Thursday, April 30, 2009

Like we didn't have enough to deal with already...

Pashtuns (Afghan immigrants/refugees concentrated mostly in the big cities, Karachi and Lahore) and Muhajirs (people who migrated to Pakistan from India in 1947) clash in Karachi unleashing a fresh wave of ethnic violence. Pakistan already harbors sectarian tensions between the Sunnis and the Shias and political strife is rampant among the so called "liberals" and the "fundamentalists", the Taliban militants and the army and various political parties. All this only serves to undermine the already fragile central government. Pakistan is living a political nightmare and the nation of 160 million continues to live in denial ignoring the fact that the country is at war. Students suffer as exams are postponed due to the violence.  

At the time of Pakistan's inception, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, described the ethos of Pakistan with the following words: 

“You are free to go to your temples … to your mosques or any other places of worship in the State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State…. We are all citizens and equal citizens of one State…. In course of time, Hindus would cease to be Hindus, and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the perceived faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”

With the world's second largest Muslim population, even Islam has failed to unify the country. And now, the peaceful minorities are being targeted by the Taliban. I'd like to apologize on behalf of my country... 


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Programming Woes

After struggling through COS 126 to satisfy the computing requirement, I thought I was done with programming forever. Boy, was I wrong! It kept coming back to haunt me through Senior Year and now, my job requires me to be proficient in JAVA and MATLAB so I can design and model policy decisions using system dynamics (why didn't it say so in the job description?!) :'(

Yes, programming is useful and I respect and admire people who can program, who think like programmers. I've been told, it's intuitive- there's only so much one can learn from books and the internet. But the problem is, I don't want to learn! It simply doesn't interest me... my brain refuses to think like a programmer. And it's super-frustrating, staring at lines and lines of code for hours only to discover that I left out a semicolon or used parentheses instead of square brackets :P... Plus, everyone expects me to know it (after all, I studied engineering at Pton and people from there are supposed to be smart...)

But no, I shall not let it conquer my indomitable spirit... I shall stay up all night learning JAVA even if I'd rather be baking apple-pie for my (non-existent) farmer-husband coming home after a day of hard work. 

And here's a cutesy quote:

"As you ramble through life whatever be your goal, keep your eyes upon the doughnut and not upon the hole."

Monday, April 27, 2009

(Another) Encounter

I have a penchant for attracting weird/interesting people :S. Yesterday, I went to Lulu in Al Raha Mall for my weekly groceries wearing shalwar kameez (the traditional Pakistani dress). While I was withdrawing cash from the ATM, the security guard at the entrance came up to me and asked, "Aap Pakistan se hain?" (Are you from Pakistan?). I replied in the affirmative. He proceeded to strike up a conversation asking what I'm doing in Abu Dhabi, where I work, where I'm from in Pakistan, what I majored in in college, how long I've been here, where my parents live... He looked to be in his mid-twenties, decent and well-spoken. He told me he was from Lahore, qualified as a civil engineer but he'd been laid off from work and was therefore working as a security guard until he could find another job. He asked if I could circulate his resume among my employers. My sympathies were aroused, so I handed over my business card and told him to email me his CV.

After groceries were done, I sat down on one of the benches to wait for the driver and began reading my free copy of Abu Dhabi City Guide. Ten minutes later I looked up to find him standing nearby. He said, "Gaia-jee (my name's on the card :P), aap kuch lein gi, chai? coffee?" (Can I get you something? tea? coffee?). I responded with a blank stare, "Jee?". Then I came to my senses and said no thank you, the driver's on his way, I need to leave and started walking towards the exit. Luckily the car was waiting so I hopped in and sped away.

Today around lunch time, I get a call at work.
A:"Assalamalaikum Gaia-jee? This is Ali, we met at the mall"
A:"Agar aap mind nah karein to main eik baat pooch sakta houn?" (If you don't mind, can I ask you something?)
G:"Sure" (wondering, what's coming next...)
A:"I have extra tickets for the Australia-Pakistan cricket match and I was wondering if you'd like to go..."
G:"Jee?" (My mind blanks out in these situations)
A: repeats what he said earlier
G:"SryThnx. Bye."

