Going Back to Reality

I’ve been an expat now since 1994 and this type of life has been very kind to me both in terms of lifestyle, opportunity and the chance to grow as a person experiencing people from all walks of life. It has taught me to be tolerant, grateful and accepting of every person or opportunity that has come my way.

One of the things that has always irritated me over this time has been this constant phrase from other expats about returning to their home environment.  “I want to go back to reality,” is a saying I have heard often over the years. I can understand it in a lot of ways especially after a recent trip to Dubai which is a city which has lost it’s soul to tourism. Buildings and places designed specifically to look old but which in fact just look out of place. Dubai is like Toy Town, a perfect place for perfect people…….

However, there is this sweeping image that as expats we live in a bubble and to some extent this is true. Expensive cars, swimming pools, private schooling etc all things that most of us would not be able to afford in our home country. However, much as it is a bubble, it is your own bubble and as such it is your reality. The reality you are living now.

The only thing there is in life is now. The past was now when it was happening and the future will be now when we get to it. There is actually no other state other than what is present right now. So my feeling is that as expats we should enjoy what is our present reality and not wish the time away to a future reality that may or may not be different.



Posted by on June 30, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Girl’s Night Out

Girl’s Night Out

Just had to relay a funny incident that happened last night on a girl’s night out. Six lovely girlies went out to dinner at Trader Vics restaurant in the Intercontinental Hotel, Muscat. We then moved into the Al Ghazel pub which is also inside the hotel. Alcohol is only really available in hotels in Muscat so we stayed there for the rest of the evening taking advantage of free ‘beverages’ for ladies. An Omani gentleman who looked very similar to the man in the picture approached me and asked if I was french as I was very beautiful!! I told him no and proceeded to ask him whether  I looked french he replied that I did. I then asked him if he was German as he looked German…. he was far too drunk to understand the humour in my comment and proceeded to tell me that he was Omani and could I not tell by his clothing!


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Posted by on December 28, 2012 in Uncategorized


Credit Card Fraud

Credit Card Fraud

Just a short story about something that happened to me last week at the supermarket. I had just bought around 100 Omani Riyals worth of shopping (Thats around 150GBP). I handed in my card to pay and it went through quite normally, the cashier handed me a pen to sign the chitty, it didn’t work. She then handed me another… that didn’t work either, “don’t worry about it,” she said, “it doesn’t matter.”

There is absolutely no way that that would happen in the UK. Would it happen in your country?

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Posted by on November 8, 2012 in Expat Thoughts, Funny Stories


Tuna Sandwiches

Tuna Sandwiches

Last week I asked the maid (everyone has a maid in the Middle East) to make me a tuna sandwich for my packed lunch. I asked her to mix the tuna with a little mayonnaise and a little yogurt and to use brown bread.

Simple and easy task you may think…… it was only by chance that I spotted her spooning the yogurt into the tuna…. Had I not done that I would have had a tuna, mayonnaise and STRAWBERRY yogurt sandwich.


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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in Uncategorized


The School Run

The School Run

I was teaching a Year 2 class (Age 6 &7) and for some reason, which evades me now, the main gates to the school were closed. Therefore, we had to escort the children to the back gates where they were to be picked up. Parents had been sent a letter to say that they were not to stop and beep their horn, they had to park and come and personally pick up their child and escort them across the road, for safety reasons of course.

This particular day, most of the children had gone. The staff (around 6 of us) were still chatting waiting for the last few stragglers to be picked up when a small white saloon car drew up with a local gentleman inside dressed in dish dash. He immediately stopped his car and began to beep his horn. We all looked at each other and started muttering.

“Don’t look at him! Don’t look, just ignore him.”

This went on for around Five minutes until eventually a male colleague decided to go and inform him that he had to get out of his car, cross the road and pick up his child. As he approached the car the man opened the car door revealing………. he had no legs! I know you shouldn’t laugh but it was very funny!

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Posted by on May 31, 2011 in Funny Stories


Dubai – A City of Success or A Cultural Disaster

Dubai – A City of Success or A Cultural Disaster

The story of Dubai is one of the greatest success stories of our time. It is hard to imagine anywhere else in the world that has developed at such a pace, in such a short time, for so many different people. It has literally erupted into a cosmopolitan city which is barely recognisable from what it was 30 years ago. As a Middle Eastern Expat since 1994 I have seen massive changes in the region and have been very privileged to have experienced both early Dubai and the city it has grown into.

I moved to The United Arab Emirates to find adventure and escape. It was always joked about with my colleagues that we were like a foreign legion. All looking to escape a previous life and to some extent they were right. I remember making the decision to move to the UAE and being bombarded with questions from friends and family. Where is that? Is it safe? Can you drive? Can you drink? Unbelievably, I still receive similar questions today, generally from people who are unfamiliar with the region.

The UAE is made up of seven emirates  Abu-Dhabi, (the capital and political centre) Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Um Al Quain, and Ajman. I moved to Fujairah, a very small place which consisted of one hotel, one motel, one supermarket, some small restaurants, and only 50 expats.  As you can imagine living in such a small community meant that life could become quite incestuous at times.

Entertainment was limited and most of it was centred around The Hilton Hotel. After work my colleagues and I would head over to the pool to relax and maybe go back in the evenings for a glass or two of something stronger. Alcohol was easy to buy in the hotel and could also be bought at the ‘hole in the wall’ at the Beach Motel.  If you knew any of the american servicemen, who were regularly stationed  there, they would gladly buy alcohol for you from their military base.

