Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to waste a day (or two)

Farook called and said he needed to see me, it was very important. I always like to see Farook for an hour or so, and he said it would be a short visit, so I agreed.

He said there was a Philippino at ibn Batutta Mall with a business proposition, and we'd go and hear what it was. If it wasn't any good, we'd leave quickly. All of which sounded far more reasonable than I'm accustomed to hear from Farook. Which should have been Warning Sign #1.

Farook picked me up a little after noon and drove me to ibn Batutta Mall. We parked at Tunisia.

I should explain: ibn Batutta was a Moroccan who decided to make the Hajj in the 14th (Christian) century. Having traveled to Holy Mecca, he continued on to Syria, Iraq, Iran, India, China, then back to Morocco, then to Spain (then called Andalus) to keep it under Muslim control (he wasn't terribly successful there). So ibn Batutta Mall starts in Tunisia (as a surrogate for Morocco), then continues through Egypt, Persia, and India to China. The Philippino was in China, and said he'd wait for us.

Normally, when a young man with something to sell is meeting two elderly men, he'd say, 'I'll come to meet you,' but he didn't, and I was glad because I wanted the exercise (ibn Batutta Mall is one of the best places to walk in Dubai, being comfortable all year around). So we walked from Tunisia to China, where Farook got into a conversation with the young Philippino, a conversation that I could have barged into, but was not really invited.

'I am very hungry. We must eat,' said Farook. I left them talking and went to find out that the buffets in China had doubled in price, so I went back and suggested we go back to Tunisia, where prices for food are cheaper. So we walked back to Tunisia, and Farook bought three plates, one for each of us. He never asked what we wanted, he just picked out what he wanted and ordered three.

Then Farook explained: 'This Philippino have lady. She give you good massage. You want?'

'No,' I said.

'We must see her first,' Farook said to both me and the Philippino. 'Where is she? Why she not with you?'

The Philippino explained that she was in Sharjah.

So Farook got me back in his SUV, along with the Philippino, and we all started from ibn Bututta Mall toward Sharjah.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Off to GITEX

It was in 1999 that I read that one of the biggest technology shows was called GITEX, and it was in a place that few English-speakers had ever heard of, formerly the Trucial States, now the United Arab Emirates. I never thought I'd be going.

In 2000, I was offered a job in the aforementioned United Arab Emirates, and one of my duties was to go to GITEX, where I saw all the latest new IT gadgets.

And now I'm going to GITEX 2011.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

How can a girl get dibs on a salad around here???

As I said in my previous post, Arabs have a word, dibs, that has no good English equivalent, but somehow, it got mis-translated as molasses. So Wikipedia says that English now has the expressions 'grenadine molasses', 'date molasses', 'carob molasses' and many others, though none of those would be considered molasses in non-Wiki English.

Traditionally, English just absorbs words for which there is no English equivalent. So, it is better to speak of grenadine dibs, date dibs, carob dibs, etc.

In the Gulf, date dibs is very popular as a syrup for pancakes. In the Northern Arab countries, grenadine dibs is considered essential for salads, and they use it in place of vinegar in their customary oil and dibs salad dressing.

But when a Lebanese lady came to Dubai, she went from store to store asking, 'ayna dibs roman?' which is Arabic for, 'Where's the grenadine dibs?' The response was either a puzzled look, since the staff at Dubai grocers seldom understand a single word of Arabic, or a response of 'No have,' if they understood enough to know she was asking for something they'd never heard of.

After several weeks of searching, I have yet to find a single grocer in Dubai that does not carry grenadine dibs. But then, I have one more Y chromosome than that lady from Lebanon: men hate to ask directions, knowing that most people have no idea where anything is; while most women insist on asking directions, even though most people have no idea where anything is. (I'm not saying all men or all women, I'm sure there are exceptions somewhere.)

Grenadine dibs is not used in the cuisines of the people hired to staff the grocers, so they have no idea what it is or where it is. (I assume the owners of the grocery stores know what it is, and insist it be stocked, but they don't bother to train their staff in what it is, or in how to guide a Lebanese lady to find it.)

She told me she finally found an Arabic speciality store in one of the pricier Dubai malls, but the grenadine dibs cost her about $30, when ordinary grocers sell if for about $2.

So, for those willing to search diligently, I recommend the Lebanese oil and dibs salad dressing, and also Lebanese aubergine with dibs sauce, and I plan to try a suggestion in one of the comments of onions fried in dibs.

But for those who insist on asking, I'm sorry, all the grocery staff insist that there''s no dibs in Dubai.