Awkward... I feel mean :S

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Six Degrees of Separation

Truly, our world is shrinking. This past weekend, I met a person from New Delhi who went to college in Texas with one of my close friends from high school. The same evening, one of my co-workers from Palestine met a friend who was with him in elementary school and it turned out that the same person was at college with me and we'd taken six classes together! 

It was great catching up, chatting about mutual friends and comparing our experiences in Abu Dhabi since graduation. My friend works for a major consulting firm, travels four days a week and spends weekends in Abu Dhabi. His belongings are stored in hotel locker rooms in four cities (Beirut, Damam, Dubai and Abu Dhabi), he routinely stays at work until midnight, carries two cellphones and a blackberry and eats out every day with a regular meal costing around $100. He seemed tired, a little stressed out, but happy. However, I think I made the right decision when I chose a relatively balanced lifestyle over a stint at a consulting firm last year- consulting isn't for everyone and there are major sacrifices involved.

Our time at college was a transformational experience and I get a warm and fuzzy feeling, knowing that the bonds established in classrooms, hallways, dining halls and idyllic spots around campus and through shared values of integrity, honor, respect and trust have withstood the test of time and distance. 


WOMAD rocked big time... The DHOL Foundation is a group based in UK/India. Their music is an energetic fusion of electronic dance beats and traditional Bhangra. Do check them out!

Friday, April 24, 2009

WOMAD Abu Dhabi

The World Music Arts and Dance Festival (organized by Peter Gabriel) runs from the 23rd to the 25th of April at the Abu Dhabi Corniche. Not surprisingly, it is targeted toward the expat community with performances from Dulsori (South Korea), Jivan Gasparyan (Armenia), Rizwan Muazzam (Pakistan), Khaled and Souad Massi(Algeria), Dhol Foundation (India/UK) and Justin Adams(UK/Gambia). People jived and grooved to the drumbeat but it got tedious after a while and the crowd was pretty blah... I heart Khaled =)

This one's from the 90's:

A few years back, Outlandish redid one of Khaled's songs Aicha:

And here's the hip-hop version:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Group of Hindi 101 students, living in Forbes:

Horse Latitudes

I was going through my "Assignments" folder (containing papers and projects for classes in college). I realize some of them are gibberish. Horse Latitudes was required reading for one of my classes in college... it never really made sense to me. I wrote a comparative analysis of Blackwater Fort and Badli-ke-Serai examining the political innuendos in both... A classic example of bs-ing by a stressed out college student :P.

Blackwater Fort

As I had held Carlotta close

that night we watched some Xenophon

embedded with the 5th Marines

in the old Sunni triangle

make a half-assed attempt to untangle

the ghastly from the price of gasoline.

There was a distant fanfaron

in the Nashville sky where the wind

had now drawn itself up and pinned

on her breast a Texaco star.

"Why," Carlotta wondered, "the House of Tar?

Might it have to do with the gross

imports of crude oil Bush will come clean on

only when the Tigris comes clean?"


Pork-barrels. Pork-butts. The Widescreen

Surround Sound of a massed attack

upon the thin red cellulose

by those dust- or fust- or must-cells

that cause the tears to well and well and well.

At which I see him turning up his nose

as if he'd bitten on a powder-pack

like yet another sad Sepoy

who won't fall for the British ploy

of greasing with ham the hammer

or smoothing over Carlotta's grammar:

"On which; On which Bush will come clean."

Her grandfather a man who sees no lack

of manhood in the lachrymose.

For any poor student/poetry aficionado out there struggling to make sense of the above, here's what I wrote:

“Politics” in Blackwater Fort and Badli-ke-Serai

By 1590, the English controlled much of Ireland. Ulster was the only fertile province waiting to be colonized. Hugh O’Neill, a prominent member of the Tyrone O’Neill clan was banished from Ulster after his father was killed. He was taken care of by an English settler’s family and although he was Catholic, Hugh seemingly grew up more an English Lord than an Irish clan leader[1]and in 1587, Queen Elizabeth I granted him the title Earl of Tyrone.