The Beach Motel was an experience in itself. The best way to describe it is like an evening at a caravan park club  in the eighties. It was dark and seedy and usually had live entertainment (if you could call it that) consisting of a  barely dressed Filipino band singing the best or worst of the sixties, seventies and eighties.

The other highlight of our evenings was Club Tropicana. This was part of the Hilton Hotel and was an equally tasteless place to go. The clientele  here often consisted of young Emirati boys dressed like american rap dancers or in National dress. In the winter it was not unheard of for them to be wearing anoraks, hats and shoes with their National Dress. This became even more amusing when they moved to the dance floor without taking off the anoraks.

Saturday night was always Hash night,(A sort of running treasure hunt, very popular in expat communities.) Tuesday was netball and big Wednesday  night was usually party night at someone’s house. Everyone helped everyone else and we were all one big family but needless to say it didn’t always smell of roses.

On quiet weekends we used to travel up to Dubai. It was around a 90 minute drive. Dubai, even then, compared to Fujairah was a big city. It had supermarkets and one or two shopping malls. The one we frequented was Bur Juman, usually followed by a drink in The George and Dragon and then dinner and a dance at Pancho Villas. If we were feeling up for it we would go to the Highland Lodge to finish off the night. There was not much more choice  at this time. Difficult to believe when you see the buzzing nightlife of restaurants, clubs and bars that are available today.

The other place I need to mention is Karama. This was a souk area filled with local shops and stalls. It was the best place to buy fresh fruit cocktails, sharwma and a Rolex watch for a fiver. I remember many times walking past a trader who would whisper out the corner of his mouth “Wanna buy a watch?” At which point you would be taken into the attic of the shop where there would be an Aladdin’s Cave of fake watches. I presume Karama is still there but I’m not sure in what capacity.

In our daily lives we were forced to mix with the locals because we were all thrown together and because of that we didn’t just have an overseas experience we had a cultural one. For example, I have sat on the floor with  an Arabic family sharing a meal off one plate. I have been to many Arabic weddings, (Not that I’d like to go to anymore) have been offered help and assistance by locals when in trouble and been proposed too more often than I care to count.

My life then was very different to what today’s Middle Eastern expats experience. Expat’s travel to the Gulf  to make money and live in their own cultural bubble. Their lives change very little apart from the location they are living in. Every modern amenity is available and friends and acquaintances are generally from the same part of the world. Opportunities to mix with locals are rare and I suspect unnecessary.

No one belongs in Dubai. Its economy is based on transience as is its community. Everything is temporary including its culture which is now largely based on a highly cosmopolitan society with a diverse and vibrant nature. Since 2006, the weekend has been Friday-Saturday, as a compromise between Friday’s holiness to Muslims and the Western weekend of Saturday-Sunday. Dubai has also been criticised for perpetuating a class-based society, where many of the migrant workers are treated as lower classes.

If you travel to Dubai you are unlikely to see an Emirati in National Dress unless you travel to the airport which could service a continent never mind a small Emirate. It is the single largest building in the world by floor space. National Dress is not allowed in the bars and restaurants which serve alcohol so if you go out in the evening you are unlikely to see  any evidence that you are in the Gulf. The Emiratis are now the minority group in the country. ( National Dress for men consists of a long white garment, much like a dress called a dish-dash or thobe and ladies usually cover their clothing with a long black flowing garment called an abaya.)

                                                              Dubai International Airport

Dubai is a city of amazing feats of engineering, architecture and vision which is evident in the incredible infrastructure that has lured so many. People move to Dubai now because it is seen as the land of prosperity. They go to make money, but the reality of it is, that no one really belongs there and no one stays. The society  relies heavily on workers coming for short periods of time. When they realise Dubai isn’t paved with gold they move on. The experience is fast paced, expensive and does not offer a vastly different way of life than in the Western World.

Everything in Dubai is trying to be bigger and better than the rest of the world. They boast they have the world’s largest mall, the world’s tallest hotel, the world’s tallest building, the first underwater hotel, the largest waterfront development and the fastest-growing tourist market. What  they have achieved is incredible and commendable but at what cost?

Dubai has been built with limitless amounts of money but money cannot buy what they have lost in the process. Heritage and culture cannot be pawned. Is Dubai trying to buy a new culture at the expense of the old? Has their culture, which was based largely on Islamic traditions, been sold to the devil in exchange for countless malls (over 70), skyscrapers and 8 lane expressways?

Let me leave you with this last thought: Dubai has Media City, Internet City, Sports City, Motor City and Knowledge Village. Strange that the thing that makes us develop as a people — knowledge — is classed only as a village……


Posted by on May 11, 2011 in Expat Thoughts




On a recent trip I found myself overnight in Doha, Qatar. After living 10 years in Doha from 1998, spending time there was really not in my plans for my well-earned holiday. Anyway, I digress. The point of this post is that on visiting one of the shopping malls there I remembered that for some strange reason Qatar mannequins do not have heads.I believe this is because of some religious reason but have been unable to find out exactly. This is not the same all over the middle eastern region so I wonder why it is prominent in some Islamic countries but not others? In some areas of Saudi Arabia female mannequins are also not allowed to have hands. Now they must look very odd…. no hands or heads!

                                                            Men (Looking a bit dapper!)

                                               Obviously showing a voluptuous figure is ok?


Upon further inspection I actually found two with heads but with no faces . Apparently it is not actually the heads but the facial features that are not allowed.

                                                                   “Look No Eyes”

I think the last two are calling out for a caption. All suggestions welcome.

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Posted by on May 1, 2011 in Expat Thoughts


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