Archive | Abu Dhabi

Ladies Night at the Ice Rink

The image of the veiled woman remains a potent symbol of the “mysterious” Middle East and the question of “do you have to cover…”  is almost always the first question that anyone asks me when I tell them where I live.   It’s easy, particularly in the West, to lose sight of the fact that behind the veil is a person, and to keep in mind that gender politics are complicated here — but then again, point me to a place where gender politics aren’t complicated.

I wrote about Gloria Steinem and feminism the other day, and then the other day, at the ice rink, of all places, I was reminded that “feminism” has many different forms.  I had gone to the ice rink in the ginormous sports complex where Liam and Caleb play football because Caleb and I had to wait for Liam to finish practice, Caleb was hungry, there is a pizza place inside the ice rink, so off we went…only to be told that Caleb couldn’t come inside.  It was Ladies Night, no men allowed, not even nine-year-old men.

Inside, the place buzzed with energy as girls of all ages skated, watched the skaters, or walked around gossiping with each other, safe from the eyes of the men working in the restaurant kitchen:

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I bought Caleb’s pizza and brought it to him outside on the patio.  I’ve never seen so many people coming to the ice rink as I did that night, including some who were clearly coming for the gossip and a night out, and not for the skating, at least judging from her shoes:

IMG_8525can you see the heels she’s got on? Four or five inches, at the very least

The girls in the skating rink seemed entirely delighted to be there, and many of the girls on the ice were twirling and jumping and speeding around with the ease that comes only with a lot of practice.

Did it seem strange that “ladies night” kept out my little boy?  Yes.  Am I reminded that change happens incrementally, in loops and swirls and swerves, and not in a straight unbending line? Yes.

Because that night at the ice rink, sitting outside with my son, I was reminded that the girl in the abaya isn’t a metaphor but just a chick with a wicked slapshot, who perhaps daydreams about an Olympic medal in women’s hockey.

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Continue Reading · on March 31, 2014 in Abu Dhabi, expat, Feminism, Gender, Politics, UAE

so I wrote a book…

Last year, at the tender age of 49, I was delighted to be included in two fantastic anthologies: You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth, edited by the brilliantly funny Leslie Marinelli of The Bearded Iris and In The Powder Room; and The Herstory Project, edited by the equally talented Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger.

What’s that you say? You don’t have either of these books on your shelf? Get thee to a bookseller pronto, my friend.

And now –well, not quite now, but soon — my very own book will be joining those books in the hazy labryinth of amazon.  Yes. The Time Locket will be available in kindle format this week, so you can order this time-traveling, history-bending adventure story just in time for Valentine’s Day.

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Continue Reading · on February 10, 2014 in Abu Dhabi, Books, writing

Uber: sweet rides in Abu Dhabi

A few months ago, I read about a new app called Uber, which worked a bit like a taxi service, except you order an Uber car online and can track its progress to you on your smartphone.   Pretty cool, I thought at the time,but something like that would never come to Abu Dhabi because people here are too tied to their cars and the status (real or imagined, mostly the latter) that they think cars give them.

Well think again: Uber is here in the Dhabs, people, and it’s pretty cool.   I met with the Uber people a few weeks ago and they explained how Uber works: you sign up for an account using your  credit card and then that card is charged for your fare.  You can change the method of payment on the spot (decide to pay cash, for instance; or split the ride between two credit cards if you’re sharing with another Uber-ite); you can track the arrival of your driver (unlike when you call to order a cab, and the dispatcher says “five minutes ma’am” but then it might be twenty or thirty minutes), and your receipt shows up on your phone and in your email. There are no other fees involved and the app is free.

Dazzled by the idea of a clean swift car that would be an alternative to a taxi, or to driving myself and wrestling with traffic, crazy Dhabi drivers, and parking, I decided to Uber one night when I had to pick Liam up at a friend’s on one side of town and get him to soccer practice on the other side of town.

I clicked my Uber app, tapped my location pin, and got a little flag telling me the driver’s name, his phone number, and when he’d be arriving.