The Nine Years War, also known as the Tyrone Rebellion, started in 1592 when an Irish clan leader Red Hugh O’Donnell chased Captain Willis away from Tyrconnel. In 1593 Captain Willis tried to capture Fermanagh (Irish territory), but was hindered by Hugh Maguire (another clan leader) and Red Hugh O’Donnell.

Since Hugh O’Neill had defeated Hugh Maguire the same year, he was given command of an army of 600 men by Queen Elizabeth. However, Hugh dealt this favor in a unique manner. Once the first 600 soldiers had completed their training, he discharged them and engaged another 600 men to train. In all around 6000 men were trained in the following two years at the expense of the Crown[2].

Meanwhile, O’Donnell and Maguire were carrying out hit-and-run attacks on the English. Hugh O’Neill took no action against these isolated rebellions despite several requests but managed to escape detention. He returned to Ulster and in 1595, his well-trained forces joined the forces of O’Donnell and Maguire in a massive attack on Blackwater Fort[3]. Ironically, the English had created, trained and financed their enemy.

The title of the poem, “Blackwater Fort” implies that a similar irony is at play in the current war in Iraq. Imports of crude oil from the Middle East and Saudi Arabia in particular are financing wealthy oil companies such as Texaco in the United States and the “ghastly” in the price of oil which ordinary citizens have to pay is in fact due to the continuing war in Iraq. Every day more and more Americans and Iraqis are being killed in gruesome incidents in Iraq. The narrator of the poem is watching the media coverage of the war with his lover Carlotta and commenting upon the war and its ironies.

Xenophon represents the modern reporter traveling with army units in Iraq and reporting ineptly on the “ghastly” occurrences in the Sunni Triangle, a densely populated area northwest of Baghdad inhabited primarily by Sunni Muslims. Xenophon was a Greek soldier and mercenary and is known for his historical writings of his time. He is often cited as being the original “horse whisperer”[4], having advocated sympathetic horsemanship in his book, “On Horsemanship”[5]. By the use of multiple hidden meanings embedded in every word and the use of interwoven similes, Mr. Muldoon employs reflexivity, leaving it up to the reader to interpret the poem at his or her discretion.

Reflexivity is an act of self-reference where examination of action “bends back on”, refers to and affects the identity instigating the examination and describes the circular relationship between cause and effect[6]. The observations of the observers affect the very situation that they are observing and the observations are not independent of the participation of the observer. Thus Mr. Muldoon implies that the narrator, watching the media coverage has the power to influence the events that are occurring.

Mr. Muldoon’s writing style also emphasizes his use of reflexivity. For example, the “clean on” in the penultimate line rhymes with fanfaron, and with Xenophon, as do triangle and untangle, wind and pinned and star and tar. This circular motion of image and rhythm coupled with the sharp juxtaposition of the past and the present is characteristic of the poems in Horse Latitudes[7].

The distant “fanfaron” in the Nashville sky refers to a swaggering bully, a coward who blows his own trumpet[8] and to fanfare about an end that is vague (the outcome of the war in Iraq). The reference to a “Texaco star” may also be a reference to the idea that the war in Iraq is motivated by oil and that the Bush administration, by creating unnecessary fanfare is not being completely open and honest with the American public and the world at large about its reasons for declaring war on Iraq.

The “House of Tar” may be an allusion to the practice of tarring and feathering; a physical punishment used to enforce formal justice, mostly as a type of mob vengeance. In a typical tar and feathers attack, the subject of a crowd’s anger would be stripped to the waist. Hot tar was either poured or painted on the person when he was immobilized and he was rolled around in feathers that stuck to the tar and paraded around town. Since tar was difficult to remove, the person’s degradation was obvious and continued for some days. Mr. Muldoon suggests that “tarring and feathering” the Bush may be an appropriate punishment or form of vengeance for intentionally misleading the public when “the Tigris comes clean” or when the war in Iraq comes to an end. Several of the above mentioned themes and ideas emerge in a later poem, “Badli-ke-Serai.”

