Sunday, 30 June 2013

Ramadan Lockdown

Ramadan Lockdown and Expat Hysteria

Yes, the supermarkets are getting the Ramadan Kereem garlands out and offering special twofer offers on oil, cereal and other Ramadan Specials - all as tacky as Xmas except, fortunately,  it doesn't start three months before. At this time the students are saying how they are looking forward to the annual fast whilst getting their excuses in early and trying to amend yet more the already foreshortened timetable and reduced expectations.

Meanwhile, in the weird and parlous parallel universe of Expatland the slow burning realisation and developing panic has really set in with vicious circulating rumours that any places to get a nice cold drink, of which there are many all of which will be brutally and coldly closed for the duration. Fasting by proxy? This does sort of surprise me as it is not as anal here as the UAE in which the hotels and booze shop were always happy, smiling and welcoming through the Holy Month. Indeed, unlike the UAE most bars you go to here have a large proportion of local men happily knocking back the industrial fizz. But no, come sunset on 8th July, a merciless Lockdown will take place. Hotel bars and the offy will close....

The offy was cleared of booze by late last week with stocks being desperately air-freighted from India and replenished twice daily as desperate, thristy expats of all stripe were buying up with some (YOU know who you are) doubtless hoping to profit from the impending black market.

Tomorrow marks a new month the retarded booze license when the mean monthly limit  will be reached in a single spastic spree. Sad really for some, but not me, oh no, even the plastic White Mischief Indian vodka will go, as will the equally plastic McGhandi Scotlandish Whisky brewed in Delhishire. Evil, cheap, toxic brews I don't doubt which are probably bought by Dickensian building site owners to keep their serf-like charges (who have no access to nice things) docile and possibly grateful.

The Gulf is an odd part of Expatland which I have seen do strange, disturbing things to a person and their taste,  judgement and usual good sense and moderation. This time of year with the impending annual joyless (for us) Lockdown is symptomatic of a minor breakdown in rationality that sometimes occurs. Others let it drift by them and others become proactive some colleagues will even fast along (or claim to) with their students. They have in other places in which I have worked which always struck me as odd with a touch of patronising as unless of course it is (gulp) me who is missing something...?

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Airport Chic

1. Dubai

The cheesy bling infested uber Essex of the Gulf -  Blue Water with planes attached. Buy a lottery ticket (add nationality to stop non-UAE folk from winning....probably) and win a huge V8 blacked out Toyota Turbo Earthraper to go with the other ten you already have. That kind of place. Aspirational and extremely classy.
Building the Gulf States' dream on bugger all a day in 45 degree heat

2. Heathrow

Well, you know, hordes of armed on-the-edge cops in too tight shirts sporting the gay para-military look protecting hordes of us from the bad guys (maybe sponsored by our pals in the UAE, Saudi or Qatar) who would otherwise be doing badness in extreme abundance according to the Daily Mail, The Sun and their friends in GCHQ which makes it all absolutely true of course.
Travelling in style

3. Muscat

Typical hand luggage
Regional feel for a capital city (a plus), full of South Asian workers (not quite so slave like as in neighbouring lands) ferrying white goods in badly packed boxes to send home to show that they have made good really (see also Bahrain, Doha, Abu Dhabi, Dubai). No women or children anywhere.

4. Brunei

Friendly and small but no place for a lengthy stopover unless you have time for a trip to the water village. As of the last time I had to go through there - no bar and only brightly coloured sugary drinks on offer.   
Water Village - really good for a long stopover

5. Schipol

Crap to buy someone you don't really like
Overpriced, selling lots of Chinese made Dutch tat. Clog keyrings - a must. Who still buys dope leaf tat or bags sporting the red light district? However, the refreshing  guilt free Universal Airport Pint is available and it seems far more right there than in most other timezones.

6. Doha

Too well hidden bar / restaurant / shower area which can only be entered if the nostril flaring harridans from Hades on the door let you through crap night-club style.
'How much for the World Cup, Sepp...?'
Doubtless, the copious amounts of semi -slave labour will be used to build a nice new shiny one in time for the 2022 World Cup to show just how great and wonderful the Qataris are.

7. Abu Dhabi (See Dubai for pic)

Bags lost in transit on more than one occasion by Etihad among whose staff I am sure there are no Emiratis well aside who those who collect the large amounts of profit. Interminable prayers which don't disguise its primary purpose which is to extract as much cash from you as possible 'cos shopping is why you go to the UAE apparently. (See Dubai)

8. Manston 

Airports as they should be
Yeah, the airport for me, maybe it's an age thing now.  It is run seemingly, by enthusiastic, smiling happy Yr 10 work experience kids. Like the nice ones I used to teach. They take it in turns to check in the passengers and argue about whose turn it is to try to use the funny machines. Well, they did last I used it.They  just want to show what great fun an airport should be. Not a gun or grim faced psycho around. Off the plane and out of the airport within 15 mins.