Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Ramadan 2009

So, here we are again with another Ramadan.  It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and indulging in anything that is in excess or ill-natured; from dawn until sunset.

From what I can understand from a lot of my friends who have lived in other countries, Dubai is one of the strictest that they have encountered.  Apparently in Egypt, the Muslims fast, while the other religions carry on in a normal fashion.  Yet here in Dubai, during daylight hours, when you wander the great malls, all of the food or coffee outlets are closed, with all of the chairs stacked up on the tables.  Malls can be a very gloomy affair in Ramadan – in my view, the very soul is sucked out of Dubai and it’s a very solemn place to be during the day.

We live here and have chosen to live here, so we have to abide by the rules and not eat in public in the daytime.  That’s fine by me – however, hard it may be.  But one thing I don’t understand – even for Muslims, little children are exempt – so when I let my children (under 6) eat something in public, I feel that everyone is staring at me and that I’ve done something wrong.  I know that I haven’t, but there feels as though there is a tension in the air.

There are a few places which bend the rules and open during the daytime.  The rule which they bend is that they have to be unseen and unheard from the outside, so dark curtains are pulled all around the cafe or the windows are papered over.  When westerners go inside the few treasures that are still open, the place is humming with activity and people eating and drinking without a care in the world!

Given that Dubai is a very relaxed country in the Middle East, where we are allowed to drink alcohol (in certain places) and where there is a great deal more freedom than in many others, Ramadan feels like such the opposite.  I am sure that others will feel differently, but it’s just my view.

Perhaps a very strict Ramadan is the deliberate price we pay for an otherwise very flexible and liberal Arab country. 

Monday, 7 September 2009

Moving into our New Place

We’re now moved into our new place and slowly finding our feet.  It’s in Dubai Sports City and whilst our particular development is quite nice, we are back on a building site.  There are bus loads of builders shipped in and out each day to both finish our development and also to continue to build the remainder of Sports City.  There has been a lot of recent publicity about the plight of these workers, mainly from the Indian subcontinent, and whatever the real story of these folk, I hope they are living somewhere decent and looked after fairly by their employers.

So far, I’m not too keen on living in our particular development.  We’ve had a couple of petty security issues – a few thingswater-cooler-thief-main-copyright1 have been stolen from outside our villa (one from our covered carport and another from an outside cupboard) and a man was also found in our garden doing something to himself that should only be done in private.  I will go no further, suffice to say that I’m happy my children were not there to witness it.  It’s my job to protect them from any weird people out there.

In the UK, it would be rather foolish to leave items in a carport, but Dubai isn’t the UK and it’s quite normal, given that there is no loft space and most garages don’t have doors.  I’ve always felt secure here, and whilst I do still have a sense of personal security, I am now always making sure that the garden gate is completely locked and we are now paying for landscapers to come into our garden and install high trees and obscure any view through the gate.

There’s a chance that people out there will think that I’m over-reacting, but this development was sold to us as a gated establishment, but I guess it was just handed over too soon.  They can’t possibly deliver a “secure” gated compound when it’s not fully built yet.  I’m also not trying to see that we are living in some dreadful place – incidents like this happen in every town throughout the world – sadly, it’s just a few individuals who spoil things for the rest of us.

This is probably my first blog where I have felt rather low and disappointed with my time in Dubai, but I need to be honest.  This blog has to have the good times and also the less good – I need to make it real and what it’s really like for me.  I am still very happy to be here and would still choose to live here rather than the UK, but it’s just been a bit of a shame.

I am sure things will get better.