Badli-ke-Serai describes the experiences of the Hindu and Muslim soldiers in the army of the British East India Company during the colonial era, referring specifically to the events of the First Indian War of Independence in 1857. The rebellion or war of independence had diverse political, economic, military, religious and social causes but an oft-cited cause is the introduction in 1857 of the new Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle. To load the rifle, the Indian soldiers were expected to bite the cartridge open with their teeth. It was believed that the cartridges were greased with lard (pork fat) which was impure and forbidden for Muslims and tallow (beef fat) which was sacred and forbidden to Hindus and therefore offended the native Indian soldiers making them feel that they were going against their religion.

Mr. Muldoon describes the plight of an Indian Sepoy bound by the pork-barrel government of the British; a form of government in which government spending is intended to benefit only certain constituents of a politician in return for political support. While the benefits are concentrated in a particular area, the costs are spread among all tax-payers. Butt is an archaic word for barrel or cask. In pre-refrigeration days, pork shoulders were salted and packed for storage or shipping in barrels known as "butts." Thus, etymologically, a pork butt is no more than a pork barrel but the use of synonymous words reinforces the central idea in the beginning of the poem. The word “pork” is also italicized to highlight the role of pork in the war which seems trivial but Mr. Muldoon uses the same approach by italicizing “on which” in the third last line. By doing this, he attempts to shift the focus from the larger themes such as politics and war to details such as a grammatical error perhaps to demonstrate that people in general become bogged down in the minutiae and therefore fail to observe more important events.

The idea of a Pork-barrel government is carried over from a previous poem, “Blackwater Fort” and it appears that American imperialism is not very different from British colonialism a century ago. The people who would benefit most from the war in Iraq are the wealthy elites who finance Bush’s election campaigns and have huge financial investments in the oil industry while ordinary American citizens are expected to finance the war with taxes and pay an increased price for gasoline. The American citizens are therefore financing their “enemy” by financing the Bush administration and like the Indian soldier, they too are bound by a pork-barrel government because the taxes that they pay and the increased price of gasoline fattens the coffers of the oil moguls who provide support for the Bush administration.

The idea that the Sepoys are being exploited by the British is shown by the analogy of cancer cells attacking connective tissue. Dust cells are found in the sputum of those who inhale coal dust. They are alveolar epithelial cells which have phagocyted the minute particles of coal dust, which are constantly inspired in a smoky atmosphere. An attack by “dust- or fust- or must-cells” on the thin red cellulose may refer to Carlotta’s cancer. Smoke inhibits and damages the normal cleaning process by which the lungs get rid of foreign particles (phagocytosis)[9]. The harmful carcinogens in smoke are able to remain lodged in the mucus and develop into cancer tumors which attack connective tissue. Similarly, the culture and identity of the Sepoys is under attack when they are expected to commit the cardinal crime of biting the cartridge.

It appears that one Sepoy or Indian soldier is scorning his contemporaries who have been tricked by the British into chewing upon the cartridges greased with animal fat. And while the act causes them anguish, causing tears of anger or frustration to “well and well and well,” they are bound by the Pork-barrel government.

An interesting connection between Blackwater Fort and Badli-ke-Serai are the lines, “Bush will come clean on…” in Blackwater Fort and “On which… on which Bush will come clean.” Mr. Muldoon ignores the seemingly larger theme, the war in Iraq, oil politics etc. and carries forward to the next poem, only the most trivial aspect; that of correcting a grammatical flaw. The reflexive pattern is repeated here: Sepoy rhymes with ploy, and hammer with grammar. Carlotta’s grandfather appears to be mocking the cause of the war, “greasing with ham the hammer” by comparing it with something as inconsequential as “smoothing over Carlotta’s grammar” as if by correcting her grammar, all the larger problems will be solved.

Mr. Muldoon effectively employs historical, philosophical and linguistic tools, seemingly arbitrary but ingeniously logical to state his message. But instead of sounding pedantic, his reflexive style encourages the reader to interpret for him or her-self the ideas conveyed in his poems which makes the journey more exciting. Going backwards, from Badli-ke-Serai to Blackwater Fort, but going forward in time, from 1857 to the present, Mr. Muldoon demonstrates that the state of affairs is rather similar, drawing parallels between British and American imperialism and the pork-barrel government designed to curry favor with political constituents. And just as Carlotta’s grandfather attempts to sweep the larger issue under the rug by fixing on a triviality, so it appears that people today are turning a blind eye on the situation in Iraq.


[2] Ibid.


[4] A horse whisperer is a horse trainer who adopts a sympathetic view of the motives, needs, and desires of the horse, based on modern equine psychology. The term goes back to the early nineteenth century when an Irish horseman, Daniel Sullivan, made a name for himself in England by rehabilitating horses that had become vicious and intractable due to abuse or accidental trauma.






Sunday, April 19, 2009

Weekend Ramble

So I didn't go to the Red Bull Air Race at the Corniche. I guess it's something my dad would've enjoyed but I decided it's not really my thing. Instead, I met up with an old high school friend at the Mugg&Bean in Abu Dhabi Mall. I love that we can pick up exactly where we left off a year ago and bypass all the awkwardness. It suddenly hit me... my friends are all over the world! From our original class of 25 people in grade 10, only seven are still living in Pakistan.

On the positive side of being an adult and living independently, I actually have time to indulge myself (slather honey on my face and wash it off after 10 minutes... lovely :)) and catch up on reading- something I neglected during four years of college where the only books I read were those required for class. I miss being able to go to the library, browsing the shelves and taking out books for the weekend. I wish there was a proper, well-stocked library in Abu Dhabi or Dubai. The library at the Cultural Foundation is mediocre and most of the books are in Arabic :(

My contract ends in June and I still haven't figured out where I'm going to be afterwards. I could continue here in Abu Dhabi but I can't say I've grown to love it the way I love Karachi (my hometown) or Princeton (my college town). Still waiting to hear back from a couple of places... pray for the best (inshalah).

P.S. If you're craving good Italian pizza/pasta go to IL FORNO in Abu Dhabi Mall (with an outdoor seating area)... It's simply awesome!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ana Confused Jiddan

Does living at high speed slow down the relentless march of time?

Every day is busy, but every day is pretty much the same... I wake up, go to work, work, have lunch, work some more, come home, have dinner and sleep and see more or less the same people every day. I guess that's what makes time "fly". As a child, each experience was unique, there were many firsts and each day brought new promise. College was still a time for self-discovery, for experiencing many firsts. But the older I get, the gap between new experiences gets longer. I have a routine, a job and more responsibilities (which I'm thankful for). But I find myself actively making an effort to break out of my comfort zone, trying new things, going on exotic holidays, meeting different kinds of people, tasting new foods.

I feel the clock ticking and I know I can't do everything. I have too many conflicting priorities...

Latest discovery... Anime =)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Abu Dhabian Tailors

M is getting married in June and wants to wear a traditional Indian/Pakistani lengha for her Henna ceremony (like our Mehndi ceremony minus the bollywood dances). After selecting a beautiful gold and pink outfit, we went to get it tailored. A lady at work had the given us the addresses of some tailors located in the Khalidiyah area along with some vague directions. After much asking around, we finally found the place.

The sign outside said "Ameerose Tailors" and I told M that didn't sound vaguely Indian/Pakistani. We rang the doorbell and waited. A tall Filipino person opened the door... We couldn't figure out if it was a man or a woman- long, lustrous locks blow-dried straight, perfectly arched eyebrows and a smooth face greeted us- I'm pretty sure he also had breast implants. We went inside and another person joined us. He was shorter but wore high heels. He told us that they start at AED 5000 to tailor a simple wedding gown (which explains why all the other women were local Emiratis).

Somehow, I thought Abu Dhabi would be the last place where I'd find queer tailors...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

American University of Sharjah

The American University of Sharjah is the leading educational institution in the UAE. I and my friend Ilm, an AUS alum, drove from Abu Dhabi to Sharjah to visit the campus on Global Day (similar to the International Festival).

The campus is gorgeous- palm trees line the driveway bordered by carefully manicured lawns. Deep purple and magenta petunias bloom in bright, colorful masses.

The campus architecture is a striking blend of classic Islamic motifs and modern building techniques incorporating domes and symmetrical arches.

The student body is very diverse, yet well-integrated.

The library was modern and well-stocked.

The Moroccan Club kicked off the evening with rousing Moroccan music, the crowd joined in, clapping and grooving to the beat.

The kids from Sudan were soooo cute!

The lady in the Somalian tent looked like she meant business...

The Kazakhstan costumes were impressive- prior to this, all I knew about Kazakhstan, I learnt from Borat :P

The lovely lady at the Pakistani tent... the boys danced to "Josh naal pau bhangra" but the picture came out blurry.

The Emirati tent was easily the largest...

A Filipino lady was selling Dunkin Donuts at the Emirati stall... the original Bedouins must be turning in their graves...

A Saudi man sold hand-crafted shoes...

The happy camels :)

The Iraqi stall was decorated in mosaic.


She posed for us :)

The AUS minaret...

I heart Kuwait!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Em[POWER] Project: Karachi - Needs your Vote to win $50,000

Please go HERE and vote for em[Power] Karachi. For more info:

Thank you :)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Happy 21st Bro!

My not-so-little younger brother turned 21 today! I think I'm more excited than he is... 

When we were kids, I was the dominating, bossy big sister. We used to share a room with beds on opposite sides. The floor was tiled, so we'd split the room exactly in half... we weren't allowed to step on each others tiles. The door was on my side, so my brother had to jump to across "my tiles" to go out and the wardrobe was on his side so I had to hop over and stand on the rug to access my clothes :P

If I wanted to use something that belonged to him, he could name his terms and we'd negotiate (and vice versa). We were the biggest dorks (and proud of it!). Every year, our parents would take us to Paramount Book Fair... my brother and I would save all our Eidi and birthday money to buy storybooks- Famous Five, Secret Seven, Malory Towers, St. Claires, Brer Rabbit, Five Find-Outers and Dog, Famous Four, Sweet Valley, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Children's Classics (Gulliver's Travels, Little Women, A Little Princess, Kidnapped, Heidi, Around the World in Eighty Days, Journey to the Center of the Earth etc.) and the list goes on. When we had to attend late-night weddings, my brother and I would take a book with us and read. People would tease my mom about it... she'd shrug and say we'd inherited the habit from our dad.   

On Saturday mornings, the parents liked to sleep in (back then, Friday and Saturday was the weekend in Pakistan). We'd wake up early to watch tv (Ninja Turtles, Manimal, The Wizard and the A-Team (I loved Mr. T)), and if I was feeling generous, I'd make breakfast for both of us... toast with peanut butter or cream cheese and chocolate milk (with 5 heaped tablespoons of Nesquik). 

When I was ten, we moved into another house and I got my own room -but he was right next door and the walls were thin. I'd hear him singing in his cracked voice (at twelve) and he'd get an earful of Backstreet Boys, Savage Garden and Spice Girls from my side. 

And then, suddenly, he was taller and bigger than me! Now, I had to look up to him. I went away for college and he came to see me off, carried my suitcases and gave me a framed picture to remember him by. 

When I had my first "rishta" encounter, he was my confidante and my go-to person for advice. And when I was freaking out, I told him not to leave me by myself with the guy and my brother stayed with me for moral support (mom and dad abandoned me :P). 

Now he's a young man in college, and we only see one another when we both happen to be on vacation at the same time.We're grown-up now. We can drive to the beach, take our little sister out for icecream, or just hang out. But we still find the same things hilarious, laugh uncontrollably at 3 am and crack dumb, cheesy jokes noone else would get.

Thanks for the good times and here's to many more (inshalah)      

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Skater Boi

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Eyes Wide Shut?

Since when does Bhutto take precedence over the Quaid? Last time I checked, he was the founder of the nation not Mrs. Bhutto:

I have no words...

GHARHI KHUDA BAKSH: President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday said that the Pakistan of Quaid-i-Azam had dismembered while the existing Pakistan was the gift of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

“The Pakistan of Quaid-i-Azam was divided. This is the Pakistan of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, which will remain intact with the power of people,” the president said.

He said the country was in safe hands and there was no possibility of an extremist takeover. He said every individual would rise up to protect the country and take forward the mission of Benazir Bhutto. 

He said that he had made it clear to the world that Pakistan was not a failed state, rather it was moving forward successfully. 

The president said he had never taken dictation from anyone and that he had always taken decisions in the interests of the people. He said he was accountable to the people because he had come into power with the support of the masses.

He, however, added that if the PPP could get the presidency and make government, then nothing was impossible. “If I made it, if the PPP has made it, I am sure Pakistan can make it too.”

Mazyad Mall Adventure

Taking advantage of the lovely weather, M and I planned a walking trip to the newly-inaugurated Mazyad Mall near Mohammad bin Zayed City. Mohammad bin Zayed City is a new development project right outside Abu Dhabi... villas are being built all around. Some are occupied but most are in various stages of construction.

I put on a black abaya and scarf, M donned a baggy shirt and wrapped a shawl around her hair and we set off around 5:00 pm. It was really windy- sand whipped our faces and I tasted sand in my mouth :P. We trudged across the desert, heads bent against the wind. Since it was Friday, the laborers (mostly Pakistanis from the north) had a day off and were enjoying a game of cricket. We had to pass by to reach the mall and as we approached, the game came to a sudden halt and everyone stopped to stare, like we were some exotic species/aliens (most of these men are here without their families and probably don't see women up close for months at a time).

We walked a little faster leaving them behind and reached the main road. Cars whizzing by slowed down to match our pace and follow us and drivers rolled down the windows to stare and grin... Now I can relate to monkeys in the zoo :P

45 minutes later, we finally made it to Mazyad Mall, bought bottled water at Lulu Express and took a taxi home.

Note to self: NEVER walk outside in Mohammad bin Zayed City again.

As an aside, it's been raining constantly this past week and it snowed in Kuwait! I was reminded of The Day After Tomorrow... climate change is real and it's happening too quickly. But, true to my roots (I am from Karachi after all) I went and got soaked in the rain :D

Friday, April 3, 2009

Grad Students

Courtesy of Moonflower


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Driving Woes

My roommate from college is in Dubai! I went to see her last Saturday and we had a jolly time catching up and reminiscing over pizza at Vapiano in Dubai Mall. Nice decor, prompt service and good food at reasonable prices :)

She's been transferred here from the NYC Manhattan office thanks to the financial crisis and she's the only female in an office of twenty guys. In spite of having a valid US driver's licence, she can't drive here because you need a passport to go with the licence (no US passport, no licence) and so, she has to go back to her country of citizenship (Poland), renew her licence and fly back. Otherwise, you have to start a long course of driving lessons, take the road test and with the high probability of failure, take it again. I've heard they fail people in Dubai on purpose to discourage people from driving and reduce the number of cars contributing to traffic congestion. 

And, if you (God forbid), get into an accident with a UAE national, it's your fault 99% of the time. Driving under influence earns you a shaved head and a term in prison unless your embassy intervenes. Tailgating women drivers is a fun pastime for bored young men and no one bothers to signal before changing lanes at 160 km/hr :P  

The good news is that the Dubai Metro should be running by September 2009.