Perfect.

Except that my housing development is new enough that it doesn’t always show up on a GPS, so the driver didn’t arrive for almost 25 minutes. And then the GPS couldn’t find where we were going, and so we were very late picking up Liam, who had hurt his foot and decided against soccer practice (but that wasn’t Uber’s fault). During this whole ordeal, the driver was unfailingly polite and apologetic, but it was one of those moments where I found myself wishing devoutly for Manhattan’s organized street grid rather than Abu Dhabi’s hieroglyphic sprawl.

I figured there was no way I could write about Uber in good faith, not with such a mess of an experience, but when I explained the problem to Uber’s people, they apologized and asked me to try again, and gave me additional credit for my next ride: customer service par excellence.

So the other night, when Husband and I had to go to a reception where adult beverages would be served, we tried Uber again. Drinking and driving in Abu Dhabi carry incredibly stiff penalties–like jail or deportation–so if you think you’re going to have even a sip or two of wine, taxis are in order.  And if you’re going to be somewhere away from downtown late at night, good luck finding a cab (or requesting one and having to wait for forty minutes).

This time, uber worked like a charm: the driver arrived faster than the app could track him and he knew exactly where we were going.  It was great.  Yes, it was more expensive than a cab, but an incredibly smooth experience and I liked knowing that if there were a problem, I would be able to tap into customer service right away. With an Abu Dhabi taxi, if you’ve got a problem, your best solution is just to get out of the car.

Uber believes in their service and they’d like to introduce themselves to Abu Dhabi, so they’ve offered this promotional code to readers: type in ubermamma and get your first Uber ride for free (up to 80dh).

All of us have those GPS problems now and again — it’s practically a rite (ride?) of passage — but I think that Uber’s service is going to be a great addition to Abu Dhabi life.  It’s like having your own chauffeur service, but without actually having to, you know, pay for a chauffeur.

Happy Uber-ing!

 

 

Uber offered me a free ride in exchange for this post, and then another free ride after the fiasco of the first ride, but the opinions here are my own

 

Continue Reading · on February 9, 2014 in Abu Dhabi, UAE

in which the universe sends me a metaphor about aging

About a week after I turned fifty (see how easily I said that?), I went for a walk on Saadiyat Beach, which is near my house, with a friend.  Here’s a question: almost all the women I know like to go for a walk. We don’t need a specific destination; we just walk. But ask a man to go for a walk and he’ll say “where?”  Why is that?

Anyway, so S. and I were on our walk and we saw a turtle in the water, which is actually kind of a rare event even though Saadiyat is supposed to be a nesting place for the Hawksbill turtle, which is a critically endangered species.  When the lifeguard pulled the turtle out of the water, it was crusted over with shells that were so heavy the turtle was in danger of drowning.

Et voila, a metaphor. Which of course, I used as the basis for my column in Friday’s National.  Here’s a link to the article, which I would love for you to share all over the social media universe.  In exchange for that nice sharing, here’s a picture of the turtle:

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Continue Reading · on February 1, 2014 in Abu Dhabi, aging, urban nature

Saturday’s Snapshot (surat al-sabat): لقطة السبت

True, it’s Sunday. But I took the photo on Saturday, which must count for something.

When people visit Abu Dhabi, mostly they see big shiny buildings, and big shiny malls, and big shiny hotels. It’s the land of big shiny things, except when you’re in the desert, and then it’s the land of vast and shining sand (and the sand really does shine, sometimes blindingly).

On Saadiyat Beach, when you walk away from the hotels, however, you leave the big shiny behind: rocks pile up, probably raked away from the tourist beaches; the cranes swing above the site of what will eventually be the Louvre; and debris from who knows where comes to rest.

No, that’s not my soccerball football, or my flipflop, and yes that’s a water-logged pineapple down there in the corner.

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Continue Reading · on January 19, 2014 in Abu Dhabi, environment, surat al-sabt saturday snapshot

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