up the Middle East in general in a unique perspective:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Headlines of Arabia

Although things are normal enough here, some of the laws and customs of the Arabic region continue to mystify me, including how people are treated for their "crimes."

Bucket List, Updated

We've been in country now for 17 days out of 42. Here's a look at the bucket list so far:

  • Ski Dubai: Indoor ski, tubing and snow park First weekend!
  • 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 This past weekend
  • Rooftop movie at the gardens in Wafi: seeing Inception this Sunday  Awesome movie and awesome time
  • 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)  Didn't end up going cause of the heat, but it's getting too hot now to go to another.
  • 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, June 5, 2012

Qatari Artificial Cloud for 2022 World Cup

Just goes to show how outrageous some of the Gulf countries are- this video shows the artificial cloud that I was talking about in that last post.

Simple lunch, sidetracked.

This is how most of the more interesting experiences have happened while here- not turning down invites, seeing how things happen.

Lisa and I decided we were going to go across the bridge to the other half of our office complex and have an easy lunch of some appetizers, hummus dishes, etc. While waiting at the elevator, one of the guys asks where we are going to lunch, and if we would like to join him instead for a "traditional Arabic lunch." We go along, and it turns out that this is more like a traditional shisha session... Everyone ordered their shisha before they even order drinks.

With the two of us, its 6 in total- a Lebanese man from TBWA, two Brits from that side, and a Palestinian from Ketchum, my side. Topics from lunch:
  • Palestine v. Israel: The borders from different years, the international recognition of Israel, occupation of cities over the years, settlements in the territories, etc.
  • Football vs. American football vs. baseball: How American sports are terrible, because of instant replay and how it's not the referees call.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Ted vs. Barney, with several references thrown in.
  • The invention of artificial clouds for the 2022 World Cup... say what?
  • A few English language semantics lessons from the Lebanese guy to the Palestinian.

"Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routines, your refrigerator full of food, your closet full of clothes - with all this taken away, you are forced into direct experience. Such direct experience inevitably makes you aware of who it is that is having the experience. That's not always comfortable, but it is always invigorating." -Michael Crichton 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Both Sides of Intolerance

Weekend #2 (Sparknotes Edition)

Hey! So it's already the second day of the third week of work, but I realized I needed to share what my weekend consisted of:

  • Thursday: 
    • After wandering around the Dubai Fountain, unable to find the restaurant that we had planned on going to with 2 for 1 dinner, we ended up at a Lebanese restaurant overlooking the fountain again. I'm telling you, every time the fountain goes off, it is astounding.
    • At 8:15, we headed over to the "Top of the World" at the Burj Khalifa. This is the path up to the observation deck. Absolutely amazing view, at the 124th floor, 38 floors higher than the Empire State building.
    • We went to Karma Kafe, a bar and lounge in the Souk Al Bahar. After having a drink there in what was a surprisingly relaxed setting, we wanted to head over to the Library Bar, a place that has been billed as one of the top cigar bars in the world, just to see what the hype was about. After hopping in a taxi and heading to the Ritz-Carlton, we realized we ended up at the wrong hotel, and went wandering around, finally ending up in the "DFC"- Dubai Festival City. We found one of the top bars for young workers in the city, Caramel. Called it an early but successful night.

Pictures from the Burj Khalifa:

Karma Kafe:


Dubai Festival City:

  • Friday:
    • After waking, doing my Latin, and getting in a quick workout, we headed to brunch at Long's Bar in the Towers Rotana. Brunch is a huge deal, apparently. Delicious food.
    • In the late afternoon, we were picked up by DRT, our desert safari tour company, from the Mall of the Emirates. After an hour drive out of the city, we pulled over at the side of the road, when three SUVs pulled up next to us in the sand. We switched from our 15-passenger van to the SUV's, which were outfitted with roll bars along the inside roof. We quickly sped off, drifting down the dunes, fishtailing, having an amazing time. We eventually ended up at the "bedouin" camp, where we were able to ride a camel (so cool!), watch belly dancing, and  eat a feast of Middle Eastern food. We sat with three Pakistanis from our bus, who were some of the friendliest guys of this trip yet. They told us that they had never been to the States, and that we were actually the first Americans they had ever met. Unfortunately, when I updated my phone's software, I lost both pictures and videos from the trip, as well as the email from one of the guys, so I lost their names and any way to contact them...
    • After returning and taking a quick shower, we decided to head out for a bit. On a whim, we decided to head to Atlantis, on the Palm Jumeirah (the palm-tree shaped island). We were going to check out the closing party for Nasimi beach, b/c it was featured on, but ended up at N'Dulge night club instead. After a slow start when we got there (about 11 p.m.), the place got crowded around midnight. We got curious when the staff started bringing out bottles with sparklers lit in them, so I asked- they were bottles of Dom Perignon that went for 3500 Dhs, or about $1000. Lisa asked one group of four guys what they were celebrating- they were just here in Dubai for the weekend to get away from Kuwait, where they work. They invited us to join the group, and it was a pretty amazing night.

  • Saturday: 
    • We went to the Jumeirah Beach Park for the day. $1.25 equivalent to enter a paradise of white beaches, clear and refreshing oceans, and an amazing day. Slept, read, relaxed, and decided that I would be ok with living in Dubai.

All in all, an amazing second weekend.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lottery Ticket

My parents joke around about how I should buy a lottery ticket, because I'm so lucky; my friend Dan commented yesterday that I've done pretty well for myself, and it's paying off.

I do have a pretty damn good life.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Americans are dumb.

Don't get me wrong- I love America, our history, our freedoms to do what we want and express what we want. But Americans are dumb... And I'm no exception.

I had this idea back when I went to Israel talking to a student from the Interdisciplinary Center. He was accompanying our group on the trip, was a former medic unit commander in the IDF, and was studying law. We stood at a bar on the beach, talking about American politics, and he knew absolutely everything.

The people that I've met here echo that- they are some of the most educated people I've ever met, be it at Ketchum RAAD or on the street. They all know multiple languages, they know more about the world and history and current events and culture than I've ever even heard or seen.

In conclusion: