I will try

I will not be reciting Shakespeare every morning when you open your eyes next to me.
I will not always treat you as an English rose should be treated
(I am not a gardener)
I will not always be there to wipe the tears from off your face when you cry.
I will sometimes seem foreign to you and you to me
I will not always remember everything we discussed
I will not always know what to say or how to phrase it
I will never adore your cat
I will not always agree with your mindset or your thinking
I will not always get what you are saying
I will promise you neither the moon nor the stars
I will not always be on time
I will not always be near you
I will sometimes screw-up

But I will write you something when you least expect it
But I will respect your thorns and cherish them
But I will hold you as tightly as I can whenever I am near throughout the night
But I will embrace the difference and bridge our chasm with love
But I will excuse myself as soon as I remember.
But I will surely say something even if my words don’t translate
But I will always be good to him
But I will make an effort to understand your point of view
But I will ask you to make sure I got it right
But I will carry you barefooted through the desert if need be
But I will be there as soon as I can
But I will be there for you
But I will try my best

Ramadan Kareem

It is that time of the year again where some of our normal actions, our behaviour and working hours are in practise dictated by the moon. It’s: Ramadan-time again.

Ramadan begins with the sighting of the new moon crescent and it ends with the sighting of the next new moon which marks the beginning of Eid. Here in the UAE it is the Moon Sighting Committee that will announce when Ramadan starts.
The holy month of Ramadan – the ninth month in the Islamic year – has quite a big impact on the things you are allowed to do here in Dubai and in the UAE in general and when you are allowed to do them. For expats, the major things and issues to be aware of during Ramadan are the following:

1. No intake of food and drinks in public from sunrise through sunset.
2. No smoking in public either.
3. Bars will not open til 7.30pm
4. No public entertainment or (loud) music (keep you car radio down a bit).
5. After Iftar – the prayer at sunset – you can assume your normal way of life and eat, drink and smoke in public until sunrise.

During Ramadan, the faithful Muslim will abstain from food from sun up to sundown, but at dusk the family will gather for fast-breaking, known as Iftar. The sundown meal starts with the ritual eating of a date — just as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was believed to have done. Then it's time for a prayer to thank Allah followed by the meal. In many homes, this is a simple meal of fruits and vegetables along with traditional Middle Eastern fare.

Over time, Iftar has grown into banquets and small festivals. This is a time of fellowship with families, friends and surrounding communities, but may also occupy larger spaces at mosques or banquet halls, where a hundred or more may gather at a time.
Some markets and smaller shops close down during evening prayers and the Iftar meal, but then re-open and stay open for a good part of the night. Muslims can be seen shopping, eating, spending time with their friends and family during the evening hours. In many mid-east countries, this can last late into the evening, to early morning. However, if they try to attend to business as usual, it can become a time of personal trials, fasting without coffee or water.

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating or drinking starting from dawn till dusk. To prepare for the fasting, Muslims wake up before dawn and the fajr prayer to eat a meal (Sahoor). Muslims break their fast at Maghrib (at sunset) prayer time with a meal called Iftar. Muslims may continue to eat and drink after the sun has set until the next morning's fajr prayer call. Ramadan is a time of reflecting , believing and worshiping God. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam and to avoid obscene and irreligious sights and sounds. Sexual activities during fasting hours are also forbidden. Purity of both thoughts and actions is important. The fast is intended to be an exacting act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised awareness of closeness to God.

The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. It also teaches Muslims to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and charity (Zakat).

Muslims should start observing the fasting ritual upon reaching the age of puberty, so long as they are healthy, sane and have no disabilities or illnesses. The elderly, the chronically ill, and the mentally ill are exempt from fasting, although the first two groups must endeavor to feed the poor in place of their missed fasting. People who are travelling long distances do not have to fast. Also exempt are pregnant women, women during the period of their menstruation, and women nursing their newborns. A difference of opinion exists among Islamic scholars as to whether this last group must make up the days they miss at a later date, or feed poor people as a recompense for days missed. While fasting is not considered compulsory in childhood, many children endeavour to complete as many fasts as possible as practice for later life. Lastly, those traveling are exempt, but must make up the days they miss.
The elderly or those who suffer from a disability or disease and have no prospect of getting better in the future can pay the cost of Iftar for a person who cannot afford it, or else they can host such a person in their house and have him eat with them after sunset as a way of repaying for the days they could not fast.

Ramadan is also a time when Muslims are supposed to take a step back from worldly affairs and focus on self-reformation, spiritual cleansing and enlightenment; this is to establish a link between themselves and God through prayer, supplication, charity, good deeds, kindness and helping others. Since it is a festival of giving and sharing, Muslims prepare special foods and buy gifts for their family and friends and for giving to the poor and needy who cannot afford it; this can involve buying new clothes, shoes and other items of need. There is also a social aspect involving the preparing of special foods and inviting people for Iftar.

The holiday of Eid ul-Fitr marks the end of the fasting period of Ramadan and the first day of the following month, after another new moon has been sighted. The Eid falls after 29 or 30 days of fasting, per the lunar sighting. Eid ul-Fitr means the Festival of Breaking the Fast; a special celebration is made. Food is donated to the poor everyone puts on their best, usually new, clothes; and communal prayers are held in the early morning, followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends.

To non-Muslim exparts, it may all sound a bit dull. Fortunately, non-Muslims are not required to fast which obviously makes things easier. Business life is affected quite a lot. The UAE Labour Law requires companies to reduce working hours by two on working days for all employees. Many companies, however, do not adhere to this rule and will only reduce working time for those fasting. However, all public and government offices will be observing the reduced hours making it more difficult to have documents processed. Also, business in general slows down significantly with fewer client visits and meetings and no major decisions seem to be made during the month of Ramadan. In addition, many expats actually leave the country for holidays during Ramadan.
The shopping malls are strangely silent with all the coffee shops, fast-food outlets and restaurants shut and no music being played anywhere – or at least kept at very low volume.

Most companies will provide a separate dining room for the non-muslims where they can eat their lunch, and possibly even a smoking room, so life here for expats is not really affected that much.
With the UAE authorities usual pragmatic approach to life’s issues, the non-Muslim part of the population can still pretty much carry on with their lives and it will still be possible to eat, drink and smoke during the day, as long as you don’t do it in the face of a fastening Muslim. Doing so is considered a criminal offence and during the past three years, 24 people were arrested for breaking the fast in public in the Emirate of Dubai. The punishment imposed on the sinners is usually a month in jail and/or a 2.000 Dirham fine. Better to avoid offending those fastening and stay safe, unless your car has got a really good layer of tint. Don’t do it – wait till you are safe home behind your shut blinds or drawn curtains. Then you can do pretty much whatever you want.
Just before 7.30pm you will find many expats queuing up outside bars and pubs waiting to get a drink. Alcohol is still available in Dubai during Ramadan and the bars do open (and are usually pretty crowded), howver there will be no live music and if music is played, it will be very quiet. This also goes for Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah. However, in Abu Dhabi bars will be closed during Ramadan. In Sharjah, there are no bars at all.

Ramadan Kareem means “Ramadan the generous” and refers to all the good fasting and the spiritual insights supposedly brings the faithful. It is a phrase which is used widely in public ads and as a greeting during Ramadan. Well, Ramadan Kareem and happy fasting. Another 25 days to go before Eid and a few public holidays.

- with input from wikipedia.org

Signs in the UAE

One of the most interesting things about life in the UAE is the cosmopolitan nature of the country. The population of almost 6 million people is roughly made up from 80% expats and 20% Emiratis. There are people living here for shorter or longer time from more countries and territories than there are members of the United Nations.
It is like a global village and over time you will meet and interact with people from all over the world. The official language of the UAE is obviously Arabic, but English is the language most commonly used in business and when out in public. Since only the minority of people here are actually native English speakers, sometimes things go horribly wrong when it comes to communication. Certain ethnic groups tend to have their own special variety of “English” using phrases and terms taken directly from their own language and translated to English where it is then used to bend the language in ways which the Queen would never use. There are loads of examples of “Jinglish” as the native English speakers call it. On many occasions this improper use of English can be hilarious, especially when “Jinglish” is applied to signs displayed in public. On other signs it is the spelling, grammar or punctuation which is not quite spot-on and makes things go wrong. Even the sign itself and its layout might cause problems understanding it properly.
Although many signs serve a serious purpose offering sound advice or warnings, sometimes the message does not really come through or it gets completely lost in translation.
Below are a few examples of some of the signs I have come across here in the UAE. It is very easy to find some funny examples when driving or walking around the city and it can become a great sport to be sign-spotting once you get the feel for it. Enjoy.

Safety Fist? Human Traffic?? - better wear safety helmet then...

No tap dancing either.

No, please hurry up, men!

Please dry-flush yourself when through!

Wonder what they are doing to that building?
Glad they are not demolishing it...

One of those days, but keep smiling :-)

I love this sign near Abu Dhabi.
Always make me wonder what they keep in store for me today.

BlackBerry Battered in the UAE

Big news here in the oasis today which has caused rather a lot of fuzz within the expat community.
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the UAE -TRA - has said that BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry E-mail and BlackBerry Web-browsing services in the UAE will be suspended as of October 11. This was officially announced today by government news agency WAM. This will affect BlackBerry owners whether they signed up with Etisalat or du, the only two telecommunication service providers in the country.

Needless to say, quite a few people here were not exactly thrilled with the fact that a vast portion of the user interface on their phones can no longer be accessed or used as intended as from that date.

Alledgedly, the suspension is a result of the failure of ongoing attempts, dating back to 2007, to bring BlackBerry services in the UAE in line with UAE telecommunications regulations. Now, I have been here a fair amount of time and I have witnessed the very thorough marketing campaigns launced repeatedly by both service providers to get the public to sign-up for subscriptions for the BlacBerry service. It is an extremely popular series of handsets here in the UAE and I know loads of people who are huge fans of BlackBerrys and swear they couldn't live without it. I myself is an iPhone evangelist though, so I am really not affected by the fuzz, but I do respect those less fortunate amongst friends.

Both telecommunications operators, Etisalat and du,were informed of the decision earlier today. The notification was delivered with an instruction to ensure minimal consumer disruption in the provision of alternative services.

Shortly after the announcement, Etisalat issued the following statement:

"This is an important decision made by the Regulatory Authority and we fully understand the legal and social considerations behind the decision.

"Etisalat has an obligation to act within the law and the regulations of the TRA, while at the same time, providing our customers with the best service. Etisalat has a significant share of customers in the UAE for its mobility services, including BlackBerry customers and hence it is very important for us to ensure our customers enjoy continuity of services. Etisalat's focus at the current time is to make sure its valued customers experience continuity of mobility services. In line with its commitment towards its customers, Etisalat will soon be announcing a range of alternative mobility products and services for its existing BlackBerry customers."

The core of the problem seems to be that BlackBerry data is immediately exported offshore, where it is managed by BlackBerry servers in the US and elsewhere. Thus not passing through the filtering systems in place in the UAE where attempts to access websites or services which are considered to be not in line with UAE customs and values and otherwise considered to be offensive are blocked. BlackBerry data services are currently the only data services operating in the UAE where this is the case.

Since the BlackBerry concept and user services, however, are based on a centralised server platform, obviously it is and has been possible to access such sites which are not in line with the the UAE regulations.

Commenting on the announcement, the TRA director general said: "With no solution available and in the public interest, in order to affect resolution of this issue, as of October 11, 2010, BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry Email and BlackBerry Web-browsing services will be suspended until an acceptable solution can be developed and applied."

I think the matter will be resolved eventually since most normal operations on the BlackBerry like checking e-mails, texting, phoning etc will still be intact. However, from 11th October all traffic will pass through the handle filters and all traffic will thus pass through the networks of etisalat and du. At the end of the day, they will be the winners since the traffic on their networks is going to go up significantly.

On the other hand, today the number of BlackBerry handsets being offered for sale on souk.com went up quite a lot. If you want to acquire a cheep one, now might be the perfect time. Maybe, everyone will end up getting an iPhone in the end.

Footprints in The Desert

Time resolutely continues its rhythmic and precisely measured circular motion and is only scarcely depicted in its presence on the clocks of the world; the treadmill of time. It is already late in the summer. August relieves July in a few days and I can tear-off another page of the calendar, add another month to my expatriation. It´s been ages since I left Denmark, but I do not quite get it. It really feels as if it was just a few months ago. My sense of time has deteriorated proportionately with my time spend abroad. Where did time go when it went? Was it brutally sucked out through the ventilation ducts of eternity? Was it carelessly flushed out through dubious drains of infinity? Did it voluntarily jump down the rubbish chutes of transience?
Whatever happened to it, one thing is certain: time passed is gone for good and it has no intention of coming back to me. Time is fragile. Time is precious. Time is fleeing. Time rapidly erodes like footprints in the desert.

Ideas are like stars; you cannot reach out and touch them with your hands. But as for the seafarer stuck in a wilderness of water, they can show you the way and if you follow them, you will meet your destiny.

The idea was to move far, far away from Denmark, go for a new adventure, challenge myself and start all over again in a foreign place. Sometimes I feel that I am still at the beginning, that I have only just arrived here and that I am far from being established properly yet. Other times, I catch myself out having actually established some kind of normal life here – I have even gotten used to most of the things about life in Dubai, which are far from normal for a Dane. I find myself having established new trade patterns, paved new roads and established a new, steadily growing network of friends and people that surround me and help keeping me alive.
It is my everyday life, it is my everything and I love it, my life here in Dubai.

So, who am I? What am I? Which are the terms I would use to define myself in light of my age, my background, my years spend here in the UAE with all it has brought me?

Change is my passion, progressive and creative thinking my style, insight my ability, openness my way of communication, travelling my desire, experience my drug, kindness my philosophy, understanding my process, performance my talent, experience my result.
I appreciate people with real and decent behaviour and I respect talent and wholesome attitudes.

I love our world, thrive in most places, I love to write, read books, cook, make photographs and listen to music.
I embrace good, healthy and close relationships and friendships and I yearn earnestly for proper cheese when I am in foreign countries.

Paradox is my answer.

In the big steamer

6:35am on a Sunday morning and I leave my apartment to drive to work. As I come out of the lift downstairs, I can already sense it: the humidity. I turn the corner in the hall and I can see our front doors are covered in thick steamy mist while a million tears of condensation slowly pave their way down to join the considerable pool of water on the floor.

Outside, it is pretty much like walking into a giant sauna or Turkish steam bath, or as if the whole world has become one big greenhouse. RIGHT NOW would be an appropriate time to stop global warming, please, AND reverse it quickly! Do something about it! It´s only early morning, but my phone tells me that it is currently 36C. I guess late summer weather is back then. It is like this every year. We tend to have really high temperatures from mid June through July, typically between 40 and 50 degrees. Then around 1st of August, the temperature drops a few degrees leaving room for the vicious humidity to crawl to the top of the hygrometer scale. On the radio, they mention it is up to 70% this morning. It´s like being stuck in a big steamer for weeks. You can literally feel your bodily fluids rapidly evaporate drop by drop. It's not pleasant and it sucks! It is usually bad in the late afternoon, horrible in the morning and outright unbearable the first two hours after sunset.

I make a stop at the petrol station on way to work to buy a sandwich and some fruit for my lunch. The guys working the pumps are suffering already. I see them looking miserable and tight, constantly trying to wipe the sweat from off their foreheads and faces. As they struggle to serve a long morning queue of cars in need of petrol; an army of always thirsty 4x4s with enormous tanks and impatient drivers in their usual bad morning mood. They make frequent use of their horns when they think the guys working the pumps are too slow finding change for the driver in front or making a receipt. Not that any of them would ever even think of getting out of the cars to fill them up themselves. The petrol companies have tried on several occasions to make certain petrol stations self-service, but so far without success. Despite the fact that the drivers can wait inside their air-conditioned cars while the guys are stuck outside in their misery, and in spite of the fact that petrol here costs but a fraction of the price you pay in most countries outside the emirates, they are still not happy with the service. One of the ways many people here are terribly arrogant.
I walk through the sliding door to the shop at the petrol station which is also covered with condensation. Late summer is here again. It looks like this will be a hot and hazy day.

The very humid weather conditions on top of the high temperatures is something you need to take seriously and you need to adjust your habits and behaviour to the conditions. The humid weather types drain your body for liquid, so it is essential to drink loads of water. Also your mineral balance is affected. It may take your body up to 2-3 weeks to adjust properly to the changes which this time of the year will inevitably bring to the weather. Last week, a man died from a heatstroke in neighbouring Emirate of Sharjah. Every year we have deaths here directly related to the hot, humid summer.

We are facing 8-9 weeks of this unbearably humid type of weather. Same song as last year. Same song as every year. It will be way past Ramadan before the humidity gradually drops again. It will be late September or early October before it starts getting better. But once it is over, we will have another 5-6 months where the weather will be gorgeous in Dubai and in the rest of the UAE. Let´s get it over with. Summer: bring on the humidity. We will outlast you. We will survive you. Get it over and done with and then please go away so we can have the good times back doing outdoors activities again for half a year.

Hello again!

I'm back!
As a blogger, as an observer to life as it evolves in Dubai, as a misplaced Dane still hanging in here in the slightly scruffier but still glamorous oasis that surrounds us. For various reasons, I have decided that from now on, I will tell my story in English - not least to the benefit of those less fortunate amongst us who never got around to learn to speak or understand Danish. There is hope for those few as well.
I will start my return to the blogging universe by describing life as it looks from here these days and from behind my eyes. So much has changed. So many people and good friends left Dubai. Sometimes, it seems like a completely new life here. New friends, new people, new circumstances. Loads of new challenges. Everything seems very different from when I first came to this Country of Contrasts.
I have missed blogging so, so much and I cannot wait to once again let you know about this peculiar sandpit of ours and the people who have chosen to live their lives here where the sun always shines.

I shall be back shortly!